Measure & Stir

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


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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!)


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Fresh Juice Drink Template

As I experiment with different drink formats and classes of ingredients, I find my experiments will cluster around some very specific structures, and today I would like to share a template that I have developed for making drinks with fresh fruit juices. To get a good drink out of this template, you have to put some thought into the flavors you are combining, but I have found it to be pretty reliable.

Fresh Juice Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz fresh fruit juice
.75 oz fortified wine
.25 oz syrup or liqueur
(optional) dash of bitters

This template is intended for juices that are not highly acidic, such as lemon or lime. It is not a template for a sour, but rather a template for succulent juices. Andy would even go so far as to call this genre of drink “succulent”, but I consider to be overkill. Each ingredient in the template has a purpose, and should be selected in order to best fill that role within the drink.

The fresh juice is the starting point. We start with produce, such as carrots or strawberries, and then we build our flavor profile around the juice of that ingredient. After selecting the juice, we select the base spirit. A good approach, though not the only approach, is to consider cuisine which contains your produce, and to choose a base spirit from that same region or theme. For example, peppers of all varieties make a fine accompaniment to tequila, while rums pair well with tropical fruits.

After selecting a juice and a liqueur, you should select your sweetener. A little bit of sugar will help to draw out the flavor of the fresh juice, which tends to be more aqueous than is entirely optimal in a mixed drink. The sweetener needs to complement both the juice and the spirit; curaçao for orange juice is an entirely reasonable choice, and maraschino is a brilliant accompaniment to pineapple or to fresh berries.

In some cases, you really want to let the flavor of the fruit stand on its own, and then simple syrup, or honey syrup, or demerara syrup will tend to be the best choices.

Finally, select a fortified wine. In most cases, this should be dry vermouth, as it will add complexity and dryness to the drink without interfering, but Cardamaro is an excellent accompaniment to fall flavors, and Stone’s Ginger pairs quite well with many fruits.

Alexandra’s Wish
1.5 oz Cognac (Salignac)
1 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Demerara Syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Shake over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

Don’t forget to strain the fresh juice through a fine-mesh strainer BEFORE you add it to the drink, as it will otherwise impede the straining of the drink at serving time, and to create the most smooth and elegant texture. Moreover, the expressed lemon oil is critical to the excellence of this drink. Don’t leave home without it!


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Rose Syrup

I bought some rose syrup from Travelers, the local Indian market. Whenever I make or purchase a new syrup, I try it in an old fashioned. I thought that lemon would complement the rose more than orange, since lemon oil is an extremely bright flavor, and rose is a a little bit darker. Moreover, rose and rye did not work together all that well, so I opted for dark rum, instead. The rose syrup had even more red dye in it than Campari, and it managed to completely overpower the color of  Flor de Cana Centenario 18, which is a very dark rum, indeed.

Old Fashioned Rum Cocktail with Rose

1.5 oz aged dark rum (Flor De Cana 18)
1 barspoon rose syrup
1 dash orange bitters (Regan’s)
stir and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel

The clerk at the store told me rose would not work in an old-fashioned. That’s what happens when you think one-dimensionally and assume that rye or bourbon has to be the base. Rum was made for roses. It tastes like romance, and as long as you have a light hand with that rose syrup, it won’t be cloying.

Rose Pegu
1 3/4 oz. London dry gin (Beefeater)
3/4 oz. Combier Pamplemousse Rose (Rose Syrup)
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with a lime peel.

Ok, so using a syrup isn’t quite in the spirit of a Pegu, which is supposed to contain liqueur, but the dirty secret is that you can often sub a syrup for a liqueur as long as the liqueur is reasonably sweet and the drink has other substantial alcohol components. This recipe came from Jacob Grier, but I didn’t have any Combier Pamplemousse Rose.  I suspect the liqueur is not quite as sweet as this syrup, as I ended up adding an additional 1/4 oz of lime to balance the sweetness.

To be honest, I feel like making a gin sour is the easiest way in the world to incorporate one other flavor into a drink. If you have a liqueur or a syrup and you aren’t sure how to express it, gin and lemon or lime is almost guaranteed to make a nice base for it. I have to admit, this was a very tasty drink, like a citrusy Turkish delight, even if it was the easy way out. And speaking of Turkish delight, the flavor of pistachio might be a beautiful addition.

The lime oil was a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the rose, and the gin added a fine botanical complexity on the swallow. If I were serving this at a party, I would express lime oil over the surface of the drink and then garnish it with a few white rose petals instead.

Rosey Disposition (beta)

1.5 oz Cuban Rum (Matusalem Clasico)
.75 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz rose syrup
1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over cracked ice and garnish with a lemon knot.

A great template to know is 6:3:1 with a base spirit, a fortified wine, and a modifier. I used this same template last week with gin and apricot-flavored brandy. So I’m not sure if this is any less of a cop-out than the Rose Pegu, but as with the old fashioned, the caramel qualities of the rum blended almost romantically with the rose syrup.

I also tried mixing rose syrup with several amari, but I found that the flavor of rose occupies a very similar place on the spectrum as an amaro such as Ramazotti, and even though the rose came through, it was blurry. The syrup went a little bit better with Campari, though I did not use it in the above variation. There is a pleasing consonance between the two brilliant reds. A rose Negroni may be in my future.

Finally, since we’re on the subject, a note on garnishes:

If you have a channel knife, you can easily cut a long, graceful strip of lemon peel. Tying it into a very loose knot is an excellent alternative to a twist, once in a while.