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.

heavyhandedsymbolism1

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.

heavyhandedsymbolism3

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.

heavyhandedsymbolism2

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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Thaiquila

Brown, bitter, and stirred is a genre to which we probably don’t pay enough attention. To be perfectly honest, by the time you add two fortified wines, two liqueurs/amari, and/or two base spirits, things start to taste a little muddy. I went through a period where I mixed every BB&S that I came across, and they all ran together in my mind.

Fernet, St. Germain, Bourbon, Lillet? Reposado, Nonino, Punt e Mes, Tiki bitters? Why not? Appleton Reserve, Dry Sherry, Pimento Dram, Campari? Don’t mind if I do. Personally, I like to keep it simple most of the time, because I really want to notice each flavor distinctly. The theme at our last session was tea, and astute readers might have noticed various manifestations of Camellia sinensis in several of our recent posts.

For this drink, we wanted to infuse the tea in a spirit, and we chose an old favorite, Thai tea, which is black tea that has been flavored with star anise, crushed tamarind, and possibly orange flower water, and we infused it into Reposado tequila for about an hour and a half. It’s important when infusing tea into spirits to taste them frequently, to avoid creating a tanniny mess with a drying and unpleasant mouthfeel.

thaiquila

Thaiquila (Sorry about the name)
1.5 oz Thai Tea-Infused Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Amaro Zucca
1 dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

I love Amaro Zucca, and I found that the earthy flavor of the rhubarb was well-balanced against the flavors of the tea and the vermouth. 6-3-1 may not be the most exciting formula in the world, but it’s solid, and with careful choices, it can pay off in a big way. I always taste and smell a few different options for each slot when I am using a formula like this, to make sure that the flavors fit. Two flavors that are too similar will blur together, making the drink “muddy”. Ideally, the flavors should be far enough apart from each other that they all come through on their own.

BB&S drinks almost always benefit from a fresh orange or lemon peel, depending on the ingredients. Though spirits are very good at capturing aromas, they can never quite retain the bright flavor of fresh citrus oil.

A personal rule, though far from a universal one, is to avoid having two ingredients in drink with the same flavors. If you have orange liqueur, you do not need orange juice. It’s redundant. The only time I break this rule is with bitters.

On a completely different subject, and as a little bit of administratriva, we tend to have about one mixing session about every two weeks, and then blog about it over the next two. Most sessions have a theme, or an ingredient set from a particular market. We’ve had three sessions so far this year, and I’m going to start calling them out in the posts in question. Makes it fun.

I’ll be sipping on one of my favorite bourbons this weekend. I hope your plans are as exciting as mine!


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Libation Labs: India Pale Ale

Hello, everyone. It is the last day before our holiday hiatus, so we thought we’d end on a high note. As you probably know, this has been beer week, and we’re pleased to wrap up with what were, for me, the highlights of the week, which created when we couldn’t decide which direction to take an IPA-based libation.

east indies 1

My first intuition was to play off the bitter notes in the IPA with a bitter liqueur, and I selected Cynar for that role, because I thought that the bitterness of hops would be similar to the bitterness of the artichoke. And indeed, it was a pleasing combination. I also know that gin pairs well with Cynar, and further expected harmony between gin’s botanicals and the herbal qualities of India Pale Ale. We soured it with some lime, but then all the bitter and sour required balance.

I had intended to use simple syrup, but sometimes when drinks are flying left and right (metaphorically), and you realize you’re out of simple syrup, you let it overcook and it starts to caramelize. This is the second time I have accidentally done this since starting the blog; the first time was in production of our Banana Julep . In this case, we decided to go ahead and use the caramelized syrup anyway, and it worked even better than simple syrup would have, in my opinion.

Caramelized Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
bring to a rolling boil for ~ten minutes. Kill the heat, and fortify with 1 oz of 151 proof rum.

east indies 2

East Indies Highball
2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Caramelized Syrup (above)
.5 oz Cynar
2/3 oz Lime
2 oz IPA (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all except beer and then double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a scored lime wedge.

This was an herbal drink, effervescent, bitter, with a counterpoint of caramelized sugar. My favorite of the week. I do not have an exact beer template for you, but my general approach is to formulate a drink that tastes good on its own, and that I think will taste good with a particular beer, and then top that drink with beer.

I am of the opinion that mixing wine, including aromatized wine, with beer, would be in poor taste. That means that the base of your beer drink should be sour or succulent, or maybe driven by liqueur. I have greatly enjoyed beer drinks that use viscous, jammy preparations of fruit, including purees as well as actual jams. Beer is already thick, so it works well to fortify that with something pulpy.

If I had to give you a formula, it would look like:

Beer Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz Fresh juice or .75 oz Fruit Puree
.75 oz Liqueur or Syrup
Dash of Bitters
Shake and strain over ice, and top with 3 oz beer

But you’ll notice that maybe none of our drinks conform to that exact template. It’s all about taste and iteration, and balancing the individual flavors against each other. Beers are complex on their own, and getting them to taste right with other ingredients is nuanced. You cannot even rely on any one IPA to taste exactly like another; one might have more of a grapefruit flavor, and another might taste more like pine. That’s why you have to know your ingredients.

west indies

West Indies
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
.75 oz Falernum
.25 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
2 oz ipa (Ninkasi Total Domination)
Shake all but beer and double-strain into a goblet. Top with IPA.

For our second variation, and more on a lark than anything else, we wanted to try the IPA with rum and falernum. There was no deep thought behind this choice, but sometimes, the best drinks are extemporaneous. By now, I think we are all familiar with the combination of rum, falernum, and lime. It’s hard to screw that up. We kept the lime short and let the IPA do most of the balancing against the sweeter ingredients. It worked like a charm.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next year!


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Brandy, Kumquat, Honey, Weissbier

Before we get started today, a couple of announcements: First, this week is beer week at Measure and Stir, in which we will be making a series of beer cocktails for your enjoyment. Second, after beer week has concluded, we will be taking a hiatus for the rest of the year, so as to enjoy the holidays in a truly relaxed fashion. Third, we are approaching our 25,000th pageview, and will hit it sometime mid-week. Hurray!

beerquat

I have never been able to find too much enthusiasm for beer cocktails, but I think that their time for me has finally arrived. We have a few in the past, specifically Jacob Grier’s Mai Ta-IPA, and later our popular Stouthearted. The idea behind beer cocktails never really clicked for me because I did not like the viscosity of the beer in a mixed drink. What made it come together was a drink in an episode of Drink, Inc., in which they added orange marmalade and apricot purée. I realized that the viscosity is not a bug, but a feature, and that the trick to making an excellent beer-based drink is to play to the viscosity, in some cases by adding something even thicker.

I think beer-based drinks are perfect in the colder months, because their heartiness is warming and nourishing. Moreover, kumquats are in season, so we took paired a kumquat puree with a citrusy Weißbier, and fortified it with honey, another complement to wheat, and brandy, which pairs well with honey. The result was a very pleasing highball, which we served with a fat straw to allow the imbiber to get pieces of the sweet kumquat peel.

beerquat2

1.5 oz Brandy (Cognac Salignac)
.5 oz Kumquat Purée
.75 oz (Honey Liqueuer) Barenjäger
Dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Shake over ice and then doubTop with 2.5 oz Weißbier (Franziskaner) and garnish with an orange spiral. Serve with a fat straw. (not pictured)

The orange was very fragrant and the bits of kumquat peel were chewy, adding an interesting texture to the drink. Drinking kumquat pulp might not sound very appealing, but I was inspired by a drink I had in a tea shop in Kyoto. They served me a cup of iced tea with yuzu marmalade sitting at the bottom, and I greatly enjoyed eating the pieces of peel.

This drink was acidic and refreshing, with a nice roundness from the Barenjäger, which is slightly bitter.

Prost!


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Plummer’s Helper: Plum, Thai Tea, Ginger Wine, Lemon

Before last weekend, I had never tasted plum eau de vie, yet I have had a bottle of it in my auxiliary liquor cabinet for nearly two months. Eau de vie, of course, is made by fermenting fruit and then distilling it twice. It is typically unaged. Most plum eau de vie, from what I can gather, is made from Mirabelle plums, and certainly, my bottle proudly proclaims that this is the case. Eau de vie is expensive, which is why you don’t see too many drinks that use it as the base, but I think it’s lovely, and you can expect to see several more plum eau de vie drinks in the near future.

My initial impression of this spirit was that the flavor was light, and I feared that too many strongly-flavored ingredients would crush it. I still had some Stone’s Ginger lying around, and for a home mixologist, it is doubly important to use up a fortified wine before it goes off. I am hooked on Stone’s Ginger right now, so I had it in my head to use the eau de vie for a classic 6:3:1 sort of a drink.

The 6:3:1 template is a starting point, not an ironclad rule; in fact, it is thus with any drink template. It establishes a baseline, which you then taste and modify as appropriate. In this case, I added only half an ounce of Stone’s Ginger to one and a half oz of eau de vie, and I found that I could not taste the ginger at all. Indeed, the nature of eau de vie seems to be that although the flavor is light, it is resilient. I added another half ounce of ginger wine, and still the plum was overpowering. I added yet a third half ounce, and finally, the flavors came into balance. For a modifier, I still had some Thai tea syrup lying around, and it went into the mix, more out of a desire to use the syrup than in pursuit of some grand flavor concept. The best mixed drinks tend to result from careful planning, but sometimes you can get lucky with a shot in the dark.

Moreover, good technique and taste-driven iteration can smooth out a lot of the wrinkles in the drink-creation process.


Check out those lemon oils, floating on the surface of the drink.

Plummer’s Helper
1.5 oz Mirabelle Plum Eau De Vie
1.5 oz Stone’s Ginger Wine
.5 oz Thai Tea Syrup
1 Dash orange bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, and express the oils.

As we were developing this drink, neither James nor I were enthusiastic about the direction it was going, but the orange bitters and the lemon peel really tied it together. The first sip did not arrest my thirst, but in subsequent sips, the flavor started to grow on me, and by the end I was sad it was over. The plum was subtle, yet crisp, and the lemon peel complemented it spectacularly. The ginger wine could probably have been dry vermouth without a real loss to the drink’s integrity, though the thai tea syrup’s tannin brought a nice body and roundness of flavor that you could not get from a simple or fruit syrup, though perhaps with a spice.

In truth, I think this drink might work as well with pear or cherry eau de vie, but plum is what I have, so plum is what you get. Plum, Thai tea, ginger, and lemon; if only it had been Chinese tea, the drink would have been thematically consistent. Even so:
乾杯 (Gan Bei!)


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Thai Week Outtakes

Note: All of the drinks in this post were sub-par. We are posting them as a recounting of what not to do. Please do not make them, they are not that great.

We had some successes with our Low-Proof Thai Cocktail Week, but we also had plenty of drinks that didn’t make the cut. Two of them we already posted, the Miracle Mango Sour and the Lemongrass Soju MarTHAIni. They were OK, but they did not make the final cut. The lemongrass marTHAIni was too one dimensional — its only real flavor was lemongrass, which tastes kind of like a truncated lemon. Point of fact, it tasted kind of like a yellow fruit loop. Gross.

The Miracle Mango Sour was a bit more interesting, but it lacked impact. Even with fresh citrus juice, there was simply no kick, no bite, no bracing quality to it. Part of the problem is that soju is not high-proof enough to fully extract the soft flavor of a fruit like mango. As a result, the mango flavor in our infusion was week. Hence the maxim: give soju infusions double the time and they’ll taste twice as fine. But some flavors just aren’t going to come out, no matter how long you leave them. If you drank mango-soju straight, over ice, and with a twist of lime, it would be pretty tasty, but in a mixed drink it just can’t stand up.

Still, we were determined to somehow make the concept of the miracle mango sour work, so in a frenzy of mixing last friday night, we made four more iterations of it, and none of them were good enough of for the final menu. At least they look pretty.

2 oz Mango-Infused Soju
.5 oz Nigori Sake  (Kizakura)
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mango cubes and a lime twist.

This tasted good but it was watery. Mango-infused soju and nigori sake are both low proof and lightly flavored. We wanted to create a drink that was reminiscent of mango sticky rice, which is why we selected nigori sake. Nigori sake fills a similar role to a fortified wine in this drink, except it is, unfortunately, even lower proof that soju. Nigori sake is unfiltered sake, so it has a cloudy look and texture, and a sweet flavor. The taste of mango was light in our infusion, so I used only .5 oz of Nigori sake to keep it in balance. Perhaps if I had shaken this a mere ten times, it would have come out OK, but I gave it my standard thirty (this was the drink that made me realize you have to shake low-proof cocktails half as long). Even though it had a good flavor, we wanted to make it more intense, so we switched from mango soju to mango syrup.

Adding insult to injury, the lime zest in this garnish made a very discordant smell to the flavor of the drink. It was all wrong.

2 oz Nigori Sake (Kizakura)
.5 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
White of one whole egg
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Mango syrup has a very concentrated flavor, so our next idea was to use the Nigori sake as a base spirit, and get the mango in that way. This felt like it was going to be a slam dunk, but it was actually the worst of the bunch. The Nigori sake is so low-proof that even the bird’s eye chili could not save the drink from tasting weak. Worse, the mango syrup’s flavor was so powerful that it was the only thing we could taste over the egg white.

So for round three, we decided to concentrate the flavor of the Nigori sake, by simmering it on the stovetop and reducing its volume by two thirds. Even concentrated, the nigori sake had a very mild flavor, but it was strong enough that it did come through in the drink.

2 oz Soju
.5 oz Egg White
.5 oz Nigori Sake Reduction
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.25 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-Infused Soju
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango cubes and kaffir lime leaves.

Of all the variations we made, this one was the best. We used uninfused soju as the base (we were out of mango), but it scarcely mattered against the mango flavor of the mango syrup. It’s possible that the mango soju would have rounded out the mango flavor, but it’s more likely that you would not have been able to notice the difference. We cut the egg white in this one back down to .5 oz, and it didn’t foam as much, but it still added body, and the flavors all came through. It was decent, but not so good that I would serve it to a guest or in a restaurant.

Even if it had been good, it would have been impractical, because the Nigori sake reduction would have been too expensive to justify producing it en masse for a restaurant. Somewhat happy with this result, we decided to try again, from a different direction, and also a more economical one:

2 oz Soju
.75 oz “Thaichata” Red Thai Rice, Kaffir Lime, Bird’s Eye Chili Concentrate
.25 oz Mango Syrup (Monin)
.5 oz Egg White
2 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Dry shake, and then shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with skewered mango wedges a kaffir lime moustache.

This tasted like a slightly less good version of round #3. Instead of Nigori sake, we blended thai red rice with Bird’s eye chili and Kaffir lime leaves, simmered the mixture in water for a while, and then strained it through a cheesecloth. This procedure was similar to the one we used to make the Horchata for the Oaxacan Flower, and we loved the idea of “Thaichata”. Even though cinnamon is present in Thai food, we did not want to use it because we were afraid it would make the drink taste like more Mexican than Thai. We may try Thaichata again, but the recipe needs some work. As it was, it did a pretty good job of putting the rice flavor into the drink, and it turned it a beautiful pink color, but by this time we were fatigued of the concept, and sick of soju drinks.

Only later, we realized that mango sticky rice is made with coconut milk, but it was enough of a juggling act trying to get the flavors of rice and mango to balance against each other. Introducing coconut (i.e., more complexity) probably would not have magically fixed this mess. Gosh, I can’t wait to drink real drinks again!


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Pseudo Rum Cocktail

Errata: Yesterday, we posted that we used “coconut juice” in our Tom Kha Kai-inspired drink, the “Live and Let Thai“. In fact we used coconut milk, and the post has been updated to convey this. We apologize for the miscommunication.

Gosh, we’re getting a little bored of Soju around here. Based on the traffic this week, I’m thinking maybe you were never that enamored of the idea in the first place. No matter! We’re almost through it, so thanks for sticking with us. James and I are done with Soju mixed drinks for a while. We miss the bite of harder spirits. This last one that we are going to share with you today was an attempt to simulate rum in a low proof environment. After ten days of infusing, our sugar cane soju had developed an interesting complexity, and even, dare I say it, a touch of hogo; that raw, grassy, sugar cane flavor. It was only a hint.

We still had the Thai tea syrup sticking around from our Singha Highball drinks, and it turned out to match the flavor of the sugar cane soju very nicely. Moreover, the flavor of Thai tea, slightly spiced, with the roasted flavor of a black tea, did contribute a roundness to the drink that was evocative of the caramel and oak notes of an aged rum. We stuck to our trick of adding a teaspoon of bird’s eye chili-infused soju, and then added a dash of orange bitters for good measure. Regan’s has a clove and anise quality that complements rum very nicely, and similarly Thai tea, for it is spiced with star anise, and sometimes tamarind.

Indeed, a bit of tamarind flavor would suit this drink, but it would ruin it’s clear, elegant texture.

Pseudo Rum Cocktail
2 oz Sugar-Cane Infused Soju (minimum 10 days)
.75 oz Thai Tea Syrup
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-infused Soju
2 Dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Carve a piece of sugar cane into a plank and rest three star anise pods on top.

As soju drinks go, I enjoyed this one. Thai tea is completely delicious, and it’s really nice to drink it with alcohol, and without condensed milk. I can’t wait to mix this with regular rum! Incidentally, there were some Thai flavors that we did not get to explore for this round, particularly peanut and tamarind. I think this drink would be a pretty good candidate for a rim of crushed up peanut and sugar. But I’m done making soju drinks, so if you want to explore that avenue, please tell me how it goes.

Tomorrow we’ll post a summary of our experiences with incorporating Thai flavors into low proof drinks, as well as our final recommendation for a cocktail menu built around some of these drinks. Talk about niche appeal. Fortunately, the world is vast and wide, and there are other cocktail geeks out there, who maybe, hopefully, found an academic sort of interest in all this. Special thanks to Kaiser Penguin for inspiring today’s photo.