Measure & Stir

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


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Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


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Macadamia, Cinnamon, Orange, Rum

I visited my parents’ house last weekend, and it was my great pleasure to mix drinks for my family while I was there. My father’s home bar puts mine to shame, of course, but the majority of his collection consists of whisk(e)ys which are too fine to mix. As such, it was an excellent venue for creativity. I made an orange oleo saccharum, because they did not have any syrups, and I wanted something which would be versatile and unusual. A good oleo saccharum is really nothing more than a citrus syrup, but it is much better than any other type of citrus syrup that one could make, on account of its high oil content.

As I was searching the bar for spirits to pair with it, I spied a bottle of the now defunct Hawaiian Macadamia nut liqueur, Adamia, and I knew that I could put it to good use. I live in an old building in the city, and my appliances are old if they even exist, but my parents enjoy all the luxury of modern suburban kitchen accoutrements, including a refrigerator that makes crushed ice. Though I do not mind crushing ice with a mallet and Lewis bag, I was immediately drawn to the simple convenience of holding the glass underneath the ice dispenser and pressing “crush”.

Glass of crushed ice firmly in hand, I resolved to make something tiki, and the next thing I needed was rum. Fortunately, my father had a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Brown Honey Rum, which is probably the most unusual rum I have had the pleasure of tasting. It greets the palate with a strong honey flavor which is loud and clear even underneath lime juice, macadamia nut liqueur, and orange oleo saccharum. Dogfish Head also makes some of the weirdest (and most delicious) beers on the market, so it’s no surprise that they would also make very unusual rums and gin. Now I’m hoping they get around to doing an amaro.

Tkach Tiki Delux

1.5 oz Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum
1 oz Macadamia Nut Liqueur (Adamia)
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Orange Oleo Saccharum

Shake over ice and then pour over crushed ice. Break a cinnamon stick in half and insert it into the ice. Spear a lime wheel with one of the cinnamon sticks.

When you use high quality ingredients, tiki drinks practically make themselves. The crushed ice will add extra dilution to the drink once it reaches the glass, on account of its high ratio of surface area to volume. As such, a little more sugar is needed to make the drink pop. Depending on the rum you use, you’ll need to adjust your proportions a bit to make sure that the liqueur, the rum, and the lime are in balance. It’s not always going to be exactly the same, but the key is that each flavor in the drink is strongly salient.

And please, do not neglect the cinnamon garnish. The crushed ice will totally dull any nose that you might otherwise get on the drink, and half the value of crushed ice is that it can be used to lodge various spices and herbs. Of all the different drink formats, crushed ice provides the most maneuverability in creating your drink’s aroma. The smell of cinnamon combined with the nutty liqueur was positively paradisaical. It is important to break the cinnamon stick, and leave the broken side sticking out, as this will release the most fragrant oil.


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Appetizer

I was looking for a drink to make with heavy cream when I happened upon this little beauty from CVS. The appetizer is perhaps oddly named, because with heavy cream and two very potent bitters, I think it walks the line between dessert and digestif. A proper aperitif should be dry and stimulating to the appetite, whereas this drink feels more like something to sip after a long meal.

The original drink called for Dubonnet, which I did not have, but on CVS he substituted Bonal, which I also did not have. I chose to use Cardamaro, because I find it to be similar to Bonal, though probably Dubbonet is more like sweet vermouth than Cardamaro. I wouldn’t stress about it, as long as you use a decently sweet and bitter and high-quality fortified wine, because Fernet and Angostura are the real heroes of this drink.

Appetizer

.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Angostura Bitters
.5 oz Heavy Cream
.5 oz Dubbonet (Cardamaro… I know)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a fluted glass.

The original recipe called for a cocktail glass, but I chose to use a fluted one, because the purpose of a cocktail glass’ wide mouth is to diffuse the fumes from the alcohol. The greater surface area of the cocktail glass also allows more heat to bleed into the drink, so it will warm quicker. I wanted to capture the aromas from the bitters when sipping this drink, rather than release them into the air with a cocktail glass. I also wanted to split the drink between three people, and these were convenient. But the logic is sound.

The sweetness of the dairy perfectly modulated the bitterness of the Fernet and Angostura. This was the most unusual drink I have tried all year, and I greatly enjoyed it. Somehow, the combination of spices and the cream made me feel like I was sipping on some kind of Tikka Masala. There was nothing savory in the drink, but still, the overall impression was one of curry.

I made this drink at the end of the night, and to be honest I was looking for something with a bit more of a dessert quality to it, so I mixed up a second round, swapping Fernet Branca with Branca Menta, which is Fernet Branca’s much sweeter cousin. The extra sugar greatly diminished the sensation of eating curry, and made this drink feel like a grown-up Grasshopper.

In the future, I will tend to make the Branca Menta variation, but I encourage you to try it both ways.