Measure & Stir

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


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In His House in R’lyeh

…he related startling fragments of nocturnal imaginery whose burden was always some terrible Cyclopean vista of dark and dripping stone, with a subterrene voice or intelligence shouting monotonously in enigmatical sense-impacts uninscribable save as gibberish. The two sounds frequently repeated are those rendered by the letters “Cthulhu” and “R’lyeh.”
The Call of Cthulhu, by H. P. Lovecraft

Friends, let’s talk about squid ink. Ever since the early days of Measure and Stir, I have wanted to try to make a squid ink cocktail. It’s rare to be able to make a drink which is so jet black, blacker than blackstrap rum, blacker than coffee, blacker even than kurogoma. I don’t normally select drink ingredients based upon their color, but in this instance I was hoping to capitalize on the briny, oceany flavor of the squid ink.

I had never tasted squid ink on its own, and it turns out that while it smells very fishy, it tastes primarily of salt, and only subtly of that. The amount of squid ink needed to color a drink is much smaller than the amount needed to flavor it. A pinch of salt would work about as well.

Integrating the squid ink into the drink was a small challenge. It is very solid, and although it can be dispersed, it will not do so willingly. A vigorous thrashing with my barspoon is not enough to break it up; I had to use my immersion blender, which I also use for making egg white foams. For the base of this drink, I selected a rum sidecar, hoping for synergy between its citrus and any oceany flavors which might manifest.

Moreover, I used Kraken rum as my base, both for its thematic content and because I have greatly enjoyed rum sidecars made with kraken in the past.

Image

In His House In R’lyeh

1.5 oz Kraken Rum
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Cointreau
1 tsp squid ink
Combine all ingredients mixing tin and integrate using an immersion blender. Once the squid ink is dispersed, shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with many tentacular strips of orange rind, and a dash of evil.

I’ll flatter myself and say that the briney flavor of the squid ink created an intriguing impression of fresh seafood that blended harmoniously with the flavors of citrus and spiced rum. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sold on the spices, but they did add something that would have been missing with an unspiced rum. I have a bit of a one-track mind when it comes to these things, but an unspiced rum and a dash of mezcal might have been an improvement.

I won’t say this was an immensely delicious drink, but I could see it as an acquired taste, and I enjoyed the novelty of the flavor, if nothing else. I tried making a second squid ink cocktail, but it looked exactly the same, sans theatrical garnish. Thereupon I grew tired of such monotonous aesthetics, and made drinks of other colors. My recommendation is that you only make one squid ink cocktail per session.


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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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Thaiquila

Brown, bitter, and stirred is a genre to which we probably don’t pay enough attention. To be perfectly honest, by the time you add two fortified wines, two liqueurs/amari, and/or two base spirits, things start to taste a little muddy. I went through a period where I mixed every BB&S that I came across, and they all ran together in my mind.

Fernet, St. Germain, Bourbon, Lillet? Reposado, Nonino, Punt e Mes, Tiki bitters? Why not? Appleton Reserve, Dry Sherry, Pimento Dram, Campari? Don’t mind if I do. Personally, I like to keep it simple most of the time, because I really want to notice each flavor distinctly. The theme at our last session was tea, and astute readers might have noticed various manifestations of Camellia sinensis in several of our recent posts.

For this drink, we wanted to infuse the tea in a spirit, and we chose an old favorite, Thai tea, which is black tea that has been flavored with star anise, crushed tamarind, and possibly orange flower water, and we infused it into Reposado tequila for about an hour and a half. It’s important when infusing tea into spirits to taste them frequently, to avoid creating a tanniny mess with a drying and unpleasant mouthfeel.

thaiquila

Thaiquila (Sorry about the name)
1.5 oz Thai Tea-Infused Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Amaro Zucca
1 dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

I love Amaro Zucca, and I found that the earthy flavor of the rhubarb was well-balanced against the flavors of the tea and the vermouth. 6-3-1 may not be the most exciting formula in the world, but it’s solid, and with careful choices, it can pay off in a big way. I always taste and smell a few different options for each slot when I am using a formula like this, to make sure that the flavors fit. Two flavors that are too similar will blur together, making the drink “muddy”. Ideally, the flavors should be far enough apart from each other that they all come through on their own.

BB&S drinks almost always benefit from a fresh orange or lemon peel, depending on the ingredients. Though spirits are very good at capturing aromas, they can never quite retain the bright flavor of fresh citrus oil.

A personal rule, though far from a universal one, is to avoid having two ingredients in drink with the same flavors. If you have orange liqueur, you do not need orange juice. It’s redundant. The only time I break this rule is with bitters.

On a completely different subject, and as a little bit of administratriva, we tend to have about one mixing session about every two weeks, and then blog about it over the next two. Most sessions have a theme, or an ingredient set from a particular market. We’ve had three sessions so far this year, and I’m going to start calling them out in the posts in question. Makes it fun.

I’ll be sipping on one of my favorite bourbons this weekend. I hope your plans are as exciting as mine!


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Blood and Smoke

So we were brainstorming what to do with various teas, and we wanted to try every way we could think of to get tea into a drink. We tried infusing the tea in spirits, and in vinegar, and in syrups; we tried brewing the tea and reducing it, we tried matcha, we tried adding boiling tea to hot toddies and chilled tea to iced-tea style drinks. We had one drink that failed three times. Sometimes you just have to make peace with your failures… Cardamom and earl grey are just too similar to make a nice drink together.

But this is not a post about failure! This is a riff on a drink we made last summer, the Blood and Oak. I wish I could say it was for Mixology Monday, but it isn’t. I inverted the um, uh, the– I inverted the infusion! Normally you would infuse the base spirit, but for this one I infused the liqueur. I’m so edgy.

blood and smoke

Blood and Smoke
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong Syrup
.25 oz Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

This was a little too sweet. I wanted that lapsang souchong in the drink, but the syrup just added unnecessary sugar. You can see I followed the same formula that you would for a Blood and Sand. I infused the campari with a dried ancho chile, seeds removed, for about two hours. You have to watch a chili pepper infusion very carefully — overdo it and it turns into mace. I think if I had to do it again, I would put the lapsang in with the ancho, and just infuse it all into the campari. Bump up the proportion to .5, and I think you would have a much more respectable drink.

So, if you actually do it, do it like this:

Blood and Smoke (Revised)
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong and Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

And adjust the proportions to your taste. You need to select an amount of orange juice that mediates, but does not nullify, the capsaicin burn from the chili, and it might be that .75 oz works better. That depends on the strength of your infusion and your own good taste.

Sorry I missed you, MxMo, and 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.


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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.

matchatoddy1

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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Mr. Kurogoma: Scotch, Cream, Drambuie, Black Sesame

Kurogoma is the Japanese word for “black sesame”, and indeed, this drink’s most distinct flavor comes from a paste of black sesame seeds. It is unctuous, and tastes like tahini, or peanut butter, or something in between. Its color is an inky black, darker even than molasses.

I knew I wanted to use whiskey for this drink, and I’ve been very satisfied to mix drinks with a bottle of Auchentoshan 10 year, lately. It is an affordable scotch with a light, assertive peatiness and a minimal amount of smoke. Trader Joe’s in Seattle carries it for a little under thirty dollars.

From Scotch and sesame, it occurred to me that Drambuie would fit very nicely between them, as it matches whiskey for whiskey and honey for sesame.

mr kurogoma

Mr. Kurogoma (Beta)
2 oz Auchentoshan
.5 oz Drambuie
.5 oz Half and Half
2 heaping Tbs Kurogoma Spread
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Break up the sesame paste in the drink with your barspoon. Dry shake, and then shake over ice. Double strain into a coupe glass and float sesame seeds of various colors on top.

The flavor was good, if a little unusual to the western palate. It reminded me of Scotchy honey-nut cheerios. I slightly regret that added the half and half, as it dulled the flavor of the Drambuie, and disrupted the dark color. When I iterate on this, I will dial up the liqueur and remove the dairy. I also think the drink would be more interesting and coherent if the base spirit were a Japanese whiskey such as the Yamazaki.

Version 2, which is untested, will look like this:

Mr. Kurogoma (v2)
1.5 oz Yamazaki
.75 oz Dry Sake
.5 oz Drambuie
2 heaping Tbs Kurogoma Spread
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Break up the sesame paste in the drink with your barspoon. Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish TBD.

Kanpai?