Measure & Stir

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


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Orgeat Syrup and Trinidad Sour

Unfortunately, we now return to your regularly scheduled amateur photography by me.

After an excursion to Smith’s on Capitol Hill, James was inspired to make orgeat syrup using this Serious Eats recipe. It is often the case for me, too, that I will be moved to recreate a drink after ordering it at a bar or a restaurant. The drink on the menu at Smith’s was called a Trinidad Sour, and when I heard the name I thought perhaps James had stumbled onto this Trinidad Sour that made a splash a few years ago by using Angostura as a base spirit.

And indeed, the drink at Smith’s seems is very similar to the one that I remembered, except it uses Fernet instead of Angostura for its bitter component. Mint and orgeat go very well together, as we know from the Mai Tai, so it is a reasonable and interesting substitution, though it required very different proportions.

Smith’s Trinidad Sour

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Gently float a lemon wheel on top.

The home-made orgeat was very milky, and had a much nuttier flavor than the Monin Orgeat that I have been using lately. The Monin has the marzipan/almond extract flavor that you expect in an orgeat syrup, but it does not actually taste all that much like an almond. The home-made syrup, on the other hand, was more reminiscent of sweet almond milk, and the orange flower water was very discernible, and pleasant. As you can see from the photo, it gave this drink a creamy color and texture. If you’re on the fence about fernet, this is probably a great drink to aid you on your journey.

Drinking this put me in the mood for the original, and I wanted to see how the fernet version compared to the Angostura version, so I made one of those, too:

Trinidad Sour

1.5 oz Angostura Bitters
1.5 oz Orgeat Syrup (Homemade)
1 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Rye (Old Overholt)

Shake and double-strain into a coupe glass.

I had thought this drink would be less accessible than the Fernet version, but I was wrong. The Angostura Trinidad Sour is sweet and spicy, and it tastes like cinnamon, clove, and cherry wood. Equal parts of syrup and bitters cuts all of the challenge away from the Angostura, and gives the drink a cotton candy quality that I don’t mind, but that I don’t crave. I suspect I would prefer it with only an ounce of syrup, and I will be trying that variation soon.

I adore the color of the Angostura bitters version, however; Angostura has an oily, staining red color to it, and with the cloudiness from the orgeat, it has a distinctive and striking appearance. Even so, if you only make one of these, I suggest the Fernet version, but both are excellent.


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Vanilla Whiskey Fix

You may notice a marked difference in the quality of the photography in this post. For that, I need to thank my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro, for having an awesome camera and technical skills, and for contributing their time to taking pictures of some of my drinks.

Today I present a twist on a classic, the whiskey fix. Fixes and Sours are the two broad categories of short punch, with the difference between them being that a fix is served over ice, whereas a sour is served up. Neither is diluted with an aqueous element such as soda water or ginger beer. One of the first drinks I learned to make, and one of the most accessible, is the whiskey sour. The basic formula for a sour or a fix is:

2 oz of base spirit
.75 oz of lemon or lime juice
.5 oz of syrup.

Shake over ice and double strain.

With the difference being that a fix should be strained over fresh ice into an old-fashioned glass, and a sour should be strained into a cocktail glass or, if you listen to Andy, a sour goblet. A sour becomes a daisy if it is modified with a liqueur instead of a syrup. Adding a bit of liqueur to a sour made with syrup makes it fancy — curaçao or maraschino are the common choices, but any high quality liqueur is acceptable.

It is sometimes desirable to thicken a sour or a fix with an egg white, in which case one must first “dry shake” the drink, which is to say, shake it without ice, to foam the egg white, before shaking it with ice. In the winter time, an egg white is very appealing, but in the summer, I usually choose to omit it.

Whiskey Fix
1.5 oz vanilla-infused bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz brown sugar syrup

Shake over ice, double-strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with fruits in season (lychees).

I love vanilla-bean infused bourbon whiskey, and I always keep a bottle on hand. It takes about one week for the vanilla flavor to fully mature in the whiskey, though many whiskey-lovers might find that this is treating the whiskey a little too harshly, and indeed, one ought not to give this treatment to a whiskey that is too fine. I wouldn’t go cheaper than Evan Williams, but I also wouldn’t go more expensive than Buffalo Trace or Bulleit. Vanilla brings out the oaky qualities in the bourbon, and adds a little more interest to the relatively commonplace whiskey sour.

My friend James made this drink in my house about a month ago, and he chose to use brown sugar syrup instead of simple. Since then, I have made it this way exclusively, and it’s a drink that I will serve to any guest in a pinch.

It is proper to garnish a fix with seasonal fruit, as they contribute interesting aromas, and add a fancy, festive quality to the presentation. I just happened to have these lychees on the day that we took the pictures, and after de-pitting them carefully with a paring knife, I skewered them with bamboo and set it on top of the glass. Most people don’t eat lychees very often, at least in the U.S., so the opportunity to eat an uncommon tropical fruit adds even more intrigue to the experience.

If you don’t have lychees, I have also garnished this with fresh pineapple, and with raspberries, and both are great.


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Elephants Sometimes Forget

When I first acquired a bottle of Cherry Heering, I was excited by the prospect of a liqueur reminiscent of one of my favorite beers, Unibroue’s Quelque Chose. Alas, it sits on my bar, gathering dust, mostly full. Every drink that calls for it falls squarely in the cluster of gin, lemon, cherry, with minor variations, and a man can only drink so much cherry sour. Even so, the Elephants Sometimes Forget was a pleasing instance of this.

According to Webtender: Cherry Heering is a Danish cherry liqueur invented in the late 1700s or the early 1800s by Peter Heering. It is dark red and has a flavor of black-cherries that is not overly sweet.

In my experience it can taste medicinal in the wrong hands, but this drink was surprisingly dry and had no elements of cough syrup at all. Beefeater isn’t the most complex gin going around, but the juniper is still assertive, and it worked very well with the other ingredients. Still, with 3/4 oz of liqueur, everything else takes a back-seat to spiced cherries.

Elephants Sometimes Forget

1 oz gin (Beefeater)
.75 oz Cherry Heering
.75 oz lemon juice
.25 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
dash of orange bitters (Fee’s)

Shake over ice and double strain

Truly serious Heering aficionados use it to venture into tiki territory, and I know that’s where I need to go, but the way is long. I need to find a way to incorporate this liqueur with an amaro.


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Blue Beetle #2

I haven’t made this drink in a long time, and at the time, I was still learning a lot about mixing drinks. Indeed, it was nearly two years ago that I first tried this muddled blueberry drink named after a DC Comics character. And astute readers will notice a serious error in the production of this drink, and also that I used a cocktail glass as a mixing glass. Those were primitive times.

The Blue Beetle is a perfect drink for a Saturday afternoon, or even a Sunday morning. It is light, fruity, floral, and sweet. The botanical flavor of gin complements and the earthy sweetness of fresh blueberries make an excellent combination. I used Tanqueray 10 here, but in retrospect I think the added sweetness from an Old Tom gin would probably be excellent.

I started with .75 oz. of fresh lemon juice. Always remember, your drink is no better than the worst thing that you mix into it. If you use a cheap, pasteurized sour mix, you are the Taco Bell of bartending. As a matter of fact, nothing will work for a proper drink except for freshly squeezed lemon juice. The flavor of lemon juice immediately begins to degrade once it has been squeezed, and within a few hours it will have lost all of its delicate floral tones.

I highly suggest a citrus squeezer if you intend to juice limes or lemons in any quantity. I haven’t actually tried the Chef’n one that I linked to, but the company that made them was in the same building as my old office, and the attachable filter looks very convenient. Cleaning the standard kind, such as the one depicted above, can be a bit of a nuisance.

What gives this drink it’s distinct quality is that it starts with a blueberry cordial. Anyone can make a blueberry cordial, it takes nothing more than simple syrup and blueberries. I smashed about 18 blueberries in half an ounce of simple syrup with a muddler, but you could pulverize them in the syrup any way you like. After you have made the mixture, strain it through a fine mesh strainer. You wouldn’t want any big pieces of blueberry pulp in your drink.

I have made this drink a couple of times since, and I have found that the flavor of blueberries can vary substantially, even among ripe blueberries. Some blueberries can be quite a bit sweeter, and some can be more on the tart side. That’s why it’s important to taste your cordial before you integrate it into the drink, and after you incorporate it with the lemon juice. If you don’t find the right balance between sweet and sour, you will need to make adjustments in the amount of syrup vs. lemon. Add ingredients a dash at a time, and try not to change the overall ratio of spirits : modifiers.

This tea-strainer was not perfect, but it worked. Agitating the mixture with a barspoon will help you work it through the strainer.

Ah, the indiscretions of youth! I failed to double-strain this drink, meaning I surely left small pieces of ice floating in the drink. This is always undesirable, and the sign of a lazy (or very busy) bartender. They don’t completely ruin the drink, but they produce a distracting texture, and should be avoided. Similarly, drinks which contain fresh citrus may have some pulp in them, which is delicious in the morning, but it detracts from the elegance of a pre- or post-prandial libation.

Drop a few blueberries in for a garnish. The color of this drink was spectacular.

Blue Beetle

1.5 oz gin

.75 oz lemon juice

.5 oz simple syrup

handful of muddled blueberries.

Make the blueberry cordial by smashing the blueberries in the simple syrup, and strain. Shake all of the ingredients over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass.

Looking back I found the original recipe that I followed, and it turns out I didn’t even do it right. At The Pegu Blog he made the drink with less lemon and with two dashes of grapefruit bitters. I think grapefruit bitters sound excellent in this drink, and I will make sure to try it that way in the future. I’m not sold that it’s necessary, as bitters can often muddy the flavor of citrus, even when they are citrus bitters.