Measure & Stir

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


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Apple Mocktail

From time to time, one entertains a guest who does not wish to drink alcohol, for reasons of pregnancy, designated driverdom, alcohol intolerance, teetotalism, mormonism, or similar pathologies. This drink isn’t really for those people, because it pushes the mocktail line ever so slightly. This drink is more for those nights when one wishes to drink without drinking. On one such night, I found myself in possession of fresh apple juice, ginger beer, and acid phosphate, and I had a good feeling that I could put those together.

The acid phosphate from art of drink has been an intriguing and challenging ingredient to handle; it truly has no flavor, only the experience of dry sourness. As such, it is difficult to tell how much you are using when you taste your drink before you chill and dilute it. It works about like lemon juice, with a half to three quarters of an ounce being the appropriate measure to sour a drink with no citrus.

Apple Mocktail

3 oz Fresh Apple Juice (Could use unfiltered apple juice)
.75 oz Acid Phosphate (Could use lemon juice)
.25 oz Angostura bitters

Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz ginger beer (Bundaberg) and float a dash of Angostura bitters.

It’s hard to see in the photo, but the float of angostura bitters made a beautiful color gradient of dark red to light brown over the height of the drink. I admit, the use of bitters does give this an extremely mild alcohol component, but it’s not enough to notice or to improve impair your judgement.

As I formulated this drink, the angostura wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked, and neither was the sourness. I still haven’t found the acid phosphate drink that I dream of, and I would suggest that if you do replicate this one, you should use lemon juice, instead, and you use a whole ounce. An ounce of acid phosphate would also be fine, but it’s kind of an expensive ingredient to be mixing up in ounces.


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Dusty Bottoms

Continuing with our week of highball drinks, this is a drink that some of my friends had at a bar in San Diego called Prohibition. It’s a popular name for a craft cocktail bar, it seems. In any case, they visited the bar, and then came to visit me and told me of this drink. I then tried to recreate it, based upon their description of the ingredients and the flavor. But before we go any further, this is the perfect time to mention some errata from my earlier post, How To Make Better Drinks I wouldn’t ordinarily bother, but the post in question is in my side bar, so I feel it’s important to keep the information in good repair. In the list of problems with the drink, I somehow neglected to mention:

11. The herbs are over-muddled. We’re not making pesto, and a muddler is not a mortar and pestle. All of the menthol in mint lives in little hair-like structures on the surface of the leaf. If you bruise the leaf of the mint, you are going to release bitter chlorophyll flavors into your drink, and it will taste grassy. I suppose that could be deliberate, but a discerning palate will perceive it as an error. The better way to handle mint is to place it on the palm of your hand and give it a few good, hard, smacks. In general, when muddling herbs or citrus peels, apply firm pressure but do not tear the flesh of the plant. Fruit, on the other hand, ought to be pulverized.

The drink that my friends described to me contained reposado tequila, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice, muddled sage, and ginger beer. I do not know the exact proportions of the drink as it was served at Prohibition, but by knowing a little bit about the construction of a highball, we can come pretty close. In most cases, we want to have a total of two ounces of hard liquor in the drink, and the very natural way to do this, in this case, is with one and a half ounces of the base spirit, tequila, and one half ounce of the modifier, yellow chartreuse.

I want the flavor of the yellow chartreuse to be balanced against the acidity and flavor of the lime juice, so in this case I also used a half ounce of lime juice. Depending who you listen to, you might end up with three quarters of an ounce of liqueur, for a sweeter drink, but I like them dryer, and I plan to add more sugar in the form of ginger beer. When topping a drink with soda, many people make the mistake of filling the glass. This makes it look pretty, but you will end up putting a highly variable amount of soda into the drink, depending on the glass you use. If you want to preserve the flavor of the other elements, it is best to measure. You can always add a little more, so I limited myself to one ounce of soda water.

We made this drink after my friend Julian had just finished moving into a new apartment, so the name was appropriate. Moreover, it was a hot summer day, so whereas I usually would have used ice cubes, I wanted this drink to be a bit lighter and more refreshing, so I used crushed ice instead of ice cubes. In either case, as we discussed yesterday, it is important to fill the glass completely full with ice, to slow the melting process as much as possible. The ice does not look especially crushed in this picture, but I assure you, it was. Julian’s cat, Mimosa, wanted in on the action.

Dusty Bottoms (via Prohibition, in San Diego, CA)
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse (Strega)
4-5 Sage Leaves (Basil)
1 oz Ginger Beer (Bundaberg)

Lightly muddle the sage leaves in the yellow Chartreuse, and then combine all except the ginger beer in a shaker. Shake over ice, and then strain over fresh ice. Add the ginger beer and Garnish with a sage leaf.

I did not have any sage at this particular juncture, but I did have basil, fresh off the plant, and it was close enough on this occasion. I also substituted Strega for yellow Chartreuse, and you can see the bottle poking it’s head up in the background. I like to bring my own ice when I’m mixing at a remote location, because the quality of the ice is critical to the quality of the drink.


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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.


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Caramel Apple Charged Punch

Sometimes the drink you end up making is not the one you were expecting. I was planning to make a drink with dark rum and Cynar this morning, but last week I bought a bottle of Laird’s bonded apple brandy, and I was just itching to mix with it. I’ve tried Laird’s applejack in the past, but it was a mediocre product, astringent upon the palate and disappointing in its concentration of apple flavor. The bonded version was slightly more expensive, but it is bursting with good apple flavor, and smooth enough that I was not offended when I sipped it neat.

Creating your own drinks on the fly is always a lot of fun, because it teaches you much more about mixology than just making someone else’s recipe. The end result isn’t always good, but it’s always an opportunity to learn. This drink is technically a charged punch, meaning the aqueous element is carbonated, and the primary components feature citrus juice prominently. I’m terrible at naming the drinks I make, so I just call them what they are.

Caramel Apple Charged Punch

1.5 oz Bonded Apple Brandy (Laird’s)
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 oz. Ginger Beer (Rachel’s)

Shake all except ginger beer, strain and pour over fresh ice. Insert a straw through an apple wheel for a garnish, and then let a few drops of lemon juice coat the apple to prevent browning.

For my personal taste, a drink without a bitter component is usually not very interesting, which is why I stock a large variety of amari. When I first tasted Averna I did not care for it, as I thought it had an off petrochemical note. Moreover, I dislike the mouthfeel of caramel coloring, and it was clear to me that the makers of Averna had added some. The flavor eventually grew on me, as most spirits do, and I now reach for it when I am looking for an element of burned caramel.

I made the shaken portion of this drink in a ratio of 6:3:2, which I have found works very well for base spirit:liqueur:sour type potions. The intensity of the citrus flavor will often overpower the liqueur if they are used in equal measure, and this is easy to account for. The most important thing to do when freestyling a drink is to constantly taste it as you add each new ingredient. Whatever it tastes like before you shake it, it’s going to taste pretty similar once it’s cold. Dilution and chill will modify the flavor a bit, but you can be confident that if it tastes great before you shake it, it will taste great after.

I purchased a bottle of Rachel’s ginger beer a couple of weeks ago, knowing that I would use it to top a cocktail at some point, and I thought it would be just the thing to turn this into a long drink. Rachel’s is a local brand of Seattle ginger beer, but I was dismayed to discover that they add lemon juice to their product before bottling. It makes their soda complex and dry, but it completely clobbered the subtler flavors of Averna and apple.

My first shot at this drink left me dissatisfied, so I bought a bottle of Blenheim ginger ale, which is by far the best commercially made ginger ale, owing to its supreme ginger heat. It lacks the rich flavor and body of a ginger beer, but it has a spicy effervescence that fills my sinuses when I sip it plain. The lighter flavor of the Blenheim proved to be a perfect match for this combination of ingredients, with the ginger taking a back seat to the caramel apple flavor, while still contributing a spice note after the sip. I didn’t have any apples for round two, so I was forced to make do with a lime wheel.

Caramel Apple Charged Punch (Round 2)

1.5 oz Bonded Apple Brandy (Laird’s)
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Lime Juice
3 oz. Spicy ginger ale (Blenheim)

Shake all except ginger beer, strain and pour over fresh ice. Insert a straw through an apple wheel for a garnish, and then let a few drops of  lime juice coat the apple to prevent browning.

This drink is perfect for summer, and soothing to the digestion.