Measure & Stir

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


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Income Tax Cocktail

This is just a quick cut that I think is timely for the month of April. The Income Tax cocktail has a vague history that you can trivially find by searching for it on google. It’s a Bronx with bitters, which is to say, it’s a Perfect Martini with orange juice. I usually like to mix one up for myself on tax day, and that’s exactly what I did, plus or minus.

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The little hit of juice in this drink makes it much more refreshing than if it were pure spirits. You will find that the dry vermouth blends into the sweet vermouth, and then the sweet vermouth blends harmoniously into the orange, while the gin and bitters supply a solid bass note.

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Income Tax Cocktail
1 oz Gin
.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
.5 oz Orange Juice
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double-strain into a coupe. Do your damn taxes.

Ultimately the exact ratios are up to you, but I like mine to be classically jiggered, and I like the orange juice in equal measure to the other supporting cast members.

Cheers.


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La Vida Buena: A Mezcal Negroni

A few weeks ago I was at the Rob Roy, in Seattle, celebrating a friend’s birthday. The men’s room at Rob Roy is covered in graffitti, like pretty much any men’s room at any bar, only the scribblings at Rob Roy aren’t just of random profanity. They’re cocktail recepies. Yes dear readers, it just so happens that today’s drink came to me in a public bathroom. But, hey, sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

La Vida Beuna
1.5 oz Mezcal
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Campari

Pour all components into a mixing glass over ice and stir. Strain drink into a cocktail glass over a nice, fresh ice chunk. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

It has become popular recently to templatize the negroni. The classic negroni is an equal parts drink made of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Although this ratio tastes fine, it isn’t my favorite. I find that the texture of an equal parts negroni is overwhelmingly syrupy because of the amount of Campai used. Also, I find that in this ratio the Campari’s bitterness overpowers the gin and vermouth. These days it seems to be more popular to use a 3:2:1 template, which does a great job of addressing these two critiques. In this version we used 6:3:1 because the original recipe I saw in the bathroom at Rob Roy called for Aperol, not Campari. Some handy advice: you can substitute Campari for Aperol and get away with it as long as you use half as much Campari.

La Vida Buena is a mezcal version of the old, classic drink. Personally, I prefer the smoky taste of mezcal in a negroni over gin, as I enjoy the additional layer of complexity it brings to the glass. I also simply love mezcal, and pretty much anything that has mezcal in it. The aroma from the blood orange peel lends the sip a subtle tartness that plays well with vermouth, and foreshadows the bitters from the Campari, which linger after the swallow.

Cheers!


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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.


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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.


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Libretto

Another one from Cocktail Virgin Slut, as soon as I saw this drink, I knew I had to make it. I love the combination of elderflower and Cynar, and I have been very happy in the past with Tequila and elderflower as well, so I really wanted to see how they all played together. Surprisingly, the whole drink had a coffee flavor, even though it contained no coffee.

Libretto

1.5 oz Anejo Tequila (El Jimador)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
.5 oz Elderflower Liqueur (Pur Likor)
.5 oz Cynar
Chocolate bitters (Fee’s)

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass.

This cocktail is certainly intriguing, but not so great that I will rush to make it again. If you are hunting for novelty, as I often am, it’s worth a stop, but it’s a little too complicated to put it on my A-list. The flavors are all there if you look for them, and the dark translucency of the drink is visually appealing. The Libretto is unimpeachable from a technical perspective, just not my favorite.

To be sure, the flavor illusion of coffee is noteworthy, and I will keep a record of the drink in case there is some perfect occasion for it in the future. The art of drinking well surely includes a sense of timeliness, and you never know what occasion might warrant this exact drink.


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Shiberry Inu

The Bloodhound is a classic drink from the 1930s, with a storied history. It is also one of my favorite classic drinks, though it suffers from the unfortunate pathology that it can only be made using fresh berries, and hence, must be enjoyed in the summer time. The original version of the drink is made with strawberries, but I prefer a canonical variation known as the Halsdon, which is made with raspberries.

And yet, the Bloodhound is not the drink we will be discussing today. Last Saturday, amidst all the hullabaloo of Fernet Branca and Pineapple, I had intended to make a Bloodhound, because I had some raspberries on hand. But as I was preparing to make the drink, I discovered that James’ dry vermouth has gone off, even though he stores it properly. Faced with soured dry vermouth, I decided to improvise, and substituted (in the loosest sense of the word) orgeat syrup for dry vermouth, and muddled the raspberries in the orgeat.

The result did not have much in common with the original, but that did not stop it from being highly delicious.

Shiberry Inu

1.5 oz Gin (Hayman’s Old Tom)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup (Homemade)
5-6 raspberries

Muddle the raspberries in the orgeat, and then add the gin and vermouth and shake over ice. Double-strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a fresh raspberry.

Admittedly, this drink tended a little more to the candy side of mixology, but sometimes, that is what a man needs. The name “Shiberry Inu” is intended as a play on the name “Bloodhound”. Runners up for this drink’s name were “Raspberry Shar Pei” and “Red Rover”, all trying to capitalize on the dogness/redness ideas.