Measure & Stir

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


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Halloween Cocktail: 80s Cocktail Stranger Things 2 Tequila Sunrise Cranberry Grenadine Nostalgia

WUBBA LUBBA DU-Oh, sorry, that was last month’s horror story.

Alright, yes, I’m a day late for Halloween and five days late for the Stranger Things 2 Premier, but in the long run that won’t matter. Most of my traffic comes from the long tail (an excellent name for a drink), so I’ll post when I want and call it what I want. There is an evil presence in the air, whispering to artisans of all types, offering them a dark pact: turn your work into a series of ads for pop culture trends and I will bring you traffic.

I guess that makes me Dr. Faustus.

I made this drink because there was an instagram competition held by Death and Co NYC to make a drink to commemorate the new season of Stranger Things. Be sure to check out the hashtag https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/strangerthingsab/. In particular take a look at this beauty by Ashley Minette, I think it captured the aesthetic of the show more than anyone else.

In order to bring some 80s nostalgia, I decided to make a classic staple of 80s drinking, the tequila sunrise. First, let me say that the tequila sunrise is a terrible drink, best left in the 80s along with mullets and neon spandex pants on men.

That said, sometimes we can make familiar things strange, so I decided to try to update this drink to suit modern tastes by using seasonal ingredients. Instead of the usual orange juice, I used fresh persimmon juice, which is a stunning and scintillant shade of orange. Persimmon, of course, is a fall crop.

In lieu of the usual pomegranate grenadine, I made a cranberry grenadine using fresh cranberry juice, sugar, and orange flower water. I treated both of them with powdered malic acid to find an appropriate balance of flavors. Because of the layered nature of the drink, we don’t necessarily get to taste the ingredients together, and we want to ensure a pleasing balance between acidity and sweetness throughout. In practice this is difficult to achieve, but we can get close.

As always with these things, it comes down to an exercise of your personal good taste.

Mind Flayer
2 oz fresh persimmon juice (seasoned with malic acid)
1.5 oz mezcal
dash of simple syrup
.5 oz Cranberry Grenadine

Pour the grenadine into the glass, then shake the other ingredients and carefully pour them over the grenadine, creating a gradient effect.

[Spoiler Alert]
The fog from the dry ice is meant to be evocative of the scene where the Mind Flayer possesses Will Byers. I tried using activated charcoal in the liquid that I poured over the dry ice, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the resulting mobilization of CO2 vapor did not mobilize any of the charcoal particles. I did some reading and it turns out it is not possible to make colored fog using dry ice.

Erlenmeyer flasks suck as drinking vessels. The narrow neck kills any aroma that might come off of the drink, and it impacts your perception of the flavor quite a bit. They look good in the photo but they aren’t fun as serving vessels, not even with a straw.

Cheers.


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Beauty and the Beast Cocktail with Rose, Bourbon, Pomegranate

Who told you that you might gather my roses? Was it not enough that I allowed you to be in my palace and was kind to you? This is how you show your gratitude, by stealing my flowers? But your insolence shall not go unpunished!

The merchant, terrified by these furious words, dropped the fatal rose, and, throwing himself on his knees, cried: “Pardon me, noble sir. I am truly grateful to you for your hospitality, which was so magnificent that I could not imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose.

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We finished our Enchanted Valentine’s Day with a cream puff and a cocktail centered around roses, and inspired by Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. As before, Johan describes his half of the project in excruciating detail.

Despite the French setting of the story, the flavor of rose is most at home amongst Levantine flavors, and without any particular intention, we found ourselves pairing it with arak, pistachio, and pomegranate, as well as white chocolate and bourbon. We had a few false starts with this dish, but ultimately we landed in a place that made me feel proud.

At one point I tried smoking the drink by burning rose petals, but it made the drink smell like cigarettes and cheap perfume. Beautiful cloche or no, I cannot suggest rose petal smoke in any capacity.

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To keep things sweet, and to announce our desserty intentions, I used a vanilla-infused bourbon as the base of this drink, and paired it with a rose shrub, a rinse of arak, and a bit of pomegranate juice. The rose shrub was perfect in this drink, and to be honest I made it as much for the pun value as for the flavor. I’ve used rose syrup before, but to develop the  complexity of the rose, I chose to extract the flavor of fresh rose petals into white vinegar.

Don’t get fancy with the vinegar when you’re making something like this. Apple cider or champagne vinegar would muddy this up too much. To get a clean flavor, I used distilled white vinegar as my base.

Rose Shrub
170g of sugar
150 ml of white vinegar
All of the petals from 6 red roses
In a large bowl, toss all the petals in the sugar to coat them, and let them sit, covered, for half a day. Add the vinegar and stir. Allow the shrub to sit covered, at room temperature, for 2-3 more days.

For the garnish, I bought some wires for arranging flowers, and wired a whole fresh rose around the stem of a coup glass. My roses weren’t very fragrant, so I sprayed them with a little bit of rose-flower water before serving. It’s easy to overdo it with rose flower water, so be careful.

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Be So Kind as to Bring Me a Rose
1.5 oz Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 oz Rose Shrub
.25 oz Pomegranate Juice
1/2 tsp of Arak
Stir over ice, strain, and serve in a coupe with a rose wired around it. Intimidate your guests with your gruff presence and threatening demeanor.

At this point I have used vanilla-infused bourbon in so many drinks that I’m not going to bother to talk about it. Drop a vanilla bean in a bottle of bourbon. Wait about three days. There is no need to ever remove the vanilla bean. If the vanilla gets too strong, blend the vanilla bourbon with un-infused bourbon at mixing-time.

I never thought mixology would take me to flower arranging, but here I am.


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Snow White Forest Tonic with Hendrick’s Gin, Apple, Green Herbs, and Fernet Branca

The evil queen was a beautiful woman, but she was proud and arrogant, and she could not stand it if anyone might surpass her in beauty. She had a magic mirror. Every morning she stood before it, looked at her plate, and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who makes the tastiest dessert of all?

Continuing the Valentine’s day feast, Johan and I decided to serve a dessert-loaded menu. Our second course was inspired by Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. For this fairy tale, we served “The Other Half of the Poison Apple”, and as before, Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

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As long as long as the queen was not the most beautiful woman in the entire land, her envy would give her no rest. She made a poisoned apple, and from the outside it was beautiful; white with red cheeks, and anyone who saw it would want it. But anyone who might eat a little piece of it would die.

“Are you afraid of poison?” asked the old woman. “Look, I’ll cut the apple in two. You eat the red half, and I shall eat the white half.”

Now the apple had been so artfully made that only the red half was poisoned. Snow-White longed for the beautiful apple; she barely had a bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground dead.

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As you can see, we got experimental with this one. In addition to the drink and the frozen apple, we served an aromatic fog made with eucalyptus and spruce oil. With the fog and the drink, my intention was to create a sense of being lost in an enchanted forest.

For the fog, we filled a glass vessel with crushed dry ice, and then at service time, poured in a mixture of near-boiling water and essential oils. Be sure to use tempered glass for this, or it can break the vessel. If the water is not hot, the vapor will be disappointing.

The sensation of sitting down to a drink, and feeling the sudden rush of cold vapor flowing over the table, and the sharp scent of eucalyptus opening the sinuses

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For the drink, I used Hendrick’s gin, fresh apple juice season with matcha and malic acid, and a syrup of blanched and blended green herbs.  I was aiming at a fresh green color, but as conceived, the drink ended up a little swampy. In person it was greener, swearsies. I had no deep, esoteric inspiration in this drink, just a pragmatic, bottom-up approach.

I knew I wanted to create the feeling of a forest, so I started with a gin base and layered in other green aromas and botanicals. In my mind, rosemary, sage, and shiso all taste “green”, but one could be forgiven for thinking of poultry spices. In the drink, this was not a concern, but on its own,  I did think of a roast chicken.

Green Herb Syrup
20g rosemary
20g sage
20g shiso
150 ml water
150 ml sugar
Blanch the herbs, then combine everything in a blender and blend on high until the mixture is smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

You could substitute mint for shiso, but cooked mint easily goes to toothpaste. Exercise caution. If possible, I would suggest juicing fresh mint à la minute, instead of macerating it into a syrup.

For the sour apple juice, I pressed three granny smith apples in a masticating juicer, seasoned it with powdered malic acid and matcha powder according to my taste, and whipped the mixture using a whisk attachment on an immersion blender. There is no precise recipe here, it is simply a matter of taste. The sour apple juice is filling in for lemon in this gin sour, and it needs to balance the sweet green syrup. If I had to put a number on it, I would say:

Sour Matcha Apple Juice
150 ml Fresh Granny Smith Apple Juice
10g Matcha Powder
3g Powdered Malic Acid
Combine all using an electric whisk.

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Lost in the Forest
1.25 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz Sour Matcha Apple Juice
.5 oz Green Herb Syrup*
Shake over ice and double strain into an old-fashioned glass.
Float .25 oz of Fernet Branca.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig clipped to the side of the glass.

The float of Fernet Branca is mostly for aroma, but it gives the first few sips a bitter, bracing quality as well as a deep menthol aroma. The forest is dark and beguiling.

As you may notice, it is the year of the tiny clothespin. This cocktail garnish innovation is a real game-changer. Many aromatic ingredients are repellant if dropped into a drink,  but they can be beautiful and fragrant if held slightly aloft. Do yourself a favor.

Cheers.


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Little Mermaid Cocktail with Wakame-infused Aquavit, Lemon, and Champagne

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continues to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

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Once again, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Johan and I have teamed up to create a course of three food and cocktail pairings, this time inspired by classic fairy tales. Our first dish was a surf and turf inspired by The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

I chose to pair the dish with a drink made from champagne and wakame-infused aquavit. Pairing mixed drinks with food is much more difficult than serving the drink on its own; cocktails contain strong spirits, and they easily overpower food. The best strategy is to keep the drink lighter than the food, and to echo at least one of its flavors.

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To approach the seafood in this dish, I used a trident approach: first, citrus and champagne, which we naturally pair with crab, octopus, salmon, or oyster. Second, aquavit, to remember the bread crumbs in the “sand”, and to evoke a Norwegian feeling. Third, seaweed, for its brine and its bitterness.

I tried, many moons ago, to infuse seaweed into a tincture, but I was inexperienced, and my cocktail tasted like the inside of an aquarium. Nori was the wrong choice. This time I selected wakame, and infused 200ml of aquavit with a scant teaspoon of dried wakame for five hours. It took on a pale green color, and developed a thalassic minerality.

Many people over-steep their infusions. You don’t throw teabags into a pot of water and leave it for hours. You don’t let your coffee sit in a french press for a month and brag about how long you spent infusing it. So why do are you so proud of your over-infused spirits? The flavor of an infusion should be balanced and subtle, and when you make an infusion, you should take an active role in the process. Taste it frequently, and find the optimal rate of extraction.

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At its core, this drink is a French 75, but then again, almost every drink has a classic for its heart. That’s not because of some sacred or innate property of the classic drinks, it is merely that the classics have been selected and honed over time to form a basis in the space of possible ethanol-sugar-water recipes. For reference:

French 75
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Champagne

The other notable addition to this drink is dashi air, which I make by bringing a pot of water with a 2×2″ square of konbu and 50g of shaved bonito flakes to a boil in 200ml of water, killing the heat, and steeping for ten minutes before straining. If this sounds like cutting corners, it is, but I assure you my washoku game is on strong. Prior to boiling, I added 50 ml of mirin. I added it early, because I wanted the alcohol to boil off.

Finally, using an immersion blender, I integrated 5 g of sucrose ester (also called Texturas Sucro), which produces an airy foam. After pouring the drink into the glass, I carefully spooned the foam on top.

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Out of the Fathomless Deep
1 oz Wakame-infused Aquavit
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double-strain into a wine glass
Top with 2 oz Champagne and Mirin-Dashi Air

Garnish with a dried orange wheel clipped to the side of the glass.

Regarding the garnish, I sliced some orange wheels and dried them in a dehydrator until they were crunchy. Be careful not to get your orange wheel wet when you’re garnishing the drink, or it will get soggy. If you’re like me, your orange wheels will lose most of their aroma when you dry them. Since garniture is about olfactics as much as optics, I sprayed my dehydrated orange wheels with orange essential oil right before serving.

Since we used the same dashi air on the plate and in the glass, the flavors tracked each other closely.

Cheers.


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If You Meet the Buddha in Norway: Aquavit, Buddha’s Hand, Dill, Lemon

It’s a cruel irony of winter that all the best citrus comes into season in a time when we are least interested in its crisp, refreshing nature. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to tell seasonality to shove off, because Buddha’s hand is only with us for a short time.

If you are not familiar with it, Buddha’s hand is a fragrant citrus fruit that is shaped more like a squid than a hand, but its skin is rich and oily with a flavor that is somewhere between a lime and a quince. It’s pith is light enough in flavor that you could slice it thin and eat it on its own, though it is a bit chewy.

Naturally, I made it into an oleo saccharum, along with some fresh dill. My inspiration here was a tuna crudo that I ate last week, which was served with tangerine gel and fresh dill. I liked the combination so much that I decided to build a drink around it.

Alas, the season for Buddha’s hand is upon us, but the season of the tangerine has not quite come. I found some exceptional satsuma mandarins in their stead, and paired the drink with a duo of salmon.

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If You Meet the Buddha in Norway
1.5 oz Aquavit (Linie)
.75 oz Dill + Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Distilled White Vinegar

Macerate the Buddha’s hand with sugar and fresh dill, and allow it to sit until the sugar becomes saturated in its oil. Shake, strain, and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with a duality of salmon.

The drink is named after a famous Zen kõan, which says that if you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him. And perhaps you should. I like to imagine that in Norway, The Buddha spawns in the form of a salmon, and not only do you kill him, but you fillet him, turn his belly into gravlaks, and quick-cure his loin with salt and sugar.

Moreover, you should serve said quick-cured salmon loin with dill sprigs, supremes of satsuma orange, and rock salt. This, I am sure, will bring you enlightenment. Many thanks also to Johan for making the gravlaks using what I’m sure is an ancient Norwegian recipe, which only vikings are capable of wielding.

Speaking of enlightenment, astute drinkers will notice that I split the acid in this drink between white vinegar and lemon juice. I’m almost sorry for the way this sounds, but straight lemon or lime sours are a bit pedestrian these days. We need a bold, vivacious source of acid, and for me, the slight tang of acetic was a perfect compliment to the cured flavor of the gravlaks, the briny caraway of the aquavit, and the ascetic Buddha’s hand.

Cheers.


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Mulled Wine (Glogg): Red Wine, Cognac, Port, Winter Spices,

Clearly, we could all use a drink tonight. Moreover, it’s winter and that means it’s hot toddy time, though I confess I did take a break to make you some ice cream. Let’s not overthink it.

I have made many mulled and spiced wines, and if you dig through deep history you can even find a forgettable post about it on this very blog.

There’s not a lot to say about it, to be honest. The basis of any good hot toddy is brown spirits and winter spices. Warm gin, is that something you want? Rhetorical. To feel the warmth from your drink, you need to use a rich brown spirit like bourbon, rum, or brandy, and to make a composed toddy, you need cinnamon at the very least.

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The cool thing about both brown spirits and brown spices is that they already have soft, “muddy” flavors. Curries and winter stews are the same way. They have big, layered flavors that all blur together into something indistinct, complex, and pleasant. We eat things like this in the winter because they are comforting, and the same principle applies to our drinks.

This exact mulled wine is a Norwegian variant of mulled wine, noteworthy because it is served with slivered almonds and raisins, which soak up the drink and, in the words of my friend Johan, “give you something to munch on”. I found the inclusion of almonds in this toddy to be a delightful addition.

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Mulled Wine (Glogg)
1 bottle of red wine
200 ml brandy
100 ml port
150 g sugar
2 tsp cardamom pods
12 cloves
4 sticks of cinnamon
2 split vanilla beans
4 cm of peeled ginger
2 anise stars
1 fat orange peel

Combine all in a pot and simmer for ten minutes, being careful not to boil. Strain and serve in a cup with raisins and slivered almonds.

As you can see, this recipe is straightforward. It will not surprise you, but it will please a crowd, and if you’ve been trudging through snowy fjords, I’m told, it’s the perfect pick-me-up. I actually scaled the sugar down significantly from the original recipe, because I like my drinks to be only moderately sweet, but if you are inclined to more syrupy concoctions, I could not hold it against you if you doubled it.

Hot Toddy Lesson Three: Use a base of brown spirits and winter spices.

Cheers.


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Seventh Inning Stretch: Root Beer, Bourbon, Salted Peanuts, Oksusucha

It’s getting cold again, and that means its time for my favorite family of mixed drinks: the hot toddy. What is a hot toddy, exactly? For me it’s a feeling you get when it’s rainy and cold outside, and you bring a glass of steaming, aqueous whiskey to your lips. When it’s done right, it warms you to your core.

And yet, the recipe is flexible. At its most essential, it consists of lemon, sugar, whiskey, and boiling water. That is a decent hot toddy all on its own, but it can be a bit plain. When I make it that way, I grate fresh cinnamon and nutmeg over the top, and garnish with a fatty orange peel.

Today, I wanted to do something a little different.

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This is baseball-inspired hot toddy that I threw together on a whim. This follows my standard hot toddy formulation, which I will be expositing for you at some length over the next few posts.

We start with a base spirit, and I chose to use Bourbon, because it is the all-American choice. I wish I could say it went deeper than that.

In order to evoke the theme of baseball, I made a root beer syrup by boiling star anise, cloves, and sassafras in a syrup made with 1 cup of water, 3/4 cup of white sugar, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Brown sugar is not as sweet as white, but the syrup is still a little rich this way. I finished the syrup with citric acid, to balance the sweetness.

In order to evoke popcorn, I lengthened this drink with 옥수수차 (Oksusucha) — Korean roasted corn tea. It doesn’t taste quite like popcorn, but it hits the right notes and joins the bourbon’s corn flavors to the sassafras’ herbaceousness.

To finish it off, I rimmed the toasted peanuts, ground with salt and sugar to taste. I admit the rim was a little sloppy, but the oily peanut clumped in a way that was difficult to work with. Drying this powder out, either by letting it sit out uncovered, or (maybe? by mixing it with a bit of tapioca maltodextrin) would probably help it form a more consistent coating. Even so, it was delicious.

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Seventh Inning Stretch
1.5 oz Vanilla-infused Bourbon
.5 oz Root Beer Syrup*
4 oz 옥수수차 (Oksusucha)
Salt peanut rim
Build the drink in a mug, finishing with still near-boiling oksusucha.

Root Beer Syrup
1 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp sassafras bark
1 tsp star anise
5 or 6 cloves
Bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes, then strain. Finish with 1 tsp of powdered citric acid.

When the drink was still piping hot, it had a bland flavor and alcohol burn. Once it cooled down to a comfortable temperature, the flavor was a bit muddy on the sip, but with pleasant roasty corn notes that gave way to a medium-bodied root beer finish. As the drink cooled, it became a little too sweet.

Hot Toddy Lesson One: pay close attention to your serving temperature. There is a perfect window, and you need to find it.

Cheers.