Measure & Stir

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


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Trapped in a Cage of Their Own Making with a Beast They’ve Been Feeding For Years

In this drink, the name came first. That may be obvious. I encountered this phrase over two years ago, and it resonated with me, so I wrote it down, and saved it for later. I knew that I wanted to build the drink around dragonfruit, and to boldly announce the “beast” element of the title. In the end, I was able to invoke the theme in several ways.

trappedinacage

The drink itself is composed of duck-fat infused bourbon, dry vermouth, lime juice, maple syrup, and pineapple and dragon fruit purée. I confess, if I saw this drink from a distance, I would be tempted to call it overcomplicated, but as it is my own brainchild, I have only fond feelings for it.

Let me explain. Trapped in a Cage… starts with dragonfruit, to give it the aspect of the beast. Pineapple juice expands the flavor along the already tiki-ish premise of a hollowed out fruit as serving vessel. To reinforce the beast motif, it is appropriate to use a spirit washed with animal fat, and I have found that bourbon is the spirit most amenable to such treatments.

From (relatively) bland dragonfruit, pineapple, and bourbon, we have nearly arrived at the flavor of an Algonquin, hence dry vermouth completes the classic cocktail at the core of this adventure. Bacon bourbon is a little passé, though as I think through dynamics of this drink, it would have been a fine choice. To keep things fresh, I opted for duck fat, instead.

Beef would have been too heavy, and uncured pork fat leaves a repellant funk. No, the musky oiliness of duck fat was the best option, and between bourbon and duck, I found myself craving a hint of maple syrup. In my loose adherence to a tiki theme, I turned to lime juice for the acidity to balance the sweetness, and garnished with cilantro, mostly for the look.

Trapped in a Cage of Their Own Making with a Beast They’ve Been Feeding For Years
2 oz duck fat-washed bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz dry vermouth (Ransom)
.5 oz maple syrup
60g dragonfruit
60g pineapple
a tiny pinch of salt
Blend all with a hand blender, and then shake over ice. Strain only with a Hawthorne.
Serve in a hollowed out dragonfruit and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Perhaps this is no ordinary tiki drink. Indeed, one of my friends who was present at this session called it “Jurassic” Tiki, and for a brief moment I had visions of an entirely new subgenre of cocktail. Jurassic Tiki aims to trade faux orientalism for a prehistoric sensibility. It finds exotic flavors by combining animal ingredients with primordial imagery, and imagines a cocktail culture in a world untouched by human ingenuity, ruled by ancient monsters locked in an endless Hobbesian struggle.

Then I saw that damn paper umbrella and realized that my entire manifesto would collapse in the face of a tiny anachronism.

For the plating I used pineapple fronds, scrubbed animal bones, cilantro, dragonfruit, a lime husk, black lava salt, and smoke from oak chips.

The drink itself is surprisingly subtle, with each component making a distinct contribution. Notes on method:

  • The Ransom dry vermouth has a strong flavor, and I might have used a bit more had I been using my more usual Dolin.
  • The proportions of lime and maple syrup were ad hoc, as they must ever be in a drink so heavily loaded with fresh produce. Variability is inescapable, and your good taste must be your guide.
  • Dragonfruit has very little flavor, and is best used as a textural element.
  • Fat-washing a spirit takes about 24 hours:
    • Pour 1/4 cup of softened fat into 1 cup of spirit.
    • Shake it, and allow it to infuse for about a day.
    • Place the infusion in the freezer, and leave the fat to separate and solidify.
    • Strain through a coffee filter.
  • A pinch of salt helps the pineapple shine.

Cheers.


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The Last Word Ice Cream Sundae

I made this in collaboration with my friend Johan from Moedern Kitchen, and this content is cross-posted there.

last word sundae 2

This is not my first foray into the world of cocktail-inspired ice creams. My first was not up to snuff, and never made it to the web. My second was Mai Tai Soft Serve, which you may remember. Today, I am proud to share an ice cream Sundae inspired by one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Last Word. This drink is famous among cocktail enthusiasts, and as a Seattlite, it has a special place in my heart, since it was re-popularized in the modern cocktail renaissance by our very own Murray Stenson.

To make this ice cream sundae, we wanted to do something ambitious. It’s easy to get carried away when dealing with modernist techniques, and I think you will find that we did not exercise any restraint at all.

Just to review, the last word is a drink composed of equal parts:

The Last Word
3/4 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice

The green Chartreuse is really the key to this drink, as it is the source of its unique flavor. Even so, the combination and the balance are such that every element is a first class citizen. We went through several iterations before we settled upon this arrangement. What is the right way to marry an ingredient to a preparation? I confess I do not have any formal method for making these decisions.

The base of an ice cream sundae is the ice cream, and for that reason, it seemed fitting to use the base spirit of the drink, which in this case is London dry gin. As I have noted before, actual spirits do not come through strongly when added to an ice cream base. We can achieve much more flavorful results by using the root flavors of the spirit, rather than the spirit itself. To make a London dry gin ice cream, we used a hint of gin, but we steeped coriander, orange peel, and juniper berries into the cream. I don’t have the exact ratio, but this will get you pretty close. Note that we use the same base recipe as in Johan’s licorice ice cream.

last word sundae 1

London Dry Gin Ice Cream
650g Whole Milk
225g Sugar
200g Egg Yolks
150g Heavy Cream
50ml London Dry Gin

Before combining the ingredients to make the ice cream, infuse the milk with gin botanicals. In a pan, toast up 2 tbsp of coriander seeds and 2 tbsp of juniper berries, until the oil starts to bloom on the juniper. When the berries are shiny, drop all of the spices into the milk, and gently heat on a stovetop for fifteen minutes along with one fat orange peel, trimmed of pith, then strain.

A good ice cream sundae should contain many layers and textures. Moreover, the last word, although quite spiritous, is a citrus-driven drink. It needs to the acidity and the punch of fresh sour lime juice. To achieve this end, we made a lime juice curd using this lemon curd recipe from chefsteps, subbing lemon for lime, and omitting the gelatin. I cannot stress this last point enough. In our first attempt, we used the optional gelatin suggested in the recipe, and wound up with a disgusting congealed mass.

For the maraschino, we made a zabaione, which Johan called by some incomprehensible Norwegian name (eggedosis) that he will probably edit in here.

Maraschino Zabaione
3 Large Egg Yolks
100 ml Heavy Cream
Sugar and Marschino to Taste
Integrate using a mixer (or a whisk, if you want to work on those arms), and load into an iSi whipping cannister. Charge it up and shake it.

For the green chartreuse, we made a fluid gel. Modernist techniques often feel like solutions in search of a problem, but in this case, a chartreuse gel was exactly the thing. We adapted this recipe from chefsteps as well, substituting fresh orange juice with green chartreuse, and omitting the citric acid. The texture and mouthfeel was unusual, but it felt very at home in a sundae, filling in the same space where one might otherwise find chocolate fudge sauce.

At this point, we had all of the elements, and a variety of soft viscosities, but a sundae also needs crunch, contrast, and texture. To this end, we repeated some of the flavors, and expanded on others. Ice cream wants some kind of cookie or crumble, and we opted to use two.

The first was a cinnamon shortbread, which we crumbled up and used as the bottom layer. I used this recipe from Serious Eats.

Cinnamon Shortbread
9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
A healthy outpouring of ground cinnamon.

Don’t overmix the cinnamon in the shortbread, in order to create a marbled effect. I don’t know how much I used, but you’ll know it’s right when you see it. Cinnamon may seem like an odd addition to the dessert, but it complements and expands on the cinnamon flavor that is present in green chartreuse. It does not repeat perfectly, but it does rhyme.

The second cookie was a tuile, which also came from Serious Eats.

Tuile
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sifted cake flour
2 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

We integrated this, allowed it to cool, then spread it into a thin layer on a silpat using an offset spatula, and baked it at 176 C until it was just brown all over, about 12 minutes. For the final plating, we just shattered it into pieces.

In addition to cookie textures, we added a couple of soft and chewy elements. The first was dried sweetened pineapple, compressed with a citrusy new age gin called Uncle Val’s Botanical. To make this, we bought dried sweetened pineapple chunks in bulk from a supermarket, and compressed them in a chamber vac with a shot of gin. The longer you leave them sealed in the bag, the softer they get. We let ours sit for about two hours before draining them. They kept in a jar for quite a while afterwards, and had the texture of soft gummy candy. We chose pineapple because it pairs wonderfully with lime, maraschino, and green chartreuse, but in truth, the pineapple was mostly covered by the gin.

Finally, we topped it with falooda seeds soaked in a mixture of London dry gin and water. These are popular in some asian and Indian desserts, and they have the amazing property that they will soak up any liquid in which they rest. They are sometimes colloquially called frogs eggs, but they have a similar texture to modernist caviar made with sodium alginate. Since they soaked up a little gin, they were the perfect vehicle to give a tiny boozy kick to the dessert, which was otherwise lacking.

The composition of the sundae was as follows, from top to bottom:

  • Gin-Soaked Falooda
  • Tuile Pieces
  • Maraschino Zabaione
  • Green Chartreuse Fluid Gel
  • London Dry Gin Ice Cream
  • Lime Curd
  • Citrus Gin-Compressed Pineapple
  • Cinnamon Short Bread Crumbles
  • Served in a Cocktail Glass

This was a lot of work, but the result was something truly special.

Cheers.


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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.

photo-1437750769465-301382cdf094

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.

pbj
Peanut Butter Jelly Time

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

grapeAcidTrip
Kyoho Grape and Lavender

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

appleAcidTrip
Caramel Apple and Fennel

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

Acidity is life.

Cheers.


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Cucumber Rai Tai

I don’t  have a lot to say about this one. I was leafing through The Flavor Bible and my eye landed on on this combination: “Dill, Yoghurt, Cucumber”. And of course those things go together. Who here hasn’t enjoyed tzatziki sauce on a gyro, or a bit of cucumber raita alongside their vindaloo?

raitai

Cucumber Rai Tai
1.5 oz Gin (Tanqueray Rangpur)
1 oz Cucumber Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
3 Heaping barspoons of Greek Yoghurt
4 Dill Sprigs, Muddled
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with a sprig of dill.

Absent garlic and other savory elements, this did, in fact, taste like a tzatziki sauce. It was good, especially paired with seafood, which we were eating at the time. The herbal notes in the gin are a natural fit for cucumber and dill. It’s so obvious it’s almost academic. I found it to be light and refreshing; the yoghurt was not too heavy on a summer night.

The name “Rai Tai” is a play on the name “Mai Tai”, but of course, this is a far cry from a Mai Tai, or even a tiki drink. Even so, I’m sticking with it.

Cheers.


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Pining for a Caipirinha

I missed Mixology Monday this month, but last night I was getting into the Zirbenz and I suddenly realized I had a great application for it. So, I say in the video that this is for MxMo, but the fact is that I didn’t make it in time. Well, you can’t have everything.

Pining for a Caipirinha
1.5 oz Aged Cachaça (Novo Fogo)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
.5 oz Lime Oleo Saccharum
Shake and double-strain over cracked ice. Garnish with lime quarters.

I love Caipirinhas, but I think that as a built drink, it suffers from a flat texture. When there is fresh citrus in my drink, I want the aeration that comes from shaking. When you make a classic caipirinha, you muddle limes with granulated sugar in the glass, and the sugar helps to macerate the peels, releasing oils and juice. Freshly expressed lime oil is a big part of the Caipirinha experience, but I don’t like the fact that the ratios are unmeasured, so I took the elements of the Caipirinha and brought them into proper cocktail alignment.

Lime oleo saccharum is a pain to make, because lime peels are smaller and more brittle than lemon, orange, or grapefruit, but by using it in this drink, we are able to dramatically bolster the aromatic components of the lime, and get very close to the true essence of the flavor of Caipirinha.

An ounce of sweet ingredients does feel like a bit much, but you will find that, with the ice and the shaking, the drink comes out very cold, and the added sugar helps to punch through the dulling effect that cold has on the tastebuds. Moreover, Zirbenz is not a very sweet liqueur, so its inclusion is more about flavor than sweetening.

I always notice that lime oil has a lot in common with pine, so I put these two ingredients together to highlight that similarity. Zirbenz is a tough ingredient to use, because although it tastes strong on its own, the pine flavor is not penetrating, and is easily covered up by other botanicals such as those found in gin or vermouth. To be perfectly honest, if pine flavor is your goal, I think you would get farther using  essential oil than you will with this liqueur.

Even so, the Zirbenz has a raisiny quality along with its resiny quality, so it fits nicely between aged Cachaça and lime oil. I’ll try to post more often, I swear.


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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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Pina Porter

Hey guys, sorry I missed our usual Monday rendezvous.

Last month, Mark Holmes over at Cardiff Cocktails was inspired by our beer week to make a drink with tequila and porter, which he called the pina porter.

I found it through his twitter, and then I tweeted back at him that I loved the idea of pineapple juice and porter… that was probably confusing. Anyway, James and I made the drink to spec, and it suited our fancy. It seems that when Mark made it, he got a much fizzier head on his drink than we did, but ours was fizzier than it looks, I assure you.

pina porter

Pina Porter
1 1/2 oz Tequila
3/4 oz lime
1/2 oz kahlua
1/2 oz Dark Caramel syrup
3 oz Porter
Dash Angostura bitters

The kahlua + porter worked really well, but we made the mistake of using a not-smokey-enough reposado. I enjoy a lot of smoke in my tequila, and I was looking for the smoke to complement the beer. We added a quarter ounce of mezcal to the drink, post-mix and post-photograph, and it corrected the problem, but I think it would not have been a problem in the first place, had we used a smokier reposado.

So thanks a lot, Mark, it was a good one.