Measure & Stir

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


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Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


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Sody Pop Wine Drink

We’ve been trying to explore new and interesting fortified wines, so the other day I picked up a bottle of Byrrh. I was expecting it to be sweet vermouth, but it is much more reserved in its herbal qualities, and its primary flavor is much closer to grape juice, or maybe to port. It has that same deep, sweet, raisin quality that one finds in a ruby port, but perhaps it is not quite as complex.

Anyway, I got it into my head to make a long drink, and it tasted like wine soda; dry, crisp, and refreshing. I like the combination of cherry and grape, so I used Byrrh as the base, modified it with Cherry Heering, and cut the sugar with a quarter ounce of lemon. The result was very approachable, I think.

sody pop wine drink

Sody Pop Wine Drink
2 oz Byrrh
.5 Cherry Heering
.25 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz soda water
Shake all except soda water over ice, then double strain and top with soda water. Garnish with skewered blackberries.

I did not have a lot to say about this one, but you could probably sub the Byrrh with Stone’s Ginger, or Sweet Vermouth, and still have something very enjoyable.

Bottoms up!


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Popcorn-Bourbon Toddy

As Joe used the iSi whip cream dispenser to flash infuse some freshly popped popcorn into some bourbon, I prepared some spiced butter using the same winter spice mix that we used to make the vin brûlée. Once everything was ready, a tasty toddy was born. Delicious, fun, rather unusual, and seasonally appropriate. Not only would drinking one of these be a fine way to warm yourself up, it’d also go really well with a movie.

Popcorn Toddy
2 oz Popcorn-infused Bourbon
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
.75 oz Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Spiced butter
Dash of bitters
2 oz Near-boiling water (to top)

Melt the butter and spices together. Add ingredients to a snifter, top with 2 oz near-boiling water. Garnish with a popcorn skewer.

We originally wanted to use a rye, Old Overholt, as it tastes particularly corny on its own, but, alas, we didn’t quite have enough of it left to make the infusion, which is why we used bourbon instead. However, this was no loss, and I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the bourbon perhaps adds more character and complexity. Still, I’d like to revisit this concept and use the ‘holt next time because it’d be interesting to see how its corniness bridges the whisky to the popcorn flavor. Then again, having said that, we’ve sworn off Old Overholt. Ever since Joe and I noticed how corny it tastes, it’s all we can taste. Its corniness almost ruins most drinks, in fact, and for that reason, we probably won’t be restocking that bottle. Yet I feel like every spirit has its uses, and perhaps this drink would be well suited to the corny corn corn taste of the ‘holt.

I was a bit worried that the popcorn flavor in the bourbon wouldn’t be very strong, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of our infusion. The sip tastes like warm, slightly buttery, spicy bourbon, and smells like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. As you swallow, you taste the popcorn, and the spices linger long enough to “season” the popcorn flavor, making it taste surprisingly like spiced popcorn.


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MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence: A Study in Garnishing with Cheese


If you were reading last week, you might have noticed that three out of five of our drinks featured cheese in the garnish. This was no coincidence, but rather a deliberate study using cheese as an ingredient in a mixed drink. I do not have a whole lot to add to the content of those posts, but I will note that while I think cheese can be an effective garnish, it is a positively disgusting ingredient to actually mix into a drink. Do you want to drink alcohol broccoli cheddar soup? Me neither.

Ultimately, I think would prefer to have a good cocktail, and cheese on the side, rather than try to mash them together into some kind of unholy Frankendrink. Speaking of which, all of the drinks in this post use flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomists, who analyze the chemical makeup of varios foods’ aromas, and use similarity as a basis to suggest novel combinations. Anyway, these are my creations:

Pineapple Under the Sea
We used kefir yoghurt to try to bridge the distance between pineapple and gin, on the one hand, and blue cheese, on the other. As the imbiber takes a sip of the drink, the smell of blue cheese fills the nostrils, creating a surprising synergy with the pineapple juice. Kefir is a fickle beast, as a cocktail ingredient, but the pineapple tames it nicely.

Rainy Day
You could almost call black tea, tomato, and grilled cheese a rainy day survival kit. We clarified fresh heirloom tomato juice using a coffee filter, and paired it with earl grey-infused Pisco. Savory drinks are hard to love, but the tannin in the black tea went very well with the tomato’s umami notes. Unlike in the Pineapple Under the Sea, you couldn’t really smell the cheese in the garnish, but it was still a tasty snack.


That’s No Moon!
The strength of the cheese in this drink was somewhere in the middle between the other two, with the cooked Parmesan contributing a subtle aroma to bolster the flavors of strawberry and honey. This was the weakest drink of the trio, and even though the nuttiness of the cheese matched well with the flavor of the honey, it left something to be desired. Actually eating the Parmesan wafer was pleasant. We used honey to “glue” the wafer to the glass, so that even though it appears to be resting precariously on the rim, it was in reality quite sturdy.


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The Pearsnip: Pear, Vanilla, Parsnip, Lemon

It is gastrophysics* week here at Measure and Stir, a week in which we make drinks using unusual flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomy. The idea  is that if ingredients have chemically similar aromas, they will probably taste and smell good together. Some of our experiments turned out better than others, but I think this one was probably the best of the bunch. It helped that we started with an excellent base, namely, pear and vanilla-infused brandy.

(*Yes, I know, it’s a silly word)

To make the infusion, I chopped up a bartlett pear, and infused it in one cup of cognac along with a tablespoon of cane sugar and a filleted vanilla bean. After three days, the infusion was ready, and thoroughly delicious. In my experience, brandy is the best spirit to combine with pears. This was one of the best infusions I have made, and I really wanted it to be the star of this drink, so I started with two ounces of the pear-infused brandy.

Parsnip juice has a very light flavor, but it is sweet, much like carrot juice. Indeed, I often think of a parsnip as an albino carrot. I found that I had to add two ounces of parsnip juice to balance it against the brandy. That combination was delicious on its own, but it still needed some acidity to add interest upon the palate, and lemon is less disruptive than lime or vermouth. Half an ounce of lemon was just right, along with a touch of brown sugar syrup, to bring out the parsnip, and two dashes of grapefruit bitters, for depth.

I cannot explain that last decision, it just felt right.

The Pearsnip
2 oz Pear Vanilla Brandy (infused Cognac Salignac)
2 oz Parsnip Juice
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Brown Sugar Syrup
2 dashes Grapefruit Bitters (Fee’s)
Shake over ice and double-strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with pear wedge impaled on vanilla bean, and grate a little bit of vanilla bean over the top.

Ordinarily I am opposed to grating anything over the top of a drink, lest the small particles disrupt the texture of the drink. Nutmeg and cinnamon work in this format, but lemon or lime zest are unpleasant to imbibe, in my opinion. I was on the fence about the vanilla bean, but we ran it over a microplane grater and it was surprisingly flavorful and unobtrusive.

Until next time, keep it craft.