Measure & Stir

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


2 Comments

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.


1 Comment

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.


1 Comment

Shiberry Inu

The Bloodhound is a classic drink from the 1930s, with a storied history. It is also one of my favorite classic drinks, though it suffers from the unfortunate pathology that it can only be made using fresh berries, and hence, must be enjoyed in the summer time. The original version of the drink is made with strawberries, but I prefer a canonical variation known as the Halsdon, which is made with raspberries.

And yet, the Bloodhound is not the drink we will be discussing today. Last Saturday, amidst all the hullabaloo of Fernet Branca and Pineapple, I had intended to make a Bloodhound, because I had some raspberries on hand. But as I was preparing to make the drink, I discovered that James’ dry vermouth has gone off, even though he stores it properly. Faced with soured dry vermouth, I decided to improvise, and substituted (in the loosest sense of the word) orgeat syrup for dry vermouth, and muddled the raspberries in the orgeat.

The result did not have much in common with the original, but that did not stop it from being highly delicious.

Shiberry Inu

1.5 oz Gin (Hayman’s Old Tom)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup (Homemade)
5-6 raspberries

Muddle the raspberries in the orgeat, and then add the gin and vermouth and shake over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a fresh raspberry.

Admittedly, this drink tended a little more to the candy side of mixology, but sometimes, that is what a man needs. The name “Shiberry Inu” is intended as a play on the name “Bloodhound”. Runners up for this drink’s name were “Raspberry Shar Pei” and “Red Rover”, all trying to capitalize on the dogness/redness ideas.


2 Comments

Gin Daisy

I swear there is a classic cocktail with this (or very nearly this) recipe, but I can’t remember what it is for the life of me, so I’m just going to call it a gin daisy. After I had the good fortune to acquire a bottle of Clement Creole Shrub, I felt a strong impulse to make a drink that would highlight this marvelous liqueur. Gin is often the most unobtrusive spirit when you need a modifying flavor agent to take the front seat, so I decided to make a gin Daisy. A daisy is simply a sour in which the sweetening agent is a liqueur instead of a syrup, and it is generally served up.

To insure the proper balance, we built this drink iteratively, tasting every element as it was added. This process is essential when mixing with unfamiliar ingredients, but sometimes it can take you in an unexpected direction. After building the basic sour, something was missing, so we added a quarter ounce of dry vermouth, and it contributed the exact flavors and complexity that the drink was missing.

Gin Daisy

1.5 oz Gin (Hayman’s Old Tom)
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz Orange Liqueur (Clement Creole Shrubb)
.25 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange wheel.

I confess, my orange wheel was having some structural integrity issues, but it made a good enough photo, and still served the essential purpose of contributing fresh orange notes to the aroma of the drink. Gin Daisies are highly underrated in my opinion, and a great way to beat the heat.