Measure & Stir

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


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Pimm’s Cup

It’s all been a little high-concept around here lately, so I decided to rein it in a bit, and share one of my favorite summer drinks with all of you. The Pimm’s cup is an English classic, made with Pimm’s No. 1, cucumber, and some kind of fizzy drink. It’s more of a feeling than a specific recipe. Here’s how I like to make mine.

pimms1

Instead of buying Pimm’s No. 1, I like to make my own. It’s very simple to make, and I suggest this recipe from Serious Eats. It’s just gin, sweet vermouth, and a little bit of extra orange flavor. Since it’s a wine product, it’s perishable, which is why I prefer to make it in small batches as I intend to use it.

Lemon lime soda or ginger ale are common, but I like to use plain old soda water, and juice it up with a little bit of grated ginger and simple syrup. For me, it’s all about the ritual, so I like to take my time and create an elegant plating, by layering strawberry, orange, and cucumber inside the glass.

pimms2
Pimm’s Cup à la Measure and Stir
3 oz Pimm’s No 1. (DIY)
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of simple syrup
Cucumber, strawberry, and navel orange to fill the glass
Soda water
Layer the produce inside a highball glass with ice. Shake the Pimms, grated ginger, and simple syrup over ice, and then strain it into the glass. Top with soda water. Optionally top it with a grind of black pepper.

A “cup” is generally a wine-based drink, and sure enough, this is that. I like to drink them in summer, and with this kind of dramatic presentation, they are great for entertaining.

Cheers.


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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.

Rum Diddly Dum

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Video post number two, in which I make a carbonated drink using an obscure vietnamese herb.

 

Rum Diddly Dum

2 oz Kinh Gioi-infused light rum
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
.5 oz Cane Syrup
.5 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
Shake all and strain into your carbonation device of choice. Carbonate, pour into a flute, and garnish with a fresh leaf of kinh gioi.

Cheers.


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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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Tequila Reposado, Imbue, Suze

Happy Repeal Day!

A few weeks ago, after work, Joe and I went to a bar on capitol hill, here in Seattle, called Liberty. I asked the bartender to mix something for me with Suze, since I saw it proudly displayed in their bar, and was thinking about that Suze gimlet. I didn’t have any particular base spirit in mind, so I let the bartender make whatever he felt like. Having enjoyed this drink so much, Joe sought out a bottle of Suze for himself, and since acquiring it, we’ve made this drink several times.

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Genciana
1.5 oz Tequila Resposado
.75 oz Dry vermouth (Imbue)
.375 oz Suze

Stir, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

At the bar, this drink was made using the 6:3:1 formula, using Cocchi Americano, which we’ve done a few times since, and which is great. However, in a home bar, it’s not practical to have more than one dry and one sweet vermouth open at a time, and Joe’s dry vermouth du jour happened to be Imbue, a bittersweet vermouth from Oregon. Imbue tastes like pears, honey, and pinot gris in the sip, with a bitter, dry, herbal finish. We thought that Imbue needed a little bit of extra help to stand up against the Suze, and so we adjusted the amount in this recipe.

tequila-suze-imbue1

This drink is a brilliant golden yellow color and smells appropriately of lemon. Somehow the fruit notes from the vermouth combine with the lemon and Suze to produce a sip with a hint of nuttiness, almost like a cashew flavor, that is hard to explain, but delicious. The finish is bitter, from the Suze as well as the vermouth, and smokey, from the tequila.

A very tempting way to enjoy Suze, indeed.


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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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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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Vessel In Seattle

Back before I got into this whole craft cocktail scene, there was a bar in Seattle called Vessel, and they were famous for pioneering a lot of molecular mixology techniques, and for the general quality of their drinks and their atmosphere. Sadly, they closed in 2010, and I never got to visit them. They’re back, sort of, and at a new, bigger downtown location. When I heard that they were re-opening, I visited them that same week, but I didn’t get around to posting about it until today. That’s probably my loss, because I missed the buzz, but I think it’s still soon enough to care.

Their big gimmick this time is a rotating bar staff. It seems like the deal is, each bartender who appears there brings his or her own menu to the establishment. On my visit, the bartenders were Michael Bertrand of Mistral Kitchen and Kevin Langmack of Knee High Stocking Co. Their menus were thus:

To be honest, I was expecting a bit more. No offense to these seasoned veterans, but these drinks are all so safe. I want recipes that push the envelope! I want drinks on the cutting edge of mixology, with flavor combinations and techniques that I’ve never seen before. Instead you hit me with a vesper, a gin and tonic, and a sidecar with expensive brandy. This is the kind of menu I expect in an old money hotel, not a bar that was renowned in its heyday for molecular mixology. There’s nothing wrong with any of these recipes, but neither is there anything exciting.

Of course, if you go, the menu will probably be totally different. As such, I give them two out of ten for creativity, but nine out of ten for execution. All of the drinks we ordered were beautifully presented, and executed with technical excellence. John ordered a Preakness, which is not on their menu, but it is a common Manhattan variation containing Benedictine:

Very nice glassware. I ordered a Violette Fizz:

Truly a beautiful fizz, but alas, in a very impractical glass. As I drank it, a portion of the head persisted and ultimately clogged the flow of the drink through the glass when it reached the narrowest part of the glass, forcing me to tilt it to a precarious angle. This is a minor quibble however, as the glass was very elegant. Still, if the radius were constant across the length of the glass, I would have been better served.

James ordered the Batcat, a mix of rye, sweet vermouth, fernet branca, and elderflower liqueur:

I apologize for the terrible photo, but as you can sort of see, the drink came with a sphere of beautifully clear ice, cut to fit exactly within the glass, and the sphere was circumscribed by a spiral of orange peel for which a whole orange gave its life. James and I both tasted the drink and found the flavor to be very light. It was over-diluted, but it was probably not the bartender’s fault, it was probably the fault of the waitstaff.

The service was agonizingly slow, but I was willing to give them some leeway in their opening week. It takes a while to get all the bugs out of your service pipeline, I am sure. Did we sit at the table for fifteen minutes before anyone even took our order? Yes. Did it take them another twenty five to bring us our drinks? Also yes. But like I said, leeway.

Since I’m already slinging hate, I might as well take this opportunity to mention the acoustics, which are a crime against the fine art of architecting interior spaces. Maybe it’s the high ceilings, but every word of every patron echoes in this bar, and makes it very loud even when it is not particularly crowded. I wouldn’t take anyone here if I wanted to have a conversation with them. On the plus side, the hand soap in the bathroom contains rum.

The food was mediocre. We ordered foie gras popcorn, and it was a staunch reminder as to why no one sautes liver and then tosses it with popcorn. The high fat content of the liver killed all the crispness of the popcorn, while imparting only the scarcest flavor of foie gras. The hummus platter, though beautifully plated, was nothing I couldn’t get from Trader Joe’s. The carpaccio was adequate, however. Delicious and reasonably portioned for the price.

Over all, if you’re downtown, stick to the Mistral Kitchen or the Zig Zag Cafe. If you’re not tied to a particular locale within Seattle, may I recommend the Canon. It is clearly at the top of the craft bartending game in Seattle right now.


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Rojo Bianco: Reposado, Vermouth, Maraschino, Campari

When I first tasted Campari, I hated it. I was furious that I had just spent 30$ on this syrupy, neon-red swill. I poured my first Negroni down the sink, and gave the bottle of Campari to my friend Gualtiero. “Get this out of my sight!” I must have said. My, how my perspective has changed. If you truly want to experience Campari in all of it’s glowing, bitter glory, you should make a Negroni, or its cousin, the Boulevardier, but if you have already strolled down those avenues of flavor, then may I suggest one of my all-time favorites, the Rojo Bianco. 

Rojo Bianco
2 oz Reposado Tequila (Espolón)
.75 oz Bianco Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
.25 oz Campari
Dash of Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.

As with about half the drinks I make, I first learned this one on CVS. It tastes just like you think: the Reposado is smokey and vegetal, the liqueurs are bitter, sweet, and pungent, and the vermouth fills in the middle of the flavor spectrum. I really enjoy this one, but perhaps the construction is more interesting even than the flavor. This drink comes close to the 6:3:1 template that I’ve talked about before, but it uses a bit less vermouth, and a bit more liqueur. Moreover, it splits the liqueur down the middle, and you can imagine that if this drink had only Maraschino or Campari, it would be unremarkable.

I have found that when you are following this kind of template for an aromatic drink, you can usually get away with splitting any one of the ingredients. Two base spirits, two fortified wines, or two liqueurs all provide the opportunity for creative exploration, but don’t split more than one element in the template. Two base spirits and two liqueurs? Madness lies down that road, my friend.


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Muddled Lychee and Gin

Last weekend I had some lychees sitting on my kitchen counter, threatening to be fresh and delicious, really just begging me to muddle them. And what can I say? I caved in. I was in a similar situation with a bottle of Hayman’s Old Tom gin, and between the three of us, we had a little soiree. Old Tom gin, as you are probably aware, tastes like slightly sweeter London Dry gin. If you don’t have any, you can add a dash of simple syrup to two ounces of gin and come away with much the same product. Moreover, Hayman’s is a very fruit-forward gin, so it blends especially well with fruit flavors.

Now I know what you’re thinking: lychee-based drinks suck. I’m sure we’ve all seen the sad lychee “martinis” that many sushi shops lower themselves by serving. They invariably use vodka and sake and lychee liqueur, perhaps with some simple syrup. It’s true, you can use sake much like a fortified wine, as the proof and the flavor profile are both about right, but I think sake muddies the flavor of lychee — or maybe the other way around. And lychee liqueur? Skip it. A big part of the reason to make a liqueur out of a flavor is to preserve its aroma while losing any bracing qualities that come from a high acidity. Lychee is neither particularly acidic nor fragant, so we can get a much richer flavor by muddling a fresh, whole fruit.

I searched for “lychee cocktail” and “lychee martini” just now, and the summary of my extensive research suggests that the internet wants you to make a “lychee martini” consisting of vodka, possibly dry vermouth, and the syrup from canned lychees. As a bonus, you can use a couple of the canned lychees as a garnish! That could be a lot worse, but it could also be a lot better.  If you were a bit more discerning, you might happen upon this substantially better lychee drink which uses white wine as the base. I am a big fan of Darcy O’Neil and I am sure his recipe is excellent, provided you use fresh lychees. I think white wine sounds like a great match for this fruit, and I will be sure to try his drink soon.

In the meantime, I was just winging it, and I came up with this:

Unnamed Lychee  Drink
1.5 oz Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s)
.5 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
.25 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
2 lychees, skinned and seeded

Muddle the lychees in the simple syrup, and then add the other ingredients. Shake and then double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Some lychees are a lot sweeter than others. Taste your drink as you’re making it, and decide if you like the ratio of sour lemon to fruit and syrup. You may find that you want it to be a little dryer, in which case, add just a dash more lemon. And please, don’t call it a lychee martini.