Measure & Stir

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


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If You Meet the Buddha in Norway: Aquavit, Buddha’s Hand, Dill, Lemon

It’s a cruel irony of winter that all the best citrus comes into season in a time when we are least interested in its crisp, refreshing nature. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to tell seasonality to shove off, because Buddha’s hand is only with us for a short time.

If you are not familiar with it, Buddha’s hand is a fragrant citrus fruit that is shaped more like a squid than a hand, but its skin is rich and oily with a flavor that is somewhere between a lime and a quince. It’s pith is light enough in flavor that you could slice it thin and eat it on its own, though it is a bit chewy.

Naturally, I made it into an oleo saccharum, along with some fresh dill. My inspiration here was a tuna crudo that I ate last week, which was served with tangerine gel and fresh dill. I liked the combination so much that I decided to build a drink around it.

Alas, the season for Buddha’s hand is upon us, but the season of the tangerine has not quite come. I found some exceptional satsuma mandarins in their stead, and paired the drink with a duo of salmon.

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If You Meet the Buddha in Norway
1.5 oz Aquavit (Linie)
.75 oz Dill + Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Distilled White Vinegar

Macerate the Buddha’s hand with sugar and fresh dill, and allow it to sit until the sugar becomes saturated in its oil. Shake, strain, and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with a duality of salmon.

The drink is named after a famous Zen kõan, which says that if you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him. And perhaps you should. I like to imagine that in Norway, The Buddha spawns in the form of a salmon, and not only do you kill him, but you fillet him, turn his belly into gravlaks, and quick-cure his loin with salt and sugar.

Moreover, you should serve said quick-cured salmon loin with dill sprigs, supremes of satsuma orange, and rock salt. This, I am sure, will bring you enlightenment. Many thanks also to Johan for making the gravlaks using what I’m sure is an ancient Norwegian recipe, which only vikings are capable of wielding.

Speaking of enlightenment, astute drinkers will notice that I split the acid in this drink between white vinegar and lemon juice. I’m almost sorry for the way this sounds, but straight lemon or lime sours are a bit pedestrian these days. We need a bold, vivacious source of acid, and for me, the slight tang of acetic was a perfect compliment to the cured flavor of the gravlaks, the briny caraway of the aquavit, and the ascetic Buddha’s hand.

Cheers.


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Cucumber Rai Tai

I don’t  have a lot to say about this one. I was leafing through The Flavor Bible and my eye landed on on this combination: “Dill, Yoghurt, Cucumber”. And of course those things go together. Who here hasn’t enjoyed tzatziki sauce on a gyro, or a bit of cucumber raita alongside their vindaloo?

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Cucumber Rai Tai
1.5 oz Gin (Tanqueray Rangpur)
1 oz Cucumber Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
3 Heaping barspoons of Greek Yoghurt
4 Dill Sprigs, Muddled
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with a sprig of dill.

Absent garlic and other savory elements, this did, in fact, taste like a tzatziki sauce. It was good, especially paired with seafood, which we were eating at the time. The herbal notes in the gin are a natural fit for cucumber and dill. It’s so obvious it’s almost academic. I found it to be light and refreshing; the yoghurt was not too heavy on a summer night.

The name “Rai Tai” is a play on the name “Mai Tai”, but of course, this is a far cry from a Mai Tai, or even a tiki drink. Even so, I’m sticking with it.

Cheers.


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Herbed Oleo Saccharum: Dill, Rosemary, Orange Oil

In his book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, David Wondrich reveals that the foundation of a good punch is a concoction called oleo saccharum, which simply means “oily sugar”. That may not sound especially appetizing, but it is among the most delicious and under-appreciated ingredients in a mixed drink.  You don’t have to use it to make a giant punch; it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to make a single drink (or three). Usually it is made from lemons, but any citrus fruit will do, and I like to mix it up, as you have probably noticed. The process is a little bit time-consuming, but the end product is amazing, and worth it.

To make it, all you have to do is peel some of your favorite citrus fruit, being careful not to get any of the pith. I find this is especially challenging with limes, which is why I will not be making lime oleo saccharum any time soon. If you do, I recommend finding the freshest limes you can, as lime skins are thinner than lemons or oranges, and you have to get them before they can even slightly dry out. I was inspired to make this by a trip I took, several months ago, to the Teardrop Lounge in Portland, where they were serving an original drink called Perennial Punch, consisting of green tea, J.Wray, cachaça, dry aperitif wine, and herbed oleo saccharum.

I loved the idea of muddling herbs with the citrus peels, so I selected rosemary and dill, and muddled them in a bowl with the peel from four oranges, and a few ounces of sugar. I did not measure the sugar, I just eyed it. Add enough sugar to coat the peels, muddle them, and repeat a couple of times. Each time you muddle, the sugar will puncture the oil glands in the citrus peel and become saturated, so you end up using a substantial amount, perhaps an ounce per orange.

After you have combined the sugar and citrus peels, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit for an hour, muddling occasionally. By the end, you get a rich, sweet oil with a heavenly smell. I mean really, truly, I am going to repeat this, it’s the key takeaway from this whole post: herbed oleo saccharum may be the greatest smell I have ever smelled.

The first drink I made with the oil was an attempt to partially reproduce the perennial punch. I did not bother to blend J. Wray and cachaça, as they have a similar flavor, and I find such blends to be gimmicky. Perhaps that is my ignorance. In any case, I did not quite get the dilution right on this one, and the flavor was good, but a bit on the watery side. As such, it’s hard to judge the success of the recipe. Everyone screws it up occasionally, and I was using unfamiliar ice, but that’s no real excuse.

Kind of Perennial Punch
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.5 oz Herbed Oleo Saccharum
1 oz Soda Water
Stir all except soda over ice and strain over fresh ice. Top with soda and garnish with a rosemary sprig and an orange peel, because why not.

Other than the bad dilution, this was pretty tasty. The original used Pineau de Charentes, which I do not have, but the vegetal funk from the cachaça was a great match to the herbs in the oleo saccharum. Even over-diluted, the flavors of orange oil and herbs were salient. I made two of these at once, so I ended up wasting most of my precious oil on an error. I had enough to make one more drink, but it was all stuck to the herbs and peels that I had used in the preparation. I decided to take no chances, so I poured all of the still oil-saturated herbs and peels into my shaker with some gin and some lime juice, and I made a drink that is almost impossible to screw up.

Unintentional Herbed Semi-Gimlet
1.5 oz Gin (Aviation)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Herbed Oleo Saccharum, plus oil-saturated sprigs of herb and orange peel

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

This drink was stunningly good. I call it a semi-gimlet because a proper gimlet is made of gin and lime cordial, but the process of making a good lime cordial is essentially making a lime oleo saccharum and then mixing it with strained lime juice. So this is a semi-gimlet in that the oleo saccharum was made with oranges, but if I had made it with limes, it would really just be an herbed gimlet. My process also placed extra emphasis on the citrus oil, so it would be a very unusual gimlet, at that.