Measure & Stir

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


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Cinnamon-Smoked Coffee Toddy, My Way

I could have sworn I had posted some variation of this drink before, but I could not find it, and that makes today your lucky day. I have been enjoying variations on this drink for years, and the combination of dark demerara rum and black coffee remains one of my all time favorites.

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We’re still talking about hot toddies. One of my favorite things about this style is that it uses a bit more dilution than your standard shaken or stirred drink. A typical shaken cocktail gains between two and three oz of water, but I like my hot toddy with four to five, holding the total volume of spirits and modifiers between two and three oz, regardless.

The extra dilution lets you take a bigger swig, so you can really feel the warmth of the drink all the way into your belly. “Watery” isn’t always a bad thing, is what I’m trying to say, but in this drink, I like a toddy with a little more body.

A more basic version of this drink is garnished with a cinnamon stick, but since this is Measure and Stir, I decided to do something a little plus ultra. My friend Johan just bought a Polyscience smoking gun, and I’ve had this cloche lying around for ages, so we put two and two together. The cinnamon stick is there for the aroma, but if we set the cinnamon on fire, we can mobilize that aroma.

Moreover, there is something about black coffee, especially South American origins, that reminds me ever so vaguely of cigarettes. I don’t smoke cigarettes, and frankly, the smell makes me nauseous, but even so, I can see why they are considered such natural complements. Perhaps the subtle smokiness of some coffees is merely an artifact of the roasting process, (it can get pretty smoky inside a roaster), but to me, smoking the cinnamon plays on that same natural synergy.

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Cinnamon-Smoked Coffee Toddy
1.5 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.25 oz Simple Syrup
4 oz of brewed black coffee, your favorite light-roasted single origin.
Build the drink in a large snifter and then place it under a cloche full of cinnamon smoke for 1 minute. Alternatively, build in a mug and garnish with a whole cinnamon stick.

As you can see, I brewed my coffee in a chemex, and I used natural process Panamanian beans from one of my favorite local roasters, Slate Coffee. I think every bartender, barista, and bon vivant should know how to make a good pour over.

With ingredients of this high quality, it’s important not to overload the drink. Complex coffee and rum provide more than enough intrigue for a drink like this, while the cinnamon aroma welcomes you in. The simplicity of this drink is a perfect way to illustrate:

Hot Toddy Lesson Two: Give your toddy some body by lengthening it with a flavorful liquid.

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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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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Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter: Easter Dinner with Cocktail Pairings

This is just a bit of housekeeping, because when I do a series of posts with a common theme, I like to have a single landing page for them. Herein, I will sum up my collaboration with Johan at Moedernkitchen on a four course Easter dinner with cocktail pairings.

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Shochu Think You Can Dance? / Shiso Ready!
An amuse-bouche of shiso sorbet, paired with a fizzy aperitif of shochu, ginger, daikon, and horseradish.

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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta and the Slaughter
Lamb “katsu”, smashed peas, rowanberry jam, paired with a drink of gin, sugarsnap peapods, green tea, and mint.

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Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All?
Rabbit leg confit, parsnip puree, caramelized shallots, “melted” carrot, paired with a drink of light rum, mango, carrot, and habanero.

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The Perfect Blossom
Cherry blossom opera cake, cherry blossom tofu mousse, and cotton candy, paired with a drink of white tea, junmai daiginjo sake, and preserved cherry blossom.

If it was not immediately obvious, our goal for each course was to appear in a different color commonly associated with the easter season. If our pastels were a little too vibrant, well, who really wants to eat pastel-colored food? Gross.

Most people don’t want to drink four cocktails in a row, even if they are paired with food, so I kept the alcohol content a little lower than average, (~1 oz per drink) and my strategy was to use abrasive agents such as ginger, horseradish, mint, habanero, and tannins from tea in order to offset the rich food. Mixed drinks often deal in strong flavors, and it is easy to overpower a food accompaniment.

For the best degustation, keep your drinks light and your food bold.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All? Mango, Habanero, Carrot, Rum

Hey guys, I’m a little behind in writing up my Spring Quartet, in which I collaborated with Johan at Moedernkitchen to create a four course meal called Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter.

For the third course, we served a rabbit confit on a bed of mashed parsnips and caramelized onions, topped with a “melted carrot”.

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I paired this with a drink of carrot, mango, and habanero juice, shaken with rum. For the mango juice, I sautéed a ripe mango in brown butter, and then juiced a second, raw mango, and blended the two together. This is a technique that is becoming old hat to measure and stir regulars, I am sure, although the brown butter is a bit of a twist.

For the carrot juice, I used the same raw+cooked formula, but I opted to sous vide the carrots at 85C for 20 minutes. Regarding the different cooking techniques, I had initially tried cooking the mango sous vide, but the brown butter flavor won out, adding a surprising richness. Unfortunately, it left behind some tiny butter particles in the final drink, which were not discernible on the palate, but which were visually unappealing.

In order to facilitate rapid service, I blended the mango, carrot, and habanero juice about an hour before our guests started arriving, and seasoned the juice with tartaric acid and simple syrup. I did not cook any of the habaneros. For my taste, I wanted the burn to be noticeable without being overly challenging to the imbiber.

I chose tartaric acid because neither mangos, nor carrots, nor habanero have a significant component of malic or citric acid. Tartaric acid is probably a flavor that you associate with sour candies such as pixie sticks or sour patch kids. On its own, the association is hard to avoid, but when mixed into juices or sauces it provides a clean, slightly chemical acidity that is a refreshing change of pace from other, more common culinary acids.

The motif of French meets Japanese fell apart a little bit in this dish. My original concept simply did not work with the meal, so this drink ended up being a bit of an improvisation. I used El Dorado Three as the base spirit of this drink, because the rum-mango-habanero connection was too tempting to avoid, and because I love Demerara rum. El Dorado Three is like Bacardi’s more sophisticated cousin.

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Do You Even Carrot All?
2 oz Mango-Carrot Juice Blend (see above)
1.5 oz El Dorado 3
Shake over ice and strain into a small goblet. Garnish with candied carrot.

As with the Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta, I suggest blending the fresh juices in this drink to your taste, and then combining it with a standard measure of rum.

For the candied carrot, I used a y-peeler to cut long strips of peeled carrot, dipped them in a rich simple syrup, and baked them at 200F for about 30 minutes. While they were still hot and pliable, I used chopstick to curl them into spirals, and then allowed them to cool on a wire rack.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: No More Crèmes in Brûlée – Buttermilk Crème Anglaise, Demerara Rum, Milk, Tonka Bean

Wrapping up my Valentine’s Cocktail Trio, I have a drink inspired by the classic French dessert, crème brûlée. They don’t want you to have craft cocktails, and that’s why it’s important to make them.

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For this drink I made a crème anglaise, and once again, I used my sous vide. This time, I adapted this Chefsteps recipe by cooking the mixture for 20 minutes at 82C, and then blending it until smooth.

Originally I had used whole milk, as the recipe dictates, but the drink lacked a certain depth that can only come from proper acidity. In pursuit of acidity, I substituted whole milk for buttermilk, and this allowed me to develop a crème anglaise with a pleasant lactic tartness.

This ingredient was nearly complete on its own, and required little adornment to become a fully realized drink. At first I tried shaking it with only demerara rum, but the drink was too thick; it was so thick, in fact, that shaking did nothing to aerate it. I wanted an airier texture and a lighter mouthfeel, so I ended up adding some 1% milk to lengthen it. It worked like a charm, allowing the shaken drink to hold some air bubbles and accumulate a pleasant froth.

It’s important to use 1% here, because the drink is already quite rich with milkfat. The goal is to lighten the texture, so whole milk is not appropriate.

I chose to use demerara rum as the base spirit for this drink because I wanted its caramel notes, which are right at home in a crème brûlée.

To cement the theme and round out the caramel element, I garnished with a caramel disk. The imbiber cracks open the caramel disk with a small spoon (not pictured), much as one would a real crème brûlée. Many thanks to Johan for this idea.

As with the Poison Yu, I grated a little bit of tonka bean on this drink, though I put it underneath the caramel disk, so that its aroma would only be released upon cracking the caramel.

For the nibble, I served a round of toasted brioche drizzled with doenjang caramel sauce. Doenjang is a Korean fermented bean paste similar to miso, and it gives the caramel a savory umami note. I was inspired by my recent trip to a Shakeshack, where they were serving miso caramel milkshakes. I also topped the brioche with a bit of smoked salt.

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No More Crèmes in Brûlée
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
1.25 oz 1% Milk
2 Tablespoons of Buttercream Crème Anglaise
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake and double strain, then top with grated tonka bean and a caramel disk. Serve with a small spoon.

Caramel Disk
Arrange granulated sugar on a silpat and then slowly caramelize it into a disk with a propane blowtorch. This takes a little while, so do it ahead of time and store them wrapped in parchment paper in the fridge.

Although this presentation was not as visually stunning as the other drinks in my series, for me, it was the most enjoyable to drink. You may have noticed that I used less alcohol in this one. When I jiggered it with a standard amount, it was slightly too boozy. I prefer to keep all of my drinks in a standard measure, but sometimes you have to break the rules.

The formula is really just an adaptaiton of an old classic, Rum Milk Punch. They drink about the same way.

I hope you had a happy Valentine’s day, or failling that, that you were able to drink away your sorrows.

Cheers.


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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.

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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.

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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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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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The Broken Shaker Craft Cocktail Bar in Miami

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I had the pleasure of visiting Miami this past weekend, and while I was there I made it a point to check up on the local craft cocktail scene. Wouldn’t you? Regrettably I was only able to visit one bar while I was there, but it was a worthwhile one. In fact I was pleasantly surprised; when I think of Miami, I think of long island iced teas and flair-tending, ala Federico here:

 

So imagine my surprise, and my delight, when I walked into the Broken Shaker in South Beach Miami and saw this lovely array of bottles, tinctures, fresh herbs, and vintage tiki wares:

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Ambience is important, of course, but the real meat of the matter, as always, is the menu, which I want to commend on several levels. In the past I had the probably annoying habit of wanting to order off menu, but as I have spent more time developing cocktail menus for different events, I have really come to appreciate the thought and the effort that goes into creating a well-balanced menu.

That said, many establishments simply do not invest the proper time attention when they create their menus. A good cocktail menu, as we have discussed, should be short and sweet. It’s better to have a menu with three excellent drinks than ten average ones. Moreover, too many choices will overwhelm customers and cause them to underrate their decision, regardless of what they order.

The bar manager at The Broken Shaker not only delivered a menu that was tight and to the point, but also one with a good variety of interesting and creative drinks.

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Look at this beauty. I can honestly say that I would like to try all of them. Each drink has something different and interesting about it, and there is a good cross section of different flavors and styles. Unfortunately I was pressed for time, and I was only able to sample their rum and coke, which intrigued me with the promise of a house-made cola syrup.

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Observe the attention to detail in their presentation, which used a red and white paper straw. Their syrup was spicy and balanced, an excellent improvement on the more classic flavor of coca cola. The advantage to a home-made syrup like this is that it can emphasize the flavors of whole spices and fresh citrus botanicals from lemon, lime, and orange peel.

The only disadvantage to this bar was that even at 3pm, they were packed. That’s a good problem to have, but it made me sad as I would have liked to grill the bartenders a little more about their techniques and philosophies.

If you find yourself in South Beach Miami, definitely try to visit The Broken Shaker.

Cheers!


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Acid Trip #3: Caramel, Apple, Fennel

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Today let us consider the apple, whose dominant acid content, like the grape, is malic. The thought process that drove this drink was very similar to that of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time. In both drinks, I have taken a classic flavor pairing which would ordinarily be cloying in a drink, and balanced its sweetness with malic acid. The standard procedure for this type of drink would adulterate the purity of the pairing with lemon juice, but with malic acid, we can find balance by adjusting a sourness which is already found in one of the key elements of the pairing.

Earlier this week, I had a drink made with tarragon and apple juice, and yet all I could taste was gin and lemon. This is a common problem. I wanted to make an apple drink that tastes strongly of apples, but which would taste more like summer than autumn, and to that end, I pursued a staple of the summer county fair, the caramel apple.

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Acid Trip #3
2 oz Fresh-Pressed Apple Juice (1 oz Gala, 1 oz Granny Smith)
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
.75 oz Rum Caramel Sauce*
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
.25 tsp Powdered Malic Acid
Dash of Simple Syrup
Dash of Barkeep Chinese Bitters
Dash of Absinthe
Shake over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a fan of thinly sliced apples and a try-hard caramel drizzle.

I made a caramel sauce using some Barbados rum that is probably better for cooking than drinking, and it adds a layer of toffee and sugar flavor to the already caramel tones of El Dorado 15. Caramel is the juncture for apple and rum, and I also suggest dropping shot of your most caramelly rum into a glass of apple cider. Apple is the juncture for anise and caramel, so that the sugar flows into the apple flows into the herbal flavor of anise.

You can follow this caramel sauce recipe, but swap out the water for your least expensive dark rum.

Chinese five spice bitters threaten to take this into autumn territory, but fortunately the fennel and anise flavor is the loudest, and the cinnamon and clove are mercifully quiet.

Cheers.