Friday, 10 March 2017

Ginger maple sour

1.5 Bourbon
0.5 ginger liqueur
0.75 lemon juice
0.5 maple syrup

shake all with hard ice, double strain. Garnish with a lemon segment.

Serendipity. No that's not a bar. Although maybe it should be.

This was a happy accident: not so much an experiment as a discovery. I was looking for bourbon recipes, and came across the Borderline. This looked good, but I didn't have any Punt e Mes, and substituting with Dubonnet didn't pass the sniff test. Carpano Antiqua Formula is pricey, I don't use enough of it, and it doesn't keep, so that had run out too. What else goes in a bourbon sour sweetened with lovely smooth maple syrup?

Ginger. But not just any ginger: the wonderful Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. It is stupidly expensive but I'm going to have to get another bottle because it is Just. That. Good. Half a shot is ample, coming the forefront but not overwhelming the flavour. This drink is pretty much a bourbon sour sweetened with maple and flavoured with ginger. It doesn't need anything else - not even bitters. You could serve in on the rocks if you must, but there's only so much ice up the nose I can tolerate, and I didn't fancy a straw.

We'll be going back to this one.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Don's mixer #2

1.5 shots Cachaça
0.5 shots Liquor 43
1 shots freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
0.5 shots lime
0.25 sugar
Spoon Goldschlager
Dash angostura bitters

Squeeze your grapefruit, then add the liquid ingredients to the shaker can. Shake with hard ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel, squeezed and dropped into the drink.


My first experiment last week with grapefruit didn't work out too well. I mean, it was ok, and we drank it and all, but not one I'd want to publish. I thought cardamon would go nicely with vanilla, but it just didn't. I needed to focus on those bits which did work, namely the vanilla and grapefruit, and structure things around them. But how?

Grapefruit and vanilla go very nicely together. You don't need a lot of Liquor 43 to give you enough vanilla, but we need the lime to give it a little more bite - which necessitates the sugar syrup to balance: a sort of cocktail cascade of intervention. I'm not happy with the number of ingredients here, but taking any of these out removes elements and harms the blend of flavours. I could try reducing the lime and making do with the sweetness of the Liquor 43, but upping the quantity would drown everything under a wave of vanilla.

Sorry, this is a bit like free association. Rambling. Need sleep. But lets try to finish what we started.

You're wondering about the name. No, this is not a Don the Beachcomber recipe. But Don did have a special mix of grapefruit and cinnamon that bears his name, and that's what the spoon of Goldschlager gives us (yes, one spoon is enough, that stuff is potent). Add a dash of Angosturas because they go fantastically well with grapefruit juice, and there you go.

You're wondering why I didn't make it with gin? Perhaps I should have. I wasn't convinced about gin and vanilla, and didn't want another cocktail disaster, darling. So I opted for the warm demerara embrace of cachaça, which holds up well to the spice, and surprisingly doesn't overwhelm the whole thing. I could have used white rum to play it safe, but I didn't want it turning into JAFD, and it gets too close to the vanilla and grapefruit daiquiri for comfort.

Perhaps this could do with further refinement, but it blends into that sort of tart, juicy, complex, spiced melange that is my cup of tea, and managed to integrate remarkably well. I hope Mr Beachcomber would approve.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Orchard crush

1.5 shots Calvados/Lambig
0.5 shots damson gin
1 spoon plum jam
1 shot lemon juice
0.25 shots sugar syrup (2:1)

Mix all ingredients, and stir well to encourage the jam to dissolve. Shake with ice, and strain into an ice-filled glass. garnish with a lemon twist and a frozen raspberry, because that's what you have.

Morgenthaler, apparently. Via the inevitable Mr Difford (Note to self. Diversify cocktail recipe sources).

I would be prepared to make excuses at this pint for recycling Mr Difford's fine compendium. But I'm not. For one thing, the Cocktail Book Of Doom(tm) has always been a comprehensive rather than selective - it has numerous cocktails in which are close or identical to each other, and some which I wouldn't give time of day to. Even if I only took recipes from there, it would be worthwhile as a work of curation, in my slightly grouchy opinion. I like to think that if you made recipes at random from my blog you would be better served than from diffordsguide dot com, even with the ratings.

That's fine. He's doing an indispensable job, and I salute him for it. I'm trying to do something different and far more modest, which is to surface, publicise, and drink the stuff which in my biased and '90s-influenced opinion is really special. OK: mainly drink. A sort of sip and tell affair.

This drink is one for which I will make zero apologies for its origin. It's damn fine, and I have no idea why I hadn't found it before [Ed: probably because it isn't in the last print edition you own]. The drawback is that you need to be prepared to use Calvados, which isn't cheap. But the upshot is a juicy, intense, tart and delicious drink that tempts you to plough through the bottle (and the jam) far too quickly, limited only by the time it takes to make the thing. The idea is simple but very effective: damsons and apple brandy. I did modify it by adding a touch of my own damson gin because it's frankly very nice, but apart from that this is unaltered. Try it, you'll like it.

Picture credit: a chopping board and a flash for fake window light, high-keyed Pinterest stylee. I think it works quite well for rocks serves. But that's just my opinion man etc.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Ultima Palabra

0.75 shots aged Tequila
0.75 shots green chartreuse
0.75 shots Maraschino
0.75 shots pineapple juice
0.65 shots lime juice

Shake & double strain. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary in case it wasn't herbal enough. Curse as the sprig falls into the drink, rejecting all your overtures to stay upright in a photogenic fashion, and vow to cut a longer sprig next time.

Simone de Luca at the High Road House Club in Chiswick, via Gaz Regan, via Simon Difford.

I have quite a lot of Chartreuse, for Reasons. Unfortunately it's not my wife's favourite thing, which I can quite understand: it's a bit like Marmite, if Marmite were 50% abv. Some things like Benedictine, which occupies the same corner of the cocktail cabinet, are wonderful for mixing, and disappear into the other flavours, giving richness and body but never dominating.

Chartreuse is not like that. If it's there, you're going to know about it.

Now I quite like Chartreuse because I have a fondness for unsubtlety or something. However, I don't tend to use it a lot, for the above reason. It is thus a tradition that on the rare occasion I'm mixing just for myself, I try to use it. The last time I tried a Last Word, which certainly hit the spot. Now, the observant Spanish speakers among you (anyone? Bueller?) will have noticed this is the same thing in Spanish, but that's not quite fair. The formula of spirit + Chartreuse + Maraschino = fun is in place, but here the quantities are altered, or it'd be a green margarita. There's also the addition of pineapple, which is a great idea and really ties the drink together.

I would not have thought of putting Maraschino with tequila, but it works surprisingly well, and all that herbal stuff complements the tequila really well. I should note that I'm still on the Olmeca Altos Reposado tequila, and it's a great choice for this cocktail: bags of cactus juice flavour.

I did tweak the recipe a bit: the original calls for Mezcal, and I didn't have any. I'm intrigued by what the smoky notes could bring to the party, but that's for another time. For now, the above is well worth drinking. Provided you like Chartreuse, natch.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Papa bear

1.5 shots cognac
1.5 shots Krupnik honey vodka
0.75 shots lemon juice
a spoon of honey syrup

shake and double strain, ideally into a couple. Garnish with a lemon zest - I rimmed the glass with it on general principle.

Tim Homewood in 2008 via Simon Difford

I seems that I like drinks made with honey. This will come as no surprise to anyone foolhardy enough to have been following this blog: drinks like the Aged Honey Daiquiri, Perfect Arrest or Rhubarb and honey bellini are, frankly, delicious. I love the way honey not only sweetens but adds body and aromatic elements, plus that undefinable richness it's difficult to find elsewhere.

Krupnik is also a frequent offender here, notably in the Honey Berry Sour of legend. It's a Polish spiced honey liqueur which has the inevitable roots in antiquity, although for some reason it's not made by monks. Presumably they were all busy making Chartreuse or beer. (Fun fact that I've just discovered: the origin story of Benedictine, concerning Norman monks, was invented from whole cloth by the inventor of the liqueur.)

So after a mead drink, we start 2017 with another honey drink #sorrynotsorry . This is a great idea, all the more powerful for its simplicity. Take a Sidecar, swap out the orange flavours for honey, and rebalance. Honey complements aged spirits wonderfully - see the aged honey daiquiri, which I can't quite believe I haven't covered yet, or for that matter a hot whisky toddy.

To do this, you need to make the honey syrup, I tend to do so on the fly. The classic is 1:1 hot water and honey, but I think that may not be sweet enough to balance this, and you don't want to dilute unnecessarily: I went for around 3:1, and made it with a minimum of boiling water in the bottom of a double measure, to which I added honey and stirred (well, swizzled) carefully with a bar spoon until it dissolved.

You can probably guess how this tastes from the ingredients: subtly spiced honey, lemon juice and a solid cognac backbone. It's tart, but balanced. It's biggest problem is that it tends to disappear from the glass rather quickly. It might be sweet, but there's not much change from three units here, so gently does it.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Venerable mead

1.5 shots dark Lindisfarne mead
1.5 shots Lilet Blanc
1 shot Manadarine Napoleon

combine in a shaker can, stir vigorously with a bar spoon until the can is good 'n' frosty, then double strain into a cocktail glass. A coupe would be nice here, but I was saving them. squeeze a lemon zest over the drink, then pare the bitter pith and drop it in the glass. Rub the zest round the rim first for extra credit (I forgot, you shouldn't).

The Lizard Lounge Mead Challenge™

This cocktail has a rather specific use case, and I'm afraid it won't have a lot of general applicability. Our friends Tom & Julie had come across a bottle of mead, and the obvious question was, how to mix with it? So Tom posed me The Mead Challenge™ which I was naturally happy to take up.

The challenge was complicated in that no sours were allowed, because Tom had already done that. My first thought (a modified honey berry sour, which I can't say enough nice things about) was thus disqualified. In fact, I'm not sure it would have worked that well, because of Complicating Factor 2: mead doesn't taste like you think it does.

Well, if you drink mead all the time, perhaps it does. However, I was surprised that (1) it didn't taste predominantly of honey, although the notes are definitely there, (2) it tasted more like wine than I expected, and (3) it wasn't all that sweet. The last two must have been because I was having a slow brain day, as the definition of mead is pretty much "wine made with honey," and that given this it's plenty sweet for wine, just not for a liqueur.

The other Complicating Factor was that this mead was remarkably subtle. It seems, from those wot know more about mead than I do, that there is a lot of variation between meads, and thus this recipe may not work for a different style. This is why I've named the variety in the ingredients: something I try to do only if it matters.

Mixing it with another wine-based aperitif is perhaps obvious, but I've always thought Lilet Blanc tasted vaguely honeyed, and it's subtle enough not to overwhelm the mead. The other ingredient came as I was reaching for the Cointreau. I often complain the Mandarine Napoleon is too effete to stand up to most other flavours, but it's perfect here - although 1:1:1 may still be a bit much. My first thought was apricot brandy, but that completely overwhelmed the drink in more than trace quantities.

I thought this would be low alcohol, as it has no spirit base. like I said, I may have been having a slow brain day. The ingredients may be low alcohol but they're all alcoholic, whilst even a Margarita is partly lime juice. Also, Mandarine Napoleon is 38% abv, which doesn't help. Working it out properly reveals a 2.1 unit drink for 200ml of cocktail. Nice and warming, but not excessive.

With ingredients that are either hard to get or expensive, this recipe has limited use. However, if I had the ingredients, I wouldn't hesitate to make it again. The main notes are lemon zest from the garnish, blending into the mandarin, with a palate of honey (unsurprisingly) and vinous intensity, with some orange blossom and herb from the Lilet and mead. The finish is sweet and short, no bitter ingredients to spoil the party. Speaking of which: Happy new Year, y'all.

Monday, 12 December 2016

God rest ye berry gentlemen

1 shot cranberry & roseamary syrup
0.5 shots ginger liqueur
0.5 shots lemon juice
top prosecco

Make the cranberry syrup (see below). Add ingredients expect prosecco to a shaker can and stir with hard ice until cold, then strain into a flute or saucer and top up with chilled prosecco. Garnish with frozen cranberries and a sugar frosted sprig of rosemary, because Christmas.

Some of this, some of that, a bit of the other. Mixed in the Lizard Lounge.

This was going to be called the cranberry and ginger bellini, but it's still 2016 and the cool kids tell me that bad puns for cocktail names are still in for another fortnight. The important bit is the syrup, which I borrowed from Martha Stewart and added rosemary. Converted into sane units, it goes like this:

Cranberry and rosemary syrup

200g cranberries
230ml water
200g sugar
small sprig rosemary

Bring cranberries, sugar, and water to a simmer over as low a heat as you have patience for. Simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to stand for a bit if you can to allow everything to infuse, then strain and bottle. Transfer to a fridge when cool, it's only 1:1 to allow more flavour and less sugar.

This is subtle, tasty and very festive, particularly if you make the effort for the garnish. It is also low alcohol (roughly 1 unit for a standard glass), and spins the prosecco out nicely at only about half a glass per serve depending on glass size. Not only that, be served non-alc: remove the ginger liqueur, sub ginger ale. 

Happy Christmas, and a relaxing and peaceful holiday to you all. Here's hoping against hope for a better 2017.