Measure & Stir

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


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The Shameless Clickbait: Thin Mint Girlscout Cookies, Vodka, Espresso, Milk

Alright guys, it’s time to get real. It’s girlscout cookie season, and I enjoyed the opportunity to make this cocktail using a “seasonal” ingredient. It’s like Card-Table-Outside-The-Grocery-Store-To-Table. I know you’re all looking to make thin-mint infused vodka, and pin it to all your friends, so I have made a drink just for you.

Behold! I integrated 2 oz of vodka and two girlscout cookies using an immersion blender, and then pushed them through a fine-mesh strainer. The finer, the better. If you have an 80 micron strainer, that would be ideal. Push the thin mint vodka through the strainer, and then pull a shot of espresso using your fancy espresso machine (you could also use a moka pot, or even a little bit of strong black coffee), add sugar according to your taste, and shake it up like a cafe shakerato.

thinmint

The Shameless Clickbait
1.5 oz Thin Mint Vodka
1 Shot of Espresso or 1.5 oz Strong Coffee
.5 oz Whole Milk
Simple Syrup to your taste

Shake over ice and strain into a glass rimmed with chocolate shavings. Smacked mint leaf more for the photo.

To be honest this didn’t quite have the clarity of flavor I was looking for. Coffee muddied the thin mint a bit, and a dash of creme de menthe would probably have brought it back. Still, if you’re trying to drink thin mints as a cocktail, you could do a lot worse.

Cheers


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Heavy Handed Symbolism – Chocolate Liqueur, Blood Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Egg White

Continuing with my Valentine’s Day Trio, course two was a preparation of the classic pairing of chocolate with orange. In this case, we made it two ways, once as a cocktail and once as a macaron. The macaron, pictured below, was a collaboration with my friend Johan, who was instrumental in designing this series.

heavyhandedsymbolism1

For the base of this drink, I used a cocoa nib liqueur, which I have made before, but which I have now updated with a modern technique. The diffusion of sous vide immersion circulators to home cooks has opened up many exciting new possibilities for those who wish to keep it craft. I made this liqueur in a mere two hours, by cooking 6 oz of cocoa nibs in 375 ml of vodka at 60C for ninety minutes. I then strained out the nibs and boiled them in simple syrup for a few more minutes. This is the classic alcohol+water extraction.

I combined the syrup into the infusion according my palate, and allowed it to rest for three days. In this time, the flavors of the syrup and the alcohol will meld together, resulting in a much softer flavor. If you were to taste it immediately after combining, you would find a harsh ethanol note on the backend.

This recipe, despite the fancy ingredients, is really just a take on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto sour. We combine a liqueur base with egg whites and an acidic juice, then use an immersion blender to emulsify the egg white.

There is a small twist, however. Blood oranges, at the peak of their season right now, are not very acidic. They lack the acidity needed to form a stable foam out of egg whites, and as a result, they are not sour enough to balance a sweet chocolate liqueur. The answer to both of these problems is the same; powdered citric acid.

If you can master acidity, you can master cocktail creation. Acidity is the lynch pin of the drink, acidity is life. I slowly blended citric acid into my blood orange juice until it was approximately as sour as lemon juice.

heavyhandedsymbolism3

I am not going to give you a recipe for the macaron. You can figure out how to make macarons on your own, using many fine internet resources, such as Chefsteps. I will, however, provide a note on the buttercream. Johan and I made a German style buttercream by preparing a pastry cream sous vide. (82C for 35 minutes). The resulting product was too set up to use on its own, and we had to blend it in my Vitamix until it was smooth.

We then incorporated the pastry cream into creamed butter, and mixed in some fine cut orange marmalade, some orange bitters, and some Clement Creole Shrub, one of my favorite orange liqueurs. In the middle, we placed a small chunk of candied orange rind, which we boiled in simple syrup for about half an hour. The candied orange provided a nice contrast of texture in the center of the cookie.

To garnish the shell, we embedded some toasted cocoa nibs from Seattle’s own Theo chocolate company into the meringue.

heavyhandedsymbolism2

Heavy-Handed Symbolism
1.5 oz homemade cocoa nib liqueur
1.5 oz blood orange juice
.5 oz egg white
.25 oz simple syrup
Powdered citric acid to taste
Emulsify with a stick blender and then shake gently over ice. Strain only with a hawthorne strainer into a cocktail glass and garnish by dropping chocolate bitters into the foam and then turning them into hearts with a toothpick.

Serve with a chocolate orange macaron and a mandarin orange.

You are, I have no doubt, wondering why this drink is called Heavy-Handed Symbolism. I came up with this name only after I had fully realized its recipe, but I found that I had included egg white, representing fertility, blood orange juice, representing blood or passion, and chocolate, which represents that love is sometimes bitter sweet. #sorrynotsorry

Out of the drinks in the set, this one probably had the best reception, though I am quite proud of all of them.

Cheers.


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MxMo LXXXVI: Pineapple, IPA, Chardonnay, Coffee, Curry

Hello everyone. It’s been a while since I participated in Mixology Monday, but somehow, no matter how you try to escape the shrouded underworld of artisanal mixology blogs, it finds a way to draw you back in. This month our host is Ceccotti over at Bartending Notes, and the theme is pineapple.

Let’s bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into guilty pleasures not to be named some 80s dreadful cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect!

Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of fruits might be know misunderstood. One of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be reckoned.

Be in a tiki cocktails, an old school classic like the Algonquin, a crazy flavor pairing or just mixed in a delicious Verdita, get creative and make a cocktail using any part of this delicious, juicy fruit or share you favorite pineapple cocktail with us!

I couldn’t make up my mind so I decided to do a series of drinks investigating some of pineapple’s lesser-known affinities. The aromatic of the hour is a molecule called methyl hexanoate, which can be found in coffee, pineapple, white wine, hops, kiwi, and oysters, among other things. And although I am definitely crazy enough to put oyster brine in a pineapple cocktail, that particular experiment will have to wait. Long-time readers may remember when we capitalized on this commonality in the past with a blue cheese and pineapple pairing.

I am still drawing a lot of inspiration from my mixology tour of  Tokyo, and for this MxMo I decided to apply the same technique I used for the Carrera to try to bring the flavor of pineapple to the fore. For all of these drinks, my process and template were the same: I mixed an ounce of fresh pineapple juice with an ounce of the other main ingredient in the drink, tasted it, adjusted the ratio, padded it with vodka, and sweetened it with simple syrup.

In order to maximize the flavor of the pineapple, I cut a pineapple into rings and roasted them in the broiler until the surface became caramelized and brown. The smell of roasted pineapple filled my whole house, and this is something that I would wish for you, as well. If you have a grill, you could grill the pineapple instead of roasting. I then muddled the roasted pineapple into the drink to provide cooked and caramelized pineapple flavors along with raw and fresh ones.

The ratios of ingredients are kind of all over the place. I’m sorry for that. I like my drinks to be properly jiggered but in these lower-alcohol drinks, jiggers start to matter less. I think we’ve learned the rules sufficiently at this point that we can break them when we want.

whitewine

Wineapple

1.5 oz Chardonnay (Project Happiness Chardonnay)
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
1 oz Vodka
1 Barspoon simple syrup*
Muddle roasted pineapple with vodka until its juice is thoroughly extracted. Add other ingredients and then shake over ice. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

*My barspoon is 1/8 of an ounce.

This drink was the lightest in the series, probably too light. I considered using a white wine reduction, but although this pairing is unobjectionable, it is not more than the sum of its parts. The most intriguing thing about this drink was the way that the vodka brought out the other flavors. Before I added the vodka, the taste of this drink was flat and bland, but adding the vodka somehow turned up the volume on both the pineapple and the wine. Even so, I wouldn’t remake this.

ipa1

IPAnapple

1.5 oz IPA (Knee Deep Hoptologist)
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
1 oz Vodka
1 Barspoon simple syrup
Muddle roasted pineapple with vodka until its juice is thoroughly extracted. Add other ingredients and then shake over ice. Double strain into an old fashioned glass and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

If you enjoy IPA, you will probably love this. Pineapple and IPA were meant to go together. Don’t overcomplicate things by putting other flavors into the mix. As with the above, the vodka helped to increase the perception of contrast between the flavors. Especially after drinking this, I can discern prominent notes of pineapple in an IPA all on its own.

coffee

Ocelot

1.5 oz Single Origin Coffee from your favorite local roaster
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
1 oz Vodka
1 Barspoon Coffee Liqueur
Muddle roasted pineapple with vodka until its juice is thoroughly extracted. Add other ingredients and then shake over ice. Double strain into a small mug and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

I don’t know why, but I felt like calling this “Ocelot”. Probably I have been watching too much Archer. In any case this was the best of the bunch. Coffee and pineapple both froth up pretty fiercely when you shake them, so after I double-strained this drink, I used my barspoon to get some of the froth sitting at the top of the strainer onto the top of the drink. In my first version of this, I used simple syrup instead of coffee liqueur, but I wanted to reinforce the flavor of the coffee a little more. If you make a drink from this post, this is the one.

curry

Shrunken Head

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
.5 oz lime juice
1 Roasted Pineapple Ring, 3/4″ Thick
2 cloves
1 Barspoon simple syrup
1 Barspoon Demerara Rum
Curry Powder to taste

Crush the cloves in the vodka with a mortar and pestle, then add the vodka to your measuring tin with the roasted pineapple. Muddle and add all other ingredients. Shake and then double strain into a snifter and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

I broke the mold with this one. When one has a pitcher of fresh pineapple juice, it is advisable to make something in the genre of tiki. I was originally going to call this a “minimalist” tiki drink, but upon looking at the ingredient list I’m not sure if I can get away with that. This was my second pick from this cocktail lab, though I think I need to explore the concept of a curried pineapple drink a little further. It’s not perfect yet.

I’d like to close up by saying a bit thanks to Ceccotti for hosting MxMo, and a big thanks to you for reading.

 

As they say in Hawaii, Huli pau!


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Carrera: Apricot, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vodka, Cinnamon

I made this a few weeks ago, and I just couldn’t let it sit any longer. I think it is one of my best drinks to date. I was influenced by my time in Japan, particularly at the bar of Gen Yamamoto, who I think is one of the most creative and inspiring bartenders in the business. The strength of his drinks is in their subtlety, and in the way that the natural flavors of his ingredients become objects of contemplation.

To duplicate this effect, I have been casting fresh fruit juices from my macerating juicer in the role of the base spirit, and using lower volumes of alcohol as accent marks. The juice from soft fruits is often saturated with soft pulp, and as such the yield from an apricot or a kumquat is halfway between a juice and a purée. The balance of the viscosity of the juice against that of the spirits provides ample space for a bartender to meditate on texture.

carerra

Carrera
1.25 oz Fresh Apricot Juice
.5 Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
.5 Vodka
.5 Fresh Orange Juice [optional]
1 Barspoon agave syrup

Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a coupe glass. Agitate the mixture through the strainer with a barspoon if necessary. Grate fresh cinnamon across the top.

In the past I was quite offended by vodka, but I have found that it is highly desirable in this style of drink. Soju, Shochu, Sake, and Vodka all have their place when the emphasis is on the delicate and ephemeral. The mere presence of alcohol can make other flavors seem louder and more distinct. Wine, whiskey, coffee — we are accustomed to looking for the entire world of culinary flavors in these things — but perhaps we can perform the same trick with an apricot?

My method is to use a minimum of a spirit to achieve its presence in the end product, and then pad the volume of 80 proof liquor in the drink up to a single ounce. In this case, I wanted to combine the vanilla and bourbon with the taste of fresh apricot, but I wanted the bourbon to play the auxiliary role.

Apricot can be quite acidic when consumed as a juice; it is tangy and floral, and a bit of sweetness from syrup draws out hints of spice; cinnamon in the garnish and vanilla in the bourbon should be like echoes of the notes struck by the fruit. Raw fruits and vegetables can possess a surprisingly complexity all on their own, if one is patient and attentive. Anything as strong as bitters or herbal liqueur would be distracting, like a crashing cymbal in the middle of a cello suite.

Finally, an optional half measure of orange juice blends very seamlessly into the apricot, elongating it, and recalls the flavor of a tangerine. Unfortunately, it sacrifices some of the apricot’s sharpness. I suggest trying both variations.

乾杯!


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How to Make Better Drinks and the Naughty Housewife

Food blogs of this world, we need to talk. I like you and I want to help you make better drinks. Your heart is in the right place, but some of you have no idea what you’re doing. I understand, some people just want to get tore up, and some people just want to drink blueberry Stoli. I’ll only judge you a little bit, but if you take my advice, I promise, you, too, can mix high quality drinks.

As I’ve been engaging the drink-making blogosphere, I have noticed a lot of drinks that look like the following. I call them, collectively, the Naughty Housewife-Tini, because I like to think that’s who is making these drinks, and because I’m hoping that the phrase “naughty housewife” will drive traffic to my blog.

Naughty Housewife-Tini

2 oz fruit-flavored liqueur (Such as Cointreau or, if we are unlucky, Malibu)
1 oz Minute Maid orange juice, from a carton
1 oz vodka
Mint leaves
Sprite

Muddle the mint in the liqueur until it is practically paste and then put everything into a shaker and strain into a cocktail glass, being sure to leave bits of ice floating on top of the drink. Top with sprite.

I would like to think that the myriad flaws in this drink are evident to all, but apparently that is not the case, so let us examine them, one by one.

1. The ratio of liqueur to base spirit is backwards and ridiculous. A proper drink should not be overly sweet, unless it is intended as a dessert. A high proportion of sugary ingredients can sometimes make sense — sometimes a strong counterpoint is needed against the bitter or sour component in a drink — but on the whole, it is appropriate to use an unsweetened spirit, such as whiskey or gin, as the foundation of a mixed drink.

2. The name is stupid. There is exactly one drink in the whole world called a martini, and it contains roughly the following: Gin, Dry Vermouth, Olive (or lemon peel). Even adding a dash of bitters probably warrants a different name, as one of the intriguing things about the martini is the complex harmony of its relatively minimalistic recipe. “Martini” is not a catch-all word for any drink that you happen to mix and serve up. Appending the suffix “-tini” to the end of your drink name is not descriptive. You can do better.

3. Vodka is bland and boring. It makes your drink alcoholic without contributing anything to the aroma or flavor, and if you use it, your drink will be missing a critical layer of complexity. Like a house without a foundation, it simply won’t stand up properly. Vodka drinks are (usually) no more than candy; they contain sweet, simple flavors that stupefy the palate and as such, they are best left to children.

For almost every drink in the world that is made with vodka, it would have been better with either gin, white rum, or pisco. Which substitution is best depends upon the drink, of course, but one always exists. Cosmopolitan? Try it with J. Wray. Moscow Mule? Vastly improved by the use of gin, or rum, or whiskey, or Fernet Branca. (By the way, such a drink is called a buck–a moscow mule is simply a vodka buck, just as a “moscow mule” made with gin would be a gin buck.)

Vesper? It’s not my favorite, but you should probably leave it alone.

4. There are particles of ice and fruit floating in it. An excellent drink should not be chunky in any way. True mixological perfection requires homogeneity of texture. Pieces of pulp or ice floating in the drink are like bits of un-integrated flour in your bechamel; they are jarring to the imbiber and indicative of carelessness on the part of the bartender. Fix it with a fine-mesh strainer, and you’ll enjoy years of particulate-free drinking.

5. The level of dilution is an accident. High-proof spirits are unpleasant to drink on their own. Insufficiently diluted alcohol burns burns the throat and worse! it deadens the taste buds. If a drink is over-diluted, its flavors become watery and thin, but a drink which is under-diluted suffers nearly as much. The sip will deaden the drinker’s perception of taste, and the flavors will seem muted.

Always pay attention to the amount of water that you are introducing into your drink. If your ice cubes are big, then they have a higher ratio of volume to surface area, and you will have to shake or stir longer in order to achieve the same amount of dilution that you would with smaller ice. Getting it right comes down largely to intuition, but you’ll never develop that intuition if you are not aware that you need it.

If you don’t know if your dilution is right, shake less than you need to, taste your drink to check the dilution, and then shake it some more. Repeat this process until you are confident in your timing. If you find yourself in a place with differently-sized ice from your experience, take some time to re-calibrate.

6. And while we’re on the subject of ice, the ice probably sucks. Clear ice is highly preferable to cloudy ice, both because it is aesthetically superior and because it melts more slowly, allowing you to keep your drinks colder, longer, with less impact upon their dilution. Ice is cloudy because of mineral impurities and air trapped in the frozen water, so the key to clear ice is to eliminate those problems. Boiling the water before freezing it will deaerate it, and using distilled water will ensure negligible mineral content. Below is an example of an ice cube made from boiled water (on the left) and un-boiled water (on the right). I did not use distilled water, and as you can see, there is still some cloudiness, but the boiling creates a marked improvement.

7. The juice is not fresh. The quality of fresh juice above pasteurized juice is almost incommunicable. Boiling juice (to pasteurize it) removes many of its more delicate flavor compounds, and changes the texture, invariably for the worse. Moreover, once juice has been freed from its prison inside of a fruit, it begins to break down and change flavor on its own. Pasteurized orange juice from a carton is only vaguely orangey sugar water compared to the bright, floral qualities of a freshly juiced orange, for example. If you forget everything else I have told you, remember this: your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put in it.

8. The glass is not cold. If you strain your ice-cold drink into a room temperature glass, you are cheating yourself. The drink will immediately absorb a substantial amount of heat from the glass, ruining its temperature. Always chill your glasses before pouring your drink into them.

9. You’re topping a drink in a cocktail glass with soda. Stop it. Most sodas contain revolting amounts of sugar and sad, highly artificial flavor syrups. Just say no. Worse, you probably are not measuring the soda. “Top with sprite” has to be the worst mixing instruction ever, because if your drink, pre-top-off, has a volume of five ounces, then depending on the glass, you might end up adding anywhere from one to five ounces of soda, producing inconsistency from drink to drink.

10. There are no bitters. Not every drink needs bitters, as we saw in our consideration of the martini, but the majority of mixed drinks do need them. Bitters are a bit like salt; they round out and enhance the other flavors of the drink, and add complexity and depth on the backend. The one place where bitters are usually unwelcome is in a drink which relies on the sharp acid taste of fresh lemon or lime. Bitters will dull the bracing quality of acid.

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.

So let’s see if we can take all of these ideas, and re-jigger the Naughty Housewife-tini, above, into something a little more delicious.

NaughtyHousewife

2 oz Fresh Peach Juice
1.5 oz Gin (Plymouth)
.25 oz Liquore Strega
.25 oz Simple Syrup
Dash of Peach Bitters (Fee’s)

Shake over ice and double-strain, first through a hawthorne or julep strainer and then through a fine-mesh strainer, into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a blackberry on a skewer.

Notice that we have dropped the ridiculous “-tini” suffix from the name. The pasteurized slop has been omitted in favor of a fresh seasonal juice. Vodka has been replaced with gin, and the sugar components have been dialed down to a very small amount, to add a bit of sweetness to the drink without overpowering it.

The sprite, which added sweetness and carbonation, has been replaced with a bit of simple syrup, to fill the same role without adding undesirable flavors and carbonation. For a liqueur, I used Liquore Strega, which is sweet, herbal, and slightly spicy, adding a note of intrigue to the otherwise mundane combination of peach and gin.

The deep purple of the blackberry garnish creates a pleasing contrast with the pale orange of the drink itself.