Measure & Stir

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


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Acid Trip #1: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Peanut-butter-jelly-time

Hello friends. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I want you to know that I have missed you. Lately in my cocktail journey, I have been contemplating the composition of basic drinks. With precious few exceptions, all of the standard drink formulas combine a base spirit with a source of acid and a source of sugar. In spirited drinks, the acid and the sugar often reside in a single bottle, in the form of a fortified wine. In a sour drink, acidity comes from lemon or lime, and sugar comes from syrup, liqueur, or both.

I have explored vinegar in the past, and also acid phosphate, but there still exists a lot of unexplored territory. Can the acidic component of drink mirror and meld into the other ingredients, as opposed to merely synergizing with them?

pbj2

There is a wide world of flavors to be captured in syrups and liqueurs, but in most drinks, we find that the carrying capacity for sweeteners is very low before the drink becomes cloying. It may be that we like the interplay between a sweet fruit juices and a liqueur, but that the desirable attributes of such a blend are overpowered by a balancing volume of lemon or lime juice.

This problem can be overcome by the use of acid phosphate, but although it is neutral in flavor, it is expensive and its acidity is low relative to its volume.

A better choice is to find a source of acid that can reinforce the natural flavors of fruit juice. Most juices contain multiple acids, but a very common one is malic acid, particularly in apples and grapes. It is commonly used in wine-making, but I have been experimenting with it as a souring agent in juice-driven drinks. Malic acid tastes fruity and succulent all on its own, and when it is added to a juice that already contains it, it reinforces and amplifies certain aspects of that juice.

pbj

Acid Trip #1

1.25 oz Wheated Bourbon (Weller 107 Antique)

.75 oz Peanut Syrup*

6 Kyoho Grapes, Muddled

1/8 Tsp Powdered Malic Acid

Grated Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Muddle grapes, grate a little fresh cinnamon, and shake all over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass with a lightly salted rim and garnish with skewered grapes.

Kyoho grapes are fat and juicy with an intense sweet flavor. They almost taste like grape jelly all on their own. I found some at the farmer’s market and I knew they would be perfect for my malic acid experimentation.

I combined them with a peanut syrup, which one might even call peanut orgeat, but how does one decided what constitutes an orgeat? Is it merely a nut-based syrup? Is it the presence of rose or orange flower water? Does it require apricot pits, overnight steeping processes, or perhaps the blood of innocents? Some orgeat processes I have read are more like a sweetened almond milk, calling for nuts to be crushed or ground. In any case, this is how I made my peanut syrup:

Peanut ‘Orgeat’

1/2 Cup Water

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

Pinch of Salt

Bring peanut butter and water to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Stir in sugar and strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

The resulting syrup was viscous, unctuous, creamy, and opaque. I made the syrup more intense by adding a bit of salt and freshly-grated cinnamon to the drink before shaking it, but you could also integrate them right into the syrup to simplify the recipe during drink service. I will definitely do so in the future. The cinnamon should not read as cinnamon; it should fade into the background and add just a little woody, spicy complexity to the peanut.

I chose to use a wheated bourbon for this because the whiskey is playing the role of bread to the peanut butter and grape. Without additional malic acid, this drink would have been too sweet, but the powdered acid allowed me to make whiskey and peanut butter sour, with grape standing in for lemon. Concept drinks don’t always work out, but this one did. I would proudly serve it to anyone.

Cheers.


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Kansai-jin: Peach-Bourbon, Pecan Orgeat, Lemon Peels

Pretty much the first drink you should mix after making homemade orgeat should be a Japanese cocktail, which is exactly what I did, with a twist, of course.

Kansai-jin
2 oz Peach-infused bourbon
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
2 Lemon peels
3 Dashes of angostura bitters

Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh lemon peel.

Instead of brandy, I wanted to use this peach-infused bourbon that I’ve had laying around since the end of summer, and I’ve had a strong desire to do something with peaches and pecans for a while now. Just like the Japanese cocktail, there’s nothing Japanese about it, except for its name.

Peach-infused Bourbon
1 cup Peaches, chopped
1 cup Bourbon
1 Stick of cinnamon

Combine the peaches and bourbon and let infuse for 2 days. Add the cinnamon stick at the end of the 2nd day and allow the infusion to continue for another day. Strain.

The peach bourbon was a huge success, and is one of the tastiest infusions I’ve made so far. Infusions of fruits like peaches or pears add a subtle, yet sweet fruitiness to bourbon, and I like to add some spices in on the last day to add a tiny burst of something to the bourbon’s finish. It’s been hard to keep this stuff around as it is a favorite whenever guests raid my home bar.

As for the pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we substituted pecans for almonds. I’ve found that homemade orgeat is much nuttier than the store-bought kind.

The drink has an aroma of lemon, peaches, and roasted pecans. The nuttiness from the orgeat penetrates the bourbon’s peachy, oaky spice, and the citrus oils and orange flower water in the orgeat add some bright floral notes. Overall, bourbon made an interesting subsitution for brandy, but I can’t help but wonder if it was too much for this drink. Perhaps it would have been better with peach-brandy.

Kanpai!


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Vanilla-Bourbon, Cranberry, Pecan Orgeat, Maple Syrup

Thanksgiving. Turkey time. A day spent with friends and family, stuffing ourselves into food comas. What are we thankful for? Bourbon whiskey, amari, and mezcal, of course!

Berry Nutty Maple Whiskey Sour
2 oz Vanilla-infused bourbon
.75 oz Cranberry juice
.5 oz Maple syrup
.5 oz Pecan orgeat
Dash of angostura bitters

Shake over ice, double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a pecan praline.

For today’s drink, we wanted to mix something using fresh cranberry juice. Let me emphasize the “fresh” part. Remember to keep it craft and always use real, freshly-juiced cranberries. None of that ocean spray 20% cranberry nonsense. Fresh cranberry juice is a splendid cocktail ingredient because it’s an excellent source of acidity, and using it is a great way to add sourness to a drink without relying on citrus juice.

To make pecan orgeat, we used the Serious Eats orgeat recipe, except that we used pecans instead of almonds. The sweetness of the vanilla-infused bourbon and maple syrup balance the sourness from the cranberry juice. The pecan orgeat adds a smooth, sweet, mild, buttery nuttiness, and tastes great with maple syrup. Honestly, when you make a drink using ingredients like these, its deliciousness is self-evident.

And now, to enjoy while perhaps sipping on a cocktail and nibbling on the last of grandma’s jell-o mold, I leave you with some lame Thanksgiving-inspired jokes:

What did the turkey say to the computer?
“Google, google!”

What kind of music did the pilgrims listen to?
Plymouth Rock.

What do you call an unhappy cranberry?
A blueberry!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


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Kenyan Ghost: Rum, Coffee, Orange, Orgeat

Another drink from last week’s MxMo tiki party, and courtesy of Kaiser Penguin’s archives. (Cached version in case his certificates are screwy). This is a very instructive tiki drink; it contains two lessons for us to learn. The first is a lesson about the construction of tiki drinks. The Kenyan Ghost contains a scant quarter ounce of coffee syrup or liqueur, totalling 6.6% of the drink. This flavor is quite subtle against the the canvas of rum, orange juice, orgeat, and bitters, and yet it not only stands on its own, but pervades the entire drink. If you were to forget the name, you might call it “that coffee-flavored tiki drink”.

And why is that? It’s because all of the other ingredients are tiki standards. You can mix rum and tropical fruit and citrus and spices til your arms fall off, and it will probably be awesome, and it will all sort of start to converge and taste like tiki. That’s the palette; as long as you stay in the palette, you get tiki. If you want to bend it, if you want to make something that tastes like an X-flavored tiki drink (for some value of X), you have to first make a tiki drink as a base, and then add that one flavor modifier. I haven’t developed any really bullet-proof tiki templates yet, but if you

  1. blend a couple of rums (Maybe one with hogo, maybe one that’s particularly aged)
  2. add the juice of a citrus fruit (lime, grapefruit, orange — rarely lemon)
  3. and the juice or a syrup from a tropical fruit (pineapple, passion, mango, guava, coconut, grenadine)
  4. add something either spicy or nutty (orgeat, allspice dram, angostura, cinnamon or clove syrup)

Shake it and pour it over crushed ice, you’ll get something in the right range. Proportions are left as an exercise for the reader, though you want about half of the drink to be rum, and you generally want an ounce or two of a fresh tropical juice, and about a total of 1 – 1.25 oz of sweeteners (liqueurs + syrups). Of course, when you’re creating a drink, always trust your palate and your nose. Throw some coffee or an herbal liqueur or some other oddball ingredient, and you suddenly have “that green chartreuse tiki drink” or what have you.

OK! That’s lesson one. A single out-of-palette ingredient, in this case, coffee syrup, determine the character of the entire drink. Lesson two will be revealed after the break.

Kenyan Ghost
1oz Pusser’s rum (Matusalem Clasico 10)
1oz Zaya rum (Zacapa 23. Close enough)
1oz Orange Juice
1/4oz Coffee Syrup (or 1/4oz coffee liqueur)
1/4oz Orgeat Syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/2oz Float of Blackstrap rum (Kraken)
orange slice and coffee beans, for garnish
Shake with ice and strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Float the blackstrap. Place the orange slice on top and arrange the coffee beans just so. Stick your straw through the hole in the middle of the orange and enjoy! (There’s more ice in the glass than it looks like)

Lesson two is the importance of the garnish! In the Kaiser’s preparation, he balances some coffee beans precariously upon an orange slice. When I served this drink to my friends, I actually followed his example, but with one small modification. I made small incisions in the orange wheel, and inserted the beans into the incisions. This allowed them to stay ensconced in the garnish without the risk of losing them.

You might ask yourself, how does this drink illustrate the importance of the garnish? For the version in the picture, I used a half-opened lily instead of an orange wheel with coffee, and the result was that the drink tasted flat and muddy. The smell of the coffee beans to accompany the sip drew out the flavor of the coffee in the drink, and made the drink distinctive.

Incidentally, if you want to save the lily garnish from mediocrity, all you have to do is drop a few coffee beans down into the flower.


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Sun Liquor: Libby’s Mai Tai

I visited the Sun Liquor Lounge for my friend John’s birthday. The Seattle weather gods must have been in a very unusual mood that day, because as I recall it was sunny and warm, and the Mai Tai sounded most appealing to everyone there. I am fond of the Sun Liquor Lounge’s aesthetic of faux orientalism, and I think that their menu is reasonably put together, with an appropriately-sized selection of modern drinks and updates to classics.

I think the menu mostly speaks for itself. Another Bond Girl is a playful and modern take on a Vesper, the Kentucky Cardinal tastefully employs a shrub as its souring agent, and the addition of rhubarb to the Bee’s Knees is a great way to incorporate an unusual and seasonal ingredient. This is all capital stuff.

Everyone in our party, however, opted to drink the Libby’s Mai Tai. I was a bit skeptical, because the drink as described is a pretty significant departure from the classic Mai Tai, which calls for no grenadine and no pineapple juice, and for orange liqueur instead of orange juice. I quite bravely ordered one, anyway. As you can see, it came in a tremendously large tiki glass:

The bartender built the drink in glass, neither stirring nor shaking. Such constructions are a delicate procedure, in which the order of the pours matters, because each ingredient has a different weight, and a proper integration requires that each ingredient be heavier than the last so that they will all fall in together. One upside to a skillful in-glass construction is that it produces beautiful color gradients across the drink, as can be seen here. This is, obviously, the function of the grenadine in the drink, though candidly, I could have done without it.

Although the drink definitely caters to a sweet-craving palate, it was not cloying and it is highly appropriate to the tiki genre. Still, one of my favorite parts of drinking a mai tai is the aroma of fresh mint from the garnish, which was sadly absent. Even so, I like the Sun Liquor lounge and I think their style and the quality of their drinks is respectable without being pretentious.

If you want to make their Mai Tai, you’re going to need some fresh grenadine, which you can make by combining equal parts of fresh pomegranate juice and sugar, and shaking them together until they are fully integrated. Caster’s sugar will dissolve better than regular white sugar, but either works. The critical thing with grenadine is to never heat it up. The best flavor comes from a cold process; heating it will cause many of the darker, earthier tones in the juice to break down, leaving only a candy sweetness. I’m going to give you Jefferey Morgenthaler‘s recipe, even though I haven’t tried it with the pomegranate molasses.

Grenadine
2 cups Fresh Pomegranate Juice (approximately two large pomegranates) or POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
2 cups Unbleached Sugar
2 oz Pomegranate Molasses
1 tsp Orange Flower Water

This is probably more than you need for your home bar, so I would probably halve it. If you add an ounce of vodka or neutral grain spirit, it will preserve the syrup for about a month. I like my Mai Tais a little dryer than the one at Sun Liquor, so if I were to recreate it, I would start here:

Libby’s Mai Tai?

1 oz Dark Rum
1 oz Light Rum
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
.5 oz Fresh Orange Juice
1.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz Orgeat syrup
.5 oz Grenadine

Shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig, damnit.

Keep in mind that I have not tasted this recipe, and it’s probably not exactly right. I guarantee my version uses more lime juice than theirs did, but then, I was trying to dry it out. If you want a more accurate recreation, I would drop the lime down to one ounce. With so much sweet fruit juice, you’re going to end up with something a little heavier than you want in the summer, maybe.


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Correcting Coffee

Boozy Saturday was winding down, and for our final round we decided to correct some coffee. James had some Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans that were pushing the end of their useful lifetime, and we really wanted to try correcting some coffee with Fernet Branca. I don’t have any advice about brewing coffee, but James’ steampunk grinder looks really cool, so here is a picture of it.

We tried a few different concepts, but none of them were surprisingly excellent. Fernet and coffee on its own is just missing something. The bitterness from fernet is very different from the bitterness in coffee, but the interplay is not intriguing; both flavors are merely present. Rye and fernet is delicious, and rye and coffee is very reasonable also, but rye and fernet and coffee somehow blended to create the flavor of a rotting vegetable.

I apologize for the unappealing description, but it was truly awful, and I want to make sure that you don’t try to make a drink like this. A quarter ounce of simple syrup took away the worst of it, but it was still not a drink I would serve to anyone whose friendship I valued.

Still chasing the tropical flavor from earlier in the day, I added rum and maraschino, and came away with something much more drinkable, but I still wouldn’t endorse it highly.

Sloppy Hemingway Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
1 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Maraschino (Luxardo)

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

It’s probable that there is some perfect marriage of coffee and rum out there, but it probably has Benedictine or allspice dram, not maraschino. Maybe it doesn’t contain a liqueur at all, but a bit of simple syrup. A tragic truth: the world is full of coffees and and rums, and you’ll never be able to try all of them with all of them.

And of course, our old pal, orgeat, was still hanging around, so we tried once more, and this was the best of the three, but still not quite where I wanted.

Mai Tai Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
.5 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

The almond latte is a very common drink, so adding rum to coffee was a very natural extension. I think the concept with this variation is sound, but the specific rum and coffee that we used were ill-suited to each other. A grate of lime zest might be a welcome addition, also. Fortunately, we can brew more coffee.


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Mai Ta-IPA

Happy Thursday! I hope you had a great fourth of July. After all that time in the heat, it’s time to cool down with one of my favorite drinks, the Mai Tai.

When I encountered this variant from Jacob Grier, I knew that I had to try it. I diverged slightly from his formulation, in that I used the traditional Mai Tai garnishes of mint leaves and a smashed half lime, whereas he used a cherry. I also used a shorter glass, because I wanted to highlight the experience of inhaling the aroma of the garnish.

For the IPA, We (that is, I and my usual confederates) decided to use Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, and I took the opportunity to use the last of the Orgeat from last week.

Mai Ta-IPA

1 oz El Dorado white rum (Cruzan)
1 oz El Dorado 8 year aged rum (Matusalem Clasico 10)
1 1/2 oz IPA (Dogfish Head 90 Minute)
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz Orgeat (Homemade)
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur (Clement Creole Shrub)

Shake all but IPA over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Top with IPA and garnish with mint leaves and a smashed half-lime shell.

I was drawn to this recipe because I thought the IPA would be an unusual way to add bitterness to a drink that relies on citrus to be sour and bright. I have lost untold hours of sleep looking for a way to combine bitterness and sourness in interesting ways, and the sad truth is that these types of flavors don’t play all that well together. IPA accomplishes this marriage effortlessly, by combining the sourness of fermentation with the bitterness of hops.

To be honest, I didn’t care for the beery sourness of this drink on top of the other flavors in the Mai Tai — but then, when it comes to Mai Tais, I am a bit of a purist. This was actually the first drink I have mixed with beer, and while it won’t be the last, it will probably be the last for a while. I enjoy fine beers, but beer and spirits together rarely suit my personal taste. Even so, it was a fun experiment.