Measure & Stir

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


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The Last Word Ice Cream Sundae

I made this in collaboration with my friend Johan from Moedern Kitchen, and this content is cross-posted there.

last word sundae 2

This is not my first foray into the world of cocktail-inspired ice creams. My first was not up to snuff, and never made it to the web. My second was Mai Tai Soft Serve, which you may remember. Today, I am proud to share an ice cream Sundae inspired by one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Last Word. This drink is famous among cocktail enthusiasts, and as a Seattlite, it has a special place in my heart, since it was re-popularized in the modern cocktail renaissance by our very own Murray Stenson.

To make this ice cream sundae, we wanted to do something ambitious. It’s easy to get carried away when dealing with modernist techniques, and I think you will find that we did not exercise any restraint at all.

Just to review, the last word is a drink composed of equal parts:

The Last Word
3/4 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice

The green Chartreuse is really the key to this drink, as it is the source of its unique flavor. Even so, the combination and the balance are such that every element is a first class citizen. We went through several iterations before we settled upon this arrangement. What is the right way to marry an ingredient to a preparation? I confess I do not have any formal method for making these decisions.

The base of an ice cream sundae is the ice cream, and for that reason, it seemed fitting to use the base spirit of the drink, which in this case is London dry gin. As I have noted before, actual spirits do not come through strongly when added to an ice cream base. We can achieve much more flavorful results by using the root flavors of the spirit, rather than the spirit itself. To make a London dry gin ice cream, we used a hint of gin, but we steeped coriander, orange peel, and juniper berries into the cream. I don’t have the exact ratio, but this will get you pretty close. Note that we use the same base recipe as in Johan’s licorice ice cream.

last word sundae 1

London Dry Gin Ice Cream
650g Whole Milk
225g Sugar
200g Egg Yolks
150g Heavy Cream
50ml London Dry Gin

Before combining the ingredients to make the ice cream, infuse the milk with gin botanicals. In a pan, toast up 2 tbsp of coriander seeds and 2 tbsp of juniper berries, until the oil starts to bloom on the juniper. When the berries are shiny, drop all of the spices into the milk, and gently heat on a stovetop for fifteen minutes along with one fat orange peel, trimmed of pith, then strain.

A good ice cream sundae should contain many layers and textures. Moreover, the last word, although quite spiritous, is a citrus-driven drink. It needs to the acidity and the punch of fresh sour lime juice. To achieve this end, we made a lime juice curd using this lemon curd recipe from chefsteps, subbing lemon for lime, and omitting the gelatin. I cannot stress this last point enough. In our first attempt, we used the optional gelatin suggested in the recipe, and wound up with a disgusting congealed mass.

For the maraschino, we made a zabaione, which Johan called by some incomprehensible Norwegian name (eggedosis) that he will probably edit in here.

Maraschino Zabaione
3 Large Egg Yolks
100 ml Heavy Cream
Sugar and Marschino to Taste
Integrate using a mixer (or a whisk, if you want to work on those arms), and load into an iSi whipping cannister. Charge it up and shake it.

For the green chartreuse, we made a fluid gel. Modernist techniques often feel like solutions in search of a problem, but in this case, a chartreuse gel was exactly the thing. We adapted this recipe from chefsteps as well, substituting fresh orange juice with green chartreuse, and omitting the citric acid. The texture and mouthfeel was unusual, but it felt very at home in a sundae, filling in the same space where one might otherwise find chocolate fudge sauce.

At this point, we had all of the elements, and a variety of soft viscosities, but a sundae also needs crunch, contrast, and texture. To this end, we repeated some of the flavors, and expanded on others. Ice cream wants some kind of cookie or crumble, and we opted to use two.

The first was a cinnamon shortbread, which we crumbled up and used as the bottom layer. I used this recipe from Serious Eats.

Cinnamon Shortbread
9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
A healthy outpouring of ground cinnamon.

Don’t overmix the cinnamon in the shortbread, in order to create a marbled effect. I don’t know how much I used, but you’ll know it’s right when you see it. Cinnamon may seem like an odd addition to the dessert, but it complements and expands on the cinnamon flavor that is present in green chartreuse. It does not repeat perfectly, but it does rhyme.

The second cookie was a tuile, which also came from Serious Eats.

Tuile
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sifted cake flour
2 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

We integrated this, allowed it to cool, then spread it into a thin layer on a silpat using an offset spatula, and baked it at 176 C until it was just brown all over, about 12 minutes. For the final plating, we just shattered it into pieces.

In addition to cookie textures, we added a couple of soft and chewy elements. The first was dried sweetened pineapple, compressed with a citrusy new age gin called Uncle Val’s Botanical. To make this, we bought dried sweetened pineapple chunks in bulk from a supermarket, and compressed them in a chamber vac with a shot of gin. The longer you leave them sealed in the bag, the softer they get. We let ours sit for about two hours before draining them. They kept in a jar for quite a while afterwards, and had the texture of soft gummy candy. We chose pineapple because it pairs wonderfully with lime, maraschino, and green chartreuse, but in truth, the pineapple was mostly covered by the gin.

Finally, we topped it with falooda seeds soaked in a mixture of London dry gin and water. These are popular in some asian and Indian desserts, and they have the amazing property that they will soak up any liquid in which they rest. They are sometimes colloquially called frogs eggs, but they have a similar texture to modernist caviar made with sodium alginate. Since they soaked up a little gin, they were the perfect vehicle to give a tiny boozy kick to the dessert, which was otherwise lacking.

The composition of the sundae was as follows, from top to bottom:

  • Gin-Soaked Falooda
  • Tuile Pieces
  • Maraschino Zabaione
  • Green Chartreuse Fluid Gel
  • London Dry Gin Ice Cream
  • Lime Curd
  • Citrus Gin-Compressed Pineapple
  • Cinnamon Short Bread Crumbles
  • Served in a Cocktail Glass

This was a lot of work, but the result was something truly special.

Cheers.


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Barrel-Aged Monogram

Well, OK, semi-barrel-aged. Barrel-aging a drink has two effects. The first is that all of the flavors in the different ingredients meld together, and the second is that the oak flavor of the barrel infuses into the spirits. I have had cocktails that were aged in mason jars, and I have had cocktails that were aged in actual barrels. I prefer the second variety, as I would imagine, most drinkers do.

monogram2

Generally one can only barrel-age aromatic drinks; citrus or dairy is too perishable to withstand the aging process. I wanted to try this process with one of my favorite drinks, the union club. My method was to premix all of the ingredients but the orange juice, and then add the orange juice at mix-time, as usual. I did not have a proper barrel, so instead I simply combined the bourbon and the liqueurs in a glass bottle with some toasted oak chips, and set them to age.

I tried the aging two different ways; in the first version, I oak-aged only the campari and maraschino, and in the second, I oak-aged all of the spirit ingredients. I ended up preferring the version with only the campari and maraschino together. As the flavors meld, they lose some of their distinctiveness. One of my favorite parts of tasting a mixed drink is picking out the individual pieces from the whole, and I found the flavor more interesting when the bourbon was separate.

Moreover, I designed this variation of the union club specifically for my birthday party, so I borrowed a page from Mark Sexauer, who made the excellent Humo Flotador for our Garnish-themed Mixology Monday.

monogram1

Monogram
1.5 oz Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
1 oz Oak-Aged Campari and Maraschino (1:1)
1 oz Fresh Cara Cara Orange Juice
Shake all over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Top with orange Scotch foam* and spray-stencil my initials onto the foam in angostura bitters.

*See below.

The orange and the liqueurs came together in such a way that they tasted very much like blood orange juice and bourbon. I think that owes in part to my use of Cara Cara oranges, which are a bit more bitter than navel or valencia. I did enjoyed the blood orange flavor, but on the whole I thought the drink on its own was lacking in brighter flavors.

We made up for the lack of brightness in the base by topping it with a light, citrusy foam. I followed Mark’s recipe, but I swapped out the mezcal for a blended scotch, which I infused for one day with orange peels, to help it match the drink below it. Mark’s recipe calls for two teaspoons of gelatin, but when I tried it that way, I found that my foam would begin to “set” in the glass and turn slightly jello-y.

I myself tend to drink mixed drinks quickly, but I have had many guests who prefer to sip slowly, so I halved the gelatin and I was very pleased with the results.

Orange Scotch Foam
1 tsp Gelatin
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Sugar
5 Egg Whites
3 oz Orange Peel-Infused Scotch
2 oz Lemon Juice
Combine all in an iSi Whipped Cream dispenser and charge with two cartridges. Shake vigorously.

After topping the drink with foam, we sprayed bitters through a Misto through a stencil that we cut with an exacto knife.

Orange, whiskey, Campari, and Maraschino. Shake, and garnish with narcissism.

Happy Monday.


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Murray Stenson; The Bitter Word

It is a bitter word indeed, today, my friends; Murray Stenson, that bartender of bartenders, is suffering from a heart ailment and is unable to work. As a bartender, he is without health insurance, and he needs your help. Others, such as Doug and Paul have already written eloquently and at some length as to why you should help, if you enjoy craft cocktails or care about the craft cocktail scene. So Kindly mosey on over to MurrayAid.org, where you can show your appreciation to the man who brought The Last Word back from the dead.

To show our support for Murray, we mixed up an emergency round of a riff on the last word, which we call the Bitter Word:

The Bitter Word
.75 oz Fernet (Branca)
.75 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
.75 oz Green Chartreuse
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pineapple slice.

Pineapple matches well with all of the other flavors in this drink, so I guessed that it would make an excellent garnish, and indeed, it did. The brilliance of the last word recipe is that you can swap the “base” spirit for just about anything–bourbon, rum, mezcal, fernet–and still come out with something that works very well. That said, the original will always be the best. All elements in the drink are so perfectly balanced, and its flavor is bright and crisp, but not blinding. I see variations on this drink popping up all over the place, these days, and you have Murray to thank. In this version, the bitter menthol from the fernet complements the herbal spices of the green chartreuse rather nicely, and the lime and maraschino help to round out the last word’s perfectly balanced flavor profile.

I’m pretty new to this scene, but the one time I did sit across the bar from Mr. Stenson, at the Canon, he came right up and greeted me, even though a different bartender was serving my side of the bar. Real hospitality, that. You spend what, fifteen dollars for a good drink at a good bar? And if you’re like me, you order three or four rounds. Why not stay in next Friday, mix up the Last Word, and donate to a good cause?


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Rojo Bianco: Reposado, Vermouth, Maraschino, Campari

When I first tasted Campari, I hated it. I was furious that I had just spent 30$ on this syrupy, neon-red swill. I poured my first Negroni down the sink, and gave the bottle of Campari to my friend Gualtiero. “Get this out of my sight!” I must have said. My, how my perspective has changed. If you truly want to experience Campari in all of it’s glowing, bitter glory, you should make a Negroni, or its cousin, the Boulevardier, but if you have already strolled down those avenues of flavor, then may I suggest one of my all-time favorites, the Rojo Bianco. 

Rojo Bianco
2 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.75 oz Bianco Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
.25 oz Campari
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.

As with about half the drinks I make, I first learned this one on CVS. It tastes just like you think: the Reposado is smokey and vegetal, the liqueurs are bitter, sweet, and pungent, and the vermouth fills in the middle of the flavor spectrum. I really enjoy this one, but perhaps the construction is more interesting even than the flavor. This drink comes close to the 6:3:1 template that I’ve talked about before, but it uses a bit less vermouth, and a bit more liqueur. Moreover, it splits the liqueur down the middle, and you can imagine that if this drink had only Maraschino or Campari, it would be unremarkable.

I have found that when you are following this kind of template for an aromatic drink, you can usually get away with splitting any one of the ingredients. Two base spirits, two fortified wines, or two liqueurs all provide the opportunity for creative exploration, but don’t split more than one element in the template. Two base spirits and two liqueurs? Madness lies down that road, my friend.


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Des Esseintes

CVS is an endless repository of new and exciting drinks, though I probably lean on them too much. But see, I have this bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida burning a hole in my bar, and then this brilliant opportunity to mix it with an amaro comes along, and how could I resist? Amaro Nonino tends toward the sweeter side of amari, and I find that, much like Cardamaro, it occupies the same same general flavor profile as a good sweet vermouth. Make a Manhattan with Nonino or even Ramazotti instead of vermouth and you’ll see what I mean. They are substantially different from a sweet vermouth, but when you put them in your drink, they do the same thing.

In light of this similarity, I think this drink, Des Esseintes, is a lot like a Martinez with mezcal instead of gin. Of course, the devil is in the details, and I think the pairing of Nonino and Mezcal is a grand one, so much so that I tried to realize it with gummy bears, but you shouldn’t do that, probably.

Des Esseintes

1.5 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1.5 oz Amaro Nonino
1 barspoon Maraschino (Luxardo)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The mezcal’s smokiness made for an enjoyable riff on a classic, but overall this was too sweet for my palette. I think it would have been a lot better with only one ounce of amaro, particularly because Nonino is so very sweet. If someone asked me for a mezcal drink, this is not the first one I would make for them, but it might be the third.


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Correcting Coffee

Boozy Saturday was winding down, and for our final round we decided to correct some coffee. James had some Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans that were pushing the end of their useful lifetime, and we really wanted to try correcting some coffee with Fernet Branca. I don’t have any advice about brewing coffee, but James’ steampunk grinder looks really cool, so here is a picture of it.

We tried a few different concepts, but none of them were surprisingly excellent. Fernet and coffee on its own is just missing something. The bitterness from fernet is very different from the bitterness in coffee, but the interplay is not intriguing; both flavors are merely present. Rye and fernet is delicious, and rye and coffee is very reasonable also, but rye and fernet and coffee somehow blended to create the flavor of a rotting vegetable.

I apologize for the unappealing description, but it was truly awful, and I want to make sure that you don’t try to make a drink like this. A quarter ounce of simple syrup took away the worst of it, but it was still not a drink I would serve to anyone whose friendship I valued.

Still chasing the tropical flavor from earlier in the day, I added rum and maraschino, and came away with something much more drinkable, but I still wouldn’t endorse it highly.

Sloppy Hemingway Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
1 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Maraschino (Luxardo)

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

It’s probable that there is some perfect marriage of coffee and rum out there, but it probably has Benedictine or allspice dram, not maraschino. Maybe it doesn’t contain a liqueur at all, but a bit of simple syrup. A tragic truth: the world is full of coffees and and rums, and you’ll never be able to try all of them with all of them.

And of course, our old pal, orgeat, was still hanging around, so we tried once more, and this was the best of the three, but still not quite where I wanted.

Mai Tai Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
.5 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

The almond latte is a very common drink, so adding rum to coffee was a very natural extension. I think the concept with this variation is sound, but the specific rum and coffee that we used were ill-suited to each other. A grate of lime zest might be a welcome addition, also. Fortunately, we can brew more coffee.


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Black Forest

Thursday already! Where does the week go? My friend Julian recently acquired an espresso machine, so I did some research to find interesting drinks that incorporate coffee. This one comes from Imbibe Magazine, and it stood out to me for several reasons. First, I liked that it treated coffee as the base “spirit”, similar to the way I did in the Bialetti Aspro.

I went over to Julian’s on Saturday morning for coffee, and he was kind enough to pull a shot for this drink. He is a serious coffee geek, and he has a serious rig, so the coffee in this drink, which was made with Stumptown Roaster’s Hairbender blend, was top notch. Your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put in it, so go the extra mile to ensure that every ingredient is the highest quality possible.

In Italian, fortifying a shot of expresso with a shot of liquor is called a Caffè Corretto, or “corrected coffee”, which is correct in the sense of being proper. I love the idea that it is proper to drink coffee that has been spiked with liquor, though I am also enamored with all of the many non-boozy incarnations of espresso, and I have been delighted to explore them.

Black Forest

2 oz. espresso
.25 oz. Bénédictine
.25 oz. Maraschino (Luxardo)

Shake over ice and strain into a fluted glass.

The espresso in this drink was so oily, rich, and viscous, and shaking it gave it a beautiful foamy top. .5 oz of liqueur gave it the appropriate amount of sweetness, but it didn’t have quite the level of booze that I would have preferred. Half an ounce of brandy would probably have taken it from a B to an A, but it might also be the case that the espresso overpowered the other elements, and if I had used french press I think it would have been perfect.

All things being equal, I think I would rather have the brandy, and stick to espresso.