Measure & Stir

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


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The Sexton in Ballard

After an arduous night of bar-crawling in places where they shake Manhattans, I stumbled into The Sexton, in search of a night cap more in line with my own tastes. Or maybe I wanted to talk to a girl sitting by the window. Either way, they had what I was looking for. They have their menu on their home page, but just in case you want to see it as I saw it, here it is:

This was only the first page, of which there were two or three of mixed drinks. Such an expansive menu might be intimidating for an inexperienced cocktail drinker, but I enjoyed the variety, and I thought the menu was well put-together. The Banyan is a great way to class up the much more ubiquitous strawberry margarita, and the pig rider presses the chocolate/tequila/chili pepper buttons that we all know and love. Alas, I did not opt for a tequila drink, though as I am writing this post, it would surely hit the spot. I would also like to call your attention to the tasteful inclusion of a variation of The Bitter End, a drink which appears in many different forms, but which always includes a float of amaro or aromatic bitters, so that the last few sips of the drink pack a substantial bitter wallop.

On this particular night, I ordered the Double Bind, a mixture of bourbon, lemon-sage shrub, ginger beer, and bitters, and I was compelled to do so by a recent fascination with vinegar in cocktails. It was a highball, as you could guess from the inclusion of the ginger beer, and the served it in a mason jar, which I found to be pleasantly rustic. To make this drink at home, you will, of course, need to make a lemon-sage shrub. I suggest the following process for making shrub syrup:

Lemon-Sage Shrub
4 large lemons
1.5 oz sage
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
Slice the lemons thinly, peel and all, and place them in a sealed container. Bruise the sage, and add it to the lemons. Cover the mixture in the sugar, and allow it to sit in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Strain off the solids, being sure to scrape any undissolved sugar from the inside of the container, and add it to the vinegar. Bottle it, and allow it to mellow in the fridge for 2-3 more days.

As the shrub sits, its flavors will harmonize and change chemically. Essentially, the vinegar pickles the syrup. If you added a few lemon peels to the bottled syrup, I wouldn’t blame you, but be careful, as they may overpower the relatively delicate sage flavor.

The Double Bind?
2 oz Bourbon
.75 oz Lemon-Sage Shrub
2 Dashes of Bitters

Shake over ice and then strain into a tumbler full of fresh ice. Top with 1.5 oz ginger beer and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Apologies to the Sexton if I got it wrong, but that’s how I would start. Before shaking, taste the mixture, and make sure that the flavors of the bourbon and the shrub are in harmony together. If the flavor of the shrub is not pronounced enough, add another quarter ounce. Many props go to the Sexton for using the appropriate amount of ice, and for crafting an interesting drink. I’m not sure how much of the sage I tasted in the instance of the drink that they served me, but the concept is very solid, and the flavor of the sage comes down to individual execution.

They garnished the drink with a lemon wedge, but my inclination would be to use a toothpick to spear a sage leaf to that self-same lemon wedge, the more to convey the flavor of the fresh herb.


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Dusty Bottoms

Continuing with our week of highball drinks, this is a drink that some of my friends had at a bar in San Diego called Prohibition. It’s a popular name for a craft cocktail bar, it seems. In any case, they visited the bar, and then came to visit me and told me of this drink. I then tried to recreate it, based upon their description of the ingredients and the flavor. But before we go any further, this is the perfect time to mention some errata from my earlier post, How To Make Better Drinks I wouldn’t ordinarily bother, but the post in question is in my side bar, so I feel it’s important to keep the information in good repair. In the list of problems with the drink, I somehow neglected to mention:

11. The herbs are over-muddled. We’re not making pesto, and a muddler is not a mortar and pestle. All of the menthol in mint lives in little hair-like structures on the surface of the leaf. If you bruise the leaf of the mint, you are going to release bitter chlorophyll flavors into your drink, and it will taste grassy. I suppose that could be deliberate, but a discerning palate will perceive it as an error. The better way to handle mint is to place it on the palm of your hand and give it a few good, hard, smacks. In general, when muddling herbs or citrus peels, apply firm pressure but do not tear the flesh of the plant. Fruit, on the other hand, ought to be pulverized.

The drink that my friends described to me contained reposado tequila, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice, muddled sage, and ginger beer. I do not know the exact proportions of the drink as it was served at Prohibition, but by knowing a little bit about the construction of a highball, we can come pretty close. In most cases, we want to have a total of two ounces of hard liquor in the drink, and the very natural way to do this, in this case, is with one and a half ounces of the base spirit, tequila, and one half ounce of the modifier, yellow chartreuse.

I want the flavor of the yellow chartreuse to be balanced against the acidity and flavor of the lime juice, so in this case I also used a half ounce of lime juice. Depending who you listen to, you might end up with three quarters of an ounce of liqueur, for a sweeter drink, but I like them dryer, and I plan to add more sugar in the form of ginger beer. When topping a drink with soda, many people make the mistake of filling the glass. This makes it look pretty, but you will end up putting a highly variable amount of soda into the drink, depending on the glass you use. If you want to preserve the flavor of the other elements, it is best to measure. You can always add a little more, so I limited myself to one ounce of soda water.

We made this drink after my friend Julian had just finished moving into a new apartment, so the name was appropriate. Moreover, it was a hot summer day, so whereas I usually would have used ice cubes, I wanted this drink to be a bit lighter and more refreshing, so I used crushed ice instead of ice cubes. In either case, as we discussed yesterday, it is important to fill the glass completely full with ice, to slow the melting process as much as possible. The ice does not look especially crushed in this picture, but I assure you, it was. Julian’s cat, Mimosa, wanted in on the action.

Dusty Bottoms (via Prohibition, in San Diego, CA)
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse (Strega)
4-5 Sage Leaves (Basil)
1 oz Ginger Beer (Bundaberg)

Lightly muddle the sage leaves in the yellow Chartreuse, and then combine all except the ginger beer in a shaker. Shake over ice, and then strain over fresh ice. Add the ginger beer and Garnish with a sage leaf.

I did not have any sage at this particular juncture, but I did have basil, fresh off the plant, and it was close enough on this occasion. I also substituted Strega for yellow Chartreuse, and you can see the bottle poking it’s head up in the background. I like to bring my own ice when I’m mixing at a remote location, because the quality of the ice is critical to the quality of the drink.