Measure & Stir

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


1 Comment

If You Meet the Buddha in Norway: Aquavit, Buddha’s Hand, Dill, Lemon

It’s a cruel irony of winter that all the best citrus comes into season in a time when we are least interested in its crisp, refreshing nature. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to tell seasonality to shove off, because Buddha’s hand is only with us for a short time.

If you are not familiar with it, Buddha’s hand is a fragrant citrus fruit that is shaped more like a squid than a hand, but its skin is rich and oily with a flavor that is somewhere between a lime and a quince. It’s pith is light enough in flavor that you could slice it thin and eat it on its own, though it is a bit chewy.

Naturally, I made it into an oleo saccharum, along with some fresh dill. My inspiration here was a tuna crudo that I ate last week, which was served with tangerine gel and fresh dill. I liked the combination so much that I decided to build a drink around it.

Alas, the season for Buddha’s hand is upon us, but the season of the tangerine has not quite come. I found some exceptional satsuma mandarins in their stead, and paired the drink with a duo of salmon.

whatsapp-image-2016-11-13-at-21-40-27

If You Meet the Buddha in Norway
1.5 oz Aquavit (Linie)
.75 oz Dill + Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Distilled White Vinegar

Macerate the Buddha’s hand with sugar and fresh dill, and allow it to sit until the sugar becomes saturated in its oil. Shake, strain, and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with a duality of salmon.

The drink is named after a famous Zen kõan, which says that if you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him. And perhaps you should. I like to imagine that in Norway, The Buddha spawns in the form of a salmon, and not only do you kill him, but you fillet him, turn his belly into gravlaks, and quick-cure his loin with salt and sugar.

Moreover, you should serve said quick-cured salmon loin with dill sprigs, supremes of satsuma orange, and rock salt. This, I am sure, will bring you enlightenment. Many thanks also to Johan for making the gravlaks using what I’m sure is an ancient Norwegian recipe, which only vikings are capable of wielding.

Speaking of enlightenment, astute drinkers will notice that I split the acid in this drink between white vinegar and lemon juice. I’m almost sorry for the way this sounds, but straight lemon or lime sours are a bit pedestrian these days. We need a bold, vivacious source of acid, and for me, the slight tang of acetic was a perfect compliment to the cured flavor of the gravlaks, the briny caraway of the aquavit, and the ascetic Buddha’s hand.

Cheers.


4 Comments

Pining for a Caipirinha

I missed Mixology Monday this month, but last night I was getting into the Zirbenz and I suddenly realized I had a great application for it. So, I say in the video that this is for MxMo, but the fact is that I didn’t make it in time. Well, you can’t have everything.

Pining for a Caipirinha
1.5 oz Aged Cachaça (Novo Fogo)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
.5 oz Lime Oleo Saccharum
Shake and double-strain over cracked ice. Garnish with lime quarters.

I love Caipirinhas, but I think that as a built drink, it suffers from a flat texture. When there is fresh citrus in my drink, I want the aeration that comes from shaking. When you make a classic caipirinha, you muddle limes with granulated sugar in the glass, and the sugar helps to macerate the peels, releasing oils and juice. Freshly expressed lime oil is a big part of the Caipirinha experience, but I don’t like the fact that the ratios are unmeasured, so I took the elements of the Caipirinha and brought them into proper cocktail alignment.

Lime oleo saccharum is a pain to make, because lime peels are smaller and more brittle than lemon, orange, or grapefruit, but by using it in this drink, we are able to dramatically bolster the aromatic components of the lime, and get very close to the true essence of the flavor of Caipirinha.

An ounce of sweet ingredients does feel like a bit much, but you will find that, with the ice and the shaking, the drink comes out very cold, and the added sugar helps to punch through the dulling effect that cold has on the tastebuds. Moreover, Zirbenz is not a very sweet liqueur, so its inclusion is more about flavor than sweetening.

I always notice that lime oil has a lot in common with pine, so I put these two ingredients together to highlight that similarity. Zirbenz is a tough ingredient to use, because although it tastes strong on its own, the pine flavor is not penetrating, and is easily covered up by other botanicals such as those found in gin or vermouth. To be perfectly honest, if pine flavor is your goal, I think you would get farther using  essential oil than you will with this liqueur.

Even so, the Zirbenz has a raisiny quality along with its resiny quality, so it fits nicely between aged Cachaça and lime oil. I’ll try to post more often, I swear.


1 Comment

Punchius Pilate

For James’ birthday party, which was two weeks ago, we wanted to make a punch around his favorite spirit, Mezcal. (We also made Sangria.) So naturally, I turned to my favorite database of mixological knowledge, Cocktail Virgin Slut, wherein I found this little number, Punchius Pilate. This punch is a Frederic Yarm original, and we took only a small measure of license with his recipe.

In this punch, Fred blended Lapsang Souchong syrup with smokey tequila, grapefruit, ginger ale, and ancho chile. Here’s his recipe for Lapsang Souchong syrup, which we made, omitting the grapefruit zest. We also did not measure the spices too precisely, preferring to portion them by feel/smell. In Fred’s notes, he said he could have used more ancho chile, and indeed, I think we used more than he did in his original recipe.

Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
1. Boil water and measure out 6 oz. Add Lapsang Souchong tea (I added 3 tea bags to 12 oz for a double batch) and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the tea is steeping, muddle 1-2 cloves (I used 3 for a double batch), add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chili powder, and the half the zest of a grapefruit.
3. Measure out 6 oz (by volume) of sugar. Add an ounce or two to the zest/spice mixture and muddle to extract the zest’s oil.
4. After the tea is steeped, add in all sugar, zest, and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover and let sit for a few hours. Strain through a tea towel and store in refrigerator. Makes around 8 oz of syrup.

So, once again, we omitted the grapefruit, and used more spices than this recipe called for, playing it by intuition. When mixing drinks, it’s important to measure precisely, but when making syrups, sauces, (indeed, in cooking in general) we find that the best results usually follow from a mixture of intuition and trust in one’s own good taste. I do not need to know how much ancho, cinnamon, clove, and tea to put in this syrup; the description of the concept is enough to let me execute the recipe. To make it, simply ensure that all of the flavors are in balance, and strongly expressed.

We omitted the grapefruit zest because, in my mind, it isn’t really punch with out oleo saccharum, so rather than put the zest in the syrup, we started by macerating the peel of five large grapefruits in caster’s sugar for three hours, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. We also scaled the recipe up by a factor of three.

Punchius Pilate
1.5 Liters Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
750 mL Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
750 mL Tawny Port (Cockburn’s Tawny)
24 oz Grapefruit Juice (Ruby Red)
20 oz Spiced Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
12 oz Lime Juice
Oleo Saccharum of 5 Large Grapefruits
Serve over ice and top with a bit of ginger beer.

We tweaked the ratios a little bit, mostly out of convenience. It’s easier to pour in the whole bottle of port rather than quibble about a few extra ounces. Moreover, we used slightly less Lapsang Souchong syrup as a tradeoff against the added sugar from the oleo saccharum. The Lapsang Souchong flavor came through beautifully, so I have no regrets. I did not make an ice ring mold, I confess, because I prefer to serve the punch personally. I like to buy a big block of ice, and carve off a chunk with my ice pick for each guest as I serve it.

Moreover, I prefer to add a little bit of ginger beer to each guest’s cup individually, so that the ginger beer will not lose its carbonation in the punch. This allows us to bottle any leftovers and save them for a week or two after the event. It’s true, the fresh citrus in the punch loses some of its subtler qualities after about two days, but adding a little spike of fresh lime when you pour it mostly ameliorates this problem.

As for the punch itself, it was a big hit, and everyone involved sang its praises. I actually preferred mine without the ginger beer, as it was less sweet, and I felt that it really let the smoke flavor come through. I was in the minority, however, as James and most of our guests preferred it with bubbles.

Cheers.


2 Comments

Peach Sangria

For a party last weekend, James and I made peach sangria. Most people, I have found, are skeptical when I tell them that I am going to serve them sangria. They have, perhaps, a mental image of a cloying wine kool aid, syrupy, carbonated, disgusting. But sangria can be also be beautiful, subtle, sophisticated… if only you treat her like a lady. First, in my mind, there is no room in red sangria for fruit juice or carbonation*. Rather I like to make it as an infusion of fruit in wine, fortified with spirits. In this instance I followed my go-to recipe, which I am going to share with you now, but with one modification; last time I made this sangria, I had not yet learned the secrets of oleo saccharum, that most unctuous of syrups, and I felt a strong intuition that it would improve the subtle orange qualities of the drink.

(*We did a white sangria not too long ago, which contained both fruit juice and sparkling wine, but it was a different beast all together. Really, “white sangria” is a bit of an oxymoron.)

Take a look here, feast your eyes on all those glorious citrus oils floating on its surface:

Peach Sangria
6 Bottles of Your Favorite Rioja
500 ml Triple Sec (Cointreau)
500 ml Cognac (Salignac)
Oleo Saccharum of 12 Oranges
6 lbs of Peaches, peeled and cut into chunks
Allow the mixture to infuse over night, and then top with two sliced lemons right before serving. Pour over ice as you serve.

The brandy in this recipe is critical, for it adds notes of wooden complexity that give the drink a three dimensional quality on the palate. Without it, the punch tastes a bit flat. What is perhaps most striking about this sangria is its dryness. Though it acquires a mellow peach roundness, it retains the dry tannin notes from the rioja, a wine which, as a genre, has hints of strawberry and vanilla that marry well with orange and peach. Whenever I need to serve a lot of drinks in a pinch, this is my method. It does not work in the winter months, when peaches are scarce, but in summer it is perfect for a trip to the beach or an afternoon barbecue.

Indeed, these were the last peaches of the season. I have played with the idea of infusing spices into the wine for winter, but I’m not sure if that can still properly be called sangria. Cheers!


3 Comments

Bourbon and Stone’s Ginger

Quick Aside: MxMo: Equal Parts is up at CVS.

This is another one from my recent trip to visit my family, in which I found myself mixing drinks from my father’s bar. It was my sheer delight to find him in possession of a bottle of Stone’s Ginger, a fortified wine made from a blend of fermented raisins and ginger. It is sweet and has a spicy ginger flavor. Being a fortified wine, and given its flavor profile, it can be used in a similar manner to sweet vermouth, though a Manhattan with Stone’s Ginger is a very different beast, indeed.

For this drink, I followed that good old 6:3:1 template about which we’ve all heard so much, and I garnished with a preserved ginger heart, which as far as I can tell is a piece of ginger that’s been cut down to a roughly spherical shape and then preserved in a canning process using whiskey and sugar. It makes the ginger very tender, and you can bite into it and chew it.

Aside from the noteworthy garnish, there is not too much to say about the structure of this one; it’s extremely standard. I sweetened the whole operation some orange oleo saccharum (not the herbed one in that link) that I had lying around from an earlier drink, and poured it over ice. Orange, ginger, bourbon, ginger. If you follow the template, you will almost always have a good drink.

Untitled
1.5 oz Bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
.75 oz Ginger Wine (Stone’s)
.25 Orange Oleo Saccharum
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir over ice and then strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a preserved ginger heart on a bamboo skewer.

Not my most beautiful photo, I know, but a beautiful way to enjoy your bourbon. Serving this drink on the rocks made it a bit lighter than it would have been otherwise, and in the California heat, that is exactly what you want. Stone’s Ginger is an excellent product, though I have not seen it in WA. Definitely pick up a bottle if you have a chance.


2 Comments

Macadamia, Cinnamon, Orange, Rum

I visited my parents’ house last weekend, and it was my great pleasure to mix drinks for my family while I was there. My father’s home bar puts mine to shame, of course, but the majority of his collection consists of whisk(e)ys which are too fine to mix. As such, it was an excellent venue for creativity. I made an orange oleo saccharum, because they did not have any syrups, and I wanted something which would be versatile and unusual. A good oleo saccharum is really nothing more than a citrus syrup, but it is much better than any other type of citrus syrup that one could make, on account of its high oil content.

As I was searching the bar for spirits to pair with it, I spied a bottle of the now defunct Hawaiian Macadamia nut liqueur, Adamia, and I knew that I could put it to good use. I live in an old building in the city, and my appliances are old if they even exist, but my parents enjoy all the luxury of modern suburban kitchen accoutrements, including a refrigerator that makes crushed ice. Though I do not mind crushing ice with a mallet and Lewis bag, I was immediately drawn to the simple convenience of holding the glass underneath the ice dispenser and pressing “crush”.

Glass of crushed ice firmly in hand, I resolved to make something tiki, and the next thing I needed was rum. Fortunately, my father had a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Brown Honey Rum, which is probably the most unusual rum I have had the pleasure of tasting. It greets the palate with a strong honey flavor which is loud and clear even underneath lime juice, macadamia nut liqueur, and orange oleo saccharum. Dogfish Head also makes some of the weirdest (and most delicious) beers on the market, so it’s no surprise that they would also make very unusual rums and gin. Now I’m hoping they get around to doing an amaro.

Tkach Tiki Delux

1.5 oz Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum
1 oz Macadamia Nut Liqueur (Adamia)
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Orange Oleo Saccharum

Shake over ice and then pour over crushed ice. Break a cinnamon stick in half and insert it into the ice. Spear a lime wheel with one of the cinnamon sticks.

When you use high quality ingredients, tiki drinks practically make themselves. The crushed ice will add extra dilution to the drink once it reaches the glass, on account of its high ratio of surface area to volume. As such, a little more sugar is needed to make the drink pop. Depending on the rum you use, you’ll need to adjust your proportions a bit to make sure that the liqueur, the rum, and the lime are in balance. It’s not always going to be exactly the same, but the key is that each flavor in the drink is strongly salient.

And please, do not neglect the cinnamon garnish. The crushed ice will totally dull any nose that you might otherwise get on the drink, and half the value of crushed ice is that it can be used to lodge various spices and herbs. Of all the different drink formats, crushed ice provides the most maneuverability in creating your drink’s aroma. The smell of cinnamon combined with the nutty liqueur was positively paradisaical. It is important to break the cinnamon stick, and leave the broken side sticking out, as this will release the most fragrant oil.


2 Comments

Mango Rum Punch

“Wait!” I hear you saying. What happened to the week of highball drinks? I confess, a punch is not exactly a high ball, but we just so happened to serve it in the style of a highball, so I must ask you to indulge me. My friend James and I had scheduled a beach party, or what passes for one in Washington, and we wanted to make sure the party popped, and the only way to do that was with a seasonally appropriate punch. I knew I wanted to use an oleo saccharum as the base, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate rum and wine, but I did not have an exact recipe. I googled around, and I considered this Philadelphia Fish House Punch from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and this Chatham Artillery Punch from Doug, but I ended up just doing my own thing.

I did take some advice from Putney Farm regarding the ratio of spirits to wine, however, and chose to use three bottles of rum and three bottles of wine, but with a small twist. I wanted to infuse mangoes into the punch, so I did not want to use a sparkling wine, as the carbonation would all seep out over night. On the other hand, I wanted a touch of carbonation in the final product. James and I decided to compromise, using two bottles of Pinot Grigio for the infusion, and reserving a bottle of Prosecco to be used for topping off the punch at serving time. This worked very well, except we ran out of Prosecco about half way through the punch.

I conclude that we should have had two bottles of Prosecco. Alas.

Mango Rum Punch
1.5 Liters of Aged Rum (Mount Gay)
750 ml White Rum (Bacardi)
1.5 Liters Pinot Grigio
5 Large Mangoes, peeled cut into chunks
Peel from 10 Oranges
1.5 Cups Super-Fine Sugar

When Serving:
2 Cups Fresh Lime Juice
1.5 Liters Chilled Prosecco

Make oleo saccharum by saturating and muddling the orange peels with the sugar. Allow it to sit for two hours, stirring and muddling occasionally. Add the rum and the Pinot Grigio to the oleo saccharum, along with the mango chunks. Cover and allow to sit overnight.
At serving time, juice the limes into the punch. Fill cups with ice and add 1-2 oz of Prosecco, then fill with punch.

The best thing about punch is that it allows you to fill the cups of all your guests without sacrificing your ability to interact with them socially. Normally I am very adamant about avoiding ambiguity when “topping” a drink with something sparkling, but it was a beach day, and it wasn’t worth stressing over. Ideally, you want just enough to add a bit of effervescence. The punch weighs more than the Prosecco, so you should pour it into the cup before the punch, in order to facilitate good mixing.

The oleo saccharum lends a fragrant, unctuous richness to the entire drink, similar to the oils in a cup of well-made French pressed coffee. Usually the fruit that is used for infusing completely gives up the ghost, and there is no reason to eat it, but in this case, due to the short infusing time, and possibly the density of the mango, we all found the pieces of punch-soaked fruit to be delicious. When you serve the punch, consider ladling one or two pieces of the fruit into each cup. Even the orange peels didn’t taste bad, but they weren’t great, either.