Measure & Stir

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


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Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy

If the name is confusing, say it out loud, like “Not ya Grandmother’s Toddy”. The joke isn’t funny if you explain it. I know. The hour is late so I’m going to make this a quick one.

matchatoddy2

James had the idea to have a small tea party, in which all of our drinks would contain tea. I was greatly enthused by the idea, and we set about brainstorming some different ideas. In the brainstorming phase I thought, “this ingredient is going to be a snap!” But it turns out that tea is very subtle, and there are many opportunities for the drink to go horribly wrong.

For our first drink we wanted to get some green tea in a glass with some hogo. The problem is that brewed tea has a very light flavor, and a tea syrup made in the usual way has a similarly light flavor. There was no way it was going to stand up to a high proof spirit! So the first thing I tried was brewing six cups of green tea, and then reducing it to roughly 2 cups. Making the reduction caused the tea to oxidize, and it lost both its green color and its grassy flavor.

In fact, it started to taste like a black tea, but not like a good one. So we dumped that. Fortunately, I had some matcha powder in my cabinet, and we were able to find a solution that was both flavorful and colorful.

If you want to get the flavor of green tea in a drink, matcha is your best friend. A brief green tea infusion in vodka, pisco, or gin is another way, but I think matcha delivers the boldest and truest flavor of green tea. It is very bitter, however, and not in a delicious fernet kind of way.

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Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
3 oz boiling water
1/4 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tsp white sugar
In a mixing glass, combine matcha, sugar, and boiling water. Stir vigorously. Add spirits and pour into a warmed irish coffee mug. Top with a matcha whipped cream*, lime twist, grated lime zest, and skewered blueberries.

We ended up using cachaça instead of J. Wray, for it has a similar flavor, but it is not quite so pungent and overpowering. This is one of my favorite drinks to date, both in taste and appearance. I loved the sulfurous, vegetal funk of the cachaça against the grassy, floral tea, along with the bitter notes from the cocchi on the backend.

The presentation was inspired by this Orange Pisco Hot Chocolate from Serious Eats. By the way, here’s how to make matcha whipped cream:

Matcha Whipped Cream
.5 L Heavy Cream
1 tsp matcha powder
sugar to taste
Combine all in an iSi whipped cream dispenser, pressurize, and shake.

Bottoms up!


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Libation Labs: India Pale Ale

Hello, everyone. It is the last day before our holiday hiatus, so we thought we’d end on a high note. As you probably know, this has been beer week, and we’re pleased to wrap up with what were, for me, the highlights of the week, which created when we couldn’t decide which direction to take an IPA-based libation.

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My first intuition was to play off the bitter notes in the IPA with a bitter liqueur, and I selected Cynar for that role, because I thought that the bitterness of hops would be similar to the bitterness of the artichoke. And indeed, it was a pleasing combination. I also know that gin pairs well with Cynar, and further expected harmony between gin’s botanicals and the herbal qualities of India Pale Ale. We soured it with some lime, but then all the bitter and sour required balance.

I had intended to use simple syrup, but sometimes when drinks are flying left and right (metaphorically), and you realize you’re out of simple syrup, you let it overcook and it starts to caramelize. This is the second time I have accidentally done this since starting the blog; the first time was in production of our Banana Julep . In this case, we decided to go ahead and use the caramelized syrup anyway, and it worked even better than simple syrup would have, in my opinion.

Caramelized Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
bring to a rolling boil for ~ten minutes. Kill the heat, and fortify with 1 oz of 151 proof rum.

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East Indies Highball
2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Caramelized Syrup (above)
.5 oz Cynar
2/3 oz Lime
2 oz IPA (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all except beer and then double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a scored lime wedge.

This was an herbal drink, effervescent, bitter, with a counterpoint of caramelized sugar. My favorite of the week. I do not have an exact beer template for you, but my general approach is to formulate a drink that tastes good on its own, and that I think will taste good with a particular beer, and then top that drink with beer.

I am of the opinion that mixing wine, including aromatized wine, with beer, would be in poor taste. That means that the base of your beer drink should be sour or succulent, or maybe driven by liqueur. I have greatly enjoyed beer drinks that use viscous, jammy preparations of fruit, including purees as well as actual jams. Beer is already thick, so it works well to fortify that with something pulpy.

If I had to give you a formula, it would look like:

Beer Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz Fresh juice or .75 oz Fruit Puree
.75 oz Liqueur or Syrup
Dash of Bitters
Shake and strain over ice, and top with 3 oz beer

But you’ll notice that maybe none of our drinks conform to that exact template. It’s all about taste and iteration, and balancing the individual flavors against each other. Beers are complex on their own, and getting them to taste right with other ingredients is nuanced. You cannot even rely on any one IPA to taste exactly like another; one might have more of a grapefruit flavor, and another might taste more like pine. That’s why you have to know your ingredients.

west indies

West Indies
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
.75 oz Falernum
.25 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
2 oz ipa (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all but beer and double-strain into a goblet. Top with IPA.

For our second variation, and more on a lark than anything else, we wanted to try the IPA with rum and falernum. There was no deep thought behind this choice, but sometimes, the best drinks are extemporaneous. By now, I think we are all familiar with the combination of rum, falernum, and lime. It’s hard to screw that up. We kept the lime short and let the IPA do most of the balancing against the sweeter ingredients. It worked like a charm.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next year!


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part II

Joe and I made a variety of citrus cordials, and mixed up some gimlets, trying out various base spirits with each sort of cordial. In this series, we present our tasting notes. Part II brings us to the lime cordial, which was so tasty that we went a little nuts and made six different gimlets!

Lime Cordial
1 cup lime juice
1 cup sugar
Peels of 8 limes, piths removed.

A word of advice when making a lime cordial: You need to remove as much of that lime pith as you can. Lime pith is very bitter, and can ruin your cordial. Lime cordials are a huge pain to make, but the payoff is worth it, I promise.

Round 1

lime gimlets 2

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

Mezcal Gimlet

Eye: A slightly yellow clear, with a ghastly green glow.
Nose: Cactus and lime.
Sip: Smokey cactus, sweet lime.
Finish: Sweet.

The mezcal gimlet was excellent, probably one of my favorites out of the six that we made. Lime and mezcal really go well together, and the cordial mixes very well with mezcal, indeed. I love the depth that the mezcal’s smoke adds to such a simple drink.

Suze Gimlet

Eye: A deep yellow, almost amber.
Nose: Herbal.
Sip: Bitter, herbal, dry, crisp.
Finish: Dry, suze is pronounced in the finish.

Suze is a gentian-based liqueur, and as such it tastes very bitter. Honestly, this would make a decent apéritif, as it is slightly sweet, but mostly bitter and dry. Perhaps Suze has an acquired taste, but it is one that is well worth acquiring. This was in the top three, for sure.

Gin Gimlet

Eye: Clear, with a hint of green glow.
Nose: Botanicals and citrus.
Sip: Gin is present in the sip.
Finish: The lime cordial balances out the finish.

Of course we had to make a gin gimlet. A word of advice: the gimlet is a simple cocktail, and as such, it emphasizes the base spirit, so don’t skimp out and use the cheap stuff, go for your favorite gin, as the gimlet is a brilliant way to showcase it. I’m not sure I need to say much about this gimlet, since we’ve all probably had it a million times. If not, definitely make sure you try one soon.

Round 2

gimlets2

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

Fernet Branca Gimlet

Eye: Brown
Nose: Fernet Branca
Sip: Fernet Branca
Finish: Fernet Branca, lime detectable in the finish.

Drinking lime juice and Fernet Branca is a delicious experience, and so Joe and I had high hopes for mixing Fernet with our lime cordial. It worked out about as well as Fernet and lime, which is to say it was great, however I will probably stick to squeezing fresh limes into my Fernet in the future. Making a lime cordial is a pain, whereas juicing a lime isn’t, and the extra effort involved in making the cordial isn’t justified by this gimlet.

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum Gimlet

Eye: White, hard to discern that lime cordial is present.
Nose: Sweet fruits, and citrus.
Sip: Strong grassy hogo, mellowed by the lime cordial.
Finish: Rum and lime are both present, well-balanced.

The Wray & Nephew gimlet was outstanding, and definitely in my top three. I love rum agricole, with its funky, grassy flavors. Wray & Nephew lacks some of the frutier notes that I’ve had in other white rums, but that is OK here, since it gets out of the way and gives the lime cordial some breathing room. Together, the two components balance each other well. Make this gimlet, you won’t be sad.

Tequila Reposado Gimlet

Eye: Yellow.
Nose: Smoke, citrus.
Sip: Tequila and lime.
Finish: Smoke, lime.

The tequila gimlet was quite similar to the mezcal gimlet, as you might expect. After the success of the mezcal gimlet, I wanted to see how tequila reposado would work out, and the results were similar. Of course lime and tequila match well, but I think I enjoyed the smokier flavors present in the mezcal gimlet.

Next week: Grapefruit Cordials.


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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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Rainy Day: Tomato, Black Tea, Pisco, Lime

As you have probably noticed, this week is all about using science to take advantage of unintuitive flavor combinations by looking for chemical similarities in aromas. Today’s pairing is tomato and black tea. It turns out that molecular gastronomy enthusiasts have their own version of mixology monday, which they call “They Go Really Well Together“, and that’s how I discovered this particular combination.

The unfortunate truth is that it’s hard to get excited about savory drinks, and tomatoes lean very heavily toward the umami side of the flavor spectrum, so even if you sweeten it, it’s going to be savory. One trick I have found for making tomato a more appetizing cocktail ingredient is to clarify it, as we did during our Bloody Mary Workshop. The procedure is very simple; pour fresh tomato juice into a funnel lined with a coffee filter and wait a few hours. You could even set it up in the fridge and let it go over night if you needed to make a lot. The end product still tastes like tomato juice, but it has a mercifully un-chunky texture, which I think is the worst part of tomato in a cocktail.

I wanted to use a relatively neutral spirit for the base of this drink, and I’ve been flush with Pisco lately, so it was a convenient choice. In order to get some black tea in this drink, I decided to infuse earl grey into the Pisco. Tea infuses into hot water in a matter of a few minutes, and it infuses into strong spirits only slightly slower. I let the earl grey steep in the Pisco for only fifteen minutes before it became dark and cloudy with the tea. But don’t trust my steep time; as with all infusions, your own good taste must be the final arbiter regarding how long to allow it to infuse.

Rainy Day
1.5 oz Earl Grey-Infused Pisco (Tabernero)
1.5 oz Clarified Heirloom Tomato Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Lime Juice
Pinch of Salt
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich and a cherry tomato.

This drink had a tangy, pungent flavor from the combination of the tomato and lime, which also went nicely with the bergamot in the earl grey. I did enjoy the interplay between the tea’s bitter tannin and the tomato’s roundness, but as with all savory drinks, it’s hard to love it. Actually, James thought it might be the best tomato drink we have made, and I am inclined to agree. It didn’t have any of the salsa or soup qualities from which most Bloody Mary style drinks suffer. If you like tomato juice, it’s worth a try, otherwise, may I direct you to The Pearnsip.

Before I go, a quick note on the theme: I garnished this drink with a grilled cheese because I reasoned, on a rainy Washington day, what could be better than a cup of hot tea, a bowl of tomato soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich? This drink was my attempt to capture all of those elements in a single preparation. You have to eat the grilled cheese right away, unfortunately, as it is but a single bite, and it does not retain its heat, not even long enough for a photo shoot.

Salud!


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Avocado, chili-infused tequila, mezcal

Nestled amongst the limes, lemons, and oranges of Joe’s fruit bowl was an avocado. I think I heard him say something like “I’m tired of ‘vacation cocktails’, but I really want to make a blended drink”. Then I saw him reach for the avocado, and watched as he scooped out about 1/4 of it into the blender, and so we started constructing this little number.

That night I had brought over an infusion made with tequila and cayenne peppers. I really enjoyed the bird’s eye soju infusion we had made for Thai week, but I knew that tequila would have been a better match. Joe recommended using a reposado tequila, which was a great idea. Since I had decided to work with tequila, I thought I’d choose a different pepper, and so I selected several mild-looking cayenne peppers and submerged them in tequila for a few days. I also threw in a tablespoon of agave nectar, as I’ve found that adding a small amount of sweetener can really help an infusion pop, and agave and tequila harmonize perfectly together.

Cayenne Peppers and Tequila Reposado
1 cup tequila reposado
3 cayenne peppers, cut in half
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Let infusion for 2 – 3 days, tasting regularly. Remove peppers as soon as you taste the burn. Avoid over-infusion.

I was careful to taste the concoction regularly as I was afraid it would become too spicy. After two and half days or so, I grew impatient, surprised by how mild the infusion was, and decided to add another pepper. It must have been a particularly spicy one, however, as the next time I tasted it I knew the infusion had to stop immediately. Maybe it had even gone on for too long, so let this be a lesson for you: chilis are unpredictable. Some are hot. Some aren’t. I don’t know how to tell them apart, and if you have tips, please share them with us by dropping a comment.

We had been telling ourselves all night that’d we get around to using it, but so far we had been struggling to find a drink for my spicy tequila. Naturally, avocado and tequila go well together, and so finally its time had come. We decided to use it as a modifier, to add some spicy kick to a drink, since my infusion had come out so hot. I can’t quite remember where the idea to use both tequila and mezcal came from, but I want to say it was because we wanted to make some sort of Mexican tiki drink. Most tiki drinks use two rums, so why not two “tequilas”? The rest of the drink kind of built itself, as I said before, agave nectar and tequila are partners in lime.

As we tasted the nearly finished drink, we realized it needed a pinch of salt. Joe was going to use regular kosher salt, but I jokingly urged him to use some fancy artisan salt. “We’ve got a blended avocado, some cayenne pepper-infused tequila, mezcal, fresh lime juice, agave nectar… Keep it craft, Joe. Keep it craft.” And so we did.

Keep it Craft
1.5 oz Mezcal
.5 oz Cayenne-infused Tequila
.5 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Agave Nectar
1/4 of a small avocado
pinch of fancy salt

Blend thoroughly over ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

The avocado gave the drink a nice, rich texture, similar to a blended piña collada, only slightly creamier. The spice from the chili-infused tequila and the smoke from the mezcal pierce through the mellow avocado, reinforced by the agave nectar. The pinch of salt helps to tone down the avocado a little bit, so be sure to include it, if you make your own. Indeed, it was a great blended drink without being a rum/tiki/vacation drink, and I can’t wait to make another.