Measure & Stir

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


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Enchanted Valentine’s: Snow White Forest Tonic with Hendrick’s Gin, Apple, Green Herbs, and Fernet Branca

The evil queen was a beautiful woman, but she was proud and arrogant, and she could not stand it if anyone might surpass her in beauty. She had a magic mirror. Every morning she stood before it, looked at her plate, and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who makes the tastiest dessert of all?

Continuing the Valentine’s day feast, Johan and I decided to serve a dessert-loaded menu. Our second course was inspired by Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. For this fairy tale, we served “The Other Half of the Poison Apple”, and as before, Johan describes it in excruciating detail at Moedernkitchen.

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As long as long as the queen was not the most beautiful woman in the entire land, her envy would give her no rest. She made a poisoned apple, and from the outside it was beautiful; white with red cheeks, and anyone who saw it would want it. But anyone who might eat a little piece of it would die.

“Are you afraid of poison?” asked the old woman. “Look, I’ll cut the apple in two. You eat the red half, and I shall eat the white half.”

Now the apple had been so artfully made that only the red half was poisoned. Snow-White longed for the beautiful apple; she barely had a bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground dead.

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As you can see, we got experimental with this one. In addition to the drink and the frozen apple, we served an aromatic fog made with eucalyptus and spruce oil. With the fog and the drink, my intention was to create a sense of being lost in an enchanted forest.

For the fog, we filled a glass vessel with crushed dry ice, and then at service time, poured in a mixture of near-boiling water and essential oils. Be sure to use tempered glass for this, or it can break the vessel. If the water is not hot, the vapor will be disappointing.

The sensation of sitting down to a drink, and feeling the sudden rush of cold vapor flowing over the table, and the sharp scent of eucalyptus opening the sinuses

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For the drink, I used Hendrick’s gin, fresh apple juice season with matcha and malic acid, and a syrup of blanched and blended green herbs.  I was aiming at a fresh green color, but as conceived, the drink ended up a little swampy. In person it was greener, swearsies. I had no deep, esoteric inspiration in this drink, just a pragmatic, bottom-up approach.

I knew I wanted to create the feeling of a forest, so I started with a gin base and layered in other green aromas and botanicals. In my mind, rosemary, sage, and shiso all taste “green”, but one could be forgiven for thinking of poultry spices. In the drink, this was not a concern, but on its own,  I did think of a roast chicken.

Green Herb Syrup
20g rosemary
20g sage
20g shiso
150 ml water
150 ml sugar
Blanch the herbs, then combine everything in a blender and blend on high until the mixture is smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.

You could substitute mint for shiso, but cooked mint easily goes to toothpaste. Exercise caution. If possible, I would suggest juicing fresh mint à la minute, instead of macerating it into a syrup.

For the sour apple juice, I pressed three granny smith apples in a masticating juicer, seasoned it with powdered malic acid and matcha powder according to my taste, and whipped the mixture using a whisk attachment on an immersion blender. There is no precise recipe here, it is simply a matter of taste. The sour apple juice is filling in for lemon in this gin sour, and it needs to balance the sweet green syrup. If I had to put a number on it, I would say:

Sour Matcha Apple Juice
150 ml Fresh Granny Smith Apple Juice
10g Matcha Powder
3g Powdered Malic Acid
Combine all using an electric whisk.

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Lost in the Forest
1.25 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz Sour Matcha Apple Juice
.5 oz Green Herb Syrup*
Shake over ice and double strain into an old-fashioned glass.
Float .25 oz of Fernet Branca.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig clipped to the side of the glass.

The float of Fernet Branca is mostly for aroma, but it gives the first few sips a bitter, bracing quality as well as a deep menthol aroma. The forest is dark and beguiling.

As you may notice, it is the year of the tiny clothespin. This cocktail garnish innovation is a real game-changer. Many aromatic ingredients are repellant if dropped into a drink,  but they can be beautiful and fragrant if held slightly aloft. Do yourself a favor.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter: Easter Dinner with Cocktail Pairings

This is just a bit of housekeeping, because when I do a series of posts with a common theme, I like to have a single landing page for them. Herein, I will sum up my collaboration with Johan at Moedernkitchen on a four course Easter dinner with cocktail pairings.

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Shochu Think You Can Dance? / Shiso Ready!
An amuse-bouche of shiso sorbet, paired with a fizzy aperitif of shochu, ginger, daikon, and horseradish.

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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta and the Slaughter
Lamb “katsu”, smashed peas, rowanberry jam, paired with a drink of gin, sugarsnap peapods, green tea, and mint.

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Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All?
Rabbit leg confit, parsnip puree, caramelized shallots, “melted” carrot, paired with a drink of light rum, mango, carrot, and habanero.

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The Perfect Blossom
Cherry blossom opera cake, cherry blossom tofu mousse, and cotton candy, paired with a drink of white tea, junmai daiginjo sake, and preserved cherry blossom.

If it was not immediately obvious, our goal for each course was to appear in a different color commonly associated with the easter season. If our pastels were a little too vibrant, well, who really wants to eat pastel-colored food? Gross.

Most people don’t want to drink four cocktails in a row, even if they are paired with food, so I kept the alcohol content a little lower than average, (~1 oz per drink) and my strategy was to use abrasive agents such as ginger, horseradish, mint, habanero, and tannins from tea in order to offset the rich food. Mixed drinks often deal in strong flavors, and it is easy to overpower a food accompaniment.

For the best degustation, keep your drinks light and your food bold.

Cheers.


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Thaiquila

Brown, bitter, and stirred is a genre to which we probably don’t pay enough attention. To be perfectly honest, by the time you add two fortified wines, two liqueurs/amari, and/or two base spirits, things start to taste a little muddy. I went through a period where I mixed every BB&S that I came across, and they all ran together in my mind.

Fernet, St. Germain, Bourbon, Lillet? Reposado, Nonino, Punt e Mes, Tiki bitters? Why not? Appleton Reserve, Dry Sherry, Pimento Dram, Campari? Don’t mind if I do. Personally, I like to keep it simple most of the time, because I really want to notice each flavor distinctly. The theme at our last session was tea, and astute readers might have noticed various manifestations of Camellia sinensis in several of our recent posts.

For this drink, we wanted to infuse the tea in a spirit, and we chose an old favorite, Thai tea, which is black tea that has been flavored with star anise, crushed tamarind, and possibly orange flower water, and we infused it into Reposado tequila for about an hour and a half. It’s important when infusing tea into spirits to taste them frequently, to avoid creating a tanniny mess with a drying and unpleasant mouthfeel.

thaiquila

Thaiquila (Sorry about the name)
1.5 oz Thai Tea-Infused Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Amaro Zucca
1 dash Orange Bitters (Scrappy’s Seville)
Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

I love Amaro Zucca, and I found that the earthy flavor of the rhubarb was well-balanced against the flavors of the tea and the vermouth. 6-3-1 may not be the most exciting formula in the world, but it’s solid, and with careful choices, it can pay off in a big way. I always taste and smell a few different options for each slot when I am using a formula like this, to make sure that the flavors fit. Two flavors that are too similar will blur together, making the drink “muddy”. Ideally, the flavors should be far enough apart from each other that they all come through on their own.

BB&S drinks almost always benefit from a fresh orange or lemon peel, depending on the ingredients. Though spirits are very good at capturing aromas, they can never quite retain the bright flavor of fresh citrus oil.

A personal rule, though far from a universal one, is to avoid having two ingredients in drink with the same flavors. If you have orange liqueur, you do not need orange juice. It’s redundant. The only time I break this rule is with bitters.

On a completely different subject, and as a little bit of administratriva, we tend to have about one mixing session about every two weeks, and then blog about it over the next two. Most sessions have a theme, or an ingredient set from a particular market. We’ve had three sessions so far this year, and I’m going to start calling them out in the posts in question. Makes it fun.

I’ll be sipping on one of my favorite bourbons this weekend. I hope your plans are as exciting as mine!


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Blood and Smoke

So we were brainstorming what to do with various teas, and we wanted to try every way we could think of to get tea into a drink. We tried infusing the tea in spirits, and in vinegar, and in syrups; we tried brewing the tea and reducing it, we tried matcha, we tried adding boiling tea to hot toddies and chilled tea to iced-tea style drinks. We had one drink that failed three times. Sometimes you just have to make peace with your failures… Cardamom and earl grey are just too similar to make a nice drink together.

But this is not a post about failure! This is a riff on a drink we made last summer, the Blood and Oak. I wish I could say it was for Mixology Monday, but it isn’t. I inverted the um, uh, the– I inverted the infusion! Normally you would infuse the base spirit, but for this one I infused the liqueur. I’m so edgy.

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Blood and Smoke
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong Syrup
.25 oz Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

This was a little too sweet. I wanted that lapsang souchong in the drink, but the syrup just added unnecessary sugar. You can see I followed the same formula that you would for a Blood and Sand. I infused the campari with a dried ancho chile, seeds removed, for about two hours. You have to watch a chili pepper infusion very carefully — overdo it and it turns into mace. I think if I had to do it again, I would put the lapsang in with the ancho, and just infuse it all into the campari. Bump up the proportion to .5, and I think you would have a much more respectable drink.

So, if you actually do it, do it like this:

Blood and Smoke (Revised)
2 oz Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
.5 oz Lapsang Souchong and Ancho Chili-Infused Campari
Shake over ice and double strain into a coup. Garnish with a blood orange peel.

And adjust the proportions to your taste. You need to select an amount of orange juice that mediates, but does not nullify, the capsaicin burn from the chili, and it might be that .75 oz works better. That depends on the strength of your infusion and your own good taste.

Sorry I missed you, MxMo, and Cheers.


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Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy

If the name is confusing, say it out loud, like “Not ya Grandmother’s Toddy”. The joke isn’t funny if you explain it. I know. The hour is late so I’m going to make this a quick one.

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James had the idea to have a small tea party, in which all of our drinks would contain tea. I was greatly enthused by the idea, and we set about brainstorming some different ideas. In the brainstorming phase I thought, “this ingredient is going to be a snap!” But it turns out that tea is very subtle, and there are many opportunities for the drink to go horribly wrong.

For our first drink we wanted to get some green tea in a glass with some hogo. The problem is that brewed tea has a very light flavor, and a tea syrup made in the usual way has a similarly light flavor. There was no way it was going to stand up to a high proof spirit! So the first thing I tried was brewing six cups of green tea, and then reducing it to roughly 2 cups. Making the reduction caused the tea to oxidize, and it lost both its green color and its grassy flavor.

In fact, it started to taste like a black tea, but not like a good one. So we dumped that. Fortunately, I had some matcha powder in my cabinet, and we were able to find a solution that was both flavorful and colorful.

If you want to get the flavor of green tea in a drink, matcha is your best friend. A brief green tea infusion in vodka, pisco, or gin is another way, but I think matcha delivers the boldest and truest flavor of green tea. It is very bitter, however, and not in a delicious fernet kind of way.

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Matcha Grandmother’s Toddy
1.5 oz Cachaça (Pitú)
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
3 oz boiling water
1/4 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tsp white sugar
In a mixing glass, combine matcha, sugar, and boiling water. Stir vigorously. Add spirits and pour into a warmed irish coffee mug. Top with a matcha whipped cream*, lime twist, grated lime zest, and skewered blueberries.

We ended up using cachaça instead of J. Wray, for it has a similar flavor, but it is not quite so pungent and overpowering. This is one of my favorite drinks to date, both in taste and appearance. I loved the sulfurous, vegetal funk of the cachaça against the grassy, floral tea, along with the bitter notes from the cocchi on the backend.

The presentation was inspired by this Orange Pisco Hot Chocolate from Serious Eats. By the way, here’s how to make matcha whipped cream:

Matcha Whipped Cream
.5 L Heavy Cream
1 tsp matcha powder
sugar to taste
Combine all in an iSi whipped cream dispenser, pressurize, and shake.

Bottoms up!


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Thai Tea Rum Fizz

Last week Joe and I were trying to use up the Thai tea syrup that we made for Thai week. I really wanted to try rum and Thai tea syrup together, so I suggested that we make a drink out of the two. We waited until later in the session to explore this idea, and, since we hadn’t made one yet, why not a fizz?

Thai Tea Rum Fizz
2 oz Doorly’s rum
1 oz Thai tea syrup
.75 oz Acid phosphate
1 oz Heavy cream
Dash of allspice dram
White of 1 Egg
Top with soda water and flamed angostura

Combine all but the toppers and dry shake for about a minute. Add ice and shake again to chill. Strain into a tall glass and top with soda water. Add 4 drops of angostura and use a toothpick to swirl it into the foam. Flame a bit more angostura over the top.

Traditionally, a fizz contains gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. A Ramos fizz has all of that plus egg white, cream, and orange flower water. We decided to make ours more like the Ramos fizz, with some twists. I wanted the flavor profile to be focused on the rum and thai tea, so I chose to use acid phosphate as the souring agent, which is sour yet neutral. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any orange flower water, but we added some allspice dram to spice it up a bit, which paired well with the rum.

The fizz is an interesting form of cocktail. I guess I would describe this drink as kind of like an alcoholic milkshake. At first I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted, being rich and thick, but by the end of the glass I was sorry to see it finished. The aroma of charred bitters and the tiny bite from the allspice complement the rum rather well. Working with cream turned out to be a double-edged sword because, although it adds body to the drink and helps to draw out the sweetness in the tea flavor from the syrup, too much of it clobbers some of the tea’s complexity. For that reason, we used half as much cream as you usually would for a Ramos fizz.

Enjoy!