Measure & Stir

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


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Shochu Think You Can Dance? / Shiso Ready!

For Easter dinner, I collaborated once again with my friend Johan, and this time we produced a four course meal, each with a cocktail pairing. A degustation, if you will, which we called “Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter”.

The idea for this meal was to combine French and Japanese influences, and to paint each course in one of the pastel colors that are generally associated with Easter: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Pink. We had to wing it a bit on the yellow, as you will see, but for today, we are starting with blue.

shisoready

The first course was an amuse bouche of shiso sorbet and shochu soda. There is nothing in nature that is both blue and edible, except certain pigments which turn purple in the color in the presence of acid, such as that found in blueberry skins and pea flowers. Ergo, we had to cheat, by stirring in a little bit of blue gel dye.

There are many purists in this day and age who will vocally eschew the use of food coloring, only to pour up a negroni and delight in its brilliant red color, which certainly was not rendered from the crushed up corpses of cochineals. In these days of modernist cuisine, a man can be forgiven his use of industrial chemicals.

Beyond that, I wanted to incorporate the flavor of radish, which is crisp, bracing, and appropriate to the spring season. Unfortunately, radish juice is utterly flavorless, scarcely even maintaining its subtle isothiocyanatic burn. In search of radishy flavor, we tried juicing daikon, only to find that, upon oxidization, developed a rancid smell. Finally, we fell upon horseradish, and boosted it with ginger.

I am far from an expert on shochu, but I will note that, while it bears a superficial resemblance to vodka, it manages to have far more flavor, and as is typical of Japanese cuisine, it is nuanced and understated. I visited my local Japanese market, and picked up a bottle of Ginza no Suzume, distilled by Yatsushika Sake Brewery.

shochuthinkyoucandanceShochu Think You Can Dance?

1 oz High Quality Shochu
.25 oz strained fresh horseradish juice
.25 oz strained fresh ginger juice
The teensiest drop of blue gel dye
Dash of simple syrup
Stir over ice, strain, and top with 1.5 oz chilled soda water
Garnish with cubes of daikon

It turns out, the way to get daikon into the drink was to float the cubes on top. Daikon is boyant, and crunching into one or two of the cubes on the sip releases a bit of extra radish flavor. I soaked the daikon in water prior to service, to help mellow out their otherwise too-pungent flavor. I learned this technique at Gen Yamamoto in Tokyo, and indeed, the entire drink is an homage to his bar and style.

Sip this slowly, and notice how all of the flavors are manifest, yet light and airy upon the psyche.

We served this with a shiso lime sorbet, made by pulverizing ice, fresh shiso, lime juice, sugar, and corn syrup in a food processor. I was inspired by a similar sorbet that I had at a fine Japanese restaurant, in the course of a kaiseki dinner.

Cheers.


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Poison Yu: A Cocktail with Pear, Parsnip, Tonka Bean, Ginger, and Prosecco

I’m about to hit you with some winter-time Tiki action, a drink that manages to feel like summer and winter at the same time. Long-time readers may remember a similar experiment all those years ago in which James and I paired parsnips and pears, but today we have pared this concept down to pearfection and we hope it will be apparent to you.

mug

This tiki mug is one of my favorite pieces in my bar because it is so shamelessly gaudy. Tiki mugs are intentionally opaque, because most of the best tiki drinks are ugly, cloudy, swamp-brown colors. This is the price you pay for emphasizing flavor over appearance. For this drink, I didn’t want to be burdened by the aesthetics of the liquid itself.

I have never been a huge fan of pears, but there is a particular variety of pear called the Comice, or Christmas pear, which has a soft, custardy flavor and a pale green skin which, in ideal conditions, will exhibit a bit of blush. You can see it on the slices in the photograph. This type of pear is a hidden gem in all of the winter harvest. Its texture is like a ripe peach. I skinned such a pear, removed the seeds, and turned it into a smooth puree with a hand blender.

To be honest, the parsnip did not come through as much as we were hoping. An attempt to juice parsnips revealed that parsnip juice is a shockingly expensive ingredient per ounce, not even remotely practical as a cocktail ingredient. Instead, we tried caramelizing parsnips and then simmering them into a syrup with honey. It “worked” in the sense that there was a caramelly winter spice flavor, but there was nothing discernible as parsnip, per se.

To this I added light rum, fresh ginger juice, and prosecco, all over crushed ice. The prosecco did not keep any of its effervescence, of course, with so much crushed ice and pulpy pear puree, but its acidity and its flavor brought the balance to the otherwise sweet flavor profile of this drink.

drink

Poison Yu
~4 oz Comice Pear Purée
2 oz Light Rum (Bacardi)
1 oz Caramelized Parsnip and Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Ginger Juice
Top with 2oz Prosecco
Shake and pour over crushed ice into a tiki mug.
Garnish with Grated Tonka bean.

As delicious as that combination is, what really makes this drink stand out is an unusual ingredient called Tonka bean. Tonka beans are illegal to serve in the US, because they contain a high concentration of a chemical called coumarin, which has been shown to be toxic to the liver when it is fed to rats in quantities equal to their body weight. (Side note: Some types of cinnamon, specifically canela has a similar concentration of coumarin. No one has died from it yet, as far as I know).

Many thanks to the FDA for saving us from this dangerous, and delicious spice. Its aroma is like dried cherries, vanilla, gingerbread, and cloves, and yet there is nothing quite like it. I was able to buy some on ebay for a few dollars, and it came with a label warning me not to eat it, and a note about their use in “voodoo magick”. If that’s not Tiki, I don’t know what is.

This drink is named after a Chinese gangster who was active during the romance of the three kingdoms. When I read the story of this man, I knew instantly that I had to make a tiki drink that bore his name, and the “poisonous” Tonka bean was the perfect addition to drive home the theme of “Poison Yu”.

Cheers.

 

 


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Measure and Stir X Boozed And Infused

We were gone for a while, but though we stopped blogging, we did not stop making and enjoying drinks. One of my favorite tipples of my sabbatical came from the excellent blog Boozed and Infused, wherein Alicia did make Gingerbread Liqueur. I have a weakness for all things ginger-flavored, and the idea of this liqueur spoke to me greatly. Only a few days after seeing it, I rushed out to buy some molasses and infuse up a double batch.

I followed the recipe more or less to the letter, and I was very pleased with the result. The molasses turn the liqueur an inky black, blacker than fernet, blacker even than black strap rum. As I thought of what drink I wanted most to make with this spirit, I found that I wanted most to pair it with oranges.

cant catch me

As I sat down with a glass of gingerbread liqueur, I was moved by the holiday spirit to read back through the entire Boozed and Infused archive, and I have saved my favorite posts in their history to share with you.

I was most intrigued by the idea of a Maple Mushroom Martini, for I am ever in search of novel flavors and combinations. I can imagine the velvety umami flavor of a mushroom mixed with maple, and I think it must be similar to the combination of maple bacon.

My thirst was further whetted by this beautiful-looking Chili-Agave Liqueur, a link which is worth following for the photo alone, which depicts Lemon peels, cinnamon, peppercorn, and a variety of chili peppers in tequila. If I were to use it in a drink, I would want to capture their colors in the garnish.

cant catch me 2

Can’t Catch Me
1.5 oz Gingerbread Infusion
.125 oz Allspice Dram
2 Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville Orange)
Stir over ice and garnish with an orange zest tied around a gingerbread cookie.

As I was building the menu for my birthday party and I had all of this gingerbread liqueur sitting around, I opted to serve it in the format of an old fashioned, with a small amount of pimento dram to deepen the spice, and my new bottle of seville orange bitters to add a little bit of brightness. The long orange peel gives it a beautiful nose. Moreover, the spicy gingerbread cookie was truly delicious once it became saturated in the drink. The recipe I used produced a very crisp, biscuit-like cookie, which was able to soak up quite a bit of the underlying drink without falling apart.

I think this liqueur would also do very well in a sour, which is an experiment I shall be trying soon, but probably not photographing. The recipe should be pretty obvious, something like:

Gingerbread Sour
1.5 oz Gingerbread Liqueur
1 Egg white
.75 oz Lemon Juice
Dash of simple syrup
Dry shake, then shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with spicy aromatic bitters in the foam.

Some things you know will be great without even trying them. Big thanks to Booze and Infused. Alicia and Eileen, please keep up the good work.


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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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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!


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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.


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Flash-Infused Peach Ginger Bourbon, Black Tea

A secondary use of the iSi whipped cream dispenser is making flash infusions, as in this Kaiser Penguin article on five minute falernum. This technique as my original motivation for wanting one, but when I learned that it could be used for cocktail foams, it motivated me to buy one at once. For my first foray into flash infusions, I decided to use peach and ginger to infuse bourbon. I thought this flavor combination would perfectly capture what I like about drinking iced tea on a summer afternoon.

Peach Ginger Bourbon Flash Infusion
2 Ripe peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 Medallions of fresh ginger
8 oz bourbon
Place all in a whipped cream dispenser canister and seal. Discharges two nitrous oxide cartridges into the canister and allow to rest for ten minutes. Discharge all pressure before opening.

Alas, on this afternoon I selected white peaches that were under-ripe, and their flavor was very light in the infusion. Fortunately, I used young ginger as an accompaniment, and the ginger flavor was light as well, yielding a balanced infusion. I would have preferred a stronger flavor, and I am certain that riper produce and mature ginger would have delivered. Even so, I soldiered on, adding lychee black tea and turbinado sugar syrup. Lychee-flavored tea was not my intention, but I was mixing on location, and it was available. The combination worked surprisingly well; the subtle lychee flavor rounded out the peach and ginger with an indistinct fruitiness that did not detract from the peach and bourbon flavor. On the whole, tea is a watery ingredient, and it made the drink very light, though in a pleasant way.

Peach Ginger Bourbon Iced Tea (beta)
1.5 oz Peach and Ginger-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.75 oz Lychee Black Tea
.25 oz Turbinado Syrup
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel.

This was good, but here’s what would have been better:

Peach Ginger Bourbon Iced Tea (beta)
1.5 oz Peach and Ginger-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.5 oz Lychee Black Tea
.25 oz Turbinado Black Tea Syrup
1 Dash Peach Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel.

Sugar really brings out the fruit flavors. And yet a part of me can’t help but wonder if all the pressure really did, in this case, was squeeze juice out of the fruit? Indeed the viscosity of the bourbon did thicken and resemble the nectar of a peach. My impression is that this technique would work better for herbs and spices than whole fruits.