Measure & Stir

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


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Snow White Forest Tonic with Hendrick’s Gin, Apple, Green Herbs, and Fernet Branca

The evil queen was a beautiful woman, but she was proud and arrogant, and she could not stand it if anyone might surpass her in beauty. She had a magic mirror. Every morning she stood before it, looked at her plate, and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who makes the tastiest dessert of all?

Continuing the Valentine’s day feast, Johan and I decided to serve a dessert-loaded menu. Our second course was inspired by Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. For this fairy tale, we served “The Other Half of the Poison Apple”, and as before, Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

snowwhite-00198

As long as long as the queen was not the most beautiful woman in the entire land, her envy would give her no rest. She made a poisoned apple, and from the outside it was beautiful; white with red cheeks, and anyone who saw it would want it. But anyone who might eat a little piece of it would die.

“Are you afraid of poison?” asked the old woman. “Look, I’ll cut the apple in two. You eat the red half, and I shall eat the white half.”

Now the apple had been so artfully made that only the red half was poisoned. Snow-White longed for the beautiful apple; she barely had a bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground dead.

snowwhite-00248

As you can see, we got experimental with this one. In addition to the drink and the frozen apple, we served an aromatic fog made with eucalyptus and spruce oil. With the fog and the drink, my intention was to create a sense of being lost in an enchanted forest.

For the fog, we filled a glass vessel with crushed dry ice, and then at service time, poured in a mixture of near-boiling water and essential oils. Be sure to use tempered glass for this, or it can break the vessel. If the water is not hot, the vapor will be disappointing.

The sensation of sitting down to a drink, and feeling the sudden rush of cold vapor flowing over the table, and the sharp scent of eucalyptus opening the sinuses

SnowWhite-00253.jpg

For the drink, I used Hendrick’s gin, fresh apple juice season with matcha and malic acid, and a syrup of blanched and blended green herbs.  I was aiming at a fresh green color, but as conceived, the drink ended up a little swampy. In person it was greener, swearsies. I had no deep, esoteric inspiration in this drink, just a pragmatic, bottom-up approach.

I knew I wanted to create the feeling of a forest, so I started with a gin base and layered in other green aromas and botanicals. In my mind, rosemary, sage, and shiso all taste “green”, but one could be forgiven for thinking of poultry spices. In the drink, this was not a concern, but on its own,  I did think of a roast chicken.

Green Herb Syrup
20g rosemary
20g sage
20g shiso
150 ml water
150 ml sugar
Blanch the herbs, then combine everything in a blender and blend on high until the mixture is smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

You could substitute mint for shiso, but cooked mint easily goes to toothpaste. Exercise caution. If possible, I would suggest juicing fresh mint à la minute, instead of macerating it into a syrup.

For the sour apple juice, I pressed three granny smith apples in a masticating juicer, seasoned it with powdered malic acid and matcha powder according to my taste, and whipped the mixture using a whisk attachment on an immersion blender. There is no precise recipe here, it is simply a matter of taste. The sour apple juice is filling in for lemon in this gin sour, and it needs to balance the sweet green syrup. If I had to put a number on it, I would say:

Sour Matcha Apple Juice
150 ml Fresh Granny Smith Apple Juice
10g Matcha Powder
3g Powdered Malic Acid
Combine all using an electric whisk.

snowwhite-00255-3

Lost in the Forest
1.25 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz Sour Matcha Apple Juice
.5 oz Green Herb Syrup*
Shake over ice and double strain into an old-fashioned glass.
Float .25 oz of Fernet Branca.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig clipped to the side of the glass.

The float of Fernet Branca is mostly for aroma, but it gives the first few sips a bitter, bracing quality as well as a deep menthol aroma. The forest is dark and beguiling.

As you may notice, it is the year of the tiny clothespin. This cocktail garnish innovation is a real game-changer. Many aromatic ingredients are repellant if dropped into a drink,  but they can be beautiful and fragrant if held slightly aloft. Do yourself a favor.

Cheers.


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Not For Everyone: Fernet, Mezcal, Elderflower

It’s been a while, Measure and Stir. Is anyone still reading this feed? I can’t promise I’m going to post with any regularity but I’ve been away for a while and lately I’ve been feeling the itch. I haven’t been posting, but I have been learning.

I have been spending a lot of time developing my technique. In the past, I confess there were times that I sacrificed the quality for novelty in pursuit of new and unusual drink recipes. I am humbler now, and I will try to push my limits to bring you new drinks that are more subtle, more balanced, and more refined.

Tonight I found myself craving a small digestif. I keep a backup for my backup bottle of fernet, and I knew I wanted a no-nonsense kind of a drink. I started with the idea of an old fashioned fernet cocktail, but I was out of simple syrup. Shameful.

Instead, I reached for elderflower as the sweetener, because I have seen St. Germaine mixed with Fernet before, and I found it to be a pleasing combination. Fernet is already bitter enough, so instead of bitters, I wanted to add a base spirit as the smallest component. I like elderflower and mezcal, so I felt like it was a natural choice.

Image

Not For Everyone

2 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Elderflower Liqueur (pür likör)
.5 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)

Stir and strain into a chilled mason jar with a large ice cube. Garnish with a lime twist.

A savory quality emerged in this drink. The pür elderflower is not quite as sweet as St. Germain. If you are using St. Germain, you should probably use .5 oz, but if you are using pür like I did, you might consider .75. The elderflower in this ratio cut the bitterness, but it did not contribute as much to the end flavor as I would have liked.

Even so, the intersection of these three ingredients had a savory, almost bacony quality, It started with Fernet’s bitterness on the sip, gave way to elderflower and agave, and concluded with smoke and menthol.

It settled my stomach.


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MxMo LXIX, January 21, 2013: Fortified Wines

Hello, my friends. I have been absent a while; longer than I had anticipated. To be honest, my posting schedule was a bit too aggressive, and I was feeling burned out. For the new year, (I know) we have a resolution. There will be fewer posts, but the drinks will be of higher quality. In order to keep up our break-neck pace, we found ourselves drinking more than we wanted to, and sometimes sacrificing quality in the name of filling the space.

stepchild2_2

We are also going to keep the posts a little pithier. On that note, our first drink of 2013 is for Mixology Monday LXIX: Fortified Wines, hosted at Chemistry of the Cocktail.

Fortified wines began, in large part, as a way to deal with the difficulties of shipping wine long distances in the holds of sailing ships. Without the rigorous sterilization that is possible today, wines would often spoil en route. However, increasing the alcohol concentration to around 20% ABV was enough to keep them from going off… These wines held an important place in.. punch and have continued on in cocktails proper. [These wines include] sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks… They can play many different roles – from taking the place of vermouths in classic drinks, to providing richness and sweetness in winter tipples, to serving as a base for lighter aperitifs. Whether forgotten classics or new creations, let’s see what you can put together.

For MxMo, we have slightly modified the Stepchild, one of our favorite drinks from 2012, and one that we made using our vermouth template. The improvement, though subtle, is important. Thematically, we liked calling the drink the Stepchild on account of the ginger wine. So in order to really drive home the lore, and to improve the nose, we replaced the candied ginger with a smacked mint leaf. The critical thing here is to hold up the mint leaf in the palm of your hand, and then dramatically backhand it over the drink.

stepchild2_1

Stepchild
2 oz Stone’s Ginger Wine
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 tsp (.125 oz) Fresh Ginger Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dramatically-backhanded mint leaf.

I adore Stone’s Ginger. Happy belated New Year, and big thanks to Jordan Devereaux at Chemistry of the Cocktail.


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part II

Joe and I made a variety of citrus cordials, and mixed up some gimlets, trying out various base spirits with each sort of cordial. In this series, we present our tasting notes. Part II brings us to the lime cordial, which was so tasty that we went a little nuts and made six different gimlets!

Lime Cordial
1 cup lime juice
1 cup sugar
Peels of 8 limes, piths removed.

A word of advice when making a lime cordial: You need to remove as much of that lime pith as you can. Lime pith is very bitter, and can ruin your cordial. Lime cordials are a huge pain to make, but the payoff is worth it, I promise.

Round 1

lime gimlets 2

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Mezcal Gimlet

Eye: A slightly yellow clear, with a ghastly green glow.
Nose: Cactus and lime.
Sip: Smokey cactus, sweet lime.
Finish: Sweet.

The mezcal gimlet was excellent, probably one of my favorites out of the six that we made. Lime and mezcal really go well together, and the cordial mixes very well with mezcal, indeed. I love the depth that the mezcal’s smoke adds to such a simple drink.

Suze Gimlet

Eye: A deep yellow, almost amber.
Nose: Herbal.
Sip: Bitter, herbal, dry, crisp.
Finish: Dry, suze is pronounced in the finish.

Suze is a gentian-based liqueur, and as such it tastes very bitter. Honestly, this would make a decent apéritif, as it is slightly sweet, but mostly bitter and dry. Perhaps Suze has an acquired taste, but it is one that is well worth acquiring. This was in the top three, for sure.

Gin Gimlet

Eye: Clear, with a hint of green glow.
Nose: Botanicals and citrus.
Sip: Gin is present in the sip.
Finish: The lime cordial balances out the finish.

Of course we had to make a gin gimlet. A word of advice: the gimlet is a simple cocktail, and as such, it emphasizes the base spirit, so don’t skimp out and use the cheap stuff, go for your favorite gin, as the gimlet is a brilliant way to showcase it. I’m not sure I need to say much about this gimlet, since we’ve all probably had it a million times. If not, definitely make sure you try one soon.

Round 2

gimlets2

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Fernet Branca Gimlet

Eye: Brown
Nose: Fernet Branca
Sip: Fernet Branca
Finish: Fernet Branca, lime detectable in the finish.

Drinking lime juice and Fernet Branca is a delicious experience, and so Joe and I had high hopes for mixing Fernet with our lime cordial. It worked out about as well as Fernet and lime, which is to say it was great, however I will probably stick to squeezing fresh limes into my Fernet in the future. Making a lime cordial is a pain, whereas juicing a lime isn’t, and the extra effort involved in making the cordial isn’t justified by this gimlet.

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum Gimlet

Eye: White, hard to discern that lime cordial is present.
Nose: Sweet fruits, and citrus.
Sip: Strong grassy hogo, mellowed by the lime cordial.
Finish: Rum and lime are both present, well-balanced.

The Wray & Nephew gimlet was outstanding, and definitely in my top three. I love rum agricole, with its funky, grassy flavors. Wray & Nephew lacks some of the frutier notes that I’ve had in other white rums, but that is OK here, since it gets out of the way and gives the lime cordial some breathing room. Together, the two components balance each other well. Make this gimlet, you won’t be sad.

Tequila Reposado Gimlet

Eye: Yellow.
Nose: Smoke, citrus.
Sip: Tequila and lime.
Finish: Smoke, lime.

The tequila gimlet was quite similar to the mezcal gimlet, as you might expect. After the success of the mezcal gimlet, I wanted to see how tequila reposado would work out, and the results were similar. Of course lime and tequila match well, but I think I enjoyed the smokier flavors present in the mezcal gimlet.

Next week: Grapefruit Cordials.


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Cupcake with Fernet Branca Icing, Candied Ginger

I apologize, dear readers, for my unexplained absence. I have been sick. To make it up to you, I have, not a recipe for a drink, but a recipe for a cupcake. At the ground level of the building where I work, there is a fancy cupcake shop, and as I was gnoshing on a bourbon maple cupcake, I was suddenly struck by how much I wanted fernet-flavored icing. I am not very experienced at baking, but when I mentioned the idea to my friend James, he took it and ran with it.

We used a recipe from Magnolia Bakery in New York City, but we took some liberties with the icing, obviously.

Fernet Branca Icing
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
6 – 8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup – 1 cup + Fernet Branca (to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Place butter in large mixing bowl
2. Add  4 cups of the sugar and Fernet and vanilla, mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 – 5 minutes
As you’re mixing it, after the first 3 – 5 minutes, after it starts to become creamy, gradually add the remaining sugar, beating well after each addition (2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of spreading consistency.

As you can see if you look at the picture closely, our buttercream came out with a slightly lumpy consistency, and the internet tells me this is because our buttercream was too cold. For perfect texture, the butter needs to be wholly at room temperature. Moreover, our frosting was a bit too thin to spread. In our eagerness for the bitter flavor of Fernet, we allowed the ratio of sugar/butter/Fernet to become too far weighted in the direction of Fernet. This made the frosting delicious, but it also made it run down the sides of the cupcake.

We garnished the cupcakes with a slice of candied ginger, and it paired beautifully with the Fernet. Here is the recipe for the cupcakes themselves, for those of us who are ready:

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes
1.5 cup self-rising flour
1.25 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, on medium speed of electric mixer, cream the butter until it’s smooth.
4. Add sugar, beat for 3 minutes, until fluffy.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
6. Add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk + vanilla.
With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but don’t over do it.
7. Spoon batter into cupcake tin with liners.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the the cupcake has finished (tester comes out clean).
9. Cool cupcakes on a rack for 15 minutes.

Do not ice them until they have completely cooled. Even without perfect texture, these cupcakes were delicious. Why not eat them with a small glass of bourbon?


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Guide to Amaro

 

 

I have been working on making my own bitters, but that project is far from ready. In the mean time, I decided to write a post discussing various amari (singular: amaro. Incidentally, the title of this post ought to be “Guide to Amari”, but we all know no one is going to search for that. It’s all about dat traffic), their characteristics, and their uses. When I first became interested in craft mixology, I noticed that a lot of the recipes I found on the internet called for liqueurs with Italian names, and I had never heard of any of them, and I didn’t know anything about their flavors. Lately, as I browse around various cocktail blogs, the big shots know how to handle them, but most people mixing drinks at home are really uninformed, so I broke out all the amari in my home bar, and tasted them all again, just for you.

Most of these spirits fit a similar flavor profile. The flavors words that I am using to describe them capture a degree of variation roughly on the same level as wine. First and foremost, all of these taste like amaro, except for Campari and Fernet, which are more distinctive. and I’m not even sure if Campari counts. All Amari are liqueurs, meaning that they have a substantial quantity of sugar, but they also have a strong bitter note on the finish. Bitter flavors provide the bass line for your drink, and a slug of amaro is often a great way to achieve that. Especially when making aromatic cocktails, they are great for layering complexity on top of a base spirit, or for lending a touch of the exotic. Once in a while, you can even find one in a tiki drink.

On the whole, they have strong herbal flavors, and are generally drunk in Italy as a digestivo, though Campari and Cynar are more popular as an aperitivo. And indeed, after eating a steak or a burger, there is nothing better to calm the stomach and aid the digestion than a glass of Ramazotti or Fernet Branca, on the rocks. In fact, I’m going to have one right now. Just a moment…

Ah, nothing makes a finer night cap. I find that most of these spirits are great on their own. You do not have to mix them into cocktails to enjoy them, but at the same time they are another dimension to play with when making your drinks, and quite an enjoyable one.

First up is Campari, which is a scintillant red color, and that selfsame color is perfectly artificial, I assure you. In the past, someone told me that it is flavored with rhubarb, but I am unable to detect any Since I’ve been making my own bitters, I have had occasion to smell and taste the flavors of a number of common bittering agents, and I can now observe that almost all of the flavor in this liqueur come from Cinchona bark, though it does have a hint of orange flavor. I don’t think it technically counts as an amaro, but it’s still a bitter Italian liqueur, and if you don’t like it on this list, you can write your own blog post about it. I consider Campari to be an essential element of any home bar, as it is a critical ingredient in the Negroni, one of the pillars of classic cocktailia.

Bitterness – 7/10. Proof: 34 Pictured: Rojo Bianco See also: The Italian 50

Next up is Averna, which is dark brown, almost black. According to the internet, it has a citrus flavor, but when I drink it, I primarily taste the flavor of burned caramel. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Averna — it’s not quite as bitter as I would like, and it lacks the complexity that I really look for in an Amaro. It’s quite drinkable, and CVS has some fun ideas for what to do with it, but it’s definitely on my B list. I don’t suggest it unless you already have a decent collection, and you’re trying to round it out.

Bitterness: 5/10. Proof: 58.  Pictured: Caramel Apple Charged Punch (Probably the worst photo on my blog)

Amaro Ciociaro is perfectly black. I’m sorry to say, I don’t have any drinks with this one yet, but I will soon. In contrast to Averna, I think this one is great, and one of the first that I would purchase when stocking a bar, right after Campari, Fernet, and Ramazotti. It has an excellent bitterness and a spicy complexity reminiscent of raisins, plums, and winter spices. That said, you could probably substitute Ramazotti for it in most drinks, so it might be a little bit redundant.

Bitterness: 6/10. Proof: 60.  Since I don’t have a drink for this one, it’s probably a good time to mention my generic recipe for an Amaro Sour, based on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour. The great part is, it will look pretty much exactly like the Amaretto sour, so here’s that picture, to jog your memory.

Amaro Sour
1.5 oz Amaro
.75 oz Cask-strength Bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
(optional) 1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup
.5 oz egg white, beaten

It’s important to note that some amari are much sweeter than others, and some are much bitterer, so it’s important to taste the drink before you add any simple syrup, and then adjust it accordingly. Fernet, for example, will probably call for a quarter ounce, perhaps even a half ounce of syrup, whereas Amaro Nonino is so sweet that you probably won’t want any.

Moving right along, Amaro Montenegro, much like Ciociaro, is midnight black. It’s probably the sweetest of the bunch, with a citrus flavor that’s almost bubblegummy. I’m pretty sure it’s bittered with wormwood, primarily, and it has a nice sprucey, piney sort of flavor, similar to an IPA. If you are in the mood for an IPA-based cocktail, I think this would probably be the one to try first. When I last visited the Zig Zag Cafe, they served me a Pimm’s cup with Montenegro, and the combination elevated both spirits significantly. My Italian friend Gualtiero said that in Italy, they play advertisements for this spirit on primetime television, and he said he viewed it in much the same way that I probably view a spirit like Jack Daniel’s. Fortunately, as an American, I can enjoy it free of this perception.

Bitterness: 4/10. Proof: 46.

And speaking my friend Gualtiero, he was kind enough to bring me a bottle of Amaro al Tartufo, which is made in Umbria, where he is from. It is thoroughly black, and tastes very different from the other amari in my collection. It has a clean citrus taste on the sip, and then a lingering, earthy truffle finish. I’ve never had anything like it, but then, I’ve never taken an amaro tour of Italy. I think I feel a vacation plan coming on. Generally speaking, I have no desire to mix this into a cocktail, as the truffle flavor is delicate and easily squashed. Then again, it was wonderful when I mixed it with fresh, sweet tomato juice.

Bitterness: 4/10. Proof: 60. Pictured: Mary, Truffle Hunter

Amaro Nonino is malty brown, for a change, and very light and sweet. When I tasted it for this post, I was surprised to find that it was bitterer than I remembered, but still nothing to write home about. Friedrich Nietzche wrote, “When one has properly trained ones conscience, it kisses you as it bites you.” In an amaro, I prefer and inversion of this; I want it to bite me as it kisses. Unfortunately, Nonino lacks bite, making it much better as a mixer than on its own. It has a hint of vanilla in it, and it’s it’s as close to rum as an amaro gets, which isn’t terribly close, but hopefully it gives you some idea of the flavor. As I discovered when I made the above drink, it pairs swimmingly with Mezcal. My only complaint is that it contains a noticeable amount of caramel coloring, and I feel that it leaves a film in your mouth, much like Coca Cola. On that note, it would probably be great with Coke.

Bitterness: 4/10. Bittering agent: Wormwood. Pictured: Des Esseintes

Ramazotti is black, and probably my favorite amaro that isn’t Fernet. It has a blood orange flavor, and tastes almost like a not-sweet version of Gran Marnier. I am pretty sure it’s bittered with gentian root, the same agent used to make Angostura bitters. When I first tried it, I thought, “this is sweet and tastes like oranges. I wonder how it would be in a margarita?” The answer, my friends, is: terrible. Ramazotti is not nearly as sweet as triple sec, and the herbal flavors in the the liqueur really muddied the flavor of the fresh lime juice. Don’t do it. Do try adding a quarter ounce of it to your Manhattan; it’s simply divine. This is a must-have for your home bar.

Bitterness: 5/10.  Proof: 60.  Pictured: Chocolate Cochon. Not a great cocktail to showcase Ramazotti, but it will have to do.

Cynar is black, and substantially different from most of the Amari described herein. Of all the spirits I have described in this post, I would compare it most to Campari, though it is perhaps a bit milder, and has a definite vegetal funk. The aroma is not distinctly artichokey, but on the sip it comes through loud and clear. As with Campari, the bittering agent is definitely Cinchona bark. I highly suggest substituting Cynar for Campari in a Negroni or a Spritz. This is not a must-have, but it is a highly recommended.

Bitterness: 6/10. Proof: 34. Pictured: Arts District. See also: Dirt ‘n’ DieselLibretto

Cardamaro is light brown, and technically a fortified wine, whereas all of the other spirits here are aged infusions and/or distillates. It’s less bitter even than Carpano Antica, which is a sweet vermouth, to give you some idea. It is assertively herbal, however, and can be used just like vermouth or sherry in a mixed drink. It’s a great way to add some variety to your fortified wine game, and I love it, but it certainly doesn’t bring much bitterness to the table.  Before I tried it, I was hoping it was flavored with cardamom, but it turns out it is flavored with cardoon, which is similar to an artichoke. Since this is a wine, you’ll want to store it in the fridge after you open it.

Bitterness: 1/10. Proof: 34. Pictured: Memories of Fall

Rhabarbaro Zucca is black. I think it is bittered with both Wormwood and Cinchona bark, but it’s hard to tell with this one. Ostensibly it is a rhubarb-flavored amaro, and I don’t doubt that there is rhubarb in it, but the flavor of it is minimal. There is some sweetness on the sip that reminds me of rhubarb jam, but it’s faint enough that it could just be the power of suggestion. Sadly, this one goes on the B list along with Averna. You could substitute Ciociaro, Ramazotti, or even Cynar for it, and you would probably like the resulting drink more, in most cases. I will not buy it again.

Bitterness: 6/10. Proof: 32.

Rounding off the list is Fernet Branca, and if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you already know how much I like this. Buy it twice. It is minty, bitter, and not sweet at all. I can tell you that it is almost certainly bittered with Angelica root, but I do not know if that is the only bittering agent. I suggest putting it in everything. Mix it with whiskey. Mix it with gin. Mix it with pineapple juice. On the weekend, mix it with the milk in your breakfast cereal. Mmmm, the breakfast of champions.

Bitterness: 7/10. Proof: 80. Pictured: Bartender on Acid

 


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Kingston Club

Via Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Kingston Club is one of the best drinks I have tried in a long time. Seattle finally decided to get warm, so I’ve been drinking lots of highballs in an attempt to beat the heat. I’ve also been ordering highballs around the city, and I’m disappointed to tell you that even many craft bars will manage to screw up this format. The most common mistake I see is the failure to use enough ice. When you make a rocks drink, it is essential that you fill the glass completely with ice. If you don’t, it will melt too quickly, and you will be left with a watery highball, its flavor a mere specter of your intention.

For this reason, I don’t recommend ordering a highball when you are eating at a restaurant; even if the bartender was diligent, it may take your server a while to bring you the drink, and the ice will melt. I can’t remember where I heard this line, but I like to tell my guests to “drink it before the ice gets scared”.

I’d never owned a bottle of Drambuie before last week, and this was the drink that convinced me to make the purchase. I love its peppery, scotchy flavor, and I was intrigued by Morgenthaler’s use of this spirit as the base of a Tiki drink.

Kingston Club

1.5 oz Drambuie
1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
.75 oz Lime juice
1 tsp Fernet Branca
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a Collins glass with ice and one ounce of soda water. Shake over ice and strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

If you followed the link above, you saw that his was a lot prettier than mine, but that’s OK, because mine was just as delicious. You would think that equal parts of liqueur and fresh pineapple juice would be too sweet, but the level of citrus in this drink was perfect, making it much dryer than I had anticipated. When I was planning to make this drink, I remembered it as having rather more Fernet than it actually does, but when I went to make it, I discovered it had only a teaspoon, which is exactly equivalent to 1/8 of one ounce.

Those who have been reading for a while will recall my love of Fernet and Pineapple, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to make this. As such, I apologize for the low amount of Fernet in this drink, and I will try to find one for you that has substantially more in the near future.


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Correcting Coffee

Boozy Saturday was winding down, and for our final round we decided to correct some coffee. James had some Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans that were pushing the end of their useful lifetime, and we really wanted to try correcting some coffee with Fernet Branca. I don’t have any advice about brewing coffee, but James’ steampunk grinder looks really cool, so here is a picture of it.

We tried a few different concepts, but none of them were surprisingly excellent. Fernet and coffee on its own is just missing something. The bitterness from fernet is very different from the bitterness in coffee, but the interplay is not intriguing; both flavors are merely present. Rye and fernet is delicious, and rye and coffee is very reasonable also, but rye and fernet and coffee somehow blended to create the flavor of a rotting vegetable.

I apologize for the unappealing description, but it was truly awful, and I want to make sure that you don’t try to make a drink like this. A quarter ounce of simple syrup took away the worst of it, but it was still not a drink I would serve to anyone whose friendship I valued.

Still chasing the tropical flavor from earlier in the day, I added rum and maraschino, and came away with something much more drinkable, but I still wouldn’t endorse it highly.

Sloppy Hemingway Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
1 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Maraschino (Luxardo)

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

It’s probable that there is some perfect marriage of coffee and rum out there, but it probably has Benedictine or allspice dram, not maraschino. Maybe it doesn’t contain a liqueur at all, but a bit of simple syrup. A tragic truth: the world is full of coffees and and rums, and you’ll never be able to try all of them with all of them.

And of course, our old pal, orgeat, was still hanging around, so we tried once more, and this was the best of the three, but still not quite where I wanted.

Mai Tai Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
.5 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

The almond latte is a very common drink, so adding rum to coffee was a very natural extension. I think the concept with this variation is sound, but the specific rum and coffee that we used were ill-suited to each other. A grate of lime zest might be a welcome addition, also. Fortunately, we can brew more coffee.


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Appetizer

I was looking for a drink to make with heavy cream when I happened upon this little beauty from CVS. The appetizer is perhaps oddly named, because with heavy cream and two very potent bitters, I think it walks the line between dessert and digestif. A proper aperitif should be dry and stimulating to the appetite, whereas this drink feels more like something to sip after a long meal.

The original drink called for Dubonnet, which I did not have, but on CVS he substituted Bonal, which I also did not have. I chose to use Cardamaro, because I find it to be similar to Bonal, though probably Dubbonet is more like sweet vermouth than Cardamaro. I wouldn’t stress about it, as long as you use a decently sweet and bitter and high-quality fortified wine, because Fernet and Angostura are the real heroes of this drink.

Appetizer

.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Angostura Bitters
.5 oz Heavy Cream
.5 oz Dubbonet (Cardamaro… I know)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a fluted glass.

The original recipe called for a cocktail glass, but I chose to use a fluted one, because the purpose of a cocktail glass’ wide mouth is to diffuse the fumes from the alcohol. The greater surface area of the cocktail glass also allows more heat to bleed into the drink, so it will warm quicker. I wanted to capture the aromas from the bitters when sipping this drink, rather than release them into the air with a cocktail glass. I also wanted to split the drink between three people, and these were convenient. But the logic is sound.

The sweetness of the dairy perfectly modulated the bitterness of the Fernet and Angostura. This was the most unusual drink I have tried all year, and I greatly enjoyed it. Somehow, the combination of spices and the cream made me feel like I was sipping on some kind of Tikka Masala. There was nothing savory in the drink, but still, the overall impression was one of curry.

I made this drink at the end of the night, and to be honest I was looking for something with a bit more of a dessert quality to it, so I mixed up a second round, swapping Fernet Branca with Branca Menta, which is Fernet Branca’s much sweeter cousin. The extra sugar greatly diminished the sensation of eating curry, and made this drink feel like a grown-up Grasshopper.

In the future, I will tend to make the Branca Menta variation, but I encourage you to try it both ways.


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Pineapple and Fernet

Last Saturday was a great day. James had just purchased his first bottle of Fernet Branca, and the occasion merited a thorough exploration of the ingredient. Pineapple juice and Fernet is one of those few truly extraordinary flavor pairings, like chocolate and peanut butter, or foie gras and sauternes, and I wish it were better-known.

Moreover, fresh pineapples have a limited window of availability, and I like to get while the gettin’s good, so I juiced a whole pineapple, and separately, a few ginger roots, and took them to the party. For our first drink of the day, I mixed up a Bartender On Acid. I first learned of this drink through CVS, and I fell in love with it because it was a classed up version of a prole drink, like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

Bartender On Acid

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 oz Traditional Rum (Wray and Nephew)

Shake over ice and double strain. Serve “Up”.

The Bartender on Acid is a highly improved version of that old college classic, the Surfer On Acid, a trainwreck of a shooter containing equal measures of canned pineapple juice, Jagermeister, and Malibu. Fernet Branca has the same dark, herbal, bitter personality that Jager does, but it has much more subtlety, and much more bitterness. It also has the alluring quality that frat boys don’t really drink it.

A traditional rum such as Wray and Nephew or Smith and Cross replaces the Malibu’s artificial coconut flavor with a hefty slug of “hogo“, the sulfurous, grassy, funky quality of rum which is distilled from molasses in a pot still, as in the traditional style. It’s rare to see an equal portions drink achieve such an excellent balance. A+, would drink again.

For round two, I was feeling inspired by this post at the Tiki Speakeasy, so I decided to put that pineapple juice to good use with a couple of original creations. Ginger and pineapple is another great pairing, and so is ginger and fernet, so I had it in my mind to combine the three of them into a highball.

Piña Branca

1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Fernet Branca
3 barspoons Fresh Ginger Juice
1 oz Ginger Beer

Combine all except ginger beer in a shaker, shake over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pineapple slice and a lime wheel.

Double-down on your garnishes when you’re making a tiki drink. It has to look exotic, and we accomplish that with more cut fruit. I added a few spoonfuls of fresh ginger juice to this drink to add a ginger spice, and relied on the ginger beer to contribute the necessary sugar.

It was very refreshing, but without any simple syrup, the whole drink was very dry, perhaps too dry for some palates. Such a drink is to my taste., but we also had some orgeat hanging around from the Trinidad Sour, and James wanted to see how the orgeat would fit into this drink.

Marzipiña

1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Fernet Branca
3 barspoons Fresh Ginger Juice
.75 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Ginger Beer

Combine all except ginger beer in a shaker, shake over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pineapple slice and a lime wheel. Cut the pineapple so that it’s eating the lime wedge, like Pac Man.

I tasted this drink with only .5 oz of the orgeat, and it didn’t really have the almond sweetness that I was looking for. The addition of orgeat covered up the fernet, and I didn’t want to add any more lest I upset the balance between the other flavors. The addition of sugar to the drink made it much more approachable, and I think that a mint leaf might help bring the fernet back into focus.

This variation will probably suit most peoples’ tastes more than the Piña Branca, and I’m fine with that, as long as it keeps them off of the Malibu.