Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.


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Acid Trip #3: Caramel, Apple, Fennel

appleAcidTrip

Today let us consider the apple, whose dominant acid content, like the grape, is malic. The thought process that drove this drink was very similar to that of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time. In both drinks, I have taken a classic flavor pairing which would ordinarily be cloying in a drink, and balanced its sweetness with malic acid. The standard procedure for this type of drink would adulterate the purity of the pairing with lemon juice, but with malic acid, we can find balance by adjusting a sourness which is already found in one of the key elements of the pairing.

Earlier this week, I had a drink made with tarragon and apple juice, and yet all I could taste was gin and lemon. This is a common problem. I wanted to make an apple drink that tastes strongly of apples, but which would taste more like summer than autumn, and to that end, I pursued a staple of the summer county fair, the caramel apple.

appleAcidTrip2

Acid Trip #3
2 oz Fresh-Pressed Apple Juice (1 oz Gala, 1 oz Granny Smith)
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.75 oz Rum Caramel Sauce*
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
.25 tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Barkeep Chinese Bitters
Dash of Absinthe
Shake over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a fan of thinly sliced apples and a try-hard caramel drizzle.

I made a caramel sauce using some Barbados rum that is probably better for cooking than drinking, and it adds a layer of toffee and sugar flavor to the already caramel tones of El Dorado 15. Caramel is the juncture for apple and rum, and I also suggest dropping shot of your most caramelly rum into a glass of apple cider. Apple is the juncture for anise and caramel, so that the sugar flows into the apple flows into the herbal flavor of anise.

You can follow this caramel sauce recipe, but swap out the water for your least expensive dark rum.

Chinese five spice bitters threaten to take this into autumn territory, but fortunately the fennel and anise flavor is the loudest, and the cinnamon and clove are mercifully quiet.

Cheers.


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Fresh Juice Drink Template

As I experiment with different drink formats and classes of ingredients, I find my experiments will cluster around some very specific structures, and today I would like to share a template that I have developed for making drinks with fresh fruit juices. To get a good drink out of this template, you have to put some thought into the flavors you are combining, but I have found it to be pretty reliable.

Fresh Juice Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz fresh fruit juice
.75 oz fortified wine
.25 oz syrup or liqueur
(optional) dash of bitters

This template is intended for juices that are not highly acidic, such as lemon or lime. It is not a template for a sour, but rather a template for succulent juices. Andy would even go so far as to call this genre of drink “succulent”, but I consider to be overkill. Each ingredient in the template has a purpose, and should be selected in order to best fill that role within the drink.

The fresh juice is the starting point. We start with produce, such as carrots or strawberries, and then we build our flavor profile around the juice of that ingredient. After selecting the juice, we select the base spirit. A good approach, though not the only approach, is to consider cuisine which contains your produce, and to choose a base spirit from that same region or theme. For example, peppers of all varieties make a fine accompaniment to tequila, while rums pair well with tropical fruits.

After selecting a juice and a liqueur, you should select your sweetener. A little bit of sugar will help to draw out the flavor of the fresh juice, which tends to be more aqueous than is entirely optimal in a mixed drink. The sweetener needs to complement both the juice and the spirit; curaçao for orange juice is an entirely reasonable choice, and maraschino is a brilliant accompaniment to pineapple or to fresh berries.

In some cases, you really want to let the flavor of the fruit stand on its own, and then simple syrup, or honey syrup, or demerara syrup will tend to be the best choices.

Finally, select a fortified wine. In most cases, this should be dry vermouth, as it will add complexity and dryness to the drink without interfering, but Cardamaro is an excellent accompaniment to fall flavors, and Stone’s Ginger pairs quite well with many fruits.

Alexandra’s Wish
1.5 oz Cognac (Salignac)
1 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Demerara Syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Shake over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

Don’t forget to strain the fresh juice through a fine-mesh strainer BEFORE you add it to the drink, as it will otherwise impede the straining of the drink at serving time, and to create the most smooth and elegant texture. Moreover, the expressed lemon oil is critical to the excellence of this drink. Don’t leave home without it!


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Vanilla Whiskey Fix

You may notice a marked difference in the quality of the photography in this post. For that, I need to thank my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro, for having an awesome camera and technical skills, and for contributing their time to taking pictures of some of my drinks.

Today I present a twist on a classic, the whiskey fix. Fixes and Sours are the two broad categories of short punch, with the difference between them being that a fix is served over ice, whereas a sour is served up. Neither is diluted with an aqueous element such as soda water or ginger beer. One of the first drinks I learned to make, and one of the most accessible, is the whiskey sour. The basic formula for a sour or a fix is:

2 oz of base spirit
.75 oz of lemon or lime juice
.5 oz of syrup.

Shake over ice and double strain.

With the difference being that a fix should be strained over fresh ice into an old-fashioned glass, and a sour should be strained into a cocktail glass or, if you listen to Andy, a sour goblet. A sour becomes a daisy if it is modified with a liqueur instead of a syrup. Adding a bit of liqueur to a sour made with syrup makes it fancy — curaçao or maraschino are the common choices, but any high quality liqueur is acceptable.

It is sometimes desirable to thicken a sour or a fix with an egg white, in which case one must first “dry shake” the drink, which is to say, shake it without ice, to foam the egg white, before shaking it with ice. In the winter time, an egg white is very appealing, but in the summer, I usually choose to omit it.

Whiskey Fix
1.5 oz vanilla-infused bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz brown sugar syrup

Shake over ice, double-strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with fruits in season (lychees).

I love vanilla-bean infused bourbon whiskey, and I always keep a bottle on hand. It takes about one week for the vanilla flavor to fully mature in the whiskey, though many whiskey-lovers might find that this is treating the whiskey a little too harshly, and indeed, one ought not to give this treatment to a whiskey that is too fine. I wouldn’t go cheaper than Evan Williams, but I also wouldn’t go more expensive than Buffalo Trace or Bulleit. Vanilla brings out the oaky qualities in the bourbon, and adds a little more interest to the relatively commonplace whiskey sour.

My friend James made this drink in my house about a month ago, and he chose to use brown sugar syrup instead of simple. Since then, I have made it this way exclusively, and it’s a drink that I will serve to any guest in a pinch.

It is proper to garnish a fix with seasonal fruit, as they contribute interesting aromas, and add a fancy, festive quality to the presentation. I just happened to have these lychees on the day that we took the pictures, and after de-pitting them carefully with a paring knife, I skewered them with bamboo and set it on top of the glass. Most people don’t eat lychees very often, at least in the U.S., so the opportunity to eat an uncommon tropical fruit adds even more intrigue to the experience.

If you don’t have lychees, I have also garnished this with fresh pineapple, and with raspberries, and both are great.