Measure & Stir

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


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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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Measure and Stir X Boozed And Infused

We were gone for a while, but though we stopped blogging, we did not stop making and enjoying drinks. One of my favorite tipples of my sabbatical came from the excellent blog Boozed and Infused, wherein Alicia did make Gingerbread Liqueur. I have a weakness for all things ginger-flavored, and the idea of this liqueur spoke to me greatly. Only a few days after seeing it, I rushed out to buy some molasses and infuse up a double batch.

I followed the recipe more or less to the letter, and I was very pleased with the result. The molasses turn the liqueur an inky black, blacker than fernet, blacker even than black strap rum. As I thought of what drink I wanted most to make with this spirit, I found that I wanted most to pair it with oranges.

cant catch me

As I sat down with a glass of gingerbread liqueur, I was moved by the holiday spirit to read back through the entire Boozed and Infused archive, and I have saved my favorite posts in their history to share with you.

I was most intrigued by the idea of a Maple Mushroom Martini, for I am ever in search of novel flavors and combinations. I can imagine the velvety umami flavor of a mushroom mixed with maple, and I think it must be similar to the combination of maple bacon.

My thirst was further whetted by this beautiful-looking Chili-Agave Liqueur, a link which is worth following for the photo alone, which depicts Lemon peels, cinnamon, peppercorn, and a variety of chili peppers in tequila. If I were to use it in a drink, I would want to capture their colors in the garnish.

cant catch me 2

Can’t Catch Me
1.5 oz Gingerbread Infusion
.125 oz Allspice Dram
2 Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville Orange)
Stir over ice and garnish with an orange zest tied around a gingerbread cookie.

As I was building the menu for my birthday party and I had all of this gingerbread liqueur sitting around, I opted to serve it in the format of an old fashioned, with a small amount of pimento dram to deepen the spice, and my new bottle of seville orange bitters to add a little bit of brightness. The long orange peel gives it a beautiful nose. Moreover, the spicy gingerbread cookie was truly delicious once it became saturated in the drink. The recipe I used produced a very crisp, biscuit-like cookie, which was able to soak up quite a bit of the underlying drink without falling apart.

I think this liqueur would also do very well in a sour, which is an experiment I shall be trying soon, but probably not photographing. The recipe should be pretty obvious, something like:

Gingerbread Sour
1.5 oz Gingerbread Liqueur
1 Egg white
.75 oz Lemon Juice
Dash of simple syrup
Dry shake, then shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with spicy aromatic bitters in the foam.

Some things you know will be great without even trying them. Big thanks to Booze and Infused. Alicia and Eileen, please keep up the good work.


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Libation Labs: India Pale Ale

Hello, everyone. It is the last day before our holiday hiatus, so we thought we’d end on a high note. As you probably know, this has been beer week, and we’re pleased to wrap up with what were, for me, the highlights of the week, which created when we couldn’t decide which direction to take an IPA-based libation.

east indies 1

My first intuition was to play off the bitter notes in the IPA with a bitter liqueur, and I selected Cynar for that role, because I thought that the bitterness of hops would be similar to the bitterness of the artichoke. And indeed, it was a pleasing combination. I also know that gin pairs well with Cynar, and further expected harmony between gin’s botanicals and the herbal qualities of India Pale Ale. We soured it with some lime, but then all the bitter and sour required balance.

I had intended to use simple syrup, but sometimes when drinks are flying left and right (metaphorically), and you realize you’re out of simple syrup, you let it overcook and it starts to caramelize. This is the second time I have accidentally done this since starting the blog; the first time was in production of our Banana Julep . In this case, we decided to go ahead and use the caramelized syrup anyway, and it worked even better than simple syrup would have, in my opinion.

Caramelized Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
bring to a rolling boil for ~ten minutes. Kill the heat, and fortify with 1 oz of 151 proof rum.

east indies 2

East Indies Highball
2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Caramelized Syrup (above)
.5 oz Cynar
2/3 oz Lime
2 oz IPA (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all except beer and then double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a scored lime wedge.

This was an herbal drink, effervescent, bitter, with a counterpoint of caramelized sugar. My favorite of the week. I do not have an exact beer template for you, but my general approach is to formulate a drink that tastes good on its own, and that I think will taste good with a particular beer, and then top that drink with beer.

I am of the opinion that mixing wine, including aromatized wine, with beer, would be in poor taste. That means that the base of your beer drink should be sour or succulent, or maybe driven by liqueur. I have greatly enjoyed beer drinks that use viscous, jammy preparations of fruit, including purees as well as actual jams. Beer is already thick, so it works well to fortify that with something pulpy.

If I had to give you a formula, it would look like:

Beer Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz Fresh juice or .75 oz Fruit Puree
.75 oz Liqueur or Syrup
Dash of Bitters
Shake and strain over ice, and top with 3 oz beer

But you’ll notice that maybe none of our drinks conform to that exact template. It’s all about taste and iteration, and balancing the individual flavors against each other. Beers are complex on their own, and getting them to taste right with other ingredients is nuanced. You cannot even rely on any one IPA to taste exactly like another; one might have more of a grapefruit flavor, and another might taste more like pine. That’s why you have to know your ingredients.

west indies

West Indies
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
.75 oz Falernum
.25 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
2 oz ipa (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all but beer and double-strain into a goblet. Top with IPA.

For our second variation, and more on a lark than anything else, we wanted to try the IPA with rum and falernum. There was no deep thought behind this choice, but sometimes, the best drinks are extemporaneous. By now, I think we are all familiar with the combination of rum, falernum, and lime. It’s hard to screw that up. We kept the lime short and let the IPA do most of the balancing against the sweeter ingredients. It worked like a charm.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next year!


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A More Refined Whiskey and Coke

After fixing up the Cosmopolitan, I had a bit of an ego trip, and decided to follow it up with a better Whiskey and Coke. This drink is a mashup of two ideas in the space around coca-cola. First, a Cuba-Libre is about one thousand times better than a rum and coke; the lime juice balances against the sweetness of the cola, and complements the spirit. Second, Fernet and Coke is a popular drink in Argentina. Indeed, this makes sense, as the Dirt and Diesel, a drink with dark rum, lime, and fernet has a flavor which is reminiscent of a Cuba-Libre.

So our thinking here was to combine the concepts of a whiskey and coke, a fernet and coke, and a Cuba-Libre. Our first attempt with Fernet was not an overwhelming success. The Fernet dominated the drink, and the flavors did not come together the way we were hoping. There was something missing or something dissonant. Rather than try to add yet a fifth ingredient, we swapped the Fernet for the Dirt and Diesel‘s other bitter component, Cynar, and it was much more harmonious. The Cynar was not as bitter as the Fernet, of course, so we rounded it out with a dash of bitters.

Improved Whiskey Coke
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse Bonded)
.75 oz Cynar
.5 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
2 oz High Quality Cola
Shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz high quality Cola and garnish with a lime wheel.

This was a great highball, but Cola is not my favorite thing to drink. It will taste much better if you use your favorite local artisanal cola, or failing that, Mexican coke, the kind that uses real sugar and comes in a glass bottle. We used Trader Joe’s “Vintage Cola”, and I must confess, I was disappointed with it. In Seattle, Pig Iron Cola is our favorite, and a much more solid choice.

If you want to splurge on the garnish, you could always use a vanilla bean molded into a straw, as in this Bacardi ad. If you haven’t seen them, the entire series of commercials is worth watching. They have high production values and interesting (maybe accurate?) trivia. I especially enjoy their twist on the mojito.

Cheers!


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Rum Cosmopolitan

Few topics in mixology are more divisive than vodka; I never thought that was the case, but there seem to be two major camps on the issue; in the first camp, there are snobs like me, who believe that any drink that is good with vodka is better with something else. In the second camp, there are people who feel that it is wrong to judge people for their plebian tastes. I think its safe to say that, for those of us in the first camp, we don’t seriously look down on people who enjoy vodka, we simply enjoy snobbery as part of the game. If you can’t enjoy snobbery, you are taking yourself too seriously.

Anyway, I’m done preaching. Today we’re going to talk about the cocktail that may have single-handedly started the craft cocktail revolution; the Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans made cocktails cool again, and raised the general public’s interest in drinking cocktails, which had fallen out of fashion as their production descended to McDonald’s-esque lows in the 1990s. I wish I could take credit for that insight, but it was Doug of the Pegu Blog who taught me.

Cranberries are in season, and as with our Thanksgiving drink, the Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour, we wanted to make a sour that uses cranberry juice as the primary source of acidity. To that end, we re-jiggered the classic Cosmopolitan around some of our principles here at Measure and Stir. First off, the vodka had to go. Our first attempt involved using gin, but that was a mistake. Doug warned me:

The ground is littered with the bodies of cocktailians who tried to turn the Cosmopolitan into a decent gin cocktail. The fabled Metropolitan heresy has wasted more good gin on bad results than you can imagine.

Cranberry-orange is a classic flavor pairing, but somehow it just does not mix well with gin’s botanicals. This drink became successful when we swapped the gin for J. Wray and Nephew, an overproof rum with some serious hogo.

Rum Cosmopolitan
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Fresh, Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries.

We replaced the sweet and watery cranberry cordial that is commonly used in this drink for fresh, unsweetened cranberry juice, dialed down the lime, and balanced the sourness of the juices with a whole ounce of Cointreau. The result is a very dry, slightly sulfurous cranberry-orange pairing, brightened by a bit of lime. If you like your cosmos sweet, a dash of simple syrup would not be amiss.

We garnished the drink with skewered cranberries, which look very nice but impart virtually no aroma. In a later version of the drink, which is not pictured, we also added small twist of orange peel, and it added both a splash of contrasting color and a mild orange oil aroma. Delightful.

Bottoms up!


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Curry Derby

Another drink that I mixed at my parents’ house, this one by request. My father had visited Crave in Cincinnati, and ordered this drink, and he asked me to recreate it. If you follow the link, you will notice that their menu is cheesy; too big, too full of flavored vodkas, too full of names like “Kinky Heat”. As much as I want this menu to be ironic, we all know it’s serious.

Whatever. Coconut and turmeric is a flavor that I have enjoyed in at least one Indian curry, and I have long been intrigued by the possibility of turmeric in drinks, so I was eager to try this recipe. When asked, the bartender provided the following helpful instructions:

Kentucky Derby

1.5 oz Bourbon (Maker’s Mark)
1 oz of Coconut water
.25 oz of ginger infused simple syrup
.25 oz Monin Coco syrup
.25 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Shake vigorously over ice and double strain over ice into a rocks glass. Rim the glass with cinnamon sugar.

That’s all well and good, but the drink was too sweet as formulated above, so we opted to omit the coconut syrup and the cinnamon sugar rim. In retrospect, a bit of cinnamon would have fit the curry theme nicely, but this business with the sugar on the rim… is an indulgence best left to the ladies. Campari on the rim–that’s more my style! But I did not do that. Plain cinnamon is anhydrous and unpleasant in the mouth, so it ought not to be used for a rim. No, to put cinnamon in this drink, a cinnamon stick garnish, as yesterday, would be ideal.

Curried Derby
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
1 oz of Coconut water
.25 oz of ginger syrup
.25 teaspoon of turmeric powder

Hard shake and double strain over ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick (dehydrated fig).

Powdered turmeric sucks every bit as much as every other powdered spice. Don’t use it, unless you want your drink to have a slightly powdery texture, no matter how much you shake it. Real gangstas of cocktailia run some fresh turmeric through a juicer, and make turmeric ginger syrup. YES! Turmeric ginger syrup, and cinnamon-infused bourbon, that is the Curried Derby that my heart truly desires.

Make a syrup using a cold process, i.e., mix the pure juice with equal parts of sugar and shake it in a sealed jar until the sugar is fully integrated. I don’t know how strong the turmeric juice will be in flavor, but I would start it with equal parts of turmeric and ginger juice, and taste until balanced. As for the cinnamon bourbon, only infuse it for a couple of hours, lest the cinnamon completely over take the whiskey. I will take these thoughts, which I have had just now as I was writing this post, and report back.

Astute readers will also notice that we dropped the completely boring and nondescript name, and everyone involved is better for it.


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Muddled Lychee and Gin

Last weekend I had some lychees sitting on my kitchen counter, threatening to be fresh and delicious, really just begging me to muddle them. And what can I say? I caved in. I was in a similar situation with a bottle of Hayman’s Old Tom gin, and between the three of us, we had a little soiree. Old Tom gin, as you are probably aware, tastes like slightly sweeter London Dry gin. If you don’t have any, you can add a dash of simple syrup to two ounces of gin and come away with much the same product. Moreover, Hayman’s is a very fruit-forward gin, so it blends especially well with fruit flavors.

Now I know what you’re thinking: lychee-based drinks suck. I’m sure we’ve all seen the sad lychee “martinis” that many sushi shops lower themselves by serving. They invariably use vodka and sake and lychee liqueur, perhaps with some simple syrup. It’s true, you can use sake much like a fortified wine, as the proof and the flavor profile are both about right, but I think sake muddies the flavor of lychee — or maybe the other way around. And lychee liqueur? Skip it. A big part of the reason to make a liqueur out of a flavor is to preserve its aroma while losing any bracing qualities that come from a high acidity. Lychee is neither particularly acidic nor fragant, so we can get a much richer flavor by muddling a fresh, whole fruit.

I searched for “lychee cocktail” and “lychee martini” just now, and the summary of my extensive research suggests that the internet wants you to make a “lychee martini” consisting of vodka, possibly dry vermouth, and the syrup from canned lychees. As a bonus, you can use a couple of the canned lychees as a garnish! That could be a lot worse, but it could also be a lot better.  If you were a bit more discerning, you might happen upon this substantially better lychee drink which uses white wine as the base. I am a big fan of Darcy O’Neil and I am sure his recipe is excellent, provided you use fresh lychees. I think white wine sounds like a great match for this fruit, and I will be sure to try his drink soon.

In the meantime, I was just winging it, and I came up with this:

Unnamed Lychee  Drink
1.5 oz Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
2 lychees, skinned and seeded

Muddle the lychees in the simple syrup, and then add the other ingredients. Shake and then double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Some lychees are a lot sweeter than others. Taste your drink as you’re making it, and decide if you like the ratio of sour lemon to fruit and syrup. You may find that you want it to be a little dryer, in which case, add just a dash more lemon. And please, don’t call it a lychee martini.