Measure & Stir

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


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Spring Quartet: Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All? Mango, Habanero, Carrot, Rum

Hey guys, I’m a little behind in writing up my Spring Quartet, in which I collaborated with Johan at Moedernkitchen to create a four course meal called Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter.

For the third course, we served a rabbit confit on a bed of mashed parsnips and caramelized onions, topped with a “melted carrot”.

easterbunny

I paired this with a drink of carrot, mango, and habanero juice, shaken with rum. For the mango juice, I sautéed a ripe mango in brown butter, and then juiced a second, raw mango, and blended the two together. This is a technique that is becoming old hat to measure and stir regulars, I am sure, although the brown butter is a bit of a twist.

For the carrot juice, I used the same raw+cooked formula, but I opted to sous vide the carrots at 85C for 20 minutes. Regarding the different cooking techniques, I had initially tried cooking the mango sous vide, but the brown butter flavor won out, adding a surprising richness. Unfortunately, it left behind some tiny butter particles in the final drink, which were not discernible on the palate, but which were visually unappealing.

In order to facilitate rapid service, I blended the mango, carrot, and habanero juice about an hour before our guests started arriving, and seasoned the juice with tartaric acid and simple syrup. I did not cook any of the habaneros. For my taste, I wanted the burn to be noticeable without being overly challenging to the imbiber.

I chose tartaric acid because neither mangos, nor carrots, nor habanero have a significant component of malic or citric acid. Tartaric acid is probably a flavor that you associate with sour candies such as pixie sticks or sour patch kids. On its own, the association is hard to avoid, but when mixed into juices or sauces it provides a clean, slightly chemical acidity that is a refreshing change of pace from other, more common culinary acids.

The motif of French meets Japanese fell apart a little bit in this dish. My original concept simply did not work with the meal, so this drink ended up being a bit of an improvisation. I used El Dorado Three as the base spirit of this drink, because the rum-mango-habanero connection was too tempting to avoid, and because I love Demerara rum. El Dorado Three is like Bacardi’s more sophisticated cousin.

doyouevencarrotall
Do You Even Carrot All?
2 oz Mango-Carrot Juice Blend (see above)
1.5 oz El Dorado 3
Shake over ice and strain into a small goblet. Garnish with candied carrot.

As with the Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta, I suggest blending the fresh juices in this drink to your taste, and then combining it with a standard measure of rum.

For the candied carrot, I used a y-peeler to cut long strips of peeled carrot, dipped them in a rich simple syrup, and baked them at 200F for about 30 minutes. While they were still hot and pliable, I used chopstick to curl them into spirals, and then allowed them to cool on a wire rack.

Cheers.


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Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds: Violet, Mango, Carrot, Rum

This week we are going to present a series of drinks that combine unlikely ingredients together with surprising results. Using molecular gastronomy (food chemistry), we’ve chosen flavor pairings that complement each other well because they share common chemicals.

For our first drink in the series we packed together a triple flavor combo: mango + carrots, mango + violet, and carrots + violet.

Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds
1.5 oz Ron Zacapa rum
1 oz Mango juice
1 oz Carrot juice
.5 Violet syrup
.25 Lemon juice

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

Carrots, mangos, and violet taste good together because they all share a bunch of chemicals called ionones, which are “floral” aromatic fragrance compounds. The combination of alpha-ionene and beta-ionene smells like “violet”, and is often used to make violet perfumes and artificial violet flavor (I’m looking at you, Monin violet syrup). Carrots are rich in various sorts of carotenes, which all contain beta-ionene, like violet. Joe knew from experience that mango juice and carrot juice are delicious together, but neither of us had ever thought to combine carrots or mangos with violet. This drink was exciting because we did just that!

Personally, I found that the violet syrup we used gave the drink an unfortunate “candy” taste, but I don’t blame the violet flavor, I blame the candy taste on the particular syrup we chose to use. One of these days I’d like to make some homemade violet syrup. We included lemon juice in this drink because it adds just enough sourness, but this drink is by nature a succulent one. The triple combo of ionene-based flavor pairings was a winner. Mangos, violet, and carrots all fit together nicely, united by the violet’s floral sweetness. Sipping this drink is like experiencing a symphony of flavors, all playing together in perfect harmony.

We’ve found a few great resources on the web that list interesting flavor pairings, so I thought it’d be worth dropping a few links here for other adventurous cocktail enthusiasts. Khymos has a great page explaining the idea behind choosing foods with a common chemical makeup, and even a blog where they try out a few. Egullet.org has a pretty sweet thread on their forums all about molecular pairings, so go check it out!


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Thai Week Outtakes

Note: All of the drinks in this post were sub-par. We are posting them as a recounting of what not to do. Please do not make them, they are not that great.

We had some successes with our Low-Proof Thai Cocktail Week, but we also had plenty of drinks that didn’t make the cut. Two of them we already posted, the Miracle Mango Sour and the Lemongrass Soju MarTHAIni. They were OK, but they did not make the final cut. The lemongrass marTHAIni was too one dimensional — its only real flavor was lemongrass, which tastes kind of like a truncated lemon. Point of fact, it tasted kind of like a yellow fruit loop. Gross.

The Miracle Mango Sour was a bit more interesting, but it lacked impact. Even with fresh citrus juice, there was simply no kick, no bite, no bracing quality to it. Part of the problem is that soju is not high-proof enough to fully extract the soft flavor of a fruit like mango. As a result, the mango flavor in our infusion was week. Hence the maxim: give soju infusions double the time and they’ll taste twice as fine. But some flavors just aren’t going to come out, no matter how long you leave them. If you drank mango-soju straight, over ice, and with a twist of lime, it would be pretty tasty, but in a mixed drink it just can’t stand up.

Still, we were determined to somehow make the concept of the miracle mango sour work, so in a frenzy of mixing last friday night, we made four more iterations of it, and none of them were good enough of for the final menu. At least they look pretty.

2 oz Mango-Infused Soju
.5 oz Nigori Sake  (Kizakura)
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mango cubes and a lime twist.

This tasted good but it was watery. Mango-infused soju and nigori sake are both low proof and lightly flavored. We wanted to create a drink that was reminiscent of mango sticky rice, which is why we selected nigori sake. Nigori sake fills a similar role to a fortified wine in this drink, except it is, unfortunately, even lower proof that soju. Nigori sake is unfiltered sake, so it has a cloudy look and texture, and a sweet flavor. The taste of mango was light in our infusion, so I used only .5 oz of Nigori sake to keep it in balance. Perhaps if I had shaken this a mere ten times, it would have come out OK, but I gave it my standard thirty (this was the drink that made me realize you have to shake low-proof cocktails half as long). Even though it had a good flavor, we wanted to make it more intense, so we switched from mango soju to mango syrup.

Adding insult to injury, the lime zest in this garnish made a very discordant smell to the flavor of the drink. It was all wrong.

2 oz Nigori Sake (Kizakura)
.5 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
White of one whole egg
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Mango syrup has a very concentrated flavor, so our next idea was to use the Nigori sake as a base spirit, and get the mango in that way. This felt like it was going to be a slam dunk, but it was actually the worst of the bunch. The Nigori sake is so low-proof that even the bird’s eye chili could not save the drink from tasting weak. Worse, the mango syrup’s flavor was so powerful that it was the only thing we could taste over the egg white.

So for round three, we decided to concentrate the flavor of the Nigori sake, by simmering it on the stovetop and reducing its volume by two thirds. Even concentrated, the nigori sake had a very mild flavor, but it was strong enough that it did come through in the drink.

2 oz Soju
.5 oz Egg White
.5 oz Nigori Sake Reduction
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.25 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Of all the variations we made, this one was the best. We used uninfused soju as the base (we were out of mango), but it scarcely mattered against the mango flavor of the mango syrup. It’s possible that the mango soju would have rounded out the mango flavor, but it’s more likely that you would not have been able to notice the difference. We cut the egg white in this one back down to .5 oz, and it didn’t foam as much, but it still added body, and the flavors all came through. It was decent, but not so good that I would serve it to a guest or in a restaurant.

Even if it had been good, it would have been impractical, because the Nigori sake reduction would have been too expensive to justify producing it en masse for a restaurant. Somewhat happy with this result, we decided to try again, from a different direction, and also a more economical one:

2 oz Soju
.75 oz “Thaichata” Red Thai Rice, Kaffir Lime, Bird’s Eye Chili Concentrate
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Egg White
2 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango wedges a kaffir lime moustache.

This tasted like a slightly less good version of round #3. Instead of Nigori sake, we blended thai red rice with Bird’s eye chili and Kaffir lime leaves, simmered the mixture in water for a while, and then strained it through a cheesecloth. This procedure was similar to the one we used to make the Horchata for the Oaxacan Flower, and we loved the idea of “Thaichata”. Even though cinnamon is present in Thai food, we did not want to use it because we were afraid it would make the drink taste like more Mexican than Thai. We may try Thaichata again, but the recipe needs some work. As it was, it did a pretty good job of putting the rice flavor into the drink, and it turned it a beautiful pink color, but by this time we were fatigued of the concept, and sick of soju drinks.

Only later, we realized that mango sticky rice is made with coconut milk, but it was enough of a juggling act trying to get the flavors of rice and mango to balance against each other. Introducing coconut (i.e., more complexity) probably would not have magically fixed this mess. Gosh, I can’t wait to drink real drinks again!


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Miracle Mango Sour

Chok Anan or “Miracle Mango” is a the most common mango cultivar in Thailand. I wish I could tell you that the mango soju sour I am going to share with you today was infused with miracle mangos, but the fact is, it was made with a cultivar from the USA, the nearly ubiquitous Tommy Atkins. At the peak of its ripeness, this is not a bad mango, but it is far from the best. If you decide to make this drink at home, I highly, highly suggest that you use a better cultivar, such as my personal favorite, the Ataulfo. I have not actually tried a Chok Anan, but I think that would be even better, given the spirit of this drink (pun most certainly intended).

When I first received news of the Thai cocktail challenge, I set out five infusions for my mixing lab. My infusions were Juniper, Bird’s Eye Chile, Mango Basil, Sugar Cane, and Kaffir Lime/Galangal/Lemongrass. Those of you who enjoy Thai food can probably anticipate tomorrow’s drink, based on that information. Sugar cane, by the way, was entirely underwhelming, and when I tried mixing it with orange juice, it was positively awful. Thus did I kiss my dreams of a Mai Thai good bye. I haven’t given up hope for the sugar cane infusion, but it pairs with orange juice about as well as garlic pairs with whipped cream. Maybe if you’re Ferran Adrià you can make that work, but I sure can’t. Juniper-infused soju may taste like gin, but sugar cane-infused Soju resembles rum only metaphorically.

Anyway, I wanted this cocktail menu to feature an egg white sour, as I consider the genre to be one of the more interesting products of the modern mixology revival, and I figured we would pick some relatively unchallenging flavors. I infused a handful of Thai basil in this Soju for two days, and the flesh of a Tommy Atkins mango for four, and the result was a hint of basil on the sip, followed by a rich mango backend.

“Miracle” Mango Sour
2 oz Mango-Basil infused Soju
.5 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz egg white
Dry shake, and then shake over ice. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime twist.

In my original formulation of this drink, which is pictured, I used .75 oz each of lime juice and passion fruit syrup, and only .5 oz of egg white. As a result, the ratio of egg white to other ingredients was too low, and the drink did not acquire a pleasing foam head. Upon further consideration, I decided that the syrup and lime in my first version were too high, which is why I have presented a slightly scaled down version of the sweet/sour component of this drink. I believe that with this formulation, the .5 oz of egg white will be enough to froth correctly.

Moreover if I had it to do over again, I would probably skewer a couple of mango cubes on a bamboo skewer, and wrap a lime twist around it. So, in summary: do what I said, not what I did, use a miracle mango to make the infusion, and garnish more artistically. There’s always a tradeoff with egg white sours between double-straining to remove any fine pieces of ice vs. creating a superior foam head. Different shaking techniques can minimize ice sharding, so we’ll probably have to talk about that soon.

Cheers.


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Mango Rum Punch

“Wait!” I hear you saying. What happened to the week of highball drinks? I confess, a punch is not exactly a high ball, but we just so happened to serve it in the style of a highball, so I must ask you to indulge me. My friend James and I had scheduled a beach party, or what passes for one in Washington, and we wanted to make sure the party popped, and the only way to do that was with a seasonally appropriate punch. I knew I wanted to use an oleo saccharum as the base, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate rum and wine, but I did not have an exact recipe. I googled around, and I considered this Philadelphia Fish House Punch from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and this Chatham Artillery Punch from Doug, but I ended up just doing my own thing.

I did take some advice from Putney Farm regarding the ratio of spirits to wine, however, and chose to use three bottles of rum and three bottles of wine, but with a small twist. I wanted to infuse mangoes into the punch, so I did not want to use a sparkling wine, as the carbonation would all seep out over night. On the other hand, I wanted a touch of carbonation in the final product. James and I decided to compromise, using two bottles of Pinot Grigio for the infusion, and reserving a bottle of Prosecco to be used for topping off the punch at serving time. This worked very well, except we ran out of Prosecco about half way through the punch.

I conclude that we should have had two bottles of Prosecco. Alas.

Mango Rum Punch
1.5 Liters of Aged Rum (Mount Gay)
750 ml White Rum (Bacardi)
1.5 Liters Pinot Grigio
5 Large Mangoes, peeled cut into chunks
Peel from 10 Oranges
1.5 Cups Super-Fine Sugar

When Serving:
2 Cups Fresh Lime Juice
1.5 Liters Chilled Prosecco

Make oleo saccharum by saturating and muddling the orange peels with the sugar. Allow it to sit for two hours, stirring and muddling occasionally. Add the rum and the Pinot Grigio to the oleo saccharum, along with the mango chunks. Cover and allow to sit overnight.
At serving time, juice the limes into the punch. Fill cups with ice and add 1-2 oz of Prosecco, then fill with punch.

The best thing about punch is that it allows you to fill the cups of all your guests without sacrificing your ability to interact with them socially. Normally I am very adamant about avoiding ambiguity when “topping” a drink with something sparkling, but it was a beach day, and it wasn’t worth stressing over. Ideally, you want just enough to add a bit of effervescence. The punch weighs more than the Prosecco, so you should pour it into the cup before the punch, in order to facilitate good mixing.

The oleo saccharum lends a fragrant, unctuous richness to the entire drink, similar to the oils in a cup of well-made French pressed coffee. Usually the fruit that is used for infusing completely gives up the ghost, and there is no reason to eat it, but in this case, due to the short infusing time, and possibly the density of the mango, we all found the pieces of punch-soaked fruit to be delicious. When you serve the punch, consider ladling one or two pieces of the fruit into each cup. Even the orange peels didn’t taste bad, but they weren’t great, either.