Measure & Stir

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


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Murray Stenson; The Bitter Word

It is a bitter word indeed, today, my friends; Murray Stenson, that bartender of bartenders, is suffering from a heart ailment and is unable to work. As a bartender, he is without health insurance, and he needs your help. Others, such as Doug and Paul have already written eloquently and at some length as to why you should help, if you enjoy craft cocktails or care about the craft cocktail scene. So Kindly mosey on over to MurrayAid.org, where you can show your appreciation to the man who brought The Last Word back from the dead.

To show our support for Murray, we mixed up an emergency round of a riff on the last word, which we call the Bitter Word:

The Bitter Word
.75 oz Fernet (Branca)
.75 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
.75 oz Green Chartreuse
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pineapple slice.

Pineapple matches well with all of the other flavors in this drink, so I guessed that it would make an excellent garnish, and indeed, it did. The brilliance of the last word recipe is that you can swap the “base” spirit for just about anything–bourbon, rum, mezcal, fernet–and still come out with something that works very well. That said, the original will always be the best. All elements in the drink are so perfectly balanced, and its flavor is bright and crisp, but not blinding. I see variations on this drink popping up all over the place, these days, and you have Murray to thank. In this version, the bitter menthol from the fernet complements the herbal spices of the green chartreuse rather nicely, and the lime and maraschino help to round out the last word’s perfectly balanced flavor profile.

I’m pretty new to this scene, but the one time I did sit across the bar from Mr. Stenson, at the Canon, he came right up and greeted me, even though a different bartender was serving my side of the bar. Real hospitality, that. You spend what, fifteen dollars for a good drink at a good bar? And if you’re like me, you order three or four rounds. Why not stay in next Friday, mix up the Last Word, and donate to a good cause?


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Cilantro Juleps

Another week, another Saturday full of drinking experiments. Ever since our recent mint julep experiment, we’ve been wanting to try a few new variations.  Cilantro is a delicious and easily-available green herb, and also one of my favorites, so it was probably inevitable that it would find its way into a drink eventually. My original intuition said gin, as I have never met a green herb that did not go well with gin. In the planning stages it was to stop there; Gin, simple sugar, cilantro, cracked ice. The standard method for making a mint julep.

At game time, however, I realized that gin and cilantro was going to taste a little flat, and I realized that something in cilantro was calling out for tequila. We ended up making two variations on the theme, one with Gin, sweetened with green charteuse, and one with tequila, sweetened with agave syrup. Unlike with mint, which needs to be treated delicately, cilantro takes a little more convincing before it gives up its flavors. You’ll want to build this one in the glass; start with your sweetener and a few sprigs of cilantro. Using your muddler, rough up that cilantro and show it who’s boss.

Once it’s nice and smashed, add crushed ice, and then slowly pour the base spirit over the crushed ice, and give it a quick stir. Garnish by placing more fresh cilantro on top of the crushed ice. This was the first time that I’ve seen gin fail to play nice with a green herb. Gin was there, cilantro was there, but there was no harmony, no reason to continue. The green Chartreuse fit nicely in the drink, but I really can’t advise that you make a gin cilantro julep.

Tequila, on the other hand, has a wonderful vegetal flavor that matches beautifully with the similar notes in fresh cilantro.

Cilantro Julep
1.5 oz Añejo Tequila (Herradura)
.125 oz (1 tsp) Agave Nectar
Fresh Cilantro
Place cilantro and agave nectar in a glass and muddle vigorously. Add crushed ice and slowly pour the tequila over it. Garnish with more fresh cilantro.

This is exactly what you want with your next Mexican meal. Tacos, nachos, fresh salsa — as long as it’s spicy, it will go with this drink. Happy Monday!


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Indochine: Green Chartreuse and Basil

Basil season is upon us, so what better time to enjoy the Indochine? I am not referring to this atrocious glass of candy from Sandra Lee, but rather to this elegant concoction from Mayahuel in Manhattan, courtesy of CVS. I don’t have a lot to say about this one, except you should make it. It’s a little lower-volume than I am used to, but the combination of Zacapa 23, Green Chartreuse, and fresh basil is just too good to miss. Green Charteuse is spicy and herbal on its own, but it contains the extracted flavors of its herbs. When a flavor is extracted into alcohol it becomes abstracted — it retains its aroma but not the fullness of its flavor. By adding fresh herbs, we build a flavor which tastes much more complete, like a song that ends on the right note.

All of the flavors in this drink have a certain earthy quality — oak wood, leaves, sugar cane, spices. It would be perfect to sip on your patio, or even out in a forest. Zacapa 23 is a little bit expensive to be using it as the base spirit in a lot of mixed drinks, but every time I have made a drink with it I have been very impressed. When I use it in a rum drink, I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s that great.

Indochine
.75 oz Zacapa 23 Rum
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
.375 (3/8) oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
5 Thai Basil Leaves

Muddle the basil leaves in the simple syrup, then shake all ingredients over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with candied ginger, or, if you don’t have any of that, a fresh basil leaf.

This drink was a little small, so if you doubled the proportions, I would certainly empathize. It looks insubstantial in my double old-fashioned glass, but I don’t have a smaller rocks glass, something I shall have to rectify soon. The original recipe called for candied ginger, which would have been a nice aroma to accompany the drink, but I really enjoyed the additional scent of basil as I took a drink. Basil has a delicate flavor, so the extra aroma from the garnish really helps it shine.

You should make this, it is excellent.