Measure & Stir

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


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Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds: Violet, Mango, Carrot, Rum

This week we are going to present a series of drinks that combine unlikely ingredients together with surprising results. Using molecular gastronomy (food chemistry), we’ve chosen flavor pairings that complement each other well because they share common chemicals.

For our first drink in the series we packed together a triple flavor combo: mango + carrots, mango + violet, and carrots + violet.

Man Go Violet Your Tastebuds
1.5 oz Ron Zacapa rum
1 oz Mango juice
1 oz Carrot juice
.5 Violet syrup
.25 Lemon juice

Shake over ice and double strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

Carrots, mangos, and violet taste good together because they all share a bunch of chemicals called ionones, which are “floral” aromatic fragrance compounds. The combination of alpha-ionene and beta-ionene smells like “violet”, and is often used to make violet perfumes and artificial violet flavor (I’m looking at you, Monin violet syrup). Carrots are rich in various sorts of carotenes, which all contain beta-ionene, like violet. Joe knew from experience that mango juice and carrot juice are delicious together, but neither of us had ever thought to combine carrots or mangos with violet. This drink was exciting because we did just that!

Personally, I found that the violet syrup we used gave the drink an unfortunate “candy” taste, but I don’t blame the violet flavor, I blame the candy taste on the particular syrup we chose to use. One of these days I’d like to make some homemade violet syrup. We included lemon juice in this drink because it adds just enough sourness, but this drink is by nature a succulent one. The triple combo of ionene-based flavor pairings was a winner. Mangos, violet, and carrots all fit together nicely, united by the violet’s floral sweetness. Sipping this drink is like experiencing a symphony of flavors, all playing together in perfect harmony.

We’ve found a few great resources on the web that list interesting flavor pairings, so I thought it’d be worth dropping a few links here for other adventurous cocktail enthusiasts. Khymos has a great page explaining the idea behind choosing foods with a common chemical makeup, and even a blog where they try out a few. Egullet.org has a pretty sweet thread on their forums all about molecular pairings, so go check it out!


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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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flying cucumber

With all the hullaballoo about the aviation, it seemed like the right time for this post. Last year I bought a juicer, and it opened up a world of mixed drink possibilities. Everyone wants to have the coolest, sleekest gadget around, but I got mine from a second hand store for twenty dollars. Although it’s no Champion, it gets the job done, and I get to enjoy its tasteful mauve 80s aesthetic.

Last March I had the feeling the spring was upon us, and to celebrate I juiced a whole english cucumber, skin and all. As you can tell, I am a wild man. The skin made the juice come out in a rich forest green color, but it also added a discordant sensation of chlorophyll, which took away from the bracing, crisp quality that any presentation of cucumber aspires to have.

Gin and cucumber go together like peanut butter and jelly, and once I started thinking down that road, it did not take long for me to hit upon the idea of using it in an Aviation. I think everyone in the world who cares has heard of the Aviation by now, and most people have moved on, but I am a real sucker for floral flavors and I have trouble letting go.  Using my tremendous mathematical prowess, I decided that Aviation + cucumber juice = The Flying Cucumber, but it turned out that A Dash of Bitters had already claimed that name, so I had to get creative:

The Flying Cucumber #2

2 oz Gin (Plymouth)
1 oz Fresh Cucumber Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
1/4 oz of Violet Syrup (Monin)

Shake over ice and double strain.

The Aviation is intended to have a subtle purple-bluish color, evocative of a clear, open sky, whereas my drink was the color of a swamp, and just a bit muddy. Obviously, I will peel my cucumber in the future, which will also provide a much smoother texture, more appropriate to the original spirit of the drink. Other than that, the cucumber juice was mild and a perfect complement to the violet, capturing the romance of spring.


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Attention!

Jamie Boudreau is much cooler than I am, and he wrote these excellent posts on the topic of creme de violette. In the second post he gives the recipe for a drink called the Attention Cocktail, and I thought the combination of ingredients was too interesting to pass up.

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Attention Cocktail

2 oz gin (Beefeater)

1/4 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)

1/4 oz absinthe (Arak and I can’t read the bottle)

1/4 oz creme de violette (Monin violet syrup)

2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass

garnish with a lemon twist

As you can see, I substituted Monin violet syrup for creme de violette, and Lebanese arak for absinthe. Arak is similar to pastis, which is made by maceration of aniseed and licorice root in a base spirit. Arak uses a grape distillate for its base spirit, and does not contain licorice root, but just like pastis or anisette, the end result is a licorice bomb in your drink that greedily stomps on every other flavor. Every drink I have tried to make using pastis as a flavoring agent has been so licorice-forward that I can barely enjoy it, even with a quarter ounce.

If you read Jamie Boudreau’s post you’ll notice he tried Monin’s creme de violette, and thought that it was awful, but he had better things to say about the syrup. I find the syrup to be pleasant and highly aromatic, though as with most floral flavoring agents, a little goes a long way.  I had high hopes that the quarter ounce of violet syrup would be able to stand up to the quarter ounce of arak, and it did better than most, but it, too, was mostly defeated. As you can see, the violet lent this drink a mild purple hue, which looked very elegant with the the slice of lemon peel.

The gin and the dry vermouth were mostly lost in this concoction, just barely perceptible as an herbal baseline to the anise, which filled the palate until the swallow, when the violet was allowed to come through. My new policy on licorice drinks is going to be a dash and no more. Even so, the combination of these flavors was intriguing, and I intend to try it again with much less arak.