Measure & Stir

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


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Little Mermaid Cocktail with Wakame-infused Aquavit, Lemon, and Champagne

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continues to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

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Once again, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Johan and I have teamed up to create a course of three food and cocktail pairings, this time inspired by classic fairy tales. Our first dish was a surf and turf inspired by The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

I chose to pair the dish with a drink made from champagne and wakame-infused aquavit. Pairing mixed drinks with food is much more difficult than serving the drink on its own; cocktails contain strong spirits, and they easily overpower food. The best strategy is to keep the drink lighter than the food, and to echo at least one of its flavors.

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To approach the seafood in this dish, I used a trident approach: first, citrus and champagne, which we naturally pair with crab, octopus, salmon, or oyster. Second, aquavit, to remember the bread crumbs in the “sand”, and to evoke a Norwegian feeling. Third, seaweed, for its brine and its bitterness.

I tried, many moons ago, to infuse seaweed into a tincture, but I was inexperienced, and my cocktail tasted like the inside of an aquarium. Nori was the wrong choice. This time I selected wakame, and infused 200ml of aquavit with a scant teaspoon of dried wakame for five hours. It took on a pale green color, and developed a thalassic minerality.

Many people over-steep their infusions. You don’t throw teabags into a pot of water and leave it for hours. You don’t let your coffee sit in a french press for a month and brag about how long you spent infusing it. So why do are you so proud of your over-infused spirits? The flavor of an infusion should be balanced and subtle, and when you make an infusion, you should take an active role in the process. Taste it frequently, and find the optimal rate of extraction.

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At its core, this drink is a French 75, but then again, almost every drink has a classic for its heart. That’s not because of some sacred or innate property of the classic drinks, it is merely that the classics have been selected and honed over time to form a basis in the space of possible ethanol-sugar-water recipes. For reference:

French 75
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Champagne

The other notable addition to this drink is dashi air, which I make by bringing a pot of water with a 2×2″ square of konbu and 50g of shaved bonito flakes to a boil in 200ml of water, killing the heat, and steeping for ten minutes before straining. If this sounds like cutting corners, it is, but I assure you my washoku game is on strong. Prior to boiling, I added 50 ml of mirin. I added it early, because I wanted the alcohol to boil off.

Finally, using an immersion blender, I integrated 5 g of sucrose ester (also called Texturas Sucro), which produces an airy foam. After pouring the drink into the glass, I carefully spooned the foam on top.

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Out of the Fathomless Deep
1 oz Wakame-infused Aquavit
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double-strain into a wine glass
Top with 2 oz Champagne and Mirin-Dashi Air

Garnish with a dried orange wheel clipped to the side of the glass.

Regarding the garnish, I sliced some orange wheels and dried them in a dehydrator until they were crunchy. Be careful not to get your orange wheel wet when you’re garnishing the drink, or it will get soggy. If you’re like me, your orange wheels will lose most of their aroma when you dry them. Since garniture is about olfactics as much as optics, I sprayed my dehydrated orange wheels with orange essential oil right before serving.

Since we used the same dashi air on the plate and in the glass, the flavors tracked each other closely.

Cheers.


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My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious: Rye, Buddha’s Hand, Lemon

Note: While you read this post, please bask in the glow of this early 2000s pop smash, Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child.

I know, I just did a Buddha’s Hand Cocktail, but then I realized I had an opportunity to make a drink with the best name in the history of my blog.

In last week’s post, I tried to capitalize on a complex harmony between dill, citrus, salmon, and aquavit. For this hot toddy, I wanted to get back to the essence of the Buddha’s Hand. At its heart, a hot toddy is pretty close to a classic punch, but with the “weak” element heated. Your classic punch is 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak. This is usually rendered as lime juice, simple syrup, rum, and water, but if you make that drink, it doesn’t feel quite right:

1-2-3-4 punch?
.5 oz lime
1 oz simple syrup
1.5 oz rum
2 oz water

After shaking with ice, you can expect your 3 oz cocktail to gain about 2 oz of water. Personally though, I prefer .75 oz of lime, and .5 oz of sugar, for a 1.5-1-3-4 sort of ratio. Well, times and tastes changes. Anyway, all of this is a long lead up to say that a classic punch is usually made with an oleo saccharum, and in this instance, the classic punch ratio ended up being perfect. Perhaps oleo saccharum isn’t as sweet as 1:1 simple syrup?

toddysobuddhalicious Please note that the rosemary above was completely decorative, sandwiched in between two separable glass pieces in the unique serving vessel that we found for this drink. A stemless cocktail glass sits snugly inside a glass bowl, insulated by a layer of air. Not only is this perfect for keeping your drink warm, but it has a bulbous shape that reminded me of a laughing Buddha. Of course, one of these Buddha Tiki Mugs would be even better.

My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious
1.5 oz rye (Dickel)
1 oz Dilled Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz lemon juice
Top with 2 oz boiling water and float a single star anise inside.

As you will recall, the Buddha’s hand oleo from last week had some dill in it, but by the time I made this drink a couple days later, the dill flavor had mellowed substantially. I chose rye to further blur the flavor of dill in the drink, a job it did admirably owing to its pickley notes. Lemon flavor is similar enough to Buddha’s hand that it can play a supporting role, while leaving the oily fragrance of its lead to be the star.

This drink captured the flavor of Buddha’s hand with a lot of purity. In a way, it tasted like an idealized Buddha’s hand might, if only the fruit had flesh to go with its unctuous skin.

I got away from winter spices this week, which allowed us to focus on the core composition of this style. Hot Toddy Lesson Four: A toddy is a classic punch.


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Acid Trip Roundup

Perhaps you can relate to this: I had hit a wall in my cocktail creation strategy, because I wanted to combine the flavors of liqueurs and spirits without ending up with a sugary mess. The specific drink that started my mental wheels turning is the Alaska Cocktail, which can be found in various proportions around the internet, but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of:

Alaska Cocktail
1.5 oz Gin
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
Dash of Orange Bitters
Stir and Garnish with a lemon peel.

The problem with this drink, which I hope is immediately obvious to everyone, is that it is very sweet, and has a syrupy mouthfeel. How do we know this, without mixing it? Simple, look at what is missing. There is no fortified wine, there is no citrus juice, and there is no soda water. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I asked myself, what do all of those things have in common?

They are all sources of acid; citric, malic, and carbonic, respectively. I had mixed an Alaska earlier that day, and although I can recognize it as a kind of fancy old-fashioned cocktail with gin as the base and yellow chartreuse as the modifier, it was not satisfying to me. I wanted more chartreuse flavor without more sugar.

I could add a vermouth bianco to try to balance it while minimally impacting flavor, but that’s still a different, albeit a better sounding drink. The question became, how can I make vermouth more sour, so that I can play it off of a larger quantity of liqueur? The answer was to bolster the natural acidity of vermouth.

As luck would have it, winemakers already use powdered tartaric and malic acids to fine-tune the acidity of theirs wines, and such acids are easy to procure. Wines, even fortified wines, are balanced to be consumed on their own, but as a mixological reagent, we often want things to cleave to extremes. We add more sugar and alcohol, but we never think to add more acid.

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I am not the first cocktail enthusiast to have this idea. Since I had this realization, I have found that most books on molecular mixology will have at least one drink that uses a powdered acid to find balance, but they never place enough emphasis on the power of this technique. Using powdered acids to precisely calibrate the “dryness/sweetness” of a drink is THE key to liberation from traditional mixology.

And don’t get me wrong: I love traditional mixology, but I think by now we have fully explored the space of pouring old liqueurs into brown spirits and fortified wines. It’s not that every possible combination has been explored, but certainly, there are no surprises. If we want truly new and creative cocktail ideas, we must be able to break away from the monopoly that the classic punch formula has on the world of craft cocktails. Between the Manhattan and the Whiskey Sour, you have the structure of virtually all prohibition era drinks*.

(*Yes, I know about possets and flips and milk punches and hot toddies and old-fashioned cocktails etc. etc. etc.)

So I bought some acid powders: citric, tartaric, and malic.

AND UNTO THIS, THE ACID TRIP SERIES WAS BORN.

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Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Wheated Bourbon, Peanut Orgeat, Kyoho (or Concord) Grape Juice, Cinnamon

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Kyoho Grape and Lavender

Brandy, Muddled Kyoho (or Concord) Grape, Lavender Bitters

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Caramel Apple and Fennel

Fresh-pressed apple juice, Demerara Rum, Caramel Sauce, Absinthe

Acidity is life.

Cheers.


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MxMo LXXVI: Fire!

Since I’m officially doing the whole blog thing again, I am participating in Mixology Monday, hosted this month by Muse of Doom at Feu de Vie. The theme this month is “Fire”, so I decided to do a video post. I haven’t done one of these before, and to be honest, I’m a little self-conscious. Hopefully it’s cool.

Lavender-Smoked Martini
1.5 oz Lavender-infused gin (Beefeater)
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
Dash of lemon juice
Dash of simple syrup
Light a teaspoon of lavender on fire and then place a large glass over the smoldering flowers, so that it fills with smoke. Stir the drink and then strain it into the smoke-filled glass.

Big thanks to Muse of Doom for this hosting MxMo with this exciting theme.


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Singularity: Peach, Cinnamon, Bourbon

By request, this drink is called the Singularity. Yes, I am referring to that singularity. My good friend Andy is getting married, and I am serving the drinks at his wedding reception. The bride and groom have each requested a themed cocktail, and I have been happy to oblige them. Andy requested a drink themed after the singularity.

It’s hard to make a drink truly match something as abstract as the technological singularity, but my approach was to pull out some molecular gastronomy and leverage as much technology as possible. In addition to that, I decided to make it seasonal, because peaches are in season, and peaches are delicious.

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For version one of the drink, I was inspired by this lapsang souchong sour from the lovely Charlotte Voisey. Real talk, I think I have an internet crush on her. Her drinks are fantastic and she has an adorable accent. Anyway, I loved the idea of resting some fragrant tea on top of the foam of an egg white sour. I think it made a beautiful presentation, but in my zeal for aesthetics, I allowed the tea leaves to float too close to the rim of the glass. I then received a sip full of tea leaves. It was not pleasant. I felt that the random fall of the tea leaves resembled Chinese characters, which was intriguing.

Moreover, I found that the aroma of the tea was not as strong as I had hoped. My tea was either not fragrant enough or not fresh enough. I used Earl Grey, and infused it into bourbon, instead of into the syrup, because I have had better luck with tea in spirit infusions than with tea syrups.

There is a delicate balance to find when infusing tea into spirits. Too long, and the spirit becomes over-burdened with tannin, resulting in a caustic dry mouthfeel. I tested my infusion after a mere ten minutes, and as soon as I began to detect the tannin, I stopped the infusion. Unfortunately, it did not soak up enough tea to find balance against the simple syrup, egg white, and lemon in this drink.

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Singularity
1.5 oz Cinnamon-infused bourbon
.75 oz lemon
.5 oz simple syrup
.25 oz peach gel*
1 egg white
Combine all in a mixing glass and blend with an immersion blender. Add ice and hard shake. Double strain into a coupe and top with concentric rings of peach gel and fresh grated cinnamon.

For version two of this drink I dropped the tea in order to highlight a flavor that I adore with peaches: cinnamon. In order to emphasize the flavor of the peach, I used peach gel both as a garnish and as an additive to the drink. The combination of the gel and the egg white gave it a wonderful velvety texture, while a un undertone of cinnamon formed a foundation for peach and bourbon flavors.

A note on method: immersion blenders instantly make perfect egg white foam. I have completely abandoned dry-shaking my egg white drinks in favor of the immersion blender method. My egg white drinks are thick and frothy, with perfect aeration. It’s as if I did a hard, dry shake for two or three minutes! This was the first piece of science in the drink; to use a hand blender to master the egg white emulsion.

*Peach Gel
3 ripe peaches, peeled
juice of one orange
3 tbsp Ultratex 3
Combine all in blender and store in a plastic squeeze bottle

Ultratex 3 is a modified tapioca starch that swells in water at room temperature. It has good stability at a range of temperatures, and can be used to thicken raw juices up to the texture of a syrup or a gel without heating. I tried mixing it with bourbon to make bourbon with the texture of caramel… it was a little disgusting, but ultratex does wonderful things with fruit juices. This gel will keep in the fridge for about three days. After that, it still tastes alright, but it loses some of its brighter flavors and color, and becomes oxidized.

Keep it science.


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Sody Pop Wine Drink

We’ve been trying to explore new and interesting fortified wines, so the other day I picked up a bottle of Byrrh. I was expecting it to be sweet vermouth, but it is much more reserved in its herbal qualities, and its primary flavor is much closer to grape juice, or maybe to port. It has that same deep, sweet, raisin quality that one finds in a ruby port, but perhaps it is not quite as complex.

Anyway, I got it into my head to make a long drink, and it tasted like wine soda; dry, crisp, and refreshing. I like the combination of cherry and grape, so I used Byrrh as the base, modified it with Cherry Heering, and cut the sugar with a quarter ounce of lemon. The result was very approachable, I think.

sody pop wine drink

Sody Pop Wine Drink
2 oz Byrrh
.5 Cherry Heering
.25 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz soda water
Shake all except soda water over ice, then double strain and top with soda water. Garnish with skewered blackberries.

I did not have a lot to say about this one, but you could probably sub the Byrrh with Stone’s Ginger, or Sweet Vermouth, and still have something very enjoyable.

Bottoms up!


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The Grimace: Rye, Lemon, Sweet Purple Yam Jam

Ube Halaya, or Sweet Purple Yam Jam (it’s fun to say!) is a popular flavor in the Philipines. If you are looking for wacky cocktail ideas for your admittedly gimmicky blog, (I prefer to think of it as cocktail entertainment), you could do a lot worse than to take a stroll through an ethnic market that is not catering to SWPL people.

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It was in such hallowed halls that I found rainbow-dyed sweetened dried coconut strips, and also a smooth-textured jam of purple yams. The jam was very sweet, and the best way to balance it was against some lemon juice.

As much as I try not to endlessly make different-flavored sours, it is a reliable choice, because it always tastes good. If you get into a cocktail-making challenge, just mix lemon, a base spirit, and an appropriate sweetener. You will not win on originality, but you will probably win on flavor.

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The Grimace
2 oz Woodinville Rye
.5 oz Ube Jam (adjust to your taste)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with rainbow coconut strips.

The cone of purple and the rainbow pastels had a McDonaldsy aesthetic, so I called it the Grimace. I admit it might not be the most appealing name, but it was delicious. The yam was beautiful with the spicy, woody taste of the rye.

By the way, Woodinville Rye is phenomenal. It was a tad pricey in Seattle, but the flavor of the mash is bright and distinctive. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys whiskey, or anyone who ought to, which is everyone.


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Kansai-jin: Peach-Bourbon, Pecan Orgeat, Lemon Peels

Pretty much the first drink you should mix after making homemade orgeat should be a Japanese cocktail, which is exactly what I did, with a twist, of course.

Kansai-jin
2 oz Peach-infused bourbon
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
2 Lemon peels
3 Dashes of angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh lemon peel.

Instead of brandy, I wanted to use this peach-infused bourbon that I’ve had laying around since the end of summer, and I’ve had a strong desire to do something with peaches and pecans for a while now. Just like the Japanese cocktail, there’s nothing Japanese about it, except for its name.

Peach-infused Bourbon
1 cup Peaches, chopped
1 cup Bourbon
1 Stick of cinnamon

Combine the peaches and bourbon and let infuse for 2 days. Add the cinnamon stick at the end of the 2nd day and allow the infusion to continue for another day. Strain.

The peach bourbon was a huge success, and is one of the tastiest infusions I’ve made so far. Infusions of fruits like peaches or pears add a subtle, yet sweet fruitiness to bourbon, and I like to add some spices in on the last day to add a tiny burst of something to the bourbon’s finish. It’s been hard to keep this stuff around as it is a favorite whenever guests raid my home bar.

As for the pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we substituted pecans for almonds. I’ve found that homemade orgeat is much nuttier than the store-bought kind.

The drink has an aroma of lemon, peaches, and roasted pecans. The nuttiness from the orgeat penetrates the bourbon’s peachy, oaky spice, and the citrus oils and orange flower water in the orgeat add some bright floral notes. Overall, bourbon made an interesting subsitution for brandy, but I can’t help but wonder if it was too much for this drink. Perhaps it would have been better with peach-brandy.

Kanpai!


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part I

MxMo update: It looks like all of the MxMo latecomers are in, so we went ahead and updated the post with four new entries from Southern Ash, Feu-de-Vie, Chemistry of the Cocktail, and Bartending Notes. Their drinks are awesome, so be sure to check them out. We can’t wait to see you all next month.

Inspired by a New York Times Magazine article describing a “raw” lime cordial, Joe and I decided to explore the spectrum of citrus cordials. We made lemon, lime, and grapefruit cordials and mixed a series of gimlets with each, using an array of base spirits selected because we thought they’d be interesting to try out. In this series, we present our tasting notes.

For the first post in this series, we made lemon gimlets using Zucca, Smith & Cross, and Cognac Salignac. I’ve always made a gimlet using a 4:1 ratio of gin to lime cordial, so we used this as our starting point. However, as we quickly learned, this ratio was designed for gin, and, as always, you should use your taste as your guide when trying something new. Also, home-made cordials are going to taste sweeter and more intense than anything store-bought. For each of our gimlets we fixed the amount of cordial to .5 oz, then poured .5 oz of base spirit at a time, tasting and adjusting until the flavors were balanced well enough.

To make a cordial, make a simple syrup, only add citrus peels and use citrus juice instead of water. Trimming the pith from the peels is a pain, but an essential step because citrus pith tastes bitter. It’s OK to be a little lazy with the piths when making a lemon or grapefruit cordial, but you really do want to remove as much pith as you can when you’re working with limes. Just for completeness, here’s the recipe we used to make our cordials:

Citrus Cordial
Citrus peels (pith removed)
1 cup fresh citrus juice
1 cup sugar

Peel your citrus fruits and remove all pith from the peels. Add all ingredients to a medium-sized pot over medium heat and stir until integrated. Strain and discard the peels.

In the image above, from left to right, we have:

Zucca Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Very dark, can’t see the lemon cordial at all.
Nose: Spicy, bright citrus.
Sip: Bittersweet, zucca and lemon blend together well.
Finish: Bittersweet, pretty much the same as it started.

It’s well known that rhubarb tastes great with citrus, especially oranges and lemons. Zucca, of course, is bittersweet, and its citrus notes are amplified by the lemon cordial. A great gimlet, probably my second favorite of the three.

Smith & Cross Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Dark brown/yellow, an intriguing amber color.
Nose: Sweet caramel with a hint of lemon.
Sip: Dark caramel and fresh, funky hogo.
Finish: Exotic fruits, bright citrus.

Joe and I both agree that this was the winner. Smith & Cross is one of our favorite rums, and the lemon cordial makes it sing to us. It’s amazing how the fruit in the rum is amplified by the lemon cordial. It was a great match.

Cognac Salignac Lemon Gimlet

Eye: Looks yellow, almost like pineapple juice.
Nose: Cognac and lemon, predictably.
Sip: Sweet, caramel, bright lemons.
Finish: Weak finish from the cognac, lemon overwhelms it.

The first few sips of this were great, and Joe and I were considering it for second place, but the problem was that the cognac finished weakly, and is overwhelmed by the lemon cordial in the swallow.

Join us again next week, when we’ll explore the lime cordial.


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Popcorn-Bourbon Toddy

As Joe used the iSi whip cream dispenser to flash infuse some freshly popped popcorn into some bourbon, I prepared some spiced butter using the same winter spice mix that we used to make the vin brûlée. Once everything was ready, a tasty toddy was born. Delicious, fun, rather unusual, and seasonally appropriate. Not only would drinking one of these be a fine way to warm yourself up, it’d also go really well with a movie.

Popcorn Toddy
2 oz Popcorn-infused Bourbon
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
.75 oz Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Spiced butter
Dash of bitters
2 oz Near-boiling water (to top)

Melt the butter and spices together. Add ingredients to a snifter, top with 2 oz near-boiling water. Garnish with a popcorn skewer.

We originally wanted to use a rye, Old Overholt, as it tastes particularly corny on its own, but, alas, we didn’t quite have enough of it left to make the infusion, which is why we used bourbon instead. However, this was no loss, and I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the bourbon perhaps adds more character and complexity. Still, I’d like to revisit this concept and use the ‘holt next time because it’d be interesting to see how its corniness bridges the whisky to the popcorn flavor. Then again, having said that, we’ve sworn off Old Overholt. Ever since Joe and I noticed how corny it tastes, it’s all we can taste. Its corniness almost ruins most drinks, in fact, and for that reason, we probably won’t be restocking that bottle. Yet I feel like every spirit has its uses, and perhaps this drink would be well suited to the corny corn corn taste of the ‘holt.

I was a bit worried that the popcorn flavor in the bourbon wouldn’t be very strong, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of our infusion. The sip tastes like warm, slightly buttery, spicy bourbon, and smells like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. As you swallow, you taste the popcorn, and the spices linger long enough to “season” the popcorn flavor, making it taste surprisingly like spiced popcorn.