Measure & Stir

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


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Barrel-Aged Monogram

Well, OK, semi-barrel-aged. Barrel-aging a drink has two effects. The first is that all of the flavors in the different ingredients meld together, and the second is that the oak flavor of the barrel infuses into the spirits. I have had cocktails that were aged in mason jars, and I have had cocktails that were aged in actual barrels. I prefer the second variety, as I would imagine, most drinkers do.

monogram2

Generally one can only barrel-age aromatic drinks; citrus or dairy is too perishable to withstand the aging process. I wanted to try this process with one of my favorite drinks, the union club. My method was to premix all of the ingredients but the orange juice, and then add the orange juice at mix-time, as usual. I did not have a proper barrel, so instead I simply combined the bourbon and the liqueurs in a glass bottle with some toasted oak chips, and set them to age.

I tried the aging two different ways; in the first version, I oak-aged only the campari and maraschino, and in the second, I oak-aged all of the spirit ingredients. I ended up preferring the version with only the campari and maraschino together. As the flavors meld, they lose some of their distinctiveness. One of my favorite parts of tasting a mixed drink is picking out the individual pieces from the whole, and I found the flavor more interesting when the bourbon was separate.

Moreover, I designed this variation of the union club specifically for my birthday party, so I borrowed a page from Mark Sexauer, who made the excellent Humo Flotador for our Garnish-themed Mixology Monday.

monogram1

Monogram
1.5 oz Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
1 oz Oak-Aged Campari and Maraschino (1:1)
1 oz Fresh Cara Cara Orange Juice
Shake all over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Top with orange Scotch foam* and spray-stencil my initials onto the foam in angostura bitters.

*See below.

The orange and the liqueurs came together in such a way that they tasted very much like blood orange juice and bourbon. I think that owes in part to my use of Cara Cara oranges, which are a bit more bitter than navel or valencia. I did enjoyed the blood orange flavor, but on the whole I thought the drink on its own was lacking in brighter flavors.

We made up for the lack of brightness in the base by topping it with a light, citrusy foam. I followed Mark’s recipe, but I swapped out the mezcal for a blended scotch, which I infused for one day with orange peels, to help it match the drink below it. Mark’s recipe calls for two teaspoons of gelatin, but when I tried it that way, I found that my foam would begin to “set” in the glass and turn slightly jello-y.

I myself tend to drink mixed drinks quickly, but I have had many guests who prefer to sip slowly, so I halved the gelatin and I was very pleased with the results.

Orange Scotch Foam
1 tsp Gelatin
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Sugar
5 Egg Whites
3 oz Orange Peel-Infused Scotch
2 oz Lemon Juice
Combine all in an iSi Whipped Cream dispenser and charge with two cartridges. Shake vigorously.

After topping the drink with foam, we sprayed bitters through a Misto through a stencil that we cut with an exacto knife.

Orange, whiskey, Campari, and Maraschino. Shake, and garnish with narcissism.

Happy Monday.


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Mr. Kurogoma: Scotch, Cream, Drambuie, Black Sesame

Kurogoma is the Japanese word for “black sesame”, and indeed, this drink’s most distinct flavor comes from a paste of black sesame seeds. It is unctuous, and tastes like tahini, or peanut butter, or something in between. Its color is an inky black, darker even than molasses.

I knew I wanted to use whiskey for this drink, and I’ve been very satisfied to mix drinks with a bottle of Auchentoshan 10 year, lately. It is an affordable scotch with a light, assertive peatiness and a minimal amount of smoke. Trader Joe’s in Seattle carries it for a little under thirty dollars.

From Scotch and sesame, it occurred to me that Drambuie would fit very nicely between them, as it matches whiskey for whiskey and honey for sesame.

mr kurogoma

Mr. Kurogoma (Beta)
2 oz Auchentoshan
.5 oz Drambuie
.5 oz Half and Half
2 heaping Tbs Kurogoma Spread
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Break up the sesame paste in the drink with your barspoon. Dry shake, and then shake over ice. Double strain into a coupe glass and float sesame seeds of various colors on top.

The flavor was good, if a little unusual to the western palate. It reminded me of Scotchy honey-nut cheerios. I slightly regret that added the half and half, as it dulled the flavor of the Drambuie, and disrupted the dark color. When I iterate on this, I will dial up the liqueur and remove the dairy. I also think the drink would be more interesting and coherent if the base spirit were a Japanese whiskey such as the Yamazaki.

Version 2, which is untested, will look like this:

Mr. Kurogoma (v2)
1.5 oz Yamazaki
.75 oz Dry Sake
.5 oz Drambuie
2 heaping Tbs Kurogoma Spread
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Break up the sesame paste in the drink with your barspoon. Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish TBD.

Kanpai?


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Libation Laboratory: Running the Gimlet, Part III

For the past two weeks, Joe and I have been exploring the world of citrus cordials by mixing various gimlets. In Running the Gimlet Part I we made a lemon cordial, and in part II we made a lime cordial. For part III of this series, we played with a grapefruit cordial.

Here’s our grapefruit cordial recipe:

Grapefruit Cordial
1 cup Grapefruit juice
1 cup Sugar
Peels of 3 grapefruits

Add peels, juice, and sugar to a pot over medium heat. Heat and stir until the sugar integrates with the juice and strain.

It’s OK to be a little bit lazy with the piths when making grapefruit cordials, since grapefruit is rather bitter anyway.

grapefruit gimlets

From left to right, bottom to top, we have: scotch (snifter), bourbon (rocks glass), mezcal (coupe glass), tequila reposado (martini glass), and rum (cocktail goblet).

Scotch Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: A warm, rust-colored brown.
Nose: Mostly scotch.
Sip: Smokey scotch, a bite of grapefruit.
Finish: Scotch and grapefruit balanced each other well.

This combination was the clear winner of the night. Tart citrus and scotch is a great combination, as we knew from the blood and oak. The scotch we used was Longrow 10, which isn’t very smokey or savory, because we wanted to avoid adding those sorts of flavors to grapefruit. I didn’t expect this gimlet to steal the show, but it did.

Bourbon Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Brown.
Nose: Spice and citrus fruit.
Sip: Oaky spice from the bourbon, sour, sweet grapefruit.
Finish: Smooth and fruity.

I’ve always enjoyed making whiskey sours with grapefruit juice, so I knew this combination was going to be tasty. Just go ahead and make this one. You’ll thank us. I think this was probably my second favorite grapefruit gimlet.

Mezcal Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Pink
Nose: Cactus, smoke, sweet citrus.
Sip: Mezcal with grapefruit.
Finish: Mostly mezcal.

I love mezcal, so I had high expectations for this drink, but I was let down. In our past gimlet experiments, mezcal had paired well with lemon and lime, so why not grapefruit? Well, it turns out that this was the weakest pairing we came up with for grapefruit. In this drink, mezcal and grapefruit did not do each other any favors, and the two flavors fought each other in the glass. I was throughly disappointed.

Tequila Reposado Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Pinkish yellow, like a sunset.
Nose: Strong grapefruit scent.
Sip: Tequila and grapefruit.
Finish: Mostly grapefruit.

Once again, I had high hopes for tequila and grapefruit, as we’ve mixed the two together before, in the strawberry paloma. Although this gimlet was better than its mezcal cousin, it just didn’t blow me away. Somehow the two flavors didn’t harmonize the way we had expected them to. I don’t think I’d make this gimlet again.

Rum Grapefruit Gimlet

Eye: Rust.
Nose: Fruity.
Sip: Caramel, fruits, grapefruit.
Finish: Sweet notes from the rum, bitter notes from the grapefruit.

This gimlet was excellent. We’ve paired grapefruit and rum before, so we kind of knew this was going to be awesome. We used Doorly’s rum, and the grapefruit cordial complemented its fruity, citrus flavors very well. It was hard to stop drinking this one, but it still didn’t gel as well as the scotch or bourbon gimlets.

I wonder if you are as tired of gimlets as we are!


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Drink Inc Reviews

On Youtube, there is an excellent series by the name of Drink Inc. It features two Los Angeles bartenders, Steve Livigni and Daniel Nelson, who first eat a delicious meal, and then each make a drink inspired by the food that they ate. I fully endorse this method of finding inspiration, in fact, it’s a method that I sometimes use myself, and which has increased its space in my consciousness after watching their show. I don’t always love the drinks they make, but they will definitely get you thinking, and for that reason I think the show is a valuable asset.

As of today, they have published six episodes, and I am going to review all of them in this post. (All photographs shamelessly liberated from their videos.)

And, sure, does Daniel look like a ridiculous peacock, wearing a three piece suit in the Los Angeles heat? Clearly. But their product is great. I know that I risk sounding overly critical of them in this post, but I want to make it clear that I have a lot of respect for what they are doing, and I think they are excellent drink-makers. It’s very easy to sling criticism on the internet and much harder to get up and make a successful career out of mixing drinks.

Some of their drinks are too complicated, much like that day cravat, but they have a lot of great ideas, it’s just that they try to cram too many of them into a single drink, and the result is sometimes a drink with too many subtleties, not all of which are perceptible. Much like another genre of internet video, you will probably want to skip the first half of each episode, as it takes a while before the action gets going.

The format of the show is, first they go visit a restaurant, make some awkward conversation with the proprietors, and then they make drinks based on what they ate.

Dynamite Thai Cocktails

The first episode I watched was “Dynamite Thai Cocktails”, in which they visit a thai restaurant, and then Steve makes a drink based on Tom Kha Kai soup, and Daniel makes a spicy drink that does not seem to be based on any particular dish. I am a huge fan of Tom Kha Kai soup, which is made by simmering galangal, (Thai ginger) lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves in coconut milk.

The soup itself is quite savory, but they made a version of the soup more amenable to a mixed drink, and mixed it with gin and lime juice. I have not tried this one, but it looks delicious. My only complaint is, I hate the way he garnishes it with grated lime zest. Every time I have done this, I have ended up with little pieces of lime grit in my drink. One big peel is a vastly superior garnishing method.

Daniel’s drink, the Sesame Song, is pictured above, and contains Chile-infused vodka, lime juice, orange juice, and cayenne pepper. It sounds like a reasonable drink, but I was not very impressed with the concept, perhaps because of the reliance on vodka. Also, when I have used powdered spices in drinks in the past, they never dissolve to my satisfaction. Moreover, the sesame seeds and thai chile strands in the garnish, though beautiful, will disperse as the drink is drunk, and spoil the texture.

Smoky Mexican Cocktails

In episode 2, “Smoky Mexican Cocktails”, they visit an Oaxacan restaurant, and drink mezcal, and eat fried grasshoppers. Delicious. Steve makes a drink called the Oaxacan Flower, using a similar formula to his Thai drink from the previous episode. We love mezcal here at Measure & Stir, and so we were inspired to make this drink in our most recent jam session.

Daniel makes a chocolate tequila sour inspired by the concept of Molé, and garnished with a grasshopper. Again, I don’t think his drink is remarkable, though tequila and chocolate is a solid pairing, but his name has what is quite possibly the best name for a mixed drink I have ever heard, the “Dead Man Oaxacan”.

Sweet and Savory Pork Cocktails

In episode three they visit a butcher, and then do a beer cocktail and a fat-washed cocktail. I’ve experimented with bacon-infused bourbon, myself, and I came to the conclusion that a fat-washed cocktail is pretty much a fat-washed cocktail, no matter what you do to it. Steve makes the “Fat Manhattan”, an aromatic drink with amaro, sweet vermouth, bacon-infused bourbon, and nocello. I adore nocello, and I think this is a better recipe than Jamie Boudreau’s Chocolate Cochon, but it’s still not topping my list.

Daniel makes a beer cocktail with apricot puree, lemon juice, orange marmalade, and heifeweissen, and incorporates pork by garnishing it with salami. I’m a fan of the idea, but honestly I would rather you bring me this drink, and then serve it with a plate of charcuterie. Still, it’s cute.

Cop Cocktails

In episode four (note: my episode orders are not really significant), they visit a police station, and the officer who is their contact takes them to some local hole in the wall places where he likes to eat when he is on duty. It’s mostly just filler before they get to the good stuff, which is two smoked cocktails, both of which look excellent.

Daniel makes the “Tazerac”, a Sazerac which he smokes with hickory chips and garam masala. These kinds of smoke guns are kind of impractical for the home mixologist, though that has never stopped me in the past. For now, it’s not high on my list. What’s notable about this one is the way he traps the smoke in the glass and then covers it, so that when the drinker removes the cover, the smoke wafts out of the drink. 10/10 for style.

Steve’s drink, “Halal and Order”, is named after an episode in which the police officer busted a shawarma joint for health code violations. He mixes the super-trendy Pierre Ferrand 1840 with sweet vermouth and smoky Scotch, and then he pours it into a glass filled with smoke from burned rosemary. The really clever thing here is that his smoking method consists of lighting a rosemary sprig with a torch, and then turning the glass over it. This is a method that is in reach for any home enthusiast, and requires no special equipment. This is very similar to what they did at Angel’s Share with cinnamon, in their drink, “Daahound”.

Refreshing Pirate Potions

In episode five, they visit a fish market and eat a feast of fried fish. It looks positively scrummy. The only thing they really take away from it is a spice blend that the local fishmongers sell, and then they both make drinks around the spice blend. I thought this episode was totally underwhelming, the least interesting of the bunch. Steve makes a punch out of watermelon juice, sea salt, tequila, and Michelada spices (pictured). Salted watermelon is awesome, and it’s a fine punch, but it doesn’t really fit the theme very well.

Daniel makes the “Bloody Mariner”, a rum-based Bloody Mary with heirloom tomato juice, fennel juice and absinthe. As bloody Maries go, it looks pretty good. Fennel juice and absinthe does sound intriguing, if you love licorice. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of this flavor in mixed drinks, though I do like licorice candy.

Comfort Cocktails

Finally, they go and eat Southern style comfort food in the garden of what might be a famous LA restaurant? I’ve never heard of it, but I’m really not that hip.

Steve makes the Southern Sour, which I think is very clever in the way it incorporates so many breakfast elements. He uses lemon juice, orange juice, white corn whiskey, egg white, honey syrup, soda, and maple bitters. I do not care for unaged whiskey; at best it’s a grain eau de vie, but wait, that’s another name for vodka. How about using an ingredient that pairs well with all of the other ingredients in the drink, is still made from corn, and is the bedrock of southern drinking, bourbon whiskey? I know white whiskey is hip, but so are skrillex haircuts, and both of them suck.

Daniel makes Govind’s Garden, and it’s a cheat. Gin, pineapple, lime, and Lillet, floated with Amaretto and strawberry juice (puree?). It almost doesn’t matter what you put in the drink when you float this on top of it. Look at it, so thick and syrupy. The drink underneath sounded lovely, but just to make sure you like it, we’re going to top it with candy. Strawberry juice mixed with amaretto is clever. but there’s just so much going on in this drink. It makes sense if you think of it as a new wave tiki drink, but that does not make it less overwrought.

I certainly found a lot of inspiration in watching this show, and I am sure that you will, too.


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Blood and Oak

You know what you don’t see often enough? Scotch cocktails. I think they are unpopular because they are generally made with blended scotch whiskey, and blended Scotch whiskey is not compelling. Personally I am not a huge fan of blended Scotches. Even the finer ones taste muddy and indistinct compared to the clarion symphony that is the experience of a quality single malt. I have tasted some small batch vatted malts that were very good, and I am aware that there is an art to blending them, but certainly the common ones are boring and awful.

On the other hand, single malt Scotches are expensive, and mixing them with other ingredients (besides other single malts?) is a kind of sacrilege. The distiller spent ever so much time and care to imbue that scotch with all of its most sublime and subtle qualities. Many recipes do call for small measures of Islay Scotches, I think because they are outside of the mainstream palate, and because their flavors are very bold. Indeed, it is a bold Scotch that can convey its character when it shares space in a glass with other ingredients.

As the season turns colder, I’ve been feeling a longing for the warming embrace of a mixed drink with single malt, and lucky for me, blood oranges are coming into season. Therefore, it is time to make one of the most famous scotch-based drinks, the Blood and Sand. I wanted to modify this drink to highlight the virtues of  one of my favorite single malts, the Balvenie Doublewood, so I re-jiggered it to be more Scotch-centric.

Blood and Oak
2 oz Balvenie Doublewood
1 oz Blood orange juice
.5 oz Drambuie
.25 Sweet Vermouth (Punt e Mes)
dash of orange bitters

In contrast. the proportions for the blood and sand almost seem like they were designed to hide the scotch:

Blood and Sand
1 oz Blended Scotch Whiskey
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
.75 oz Cherry Heering
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I wanted to set it free, so I doubled the proportion of the Scotch, and dropped the liqueur and vermouth substantially. Cherry Heering is an elephant, and it will crush the other flavors in a drink with reckless oblivion. I replaced it with Drambuie, which is made with Scotch whiskey already, which means that it interferes less with the base spirit. I had originally considered cutting the vermouth entirely, but after tasting it pre-vermouth, I knew it needed that hint of bitterness and depth, so I kept it, but I dialed the vermouth down to a quarter ounce, and added orange bitters.

The end result is oaky, with a backend of bitter citrus. I have made this drink in the past using regular orange juice, and it sucks. Blood orange is the only true orange juice for this drink.