Measure & Stir

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


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Black Yukon Suckerpunch

With the long-awaited return of Twin Peaks imminent, I decided to hop on that sweet pop culture traffic. I never actually watched the original show, but I did some homework, and I learned that David Lynch liked to be extremely detailed in his world-building. Even though no recipe for the drink was ever given, the mise en scène suggests that the drink might contain black coffee, bourbon, blue curaçao, and sparkling mineral water, and that a blender may be involved.

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Of course, detailed world-building only goes so far. In the end, it’s a TV show, and they probably weren’t afraid to bend the rules a bit to get the look that they wanted in the drink. You hear the blender in the scene, so it seems likely that the bartender blended egg whites and blue curaçao into an blue foam, and then spooned it on top of an irish coffee consisting of jack, simple syrup, and black coffee. Possibly it was topped with Perrier.

The blogger that taught me all this thought the Perrier went in the blender, and at first brush, that does not make much sense. A blender is going to shake all the gas out of the Perrier, but it will add a slight bit of acid from the carbonation. The formula for an egg white foam is egg white, sugar, water, and acid, usually lemon juice. This probably worked for him, but how does that help me?

Another blogger also took a stab at the drink recently, but I’m more inclined to call his a Brown Yukon Sucker Punch, because of the light color. The problem is that he used a crafty third wave coffee, and these modern light roasts, as much as I like to drink them, brew to a chocolatey light brown. In 1991, the coffee was roasted practically to ashes, and that’s the only way to get the color right without dye.

Personally, I’ll stick to my Ethiopian Kochere. If you’re squeamish about food coloring, 1. Use food grade activated charcoal powder and 2. Get over it, you ingest commercial food dyes all the time, probably without realizing it, unless you are Amish.

I also don’t care for the whipped cream meringue. It’s too white and too solid. Who wants to drink that creamy gloopy monstrosity?

Anyway, if you want the classic, stick with Jamesoart. His technique is accessible and probably the truest to the show. My version uses a modernist technique à la Jamie Boudreau. This is how to make the Black Yukon Suckerpunch in the 21st century.

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21st Century Black Yukon Suckerpunch
1.5 oz Bourbon
.5 oz Coffee liqueur
1 oz brewed black coffee
As much black food color as it takes (like 3 drops)
Blue Cocktail Foam
4 egg whites
6 oz blue curaçao
3 oz lemon juice
2 oz water
Combine all foam ingredients in an iSi whipping siphon and charge with two N02 cartridges.
Stir the bourbon, liqueur, and coffee over ice, and pour into a highball. Top with the blue cocktail foam.

Getting the texture of a cocktail foam just right is always a challenge. The ratio of sugar, water, lemon juice, and egg white has to be just right to get a foam that is stable and springy. To be honest, it takes a little luck, and I have found some variability in the stability of this foam recipe. If your foam is falling apart, try replacing some or all of the water with simple syrup.

Cheers!


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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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Las Vegas Bar Review: José Andrés Bazaar Meats

I took a trip to Las Vegas, and I would have been remiss had I not taken the opportunity to visit some of the more notable bars. Bars abound in Vegas, but most are the sort where you order Fernet on the rocks. I did some research ahead of time, and I made it to most of the ones on my list.

The first was as José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat. Andrés is a protégé of Ferran Adria, of elBulli fame. His bar and restaurant are not competing at the tier of his mentor, and in fact, the space itself is understated. Compared to the rest of Las Vegas, it is downright plain, though it fits with the minimalism (some might say, dumpiness) of the SLS, the casino/hotel that contains it.

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As you can see, the space is uninspiring. The bar is designed to emphasize function over form, and the harsh red lighting is anxiety-inducing. Clearly, this is a place that has sacrificed aesthetics in order to cater to a high volume of customers. Many of the small plates we ordered followed this philosophy; the platings and concepts did not live up to my hopes for a big name chef like Andrés.

As a counterpoint to these criticisms, the barstaff was well organized, and executed our drinks with consistency and aplomb. Despite my many criticisms, I believe that their failures were strategic, as opposed to tactical, in nature.

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“New Way” Dirty Martini
Belvedere Unfiltered martini with olive spherification and olive brine air

I ordered both this drink and the famous Ferran Adria “salt air” margarita. They were similar, both employing a salty “air” made by blending water with sucro, a proprietary sugar ester that can form stable soap-sud-like foam when aerated. The picture of the magarita looked exactly the same. The margarita version was better.

To me, this drink didn’t taste much like a martini. Astute readers will notice that it contained no gin and no dry vermouth. Scandalous! In fact this tasted like a glass of cold olive brine with salty soap suds on top. It had nothing that I enjoy about a dirty martini and two different molecular gimmicks. I’ve had sucro airs on cocktails before, and they can be very effective, but this drink was simply bad.

There was also a reverse-spherified olive sitting at the bottom of the drink. Unlike sucro airs, reverse-spherification is always disgusting. Without a doubt, it is the worst tool in the molecular gastronomists’ arsenal.Novelty has its place, but it must sit atop a foundation of quality.

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Leatherette (Leather-Aged)
Old Overholt rye whisky, Spanish brandy, sherry, sweet vermouth, leather

This cocktail was aged, not in a barrel, but in a leather bag that they keep at the bar. I have always wanted to put the flavor of leather into a mixed drink, but this was not the leathery libation of my dreams. The fortified wines overpowered all of the other flavors, leaving me with an oxidised (in a good way), acidic mess that had some leather in the-mid sip, but ultimately did not deliver on its promise.

This drink would have been much better as an old fashioned, and with a bourbon instead of a rye; great concept, disappointing execution.

aladdinmanhattan

Aladdin Manhattan “Smoked”
Buffalo Trace bourbon, vermouth, aromatic and orange bitters

I do not have much to say about this one. It is a fully standard Manhattan, smoked in a bottle. It was made with tasteful spirits, it was well-mixed, and it was well-smoked. Although this type of presentation is now commonplace in the world of haute mixology, I enjoyed the drama.

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Truffles & Bees
Grey Goose La Poire vodka, honey, truffles, lemon juice, bubbles

The juicey, sweet qualities of this drink were redeemed by the intrigue of truffle essence. Clearly, the essence in question was of the synthetic variety, but I wanted a truffle cocktail, and I got one. The flavors were balanced, and the truffle, which could have easily been overpowering, was subtle. I think I would have preferred some kind of green herb as a garnish on this one, but it was more successful than not.

If you find yourself at this bar, it was worth ordering, but it wasn’t worth the trip. Then again, visiting a restaurant by a top name chef is less about the quality of the food and more about the social signal it sends.

In addition to the drinks, my party ordered a variety of small plates, and a grilled skirt steak. They were good but not outstanding. The best bite I had was a tiny sphere of foie gras mousse surrounded by cotton candy. It was cheaky and playful. The worst bite I had were the so-called patatas bravas, which amounted to thick-cut french fries decorated with aioli.

I enjoy trying new restaurants, and the experience of discovery and adventure is worth the price even if the food and drink itself is disappointing, as it was in this case. If you find yourself in the SLS (a dubious choice), you would do much better to go to the Umami Burger adjacent to Bazaar Meat. They’ve never steered me wrong.


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MxMo LXXVI: Fire!

Since I’m officially doing the whole blog thing again, I am participating in Mixology Monday, hosted this month by Muse of Doom at Feu de Vie. The theme this month is “Fire”, so I decided to do a video post. I haven’t done one of these before, and to be honest, I’m a little self-conscious. Hopefully it’s cool.

Lavender-Smoked Martini
1.5 oz Lavender-infused gin (Beefeater)
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
Dash of lemon juice
Dash of simple syrup
Light a teaspoon of lavender on fire and then place a large glass over the smoldering flowers, so that it fills with smoke. Stir the drink and then strain it into the smoke-filled glass.

Big thanks to Muse of Doom for this hosting MxMo with this exciting theme.


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Singularity: Peach, Cinnamon, Bourbon

By request, this drink is called the Singularity. Yes, I am referring to that singularity. My good friend Andy is getting married, and I am serving the drinks at his wedding reception. The bride and groom have each requested a themed cocktail, and I have been happy to oblige them. Andy requested a drink themed after the singularity.

It’s hard to make a drink truly match something as abstract as the technological singularity, but my approach was to pull out some molecular gastronomy and leverage as much technology as possible. In addition to that, I decided to make it seasonal, because peaches are in season, and peaches are delicious.

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For version one of the drink, I was inspired by this lapsang souchong sour from the lovely Charlotte Voisey. Real talk, I think I have an internet crush on her. Her drinks are fantastic and she has an adorable accent. Anyway, I loved the idea of resting some fragrant tea on top of the foam of an egg white sour. I think it made a beautiful presentation, but in my zeal for aesthetics, I allowed the tea leaves to float too close to the rim of the glass. I then received a sip full of tea leaves. It was not pleasant. I felt that the random fall of the tea leaves resembled Chinese characters, which was intriguing.

Moreover, I found that the aroma of the tea was not as strong as I had hoped. My tea was either not fragrant enough or not fresh enough. I used Earl Grey, and infused it into bourbon, instead of into the syrup, because I have had better luck with tea in spirit infusions than with tea syrups.

There is a delicate balance to find when infusing tea into spirits. Too long, and the spirit becomes over-burdened with tannin, resulting in a caustic dry mouthfeel. I tested my infusion after a mere ten minutes, and as soon as I began to detect the tannin, I stopped the infusion. Unfortunately, it did not soak up enough tea to find balance against the simple syrup, egg white, and lemon in this drink.

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Singularity
1.5 oz Cinnamon-infused bourbon
.75 oz lemon
.5 oz simple syrup
.25 oz peach gel*
1 egg white
Combine all in a mixing glass and blend with an immersion blender. Add ice and hard shake. Double strain into a coupe and top with concentric rings of peach gel and fresh grated cinnamon.

For version two of this drink I dropped the tea in order to highlight a flavor that I adore with peaches: cinnamon. In order to emphasize the flavor of the peach, I used peach gel both as a garnish and as an additive to the drink. The combination of the gel and the egg white gave it a wonderful velvety texture, while a un undertone of cinnamon formed a foundation for peach and bourbon flavors.

A note on method: immersion blenders instantly make perfect egg white foam. I have completely abandoned dry-shaking my egg white drinks in favor of the immersion blender method. My egg white drinks are thick and frothy, with perfect aeration. It’s as if I did a hard, dry shake for two or three minutes! This was the first piece of science in the drink; to use a hand blender to master the egg white emulsion.

*Peach Gel
3 ripe peaches, peeled
juice of one orange
3 tbsp Ultratex 3
Combine all in blender and store in a plastic squeeze bottle

Ultratex 3 is a modified tapioca starch that swells in water at room temperature. It has good stability at a range of temperatures, and can be used to thicken raw juices up to the texture of a syrup or a gel without heating. I tried mixing it with bourbon to make bourbon with the texture of caramel… it was a little disgusting, but ultratex does wonderful things with fruit juices. This gel will keep in the fridge for about three days. After that, it still tastes alright, but it loses some of its brighter flavors and color, and becomes oxidized.

Keep it science.


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MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence: A Study in Garnishing with Cheese


If you were reading last week, you might have noticed that three out of five of our drinks featured cheese in the garnish. This was no coincidence, but rather a deliberate study using cheese as an ingredient in a mixed drink. I do not have a whole lot to add to the content of those posts, but I will note that while I think cheese can be an effective garnish, it is a positively disgusting ingredient to actually mix into a drink. Do you want to drink alcohol broccoli cheddar soup? Me neither.

Ultimately, I think would prefer to have a good cocktail, and cheese on the side, rather than try to mash them together into some kind of unholy Frankendrink. Speaking of which, all of the drinks in this post use flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomists, who analyze the chemical makeup of varios foods’ aromas, and use similarity as a basis to suggest novel combinations. Anyway, these are my creations:

Pineapple Under the Sea
We used kefir yoghurt to try to bridge the distance between pineapple and gin, on the one hand, and blue cheese, on the other. As the imbiber takes a sip of the drink, the smell of blue cheese fills the nostrils, creating a surprising synergy with the pineapple juice. Kefir is a fickle beast, as a cocktail ingredient, but the pineapple tames it nicely.

Rainy Day
You could almost call black tea, tomato, and grilled cheese a rainy day survival kit. We clarified fresh heirloom tomato juice using a coffee filter, and paired it with earl grey-infused Pisco. Savory drinks are hard to love, but the tannin in the black tea went very well with the tomato’s umami notes. Unlike in the Pineapple Under the Sea, you couldn’t really smell the cheese in the garnish, but it was still a tasty snack.


That’s No Moon!
The strength of the cheese in this drink was somewhere in the middle between the other two, with the cooked Parmesan contributing a subtle aroma to bolster the flavors of strawberry and honey. This was the weakest drink of the trio, and even though the nuttiness of the cheese matched well with the flavor of the honey, it left something to be desired. Actually eating the Parmesan wafer was pleasant. We used honey to “glue” the wafer to the glass, so that even though it appears to be resting precariously on the rim, it was in reality quite sturdy.