Measure & Stir

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


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Jack Rose

Alright, we’ve been getting a little too crazy around here. It’s time to dial it back and make something classic. Fortunately I’ve had a bottle of Berneroy XO Calvados burning a hole in my bar, and it’s so delicious it’s almost like cheating. It’s not quite as assertive as Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, which is my default for these kinds of drinks, but it has a very round, complex apple flavor, with a perfect balance of oak and vanilla from aging.

Building off of that fine Calvados, I made some grenadine using Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe. I had used this process before, but I had omitted the pomegranate molasses. This time, I managed to procure some, and the difference is astonishing. Unlike sugar cane molasses, pomegranate molasses is tart and raisiny, and it transforms the grenadine from a mere pomegranate syrup into something reminiscent of a lime cordial, except with pomegranate. After tasting this style of grenadine, I will never go back.

jack rose

Jack Rose
1.5 Calvados
.5 oz Grenadine
.5 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

I think a classic Jack Rose is made with lemon, but I have tried both variations and I prefer mine with lime. As much as I like mixing Spinach and Orgeat, drinks like the Jack Rose have endured for a reason. They are delicious.

Cheers.


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Mezcal, Lime, Cilantro, Negra Modelo

Continuing our beer week, today’s drink comes out of a book about beer cocktails, creatively named “Beer Cocktails”, by Howard and Ashley Stelzer. I really wanted to make a beer cocktail with mezcal, and so this one piqued my interest.

paratodobien1

Para Todo Bien
2 oz Mezcal
1 oz Lime juice
.75 oz Simple syrup

Muddle 3 – 4 sprigs of cilantro in the syrup, then add the mezcal and lime juice and shake over ice. Salt half of your glass’ rim, then double-strain the drink into the glass, topping it off with 4 oz Negra Modelo. Garnish with cilantro.

We unfortunately used the last of our cilantro when muddling, so we improvised and garnished our drink with a lime wheel. Also, the original recipe says you should top the drink with 12 oz of Negra Modelo, and that was supposed to make two servings in total. We decreased the amount of beer in ours to 4 oz and kept it to one serving because we didn’t want to drown the drink in so much beer, and because we felt like the portions seemed more enjoyable as a single serving.

paratodobien2

Admittedly, this drink is margarita-esque. A good way to save a bad margarita (maybe the kind you get at your neighborhood Mexican family restaurant, and the like) is to pour some Corona or Negra Modelo into your drink. This beer cocktail extends this idea, using a quality margarita as the base. It’s true that you won’t find any triple sec here, but the beer kind of occupies the same space and lends similar flavors to the drink. And of course the mezcal just keeps things mysterious and interesting.


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Sangriento Maria: Mezcal, Heirloom Tomato, Cumin, Chili Garlic Sauce

Joe, for whatever reason, is determined to make a bloody mary that he honestly enjoys, despite agreeing that nobody is excited by savory cocktails and that the bloody mary may be beyond saving. At best, in my opinion, tomato drinks taste like spiked, soupy salsa. At worst, they’re retch-inducing. Yet Joe tries to not only make these drinks palatable, but to make them great. His measure of success is whether or not we’d want to mix the drink twice in a night. This time it actually happened!

Sangriento Maria
2 oz Mezcal
2 oz Heirloom tomato juice
.5 oz Lime juice
.5 oz Cumin syrup
1/2 teaspoon of Chili Garlic Sauce (Huy Fong)

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail goblet filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a quesadilla, si se puede.

To give this drink a more round tomato flavor, we used a medley of freshly juiced heirloom tomatos instead of sticking to one variety. If you don’t have any cumin syrup on-hand, or don’t feel like going through the trouble of making a batch, you can mix a pinch of cumin with simple syrup, to taste, and achieve a similar flavor. The bit of chili garlic was some last-minute serendipity, as I happened to have a bottle of Huy Fong in the fridge at the time.

Serving this sort of drink over ice helps to cut down on the tomato juice’s heavy viscosity, making it easier to enjoy. I’ve also found that using a smokey spirit, like mezcal, helps to distract you from the fact that you’re drinking tomato juice. That, or using teas also works well with tomato drinks. This bloody mary was so tasty that we ended up mixing another at the end of the night, but, the second time we made it, it did have that “spiced salsa” quality to it, so we’ve adjusted the amount of chili garlic sauce for our final recipe, presented above.

This is the last bloody mary drink for a long while. Lo sentimos.


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A More Refined Whiskey and Coke

After fixing up the Cosmopolitan, I had a bit of an ego trip, and decided to follow it up with a better Whiskey and Coke. This drink is a mashup of two ideas in the space around coca-cola. First, a Cuba-Libre is about one thousand times better than a rum and coke; the lime juice balances against the sweetness of the cola, and complements the spirit. Second, Fernet and Coke is a popular drink in Argentina. Indeed, this makes sense, as the Dirt and Diesel, a drink with dark rum, lime, and fernet has a flavor which is reminiscent of a Cuba-Libre.

So our thinking here was to combine the concepts of a whiskey and coke, a fernet and coke, and a Cuba-Libre. Our first attempt with Fernet was not an overwhelming success. The Fernet dominated the drink, and the flavors did not come together the way we were hoping. There was something missing or something dissonant. Rather than try to add yet a fifth ingredient, we swapped the Fernet for the Dirt and Diesel‘s other bitter component, Cynar, and it was much more harmonious. The Cynar was not as bitter as the Fernet, of course, so we rounded it out with a dash of bitters.

Improved Whiskey Coke
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse Bonded)
.75 oz Cynar
.5 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
2 oz High Quality Cola
Shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz high quality Cola and garnish with a lime wheel.

This was a great highball, but Cola is not my favorite thing to drink. It will taste much better if you use your favorite local artisanal cola, or failing that, Mexican coke, the kind that uses real sugar and comes in a glass bottle. We used Trader Joe’s “Vintage Cola”, and I must confess, I was disappointed with it. In Seattle, Pig Iron Cola is our favorite, and a much more solid choice.

If you want to splurge on the garnish, you could always use a vanilla bean molded into a straw, as in this Bacardi ad. If you haven’t seen them, the entire series of commercials is worth watching. They have high production values and interesting (maybe accurate?) trivia. I especially enjoy their twist on the mojito.

Cheers!


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Rum Cosmopolitan

Few topics in mixology are more divisive than vodka; I never thought that was the case, but there seem to be two major camps on the issue; in the first camp, there are snobs like me, who believe that any drink that is good with vodka is better with something else. In the second camp, there are people who feel that it is wrong to judge people for their plebian tastes. I think its safe to say that, for those of us in the first camp, we don’t seriously look down on people who enjoy vodka, we simply enjoy snobbery as part of the game. If you can’t enjoy snobbery, you are taking yourself too seriously.

Anyway, I’m done preaching. Today we’re going to talk about the cocktail that may have single-handedly started the craft cocktail revolution; the Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans made cocktails cool again, and raised the general public’s interest in drinking cocktails, which had fallen out of fashion as their production descended to McDonald’s-esque lows in the 1990s. I wish I could take credit for that insight, but it was Doug of the Pegu Blog who taught me.

Cranberries are in season, and as with our Thanksgiving drink, the Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour, we wanted to make a sour that uses cranberry juice as the primary source of acidity. To that end, we re-jiggered the classic Cosmopolitan around some of our principles here at Measure and Stir. First off, the vodka had to go. Our first attempt involved using gin, but that was a mistake. Doug warned me:

The ground is littered with the bodies of cocktailians who tried to turn the Cosmopolitan into a decent gin cocktail. The fabled Metropolitan heresy has wasted more good gin on bad results than you can imagine.

Cranberry-orange is a classic flavor pairing, but somehow it just does not mix well with gin’s botanicals. This drink became successful when we swapped the gin for J. Wray and Nephew, an overproof rum with some serious hogo.

Rum Cosmopolitan
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Fresh, Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries.

We replaced the sweet and watery cranberry cordial that is commonly used in this drink for fresh, unsweetened cranberry juice, dialed down the lime, and balanced the sourness of the juices with a whole ounce of Cointreau. The result is a very dry, slightly sulfurous cranberry-orange pairing, brightened by a bit of lime. If you like your cosmos sweet, a dash of simple syrup would not be amiss.

We garnished the drink with skewered cranberries, which look very nice but impart virtually no aroma. In a later version of the drink, which is not pictured, we also added small twist of orange peel, and it added both a splash of contrasting color and a mild orange oil aroma. Delightful.

Bottoms up!


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Macadamia Nut Liqueur, Pineapple and Coconut

I’ve never been to Hawaii myself, but several of my friends have been on holiday there during the last year. They’ve all brought back delicious snacks, and there’s always some kind of macadamia-based treat included amongst the bounty. I don’t know what it is about this state, but it must be overflowing with macadamia nuts. The last friend of mine to visit the 50th state brought back what has been my favorite macadamia treat so far: macadamia nut liqueur.

Being a gift from Hawaii, this ingredient was destined to be mixed into a macadamia-themed tiki drink, like Joe’s Tkach Tiki Delux, only we wanted to make sure that the macadamia flavor was the main attraction, so Joe and I blended up this tropical treat. Behold!

This drink is nuts, so we call it Macadamia, or Macadamia Piña Colada
3 oz Macadamia nut liqueur
2 oz Smith & Cross rum
2 oz Matusalem rum
1 oz Coconut cream (critically important: use unsweetened coconut cream, not coco lopez)
.5 oz Fresh lime juice
.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
2 or 3 generous handfuls of freshly sliced pineapple chunks

Add all ingredients to a blender with plenty of ice. Blend until the ice is crushed. Pour into four glasses and smack some mint leaves for a garnish.

Something about blended tiki drinks is just really pleasing. What begins with a minty scent is followed by bright tropical notes from the fresh pineapple and citrus juices. The macadamia’s sweet nutty taste rounds out a rummy swallow. Personally, I like to keep the ice in my mouth and munch on it afterwards, but I’m weird like that.

We regret that the garnish was not grandiloquent, however, mint was definitely the right choice for this drink. I always enjoy tiki drinks that come with a fruity garnish, but in our haste to mix other drinks we neglected to cut a pineapple wedge. I guess nothing we could have done here would top the pineapple-as-a-vessel piña colada we made a while ago. If you choose to create a more impressive garnish, you really should keep the mint spring in the mix, as it provides a critical fragrance to this drink.

Aloha!


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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.


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Herbed Oleo Saccharum: Dill, Rosemary, Orange Oil

In his book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, David Wondrich reveals that the foundation of a good punch is a concoction called oleo saccharum, which simply means “oily sugar”. That may not sound especially appetizing, but it is among the most delicious and under-appreciated ingredients in a mixed drink.  You don’t have to use it to make a giant punch; it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to make a single drink (or three). Usually it is made from lemons, but any citrus fruit will do, and I like to mix it up, as you have probably noticed. The process is a little bit time-consuming, but the end product is amazing, and worth it.

To make it, all you have to do is peel some of your favorite citrus fruit, being careful not to get any of the pith. I find this is especially challenging with limes, which is why I will not be making lime oleo saccharum any time soon. If you do, I recommend finding the freshest limes you can, as lime skins are thinner than lemons or oranges, and you have to get them before they can even slightly dry out. I was inspired to make this by a trip I took, several months ago, to the Teardrop Lounge in Portland, where they were serving an original drink called Perennial Punch, consisting of green tea, J.Wray, cachaça, dry aperitif wine, and herbed oleo saccharum.

I loved the idea of muddling herbs with the citrus peels, so I selected rosemary and dill, and muddled them in a bowl with the peel from four oranges, and a few ounces of sugar. I did not measure the sugar, I just eyed it. Add enough sugar to coat the peels, muddle them, and repeat a couple of times. Each time you muddle, the sugar will puncture the oil glands in the citrus peel and become saturated, so you end up using a substantial amount, perhaps an ounce per orange.

After you have combined the sugar and citrus peels, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit for an hour, muddling occasionally. By the end, you get a rich, sweet oil with a heavenly smell. I mean really, truly, I am going to repeat this, it’s the key takeaway from this whole post: herbed oleo saccharum may be the greatest smell I have ever smelled.

The first drink I made with the oil was an attempt to partially reproduce the perennial punch. I did not bother to blend J. Wray and cachaça, as they have a similar flavor, and I find such blends to be gimmicky. Perhaps that is my ignorance. In any case, I did not quite get the dilution right on this one, and the flavor was good, but a bit on the watery side. As such, it’s hard to judge the success of the recipe. Everyone screws it up occasionally, and I was using unfamiliar ice, but that’s no real excuse.

Kind of Perennial Punch
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.5 oz Herbed Oleo Saccharum
1 oz Soda Water
Stir all except soda over ice and strain over fresh ice. Top with soda and garnish with a rosemary sprig and an orange peel, because why not.

Other than the bad dilution, this was pretty tasty. The original used Pineau de Charentes, which I do not have, but the vegetal funk from the cachaça was a great match to the herbs in the oleo saccharum. Even over-diluted, the flavors of orange oil and herbs were salient. I made two of these at once, so I ended up wasting most of my precious oil on an error. I had enough to make one more drink, but it was all stuck to the herbs and peels that I had used in the preparation. I decided to take no chances, so I poured all of the still oil-saturated herbs and peels into my shaker with some gin and some lime juice, and I made a drink that is almost impossible to screw up.

Unintentional Herbed Semi-Gimlet
1.5 oz Gin (Aviation)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Herbed Oleo Saccharum, plus oil-saturated sprigs of herb and orange peel

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

This drink was stunningly good. I call it a semi-gimlet because a proper gimlet is made of gin and lime cordial, but the process of making a good lime cordial is essentially making a lime oleo saccharum and then mixing it with strained lime juice. So this is a semi-gimlet in that the oleo saccharum was made with oranges, but if I had made it with limes, it would really just be an herbed gimlet. My process also placed extra emphasis on the citrus oil, so it would be a very unusual gimlet, at that.


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Gastrique Sour

Last weekend I was feeling astringent, and that meant it was time to make gastrique.  I confess, what I truly desired was not a gastrique but a shrub, but shrubs take several days to make, whereas you can cook up a gastrique in much less than an hour. Both ingredients are made from sugar and vinegar, so if you desire the tang of acetic acid and you don’t have the luxury of waiting two days for your syrup to pickle, a gastrique might be the previously unknown secret desire of your heart.

I followed this Serious Eats recipe, which I shall recount briefly for you here, in case clicking on one more hyperlink is too much effort for your web-weary mind and fingers.

Blueberry Gastrique
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup smashed blueberries

Combine water and sugar in a pot and cook on medium high heat. Prior to cooking, the sugar should have the texture of wet sand. Heat the sugar until it dissolves and begins to bubble and undulate. Do not stir. Watch the sugar until it has caramelized into a beautiful golden brown, and then add the apple cider vinegar, and reduce the heat to medium. When the caramel has fully dissolved in the vinegar, add the blueberries and stir. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld, and then strain out the blueberry pulp.

Making Caramel is, in fact, very easy, and I got this right on my first try. So will you. Gastrique is traditionally served as a sauce on fish or meat, but it’s great in a mixed drink, as you will discover if you try it. The complex flavor of caramel and cider vinegar is best-suited to brown spirits such as bourbon or aged rum; I tried it with Wray and Nephew and it wasn’t right at all. A shrub might go with a lighter spirit, but there is a certain synergy between the brownness of caramel and the brownness of bourbon or rye.

Blueberry Gastrique Sour

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Blueberry Gastrique

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Even though the vinegar is sour, you need to treat this ingredient like a syrup. It retains the flavor of vinegar, but the sugar in the caramel and the berries flattens its acidity, so citrus juice is still needed. Vinegar has a great flavor, but it’s not something you want to inhale like a scotch. That’s why I garnished the drink with an aromatic herb; the scent of the rosemary saves you from the vinegar’s smell, while complementing its savory qualities.


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Flamed Pisco Sour

Writing code all day will make just about anyone feel crazy, and last Monday the monotony was starting to get to me, so I walked down to my neighborhood Sur La Table, and I bought myself a flamethrower. If you are putting together the menu for a bar, a flamed drink serves two purposes; first, it gets the attention of all your patrons, and incites them to order “the one with the fire”, which hopefully equals more sales. Second, it’s flipping awesome.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler describes a technique for flaming a drink in which he fills a pressurized olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of bitters and Stroh 160, and then uses it to flame the surface of a Pisco Sour. The Pisco sour is an ideal candidate for this treatment, because it is made with an egg white, and as such has a rich, foamy head. You could garnish any mixed drink with scorched bitters, and it impart the same aroma, but egg white drinks have the added bonus that you can caramelize the top of the foam, capturing the the flavor of the bitters as well.

The garnish in a drink should look beautiful, but it also plays a functional role most of the time: it gives the drink most of its aroma. A mixed drink does not have a strong smell, but a fresh herb, spice, or citrus peel completes the experience of the drink. In that sense, scorched bitters is the garnish, even though it leaves no tangible artifact in the glass.

Some men just want to watch the world burn. In order to take this picture, I had to spray fire all over the egg white for about three times as long as you’re supposed to, and the surface that was touched by the flame turned into a paper film with the flavor of crème brûlée, and a texture that I wouldn’t serve to anyone whom I actually liked. As a matter of fact, it took me three of these before I got it right, but the research was not unpleasant.

You probably know all about the Pisco Sour–Pisco is a type of pomace brandy, similar to grappa, and is the national spirit of Peru.  Moreover, the Pisco Sour is the Peruvian national cocktail, which they celebrate on the first Saturday of every February. It is a very simple drink, but there are a couple of interesting details, which I shall discuss momentarily.

Scorched Pisco Sour
1.5 oz Pisco
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White

Dry shake* and then add ice and shake again. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Fill an olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of Angostura bitters and 151 rum (or Stroh 160) and burn the top of the egg white foam for a few seconds.

If your drink looks like the one in my picture, you actually overdid it with the fire. You don’t want a slimy membrane of burned meringue on top of your drink. Most Pisco sour recipes only call for half an egg white, but I like to use a whole one in this kind of application, to guarantee that you have plenty of foam to work with.

The traditional garnish for a Pisco sour is freshly-grated nutmeg, and I honestly prefer that to the more common (in the states) clover made out of angostura bitters. Scorching the bitters is a fun variation, however, and worth it just for the pyrotechnics.

*A note on dry shaking your sour: I always used to find that, when dry-shaking my drinks, little droplets from the drink would escape from my shaker and get all over my hands and clothes. This frustrated me greatly, because in order to properly dry-shake a drink, you need to shake it mightily, and in so doing whip up the egg white into a rich foam. I asked around on the internet, and they told me that the temperature of a drink with ice is what prevents it from breaking through the seal on your shaker. So for this drink, I placed a single ice cube in the shaker for my “dry” shake, and I was delighted to discover that the drink did not leak.