Measure & Stir

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


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Punchius Pilate

For James’ birthday party, which was two weeks ago, we wanted to make a punch around his favorite spirit, Mezcal. (We also made Sangria.) So naturally, I turned to my favorite database of mixological knowledge, Cocktail Virgin Slut, wherein I found this little number, Punchius Pilate. This punch is a Frederic Yarm original, and we took only a small measure of license with his recipe.

In this punch, Fred blended Lapsang Souchong syrup with smokey tequila, grapefruit, ginger ale, and ancho chile. Here’s his recipe for Lapsang Souchong syrup, which we made, omitting the grapefruit zest. We also did not measure the spices too precisely, preferring to portion them by feel/smell. In Fred’s notes, he said he could have used more ancho chile, and indeed, I think we used more than he did in his original recipe.

Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
1. Boil water and measure out 6 oz. Add Lapsang Souchong tea (I added 3 tea bags to 12 oz for a double batch) and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the tea is steeping, muddle 1-2 cloves (I used 3 for a double batch), add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chili powder, and the half the zest of a grapefruit.
3. Measure out 6 oz (by volume) of sugar. Add an ounce or two to the zest/spice mixture and muddle to extract the zest’s oil.
4. After the tea is steeped, add in all sugar, zest, and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover and let sit for a few hours. Strain through a tea towel and store in refrigerator. Makes around 8 oz of syrup.

So, once again, we omitted the grapefruit, and used more spices than this recipe called for, playing it by intuition. When mixing drinks, it’s important to measure precisely, but when making syrups, sauces, (indeed, in cooking in general) we find that the best results usually follow from a mixture of intuition and trust in one’s own good taste. I do not need to know how much ancho, cinnamon, clove, and tea to put in this syrup; the description of the concept is enough to let me execute the recipe. To make it, simply ensure that all of the flavors are in balance, and strongly expressed.

We omitted the grapefruit zest because, in my mind, it isn’t really punch with out oleo saccharum, so rather than put the zest in the syrup, we started by macerating the peel of five large grapefruits in caster’s sugar for three hours, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. We also scaled the recipe up by a factor of three.

Punchius Pilate
1.5 Liters Reposado Tequila (El Jimador)
750 mL Mezcal (Del Maguey Mezcal de Vida)
750 mL Tawny Port (Cockburn’s Tawny)
24 oz Grapefruit Juice (Ruby Red)
20 oz Spiced Lapsang Souchong Tea Syrup
12 oz Lime Juice
Oleo Saccharum of 5 Large Grapefruits
Serve over ice and top with a bit of ginger beer.

We tweaked the ratios a little bit, mostly out of convenience. It’s easier to pour in the whole bottle of port rather than quibble about a few extra ounces. Moreover, we used slightly less Lapsang Souchong syrup as a tradeoff against the added sugar from the oleo saccharum. The Lapsang Souchong flavor came through beautifully, so I have no regrets. I did not make an ice ring mold, I confess, because I prefer to serve the punch personally. I like to buy a big block of ice, and carve off a chunk with my ice pick for each guest as I serve it.

Moreover, I prefer to add a little bit of ginger beer to each guest’s cup individually, so that the ginger beer will not lose its carbonation in the punch. This allows us to bottle any leftovers and save them for a week or two after the event. It’s true, the fresh citrus in the punch loses some of its subtler qualities after about two days, but adding a little spike of fresh lime when you pour it mostly ameliorates this problem.

As for the punch itself, it was a big hit, and everyone involved sang its praises. I actually preferred mine without the ginger beer, as it was less sweet, and I felt that it really let the smoke flavor come through. I was in the minority, however, as James and most of our guests preferred it with bubbles.

Cheers.


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Drink Inc Reviews

On Youtube, there is an excellent series by the name of Drink Inc. It features two Los Angeles bartenders, Steve Livigni and Daniel Nelson, who first eat a delicious meal, and then each make a drink inspired by the food that they ate. I fully endorse this method of finding inspiration, in fact, it’s a method that I sometimes use myself, and which has increased its space in my consciousness after watching their show. I don’t always love the drinks they make, but they will definitely get you thinking, and for that reason I think the show is a valuable asset.

As of today, they have published six episodes, and I am going to review all of them in this post. (All photographs shamelessly liberated from their videos.)

And, sure, does Daniel look like a ridiculous peacock, wearing a three piece suit in the Los Angeles heat? Clearly. But their product is great. I know that I risk sounding overly critical of them in this post, but I want to make it clear that I have a lot of respect for what they are doing, and I think they are excellent drink-makers. It’s very easy to sling criticism on the internet and much harder to get up and make a successful career out of mixing drinks.

Some of their drinks are too complicated, much like that day cravat, but they have a lot of great ideas, it’s just that they try to cram too many of them into a single drink, and the result is sometimes a drink with too many subtleties, not all of which are perceptible. Much like another genre of internet video, you will probably want to skip the first half of each episode, as it takes a while before the action gets going.

The format of the show is, first they go visit a restaurant, make some awkward conversation with the proprietors, and then they make drinks based on what they ate.

Dynamite Thai Cocktails

The first episode I watched was “Dynamite Thai Cocktails”, in which they visit a thai restaurant, and then Steve makes a drink based on Tom Kha Kai soup, and Daniel makes a spicy drink that does not seem to be based on any particular dish. I am a huge fan of Tom Kha Kai soup, which is made by simmering galangal, (Thai ginger) lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves in coconut milk.

The soup itself is quite savory, but they made a version of the soup more amenable to a mixed drink, and mixed it with gin and lime juice. I have not tried this one, but it looks delicious. My only complaint is, I hate the way he garnishes it with grated lime zest. Every time I have done this, I have ended up with little pieces of lime grit in my drink. One big peel is a vastly superior garnishing method.

Daniel’s drink, the Sesame Song, is pictured above, and contains Chile-infused vodka, lime juice, orange juice, and cayenne pepper. It sounds like a reasonable drink, but I was not very impressed with the concept, perhaps because of the reliance on vodka. Also, when I have used powdered spices in drinks in the past, they never dissolve to my satisfaction. Moreover, the sesame seeds and thai chile strands in the garnish, though beautiful, will disperse as the drink is drunk, and spoil the texture.

Smoky Mexican Cocktails

In episode 2, “Smoky Mexican Cocktails”, they visit an Oaxacan restaurant, and drink mezcal, and eat fried grasshoppers. Delicious. Steve makes a drink called the Oaxacan Flower, using a similar formula to his Thai drink from the previous episode. We love mezcal here at Measure & Stir, and so we were inspired to make this drink in our most recent jam session.

Daniel makes a chocolate tequila sour inspired by the concept of Molé, and garnished with a grasshopper. Again, I don’t think his drink is remarkable, though tequila and chocolate is a solid pairing, but his name has what is quite possibly the best name for a mixed drink I have ever heard, the “Dead Man Oaxacan”.

Sweet and Savory Pork Cocktails

In episode three they visit a butcher, and then do a beer cocktail and a fat-washed cocktail. I’ve experimented with bacon-infused bourbon, myself, and I came to the conclusion that a fat-washed cocktail is pretty much a fat-washed cocktail, no matter what you do to it. Steve makes the “Fat Manhattan”, an aromatic drink with amaro, sweet vermouth, bacon-infused bourbon, and nocello. I adore nocello, and I think this is a better recipe than Jamie Boudreau’s Chocolate Cochon, but it’s still not topping my list.

Daniel makes a beer cocktail with apricot puree, lemon juice, orange marmalade, and heifeweissen, and incorporates pork by garnishing it with salami. I’m a fan of the idea, but honestly I would rather you bring me this drink, and then serve it with a plate of charcuterie. Still, it’s cute.

Cop Cocktails

In episode four (note: my episode orders are not really significant), they visit a police station, and the officer who is their contact takes them to some local hole in the wall places where he likes to eat when he is on duty. It’s mostly just filler before they get to the good stuff, which is two smoked cocktails, both of which look excellent.

Daniel makes the “Tazerac”, a Sazerac which he smokes with hickory chips and garam masala. These kinds of smoke guns are kind of impractical for the home mixologist, though that has never stopped me in the past. For now, it’s not high on my list. What’s notable about this one is the way he traps the smoke in the glass and then covers it, so that when the drinker removes the cover, the smoke wafts out of the drink. 10/10 for style.

Steve’s drink, “Halal and Order”, is named after an episode in which the police officer busted a shawarma joint for health code violations. He mixes the super-trendy Pierre Ferrand 1840 with sweet vermouth and smoky Scotch, and then he pours it into a glass filled with smoke from burned rosemary. The really clever thing here is that his smoking method consists of lighting a rosemary sprig with a torch, and then turning the glass over it. This is a method that is in reach for any home enthusiast, and requires no special equipment. This is very similar to what they did at Angel’s Share with cinnamon, in their drink, “Daahound”.

Refreshing Pirate Potions

In episode five, they visit a fish market and eat a feast of fried fish. It looks positively scrummy. The only thing they really take away from it is a spice blend that the local fishmongers sell, and then they both make drinks around the spice blend. I thought this episode was totally underwhelming, the least interesting of the bunch. Steve makes a punch out of watermelon juice, sea salt, tequila, and Michelada spices (pictured). Salted watermelon is awesome, and it’s a fine punch, but it doesn’t really fit the theme very well.

Daniel makes the “Bloody Mariner”, a rum-based Bloody Mary with heirloom tomato juice, fennel juice and absinthe. As bloody Maries go, it looks pretty good. Fennel juice and absinthe does sound intriguing, if you love licorice. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of this flavor in mixed drinks, though I do like licorice candy.

Comfort Cocktails

Finally, they go and eat Southern style comfort food in the garden of what might be a famous LA restaurant? I’ve never heard of it, but I’m really not that hip.

Steve makes the Southern Sour, which I think is very clever in the way it incorporates so many breakfast elements. He uses lemon juice, orange juice, white corn whiskey, egg white, honey syrup, soda, and maple bitters. I do not care for unaged whiskey; at best it’s a grain eau de vie, but wait, that’s another name for vodka. How about using an ingredient that pairs well with all of the other ingredients in the drink, is still made from corn, and is the bedrock of southern drinking, bourbon whiskey? I know white whiskey is hip, but so are skrillex haircuts, and both of them suck.

Daniel makes Govind’s Garden, and it’s a cheat. Gin, pineapple, lime, and Lillet, floated with Amaretto and strawberry juice (puree?). It almost doesn’t matter what you put in the drink when you float this on top of it. Look at it, so thick and syrupy. The drink underneath sounded lovely, but just to make sure you like it, we’re going to top it with candy. Strawberry juice mixed with amaretto is clever. but there’s just so much going on in this drink. It makes sense if you think of it as a new wave tiki drink, but that does not make it less overwrought.

I certainly found a lot of inspiration in watching this show, and I am sure that you will, too.


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Cilantro Juleps

Another week, another Saturday full of drinking experiments. Ever since our recent mint julep experiment, we’ve been wanting to try a few new variations.  Cilantro is a delicious and easily-available green herb, and also one of my favorites, so it was probably inevitable that it would find its way into a drink eventually. My original intuition said gin, as I have never met a green herb that did not go well with gin. In the planning stages it was to stop there; Gin, simple sugar, cilantro, cracked ice. The standard method for making a mint julep.

At game time, however, I realized that gin and cilantro was going to taste a little flat, and I realized that something in cilantro was calling out for tequila. We ended up making two variations on the theme, one with Gin, sweetened with green charteuse, and one with tequila, sweetened with agave syrup. Unlike with mint, which needs to be treated delicately, cilantro takes a little more convincing before it gives up its flavors. You’ll want to build this one in the glass; start with your sweetener and a few sprigs of cilantro. Using your muddler, rough up that cilantro and show it who’s boss.

Once it’s nice and smashed, add crushed ice, and then slowly pour the base spirit over the crushed ice, and give it a quick stir. Garnish by placing more fresh cilantro on top of the crushed ice. This was the first time that I’ve seen gin fail to play nice with a green herb. Gin was there, cilantro was there, but there was no harmony, no reason to continue. The green Chartreuse fit nicely in the drink, but I really can’t advise that you make a gin cilantro julep.

Tequila, on the other hand, has a wonderful vegetal flavor that matches beautifully with the similar notes in fresh cilantro.

Cilantro Julep
1.5 oz Añejo Tequila (Herradura)
.125 oz (1 tsp) Agave Nectar
Fresh Cilantro
Place cilantro and agave nectar in a glass and muddle vigorously. Add crushed ice and slowly pour the tequila over it. Garnish with more fresh cilantro.

This is exactly what you want with your next Mexican meal. Tacos, nachos, fresh salsa — as long as it’s spicy, it will go with this drink. Happy Monday!


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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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Rum, Turmeric Juice, Lemongrass

Hot on the heels of the Curry Derby, I wanted to really explore this concept of turmeric in drinks. To that end, I purchased a healthy knob of turmeric, and ran it through my juicer, along with a bit of young ginger. The resulting juice was light, with a depth of peppery curry flavor, and a slight burn on the finish from ginger. Turmeric is something we have all experienced in Indian curries, but I had never really tasted it on its own, except for sad, dried out turmeric powder. A word to the wise: putting dried spices in your food is depressing; they have the texture of sand and most of the flavor. It’s the difference between a grand piano and a casio recorder.

The spices gave the drink a bitter dimension, but it still needed high notes, so I chose J. Wray and Nephew as the base. Lately I have been trying to temper my enthusiasm for rums with hogo — there are so many styles out there, after all — but the beauty of hogo is that it pairs so well with herbal and vegetal flavors. I enjoy seeking out such flavors, of course, so J. Wray is always in my well.

J. Wray and Turmeric was a good base, but the flavor was incomplete. A proper mixed drink needs an abrasive quality to make it pop. The most common sources for this are fortified wine, which provides astringency from herbs, and citric acid from fresh lemon or lime. There are other options: the tannin in tea can also be bracing, as can the pungency of aromatic bitters. Originally I had tried muddling some lemon grass in some simple syrup, but the lemon grass that I had purchased that day was of inferior quality, and would not convey a strong enough flavor to the syrup. I ended up deciding that rum called for lime, with the end result being a kind of succulent turmeric daquiri.

Tim Curry
1.5 oz Traditional Rum (J. Wray and Nephew)
1 oz Turmeric Ginger juice
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup

Muddle lemongrass in simple syrup, then combine all in a shaker. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of broken lemongrass.

Rum is a piratey drink, after all, and as such this drink is named after Tim Curry, mostly for his role in Pirates of the Plain, and because his name happens to fit the ingredients. Good. A couple of notes on working with turmeric: everything it touches will turn golden curry yellow. The tasteful 80s mauve of my juicer is now permanently stained golden. My finger nails, until they grow out. The place on the counter where some of the juice dripped. It’s positively Faustian. Definitely don’t spill it on your white shirt. Also, it oxidizes within about two hours, turning from glowing neon carrot to a more muted rust. Use it quickly if you want to extract maximum vibrancy.

Despite its appealing color, turmeric is not for the faint of heart. This drink was savory, halfway between a daquiri and a bloody mary, but not as thick. As the evening went on, we made this variation:

Señor Curry
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.75 oz Turmeric-Ginger Juice
.25 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Pimento Dram (Homemade)
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This was not quite as good as the first version, but the reposado tequila hit some of the same notes as the J. Wray, and the allspice liqueur complimented both the juice and the tequila. Still, the recipe wasn’t perfect. I think I would have preferred chocolate instead of allspice, but I did not have any on hand.


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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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Dusty Bottoms

Continuing with our week of highball drinks, this is a drink that some of my friends had at a bar in San Diego called Prohibition. It’s a popular name for a craft cocktail bar, it seems. In any case, they visited the bar, and then came to visit me and told me of this drink. I then tried to recreate it, based upon their description of the ingredients and the flavor. But before we go any further, this is the perfect time to mention some errata from my earlier post, How To Make Better Drinks I wouldn’t ordinarily bother, but the post in question is in my side bar, so I feel it’s important to keep the information in good repair. In the list of problems with the drink, I somehow neglected to mention:

11. The herbs are over-muddled. We’re not making pesto, and a muddler is not a mortar and pestle. All of the menthol in mint lives in little hair-like structures on the surface of the leaf. If you bruise the leaf of the mint, you are going to release bitter chlorophyll flavors into your drink, and it will taste grassy. I suppose that could be deliberate, but a discerning palate will perceive it as an error. The better way to handle mint is to place it on the palm of your hand and give it a few good, hard, smacks. In general, when muddling herbs or citrus peels, apply firm pressure but do not tear the flesh of the plant. Fruit, on the other hand, ought to be pulverized.

The drink that my friends described to me contained reposado tequila, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice, muddled sage, and ginger beer. I do not know the exact proportions of the drink as it was served at Prohibition, but by knowing a little bit about the construction of a highball, we can come pretty close. In most cases, we want to have a total of two ounces of hard liquor in the drink, and the very natural way to do this, in this case, is with one and a half ounces of the base spirit, tequila, and one half ounce of the modifier, yellow chartreuse.

I want the flavor of the yellow chartreuse to be balanced against the acidity and flavor of the lime juice, so in this case I also used a half ounce of lime juice. Depending who you listen to, you might end up with three quarters of an ounce of liqueur, for a sweeter drink, but I like them dryer, and I plan to add more sugar in the form of ginger beer. When topping a drink with soda, many people make the mistake of filling the glass. This makes it look pretty, but you will end up putting a highly variable amount of soda into the drink, depending on the glass you use. If you want to preserve the flavor of the other elements, it is best to measure. You can always add a little more, so I limited myself to one ounce of soda water.

We made this drink after my friend Julian had just finished moving into a new apartment, so the name was appropriate. Moreover, it was a hot summer day, so whereas I usually would have used ice cubes, I wanted this drink to be a bit lighter and more refreshing, so I used crushed ice instead of ice cubes. In either case, as we discussed yesterday, it is important to fill the glass completely full with ice, to slow the melting process as much as possible. The ice does not look especially crushed in this picture, but I assure you, it was. Julian’s cat, Mimosa, wanted in on the action.

Dusty Bottoms (via Prohibition, in San Diego, CA)
1.5 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse (Strega)
4-5 Sage Leaves (Basil)
1 oz Ginger Beer (Bundaberg)

Lightly muddle the sage leaves in the yellow Chartreuse, and then combine all except the ginger beer in a shaker. Shake over ice, and then strain over fresh ice. Add the ginger beer and Garnish with a sage leaf.

I did not have any sage at this particular juncture, but I did have basil, fresh off the plant, and it was close enough on this occasion. I also substituted Strega for yellow Chartreuse, and you can see the bottle poking it’s head up in the background. I like to bring my own ice when I’m mixing at a remote location, because the quality of the ice is critical to the quality of the drink.