Measure & Stir

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


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Singularity: Peach, Cinnamon, Bourbon

By request, this drink is called the Singularity. Yes, I am referring to that singularity. My good friend Andy is getting married, and I am serving the drinks at his wedding reception. The bride and groom have each requested a themed cocktail, and I have been happy to oblige them. Andy requested a drink themed after the singularity.

It’s hard to make a drink truly match something as abstract as the technological singularity, but my approach was to pull out some molecular gastronomy and leverage as much technology as possible. In addition to that, I decided to make it seasonal, because peaches are in season, and peaches are delicious.

singularity1

For version one of the drink, I was inspired by this lapsang souchong sour from the lovely Charlotte Voisey. Real talk, I think I have an internet crush on her. Her drinks are fantastic and she has an adorable accent. Anyway, I loved the idea of resting some fragrant tea on top of the foam of an egg white sour. I think it made a beautiful presentation, but in my zeal for aesthetics, I allowed the tea leaves to float too close to the rim of the glass. I then received a sip full of tea leaves. It was not pleasant. I felt that the random fall of the tea leaves resembled Chinese characters, which was intriguing.

Moreover, I found that the aroma of the tea was not as strong as I had hoped. My tea was either not fragrant enough or not fresh enough. I used Earl Grey, and infused it into bourbon, instead of into the syrup, because I have had better luck with tea in spirit infusions than with tea syrups.

There is a delicate balance to find when infusing tea into spirits. Too long, and the spirit becomes over-burdened with tannin, resulting in a caustic dry mouthfeel. I tested my infusion after a mere ten minutes, and as soon as I began to detect the tannin, I stopped the infusion. Unfortunately, it did not soak up enough tea to find balance against the simple syrup, egg white, and lemon in this drink.

Image

Singularity
1.5 oz Cinnamon-infused bourbon
.75 oz lemon
.5 oz simple syrup
.25 oz peach gel*
1 egg white
Combine all in a mixing glass and blend with an immersion blender. Add ice and hard shake. Double strain into a coupe and top with concentric rings of peach gel and fresh grated cinnamon.

For version two of this drink I dropped the tea in order to highlight a flavor that I adore with peaches: cinnamon. In order to emphasize the flavor of the peach, I used peach gel both as a garnish and as an additive to the drink. The combination of the gel and the egg white gave it a wonderful velvety texture, while a un undertone of cinnamon formed a foundation for peach and bourbon flavors.

A note on method: immersion blenders instantly make perfect egg white foam. I have completely abandoned dry-shaking my egg white drinks in favor of the immersion blender method. My egg white drinks are thick and frothy, with perfect aeration. It’s as if I did a hard, dry shake for two or three minutes! This was the first piece of science in the drink; to use a hand blender to master the egg white emulsion.

*Peach Gel
3 ripe peaches, peeled
juice of one orange
3 tbsp Ultratex 3
Combine all in blender and store in a plastic squeeze bottle

Ultratex 3 is a modified tapioca starch that swells in water at room temperature. It has good stability at a range of temperatures, and can be used to thicken raw juices up to the texture of a syrup or a gel without heating. I tried mixing it with bourbon to make bourbon with the texture of caramel… it was a little disgusting, but ultratex does wonderful things with fruit juices. This gel will keep in the fridge for about three days. After that, it still tastes alright, but it loses some of its brighter flavors and color, and becomes oxidized.

Keep it science.


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Thai Tea Rum Fizz

Last week Joe and I were trying to use up the Thai tea syrup that we made for Thai week. I really wanted to try rum and Thai tea syrup together, so I suggested that we make a drink out of the two. We waited until later in the session to explore this idea, and, since we hadn’t made one yet, why not a fizz?

Thai Tea Rum Fizz
2 oz Doorly’s rum
1 oz Thai tea syrup
.75 oz Acid phosphate
1 oz Heavy cream
Dash of allspice dram
White of 1 Egg
Top with soda water and flamed angostura

Combine all but the toppers and dry shake for about a minute. Add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a tall glass and top with soda water. Add 4 drops of angostura and use a toothpick to swirl it into the foam. Flame a bit more angostura over the top.

Traditionally, a fizz contains gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. A Ramos fizz has all of that plus egg white, cream, and orange flower water. We decided to make ours more like the Ramos fizz, with some twists. I wanted the flavor profile to be focused on the rum and thai tea, so I chose to use acid phosphate as the souring agent, which is sour yet neutral. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any orange flower water, but we added some allspice dram to spice it up a bit, which paired well with the rum.

The fizz is an interesting form of cocktail. I guess I would describe this drink as kind of like an alcoholic milkshake. At first I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted, being rich and thick, but by the end of the glass I was sorry to see it finished. The aroma of charred bitters and the tiny bite from the allspice complement the rum rather well. Working with cream turned out to be a double-edged sword because, although it adds body to the drink and helps to draw out the sweetness in the tea flavor from the syrup, too much of it clobbers some of the tea’s complexity. For that reason, we used half as much cream as you usually would for a Ramos fizz.

Enjoy!


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Thai Week Outtakes

Note: All of the drinks in this post were sub-par. We are posting them as a recounting of what not to do. Please do not make them, they are not that great.

We had some successes with our Low-Proof Thai Cocktail Week, but we also had plenty of drinks that didn’t make the cut. Two of them we already posted, the Miracle Mango Sour and the Lemongrass Soju MarTHAIni. They were OK, but they did not make the final cut. The lemongrass marTHAIni was too one dimensional — its only real flavor was lemongrass, which tastes kind of like a truncated lemon. Point of fact, it tasted kind of like a yellow fruit loop. Gross.

The Miracle Mango Sour was a bit more interesting, but it lacked impact. Even with fresh citrus juice, there was simply no kick, no bite, no bracing quality to it. Part of the problem is that soju is not high-proof enough to fully extract the soft flavor of a fruit like mango. As a result, the mango flavor in our infusion was week. Hence the maxim: give soju infusions double the time and they’ll taste twice as fine. But some flavors just aren’t going to come out, no matter how long you leave them. If you drank mango-soju straight, over ice, and with a twist of lime, it would be pretty tasty, but in a mixed drink it just can’t stand up.

Still, we were determined to somehow make the concept of the miracle mango sour work, so in a frenzy of mixing last friday night, we made four more iterations of it, and none of them were good enough of for the final menu. At least they look pretty.

2 oz Mango-Infused Soju
.5 oz Nigori Sake  (Kizakura)
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mango cubes and a lime twist.

This tasted good but it was watery. Mango-infused soju and nigori sake are both low proof and lightly flavored. We wanted to create a drink that was reminiscent of mango sticky rice, which is why we selected nigori sake. Nigori sake fills a similar role to a fortified wine in this drink, except it is, unfortunately, even lower proof that soju. Nigori sake is unfiltered sake, so it has a cloudy look and texture, and a sweet flavor. The taste of mango was light in our infusion, so I used only .5 oz of Nigori sake to keep it in balance. Perhaps if I had shaken this a mere ten times, it would have come out OK, but I gave it my standard thirty (this was the drink that made me realize you have to shake low-proof cocktails half as long). Even though it had a good flavor, we wanted to make it more intense, so we switched from mango soju to mango syrup.

Adding insult to injury, the lime zest in this garnish made a very discordant smell to the flavor of the drink. It was all wrong.

2 oz Nigori Sake (Kizakura)
.5 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
White of one whole egg
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Mango syrup has a very concentrated flavor, so our next idea was to use the Nigori sake as a base spirit, and get the mango in that way. This felt like it was going to be a slam dunk, but it was actually the worst of the bunch. The Nigori sake is so low-proof that even the bird’s eye chili could not save the drink from tasting weak. Worse, the mango syrup’s flavor was so powerful that it was the only thing we could taste over the egg white.

So for round three, we decided to concentrate the flavor of the Nigori sake, by simmering it on the stovetop and reducing its volume by two thirds. Even concentrated, the nigori sake had a very mild flavor, but it was strong enough that it did come through in the drink.

2 oz Soju
.5 oz Egg White
.5 oz Nigori Sake Reduction
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.25 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Of all the variations we made, this one was the best. We used uninfused soju as the base (we were out of mango), but it scarcely mattered against the mango flavor of the mango syrup. It’s possible that the mango soju would have rounded out the mango flavor, but it’s more likely that you would not have been able to notice the difference. We cut the egg white in this one back down to .5 oz, and it didn’t foam as much, but it still added body, and the flavors all came through. It was decent, but not so good that I would serve it to a guest or in a restaurant.

Even if it had been good, it would have been impractical, because the Nigori sake reduction would have been too expensive to justify producing it en masse for a restaurant. Somewhat happy with this result, we decided to try again, from a different direction, and also a more economical one:

2 oz Soju
.75 oz “Thaichata” Red Thai Rice, Kaffir Lime, Bird’s Eye Chili Concentrate
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Egg White
2 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango wedges a kaffir lime moustache.

This tasted like a slightly less good version of round #3. Instead of Nigori sake, we blended thai red rice with Bird’s eye chili and Kaffir lime leaves, simmered the mixture in water for a while, and then strained it through a cheesecloth. This procedure was similar to the one we used to make the Horchata for the Oaxacan Flower, and we loved the idea of “Thaichata”. Even though cinnamon is present in Thai food, we did not want to use it because we were afraid it would make the drink taste like more Mexican than Thai. We may try Thaichata again, but the recipe needs some work. As it was, it did a pretty good job of putting the rice flavor into the drink, and it turned it a beautiful pink color, but by this time we were fatigued of the concept, and sick of soju drinks.

Only later, we realized that mango sticky rice is made with coconut milk, but it was enough of a juggling act trying to get the flavors of rice and mango to balance against each other. Introducing coconut (i.e., more complexity) probably would not have magically fixed this mess. Gosh, I can’t wait to drink real drinks again!


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Miracle Mango Sour

Chok Anan or “Miracle Mango” is a the most common mango cultivar in Thailand. I wish I could tell you that the mango soju sour I am going to share with you today was infused with miracle mangos, but the fact is, it was made with a cultivar from the USA, the nearly ubiquitous Tommy Atkins. At the peak of its ripeness, this is not a bad mango, but it is far from the best. If you decide to make this drink at home, I highly, highly suggest that you use a better cultivar, such as my personal favorite, the Ataulfo. I have not actually tried a Chok Anan, but I think that would be even better, given the spirit of this drink (pun most certainly intended).

When I first received news of the Thai cocktail challenge, I set out five infusions for my mixing lab. My infusions were Juniper, Bird’s Eye Chile, Mango Basil, Sugar Cane, and Kaffir Lime/Galangal/Lemongrass. Those of you who enjoy Thai food can probably anticipate tomorrow’s drink, based on that information. Sugar cane, by the way, was entirely underwhelming, and when I tried mixing it with orange juice, it was positively awful. Thus did I kiss my dreams of a Mai Thai good bye. I haven’t given up hope for the sugar cane infusion, but it pairs with orange juice about as well as garlic pairs with whipped cream. Maybe if you’re Ferran Adrià you can make that work, but I sure can’t. Juniper-infused soju may taste like gin, but sugar cane-infused Soju resembles rum only metaphorically.

Anyway, I wanted this cocktail menu to feature an egg white sour, as I consider the genre to be one of the more interesting products of the modern mixology revival, and I figured we would pick some relatively unchallenging flavors. I infused a handful of Thai basil in this Soju for two days, and the flesh of a Tommy Atkins mango for four, and the result was a hint of basil on the sip, followed by a rich mango backend.

“Miracle” Mango Sour
2 oz Mango-Basil infused Soju
.5 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz egg white
Dry shake, and then shake over ice. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime twist.

In my original formulation of this drink, which is pictured, I used .75 oz each of lime juice and passion fruit syrup, and only .5 oz of egg white. As a result, the ratio of egg white to other ingredients was too low, and the drink did not acquire a pleasing foam head. Upon further consideration, I decided that the syrup and lime in my first version were too high, which is why I have presented a slightly scaled down version of the sweet/sour component of this drink. I believe that with this formulation, the .5 oz of egg white will be enough to froth correctly.

Moreover if I had it to do over again, I would probably skewer a couple of mango cubes on a bamboo skewer, and wrap a lime twist around it. So, in summary: do what I said, not what I did, use a miracle mango to make the infusion, and garnish more artistically. There’s always a tradeoff with egg white sours between double-straining to remove any fine pieces of ice vs. creating a superior foam head. Different shaking techniques can minimize ice sharding, so we’ll probably have to talk about that soon.

Cheers.


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Flamed Pisco Sour

Writing code all day will make just about anyone feel crazy, and last Monday the monotony was starting to get to me, so I walked down to my neighborhood Sur La Table, and I bought myself a flamethrower. If you are putting together the menu for a bar, a flamed drink serves two purposes; first, it gets the attention of all your patrons, and incites them to order “the one with the fire”, which hopefully equals more sales. Second, it’s flipping awesome.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler describes a technique for flaming a drink in which he fills a pressurized olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of bitters and Stroh 160, and then uses it to flame the surface of a Pisco Sour. The Pisco sour is an ideal candidate for this treatment, because it is made with an egg white, and as such has a rich, foamy head. You could garnish any mixed drink with scorched bitters, and it impart the same aroma, but egg white drinks have the added bonus that you can caramelize the top of the foam, capturing the the flavor of the bitters as well.

The garnish in a drink should look beautiful, but it also plays a functional role most of the time: it gives the drink most of its aroma. A mixed drink does not have a strong smell, but a fresh herb, spice, or citrus peel completes the experience of the drink. In that sense, scorched bitters is the garnish, even though it leaves no tangible artifact in the glass.

Some men just want to watch the world burn. In order to take this picture, I had to spray fire all over the egg white for about three times as long as you’re supposed to, and the surface that was touched by the flame turned into a paper film with the flavor of crème brûlée, and a texture that I wouldn’t serve to anyone whom I actually liked. As a matter of fact, it took me three of these before I got it right, but the research was not unpleasant.

You probably know all about the Pisco Sour–Pisco is a type of pomace brandy, similar to grappa, and is the national spirit of Peru.  Moreover, the Pisco Sour is the Peruvian national cocktail, which they celebrate on the first Saturday of every February. It is a very simple drink, but there are a couple of interesting details, which I shall discuss momentarily.

Scorched Pisco Sour
1.5 oz Pisco
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White

Dry shake* and then add ice and shake again. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Fill an olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of Angostura bitters and 151 rum (or Stroh 160) and burn the top of the egg white foam for a few seconds.

If your drink looks like the one in my picture, you actually overdid it with the fire. You don’t want a slimy membrane of burned meringue on top of your drink. Most Pisco sour recipes only call for half an egg white, but I like to use a whole one in this kind of application, to guarantee that you have plenty of foam to work with.

The traditional garnish for a Pisco sour is freshly-grated nutmeg, and I honestly prefer that to the more common (in the states) clover made out of angostura bitters. Scorching the bitters is a fun variation, however, and worth it just for the pyrotechnics.

*A note on dry shaking your sour: I always used to find that, when dry-shaking my drinks, little droplets from the drink would escape from my shaker and get all over my hands and clothes. This frustrated me greatly, because in order to properly dry-shake a drink, you need to shake it mightily, and in so doing whip up the egg white into a rich foam. I asked around on the internet, and they told me that the temperature of a drink with ice is what prevents it from breaking through the seal on your shaker. So for this drink, I placed a single ice cube in the shaker for my “dry” shake, and I was delighted to discover that the drink did not leak.


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Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour

After all those Bloody Maries, I was craving dessert, so I decided to make Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour. Since he serves it on the rocks, it’s technically an Amaretto fix, but why quibble? The basic recipe (I’m no historian, but the one I know) is 1.5 oz of Amaretto and .75 oz of lemon juice. I like to add Regan’s orange bitters, because they are light, and they add a pleasant orangey tang to the drink without killing the bright flavors from the lemon. Mr. Morgenthaler takes it in a different direction, modifying the liqueur with some cask-strength bourbon. In his recipe he uses Booker’s, and I just so happen to have some.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour

1.5 oz amaretto (Luxardo)
.75 oz cask-proof bourbon (Booker’s)
1 oz lemon juice
1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup
.5 oz egg white, beaten

Shake and strain over ice. Garnish with a lemon peel and brandied cherries.

I’m not always in the mood for an egg white sour, but it’s a nice indulgence once in a while. The bourbon added a pleasing oaky quality to the drink, and made it much dryer, but I didn’t think it was worthy of all of the braggadocio in the blog entry. Given a choice, I would probably pick this version of the drink over the classic. I like egg white drinks, but the use of amaretto as a base makes this drink so rich that the egg is almost unwelcome.

It was a very nice place to stay, and I will make it again, but even so, my quest for the perfect amaretto sour continues.