Measure & Stir

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


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Phat Beets: Beet, Rye, Cumin, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange Oil and Green Peppercorn

I know, I know, I haven’t written in a year. I’m not going to waste a lot of time on throat-clearing but I want to assure you that I’m still here, and I still like you, and as always, I want to help you elevate your cocktail game.

drink

I was fishing around for novel flavor combinations that would be timely for the winter season, and I found that green peppercorn jelly is appropriate to mix with beetroot, as is cumin, as is orange oil. I decided to put all four of them together, using beet juice as the bridge between the other ingredients.

For the beetroot, I ran several beets through a masticating juicer and then a fine-mesh strainer and then a chemex. Chemex clarification of juices works better with some juices than others. Beet is among the ones that work less well. Although my beet juice did achieve an elegant texture, its color was so dark that there was no noticeable effect of clarification. You could safely skip the chemex step, but you might consider straining through a 100 micron superbag.

I tried this drink with both bourbon and rye, and I discovered that the additional sourness that comes from a rye was a better complement to the sweet and earthy notes of the cumin and beet. Use a workhorse rye for this, as anything subtle will tend to be drowned out.

For the cumin syrup I toasted about a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds in a pan, then crushed them and simmered them in a 1:1 simple syrup until their flavor was extracted.

In the past I used to reach for lemon juice as my cocktail acid of choice, but a man can only drink so many lemon or lime sours before he starts to ask what other acids exist. Most every good cocktail has a source of acidity, except for the family of drinks that takes after the old fashioned.

For this drink I used a quarter ounce of 10 year aged balsamic vinegar. It is syrupy and sweet, but it also adds the ascetic tang on the backend that is needed to find balance and challenge.

Finally, for the green peppercorn jelly, I crushed ~2 teaspoons of green peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, and simmered them with sugar, agar agar, and filtered water. As soon as the agar dissolved, I poured the mixture through a strainer into a small mold and let it set in the fridge. In 20 minutes I had a firm, pale green jelly.

garnish

Phat Beets
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (RI1)
.75 oz Finely Strained Beet Juice
.5 oz Toasted Cumin Syrup
.25 oz Extra-Old Balsamic Vinegar
Express Orange Oil over the drink and discard the peel.
Serve with Green Peppercorn Agar Agar Jelly.

 

Green Peppercorn Jelly
250ml Filtered Water
1 Tsp Green Peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2g Agar Agar powder
Bring all to a boil and whisk until sugar and agar agar are fully dissolved. Strain into a small mold and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

This is not one of those viscerally delicious, I-can’t-wait-to-have-another-one type of drinks. I don’t think beet juice is anyone’s favorite, but my hope is that a refined palate can appreciate this as a much more cerebral cocktail experience. First, the imbiber should take a sip of the drink, and observe its sweet, earthy, and spicey notes. The flavors are more or less orthogonal and exist such that each is distinct.

Then, they should take a bite of the peppercorn jelly. The subtle piperitious burn lingers on the palette with an unctuous, floral note. Another sip reveals an unexpected synergy between peppercorn, beetroot, and cumin, pulling the brighter elements of the drink’s composition into contrast against the bassy note of the pepper.

I apologize (#sorrynotsorry) for the previous two paragraphs but I have been watching a lot of Iron Chef Japan lately.

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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Bourbon, Suze, Creole Shrubb, Spaten Optimater

This week is beer cocktail week, so we’ll be posting a series of beer drinks. Today’s drink came together almost on its own, although its construction was controversial. Joe and I were trying to think of something to do with his bottle of Suze, maybe a spirit-driven drink. We came up with an idea and had something that tasted marvelous, but then Joe wanted to pour beer all over it. We debated whether or not we should add beer for about five minutes, and in the end Joe convinced me and we did it. I must say that it was worth it.

kaiser suze

Kaiser Suze
1.5 oz Bourbon
.25 oz Suze
.25 oz Creole Shrubb
Dash of aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice, strain. Top with 2.5 oz Spaten Optimater (or any doppelbock will do). Garnish with an orange twist.

The beer we chose was Spaten Optimater, which is a dark German malt beer. On its own, it has a floral, malty, toasty bouquet and tastes of dark fruits – maybe prunes – and caramel, and finishes with a slight bitterness. What convinced me about this beer? Well, it just tastes great with bourbon. Also, this is one of Joe’s all-time favorite beers (as well as his father’s, so I’m told), and so in it went.

kaiser suze2

Even without the beer, this drink tastes great. With the beer, though, it tastes even better, although it does loose a bit of its hard edge. The beer’s caramel and dark fruit flavors complement the bourbon, and its sourness emphasized the bitterness of Suze. The creole shrubb is almost a cheater’s ingredient (it’s so tasty!), and the citrus notes in the beer help it feel at home in the glass.

Enjoy!


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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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Rum Cosmopolitan

Few topics in mixology are more divisive than vodka; I never thought that was the case, but there seem to be two major camps on the issue; in the first camp, there are snobs like me, who believe that any drink that is good with vodka is better with something else. In the second camp, there are people who feel that it is wrong to judge people for their plebian tastes. I think its safe to say that, for those of us in the first camp, we don’t seriously look down on people who enjoy vodka, we simply enjoy snobbery as part of the game. If you can’t enjoy snobbery, you are taking yourself too seriously.

Anyway, I’m done preaching. Today we’re going to talk about the cocktail that may have single-handedly started the craft cocktail revolution; the Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans made cocktails cool again, and raised the general public’s interest in drinking cocktails, which had fallen out of fashion as their production descended to McDonald’s-esque lows in the 1990s. I wish I could take credit for that insight, but it was Doug of the Pegu Blog who taught me.

Cranberries are in season, and as with our Thanksgiving drink, the Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour, we wanted to make a sour that uses cranberry juice as the primary source of acidity. To that end, we re-jiggered the classic Cosmopolitan around some of our principles here at Measure and Stir. First off, the vodka had to go. Our first attempt involved using gin, but that was a mistake. Doug warned me:

The ground is littered with the bodies of cocktailians who tried to turn the Cosmopolitan into a decent gin cocktail. The fabled Metropolitan heresy has wasted more good gin on bad results than you can imagine.

Cranberry-orange is a classic flavor pairing, but somehow it just does not mix well with gin’s botanicals. This drink became successful when we swapped the gin for J. Wray and Nephew, an overproof rum with some serious hogo.

Rum Cosmopolitan
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Fresh, Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries.

We replaced the sweet and watery cranberry cordial that is commonly used in this drink for fresh, unsweetened cranberry juice, dialed down the lime, and balanced the sourness of the juices with a whole ounce of Cointreau. The result is a very dry, slightly sulfurous cranberry-orange pairing, brightened by a bit of lime. If you like your cosmos sweet, a dash of simple syrup would not be amiss.

We garnished the drink with skewered cranberries, which look very nice but impart virtually no aroma. In a later version of the drink, which is not pictured, we also added small twist of orange peel, and it added both a splash of contrasting color and a mild orange oil aroma. Delightful.

Bottoms up!


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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.


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Bacon-Infused Bourbon

Like you, I had heard of bacon-infused bourbon, and this trendy process known as “fat-washing”, wherein a spirit is infused with animal fat. I was always skeptical, because it seemed gimmicky, and who really wants to drink a whole drink that tastes like meat, anyway? I tried some Bakon Vodka, and I was surprised by how mild and not-terrible its bacon flavor is. I was expecting artificial bacon flavor, which is disgusting, as you will know if you have tried such abominations as bacon salt, bacon breath mints, or anything else of that nature. I think the problem is that you can only really extract about half of the flavor, so such products always taste oddly incomplete, and lack the fatty savoriness of real bacon.

I changed my mind when I visited RN74 Seattle, a mere two blocks from my office, and tried an original bacon cocktail there consisting of bacon-infused bourbon, Cynar, and Laphroaig. The bacony qualities of the scotch married the bacon in the bourbon beautifully! So I knew I had to try making my own. If you search the internet for instructions, you will find a handful of websites describing the process, followed by the identical recipe for an old fashioned bacon cocktail. I followed their instructions, which are, very simply:

  1. Fry some bacon
  2. Drain off the fat, and measure out a third of a cup
  3. Pour the fat into some bourbon, and allow it to infuse for about five hours
  4. Put the bottle in the freezer overnight. All of the fat will have floated to the top by now, where it will solidify
  5. Strain out the fat as you pour your now bacon-infused bourbon into a clean vessel.

 

Since you can do it in one day, this is one of the easiest infusions I have ever made. The bacon flavor in the bourbon is incomplete, much the same way as in Bakon vodka or bacon salt, but the bourbon provides a nice rich base for it, and some of the fat seems to diffuse in the spirit, giving it a slightly thicker, slightly oily viscosity, which is not unpleasant. Since so many people went out of their way to give me the recipe for an old fashioned, I made it my starting point:

Old Fashioned Bacon Cocktail

1.5 oz Bacon-Infused Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.25 oz Grade B Maple Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir, and strain over ice. Garnish with a crispy strip of bacon.

The internet said to garnish it with an orange peel, but I think the bacon garnish is way more dramatic, aromatic, and delicious. The presence of a piece of bacon greatly added to the sensation and enjoyment of bacon in the drink, much more than an orange would. The flavor of the maple syrup was subtle, but noticeable, and a great pairing in any context.

Even though this drink is good, it’s more valuable for its novelty than for its excellence. I was happy to try it, but I would probably never order it in a bar, nor do I have a strong inclination to mix it again for myself. I’d much rather just eat bacon. Still, I wanted to see what else was out there, and I didn’t want to mindlessly parrot the same information that’s already all over the internet. So I did a bit of research, and I found this video from Jamie Boudreau, in which he offers up a drink called the Chocolate Cochon:

Chocolate Cochon
1.5 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
.25 ounce amaro Ramazotti
.25 ounce crème de cacao (homemade)
.25 ounce kirsch
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain over fresh ice, and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

This is the kind of thing you would expect from Jamie Boudreau. I didn’t have any Kirsch, but honestly, I can’t imagine that made one whit of difference. I combined all of the ingredients, pre-stir, minus the kirsch, and the only thing I could taste was the bacon bourbon, the bitters, and a touch of sweetness from the liqueurs. The flavors of chocolate and Ramazotti were barely there at all, except maybe as a hint of muddy complexity on the swallow. I cannot imagine that a quarter ounce of kirsch, which has a very light flavor, would have made all that much difference. I ended up compensating by adding a little extra chocolate, but on the whole, this drink lead me to a very deep understanding of drinks that use bacon-infused bourbon as the base.

They all taste exactly the same. The one from RN74, the old-fashioned, the slightly mangled Chocolate Cochon. It doesn’t matter what you do. Get a little sugar in there, a little bitter, and call it good. That said, I really wanted to try to make something a little different, and I had recently acquired a bottle of Lustau Oloroso Dry Amontillado Sherry, and I thought it would be just the thing to bury this bacon bourbon once and for all.

Hogwash

1.5 oz Bacon-infused Bourbon
.75 oz Dry Amontillado Sherry (Lustau Oloroso)
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir over ice and garnish with a flamed orange peel

This is a very recognizable take on the formula for an aromatic cocktail. It does not sound terribly original or surprising, but even so I highly recommend it to you over the others. Amontillado sherry tastes like dry white wine, with a hint of something savory on the tongue, followed by a vivid mushroom flavor on the swallow. The umami qualities of the sherry and the mushroom finish complemented the bacon while taking this drink in a very different direction from the other cocktails I have seen with it. Jamie was onto something with the flamed orange peel; that hint of a burned flavor is just the right aroma for this spirit.

Cheers.