Measure & Stir

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


3 Comments

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!


4 Comments

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.


1 Comment

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.


4 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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!)


3 Comments

Turkish Bath: Apricot Bourbon, Cumin, Lemon, Rosewater

There’s something almost magical about a hot toddy that can transform a rainy, miserable day into a warm, cozy one. Last Saturday was such an occasion, and this was the perfect remedy, and an excellent drink.

Turkish Bath
1.5 oz Apricot-infused bourbon
.5 oz Lemon juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1 oz Near-boiling water
2 Drops of rosewater

Combine apricot bourbon, cumin syrup, and lemon juice in a tea cup. Top with hot water and float the rose water on top. Garnish with a bourbon-soaked apricot.

I was skeptical when Joe told me he wanted to make a drink using cumin syrup. When he told me about his apricot bourbon infusion, this wasn’t what I had in mind. We had thought that Apricot and Cumin was a classic Turkish pairing, but it turns out it’s actually Moroccan. That is unfortunate, but we are not going to change the name, because the name “Turkish Bath” suits the idea of the toddy so well. The inspiration for this drink came from taking a page out of Drink Inc‘s book, looking to cuisine to find a flavor pairing that is not obvious, at least not to us Americans. We were very pleased with the results.

Apricot Bourbon Infusion
1 cup Bourbon (Evan Williams)
1 cup dried apricots
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Shake it up and let it infuse for 1 week.

The apricot bourbon was absolutely delicious on its own. Using dried apricots worked brilliantly, and – best of all – you can reuse the bourbon-soaked apricots as garnishes. As usual, a 1:1 ratio of fruit to spirit and roughly a tablespoon of sweetener results in deliciousness.

Cumin Syrup
1 Tsp powdered cumin (Freshly ground seeds would be better)
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar

Simmer and stir until fully integrated.

The most surprising element of the drink was the cumin syrup, and its interaction with the apricot flavor. On its own, it’s both sweet and savory. It isn’t particularly spicy, but it does have a certian warmth. As you sip the drink, you’re greeted by the cumin’s glow, wich compliments the nature of a hot toddy splendidly. The drink is at once sweet, spicy, and soothing. Fruity, but also savory. Perfectly balanced, and very relaxing.

Also noteworthy is the affect that the rosewater has on the drink. Make sure to drop it on top, right after pouring hot water over the other ingredients. Its role is aromatic, and its presence adds a floral complexity that works well with the citrus from the lemon juice, and also with the sweet fruity taste of apricots.

If you enjoyed this drink, I also recommend checking out this apple cider hot toddy from a while back. Fresh apple cider, rye, cinnamon, and cloves together make for another delicious fall toddy. Also, a shout out to The Liquid Culture Project’s Hot Scotch Toddy, which is awesome.

Bottoms up!


2 Comments

Thai Week Outtakes

Note: All of the drinks in this post were sub-par. We are posting them as a recounting of what not to do. Please do not make them, they are not that great.

We had some successes with our Low-Proof Thai Cocktail Week, but we also had plenty of drinks that didn’t make the cut. Two of them we already posted, the Miracle Mango Sour and the Lemongrass Soju MarTHAIni. They were OK, but they did not make the final cut. The lemongrass marTHAIni was too one dimensional — its only real flavor was lemongrass, which tastes kind of like a truncated lemon. Point of fact, it tasted kind of like a yellow fruit loop. Gross.

The Miracle Mango Sour was a bit more interesting, but it lacked impact. Even with fresh citrus juice, there was simply no kick, no bite, no bracing quality to it. Part of the problem is that soju is not high-proof enough to fully extract the soft flavor of a fruit like mango. As a result, the mango flavor in our infusion was week. Hence the maxim: give soju infusions double the time and they’ll taste twice as fine. But some flavors just aren’t going to come out, no matter how long you leave them. If you drank mango-soju straight, over ice, and with a twist of lime, it would be pretty tasty, but in a mixed drink it just can’t stand up.

Still, we were determined to somehow make the concept of the miracle mango sour work, so in a frenzy of mixing last friday night, we made four more iterations of it, and none of them were good enough of for the final menu. At least they look pretty.

2 oz Mango-Infused Soju
.5 oz Nigori Sake  (Kizakura)
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mango cubes and a lime twist.

This tasted good but it was watery. Mango-infused soju and nigori sake are both low proof and lightly flavored. We wanted to create a drink that was reminiscent of mango sticky rice, which is why we selected nigori sake. Nigori sake fills a similar role to a fortified wine in this drink, except it is, unfortunately, even lower proof that soju. Nigori sake is unfiltered sake, so it has a cloudy look and texture, and a sweet flavor. The taste of mango was light in our infusion, so I used only .5 oz of Nigori sake to keep it in balance. Perhaps if I had shaken this a mere ten times, it would have come out OK, but I gave it my standard thirty (this was the drink that made me realize you have to shake low-proof cocktails half as long). Even though it had a good flavor, we wanted to make it more intense, so we switched from mango soju to mango syrup.

Adding insult to injury, the lime zest in this garnish made a very discordant smell to the flavor of the drink. It was all wrong.

2 oz Nigori Sake (Kizakura)
.5 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
White of one whole egg
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Mango syrup has a very concentrated flavor, so our next idea was to use the Nigori sake as a base spirit, and get the mango in that way. This felt like it was going to be a slam dunk, but it was actually the worst of the bunch. The Nigori sake is so low-proof that even the bird’s eye chili could not save the drink from tasting weak. Worse, the mango syrup’s flavor was so powerful that it was the only thing we could taste over the egg white.

So for round three, we decided to concentrate the flavor of the Nigori sake, by simmering it on the stovetop and reducing its volume by two thirds. Even concentrated, the nigori sake had a very mild flavor, but it was strong enough that it did come through in the drink.

2 oz Soju
.5 oz Egg White
.5 oz Nigori Sake Reduction
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.25 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Of all the variations we made, this one was the best. We used uninfused soju as the base (we were out of mango), but it scarcely mattered against the mango flavor of the mango syrup. It’s possible that the mango soju would have rounded out the mango flavor, but it’s more likely that you would not have been able to notice the difference. We cut the egg white in this one back down to .5 oz, and it didn’t foam as much, but it still added body, and the flavors all came through. It was decent, but not so good that I would serve it to a guest or in a restaurant.

Even if it had been good, it would have been impractical, because the Nigori sake reduction would have been too expensive to justify producing it en masse for a restaurant. Somewhat happy with this result, we decided to try again, from a different direction, and also a more economical one:

2 oz Soju
.75 oz “Thaichata” Red Thai Rice, Kaffir Lime, Bird’s Eye Chili Concentrate
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Egg White
2 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango wedges a kaffir lime moustache.

This tasted like a slightly less good version of round #3. Instead of Nigori sake, we blended thai red rice with Bird’s eye chili and Kaffir lime leaves, simmered the mixture in water for a while, and then strained it through a cheesecloth. This procedure was similar to the one we used to make the Horchata for the Oaxacan Flower, and we loved the idea of “Thaichata”. Even though cinnamon is present in Thai food, we did not want to use it because we were afraid it would make the drink taste like more Mexican than Thai. We may try Thaichata again, but the recipe needs some work. As it was, it did a pretty good job of putting the rice flavor into the drink, and it turned it a beautiful pink color, but by this time we were fatigued of the concept, and sick of soju drinks.

Only later, we realized that mango sticky rice is made with coconut milk, but it was enough of a juggling act trying to get the flavors of rice and mango to balance against each other. Introducing coconut (i.e., more complexity) probably would not have magically fixed this mess. Gosh, I can’t wait to drink real drinks again!