Measure & Stir

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


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Heavy Handed Symbolism – Chocolate Liqueur, Blood Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Egg White

Continuing with my Valentine’s Day Trio, course two was a preparation of the classic pairing of chocolate with orange. In this case, we made it two ways, once as a cocktail and once as a macaron. The macaron, pictured below, was a collaboration with my friend Johan, who was instrumental in designing this series.

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For the base of this drink, I used a cocoa nib liqueur, which I have made before, but which I have now updated with a modern technique. The diffusion of sous vide immersion circulators to home cooks has opened up many exciting new possibilities for those who wish to keep it craft. I made this liqueur in a mere two hours, by cooking 6 oz of cocoa nibs in 375 ml of vodka at 60C for ninety minutes. I then strained out the nibs and boiled them in simple syrup for a few more minutes. This is the classic alcohol+water extraction.

I combined the syrup into the infusion according my palate, and allowed it to rest for three days. In this time, the flavors of the syrup and the alcohol will meld together, resulting in a much softer flavor. If you were to taste it immediately after combining, you would find a harsh ethanol note on the backend.

This recipe, despite the fancy ingredients, is really just a take on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto sour. We combine a liqueur base with egg whites and an acidic juice, then use an immersion blender to emulsify the egg white.

There is a small twist, however. Blood oranges, at the peak of their season right now, are not very acidic. They lack the acidity needed to form a stable foam out of egg whites, and as a result, they are not sour enough to balance a sweet chocolate liqueur. The answer to both of these problems is the same; powdered citric acid.

If you can master acidity, you can master cocktail creation. Acidity is the lynch pin of the drink, acidity is life. I slowly blended citric acid into my blood orange juice until it was approximately as sour as lemon juice.

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I am not going to give you a recipe for the macaron. You can figure out how to make macarons on your own, using many fine internet resources, such as Chefsteps. I will, however, provide a note on the buttercream. Johan and I made a German style buttercream by preparing a pastry cream sous vide. (82C for 35 minutes). The resulting product was too set up to use on its own, and we had to blend it in my Vitamix until it was smooth.

We then incorporated the pastry cream into creamed butter, and mixed in some fine cut orange marmalade, some orange bitters, and some Clement Creole Shrub, one of my favorite orange liqueurs. In the middle, we placed a small chunk of candied orange rind, which we boiled in simple syrup for about half an hour. The candied orange provided a nice contrast of texture in the center of the cookie.

To garnish the shell, we embedded some toasted cocoa nibs from Seattle’s own Theo chocolate company into the meringue.

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Heavy-Handed Symbolism
1.5 oz homemade cocoa nib liqueur
1.5 oz blood orange juice
.5 oz egg white
.25 oz simple syrup
Powdered citric acid to taste
Emulsify with a stick blender and then shake gently over ice. Strain only with a hawthorne strainer into a cocktail glass and garnish by dropping chocolate bitters into the foam and then turning them into hearts with a toothpick.

Serve with a chocolate orange macaron and a mandarin orange.

You are, I have no doubt, wondering why this drink is called Heavy-Handed Symbolism. I came up with this name only after I had fully realized its recipe, but I found that I had included egg white, representing fertility, blood orange juice, representing blood or passion, and chocolate, which represents that love is sometimes bitter sweet. #sorrynotsorry

Out of the drinks in the set, this one probably had the best reception, though I am quite proud of all of them.

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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Phat Beets: Beet, Rye, Cumin, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange Oil and Green Peppercorn

I know, I know, I haven’t written in a year. I’m not going to waste a lot of time on throat-clearing but I want to assure you that I’m still here, and I still like you, and as always, I want to help you elevate your cocktail game.

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I was fishing around for novel flavor combinations that would be timely for the winter season, and I found that green peppercorn jelly is appropriate to mix with beetroot, as is cumin, as is orange oil. I decided to put all four of them together, using beet juice as the bridge between the other ingredients.

For the beetroot, I ran several beets through a masticating juicer and then a fine-mesh strainer and then a chemex. Chemex clarification of juices works better with some juices than others. Beet is among the ones that work less well. Although my beet juice did achieve an elegant texture, its color was so dark that there was no noticeable effect of clarification. You could safely skip the chemex step, but you might consider straining through a 100 micron superbag.

I tried this drink with both bourbon and rye, and I discovered that the additional sourness that comes from a rye was a better complement to the sweet and earthy notes of the cumin and beet. Use a workhorse rye for this, as anything subtle will tend to be drowned out.

For the cumin syrup I toasted about a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds in a pan, then crushed them and simmered them in a 1:1 simple syrup until their flavor was extracted.

In the past I used to reach for lemon juice as my cocktail acid of choice, but a man can only drink so many lemon or lime sours before he starts to ask what other acids exist. Most every good cocktail has a source of acidity, except for the family of drinks that takes after the old fashioned.

For this drink I used a quarter ounce of 10 year aged balsamic vinegar. It is syrupy and sweet, but it also adds the ascetic tang on the backend that is needed to find balance and challenge.

Finally, for the green peppercorn jelly, I crushed ~2 teaspoons of green peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, and simmered them with sugar, agar agar, and filtered water. As soon as the agar dissolved, I poured the mixture through a strainer into a small mold and let it set in the fridge. In 20 minutes I had a firm, pale green jelly.

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Phat Beets
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (RI1)
.75 oz Finely Strained Beet Juice
.5 oz Toasted Cumin Syrup
.25 oz Extra-Old Balsamic Vinegar
Express Orange Oil over the drink and discard the peel.
Serve with Green Peppercorn Agar Agar Jelly.

 

Green Peppercorn Jelly
250ml Filtered Water
1 Tsp Green Peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2g Agar Agar powder
Bring all to a boil and whisk until sugar and agar agar are fully dissolved. Strain into a small mold and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

This is not one of those viscerally delicious, I-can’t-wait-to-have-another-one type of drinks. I don’t think beet juice is anyone’s favorite, but my hope is that a refined palate can appreciate this as a much more cerebral cocktail experience. First, the imbiber should take a sip of the drink, and observe its sweet, earthy, and spicey notes. The flavors are more or less orthogonal and exist such that each is distinct.

Then, they should take a bite of the peppercorn jelly. The subtle piperitious burn lingers on the palette with an unctuous, floral note. Another sip reveals an unexpected synergy between peppercorn, beetroot, and cumin, pulling the brighter elements of the drink’s composition into contrast against the bassy note of the pepper.

I apologize (#sorrynotsorry) for the previous two paragraphs but I have been watching a lot of Iron Chef Japan lately.

Cheers.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)

Continuing in my fall series, I wanted to create drinks that were wholly orthogonal to each other. In a course of drinks, each experience should be distinctive.

In my AB testing for this drink, I started with a butternut squash juice made by running fresh juice from the squash through a chemex filter. I do not suggest grilling the squash before making the juice. The resulting liquid has a clean, sweet, penetrating flavor of squash, and a pale orange color. I mixed it with Demerara 12 Year, brown sugar syrup, and a small measure of balsamic vinegar, and served it in a coupe glass rimmed with brown butter powder (see below).

The final product was intriguing but a little underwhelming. Although the butter brown powder was delicious as a “hook” for the concept, the flavor of the actual drink was average. The balsamic vinegar did add a nice contrast and dimension, but my competing concept was better.

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Colors of Fall: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)
1 oz Bourbon (Russell’s Reserve)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
1.5 oz Roasted Pumpkin Juice*
1 Dash Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Top with “Basic Bitch Foam*” and Brown Butter Powder*.

Whew, that’s a lot to unpack. The combination of a foam, a powder, and a relatively complex may strike some as decadent or over the top. I assure you that it is.

Let’s start with the “Basic Bitch Foam”. I am sure most internet denizens have seen this viral video by now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaghIdSJKvQ
One of the hallmarks of the basic bitch is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. For this foam, I made a pumpkin spice mélange and mixed it into maple syrup, lemon, egg white, and xanthan gum. I have found that foams work much better with a little xanthan gum for stabilization. Moreover, xanthan gum can be dispersed in liquids much more easily if you first make a slurry of xanthan gum and a small amount of sugar. This recipe is approximate, as I made the foam to taste:

Basic Bitch Foam
100 ml egg whites
350 ml Maple Syrup
50 ml lemon juice
6 g pumpkin spice mélange (cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, star anise)
1 g Xanthan Gum in a slurry with 5g of white sugar*
Combine lemon, maple syrup, and spice mélange. Make a slurry of xanthan gum and sugar, and then disperse it into the maple syrup mixture. Add the egg whites and then pour into an iSi Whipped Cream Canister. Charge with two n02 cartridges and shake vigorously. Store in the fridge.

For the brown butter powder, I followed this recipe at Chefsteps:

Brown Butter Powder
225 g Butter, unsalted
100 g Tapioca Maltodextrin
20 g Powdered sugar
2.5 g Salt, kosher
Brown the butter, add the sugar and salt, and then combine in a food processor with tapioca maltodextrin.

By volume, this recipe made significantly more powder than I wanted. In the future, I will cut this recipe in half.

Roasted Pumpkin Juice
Cut a pumpkin into pieces, roast about 10% of it in the oven and then mash it into a purée. Run the rest of it, raw, through a juicer, and blend the purée into the juice a little at a time, until you find a balanced flavor and a slightly thicker texture. I’m sorry, it’s hard to be more specific than that. When it’s right, you’ll know.

Next time I make it, I’ll note the weights of raw vs. roasted pumpkin, and update this post. For now, I enjoy the idea of drinks which require a personal touch and an idiosyncratic treatment. If you prepare this drink, you will have to rely on your own senses, and you will end up with a creation which is a little bit more your own.

Cheers.


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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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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.

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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.

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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.