Measure & Stir

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


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Gin, Mangosteen, Umeshu, Turbinado

A quick stroll through the Japanese Market equipped me to make today’s drink, in which I made use of mangosteen, and also Choya Umeshu, which is a Japanese plum wine. Mangosteen is not as sweet as lychee, and it has a softer texture, but it’s close enough that I intuitively used a similar process to this muddled lychee and gin drink, except I omitted the lemon juice, for it was not necessary.

Mangosteen is very expensive, and its flavor is not distinctive. It is light and watery, with a hint of a tropical fruit flavor, like like tart berries with a touch of pear. For this reason, I do not recommend using it to make drinks, but I didn’t know that, and neither would you if no one told you, no? If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for novel flavors in your food and drinks, so maybe you think, sure, I’ll splurge on some tropical fruit, even though I have no idea how to pick a ripe one or if it’s even reasonable to expect to get good quality mangosteens this time of year. Maybe if you eat them closer to their point of origin, they have a stronger flavor.

No matter! I made a drink out of them anyway, and it was quite a good drink in spite of the mildness of the muddled fruit. Umeshu is made by infusing macerated japanese plums, called ume in shochu, and sweetening it with sugar. I noticed that the neighborhood Japanese market was selling 750 ml bottles of this as a liqueur (subject to the WA state hard liquor taxes) and also as a wine, so I, of course, opted to purchase the latter. I’m not sure if Choya is the good stuff; in fact I’m pretty sure it’s the cheap stuff, but it tasted pleasantly of plums, so I used it exactly like a fortified wine.

Bonus: it came in 50ml glass bottles, perfect for making exactly two drinks. A fortified wine you can keep in the pantry? Someone needs to put the fine folks at Choya in touch with whoever makes Carpano Antica.

Mango Should Be Steen and Not Heard
1.5 oz Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s)
.75 oz Umeshu (Choya)
1 tsp Turbinado sugar syrup
Flesh from one mangosteen fruit
Muddle the mangosteen in the turbinado syrup, then shake all ingredients over ice. Double strain over fresh ice and garnish with a piece of candied ginger.

This drink was excellent, in spite of the mangosteen having a light flavor. The extra sugar from the syrup helped to bring out its fruity flavors and the umeshu bridged the gap between astringent gin and sweet fruit. Making the drink was easy, but naming it… that I am not so good at. If anyone has a better idea of what to call this, please let me know. Personally, I don’t think every delicious thing you throw in a mixing vessel needs a name. If observe good practices regarding drink construction, and you mix according to your good taste, then you have done enough.

The best drink names are clever puns.


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Sleepy Bear: Bärenjager, Blackberries and Rum

I’ve had a bottle of Bärenjager burning a hole in my bar for a while now, and I have found it to be tremendously un-useful. It’s a delicious dessert, stirred over ice and with a dash of bitters, but as far as mixing into drinks, it’s a loser. The honey flavor, so engaging on its own, is easily lost among other spirits. I had originally wanted to use it to make the Bee’s Knees, a classic gin sour using honey instead of sugar, but what I found was that the proportion of the liqueur had to be increased substantially before the flavor of honey was discernible, and by then the resulting drink was far too sweet.

Stick to honey syrup for a more pronounced honey flavor. The temptation exists to try pure honey, but it does not integrate well with more aqueous elements, and will sink to the bottom of your shaker or blender, spitefully refusing your entreaties.

Honey Syrup

1 part honey
1 part sugar
1 part water

Combine in a sauce pot on medium heat until fully integrated. Fortify with a bit of vodka or a bit less of a neutral grain spirit.

I used Bärenjager for this drink, and it worked pretty well, but you can get the same flavor in a six dollars worth of syrup as in thirty plus dollars worth of liqueur, and then you can spend the money on better rum.

Sleepy Bear

2 oz Dark Rum (Matusalem Clasico 10)
.75 oz Bärenjager (or honey syrup)
.75 oz lime juice
6 Blackberries

Muddle the blackberries in the honey liqueur or syrup until you have a fresh honeyed jam. Shake all ingredients over ice and then double strain into an old fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and a blackberry.

I used a toothpick, cleverly positioned, to make the blackberry stick to the lime wheel. Blackberries and honey both seem like ingredients which would be very enticing to bears, and I don’t know if that also goes for rum, but if I were a bear, I’m pretty sure I’d be all over it, and then I’d take a nap, hence the name. Simple creations are often the best ones, and this is a seasonal drink that I would be proud to serve to any guest.

There are no bitters in this drink because the blackberries on their own have a bitter component to them, and they complete the back-end of this drink unassisted.