Measure & Stir

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


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Black Yukon Suckerpunch

With the long-awaited return of Twin Peaks imminent, I decided to hop on that sweet pop culture traffic. I never actually watched the original show, but I did some homework, and I learned that David Lynch liked to be extremely detailed in his world-building. Even though no recipe for the drink was ever given, the mise en scène suggests that the drink might contain black coffee, bourbon, blue curaçao, and sparkling mineral water, and that a blender may be involved.

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Of course, detailed world-building only goes so far. In the end, it’s a TV show, and they probably weren’t afraid to bend the rules a bit to get the look that they wanted in the drink. You hear the blender in the scene, so it seems likely that the bartender blended egg whites and blue curaçao into an blue foam, and then spooned it on top of an irish coffee consisting of jack, simple syrup, and black coffee. Possibly it was topped with Perrier.

The blogger that taught me all this thought the Perrier went in the blender, and at first brush, that does not make much sense. A blender is going to shake all the gas out of the Perrier, but it will add a slight bit of acid from the carbonation. The formula for an egg white foam is egg white, sugar, water, and acid, usually lemon juice. This probably worked for him, but how does that help me?

Another blogger also took a stab at the drink recently, but I’m more inclined to call his a Brown Yukon Sucker Punch, because of the light color. The problem is that he used a crafty third wave coffee, and these modern light roasts, as much as I like to drink them, brew to a chocolatey light brown. In 1991, the coffee was roasted practically to ashes, and that’s the only way to get the color right without dye.

Personally, I’ll stick to my Ethiopian Kochere. If you’re squeamish about food coloring, 1. Use food grade activated charcoal powder and 2. Get over it, you ingest commercial food dyes all the time, probably without realizing it, unless you are Amish.

I also don’t care for the whipped cream meringue. It’s too white and too solid. Who wants to drink that creamy gloopy monstrosity?

Anyway, if you want the classic, stick with Jamesoart. His technique is accessible and probably the truest to the show. My version uses a modernist technique à la Jamie Boudreau. This is how to make the Black Yukon Suckerpunch in the 21st century.

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21st Century Black Yukon Suckerpunch
1.5 oz Bourbon
.5 oz Coffee liqueur
1 oz brewed black coffee
As much black food color as it takes (like 3 drops)
Blue Cocktail Foam
4 egg whites
6 oz blue curaçao
3 oz lemon juice
2 oz water
Combine all foam ingredients in an iSi whipping siphon and charge with two N02 cartridges.
Stir the bourbon, liqueur, and coffee over ice, and pour into a highball. Top with the blue cocktail foam.

Getting the texture of a cocktail foam just right is always a challenge. The ratio of sugar, water, lemon juice, and egg white has to be just right to get a foam that is stable and springy. To be honest, it takes a little luck, and I have found some variability in the stability of this foam recipe. If your foam is falling apart, try replacing some or all of the water with simple syrup.

Cheers!


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Little Mermaid Cocktail with Wakame-infused Aquavit, Lemon, and Champagne

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continues to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

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Once again, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Johan and I have teamed up to create a course of three food and cocktail pairings, this time inspired by classic fairy tales. Our first dish was a surf and turf inspired by The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

I chose to pair the dish with a drink made from champagne and wakame-infused aquavit. Pairing mixed drinks with food is much more difficult than serving the drink on its own; cocktails contain strong spirits, and they easily overpower food. The best strategy is to keep the drink lighter than the food, and to echo at least one of its flavors.

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To approach the seafood in this dish, I used a trident approach: first, citrus and champagne, which we naturally pair with crab, octopus, salmon, or oyster. Second, aquavit, to remember the bread crumbs in the “sand”, and to evoke a Norwegian feeling. Third, seaweed, for its brine and its bitterness.

I tried, many moons ago, to infuse seaweed into a tincture, but I was inexperienced, and my cocktail tasted like the inside of an aquarium. Nori was the wrong choice. This time I selected wakame, and infused 200ml of aquavit with a scant teaspoon of dried wakame for five hours. It took on a pale green color, and developed a thalassic minerality.

Many people over-steep their infusions. You don’t throw teabags into a pot of water and leave it for hours. You don’t let your coffee sit in a french press for a month and brag about how long you spent infusing it. So why do are you so proud of your over-infused spirits? The flavor of an infusion should be balanced and subtle, and when you make an infusion, you should take an active role in the process. Taste it frequently, and find the optimal rate of extraction.

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At its core, this drink is a French 75, but then again, almost every drink has a classic for its heart. That’s not because of some sacred or innate property of the classic drinks, it is merely that the classics have been selected and honed over time to form a basis in the space of possible ethanol-sugar-water recipes. For reference:

French 75
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Champagne

The other notable addition to this drink is dashi air, which I make by bringing a pot of water with a 2×2″ square of konbu and 50g of shaved bonito flakes to a boil in 200ml of water, killing the heat, and steeping for ten minutes before straining. If this sounds like cutting corners, it is, but I assure you my washoku game is on strong. Prior to boiling, I added 50 ml of mirin. I added it early, because I wanted the alcohol to boil off.

Finally, using an immersion blender, I integrated 5 g of sucrose ester (also called Texturas Sucro), which produces an airy foam. After pouring the drink into the glass, I carefully spooned the foam on top.

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Out of the Fathomless Deep
1 oz Wakame-infused Aquavit
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double-strain into a wine glass
Top with 2 oz Champagne and Mirin-Dashi Air

Garnish with a dried orange wheel clipped to the side of the glass.

Regarding the garnish, I sliced some orange wheels and dried them in a dehydrator until they were crunchy. Be careful not to get your orange wheel wet when you’re garnishing the drink, or it will get soggy. If you’re like me, your orange wheels will lose most of their aroma when you dry them. Since garniture is about olfactics as much as optics, I sprayed my dehydrated orange wheels with orange essential oil right before serving.

Since we used the same dashi air on the plate and in the glass, the flavors tracked each other closely.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Love Letter – Raspberry, Calvados, Malic Acid, Rose Air

For Valentine’s day, I invited some of my close friends over for an intimate cocktail party with an emphasis on technique. The first drink in my series was made with raspberry coulis ala Jacques Pepin, and topped with a rosewater sucro foam.

This project was a collaboration with my good friend Johan, whose interest in modernist cuisine was instrumental in creating these concepts. He was the one who suggested a raspberry powder, and as you can see, it is vibrant upon the plate.

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I have been chasing “soap sud” style foams for a while, and I finally found the right compound to make it. As critical as I was of José Andrés Bazaar Meats, they did clue me in to the appropriate recipe for a stable soap sud foam. To the best of my knowledge, Ferran Adria is the man who first had the idea to use sucrose esters to create this style of drink. In the past I had tried using soy lecithin, but the final product was too unstable to sit upon a plate, and would begin to approach soy milk.

For the raspberry coulis, I was inspired by this recipe for raspberry velvet from Jacques Pepin, who is a culinary hero of mine. The method is simple, and the resulting product is both sweet and tart. Upon mixing it into a drink, the flavor became dull, so I added additional malic acid and sugar to bring it back to life.

Initially I used brandy for the base spirit, but the flavor was too harsh. As I was tuning the drink, I was reminded of the common juice pairing of apple and cranberry, so I reached for my trusty bottle of calvados. Its soft and mellow flavor was the perfect base note for the tart purée.

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To garnish, pulverize freeze-dried raspberries and sift them through a fine mesh strainer. I put down a cocktail glass and tapped the strainer to create an empty circle on the serving tray.

To make the candied fruit, brush raspberries, blueberries, and rose petals with egg white, and then roll them in sanding sugar. It is important to use sanding sugar here, as granulated or powdered sugar will dissolve. Allow them to dry, uncovered, for at least six hours. They will keep for about two days.

In the picture, you can see that I used a mint leaf, but in practice this turned out to be a little tooth-pastey. A red rose petal, on the other hand, is subtle and tasteful.

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Love Letter
1.5 oz Raspberry Coulis ala Jacques Pepin
1.25 oz Calvados
1/4 tsp Malic Acid
1 Barspoon of Simple Syrup
1 Dash of Angostua Bitters
Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer
Top with Rosewater Air
Garnish With Candied Berries and Raspberry Powder

Rose Air
1/2 cup of water
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon sucrose ester
Blend using a stick blender with a whisk attachment, or an egg beater.

Raspberry Powder
Pulverise freeze-dried raspberries in a mortar and pestle.
Sift them through a fine-mesh strainer

Candied Berries
Brush berries with egg whites and roll them in sanding sugar.

To be honest, I always feel like drinks with airs, foams, spheres, and other molecular trickery end up a little bit gimmicky. The gimmick takes away from the purity of the form, and unfortunately, this was no different. On the one hand, it is undeniable that the rose aroma contributed to the experience of this drink, both in appearance and flavor, but at the same time, there is a sense that it’s all a bit of a trick.

Still, I hope you enjoyed it. Cheers.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)

Continuing in my fall series, I wanted to create drinks that were wholly orthogonal to each other. In a course of drinks, each experience should be distinctive.

In my AB testing for this drink, I started with a butternut squash juice made by running fresh juice from the squash through a chemex filter. I do not suggest grilling the squash before making the juice. The resulting liquid has a clean, sweet, penetrating flavor of squash, and a pale orange color. I mixed it with Demerara 12 Year, brown sugar syrup, and a small measure of balsamic vinegar, and served it in a coupe glass rimmed with brown butter powder (see below).

The final product was intriguing but a little underwhelming. Although the butter brown powder was delicious as a “hook” for the concept, the flavor of the actual drink was average. The balsamic vinegar did add a nice contrast and dimension, but my competing concept was better.

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Colors of Fall: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)
1 oz Bourbon (Russell’s Reserve)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
1.5 oz Roasted Pumpkin Juice*
1 Dash Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Top with “Basic Bitch Foam*” and Brown Butter Powder*.

Whew, that’s a lot to unpack. The combination of a foam, a powder, and a relatively complex may strike some as decadent or over the top. I assure you that it is.

Let’s start with the “Basic Bitch Foam”. I am sure most internet denizens have seen this viral video by now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaghIdSJKvQ
One of the hallmarks of the basic bitch is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. For this foam, I made a pumpkin spice mélange and mixed it into maple syrup, lemon, egg white, and xanthan gum. I have found that foams work much better with a little xanthan gum for stabilization. Moreover, xanthan gum can be dispersed in liquids much more easily if you first make a slurry of xanthan gum and a small amount of sugar. This recipe is approximate, as I made the foam to taste:

Basic Bitch Foam
100 ml egg whites
350 ml Maple Syrup
50 ml lemon juice
6 g pumpkin spice mélange (cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, star anise)
1 g Xanthan Gum in a slurry with 5g of white sugar*
Combine lemon, maple syrup, and spice mélange. Make a slurry of xanthan gum and sugar, and then disperse it into the maple syrup mixture. Add the egg whites and then pour into an iSi Whipped Cream Canister. Charge with two n02 cartridges and shake vigorously. Store in the fridge.

For the brown butter powder, I followed this recipe at Chefsteps:

Brown Butter Powder
225 g Butter, unsalted
100 g Tapioca Maltodextrin
20 g Powdered sugar
2.5 g Salt, kosher
Brown the butter, add the sugar and salt, and then combine in a food processor with tapioca maltodextrin.

By volume, this recipe made significantly more powder than I wanted. In the future, I will cut this recipe in half.

Roasted Pumpkin Juice
Cut a pumpkin into pieces, roast about 10% of it in the oven and then mash it into a purée. Run the rest of it, raw, through a juicer, and blend the purée into the juice a little at a time, until you find a balanced flavor and a slightly thicker texture. I’m sorry, it’s hard to be more specific than that. When it’s right, you’ll know.

Next time I make it, I’ll note the weights of raw vs. roasted pumpkin, and update this post. For now, I enjoy the idea of drinks which require a personal touch and an idiosyncratic treatment. If you prepare this drink, you will have to rely on your own senses, and you will end up with a creation which is a little bit more your own.

Cheers.


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Barrel-Aged Monogram

Well, OK, semi-barrel-aged. Barrel-aging a drink has two effects. The first is that all of the flavors in the different ingredients meld together, and the second is that the oak flavor of the barrel infuses into the spirits. I have had cocktails that were aged in mason jars, and I have had cocktails that were aged in actual barrels. I prefer the second variety, as I would imagine, most drinkers do.

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Generally one can only barrel-age aromatic drinks; citrus or dairy is too perishable to withstand the aging process. I wanted to try this process with one of my favorite drinks, the union club. My method was to premix all of the ingredients but the orange juice, and then add the orange juice at mix-time, as usual. I did not have a proper barrel, so instead I simply combined the bourbon and the liqueurs in a glass bottle with some toasted oak chips, and set them to age.

I tried the aging two different ways; in the first version, I oak-aged only the campari and maraschino, and in the second, I oak-aged all of the spirit ingredients. I ended up preferring the version with only the campari and maraschino together. As the flavors meld, they lose some of their distinctiveness. One of my favorite parts of tasting a mixed drink is picking out the individual pieces from the whole, and I found the flavor more interesting when the bourbon was separate.

Moreover, I designed this variation of the union club specifically for my birthday party, so I borrowed a page from Mark Sexauer, who made the excellent Humo Flotador for our Garnish-themed Mixology Monday.

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Monogram
1.5 oz Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
1 oz Oak-Aged Campari and Maraschino (1:1)
1 oz Fresh Cara Cara Orange Juice
Shake all over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Top with orange Scotch foam* and spray-stencil my initials onto the foam in angostura bitters.

*See below.

The orange and the liqueurs came together in such a way that they tasted very much like blood orange juice and bourbon. I think that owes in part to my use of Cara Cara oranges, which are a bit more bitter than navel or valencia. I did enjoyed the blood orange flavor, but on the whole I thought the drink on its own was lacking in brighter flavors.

We made up for the lack of brightness in the base by topping it with a light, citrusy foam. I followed Mark’s recipe, but I swapped out the mezcal for a blended scotch, which I infused for one day with orange peels, to help it match the drink below it. Mark’s recipe calls for two teaspoons of gelatin, but when I tried it that way, I found that my foam would begin to “set” in the glass and turn slightly jello-y.

I myself tend to drink mixed drinks quickly, but I have had many guests who prefer to sip slowly, so I halved the gelatin and I was very pleased with the results.

Orange Scotch Foam
1 tsp Gelatin
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Sugar
5 Egg Whites
3 oz Orange Peel-Infused Scotch
2 oz Lemon Juice
Combine all in an iSi Whipped Cream dispenser and charge with two cartridges. Shake vigorously.

After topping the drink with foam, we sprayed bitters through a Misto through a stencil that we cut with an exacto knife.

Orange, whiskey, Campari, and Maraschino. Shake, and garnish with narcissism.

Happy Monday.


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Old Fashioned Fernet Cocktail with Pineapple Foam

Last week’s foam adventure left me unsatisfied; though the foam itself was excellent, the total drink was lacking. And in the aftermath of my failure, I knew there was a reliable way to redeem myself. I brought back our old friend, that time-tested combination, pineapple and fernet. I have already spoken at some length about this combination; we all know it’s a winner. What I wanted to do with this drink was to showcase the foam with a simple drink that would support it. In my earlier experiment, I tried to unify two wholly disparate parts into a single drink, with predictable results.

Here, rather than putting two drinks in one glass and watching them fight, I envisioned a single drink, and split half of its components into a foam, and the other half into a cocktail. The marriage was perfect; I placed a simple foam on top of a simple drink, and it needed nothing.

I admit, I had my reservations about the foam recipe itself. To make a good foam, one needs to a balance the ratio of sugar to acid, not merely for flavor, but also for the structural integrity of the foam. Pineapple juice has a pH of about 3.0, whereas lemon juice hovers between 1.8 and 2.2. I used pineapple juice as the base of this foam, so I knew I needed to use significantly less citrus than in the whiskey sour foam from before, but I wasn’t sure how much less. I ended up taking a stab in the dark, and getting lucky. Pineapple juice also has a high sugar content, so one wonders if it might not be fine on its own.

Pineapple Foam
6 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice, strained.
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice, strained.
1 oz Simple Syrup
2 oz water
4 egg whites
Combine all in an iSi whipped cream dispenser and discharge two nitrogen cartridges. Allow the canister to rest in the refrigerator for ten minutes before use.


Old Fashioned Fernet Cocktail, Pineapple Foam
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
.25 oz Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube. Top with a generous amount of pineapple foam.

This drink needed nothing. Perhaps instead of an old fashioned, it should be called a new fangled, in reference to the molecular mixology technique here employed. Regardless, this was one of my finest original creations to date. The water mellowed out the flavor of the foam, balancing it against the Fernet, allowing the whole drink to breathe. A big danger with foam drinks is that the foam can overwhelm the drink underneath, and dilution of the foam is the secret to keeping the flavors in balance.


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iSi Whipped Cream Dispenser

After eyeing it for a while, I finally caved and purchased an iSi Whipped Cream Dispenser. This is a heavy-duty piece of equipment, and I am very satisfied with the quality. If you’ve been around the internet for a while, or if you have visited a snooty restaurant with thirty tiny courses made out of science,  you are familiar with the molecular gastronomy/mixology practice of making flavored foams. I’d been dying to try it and now, at last, I have.

For my first foam, I wanted to go by the book, so I watched this video by Jamie Boudreau and followed his advice closely. His drink sounded interesting, but I still wanted to go my own way, so I decided to take two recipes that I already know and love, and put them together. The combination was kind of disappointing, but the foam itself was delicious, and overall a huge success. In the video, Jamie mentions that gomme syrup in the underlying drink is important to help its texture stand up to the rich foam. I heard this advice, but I did not have any gomme syrup, so I charged ahead blithely without it, with predictable results.

It wasn’t so much a problem of the viscosity of the drink, in my opinion, as a problem with the flavor. The foam was loosely inspired by my Vanilla Whiskey Fix, except I changed the balance to match Mr. Boudreau’s specifications. For the underlying drink, I used this apple brandy concoction. When I tasted the foam on its own, prior to mixing the drink, it felt like a good match in my imagination, but the flavor of the foam was very powerful, so that all you could taste from the underlying drink was the allspice.

Honey Whiskey Fix Foam
2 oz Honey Syrup
1 oz Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
1.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Water
2 Egg Whites

Place all in a whipped cream dispenser, seal, and shake. Discharge a nitrogen cartridge into the dispenser and then place the dispenser in the fridge for an hour to allow the foam to emulsify. If you need foam RIGHT THIS SECOND, discharge two nitrogen cartridges and wait a few minutes.

The foam came out of the dispenser with a very rich, creamy texture, similar to the head on draft Guinness or Boddingtons, but thicker. It completely destroyed the aroma of the underlying drink, so that was a disappointment, but I think the real artistry here lies in finding flavors that are distinct and yet complementary, or perhaps in using a lighter foam.

The only real hitch here was the stability of the foam. It broke down before I could finish the drink, most likely because I needed more sugar relative to the acidity of the lemon juice. Still, I don’t think anyone would complain if I served this foam to them at a party.

Before I go, a quick meditation on capacity. The above recipe made just enough foam for three drinks, and I think the 1 pint canister that I purchased could accommodate roughly double that, or six drinks. If you need to make these in a larger quantity than that, you should probably get the quart. I slightly regret not doing so. Coming soon: Flash infusions.