Measure & Stir

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


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MxMo LXVII: Garnish Grandiloquence: A Study in Garnishing with Cheese


If you were reading last week, you might have noticed that three out of five of our drinks featured cheese in the garnish. This was no coincidence, but rather a deliberate study using cheese as an ingredient in a mixed drink. I do not have a whole lot to add to the content of those posts, but I will note that while I think cheese can be an effective garnish, it is a positively disgusting ingredient to actually mix into a drink. Do you want to drink alcohol broccoli cheddar soup? Me neither.

Ultimately, I think would prefer to have a good cocktail, and cheese on the side, rather than try to mash them together into some kind of unholy Frankendrink. Speaking of which, all of the drinks in this post use flavor pairings suggested by molecular gastronomists, who analyze the chemical makeup of varios foods’ aromas, and use similarity as a basis to suggest novel combinations. Anyway, these are my creations:

Pineapple Under the Sea
We used kefir yoghurt to try to bridge the distance between pineapple and gin, on the one hand, and blue cheese, on the other. As the imbiber takes a sip of the drink, the smell of blue cheese fills the nostrils, creating a surprising synergy with the pineapple juice. Kefir is a fickle beast, as a cocktail ingredient, but the pineapple tames it nicely.

Rainy Day
You could almost call black tea, tomato, and grilled cheese a rainy day survival kit. We clarified fresh heirloom tomato juice using a coffee filter, and paired it with earl grey-infused Pisco. Savory drinks are hard to love, but the tannin in the black tea went very well with the tomato’s umami notes. Unlike in the Pineapple Under the Sea, you couldn’t really smell the cheese in the garnish, but it was still a tasty snack.


That’s No Moon!
The strength of the cheese in this drink was somewhere in the middle between the other two, with the cooked Parmesan contributing a subtle aroma to bolster the flavors of strawberry and honey. This was the weakest drink of the trio, and even though the nuttiness of the cheese matched well with the flavor of the honey, it left something to be desired. Actually eating the Parmesan wafer was pleasant. We used honey to “glue” the wafer to the glass, so that even though it appears to be resting precariously on the rim, it was in reality quite sturdy.


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Rainy Day: Tomato, Black Tea, Pisco, Lime

As you have probably noticed, this week is all about using science to take advantage of unintuitive flavor combinations by looking for chemical similarities in aromas. Today’s pairing is tomato and black tea. It turns out that molecular gastronomy enthusiasts have their own version of mixology monday, which they call “They Go Really Well Together“, and that’s how I discovered this particular combination.

The unfortunate truth is that it’s hard to get excited about savory drinks, and tomatoes lean very heavily toward the umami side of the flavor spectrum, so even if you sweeten it, it’s going to be savory. One trick I have found for making tomato a more appetizing cocktail ingredient is to clarify it, as we did during our Bloody Mary Workshop. The procedure is very simple; pour fresh tomato juice into a funnel lined with a coffee filter and wait a few hours. You could even set it up in the fridge and let it go over night if you needed to make a lot. The end product still tastes like tomato juice, but it has a mercifully un-chunky texture, which I think is the worst part of tomato in a cocktail.

I wanted to use a relatively neutral spirit for the base of this drink, and I’ve been flush with Pisco lately, so it was a convenient choice. In order to get some black tea in this drink, I decided to infuse earl grey into the Pisco. Tea infuses into hot water in a matter of a few minutes, and it infuses into strong spirits only slightly slower. I let the earl grey steep in the Pisco for only fifteen minutes before it became dark and cloudy with the tea. But don’t trust my steep time; as with all infusions, your own good taste must be the final arbiter regarding how long to allow it to infuse.

Rainy Day
1.5 oz Earl Grey-Infused Pisco (Tabernero)
1.5 oz Clarified Heirloom Tomato Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Lime Juice
Pinch of Salt
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich and a cherry tomato.

This drink had a tangy, pungent flavor from the combination of the tomato and lime, which also went nicely with the bergamot in the earl grey. I did enjoy the interplay between the tea’s bitter tannin and the tomato’s roundness, but as with all savory drinks, it’s hard to love it. Actually, James thought it might be the best tomato drink we have made, and I am inclined to agree. It didn’t have any of the salsa or soup qualities from which most Bloody Mary style drinks suffer. If you like tomato juice, it’s worth a try, otherwise, may I direct you to The Pearnsip.

Before I go, a quick note on the theme: I garnished this drink with a grilled cheese because I reasoned, on a rainy Washington day, what could be better than a cup of hot tea, a bowl of tomato soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich? This drink was my attempt to capture all of those elements in a single preparation. You have to eat the grilled cheese right away, unfortunately, as it is but a single bite, and it does not retain its heat, not even long enough for a photo shoot.

Salud!


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Flamed Pisco Sour

Writing code all day will make just about anyone feel crazy, and last Monday the monotony was starting to get to me, so I walked down to my neighborhood Sur La Table, and I bought myself a flamethrower. If you are putting together the menu for a bar, a flamed drink serves two purposes; first, it gets the attention of all your patrons, and incites them to order “the one with the fire”, which hopefully equals more sales. Second, it’s flipping awesome.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler describes a technique for flaming a drink in which he fills a pressurized olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of bitters and Stroh 160, and then uses it to flame the surface of a Pisco Sour. The Pisco sour is an ideal candidate for this treatment, because it is made with an egg white, and as such has a rich, foamy head. You could garnish any mixed drink with scorched bitters, and it impart the same aroma, but egg white drinks have the added bonus that you can caramelize the top of the foam, capturing the the flavor of the bitters as well.

The garnish in a drink should look beautiful, but it also plays a functional role most of the time: it gives the drink most of its aroma. A mixed drink does not have a strong smell, but a fresh herb, spice, or citrus peel completes the experience of the drink. In that sense, scorched bitters is the garnish, even though it leaves no tangible artifact in the glass.

Some men just want to watch the world burn. In order to take this picture, I had to spray fire all over the egg white for about three times as long as you’re supposed to, and the surface that was touched by the flame turned into a paper film with the flavor of crème brûlée, and a texture that I wouldn’t serve to anyone whom I actually liked. As a matter of fact, it took me three of these before I got it right, but the research was not unpleasant.

You probably know all about the Pisco Sour–Pisco is a type of pomace brandy, similar to grappa, and is the national spirit of Peru.  Moreover, the Pisco Sour is the Peruvian national cocktail, which they celebrate on the first Saturday of every February. It is a very simple drink, but there are a couple of interesting details, which I shall discuss momentarily.

Scorched Pisco Sour
1.5 oz Pisco
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White

Dry shake* and then add ice and shake again. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Fill an olive-oil sprayer with a mixture of Angostura bitters and 151 rum (or Stroh 160) and burn the top of the egg white foam for a few seconds.

If your drink looks like the one in my picture, you actually overdid it with the fire. You don’t want a slimy membrane of burned meringue on top of your drink. Most Pisco sour recipes only call for half an egg white, but I like to use a whole one in this kind of application, to guarantee that you have plenty of foam to work with.

The traditional garnish for a Pisco sour is freshly-grated nutmeg, and I honestly prefer that to the more common (in the states) clover made out of angostura bitters. Scorching the bitters is a fun variation, however, and worth it just for the pyrotechnics.

*A note on dry shaking your sour: I always used to find that, when dry-shaking my drinks, little droplets from the drink would escape from my shaker and get all over my hands and clothes. This frustrated me greatly, because in order to properly dry-shake a drink, you need to shake it mightily, and in so doing whip up the egg white into a rich foam. I asked around on the internet, and they told me that the temperature of a drink with ice is what prevents it from breaking through the seal on your shaker. So for this drink, I placed a single ice cube in the shaker for my “dry” shake, and I was delighted to discover that the drink did not leak.


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Pisco Apricot Tropical

Another one from CVS, The Pisco Apricot Tropical has a bit of a tiki quality. I was mostly drawn to this recipe on account of the apricot liqueur, which  I only recently acquired for the first time, and I have been looking for different recipes to showcase it. The fresh pineapple juice was a bonus, but I always enjoy it immensely. For this reason, I try to always keep a pineapple on hand, just in case I need fresh pineapple juice. Admittedly, there are a couple of cans tucked away in my fridge, because you never know when you’ll need to make an Algonquin or a Kentucky at a moment’s notice.

Once you start using a juicer, you will never go back. Pasteurizing juice is just a hair away from murdering it — the texture goes all gummy, and all of the bright flavors depart, ne’er to return. In fact, one of the major components of the recent cocktail revival is that bartenders have stopped using pre-made sour mixes and turned instead to fresh juices, which are superior in every way. If you have ever had a drink made with sour mix, you know just how awful it is, and how far we have come.

Pisco Apricot Tropical

2 oz Pisco (Santiago Queirolo)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman and Winter)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass.

Despite the sweet-sounding recipe, this drink was very dry and stimulating to the appetite. Pisco has a clean, crisp grape flavor, and it was a surprising match to the other fruit flavors in this recipe. They all blended together, and the end result tasted like  a dry white gummy bear. The key word here is dry; there was none of the sweetness of candy. This was among the best sours I’ve had all year, but I would definitely drink it as an aperitif, and not for dessert.