Measure & Stir

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


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I Should Buy A Boat: Rum, Cinnamon, Grapefruit, Champagne

I had very fond memories of this rum, grapefruit, cinnamon drink, and in fact, I remembered it as one of my happiest accidents. So, the other day, I mixed one up and I found that the flavor was too sweet, perhaps even cloying. I have updated the drink, looking through the lens of more experience running this blog. The new version, which I have named, is a significant improvement.

buyaboat1

In the original, I used Monin vanilla syrup, and white grapefruit juice, and I derived the cinnamon flavor from cinnamon sticks. When I remade the drink, I used pink grapefruit juice, due to availability, and my homemade cinnamon+vanilla syrup, which I make a bit rich at 1.2 sugar/water. I think the Monin syrup is closer to 1.0, and that the juice of white grapefruit is undeniably dryer, and perhaps a bit more complex than that of the pink.

It was not only the sweetness of the drink that did offend, it was also the texture, which I found to be slightly syrupy. The flavor, however, was balanced between cinnamon and grapefruit, so I did not want to adjust the quantity of syrup. Making a lighter syrup would be one option, but I preferred to lengthen the drink by pouring it over ice, and topping it with two ounces of champagne.

The ice is perhaps unnecessary, but I wanted to serve it at a party as a highball, and it did not detract from the texture. If your syrup is not a bit rich, I would not use ice.

buyaboat2

I Should Buy a Boat
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
1 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
2 oz Champagne
Shake all but Champagne over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz Champagne and garnish with a grapefruit slice. Grate a bit of fresh cinnamon on top of the grapefruit in front of your guest, for aroma.

The flavors of this drink somehow came together in a way that suggested cherries and almonds, even though neither of those flavors was present in the ingredients. There might have been notes of those things in the champagne we used (which was from Trader Joe’s, I can’t remember the label), but certainly not enough to create those impressions as distinctly as they were present in the drink.

I worry that my garnishing procedure grows too elaborate, sometimes. Part of my garnish-o-mania derives from the necessity to take interesting photographs, but it has become one of my favorite parts of the craft.

This post is running long, but one quick note on the name. It had rum, and champagne, and I was serving it at a formal party, so I named it after a popular internet cat picture, which I much admire.

i-should-buy-a-boat-cat

This is one of my favorite original creations to date. Cheers!


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part III

For the past two weeks, Joe and I have been exploring the world of citrus cordials by mixing various gimlets. In Running the Gimlet Part I we made a lemon cordial, and in part II we made a lime cordial. For part III of this series, we played with a grapefruit cordial.

Here’s our grapefruit cordial recipe:

Grapefruit Cordial
1 cup Grapefruit juice
1 cup Sugar
Peels of 3 grapefruits

Add peels, juice, and sugar to a pot over medium heat. Heat and stir until the sugar integrates with the juice and strain.

It’s OK to be a little bit lazy with the piths when making grapefruit cordials, since grapefruit is rather bitter anyway.

grapefruit gimlets

From left to right, bottom to top, we have: scotch (snifter), bourbon (rocks glass), mezcal (coupe glass), tequila reposado (martini glass), and rum (cocktail goblet).

Scotch Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: A warm, rust-colored brown.
Nose: Mostly scotch.
Sip: Smokey scotch, a bite of grapefruit.
Finish: Scotch and grapefruit balanced each other well.

This combination was the clear winner of the night. Tart citrus and scotch is a great combination, as we knew from the blood and oak. The scotch we used was Longrow 10, which isn’t very smokey or savory, because we wanted to avoid adding those sorts of flavors to grapefruit. I didn’t expect this gimlet to steal the show, but it did.

Bourbon Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Brown.
Nose: Spice and citrus fruit.
Sip: Oaky spice from the bourbon, sour, sweet grapefruit.
Finish: Smooth and fruity.

I’ve always enjoyed making whiskey sours with grapefruit juice, so I knew this combination was going to be tasty. Just go ahead and make this one. You’ll thank us. I think this was probably my second favorite grapefruit gimlet.

Mezcal Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Pink
Nose: Cactus, smoke, sweet citrus.
Sip: Mezcal with grapefruit.
Finish: Mostly mezcal.

I love mezcal, so I had high expectations for this drink, but I was let down. In our past gimlet experiments, mezcal had paired well with lemon and lime, so why not grapefruit? Well, it turns out that this was the weakest pairing we came up with for grapefruit. In this drink, mezcal and grapefruit did not do each other any favors, and the two flavors fought each other in the glass. I was throughly disappointed.

Tequila Reposado Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Pinkish yellow, like a sunset.
Nose: Strong grapefruit scent.
Sip: Tequila and grapefruit.
Finish: Mostly grapefruit.

Once again, I had high hopes for tequila and grapefruit, as we’ve mixed the two together before, in the strawberry paloma. Although this gimlet was better than its mezcal cousin, it just didn’t blow me away. Somehow the two flavors didn’t harmonize the way we had expected them to. I don’t think I’d make this gimlet again.

Rum Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Rust.
Nose: Fruity.
Sip: Caramel, fruits, grapefruit.
Finish: Sweet notes from the rum, bitter notes from the grapefruit.

This gimlet was excellent. We’ve paired grapefruit and rum before, so we kind of knew this was going to be awesome. We used Doorly’s rum, and the grapefruit cordial complemented its fruity, citrus flavors very well. It was hard to stop drinking this one, but it still didn’t gel as well as the scotch or bourbon gimlets.

I wonder if you are as tired of gimlets as we are!


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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.


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Punchius Pilate

For James’ birthday party, which was two weeks ago, we wanted to make a punch around his favorite spirit, Mezcal. (We also made Sangria.) So naturally, I turned to my favorite database of mixological knowledge, Cocktail Virgin Slut, wherein I found this little number, Punchius Pilate. This punch is a Frederic Yarm original, and we took only a small measure of license with his recipe.

In this punch, Fred blended Lapsang Souchong syrup with smokey tequila, grapefruit, ginger ale, and ancho chile. Here’s his recipe for Lapsang Souchong syrup, which we made, omitting the grapefruit zest. We also did not measure the spices too precisely, preferring to portion them by feel/smell. In Fred’s notes, he said he could have used more ancho chile, and indeed, I think we used more than he did in his original recipe.

Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
1. Boil water and measure out 6 oz. Add Lapsang Souchong tea (I added 3 tea bags to 12 oz for a double batch) and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the tea is steeping, muddle 1-2 cloves (I used 3 for a double batch), add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chili powder, and the half the zest of a grapefruit.
3. Measure out 6 oz (by volume) of sugar. Add an ounce or two to the zest/spice mixture and muddle to extract the zest’s oil.
4. After the tea is steeped, add in all sugar, zest, and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover and let sit for a few hours. Strain through a tea towel and store in refrigerator. Makes around 8 oz of syrup.

So, once again, we omitted the grapefruit, and used more spices than this recipe called for, playing it by intuition. When mixing drinks, it’s important to measure precisely, but when making syrups, sauces, (indeed, in cooking in general) we find that the best results usually follow from a mixture of intuition and trust in one’s own good taste. I do not need to know how much ancho, cinnamon, clove, and tea to put in this syrup; the description of the concept is enough to let me execute the recipe. To make it, simply ensure that all of the flavors are in balance, and strongly expressed.

We omitted the grapefruit zest because, in my mind, it isn’t really punch with out oleo saccharum, so rather than put the zest in the syrup, we started by macerating the peel of five large grapefruits in caster’s sugar for three hours, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. We also scaled the recipe up by a factor of three.

Punchius Pilate
1.5 Liters Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
750 mL Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
750 mL Tawny Port (Cockburn’s Tawny)
24 oz Grapefruit Juice (Ruby Red)
20 oz Spiced Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
12 oz Lime Juice
Oleo Saccharum of 5 Large Grapefruits
Serve over ice and top with a bit of ginger beer.

We tweaked the ratios a little bit, mostly out of convenience. It’s easier to pour in the whole bottle of port rather than quibble about a few extra ounces. Moreover, we used slightly less Lapsang Souchong syrup as a tradeoff against the added sugar from the oleo saccharum. The Lapsang Souchong flavor came through beautifully, so I have no regrets. I did not make an ice ring mold, I confess, because I prefer to serve the punch personally. I like to buy a big block of ice, and carve off a chunk with my ice pick for each guest as I serve it.

Moreover, I prefer to add a little bit of ginger beer to each guest’s cup individually, so that the ginger beer will not lose its carbonation in the punch. This allows us to bottle any leftovers and save them for a week or two after the event. It’s true, the fresh citrus in the punch loses some of its subtler qualities after about two days, but adding a little spike of fresh lime when you pour it mostly ameliorates this problem.

As for the punch itself, it was a big hit, and everyone involved sang its praises. I actually preferred mine without the ginger beer, as it was less sweet, and I felt that it really let the smoke flavor come through. I was in the minority, however, as James and most of our guests preferred it with bubbles.

Cheers.


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Strawberry Acapulco: Tequila, Rum, Grapefruit, Pineapple

I am sure at this point that anyone who is following me can tell that I have been raiding Kaiser Penguin’s archives. I was looking for ideas for cocktail garnishes and I found ten or twelve drinks that I really needed to make. Unfortunately, I made four of them in one night, and the next morning did not go all that well. All the drinks were really spectacular, though. To cap off the week I decided to share a small twist that I made on the Acapulco, a relatively classic drink from Difford’s Guide #5.

Tequila in Tiki? Yes, apparently, it can happen. On this particular evening, I had some strawberry syrup on hand, and as I am a great lover of the strawberry + tequila pairing, I substituted half of the simple syrup in this recipe with strawberry syrup. The result was a pleasant, subtle jamminess that pervaded the whole drink. In the picture there is a bit of a gradient, but I think that is due to the fact that the glass is thicker at the top than the bottom.

And let me tell you, there is a reason that blended strawberry margaritas are so popular in resorts and spring break type scenarios. Sure, those drinks suck, with their artificial flavorings and colorings, but there is still something about this flavor combination. I like it so much that I made some strawberry-infused tequila, but for this drink I wanted the smokiness of the reposado to really come through against the other flavors, and alas, my infusion is made with blanco tequila.

Strawberry Acapulco

1 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
1 oz Barbados Rum (Doorly’s)
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
2 1/2oz Pineapple Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Strawberry Syrup
Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with pineapple, strawberries, and an orange wheel, since it’s for the blog.

My rum collection is growing lately (a good problem!) and I was very pleased that for once I actually had a rum from the origin specified in the drink recipe. It is frequently not so.  This drink went down a little too smoothly, but wow, what an excellent flavor! Why not drink it while listening to Martin Denny?


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Lavender Gin, Grapefruit, Toasted Cardamom, Orange

 

 

Ever since I made that lavender-infused gin, I’ve been wanting to do something a little more interesting than just a gin fix. I stand by that drink, but the lavender drink that my heart truly craves contains cardamom, and a subtle bitterness. If you’ve been following my recently you know I’m on a bit of an oleo saccharum binge, but I’m pretty sure this will be the last one for a while, unless I host a party. I’ve made a couple of “plain” oleo sacchara, consisting of only a citrus peel and sugar, but I’ve been much more pleased when I used herbs or spices to flavor the syrup, as well.

For this drink, I toasted cardamom pods in a pan before crushing them with grapefruit peels saturated in sugar. The cardamom flavor was mild, but present, and the grapefruit oil provided a beautiful bitterness. Both flavors were ideal for the strong lavender scent of my infused gin. The orange juice was more of an afterthought; Gin and syrup might be a decent old fashioned, but I wanted something a little bit longer, and not sour, and not a new-wave martini with syrup. Orange juice was the only logical choice, but it stayed in the background in this drink, keeping out of the way of the citrus, spice, and botanicals.

Cardamom is among my favorite flavors in the whole world; it occupies a space that also includes lavender and bergamot, that is why I chose this pairing. When combining flavors, it is often ideal that they should have an element in common. If two ingredients are too similar to each other, then the flavor profile will smear, and the drink won’t “pop”. Conversely, if two flavors are completely dissimilar, they will sit side by side, but do nothing to enhance each other. The best synergies come when two flavors have something in common, but not everything. A good example is sweet vermouth and orange; there are notes of orange peel in most sweet vermouths, but the vermouth also has flavors of wine and herbs. For this reason, orange juice, bitters, or liqueur will match it very well.

I did not garnish this drink, because the gin and the syrup were so fragrant already, but as a result, the picture is kind of lackluster:

Fine Dime Brizzle
1 Grapefruit Worth of Oleo Saccharum, made with Toasted Cardamom
1 oz Lavender-Infused Gin,
1 oz Orange Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a tumbler.

I already made a drink based on a Kanye West lyric, so I decided to name this drink after a line in Snoop Dogg’s best song, let’s be honest, Gin and Juice. And sure enough, this roughly equal parts recipe contains both gin and juice, albeit highly modified. It made for a very classy, or possibly a very pretentious gin and juice, so I thought it seemed appropriate. When I looked up “Fine Dime Brizzle” on urban dictionary, it was anything but classy, but I still like it.

Moreover,  I apologize for not having an exact measurement on the oleo saccharum, but if you strip all the peel off of a large grapefruit and then saturate it in sugar, you’ll come out pretty close. If you feel like there is way more sugar than you want, just add the syrup a little at a time, and taste it to make sure you have the ratio right.


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Grapefruit, Vanilla, Rum, Cinnamon

I was mixing drinks at my friend James’ house last Sunday, and I suddenly had to improvise a drink for some ladies. I knew they did not want to drink turmeric and J. Wray, and I had already served them an aromatic drink of gin and plum wine, so the next round needed to be based on citrus. On this occasion, I had already stripped the peel from two grapefruits (a portent of drinks to come!), and I did not want to waste their juice.

Cinnamon and citrus is a match made in heaven, and lately I’ve been on a real cinnamon kick. I love the fragrance of it when its used as a garnish, and I love its spiciness and its depth. Cinnamon sticks are a must-have ingredient in your home bar; they are useful for infusions, garnishes, and syrups. In a pinch, you can use one to impale a citrus wheel, making an excellent addition to a tiki drink. It’s important to break the cinnamon apart before using it. Doing so releases its oil and its aroma.

Having settled on cinnamon and grapefruit (in Tiki terms, a blend called “Don’s Mix”), aged rum was an obvious choice. Honey syrup would have turned made this a sort of Rum Brown Derby, but James’ honey syrup had run out, so Monin vanilla took its place. Overall I was very pleased with this drink, and I think you will be, too. You don’t have to use Monin vanilla syrup. In fact, I encourage you to make your own:

Vanilla-Cinnamon Syrup
Two vanilla beans, split length-wise with a knife
Three Cinnamon sticks, preferably Canela
1.5 cups sugar
1.25 cups water

Simmer the syrup on the stove for fifteen minutes, and then allow to cool. Place the steeped spices in the vessel with the syrup, and add an ounce of vodka (or everclear) as a preservative.

Cinnamon Rum Derby
1.5 oz Aged Rum (Pusser’s)
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice,
.5 oz Vanilla Syrup (Monin)
2 Cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

If you make Cinnamon-Vanilla syrup, you can omit the cinnamon sticks in the shaker. I was surprised how excellent this was, in fact, as I usually don’t love grapefruit juice. Don the Beachcomber knew what he was doing.