Measure & Stir

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


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Poison Yu: A Cocktail with Pear, Parsnip, Tonka Bean, Ginger, and Prosecco

I’m about to hit you with some winter-time Tiki action, a drink that manages to feel like summer and winter at the same time. Long-time readers may remember a similar experiment all those years ago in which James and I paired parsnips and pears, but today we have pared this concept down to pearfection and we hope it will be apparent to you.

mug

This tiki mug is one of my favorite pieces in my bar because it is so shamelessly gaudy. Tiki mugs are intentionally opaque, because most of the best tiki drinks are ugly, cloudy, swamp-brown colors. This is the price you pay for emphasizing flavor over appearance. For this drink, I didn’t want to be burdened by the aesthetics of the liquid itself.

I have never been a huge fan of pears, but there is a particular variety of pear called the Comice, or Christmas pear, which has a soft, custardy flavor and a pale green skin which, in ideal conditions, will exhibit a bit of blush. You can see it on the slices in the photograph. This type of pear is a hidden gem in all of the winter harvest. Its texture is like a ripe peach. I skinned such a pear, removed the seeds, and turned it into a smooth puree with a hand blender.

To be honest, the parsnip did not come through as much as we were hoping. An attempt to juice parsnips revealed that parsnip juice is a shockingly expensive ingredient per ounce, not even remotely practical as a cocktail ingredient. Instead, we tried caramelizing parsnips and then simmering them into a syrup with honey. It “worked” in the sense that there was a caramelly winter spice flavor, but there was nothing discernible as parsnip, per se.

To this I added light rum, fresh ginger juice, and prosecco, all over crushed ice. The prosecco did not keep any of its effervescence, of course, with so much crushed ice and pulpy pear puree, but its acidity and its flavor brought the balance to the otherwise sweet flavor profile of this drink.

drink

Poison Yu
~4 oz Comice Pear Purée
2 oz Light Rum (Bacardi)
1 oz Caramelized Parsnip and Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Ginger Juice
Top with 2oz Prosecco
Shake and pour over crushed ice into a tiki mug.
Garnish with Grated Tonka bean.

As delicious as that combination is, what really makes this drink stand out is an unusual ingredient called Tonka bean. Tonka beans are illegal to serve in the US, because they contain a high concentration of a chemical called coumarin, which has been shown to be toxic to the liver when it is fed to rats in quantities equal to their body weight. (Side note: Some types of cinnamon, specifically canela has a similar concentration of coumarin. No one has died from it yet, as far as I know).

Many thanks to the FDA for saving us from this dangerous, and delicious spice. Its aroma is like dried cherries, vanilla, gingerbread, and cloves, and yet there is nothing quite like it. I was able to buy some on ebay for a few dollars, and it came with a label warning me not to eat it, and a note about their use in “voodoo magick”. If that’s not Tiki, I don’t know what is.

This drink is named after a Chinese gangster who was active during the romance of the three kingdoms. When I read the story of this man, I knew instantly that I had to make a tiki drink that bore his name, and the “poisonous” Tonka bean was the perfect addition to drive home the theme of “Poison Yu”.

Cheers.

 

 


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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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The Italian 50

I have a long-standing aversion to champagne cocktails, mostly on the basis that I think it looks unmanly to hold one at a bar. The only glass more feminine than a champagne flute is a hurricane, but both are OK in the proper context. If you are sitting on the beach at a resort, a hurricane glass full of coconut cream and rum, or even a bit of blue curaçao is probably ok, but if you order something like that in a bar on a Saturday night, I will probably make fun of you.

Anyway, In Northern Italy, the most popular aperitif is a drink called Spritz, and when my friend Gualtiero came by with a bottle of Prosecco, I knew it was time to make a drink in that vein. The classic Spritz recipe is delicious, but it’s a little too light for my tastes, and it goes a little something like this:

Spritz
1 oz Campari, Aperol, or Cynar
1 oz Prosecco
1 oz Sparkling Mineral Water

Combine in a glass and garnish with an orange wheel.

It goes without saying that your prosecco, mineral water, and ideally, your bitter liqueur will all be chilled before-hand. I like this recipe, but I’m usually in the mood for something a little stronger, so I crossed a Spritz with a French 75, and came up with The Italian 50:

The Italian 50
1 oz Dry Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Campari
3 oz Prosecco

Briefly stir gin and Campari together, and strain into a champagne flute. Top with 3 oz Prosecco and garnish with an orange wedge.

This was shockingly delicious, but I think it would have been just as good, and more appropriate to its name, if it had been made with Grappa instead of Gin. Alas, I do not have any Grappa, and I did not want to use Pisco, even though it’s a close approximation than gin. So the 50 in this comes from the fact that it is a 2/3 Italian 75, which multiplies out to be the Italian 50. Next time I’ll get some Grappa, and we’ll get all the way to 75.

The French 75 is essentially a Tom Collins with Champagne instead of sparkling water, meaning it makes use of lemon juice for its bracing quality. In the Italian 50, I am using Campari for this purpose instead, changing the drink from a sour drink to an aromatic one. In any case, the biggest win here is inherited from the spritz, which highlights the orange notes in Campari with a wedge of fresh orange. The aroma of orange when drinking this drink creates a decadent synergy with the Campari.

You could use Cynar instead of Campari, and if you do that, then I suggest a wedge of lemon, which is much more suited to Cynar than orange.