Measure & Stir

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


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Little Mermaid Cocktail with Wakame-infused Aquavit, Lemon, and Champagne

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continues to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

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Once again, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Johan and I have teamed up to create a course of three food and cocktail pairings, this time inspired by classic fairy tales. Our first dish was a surf and turf inspired by The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

I chose to pair the dish with a drink made from champagne and wakame-infused aquavit. Pairing mixed drinks with food is much more difficult than serving the drink on its own; cocktails contain strong spirits, and they easily overpower food. The best strategy is to keep the drink lighter than the food, and to echo at least one of its flavors.

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To approach the seafood in this dish, I used a trident approach: first, citrus and champagne, which we naturally pair with crab, octopus, salmon, or oyster. Second, aquavit, to remember the bread crumbs in the “sand”, and to evoke a Norwegian feeling. Third, seaweed, for its brine and its bitterness.

I tried, many moons ago, to infuse seaweed into a tincture, but I was inexperienced, and my cocktail tasted like the inside of an aquarium. Nori was the wrong choice. This time I selected wakame, and infused 200ml of aquavit with a scant teaspoon of dried wakame for five hours. It took on a pale green color, and developed a thalassic minerality.

Many people over-steep their infusions. You don’t throw teabags into a pot of water and leave it for hours. You don’t let your coffee sit in a french press for a month and brag about how long you spent infusing it. So why do are you so proud of your over-infused spirits? The flavor of an infusion should be balanced and subtle, and when you make an infusion, you should take an active role in the process. Taste it frequently, and find the optimal rate of extraction.

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At its core, this drink is a French 75, but then again, almost every drink has a classic for its heart. That’s not because of some sacred or innate property of the classic drinks, it is merely that the classics have been selected and honed over time to form a basis in the space of possible ethanol-sugar-water recipes. For reference:

French 75
1.5 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Champagne

The other notable addition to this drink is dashi air, which I make by bringing a pot of water with a 2×2″ square of konbu and 50g of shaved bonito flakes to a boil in 200ml of water, killing the heat, and steeping for ten minutes before straining. If this sounds like cutting corners, it is, but I assure you my washoku game is on strong. Prior to boiling, I added 50 ml of mirin. I added it early, because I wanted the alcohol to boil off.

Finally, using an immersion blender, I integrated 5 g of sucrose ester (also called Texturas Sucro), which produces an airy foam. After pouring the drink into the glass, I carefully spooned the foam on top.

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Out of the Fathomless Deep
1 oz Wakame-infused Aquavit
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double-strain into a wine glass
Top with 2 oz Champagne and Mirin-Dashi Air

Garnish with a dried orange wheel clipped to the side of the glass.

Regarding the garnish, I sliced some orange wheels and dried them in a dehydrator until they were crunchy. Be careful not to get your orange wheel wet when you’re garnishing the drink, or it will get soggy. If you’re like me, your orange wheels will lose most of their aroma when you dry them. Since garniture is about olfactics as much as optics, I sprayed my dehydrated orange wheels with orange essential oil right before serving.

Since we used the same dashi air on the plate and in the glass, the flavors tracked each other closely.

Cheers.


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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.

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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.


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Mulled Wine (Glogg): Red Wine, Cognac, Port, Winter Spices,

Clearly, we could all use a drink tonight. Moreover, it’s winter and that means it’s hot toddy time, though I confess I did take a break to make you some ice cream. Let’s not overthink it.

I have made many mulled and spiced wines, and if you dig through deep history you can even find a forgettable post about it on this very blog.

There’s not a lot to say about it, to be honest. The basis of any good hot toddy is brown spirits and winter spices. Warm gin, is that something you want? Rhetorical. To feel the warmth from your drink, you need to use a rich brown spirit like bourbon, rum, or brandy, and to make a composed toddy, you need cinnamon at the very least.

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The cool thing about both brown spirits and brown spices is that they already have soft, “muddy” flavors. Curries and winter stews are the same way. They have big, layered flavors that all blur together into something indistinct, complex, and pleasant. We eat things like this in the winter because they are comforting, and the same principle applies to our drinks.

This exact mulled wine is a Norwegian variant of mulled wine, noteworthy because it is served with slivered almonds and raisins, which soak up the drink and, in the words of my friend Johan, “give you something to munch on”. I found the inclusion of almonds in this toddy to be a delightful addition.

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Mulled Wine (Glogg)
1 bottle of red wine
200 ml brandy
100 ml port
150 g sugar
2 tsp cardamom pods
12 cloves
4 sticks of cinnamon
2 split vanilla beans
4 cm of peeled ginger
2 anise stars
1 fat orange peel

Combine all in a pot and simmer for ten minutes, being careful not to boil. Strain and serve in a cup with raisins and slivered almonds.

As you can see, this recipe is straightforward. It will not surprise you, but it will please a crowd, and if you’ve been trudging through snowy fjords, I’m told, it’s the perfect pick-me-up. I actually scaled the sugar down significantly from the original recipe, because I like my drinks to be only moderately sweet, but if you are inclined to more syrupy concoctions, I could not hold it against you if you doubled it.

Hot Toddy Lesson Three: Use a base of brown spirits and winter spices.

Cheers.


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Mai Tai Soft Serve Ice Cream

Hey guys, I hope you’ve been staying cool this summer. Me? I’ve been keeping it -196C with some homemade ice creams and a dewar of LN2. I’ve been especially interested in making small batch ice creams out of some of my favorite classic cocktails.

For my first foray into the world of the glacier, I tried to render a Mai Tai into frozen dairy, and the results were sweet and refreshing.

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I used this Chefsteps soft serve recipe as my base, and unto this, I added the flavors of a classic Mai Tai; rum, orange liqueur, orgeat syrup, and lime.

Obviously, you can’t pour a bunch of lime juice into sugar and milk, so getting the lime flavor just right was the biggest challenge in producing this dessert. Instead of lime juice, I used essential lime oil, and a little bit of grated lime zest.

Moreover, I have learned in previous experiments that even highly reduced spirits do not stand up to the bold flavors of milk and cream. My approach, therefore, is to add strongly flavored oils and essences to the ice cream base instead, to mimic the flavors of my desired cocktail ingredients. Orange oil is much more effective than cointreau; juniper berries and coriander seeds steeped in milk will convey a much bolder flavor of gin than gin itself.

I chose to use a soft serve base because I wanted this to be a lighter ice cream, and because I was afraid the flavor of the custard would stomp on the already complex tapestry of the Mai Tai. To amp up the rummy flavor, I replaced the white sugar in the base recipe with Demerara sugar, to mimic the flavor of the rum. The end result still didn’t have enough rum flavor, (a good mai tai makes rum the hero) so I ended up serving the final output in a cocktail glass floating on top of a little El Dorado 12.

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, garnish it with a spring of mint. A Mai Tai without mint barely qualifies. Smack the mint in your hand and slap it all around the interior of the glass before you nestle it on top of that ice cream. Yeah girl.

Mai Tai Soft Serve Base
225 g Whole Milk
100 g Demerara Sugar
95 g Heavy cream
12 g Nonfat dry milk powder
3.5 g Salt

1 TBSP Torani Orgeat Syrup
A small splash each of essential lime and orange oils
Grated Zest of 3 small limes
375 ml Dark Rum
50 ml Cointreau

Reduce the Rum and Cointreau on a simmer down to 100ml total, stir everything together, and allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Then make it into ice cream using an ice cream maker or a stand mixer, LN2, and a blowtorch. Obviously, I favor the technique that lets you play with the most dangerous toys.

Stay frosty.


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Pimm’s Cup

It’s all been a little high-concept around here lately, so I decided to rein it in a bit, and share one of my favorite summer drinks with all of you. The Pimm’s cup is an English classic, made with Pimm’s No. 1, cucumber, and some kind of fizzy drink. It’s more of a feeling than a specific recipe. Here’s how I like to make mine.

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Instead of buying Pimm’s No. 1, I like to make my own. It’s very simple to make, and I suggest this recipe from Serious Eats. It’s just gin, sweet vermouth, and a little bit of extra orange flavor. Since it’s a wine product, it’s perishable, which is why I prefer to make it in small batches as I intend to use it.

Lemon lime soda or ginger ale are common, but I like to use plain old soda water, and juice it up with a little bit of grated ginger and simple syrup. For me, it’s all about the ritual, so I like to take my time and create an elegant plating, by layering strawberry, orange, and cucumber inside the glass.

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Pimm’s Cup à la Measure and Stir
3 oz Pimm’s No 1. (DIY)
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of simple syrup
Cucumber, strawberry, and navel orange to fill the glass
Soda water
Layer the produce inside a highball glass with ice. Shake the Pimms, grated ginger, and simple syrup over ice, and then strain it into the glass. Top with soda water. Optionally top it with a grind of black pepper.

A “cup” is generally a wine-based drink, and sure enough, this is that. I like to drink them in summer, and with this kind of dramatic presentation, they are great for entertaining.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Trio

A little more housekeeping here, just a roundup of my Valentine’s day menu from earlier this year. Each drink was paired with a small bite. I had attempted a Valentine’s menu in 2015, but the concepts never quite made it onto the blog. At that time, I had created early versions of the Love Letter and No More Cremes, but neither drink was fully developed until quite recently.

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Love Letter

Raspberry coulis à la Jacques Pépin, calvados, malic acid, rose air, raspberry powder, candied berries.

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Heavy-Handed Symbolism

Homemade chocolate liqueur, blood orange juice, citric acid, egg white, chocolate macaron with orange buttercream and candied orange.

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No More Crèmes in Brûlée

Buttermilk crème anglaise, demerara rum, whole milk, angostura bitters, tonka bean, caramel disk, doenjang caramel sauce, toasted brioche.

This was a really great opportunity for me to focus on technique, as putting it together required me to make classic French sauces, fabricate a liqueur, prepare candied fruits, german buttercream, two different caramels, and a scented cocktail air.

It was also another exciting opportunity to practice the art of writing a cocktail menu.

Cheers.


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Income Tax Cocktail

This is just a quick cut that I think is timely for the month of April. The Income Tax cocktail has a vague history that you can trivially find by searching for it on google. It’s a Bronx with bitters, which is to say, it’s a Perfect Martini with orange juice. I usually like to mix one up for myself on tax day, and that’s exactly what I did, plus or minus.

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The little hit of juice in this drink makes it much more refreshing than if it were pure spirits. You will find that the dry vermouth blends into the sweet vermouth, and then the sweet vermouth blends harmoniously into the orange, while the gin and bitters supply a solid bass note.

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Income Tax Cocktail
1 oz Gin
.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
.5 oz Orange Juice
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe. Do your damn taxes.

Ultimately the exact ratios are up to you, but I like mine to be classically jiggered, and I like the orange juice in equal measure to the other supporting cast members.

Cheers.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Red

I wanted to capture the feeling and the essence of the autumn season in a series of drinks that celebrate both its flavors and the colors. In that vein, I have continued to draw my inspiration from the Japanese concept of Shiki, which I learned at Bar Gen Yamamoto.

This drink takes inspiration from the classic Bacardi Cocktail, which is a daquiri made with Bacardi and sweetened with grenadine instead of simple syrup. Long-time readers may remember that I have experimented with the idea of a cranberry daiquiri in the past, only at that time I preferred to think of it as a Rum Cosmopolitan. I have learned a lot since then, and I can say with confidence that this iteration of the concept is much more refined. The flavors are tight, complex, and yet easily approachable.

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Colors of Fall: Red
1.5 oz Light Rum (Cruzan Aged Light Rum)
1.5 oz Cranberry Reduction*
.5 oz Fresh Grenadine*
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

In some ways this recipe seems very simple, though one can find an opportunity for artistry. In this drink it lies not behind the bar, but in the kitchen. For the cranberry reduction, simmer cranberries in a bit of water until they are soft and falling apart, and then blend them into a puree and work them through a strainer. I did not measure this, though I did stir it. It is easily reproducible if you follow your sense of taste. Cooking the cranberries brings out their natural bitter, sour, and earthy flavors, which we wish to accentuate.

A long and slow cook is ideal here, in order to concentrate the flavor. Too much heat will destroy it. Do not add sugar to the cranberries. We will find our source of sweetness in grenadine, which is made from fresh pomegranate juice. The pomegranate, like the cranberry, has a tart and earthy flavor, so it pairs well with the relatively naked cranberries, and saves the drink from being too one-noted.

For the grenadine, I followed Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s method. It is stellar. I chose to omit the orange flower water in this drink, though I did garnish with an orange peel.

The end result resembles a homemade cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. Preparing the drink is easy, but you will only have good results if you are attentive to detail when fabricating your grenadine and cranberry sauce. These things must be made according to one’s own good taste.

I tried this with a variety of different rums, and I found that the best was the simplest. And although I did not prefer it, I was intrigued when I substituted a half ounce of the rum in this drink with El Dorado 3 Year. The caramel notes of the demerara rum add complexity, but for me they took away from the central flavor of the cranberry.

Angostura bitters create a subtle spice note, to help impart a warming sensation in the cold of fall.

Cheers.