Measure & Stir

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


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Bar High Five – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #3

Welcome to episode three of Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm). Today, we are visiting Bar High Five in Ginza.

I did not know what quite what to expect as I came in to Bar High Five. It is located in a bustling restaurant district in Ginza, on the fourth floor of a building full of bars and restaurants. The bar seats about ten, and there are a few small tables to the side. The wall is adorned with awards proclaiming High Five to be one of the fifty best bars in the world. Certainly, their customer service was matched only by Uyeda-san’s Bar Tender. The professionalism and dedication of the staff was truly a thing to behold.

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In terms of the drinks, they were not a “mixology” bar, but more in the classic style. As an adventurous drinker, it is my preference to ask for the bartender’s choice (so long as the bar is not too crowded), and Bar High Five was happy to oblige me. Among the drinks that I and my cohorts enjoyed were:

* A stirred drink made with rye, two types of ginger liqueur, and a black tea liqueur.
* An Alaska with VEP Green Chartreuse
* A Whiskey sour sweetened with grape liqueur
* A “Black Negroni” made with fernet instead of Campari, and garnished with a lemon peel.

They also served the black negroni and the grape whiskey sour to other guests who were in the bar, so I take it those drinks are among their house specialties. Indeed, the senior bartender told us that his grape whiskey sour was a competition winner.

I realized only after the fact that their customer service may have let me down in one minor way. On their website is a menu with some intriguing drinks, but when I and my compatriots entered the bar, they never gave us a menu nor implied that there might be one. It is a small thing, and it does not tarnish the experience, but had I known, I would have ordered differently.

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It is easy to understand why High Five has the reputation that it does. They serve classic drinks with perfect execution, and offer a level of customer service that I have never seen in an American bar. If you are looking for more exotic and adventurous drinks, they might not be the first on your list, but if you are looking for a quintessential experience of a Japanese cocktail bar, this is the place.


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La Vida Buena: A Mezcal Negroni

A few weeks ago I was at the Rob Roy, in Seattle, celebrating a friend’s birthday. The men’s room at Rob Roy is covered in graffitti, like pretty much any men’s room at any bar, only the scribblings at Rob Roy aren’t just of random profanity. They’re cocktail recepies. Yes dear readers, it just so happens that today’s drink came to me in a public bathroom. But, hey, sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

La Vida Beuna
1.5 oz Mezcal
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Campari

Pour all components into a mixing glass over ice and stir. Strain drink into a cocktail glass over a nice, fresh ice chunk. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

It has become popular recently to templatize the negroni. The classic negroni is an equal parts drink made of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Although this ratio tastes fine, it isn’t my favorite. I find that the texture of an equal parts negroni is overwhelmingly syrupy because of the amount of Campai used. Also, I find that in this ratio the Campari’s bitterness overpowers the gin and vermouth. These days it seems to be more popular to use a 3:2:1 template, which does a great job of addressing these two critiques. In this version we used 6:3:1 because the original recipe I saw in the bathroom at Rob Roy called for Aperol, not Campari. Some handy advice: you can substitute Campari for Aperol and get away with it as long as you use half as much Campari.

La Vida Buena is a mezcal version of the old, classic drink. Personally, I prefer the smoky taste of mezcal in a negroni over gin, as I enjoy the additional layer of complexity it brings to the glass. I also simply love mezcal, and pretty much anything that has mezcal in it. The aroma from the blood orange peel lends the sip a subtle tartness that plays well with vermouth, and foreshadows the bitters from the Campari, which linger after the swallow.

Cheers!


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Gummy Bears, Boozing Here and There and Everywhere

Hello everyone, I hope you had a good weekend. For father’s day, I drank a glass of my favorite scotch, in honor of dear old dad. But now, we’re going to talk about almost the exact opposite of that.

Today’s epic journey was inspired by this post at Serious Eats. I am not sure if I had very high expectations for cocktail gummy bears, and as such, I would say that these roughly lived up to my expectations. I followed the process described in the article, wherein I first soaked the gummy bears in a blend of spirits, and then froze them before consumption. The alcohol really jellied up the exterior third of the gummy bear, giving it a chalky texture and leaving gummy, gelatinous residue all around the inside of the vessels that contained them. If that doesn’t sound very appealing, it wasn’t.

Freezing them definitely improved the texture, but once they’ve taken a bath in a strong solvent, nothing is going to bring back the care-free, springy quality that is, in this author’s opinion, the primary allure of the gummy bear. Snacking on them all day did give me a hardcore craving for J.Wray and Nephew rum, however, so if you are looking for ways to turn yourself into perpetuate your behavior as a complete lush, you might as well make some.

For this experiment, I used Haribo gummy bears, which according to their website, come in five flavors

  • white – pineapple
  • yellow – lemon
  • green – strawberry
  • orange – orange…
  • red – raspberry

I actually had no idea until just this moment that the green was strawberry and the red was raspberry. I guess I can see it? Anyway, we were supposed to use the orange bears for the Negroni, as the artificial orange flavor in the gummy bear is intended to be a mirror of the orange peel notes in the sweet vermouth, but in a fit of cognitive dissonance, I put the red things together and made, apparently, raspberry negroni bears. That didn’t matter one whit, because at the end of the day, Campari was really the only experience these bears delivered. The gin botanicals were detectible if you knew to look for them, but it wasn’t important.

The flavor of Campari is pleasant to me, and so I had no complaints with the flavor, but the texture did not wow me. I would like to taste a good Negroni-flavored candy, but the better way to go about it would be to use the flavors of campari, gin, and sweet vermouth in the fabrication of the candy, rather than after the fact. There is so little alcohol per gummy bear that they are never going to get you buzzed, in any case.

Negroni Bears

1 oz Gin (Beefeater)
1 oz Campari
Handful of orange (oops!) gummy bears

Marinate the gummy bears in the spirits for about four hours, then remove them from the spirit and allow them to freeze solid. Trick all your friends into eating them.

The Negroni bears were decent, but I prefered the mixture of maraschino, white rum, and pineapple gummy bears seen here on the left.

Hemingwayish Daquiri Bears

1 oz Wray and Nephew Rum
.5 oz Maraschino liqueur
Handful of white gummy bears
Grated grapefruit zest

There is no pineapple in a Hemingway Daquiri, and there is no grapefruit in this recipe, but as with the Negroni, you will bearly taste the bears. I did not actually use grapefruit zest, but it would have been awesome. I love the flavor of this rum, and even though they were not great, I kept coming back for the flavor, and by the end of the day, I was driven to stir some J. Wray with some maraschino and dry vermouth.

The yellow bears, for me, were more of a problem child, although my friend James liked them.

Don’t Do This

1 oz mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Amaro nonino
handful of yellow? gummy bears

No one wants a smokey gummy bear. This simply did not please me at all. Amaro Nonino and mezcal complement each other beautifully, but sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me, and I make mistakes in the name of science.