Measure & Stir

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


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Bar High Five – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #3

Welcome to episode three of Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm). Today, we are visiting Bar High Five in Ginza.

I did not know what quite what to expect as I came in to Bar High Five. It is located in a bustling restaurant district in Ginza, on the fourth floor of a building full of bars and restaurants. The bar seats about ten, and there are a few small tables to the side. The wall is adorned with awards proclaiming High Five to be one of the fifty best bars in the world. Certainly, their customer service was matched only by Uyeda-san’s Bar Tender. The professionalism and dedication of the staff was truly a thing to behold.

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In terms of the drinks, they were not a “mixology” bar, but more in the classic style. As an adventurous drinker, it is my preference to ask for the bartender’s choice (so long as the bar is not too crowded), and Bar High Five was happy to oblige me. Among the drinks that I and my cohorts enjoyed were:

* A stirred drink made with rye, two types of ginger liqueur, and a black tea liqueur.
* An Alaska with VEP Green Chartreuse
* A Whiskey sour sweetened with grape liqueur
* A “Black Negroni” made with fernet instead of Campari, and garnished with a lemon peel.

They also served the black negroni and the grape whiskey sour to other guests who were in the bar, so I take it those drinks are among their house specialties. Indeed, the senior bartender told us that his grape whiskey sour was a competition winner.

I realized only after the fact that their customer service may have let me down in one minor way. On their website is a menu with some intriguing drinks, but when I and my compatriots entered the bar, they never gave us a menu nor implied that there might be one. It is a small thing, and it does not tarnish the experience, but had I known, I would have ordered differently.

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It is easy to understand why High Five has the reputation that it does. They serve classic drinks with perfect execution, and offer a level of customer service that I have never seen in an American bar. If you are looking for more exotic and adventurous drinks, they might not be the first on your list, but if you are looking for a quintessential experience of a Japanese cocktail bar, this is the place.


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iSi Whipped Cream Dispenser

After eyeing it for a while, I finally caved and purchased an iSi Whipped Cream Dispenser. This is a heavy-duty piece of equipment, and I am very satisfied with the quality. If you’ve been around the internet for a while, or if you have visited a snooty restaurant with thirty tiny courses made out of science,  you are familiar with the molecular gastronomy/mixology practice of making flavored foams. I’d been dying to try it and now, at last, I have.

For my first foam, I wanted to go by the book, so I watched this video by Jamie Boudreau and followed his advice closely. His drink sounded interesting, but I still wanted to go my own way, so I decided to take two recipes that I already know and love, and put them together. The combination was kind of disappointing, but the foam itself was delicious, and overall a huge success. In the video, Jamie mentions that gomme syrup in the underlying drink is important to help its texture stand up to the rich foam. I heard this advice, but I did not have any gomme syrup, so I charged ahead blithely without it, with predictable results.

It wasn’t so much a problem of the viscosity of the drink, in my opinion, as a problem with the flavor. The foam was loosely inspired by my Vanilla Whiskey Fix, except I changed the balance to match Mr. Boudreau’s specifications. For the underlying drink, I used this apple brandy concoction. When I tasted the foam on its own, prior to mixing the drink, it felt like a good match in my imagination, but the flavor of the foam was very powerful, so that all you could taste from the underlying drink was the allspice.

Honey Whiskey Fix Foam
2 oz Honey Syrup
1 oz Vanilla-Infused Bourbon
1.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Water
2 Egg Whites

Place all in a whipped cream dispenser, seal, and shake. Discharge a nitrogen cartridge into the dispenser and then place the dispenser in the fridge for an hour to allow the foam to emulsify. If you need foam RIGHT THIS SECOND, discharge two nitrogen cartridges and wait a few minutes.

The foam came out of the dispenser with a very rich, creamy texture, similar to the head on draft Guinness or Boddingtons, but thicker. It completely destroyed the aroma of the underlying drink, so that was a disappointment, but I think the real artistry here lies in finding flavors that are distinct and yet complementary, or perhaps in using a lighter foam.

The only real hitch here was the stability of the foam. It broke down before I could finish the drink, most likely because I needed more sugar relative to the acidity of the lemon juice. Still, I don’t think anyone would complain if I served this foam to them at a party.

Before I go, a quick meditation on capacity. The above recipe made just enough foam for three drinks, and I think the 1 pint canister that I purchased could accommodate roughly double that, or six drinks. If you need to make these in a larger quantity than that, you should probably get the quart. I slightly regret not doing so. Coming soon: Flash infusions.