Measure & Stir

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


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Bad Girl Concoction

Long time readers will recall that I have used gastrique as an ingredient before. And indeed, there is only so much you can do with gastrique. It is a bold, full-spectrum flavor that easily overwhelms other ingredients. It needs very little modification to taste complete. I had a shrub-based drink at Canon in Seattle, and I’m not exactly sure how it was formulated, but it inspired me to revisit vinegar drinks. I used a similar gastrique recipe as before, but this time I used strawberry puree instead of smashed blueberries. I fortified the caramel, apple cider vinegar, and strawberry sauce with a little balsamic vinegar for complexity.

I tried mixing it as a sour, using lemon juice, but I found the flavor to be a little one-dimensional. As luck would have it, I had a bottle of cocchi americano that was just slightly past its prime. Vermouth acquires a bit of a vinegar tang when it has been open for too long, but since I was already using a vinegar ingredient, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. It turns out, slightly off vermouth goes very well with gastrique.

badgirlconcoction

Bad Girl Concoction
1.5 oz Bourbon (Wild Turkey 101)
.75 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 oz Strawberry Balsamic Gastrique
Eye dropper of cardamom bitters*
Hard shake over ice and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with a smacked mint sprig.

Making bitters at home is pretty easy. If you have a bittering agent such as gentian or angelica root, you can steep 1 teaspoon of gentian root in a high-proof, neutral grain spirit for about 20 minutes to form a bitter base, which can then be infused at your leisure with other flavors.

Cardamom Bitters
4 oz Everclear 151
1 Tsp Gentian Root
1 Tbsp Crushed Cardamom
2 oz sugar
2 oz water
Peel of one large orange

  1. Wrap the reagents in a cheese cloth or other porous wrapper and steep them in the everclear for half an hour.
  2. Strain the reagents into 2 oz of water and simmer them in a small pot with the sugar, until the flavors are fully extracted and integrated.
  3. Combine the syrup with the infusion of everclear and dispense with an eyedropper.

This drink is named after a line from Busta Rhymes’ hymn to the female posterior, #Twerkit. The flavor of this drink leads with cardamom and strawberry, with a base note of bourbon and a finish from the vinegar and vermouth. I hope you find it to be refreshing.


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Yuppie Salad

Hello Internet, I am sorry I was so late to speak with you this week. I have not forgotten you, but my time has been short. James and I could not really decide on a theme for session #4, so we made an eclectic collection of drinks exploring various ideas.

I drink fresh juice for health, and I am always struck by the brilliant, verdant color of fresh spinach or kale juice. I wanted to make a drink that could capture that color, and I know it’s a little bit out there, but I took inspiration from the sweet salads that I have enjoyed in many yuppie restaurants

yuppie salad

Yuppie Salad
1.5 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
1 oz Spinach Juice
.5 oz Strawberry Juice
.25 oz Orgeat
.25 oz Balsamic Vinegar
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a skewered roasted red pepper.

Now I know what you’re thinking; “Darnit guys, couldn’t you just stir up a base spirit with some vermouth, maybe add a dash of absinthe or something? Spinach juice, really?” Spinach juice actually has a very mild flavor, and with the little bit of orgeat + vinegar, this really did taste like I was drinking a fancy salad. It was grassy, tangy, sweet, and fruity. Slivered almonds might also have been nice.


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Stouthearted: Strawberry, Amaretto, Coffee-infused Bourbon, Oatmeal Stout

I’m so glad the election is behind us, and now we can get back to focusing on the thing that truly makes America great: Bourbon whiskey.

Usually when I am brainstorming for drinks to make for the blog, I start with a concept based on a flavor pairing that I want to try. In this case, I was inspired by two separate drinks, both from the series Drink Inc. First, they made a drink of gin, pineapple, lime, and Lillet, floated with Amaretto and strawberry juice. I personally thought that was too complicated, but I was taken with the idea of the strawberry juice/amaretto combo. No one has to tell you how delicious that is; its deliciousness is self-evident. I wanted to take that flavor pairing and extract it into a drink where it could shine on its own.

I was also inspired by their beer-based drink, the “Heiferweizen”, consisting of apricot puree, lemon juice, orange marmalade, and hefeweizen. Since beer is already relatively viscous, it matches well with the texture of a fruit puree or jam. For my first iteration on this drink, I mixed up an ounce and a half each of strawberry juice (very thick, for a juice) and amaretto, shook it up, and then topped it with four ounces of stout. It was excellent, but it was slightly too sweet for my taste.

For round two, I had been planning to cut the sweetness with vanilla-infused bourbon, but James came over with some coffee-infused bourbon, recipe courtesy of Boozed and Infused, and I knew that the coffee would pair well with both the amaretto and the stout. The coffee bourbon tastes very similar to a cold-brewed coffee, with notes of bourbon on the back end, and a nice alcoholic kick. This is only my third beer cocktail, the first two being a pair of Singha highball drinks for Thai week. (Technically it is not a cocktail if we are being pedantic, though I don’t think there’s really a name for this genre other than “beer cocktail”).

Stouthearted
1.5 oz Coffee-Infused Bourbon (Evan Williams)
1.5 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
1 oz Amaretto (Luxardo)
3 oz Oatmeal Stout (Rogue)
Shake all but beer over ice and double-strain into an old fashioned glass. Top with 3 oz of Oatmeal stout and then garnish by floating coffee beans on the foam.

The stout mostly dominates the sip, along with some fruitiness from the strawberry. Strawberry, Amaretto, and coffee round out the finish. There is something a little bit romantic about the combination of amaretto and strawberry–something you might serve to your girlfriend. Hence we called it, “Stouthearted”. Even so, it is not an unmanly concoction, though it’s probably best saved for dessert.

Since it’s a beer drink, I can say: Prost!


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Fresh Juice Drink Template

As I experiment with different drink formats and classes of ingredients, I find my experiments will cluster around some very specific structures, and today I would like to share a template that I have developed for making drinks with fresh fruit juices. To get a good drink out of this template, you have to put some thought into the flavors you are combining, but I have found it to be pretty reliable.

Fresh Juice Template
1.5 oz base spirit
1 oz fresh fruit juice
.75 oz fortified wine
.25 oz syrup or liqueur
(optional) dash of bitters

This template is intended for juices that are not highly acidic, such as lemon or lime. It is not a template for a sour, but rather a template for succulent juices. Andy would even go so far as to call this genre of drink “succulent”, but I consider to be overkill. Each ingredient in the template has a purpose, and should be selected in order to best fill that role within the drink.

The fresh juice is the starting point. We start with produce, such as carrots or strawberries, and then we build our flavor profile around the juice of that ingredient. After selecting the juice, we select the base spirit. A good approach, though not the only approach, is to consider cuisine which contains your produce, and to choose a base spirit from that same region or theme. For example, peppers of all varieties make a fine accompaniment to tequila, while rums pair well with tropical fruits.

After selecting a juice and a liqueur, you should select your sweetener. A little bit of sugar will help to draw out the flavor of the fresh juice, which tends to be more aqueous than is entirely optimal in a mixed drink. The sweetener needs to complement both the juice and the spirit; curaçao for orange juice is an entirely reasonable choice, and maraschino is a brilliant accompaniment to pineapple or to fresh berries.

In some cases, you really want to let the flavor of the fruit stand on its own, and then simple syrup, or honey syrup, or demerara syrup will tend to be the best choices.

Finally, select a fortified wine. In most cases, this should be dry vermouth, as it will add complexity and dryness to the drink without interfering, but Cardamaro is an excellent accompaniment to fall flavors, and Stone’s Ginger pairs quite well with many fruits.

Alexandra’s Wish
1.5 oz Cognac (Salignac)
1 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
.75 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Demerara Syrup
1 Dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Shake over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

Don’t forget to strain the fresh juice through a fine-mesh strainer BEFORE you add it to the drink, as it will otherwise impede the straining of the drink at serving time, and to create the most smooth and elegant texture. Moreover, the expressed lemon oil is critical to the excellence of this drink. Don’t leave home without it!


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Strawberry Acapulco: Tequila, Rum, Grapefruit, Pineapple

I am sure at this point that anyone who is following me can tell that I have been raiding Kaiser Penguin’s archives. I was looking for ideas for cocktail garnishes and I found ten or twelve drinks that I really needed to make. Unfortunately, I made four of them in one night, and the next morning did not go all that well. All the drinks were really spectacular, though. To cap off the week I decided to share a small twist that I made on the Acapulco, a relatively classic drink from Difford’s Guide #5.

Tequila in Tiki? Yes, apparently, it can happen. On this particular evening, I had some strawberry syrup on hand, and as I am a great lover of the strawberry + tequila pairing, I substituted half of the simple syrup in this recipe with strawberry syrup. The result was a pleasant, subtle jamminess that pervaded the whole drink. In the picture there is a bit of a gradient, but I think that is due to the fact that the glass is thicker at the top than the bottom.

And let me tell you, there is a reason that blended strawberry margaritas are so popular in resorts and spring break type scenarios. Sure, those drinks suck, with their artificial flavorings and colorings, but there is still something about this flavor combination. I like it so much that I made some strawberry-infused tequila, but for this drink I wanted the smokiness of the reposado to really come through against the other flavors, and alas, my infusion is made with blanco tequila.

Strawberry Acapulco

1 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
1 oz Barbados Rum (Doorly’s)
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
2 1/2oz Pineapple Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Strawberry Syrup
Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with pineapple, strawberries, and an orange wheel, since it’s for the blog.

My rum collection is growing lately (a good problem!) and I was very pleased that for once I actually had a rum from the origin specified in the drink recipe. It is frequently not so.  This drink went down a little too smoothly, but wow, what an excellent flavor! Why not drink it while listening to Martin Denny?


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Strawberry Paloma

I made some strawberry-infused blanco tequila last May for the Alice In Wonderland #2, and since then I have been looking for other applications that suit it. Some readers may remember it from the Rafaela, a strawberry and chocolate variation on my favorite mezcal drink.  Last Saturday for a pregame, my homies and I decided to make a grapefruit juice version of a Paloma, the most popular tequila drink in mexico. Usually a simple combination of grapefruit soda and tequila, the Paloma can also be made with fresh grapefruit and lime juice, and that is exactly what I did.

I have never been crazy about grapefruit juice as a cocktail ingredient. Its flavor is too mild, too watery, and too subtle. I’m told that older grapefruits used to have a bitter flavor to them, but it has been bred out of modern commercial grapefruits in what I imagine was an attempt to sell more. The watery quality of juice from a fresh grapefruit from the supermarket is disappointing, and so is everything into which you mix it. Even so, the Strawberry Paloma:

Strawberry Paloma
1.5 oz Strawberry-infused Tequila (But stick to un-infused tequila, it’s better in this)
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Honey Syrup

Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

On account of the above-mentioned difficulties with grapefruit juice, I could not find a balance of grapefruit juice to tequila in this drink that I loved. The idea to use honey syrup came from a similar pairing in the between grapefruit and honey in the Brown Derby. That worked pretty well, but the strawberry tequila kind of fell flat. Stick to un-infused agave spirits for this one, to really focus on the flavor of the base. The strawberry infusion produced an almost tart flavor in the tequila, and it might pair well with yoghurt or cream, but it did not work well with grapefruit.

Speaking of grapefruits, the peel sank, looking pretty, but providing no aroma. A parable.


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How to Make Chocolate Liqueur

In Seattle we have a local chocolatier called Theo, and their chocolate is always popping up in local ice creams, coffee shops, and on the dessert menus of various Seattle restaurants. I wanted to get in on this Theo Chocolate band wagon, so I infused roughly five ounces of nibs in 750 ml of a 150 proof neutral grain spirit. When the goal is to create a pure extraction of a flavoring agent, you always want to use the highest proof spirit that you can. I would have used 190 proof, but it is illegal to sell in Washington, and I didn’t feel like driving to Idaho or Oregon. (Can you buy 190 proof spirit in Oregon?) Here is a picture of the nibs, getting good and sauced in a mason jar, day one:

I allowed this mixture to infuse for two weeks, agitating daily. After two weeks, it had taken on a rich chocolate brown color, and a strong, but incomplete flavor of the cacao. The secret to making an excellent liqueur in this style is to realize that only some of the flavor compounds in the chocolate are alcohol-soluble, whereas others are water-soluble. To create the fullest, roundest, most accurate chocolate flavor, you have to have both a water and an alcohol extraction. Moreover, a liqueur is supposed to be sweet, so it is necessary to add sugar.

I took another four ounces of Theo chocolate nibs and simmered them in a pot with water and sugar in a ratio of 1:1 for half an hour, until I had a dark, sweet chocolate syrup. The syrup did thicken from the sugar, but it retained the viscosity of simple syrup, because there was no melted chocolate. I knew I wanted a final spirit with a proof of 100 (50% abv), so I added 375 ml of the syrup to 750 ml of the infused spirit. This is a fun little algebra problem, which is trivial to solve using the numbers in this case, but if I had wanted a different target proof, the problem becomes slightly more fun. I leave it as an exercise for the reader, because math is almost as fun as drinking, and I would not want to deprive you.

Prior to this I had never mixed anything with chocolate liqueur, so to test the waters I made this chocolate aperitif, with the help of my friend James:

Chocolate Aperitif

.5 oz Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur (Homemade, Theo chocolate)

Stir over ice and strain. Express the oils of a lemon peel over the top and then drop it in. Drink in front of some leather-bound books.

Under-appreciated drinking fact: leather-bound books add 50% to the classiness of any drink. The slight bitterness from the sweet vermouth softens the sugar and the alcohol in the chocolate, while lemon oil adds a complexity and a bright tone that would otherwise be lacking. Even so, this drink is on the sweet side, which is why I kept it small.

Moving on, one of my all time favorite cocktails is called the Rodriguez, which I was fortunate enough to order at the Teardrop Lounge when I visited Portland last March. The Rodriguez uses blanco tequila cut with mezcal and Benedictine to great effect, and it tastes like a walk in the desert, when the sun is just barely starting to rise, and the air is still cool. Truly, it is perfect, and yet, humans cannot resist the urge to meddle with perfection, so I created a variation by swapping out the Benedictine for my chocolate liqueur, and using strawberry-infused blanco tequila. The result was probably more appropriate for Valentine’s day, which is long-past, but the mezcal helped it retain its Mexican flavor. The result was strikingly similar to the original, while still capturing the flavors of chocolate and strawberry.

Rafaela

1.5 oz Strawberry-Infused Blanco Tequila (Camarena)
.25 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
.75 oz Chocolate Liqueur (Homemade, Theo Chocolate)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
Dash of Chocolate Bitters (Fee’s)
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry.

The character of this drink was feminized by the addition of fruit and chocolate, so we decided to call it Rafaela, after a beautiful girl that James used to know when he lived in Mexico.