Measure & Stir

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


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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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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Love Letter – Raspberry, Calvados, Malic Acid, Rose Air

For Valentine’s day, I invited some of my close friends over for an intimate cocktail party with an emphasis on technique. The first drink in my series was made with raspberry coulis ala Jacques Pepin, and topped with a rosewater sucro foam.

This project was a collaboration with my good friend Johan, whose interest in modernist cuisine was instrumental in creating these concepts. He was the one who suggested a raspberry powder, and as you can see, it is vibrant upon the plate.

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I have been chasing “soap sud” style foams for a while, and I finally found the right compound to make it. As critical as I was of José Andrés Bazaar Meats, they did clue me in to the appropriate recipe for a stable soap sud foam. To the best of my knowledge, Ferran Adria is the man who first had the idea to use sucrose esters to create this style of drink. In the past I had tried using soy lecithin, but the final product was too unstable to sit upon a plate, and would begin to approach soy milk.

For the raspberry coulis, I was inspired by this recipe for raspberry velvet from Jacques Pepin, who is a culinary hero of mine. The method is simple, and the resulting product is both sweet and tart. Upon mixing it into a drink, the flavor became dull, so I added additional malic acid and sugar to bring it back to life.

Initially I used brandy for the base spirit, but the flavor was too harsh. As I was tuning the drink, I was reminded of the common juice pairing of apple and cranberry, so I reached for my trusty bottle of calvados. Its soft and mellow flavor was the perfect base note for the tart purée.

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To garnish, pulverize freeze-dried raspberries and sift them through a fine mesh strainer. I put down a cocktail glass and tapped the strainer to create an empty circle on the serving tray.

To make the candied fruit, brush raspberries, blueberries, and rose petals with egg white, and then roll them in sanding sugar. It is important to use sanding sugar here, as granulated or powdered sugar will dissolve. Allow them to dry, uncovered, for at least six hours. They will keep for about two days.

In the picture, you can see that I used a mint leaf, but in practice this turned out to be a little tooth-pastey. A red rose petal, on the other hand, is subtle and tasteful.

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Love Letter
1.5 oz Raspberry Coulis ala Jacques Pepin
1.25 oz Calvados
1/4 tsp Malic Acid
1 Barspoon of Simple Syrup
1 Dash of Angostua Bitters
Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer
Top with Rosewater Air
Garnish With Candied Berries and Raspberry Powder

Rose Air
1/2 cup of water
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon sucrose ester
Blend using a stick blender with a whisk attachment, or an egg beater.

Raspberry Powder
Pulverise freeze-dried raspberries in a mortar and pestle.
Sift them through a fine-mesh strainer

Candied Berries
Brush berries with egg whites and roll them in sanding sugar.

To be honest, I always feel like drinks with airs, foams, spheres, and other molecular trickery end up a little bit gimmicky. The gimmick takes away from the purity of the form, and unfortunately, this was no different. On the one hand, it is undeniable that the rose aroma contributed to the experience of this drink, both in appearance and flavor, but at the same time, there is a sense that it’s all a bit of a trick.

Still, I hope you enjoyed it. Cheers.


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Acid Trip #3: Caramel, Apple, Fennel

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Today let us consider the apple, whose dominant acid content, like the grape, is malic. The thought process that drove this drink was very similar to that of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time. In both drinks, I have taken a classic flavor pairing which would ordinarily be cloying in a drink, and balanced its sweetness with malic acid. The standard procedure for this type of drink would adulterate the purity of the pairing with lemon juice, but with malic acid, we can find balance by adjusting a sourness which is already found in one of the key elements of the pairing.

Earlier this week, I had a drink made with tarragon and apple juice, and yet all I could taste was gin and lemon. This is a common problem. I wanted to make an apple drink that tastes strongly of apples, but which would taste more like summer than autumn, and to that end, I pursued a staple of the summer county fair, the caramel apple.

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Acid Trip #3
2 oz Fresh-Pressed Apple Juice (1 oz Gala, 1 oz Granny Smith)
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.75 oz Rum Caramel Sauce*
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
.25 tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Barkeep Chinese Bitters
Dash of Absinthe
Shake over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a fan of thinly sliced apples and a try-hard caramel drizzle.

I made a caramel sauce using some Barbados rum that is probably better for cooking than drinking, and it adds a layer of toffee and sugar flavor to the already caramel tones of El Dorado 15. Caramel is the juncture for apple and rum, and I also suggest dropping shot of your most caramelly rum into a glass of apple cider. Apple is the juncture for anise and caramel, so that the sugar flows into the apple flows into the herbal flavor of anise.

You can follow this caramel sauce recipe, but swap out the water for your least expensive dark rum.

Chinese five spice bitters threaten to take this into autumn territory, but fortunately the fennel and anise flavor is the loudest, and the cinnamon and clove are mercifully quiet.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #2: Kyoho Grape, Lavender

 

I spoke yesterday of malic acid, and also of Kyoho grapes. Moreover, I have written in the past of the inspiration that I found at bar Gen Yamamoto, which informed an apricot cocktail earlier this summer. In that post, I described the philosophical underpinnings of this drink.

I wanted to apply Gen’s “shiki” style of Japanese seasonality to the Kyoho grape, so I started with brandy as a base to preserve the purity of the grape’s flavor. We can add a bit of drama to this otherwise harmonious pairing by playing up the contrast between sweet and sour. I would not make such an attempt with standard souring agents, but since malic acid is already present in the grape, the additional tartness feels very natural and flowing.

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Acid Trip #2
1 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
8 Kyoho grapes, muddled
2 Dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
1 Dash of Simple Syrup
1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned Glass. Garnish with a grape.

The grape on its own was a little too simple. With the brandy tracking so closely to the grape juice, I needed one other flavor to create some space and some distance in the perception of the drink’s flavor, and lavender worked surprisingly well. I did not anticipate the deliciousness of this pairing, and I was pleasantly surprised. Lavender and grape were made for each other, and I imagine that lavender grape preserves would be wonderful.

I think this drink beautifully captured the experience of a fresh grape, while maintaining a refined complexity.

Cheers.


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Acid Trip #1: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

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Hello friends. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I want you to know that I have missed you. Lately in my cocktail journey, I have been contemplating the composition of basic drinks. With precious few exceptions, all of the standard drink formulas combine a base spirit with a source of acid and a source of sugar. In spirited drinks, the acid and the sugar often reside in a single bottle, in the form of a fortified wine. In a sour drink, acidity comes from lemon or lime, and sugar comes from syrup, liqueur, or both.

I have explored vinegar in the past, and also acid phosphate, but there still exists a lot of unexplored territory. Can the acidic component of drink mirror and meld into the other ingredients, as opposed to merely synergizing with them?

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There is a wide world of flavors to be captured in syrups and liqueurs, but in most drinks, we find that the carrying capacity for sweeteners is very low before the drink becomes cloying. It may be that we like the interplay between a sweet fruit juices and a liqueur, but that the desirable attributes of such a blend are overpowered by a balancing volume of lemon or lime juice.

This problem can be overcome by the use of acid phosphate, but although it is neutral in flavor, it is expensive and its acidity is low relative to its volume.

A better choice is to find a source of acid that can reinforce the natural flavors of fruit juice. Most juices contain multiple acids, but a very common one is malic acid, particularly in apples and grapes. It is commonly used in wine-making, but I have been experimenting with it as a souring agent in juice-driven drinks. Malic acid tastes fruity and succulent all on its own, and when it is added to a juice that already contains it, it reinforces and amplifies certain aspects of that juice.

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Acid Trip #1

1.25 oz Wheated Bourbon (Weller 107 Antique)

.75 oz Peanut Syrup*

6 Kyoho Grapes, Muddled

1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid

Grated Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Muddle grapes, grate a little fresh cinnamon, and shake all over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass with a lightly salted rim and garnish with skewered grapes.

Kyoho grapes are fat and juicy with an intense sweet flavor. They almost taste like grape jelly all on their own. I found some at the farmer’s market and I knew they would be perfect for my malic acid experimentation.

I combined them with a peanut syrup, which one might even call peanut orgeat, but how does one decided what constitutes an orgeat? Is it merely a nut-based syrup? Is it the presence of rose or orange flower water? Does it require apricot pits, overnight steeping processes, or perhaps the blood of innocents? Some orgeat processes I have read are more like a sweetened almond milk, calling for nuts to be crushed or ground. In any case, this is how I made my peanut syrup:

Peanut ‘Orgeat’

1/2 Cup Water

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

Pinch of Salt

Bring peanut butter and water to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Stir in sugar and strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

The resulting syrup was viscous, unctuous, creamy, and opaque. I made the syrup more intense by adding a bit of salt and freshly-grated cinnamon to the drink before shaking it, but you could also integrate them right into the syrup to simplify the recipe during drink service. I will definitely do so in the future. The cinnamon should not read as cinnamon; it should fade into the background and add just a little woody, spicy complexity to the peanut.

I chose to use a wheated bourbon for this because the whiskey is playing the role of bread to the peanut butter and grape. Without additional malic acid, this drink would have been too sweet, but the powdered acid allowed me to make whiskey and peanut butter sour, with grape standing in for lemon. Concept drinks don’t always work out, but this one did. I would proudly serve it to anyone.

Cheers.