But you know, they can’t all be winners. Plum eau de vie, honey syrup, and a tea that was entirely too subtle.
Kurogoma is the Japanese word for “black sesame”, and indeed, this drink’s most distinct flavor comes from a paste of black sesame seeds. It is unctuous, and tastes like tahini, or peanut butter, or something in between. Its color is an inky black, darker even than molasses.
I knew I wanted to use whiskey for this drink, and I’ve been very satisfied to mix drinks with a bottle of Auchentoshan 10 year, lately. It is an affordable scotch with a light, assertive peatiness and a minimal amount of smoke. Trader Joe’s in Seattle carries it for a little under thirty dollars.
From Scotch and sesame, it occurred to me that Drambuie would fit very nicely between them, as it matches whiskey for whiskey and honey for sesame.
Mr. Kurogoma (Beta)
2 oz Auchentoshan
.5 oz Drambuie
.5 oz Half and Half
2 heaping Tbs Kurogoma Spread
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Break up the sesame paste in the drink with your barspoon. Dry shake, and then shake over ice. Double strain into a coupe glass and float sesame seeds of various colors on top.
The flavor was good, if a little unusual to the western palate. It reminded me of Scotchy honey-nut cheerios. I slightly regret that added the half and half, as it dulled the flavor of the Drambuie, and disrupted the dark color. When I iterate on this, I will dial up the liqueur and remove the dairy. I also think the drink would be more interesting and coherent if the base spirit were a Japanese whiskey such as the Yamazaki.
Version 2, which is untested, will look like this:
Mr. Kurogoma (v2)
1.5 oz Yamazaki
.75 oz Dry Sake
.5 oz Drambuie
2 heaping Tbs Kurogoma Spread
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Break up the sesame paste in the drink with your barspoon. Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish TBD.
Before we get started today, a couple of announcements: First, this week is beer week at Measure and Stir, in which we will be making a series of beer cocktails for your enjoyment. Second, after beer week has concluded, we will be taking a hiatus for the rest of the year, so as to enjoy the holidays in a truly relaxed fashion. Third, we are approaching our 25,000th pageview, and will hit it sometime mid-week. Hurray!
I have never been able to find too much enthusiasm for beer cocktails, but I think that their time for me has finally arrived. We have a few in the past, specifically Jacob Grier’s Mai Ta-IPA, and later our popular Stouthearted. The idea behind beer cocktails never really clicked for me because I did not like the viscosity of the beer in a mixed drink. What made it come together was a drink in an episode of Drink, Inc., in which they added orange marmalade and apricot purée. I realized that the viscosity is not a bug, but a feature, and that the trick to making an excellent beer-based drink is to play to the viscosity, in some cases by adding something even thicker.
I think beer-based drinks are perfect in the colder months, because their heartiness is warming and nourishing. Moreover, kumquats are in season, so we took paired a kumquat puree with a citrusy Weißbier, and fortified it with honey, another complement to wheat, and brandy, which pairs well with honey. The result was a very pleasing highball, which we served with a fat straw to allow the imbiber to get pieces of the sweet kumquat peel.
1.5 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Kumquat Purée
.75 oz (Honey Liqueuer) Barenjäger
Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Shake over ice and then doubTop with 2.5 oz Weißbier (Franziskaner) and garnish with an orange spiral. Serve with a fat straw. (not pictured)
The orange was very fragrant and the bits of kumquat peel were chewy, adding an interesting texture to the drink. Drinking kumquat pulp might not sound very appealing, but I was inspired by a drink I had in a tea shop in Kyoto. They served me a cup of iced tea with yuzu marmalade sitting at the bottom, and I greatly enjoyed eating the pieces of peel.
This drink was acidic and refreshing, with a nice roundness from the Barenjäger, which is slightly bitter.
I visited my parents’ house last weekend, and it was my great pleasure to mix drinks for my family while I was there. My father’s home bar puts mine to shame, of course, but the majority of his collection consists of whisk(e)ys which are too fine to mix. As such, it was an excellent venue for creativity. I made an orange oleo saccharum, because they did not have any syrups, and I wanted something which would be versatile and unusual. A good oleo saccharum is really nothing more than a citrus syrup, but it is much better than any other type of citrus syrup that one could make, on account of its high oil content.
As I was searching the bar for spirits to pair with it, I spied a bottle of the now defunct Hawaiian Macadamia nut liqueur, Adamia, and I knew that I could put it to good use. I live in an old building in the city, and my appliances are old if they even exist, but my parents enjoy all the luxury of modern suburban kitchen accoutrements, including a refrigerator that makes crushed ice. Though I do not mind crushing ice with a mallet and Lewis bag, I was immediately drawn to the simple convenience of holding the glass underneath the ice dispenser and pressing “crush”.
Glass of crushed ice firmly in hand, I resolved to make something tiki, and the next thing I needed was rum. Fortunately, my father had a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Brown Honey Rum, which is probably the most unusual rum I have had the pleasure of tasting. It greets the palate with a strong honey flavor which is loud and clear even underneath lime juice, macadamia nut liqueur, and orange oleo saccharum. Dogfish Head also makes some of the weirdest (and most delicious) beers on the market, so it’s no surprise that they would also make very unusual rums and gin. Now I’m hoping they get around to doing an amaro.
Tkach Tiki Delux
1.5 oz Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum
1 oz Macadamia Nut Liqueur (Adamia)
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Orange Oleo Saccharum
Shake over ice and then pour over crushed ice. Break a cinnamon stick in half and insert it into the ice. Spear a lime wheel with one of the cinnamon sticks.
When you use high quality ingredients, tiki drinks practically make themselves. The crushed ice will add extra dilution to the drink once it reaches the glass, on account of its high ratio of surface area to volume. As such, a little more sugar is needed to make the drink pop. Depending on the rum you use, you’ll need to adjust your proportions a bit to make sure that the liqueur, the rum, and the lime are in balance. It’s not always going to be exactly the same, but the key is that each flavor in the drink is strongly salient.
And please, do not neglect the cinnamon garnish. The crushed ice will totally dull any nose that you might otherwise get on the drink, and half the value of crushed ice is that it can be used to lodge various spices and herbs. Of all the different drink formats, crushed ice provides the most maneuverability in creating your drink’s aroma. The smell of cinnamon combined with the nutty liqueur was positively paradisaical. It is important to break the cinnamon stick, and leave the broken side sticking out, as this will release the most fragrant oil.
After eyeing it for a while, I finally caved and purchased an iSi Whipped Cream Dispenser. This is a heavy-duty piece of equipment, and I am very satisfied with the quality. If you’ve been around the internet for a while, or if you have visited a snooty restaurant with thirty tiny courses made out of science, you are familiar with the molecular gastronomy/mixology practice of making flavored foams. I’d been dying to try it and now, at last, I have.
For my first foam, I wanted to go by the book, so I watched this video by Jamie Boudreau and followed his advice closely. His drink sounded interesting, but I still wanted to go my own way, so I decided to take two recipes that I already know and love, and put them together. The combination was kind of disappointing, but the foam itself was delicious, and overall a huge success. In the video, Jamie mentions that gomme syrup in the underlying drink is important to help its texture stand up to the rich foam. I heard this advice, but I did not have any gomme syrup, so I charged ahead blithely without it, with predictable results.
It wasn’t so much a problem of the viscosity of the drink, in my opinion, as a problem with the flavor. The foam was loosely inspired by my Vanilla Whiskey Fix, except I changed the balance to match Mr. Boudreau’s specifications. For the underlying drink, I used this apple brandy concoction. When I tasted the foam on its own, prior to mixing the drink, it felt like a good match in my imagination, but the flavor of the foam was very powerful, so that all you could taste from the underlying drink was the allspice.
Honey Whiskey Fix Foam
2 oz Honey Syrup
1 oz Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
1.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Water
2 Egg Whites
Place all in a whipped cream dispenser, seal, and shake. Discharge a nitrogen cartridge into the dispenser and then place the dispenser in the fridge for an hour to allow the foam to emulsify. If you need foam RIGHT THIS SECOND, discharge two nitrogen cartridges and wait a few minutes.
The foam came out of the dispenser with a very rich, creamy texture, similar to the head on draft Guinness or Boddingtons, but thicker. It completely destroyed the aroma of the underlying drink, so that was a disappointment, but I think the real artistry here lies in finding flavors that are distinct and yet complementary, or perhaps in using a lighter foam.
The only real hitch here was the stability of the foam. It broke down before I could finish the drink, most likely because I needed more sugar relative to the acidity of the lemon juice. Still, I don’t think anyone would complain if I served this foam to them at a party.
Before I go, a quick meditation on capacity. The above recipe made just enough foam for three drinks, and I think the 1 pint canister that I purchased could accommodate roughly double that, or six drinks. If you need to make these in a larger quantity than that, you should probably get the quart. I slightly regret not doing so. Coming soon: Flash infusions.
I wanted to mix another Sleepy Bear but I did not have any blackberries. Raspberries were an acceptable substitute, but when I tasted the raspberry honey blend, I found myself craving tequila instead of rum. There was something in the blackberry that wanted to blend with the smokey vegetal flavors of reposado tequila, so I followed my instinct. The oaky, sugar cane flavor of my go-to aged rum is much fuller than the flavor of my go-to reposado, and to fill in the gap, I thought a dash of allspice dram would be perfect. It was.
2 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolon)
.5 oz Honey Syrup
6 – 8 raspberries
.5 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Allspice Liqueur (homemade)
Muddle the raspberries in the honey syrup until you have a fresh raw jam. Shake all ingredients over ice and double-strain into a wine glass. Cut a large, thin orange slice and place it in the glass, and cut a raspberry so it sits on the rim.
The orange slice is really just for looks, though it add some orange oil to the aroma. All the flavors of the different ingredients were perceptible, which is the mark of a successful mix, although I admit this isn’t the manliest concoction I’ve poured lately. Even with two ounces of tequila, there is no escaping that scintillant pink color. If you want to drink raspberries, it’s the price you must pay.
I’ve had a bottle of Bärenjager burning a hole in my bar for a while now, and I have found it to be tremendously un-useful. It’s a delicious dessert, stirred over ice and with a dash of bitters, but as far as mixing into drinks, it’s a loser. The honey flavor, so engaging on its own, is easily lost among other spirits. I had originally wanted to use it to make the Bee’s Knees, a classic gin sour using honey instead of sugar, but what I found was that the proportion of the liqueur had to be increased substantially before the flavor of honey was discernible, and by then the resulting drink was far too sweet.
Stick to honey syrup for a more pronounced honey flavor. The temptation exists to try pure honey, but it does not integrate well with more aqueous elements, and will sink to the bottom of your shaker or blender, spitefully refusing your entreaties.
1 part honey
1 part sugar
1 part water
Combine in a sauce pot on medium heat until fully integrated. Fortify with a bit of vodka or a bit less of a neutral grain spirit.
I used Bärenjager for this drink, and it worked pretty well, but you can get the same flavor in a six dollars worth of syrup as in thirty plus dollars worth of liqueur, and then you can spend the money on better rum.
2 oz Dark Rum (Matusalem Clasico 10)
.75 oz Bärenjager (or honey syrup)
.75 oz lime juice
Muddle the blackberries in the honey liqueur or syrup until you have a fresh honeyed jam. Shake all ingredients over ice and then double strain into an old fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and a blackberry.
I used a toothpick, cleverly positioned, to make the blackberry stick to the lime wheel. Blackberries and honey both seem like ingredients which would be very enticing to bears, and I don’t know if that also goes for rum, but if I were a bear, I’m pretty sure I’d be all over it, and then I’d take a nap, hence the name. Simple creations are often the best ones, and this is a seasonal drink that I would be proud to serve to any guest.
There are no bitters in this drink because the blackberries on their own have a bitter component to them, and they complete the back-end of this drink unassisted.