Measure & Stir

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


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Phat Beets: Beet, Rye, Cumin, Balsamic Vinegar, Orange Oil and Green Peppercorn

I know, I know, I haven’t written in a year. I’m not going to waste a lot of time on throat-clearing but I want to assure you that I’m still here, and I still like you, and as always, I want to help you elevate your cocktail game.

drink

I was fishing around for novel flavor combinations that would be timely for the winter season, and I found that green peppercorn jelly is appropriate to mix with beetroot, as is cumin, as is orange oil. I decided to put all four of them together, using beet juice as the bridge between the other ingredients.

For the beetroot, I ran several beets through a masticating juicer and then a fine-mesh strainer and then a chemex. Chemex clarification of juices works better with some juices than others. Beet is among the ones that work less well. Although my beet juice did achieve an elegant texture, its color was so dark that there was no noticeable effect of clarification. You could safely skip the chemex step, but you might consider straining through a 100 micron superbag.

I tried this drink with both bourbon and rye, and I discovered that the additional sourness that comes from a rye was a better complement to the sweet and earthy notes of the cumin and beet. Use a workhorse rye for this, as anything subtle will tend to be drowned out.

For the cumin syrup I toasted about a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds in a pan, then crushed them and simmered them in a 1:1 simple syrup until their flavor was extracted.

In the past I used to reach for lemon juice as my cocktail acid of choice, but a man can only drink so many lemon or lime sours before he starts to ask what other acids exist. Most every good cocktail has a source of acidity, except for the family of drinks that takes after the old fashioned.

For this drink I used a quarter ounce of 10 year aged balsamic vinegar. It is syrupy and sweet, but it also adds the ascetic tang on the backend that is needed to find balance and challenge.

Finally, for the green peppercorn jelly, I crushed ~2 teaspoons of green peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, and simmered them with sugar, agar agar, and filtered water. As soon as the agar dissolved, I poured the mixture through a strainer into a small mold and let it set in the fridge. In 20 minutes I had a firm, pale green jelly.

garnish

Phat Beets
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (RI1)
.75 oz Finely Strained Beet Juice
.5 oz Toasted Cumin Syrup
.25 oz Extra-Old Balsamic Vinegar
Express Orange Oil over the drink and discard the peel.
Serve with Green Peppercorn Agar Agar Jelly.

 

Green Peppercorn Jelly
250ml Filtered Water
1 Tsp Green Peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2g Agar Agar powder
Bring all to a boil and whisk until sugar and agar agar are fully dissolved. Strain into a small mold and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

This is not one of those viscerally delicious, I-can’t-wait-to-have-another-one type of drinks. I don’t think beet juice is anyone’s favorite, but my hope is that a refined palate can appreciate this as a much more cerebral cocktail experience. First, the imbiber should take a sip of the drink, and observe its sweet, earthy, and spicey notes. The flavors are more or less orthogonal and exist such that each is distinct.

Then, they should take a bite of the peppercorn jelly. The subtle piperitious burn lingers on the palette with an unctuous, floral note. Another sip reveals an unexpected synergy between peppercorn, beetroot, and cumin, pulling the brighter elements of the drink’s composition into contrast against the bassy note of the pepper.

I apologize (#sorrynotsorry) for the previous two paragraphs but I have been watching a lot of Iron Chef Japan lately.

Cheers.


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I Should Buy A Boat: Rum, Cinnamon, Grapefruit, Champagne

I had very fond memories of this rum, grapefruit, cinnamon drink, and in fact, I remembered it as one of my happiest accidents. So, the other day, I mixed one up and I found that the flavor was too sweet, perhaps even cloying. I have updated the drink, looking through the lens of more experience running this blog. The new version, which I have named, is a significant improvement.

buyaboat1

In the original, I used Monin vanilla syrup, and white grapefruit juice, and I derived the cinnamon flavor from cinnamon sticks. When I remade the drink, I used pink grapefruit juice, due to availability, and my homemade cinnamon+vanilla syrup, which I make a bit rich at 1.2 sugar/water. I think the Monin syrup is closer to 1.0, and that the juice of white grapefruit is undeniably dryer, and perhaps a bit more complex than that of the pink.

It was not only the sweetness of the drink that did offend, it was also the texture, which I found to be slightly syrupy. The flavor, however, was balanced between cinnamon and grapefruit, so I did not want to adjust the quantity of syrup. Making a lighter syrup would be one option, but I preferred to lengthen the drink by pouring it over ice, and topping it with two ounces of champagne.

The ice is perhaps unnecessary, but I wanted to serve it at a party as a highball, and it did not detract from the texture. If your syrup is not a bit rich, I would not use ice.

buyaboat2

I Should Buy a Boat
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
1 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
2 oz Champagne
Shake all but Champagne over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with 2 oz Champagne and garnish with a grapefruit slice. Grate a bit of fresh cinnamon on top of the grapefruit in front of your guest, for aroma.

The flavors of this drink somehow came together in a way that suggested cherries and almonds, even though neither of those flavors was present in the ingredients. There might have been notes of those things in the champagne we used (which was from Trader Joe’s, I can’t remember the label), but certainly not enough to create those impressions as distinctly as they were present in the drink.

I worry that my garnishing procedure grows too elaborate, sometimes. Part of my garnish-o-mania derives from the necessity to take interesting photographs, but it has become one of my favorite parts of the craft.

This post is running long, but one quick note on the name. It had rum, and champagne, and I was serving it at a formal party, so I named it after a popular internet cat picture, which I much admire.

i-should-buy-a-boat-cat

This is one of my favorite original creations to date. Cheers!


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Rum Milk Punch

We have another winter warmer for you today, courtesy of Cocktail Virgin Slut, though we have modified it slightly and in an entirely canonical way. This is one of those recipes that does not necessarily grab you when you read it, but which is completely wonderful when you actually drink it. I made it for several family members over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they loved it.

It’s a great drink to make when you do not have the luxury of working out of your home bar, because most people have all of the necessary ingredients in their house. OK, sure, they might not have bitters, but there are some things a man should always carry on his person. And they might not have cinnamon syrup, but you can easily make some. Sugar, cinnamon, water it really is that easy.

Also, I only have one photo for you today, and I am sorry about that.

rum-milk-punch
1.5 oz Dark Rum (Doorly’s)
1.5 oz Whole Milk
.5 oz Bourbon (Evan Williams)
.5 oz Cinnamon Syrup
2 dash Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
Dry shake and then shake over ice and double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with cinnamon. Cloves and star anise are optional.

Don’t forget that when working with dairy, it is appropriate to dry shake first, as with egg whites, in order to froth the milk. I have also made this drink with half and half, which makes it yet more of an indulgence. And don’t skimp on the milk! Better milk will make a better drink, period.

In the original recipe, bourbon was the base, and rum was an accent, but I tried it both ways and decided that I wanted to bring the rum to the foreground. I think you could adapt any combination of your favorite brown spirits to this format, and still be happy with the results. Except don’t use scotch as the base, that does not sound great to me. But rye, brandy, aged cachaça? Go crazy.

According to Fred:

Milk Punches of this sort appear in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bartenders Guide: A Bon Vivant’s Companion and became popular brunch drinks especially in New Orleans

Milk punch is a versatile and portable recipe to memorize, especially in the colder months. I highly recommend it.
Cheers!


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Mixology Monday: Equal Parts

Mixology MondayIt’s been a while, Mixology Monday. I was always a little disappointed that this fine cocktail blog tradition became suspended just as I was getting started. This month it’s hosted by Fred of Cocktail Virgin Slut, which was one of the main resources I have used to learn about the world of fine drinks. Before I started this blog, easily ninety percent of the drinks I made came from CVS, and I still use them every time I am exploring a new ingredient. Their site is easily the best cocktail database on the web.

Anyway, as I was digging around in various blog archives, looking for inspiration, I came upon this comparison of Zombie recipes by Kaiser penguin, and I noticed that the recipe they selected as their favorite was equal parts. That version is the Dr. Cocktail version from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. I will confess that this recipe takes a bit of license with the theme; Fred said that dashes of bitters were OK, but this recipe also called for 1tsp of brown sugar. We’ll call that a couple of dashes.

Sadly, I did not have any powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of the pineapple and lime, but I made up for it with a parasol on the straw. I also served it over cubed ice, and I think crushed might have been a bit more in the spirit of the drink, but even so, it was utterly delicious. I was serving several rounds of tiki drinks on this occasion, so I ended up serving half of this recipe to each of my guests, and finishing it with a float of Kraken in equal measure to the other ingredients. That was actually an accident, intended for my second round, but it made the drink beautifully aromatic, and I would do it exactly the same way again.

Zombie

1oz Lime Juice
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz Pineapple juice (Must be fresh!)
1oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1oz gold Puerto Rican rum (151 Cruzan)
1oz 151 proof Demerara rum (El Dorado 12)
1oz light Puerto Rican rum (Ron Matusalem)
1oz Spiced Black Rum, Floated (Kraken)
1tsp brown sugar
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish as outrageously as possible.

Astute readers will notice that I switched the rums up a bit, out of necessity. I am not so fortunate as to have a bottle of Lemonheart, so I ended up using an 80 proof demerara rum and a 151 proof gold rum. So the demerara and 151 proof requirements were satisfied, but not quite as per usual. By far the most difficult ingredient in this recipe was the passion fruit syrup. Passion fruits are costly, but I was not about to use a commercial product. It’s probably pretty obvious how to make a passion fruit syrup, but just in case:

Passion Fruit Syrup
1 cup water
1.5 cups sugar
pulp from 7 passion fruits
Dissolve the sugar in the water on the stove top, and then add all of the passion fruit pulp. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes, then strain through a cheesecloth and fortify with an ounce of vodka or everclear. (I prefer everclear)

A huge thanks to Fred for hosting MxMo, and Cheers to all the other participants. Full round-up is here.


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Lavender-Infused Gin

I found a bundle of fresh Lavender at Trader Joe’s last week, and I was struck by inspiration! Lavender is one of my favorite flavors, and when I first was getting into mixology, I tried twice to create a lavender-centric drink by making lavender syrup from fresh lavender. Oh, how foolish I was! I have since learned the rules about how to capture various flavors for use in drinks.

  • If a reagent’s primary experience is as an aroma, the best way to extract it is in alcohol, i.e., by making an infusion.
  • If a reagent is small on aroma but big on flavor, the best way to extract it is by simmering it in sugar and water, and making a syrup.
  • If a reagent is has both a strong flavor and a strong smell, it is best to make a liqueur by performing both extractions, and blending them together.

I can’t remember where I learned this, but it was in a discussion of Buddha’s Hand, a citrus fruit with a very light flavor, but a powerful fragrance. When I saw the lavender, I realized it was my chance to redeem myself, and I took it straight home and infused it into some Beefeater gin. Most infusions take a week or more, but there are some ingredients, such as black tea, which take only a few hours, or even less.

Lavender proved to be on the quicker end of the extraction curve, becoming noticeable in the gin after only five hours, and becoming truly salient after about ten. I left it for closer to sixteen, and that was perhaps too long. Let this be a lesson to you, to always check your infusions. Fortunately, when you make the mistake of over-infusing, it’s easy to recover; just blend some of the un-infused spirit with the infused one, until the flavor is right. I added some plain Beefeater in small increments until the flavor of the lavender was in proper balance with the botanicals in the gin.

My friend James was present for the debut of this infusion, and he had the brilliant suggestion to make a Gin fix using honey syrup. The lavender flavor I had sought two years prior was perfectly expressed in this drink, and I can say this, because I have not had very many lavender drinks, that this was the best lavender mixed drink I have ever had.

Lavender Gin Fix
1.5 oz Lavender-Infused Gin (Beefeater)
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Honey Syrup

Shake over ice, double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a sprig of lavender.

This is the standard formula for a fix or a sour, with lavender gin and honey syrup plugged in the appropriate slots. Honey on it’s own is quite floral, which is why it works so well with lavender.

Moving on, I was in a more experimental mood, and I wanted to see what would happen if I combined a variety of floral ingredients. I do not recommend making the next one, but I think it was instructive, and we can all learn something from it, hopefully.

Drink All The Flowers (version 0)
1.5 oz Lavender-Infused Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Violet Syrup
.25 oz Rose Syrup
.
25 oz Elderflower Liqueur (Pur Likor)
.25 oz Acid Phosphate
Stir over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lavender sprig.
The dye in the rose and violet syrups made this drink a deep garnet color, as you can see. Even with the acid phosphate, which is a dry, flavorless chemical sold by Art of Drink, this was much sweeter than I usually prefer. That was to be expected, on account of all the syrups, but it caused me to drink it very slowly, and I got to see what happened after it warmed up a bit.
When the drink was cold, it had a nice balance between the lavender, the rose, and the violet. As it got a bit warmer, the elderflower became more manifest, and the syrups really started to overtake the base spirit. The violet syrup was much too powerful for the other ingredients, and the elderflower did not belong. I did not feel compelled to mix a second one, but if I did, I would do it like this:
Drink All The Flowers (version 0.5)
1.5 oz Lavender-Infused Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Rose Syrup
.25 oz Acid Phosphate
1 dash of Violet Syrup
Stir over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lavender sprig.
Cheers.


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Rose Syrup

I bought some rose syrup from Travelers, the local Indian market. Whenever I make or purchase a new syrup, I try it in an old fashioned. I thought that lemon would complement the rose more than orange, since lemon oil is an extremely bright flavor, and rose is a a little bit darker. Moreover, rose and rye did not work together all that well, so I opted for dark rum, instead. The rose syrup had even more red dye in it than Campari, and it managed to completely overpower the color of  Flor de Cana Centenario 18, which is a very dark rum, indeed.

Old Fashioned Rum Cocktail with Rose

1.5 oz aged dark rum (Flor De Cana 18)
1 barspoon rose syrup
1 dash orange bitters (Regan’s)
stir and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel

The clerk at the store told me rose would not work in an old-fashioned. That’s what happens when you think one-dimensionally and assume that rye or bourbon has to be the base. Rum was made for roses. It tastes like romance, and as long as you have a light hand with that rose syrup, it won’t be cloying.

Rose Pegu
1 3/4 oz. London dry gin (Beefeater)
3/4 oz. Combier Pamplemousse Rose (Rose Syrup)
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with a lime peel.

Ok, so using a syrup isn’t quite in the spirit of a Pegu, which is supposed to contain liqueur, but the dirty secret is that you can often sub a syrup for a liqueur as long as the liqueur is reasonably sweet and the drink has other substantial alcohol components. This recipe came from Jacob Grier, but I didn’t have any Combier Pamplemousse Rose.  I suspect the liqueur is not quite as sweet as this syrup, as I ended up adding an additional 1/4 oz of lime to balance the sweetness.

To be honest, I feel like making a gin sour is the easiest way in the world to incorporate one other flavor into a drink. If you have a liqueur or a syrup and you aren’t sure how to express it, gin and lemon or lime is almost guaranteed to make a nice base for it. I have to admit, this was a very tasty drink, like a citrusy Turkish delight, even if it was the easy way out. And speaking of Turkish delight, the flavor of pistachio might be a beautiful addition.

The lime oil was a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the rose, and the gin added a fine botanical complexity on the swallow. If I were serving this at a party, I would express lime oil over the surface of the drink and then garnish it with a few white rose petals instead.

Rosey Disposition (beta)

1.5 oz Cuban Rum (Matusalem Clasico)
.75 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz rose syrup
1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over cracked ice and garnish with a lemon knot.

A great template to know is 6:3:1 with a base spirit, a fortified wine, and a modifier. I used this same template last week with gin and apricot-flavored brandy. So I’m not sure if this is any less of a cop-out than the Rose Pegu, but as with the old fashioned, the caramel qualities of the rum blended almost romantically with the rose syrup.

I also tried mixing rose syrup with several amari, but I found that the flavor of rose occupies a very similar place on the spectrum as an amaro such as Ramazotti, and even though the rose came through, it was blurry. The syrup went a little bit better with Campari, though I did not use it in the above variation. There is a pleasing consonance between the two brilliant reds. A rose Negroni may be in my future.

Finally, since we’re on the subject, a note on garnishes:

If you have a channel knife, you can easily cut a long, graceful strip of lemon peel. Tying it into a very loose knot is an excellent alternative to a twist, once in a while.