Measure & Stir

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


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How Bout Some Hot Chocolate Huh?

To be honest, I don’t have that much to say about this. Is a hot chocolate a hot toddy? It’s one of those wacky philosophy questions; irrelevant, precious, and decadent, like the Gettier Problem. I made this drink by request, since after Johan made his chocolate entremet, he had a big bowl of leftover sour cream dulcey chocolate mousse, and let’s be real, the cocoa bean is his dark master.

To make the chocolate base, we used whole non-homogenized jersey milk, and melted in chopped up feuves of Valrhona Araguani 72% and Valrhona Caramellia. To the chocolate base we added Frangelico, George Dickel Rye, and Angostura bitters. For garnish, we used a dollop of sour cream mousse, which Johan describes in pain-staking detail.

hot-chocolate

Hot Chocolate (Cocktailish Proportions)
.5 oz Rye (George Dickel)
.5 oz Frangelico
5 oz Hot chocolate milk
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Garnish with a healthy dollop of Sour Cream Dulcey Chocolate Mousse

Remember, your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put into it. When your drink is mostly milk and chocolate, that means you need to use good milk and good chocolate.

An unfortunate quality to hot milk drinks: they seem to make the burn of strong spirits more pronounced. If you pour the booze much heavier, the drink becomes less soothing and more abrasive.

Hot Toddy Lesson Five: Use a lower ABV when lengthening with milk.

Cheers.


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My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious: Rye, Buddha’s Hand, Lemon

Note: While you read this post, please bask in the glow of this early 2000s pop smash, Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child.

I know, I just did a Buddha’s Hand Cocktail, but then I realized I had an opportunity to make a drink with the best name in the history of my blog.

In last week’s post, I tried to capitalize on a complex harmony between dill, citrus, salmon, and aquavit. For this hot toddy, I wanted to get back to the essence of the Buddha’s Hand. At its heart, a hot toddy is pretty close to a classic punch, but with the “weak” element heated. Your classic punch is 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak. This is usually rendered as lime juice, simple syrup, rum, and water, but if you make that drink, it doesn’t feel quite right:

1-2-3-4 punch?
.5 oz lime
1 oz simple syrup
1.5 oz rum
2 oz water

After shaking with ice, you can expect your 3 oz cocktail to gain about 2 oz of water. Personally though, I prefer .75 oz of lime, and .5 oz of sugar, for a 1.5-1-3-4 sort of ratio. Well, times and tastes changes. Anyway, all of this is a long lead up to say that a classic punch is usually made with an oleo saccharum, and in this instance, the classic punch ratio ended up being perfect. Perhaps oleo saccharum isn’t as sweet as 1:1 simple syrup?

toddysobuddhalicious Please note that the rosemary above was completely decorative, sandwiched in between two separable glass pieces in the unique serving vessel that we found for this drink. A stemless cocktail glass sits snugly inside a glass bowl, insulated by a layer of air. Not only is this perfect for keeping your drink warm, but it has a bulbous shape that reminded me of a laughing Buddha. Of course, one of these Buddha Tiki Mugs would be even better.

My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious
1.5 oz rye (Dickel)
1 oz Dilled Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz lemon juice
Top with 2 oz boiling water and float a single star anise inside.

As you will recall, the Buddha’s hand oleo from last week had some dill in it, but by the time I made this drink a couple days later, the dill flavor had mellowed substantially. I chose rye to further blur the flavor of dill in the drink, a job it did admirably owing to its pickley notes. Lemon flavor is similar enough to Buddha’s hand that it can play a supporting role, while leaving the oily fragrance of its lead to be the star.

This drink captured the flavor of Buddha’s hand with a lot of purity. In a way, it tasted like an idealized Buddha’s hand might, if only the fruit had flesh to go with its unctuous skin.

I got away from winter spices this week, which allowed us to focus on the core composition of this style. Hot Toddy Lesson Four: A toddy is a classic punch.


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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.

drink

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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The Grimace: Rye, Lemon, Sweet Purple Yam Jam

Ube Halaya, or Sweet Purple Yam Jam (it’s fun to say!) is a popular flavor in the Philipines. If you are looking for wacky cocktail ideas for your admittedly gimmicky blog, (I prefer to think of it as cocktail entertainment), you could do a lot worse than to take a stroll through an ethnic market that is not catering to SWPL people.

the grimace 2

It was in such hallowed halls that I found rainbow-dyed sweetened dried coconut strips, and also a smooth-textured jam of purple yams. The jam was very sweet, and the best way to balance it was against some lemon juice.

As much as I try not to endlessly make different-flavored sours, it is a reliable choice, because it always tastes good. If you get into a cocktail-making challenge, just mix lemon, a base spirit, and an appropriate sweetener. You will not win on originality, but you will probably win on flavor.

the grimace 1

The Grimace
2 oz Woodinville Rye
.5 oz Ube Jam (adjust to your taste)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with rainbow coconut strips.

The cone of purple and the rainbow pastels had a McDonaldsy aesthetic, so I called it the Grimace. I admit it might not be the most appealing name, but it was delicious. The yam was beautiful with the spicy, woody taste of the rye.

By the way, Woodinville Rye is phenomenal. It was a tad pricey in Seattle, but the flavor of the mash is bright and distinctive. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys whiskey, or anyone who ought to, which is everyone.


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A More Refined Whiskey and Coke

After fixing up the Cosmopolitan, I had a bit of an ego trip, and decided to follow it up with a better Whiskey and Coke. This drink is a mashup of two ideas in the space around coca-cola. First, a Cuba-Libre is about one thousand times better than a rum and coke; the lime juice balances against the sweetness of the cola, and complements the spirit. Second, Fernet and Coke is a popular drink in Argentina. Indeed, this makes sense, as the Dirt and Diesel, a drink with dark rum, lime, and fernet has a flavor which is reminiscent of a Cuba-Libre.

So our thinking here was to combine the concepts of a whiskey and coke, a fernet and coke, and a Cuba-Libre. Our first attempt with Fernet was not an overwhelming success. The Fernet dominated the drink, and the flavors did not come together the way we were hoping. There was something missing or something dissonant. Rather than try to add yet a fifth ingredient, we swapped the Fernet for the Dirt and Diesel‘s other bitter component, Cynar, and it was much more harmonious. The Cynar was not as bitter as the Fernet, of course, so we rounded it out with a dash of bitters.


Improved Whiskey Coke
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse Bonded)
.75 oz Cynar
.5 oz Lime Juice
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
2 oz High Quality Cola
Shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz high quality Cola and garnish with a lime wheel.

This was a great highball, but Cola is not my favorite thing to drink. It will taste much better if you use your favorite local artisanal cola, or failing that, Mexican coke, the kind that uses real sugar and comes in a glass bottle. We used Trader Joe’s “Vintage Cola”, and I must confess, I was disappointed with it. In Seattle, Pig Iron Cola is our favorite, and a much more solid choice.

If you want to splurge on the garnish, you could always use a vanilla bean molded into a straw, as in this Bacardi ad. If you haven’t seen them, the entire series of commercials is worth watching. They have high production values and interesting (maybe accurate?) trivia. I especially enjoy their twist on the mojito.

Cheers!


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Vessel In Seattle

Back before I got into this whole craft cocktail scene, there was a bar in Seattle called Vessel, and they were famous for pioneering a lot of molecular mixology techniques, and for the general quality of their drinks and their atmosphere. Sadly, they closed in 2010, and I never got to visit them. They’re back, sort of, and at a new, bigger downtown location. When I heard that they were re-opening, I visited them that same week, but I didn’t get around to posting about it until today. That’s probably my loss, because I missed the buzz, but I think it’s still soon enough to care.

Their big gimmick this time is a rotating bar staff. It seems like the deal is, each bartender who appears there brings his or her own menu to the establishment. On my visit, the bartenders were Michael Bertrand of Mistral Kitchen and Kevin Langmack of Knee High Stocking Co. Their menus were thus:

To be honest, I was expecting a bit more. No offense to these seasoned veterans, but these drinks are all so safe. I want recipes that push the envelope! I want drinks on the cutting edge of mixology, with flavor combinations and techniques that I’ve never seen before. Instead you hit me with a vesper, a gin and tonic, and a sidecar with expensive brandy. This is the kind of menu I expect in an old money hotel, not a bar that was renowned in its heyday for molecular mixology. There’s nothing wrong with any of these recipes, but neither is there anything exciting.

Of course, if you go, the menu will probably be totally different. As such, I give them two out of ten for creativity, but nine out of ten for execution. All of the drinks we ordered were beautifully presented, and executed with technical excellence. John ordered a Preakness, which is not on their menu, but it is a common Manhattan variation containing Benedictine:

Very nice glassware. I ordered a Violette Fizz:

Truly a beautiful fizz, but alas, in a very impractical glass. As I drank it, a portion of the head persisted and ultimately clogged the flow of the drink through the glass when it reached the narrowest part of the glass, forcing me to tilt it to a precarious angle. This is a minor quibble however, as the glass was very elegant. Still, if the radius were constant across the length of the glass, I would have been better served.

James ordered the Batcat, a mix of rye, sweet vermouth, fernet branca, and elderflower liqueur:

I apologize for the terrible photo, but as you can sort of see, the drink came with a sphere of beautifully clear ice, cut to fit exactly within the glass, and the sphere was circumscribed by a spiral of orange peel for which a whole orange gave its life. James and I both tasted the drink and found the flavor to be very light. It was over-diluted, but it was probably not the bartender’s fault, it was probably the fault of the waitstaff.

The service was agonizingly slow, but I was willing to give them some leeway in their opening week. It takes a while to get all the bugs out of your service pipeline, I am sure. Did we sit at the table for fifteen minutes before anyone even took our order? Yes. Did it take them another twenty five to bring us our drinks? Also yes. But like I said, leeway.

Since I’m already slinging hate, I might as well take this opportunity to mention the acoustics, which are a crime against the fine art of architecting interior spaces. Maybe it’s the high ceilings, but every word of every patron echoes in this bar, and makes it very loud even when it is not particularly crowded. I wouldn’t take anyone here if I wanted to have a conversation with them. On the plus side, the hand soap in the bathroom contains rum.

The food was mediocre. We ordered foie gras popcorn, and it was a staunch reminder as to why no one sautes liver and then tosses it with popcorn. The high fat content of the liver killed all the crispness of the popcorn, while imparting only the scarcest flavor of foie gras. The hummus platter, though beautifully plated, was nothing I couldn’t get from Trader Joe’s. The carpaccio was adequate, however. Delicious and reasonably portioned for the price.

Over all, if you’re downtown, stick to the Mistral Kitchen or the Zig Zag Cafe. If you’re not tied to a particular locale within Seattle, may I recommend the Canon. It is clearly at the top of the craft bartending game in Seattle right now.


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Gastrique Sour

Last weekend I was feeling astringent, and that meant it was time to make gastrique.  I confess, what I truly desired was not a gastrique but a shrub, but shrubs take several days to make, whereas you can cook up a gastrique in much less than an hour. Both ingredients are made from sugar and vinegar, so if you desire the tang of acetic acid and you don’t have the luxury of waiting two days for your syrup to pickle, a gastrique might be the previously unknown secret desire of your heart.

I followed this Serious Eats recipe, which I shall recount briefly for you here, in case clicking on one more hyperlink is too much effort for your web-weary mind and fingers.

Blueberry Gastrique
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup smashed blueberries

Combine water and sugar in a pot and cook on medium high heat. Prior to cooking, the sugar should have the texture of wet sand. Heat the sugar until it dissolves and begins to bubble and undulate. Do not stir. Watch the sugar until it has caramelized into a beautiful golden brown, and then add the apple cider vinegar, and reduce the heat to medium. When the caramel has fully dissolved in the vinegar, add the blueberries and stir. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld, and then strain out the blueberry pulp.

Making Caramel is, in fact, very easy, and I got this right on my first try. So will you. Gastrique is traditionally served as a sauce on fish or meat, but it’s great in a mixed drink, as you will discover if you try it. The complex flavor of caramel and cider vinegar is best-suited to brown spirits such as bourbon or aged rum; I tried it with Wray and Nephew and it wasn’t right at all. A shrub might go with a lighter spirit, but there is a certain synergy between the brownness of caramel and the brownness of bourbon or rye.

Blueberry Gastrique Sour

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Blueberry Gastrique

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Even though the vinegar is sour, you need to treat this ingredient like a syrup. It retains the flavor of vinegar, but the sugar in the caramel and the berries flattens its acidity, so citrus juice is still needed. Vinegar has a great flavor, but it’s not something you want to inhale like a scotch. That’s why I garnished the drink with an aromatic herb; the scent of the rosemary saves you from the vinegar’s smell, while complementing its savory qualities.