Measure & Stir

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


4 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

Plummer’s Helper: Plum, Thai Tea, Ginger Wine, Lemon

Before last weekend, I had never tasted plum eau de vie, yet I have had a bottle of it in my auxiliary liquor cabinet for nearly two months. Eau de vie, of course, is made by fermenting fruit and then distilling it twice. It is typically unaged. Most plum eau de vie, from what I can gather, is made from Mirabelle plums, and certainly, my bottle proudly proclaims that this is the case. Eau de vie is expensive, which is why you don’t see too many drinks that use it as the base, but I think it’s lovely, and you can expect to see several more plum eau de vie drinks in the near future.

My initial impression of this spirit was that the flavor was light, and I feared that too many strongly-flavored ingredients would crush it. I still had some Stone’s Ginger lying around, and for a home mixologist, it is doubly important to use up a fortified wine before it goes off. I am hooked on Stone’s Ginger right now, so I had it in my head to use the eau de vie for a classic 6:3:1 sort of a drink.

The 6:3:1 template is a starting point, not an ironclad rule; in fact, it is thus with any drink template. It establishes a baseline, which you then taste and modify as appropriate. In this case, I added only half an ounce of Stone’s Ginger to one and a half oz of eau de vie, and I found that I could not taste the ginger at all. Indeed, the nature of eau de vie seems to be that although the flavor is light, it is resilient. I added another half ounce of ginger wine, and still the plum was overpowering. I added yet a third half ounce, and finally, the flavors came into balance. For a modifier, I still had some Thai tea syrup lying around, and it went into the mix, more out of a desire to use the syrup than in pursuit of some grand flavor concept. The best mixed drinks tend to result from careful planning, but sometimes you can get lucky with a shot in the dark.

Moreover, good technique and taste-driven iteration can smooth out a lot of the wrinkles in the drink-creation process.


Check out those lemon oils, floating on the surface of the drink.

Plummer’s Helper
1.5 oz Mirabelle Plum Eau De Vie
1.5 oz Stone’s Ginger Wine
.5 oz Thai Tea Syrup
1 Dash orange bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, and express the oils.

As we were developing this drink, neither James nor I were enthusiastic about the direction it was going, but the orange bitters and the lemon peel really tied it together. The first sip did not arrest my thirst, but in subsequent sips, the flavor started to grow on me, and by the end I was sad it was over. The plum was subtle, yet crisp, and the lemon peel complemented it spectacularly. The ginger wine could probably have been dry vermouth without a real loss to the drink’s integrity, though the thai tea syrup’s tannin brought a nice body and roundness of flavor that you could not get from a simple or fruit syrup, though perhaps with a spice.

In truth, I think this drink might work as well with pear or cherry eau de vie, but plum is what I have, so plum is what you get. Plum, Thai tea, ginger, and lemon; if only it had been Chinese tea, the drink would have been thematically consistent. Even so:
乾杯 (Gan Bei!)


2 Comments

Stepchild; Pineapple, Fernet, Stone’s Ginger

Happy Monday everyone! I have posted in the past about one of my favorite lesser-known aromatic wines, Stone’s Ginger. Ginger is one of my favorite flavors, but it has been hard to find this product in Washington until this past summer, when Total Wine finally graced the city of Bellevue with its presence. Stone’s Ginger is not even slightly spicy, which is the one thing I find disappointing about it. It has a very round, mellow, ginger flavor with sweet raisins on the finish, but when I consume ginger, I always look for that burn. Even so, it is a fine product, beautiful with either Gin or Whiskey and a dash of bitters.

A man can only keep so many fortified wines on hand, as they are highly perishable and wont to go bad before I can finish them all. As such, when I finished off a bottle of Bonal, I was very excited to have the space for a bottle of Stone’s, which I wanted to use in my recent vermouth template:

Vermouth Template
1.5 oz Wine-like beverage product
.25 of an abrasive or bitter modifier
.25 of a sweet modifier
(optional) dash of bitters
aromatic garnish (most likely citrus peel)

Here at Measure and Stir, we love the trio of pineapple, ginger, and fernet, which fits into the formula perfectly, now that I have a ginger wine. This flavor combination has never let me down. I am always excited to find new ways to use it. We omitted the dash of bitters for this one and opted instead for one teaspoon (one eighth of one ounce) of fresh ginger juice. The Stone’s Ginger is so much more complete when it is bolstered by a bit of fresh ginger, which contributes the heat that I crave in a ginger drink.

I ended up tweaking the template a little bit. I tried it in the above ratio and the Fernet dominated the pineapple. Strangely, by increasing the portion of both relative to the ginger wine, the Fernet came into balance. I cannot explain that. Usually when I use this template I use a ratio of 6:1:1, but when I mixed two of these in succession, my second was 4:1:1, and strangely it made all three flavors come into a tighter focus.

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 piece of candied ginger.

My intuition says that the expressed oil of a lemon peel might not be a bad addition, either, but it might squish the Fernet. Life is constant experimentation. One of the great things about the Fernet/Pineapple combo is the way the pineapple rushes to the fore of the experience, whereas the Fernet lingers on the backend. They fill distinct and separate regions of the flavor spectrum, while the Stone’s Ginger fills the space between them.

Spicy ginger works well with Fernet for a different reason; biting into that candied ginger will give you great appreciation for Fernet’s cooling mint. Cheers!

Cheers!


3 Comments

Bourbon and Stone’s Ginger

Quick Aside: MxMo: Equal Parts is up at CVS.

This is another one from my recent trip to visit my family, in which I found myself mixing drinks from my father’s bar. It was my sheer delight to find him in possession of a bottle of Stone’s Ginger, a fortified wine made from a blend of fermented raisins and ginger. It is sweet and has a spicy ginger flavor. Being a fortified wine, and given its flavor profile, it can be used in a similar manner to sweet vermouth, though a Manhattan with Stone’s Ginger is a very different beast, indeed.

For this drink, I followed that good old 6:3:1 template about which we’ve all heard so much, and I garnished with a preserved ginger heart, which as far as I can tell is a piece of ginger that’s been cut down to a roughly spherical shape and then preserved in a canning process using whiskey and sugar. It makes the ginger very tender, and you can bite into it and chew it.

Aside from the noteworthy garnish, there is not too much to say about the structure of this one; it’s extremely standard. I sweetened the whole operation some orange oleo saccharum (not the herbed one in that link) that I had lying around from an earlier drink, and poured it over ice. Orange, ginger, bourbon, ginger. If you follow the template, you will almost always have a good drink.

Untitled
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
.75 oz Ginger Wine (Stone’s)
.25 Orange Oleo Saccharum
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice and then strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a preserved ginger heart on a bamboo skewer.

Not my most beautiful photo, I know, but a beautiful way to enjoy your bourbon. Serving this drink on the rocks made it a bit lighter than it would have been otherwise, and in the California heat, that is exactly what you want. Stone’s Ginger is an excellent product, though I have not seen it in WA. Definitely pick up a bottle if you have a chance.