Measure & Stir

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


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Popcorn-Bourbon Toddy

As Joe used the iSi whip cream dispenser to flash infuse some freshly popped popcorn into some bourbon, I prepared some spiced butter using the same winter spice mix that we used to make the vin brûlée. Once everything was ready, a tasty toddy was born. Delicious, fun, rather unusual, and seasonally appropriate. Not only would drinking one of these be a fine way to warm yourself up, it’d also go really well with a movie.

Popcorn Toddy
2 oz Popcorn-infused Bourbon
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
.75 oz Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Spiced butter
Dash of bitters
2 oz Near-boiling water (to top)

Melt the butter and spices together. Add ingredients to a snifter, top with 2 oz near-boiling water. Garnish with a popcorn skewer.

We originally wanted to use a rye, Old Overholt, as it tastes particularly corny on its own, but, alas, we didn’t quite have enough of it left to make the infusion, which is why we used bourbon instead. However, this was no loss, and I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the bourbon perhaps adds more character and complexity. Still, I’d like to revisit this concept and use the ‘holt next time because it’d be interesting to see how its corniness bridges the whisky to the popcorn flavor. Then again, having said that, we’ve sworn off Old Overholt. Ever since Joe and I noticed how corny it tastes, it’s all we can taste. Its corniness almost ruins most drinks, in fact, and for that reason, we probably won’t be restocking that bottle. Yet I feel like every spirit has its uses, and perhaps this drink would be well suited to the corny corn corn taste of the ‘holt.

I was a bit worried that the popcorn flavor in the bourbon wouldn’t be very strong, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of our infusion. The sip tastes like warm, slightly buttery, spicy bourbon, and smells like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. As you swallow, you taste the popcorn, and the spices linger long enough to “season” the popcorn flavor, making it taste surprisingly like spiced popcorn.


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Vin Brûlée: Winter Spices, Red Wine, Citrus Peels

Quick Note from Joseph: Hey guys, sorry there was a little bit of miscommunication around the MxMo deadline. We’re still accepting late-comers, and it looks like a few more entries are still rolling in. Check back with us a little later in the week, when we will update the MxMo Roundup and enumerate all of the last-minute submissions. Thanks again for your patience and participation!

This recipe comes to us from an Italian friend, whose family has a tradition of celebrating the holidays every year with vin brûlée. Our friend directed us to this youtube video, which we used as the starting point for our recipe.

Vin Brûlée
1 bottle Red wine
.25 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Winter spice mix (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise)
Peels of a lemon and an orange

Combine the wine, citrus peels, and spices in a medium-sized pot and simmer. Once integrated, light it on fire and wait for it to burn itself out. Remove the wine from the stove top and allow it to cool off, slightly. Serve while still warm.

In the video they use an entire cup of sugar, but that is far too sweet for our taste. A quarter cup will be plenty sweet, and is enough sugar to provide a nice viscosity and the desired amount of caramelization. As always, though, let your own good taste be your guide. As for the winter spice mix, we crushed cloves and star anise using a mortar and pestle, and added to that grated cinnamon and nutmeg. What a wonderful aroma!

Vin Brûlée, like a hot toddy, is a great drink to enjoy with dessert at your next family gathering, or any time during the fall and winter holidays, really. What would be more entertaining to your dinner guests than setting a pot of wine on fire? Plus, since you end up burning off most of the alcohol, the proof is low and it goes down easy.

The wine in this drink takes on a wonderful bouquet of winter spices, and tastes similar to a mulled wine, except that, unlike your standard mulled or spiced wine, because you set it on fire, the red wine takes on a deep caramel flavor. Sipping on this warm drink is certainly something to be thankful for this thanksgiving.

Salute!


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Pseudo Rum Cocktail

Errata: Yesterday, we posted that we used “coconut juice” in our Tom Kha Kai-inspired drink, the “Live and Let Thai“. In fact we used coconut milk, and the post has been updated to convey this. We apologize for the miscommunication.

Gosh, we’re getting a little bored of Soju around here. Based on the traffic this week, I’m thinking maybe you were never that enamored of the idea in the first place. No matter! We’re almost through it, so thanks for sticking with us. James and I are done with Soju mixed drinks for a while. We miss the bite of harder spirits. This last one that we are going to share with you today was an attempt to simulate rum in a low proof environment. After ten days of infusing, our sugar cane soju had developed an interesting complexity, and even, dare I say it, a touch of hogo; that raw, grassy, sugar cane flavor. It was only a hint.

We still had the Thai tea syrup sticking around from our Singha Highball drinks, and it turned out to match the flavor of the sugar cane soju very nicely. Moreover, the flavor of Thai tea, slightly spiced, with the roasted flavor of a black tea, did contribute a roundness to the drink that was evocative of the caramel and oak notes of an aged rum. We stuck to our trick of adding a teaspoon of bird’s eye chili-infused soju, and then added a dash of orange bitters for good measure. Regan’s has a clove and anise quality that complements rum very nicely, and similarly Thai tea, for it is spiced with star anise, and sometimes tamarind.

Indeed, a bit of tamarind flavor would suit this drink, but it would ruin it’s clear, elegant texture.

Pseudo Rum Cocktail
2 oz Sugar-Cane Infused Soju (minimum 10 days)
.75 oz Thai Tea Syrup
1 tsp Bird’s Eye Chili-infused Soju
2 Dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Carve a piece of sugar cane into a plank and rest three star anise pods on top.

As soju drinks go, I enjoyed this one. Thai tea is completely delicious, and it’s really nice to drink it with alcohol, and without condensed milk. I can’t wait to mix this with regular rum! Incidentally, there were some Thai flavors that we did not get to explore for this round, particularly peanut and tamarind. I think this drink would be a pretty good candidate for a rim of crushed up peanut and sugar. But I’m done making soju drinks, so if you want to explore that avenue, please tell me how it goes.

Tomorrow we’ll post a summary of our experiences with incorporating Thai flavors into low proof drinks, as well as our final recommendation for a cocktail menu built around some of these drinks. Talk about niche appeal. Fortunately, the world is vast and wide, and there are other cocktail geeks out there, who maybe, hopefully, found an academic sort of interest in all this. Special thanks to Kaiser Penguin for inspiring today’s photo.


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Oaxacan Flower: Horchata, Mezcal

Steve Livigni and Daniel K. Nelson, of ‘Drink, Inc.’, have come up with a brilliant drink built around my favorite agua fresca, horchata. You can check out the story behind the drink by watching their youtube video (spoilers: they invent it for some restaurant).

We wanted to do it properly and make our own homemade horchata… Unfortunately neither of us had ever made it before, and every recipe we could find was different. Apparently there are a million ways to make horchata, and everyone seems to have their own recipe. We decided to wing it and make up our own.

Horchata
1 cup milk
1 cup rice
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean

Combine rice, milk, and water in a medium-sized pot and heat it up over a medium heat. Crumble up the cinnamon sticks into the pot. Split the vanilla bean down its center and add it to the pot too. Don’t let it boil, just keep it warm, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Stop before the rice is fully cooked. Dump the lot into a blender, add additional water, and purée. Keep going, adding water until the desired consistency is achieved. Strain through a cheesecloth.

In the end, we sweetened things up with some vanilla/cinnamon syrup, to taste. If I were to make horchata again, I might add some raw, chopped almonds while the rice is cooking, and perhaps omit the milk altogether (subbing in an additional cup of water instead). There is certainly room for improvement and experimentation here, so if you have any horchata advice, please share your tips!

Oaxacan Flower
1.5 oz Spice-infused Mezcal
2 oz Horchata
Dry shake (to froth the horchata) and serve over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime wedge, star anise, cloves, and grate fresh cinnamon over the top.

The original recipe calls for spice-infused mezcal, but they never mention what sort of spice to use. We just used regular mezcal. No regrets. Mezcal and horchata work astonishingly well together. The spices in the garnish highlight the cinnamon pep provided by the horchata, and the mezcal’s flavors are truly transformed, shifted toward the sweeter side of the spectrum, but still complex, bold, and smoky. This drink would pair perfectly with some delicious adobada tacos, and has become one of my all-time favorite mezcal drinks.

¡Disfruten sus bebidas, mis compañeros de borracheras! Salud.