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.

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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.

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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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.


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Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


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Barrel-Aged Monogram

Well, OK, semi-barrel-aged. Barrel-aging a drink has two effects. The first is that all of the flavors in the different ingredients meld together, and the second is that the oak flavor of the barrel infuses into the spirits. I have had cocktails that were aged in mason jars, and I have had cocktails that were aged in actual barrels. I prefer the second variety, as I would imagine, most drinkers do.

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Generally one can only barrel-age aromatic drinks; citrus or dairy is too perishable to withstand the aging process. I wanted to try this process with one of my favorite drinks, the union club. My method was to premix all of the ingredients but the orange juice, and then add the orange juice at mix-time, as usual. I did not have a proper barrel, so instead I simply combined the bourbon and the liqueurs in a glass bottle with some toasted oak chips, and set them to age.

I tried the aging two different ways; in the first version, I oak-aged only the campari and maraschino, and in the second, I oak-aged all of the spirit ingredients. I ended up preferring the version with only the campari and maraschino together. As the flavors meld, they lose some of their distinctiveness. One of my favorite parts of tasting a mixed drink is picking out the individual pieces from the whole, and I found the flavor more interesting when the bourbon was separate.

Moreover, I designed this variation of the union club specifically for my birthday party, so I borrowed a page from Mark Sexauer, who made the excellent Humo Flotador for our Garnish-themed Mixology Monday.

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Monogram
1.5 oz Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
1 oz Oak-Aged Campari and Maraschino (1:1)
1 oz Fresh Cara Cara Orange Juice
Shake all over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Top with orange Scotch foam* and spray-stencil my initials onto the foam in angostura bitters.

*See below.

The orange and the liqueurs came together in such a way that they tasted very much like blood orange juice and bourbon. I think that owes in part to my use of Cara Cara oranges, which are a bit more bitter than navel or valencia. I did enjoyed the blood orange flavor, but on the whole I thought the drink on its own was lacking in brighter flavors.

We made up for the lack of brightness in the base by topping it with a light, citrusy foam. I followed Mark’s recipe, but I swapped out the mezcal for a blended scotch, which I infused for one day with orange peels, to help it match the drink below it. Mark’s recipe calls for two teaspoons of gelatin, but when I tried it that way, I found that my foam would begin to “set” in the glass and turn slightly jello-y.

I myself tend to drink mixed drinks quickly, but I have had many guests who prefer to sip slowly, so I halved the gelatin and I was very pleased with the results.

Orange Scotch Foam
1 tsp Gelatin
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Sugar
5 Egg Whites
3 oz Orange Peel-Infused Scotch
2 oz Lemon Juice
Combine all in an iSi Whipped Cream dispenser and charge with two cartridges. Shake vigorously.

After topping the drink with foam, we sprayed bitters through a Misto through a stencil that we cut with an exacto knife.

Orange, whiskey, Campari, and Maraschino. Shake, and garnish with narcissism.

Happy Monday.


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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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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!