Friday, 25 November 2016


1.5 shots Apple Brandy
1.5 shots Dubonnet red
0.5 shots triple sec
2 dashes Angostura bitters

stir with ice in a shaker can, fine strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with an orange zest; you can express the oil onto the cocktail if you have a mind.

Drinkboy in 2006 apparently - I think he meant this recipe here - via Difford's guide

I won't go on about the photo. I finally took my own advice/got the time to do it properly, and used a tripod, a sharp prime lens, a dark room (not a darkroom), manual focus to get the glass properly in focus and a mini Maglite(tm) to light paint. Two take-aways I've found from recent efforts: 

  1. that the eye naturally goes to the near lip of the glass, ie where your mouth should be in the natural order of things. Unless there's a really good reason (usually a garnish), that's the bit that needs to be in focus. Getting the stem sharp matters very little.
  2. Ultra-shallow depth of field may be lovely in its place, but just like in macro photography its place is not necessarily here. If you want everything out of focus apart from the garnish then fine, but with the round lip of the glass going away from the camera it will have a very small zone of focus: it tends to give the eye not enough to anchor on, and the shot ends up looking blurry. Your're probably near the minimum focus distance of the lens anyway, which makes DOF a potential problem, so stopping down is usually helpful. Especially if you're light painting, when it gives you more time to eliminate shadows. This was a 5s exposure at f/6.3, ISO100 for reference.
Ok, I lied. Hopefully I pay attention in future, and/or get my dark field set-up working.

This drink, to be blunt, is not my usual sort of thing. It's sweet, strong, a little bitter and definitely old school, and I served it up with a little trepidation. One thing I did do was to even out the measures of Dubonnet and Calvados (by which I mean Lambig, of course) so it would be less a Calvados martini and more a... wet Calvados martini, I suppose. Anyway, it went down easily enough for both of us, and is definitely suitable as an aperitif, although I wouldn't want one with a meal. If you like Calvados and Dubonnet you should definitely give it a shot. Sip it slowly, you're not getting another.

I much prefer honest guesswork about the roots of a cocktail over just-so stories of dubious historical provenance stated as the truth (just wait until next week's cocktail for more on that). Whatever came first, there's a whole family of very similar cocktails, which Mr Difford - in his inestimable but rather kitchen-sink style - has included. The drink is basically a Dandy made with Calvados rather than bourbon - especially the way I've mixed it with less spirit and more Dubonnet than standard. (Of course, the Dandy is essentially a sweet Manhattan with Dubonnet in place of vermouth). There's plenty of variations on this theme: A Bushranger is made with white rum and no triple sec (I'm not convinced), a Barney Barnato is made with Cognac and Grand Marnier in place of triple sec, or even the quantities out and you get a Crux. Go a bit silly with gin and Swedish punsch and you end up with a Princess Marina. And why not, as Barry Norman would say.

If I did it again? I might go for the Barney Barnato, despite the silly name. I might need some better Cognac first though, and that's a slippery slope!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Ankrah Champagne cocktail

1 shot bourbon
1 white sugar cube
dash orange bitters
top champagne

Place the sugar cube at the bottom of a chilled champagne flute or (preferably) saucer. Dash the bitters onto the sugar cube. carefully add the shot of bourbon, then top up with champgne, making sure it doesn't fizz over.

Douglas Ankrah in Shaken and Stirred.

Ok, lets take this piece by piece.

Firstly, that photo sucks. Sorry. The focus point is not where your eye wants it to be, and it was dark enough that I didn't notice until later. One of these days I'll learn to prioritise sharpness and take in enough light to focus. If this cocktail didn't deserve the slot I would have deep-sixed it until I had a better shot. It's not like it couldn't have worked, but I would need a tripod and manual focus. Circumstances did not permit, and I should have realised. Self flagellation over.

Second: champagne cocktails, in general, suck. I'm not including champagne tops here like the wonderful mojito royale. Champagne cocktails have a tendency to just taste like champagne with stuff in it. No integration, and an inversion of the "more than the sum of its parts" rule. I would say negative synergy, but then I'd have to go shoot myself. I mean, honestly.

The classic champagne cocktail is a rare exception to this. The Bellini is not made with champagne, but the same applies - it's a great drink. I would make an exception for this as well, which I think is pretty special.

So why is this different? Just taste it. I note the original had a garnish of a mandarin segment marinated in Liquor 43, which is a worthwhile addition. But when we had it, it didn't. Also, it's easy to overdo the Liquor 43, which makes it sweet and syrupy. The sugar cube is not just for interest - it's to make sure it's not too sweet from the offset.

If you want to get technical, the vanilla and caramel tones of the bourbon combine beautifully with champagne, and yes this does mean this favour the more biscuity and less green styles - in other words expensive. Sorry. The acidity of the fizz cuts through the strength of the spirit, and the orange bitters tops it off perfectly without dominating anything. It's perfectly-judged, subtle, rewarding, and most importantly it pays it way, even with pricey champgne, in that it's worth mixing rather than just drinking it neat. Case closed.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Sloe gin sour

2 shots sloe gin
0.5 shots cherry brandy
0.75 shots lime juice
0.5 egg white
Dash orange bitters

Using a Boston shaker, shake with ice, then strain into the shaker glass. Remove ice, then dry shake in the cold shaker. Pour straight into a chilled cocktail glass, or preferably saucer.

Not terribly sure. Adaptation of something I originally found on the internets will have to do.

Not a terribly original recipe, but given a bit of a twist with the cherry brandy, a good addition which rounds out the sour as well as adding a bit of aroma. Beyond that, a classic sour with the classic creamy egg white foam. Terrible photo, but I seem to recall being in a hurry to drink it. You'll run out of sloe gin fast if you drink a lot of these, so use them wisely.

You'll ask me if I had to use lime juice for this. Wrong question. You should have asked if I had any lemons in the house. Either works; lemon is probably the more natural choice.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Winter's edge

1.5 shots Apple brandy (Lambig)
1 shot ginger liqueur
1 spoon green Chartreuse
0.5 shots lemon juice
2 spoons honey

Shake and fine strain. I like the idea of a garnish to this one, but nothing really suggested itself that I had to hand. Would be interested to try with a physalis, but that would require planning, and this was spontaneous.

Lounge Iguana dot com

You nearly didn't get this one. Memo to self: when improvising a cocktail that works, Write. Down. The. Ingredients. I eventually cajoled the list from the swampy depths of my unconscious, but the quantities are still a little fuzzy and I recommend testing before ladling in the honey.

I would say it's very nice wouldn't I? It's very nice. I did get some second-party feedback on that (always welcome!), but to be candid with these ingredients it ought to taste good. Apple brandy is not cheap, and the delectable Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur won't be available at your local Poundland. I won't do a per-glass calculation in post-EUref pounds sterling (the apple brandy is French, natch) because that would depress me, but let's just say that it's not one to make for a large party unless they're your favourite people.

There's something about the last embers of autumn about this one. It's the leading edge of winter on an afternoon sharp with the promise of frost, but leaving behind a warming sunset glow. Apple and ginger. Can't go too far wrong. Another time I might be tempted to add a little Xante, but for now this will do nicely.

Photo - we're having building work done, and a lot of our walls look like this. I thought it was more interesting than the kitchen top, and attempts to project a wholly misleading touch of Manhattan loft chic into South Bucks. Truth is it just needs plastering. Thanks to my delightful hand model, I was able to focus properly, and the position ensured there was good light.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Kernel of truth

1 shot bourbon
1 shot sloe gin
1 shot Amaretto

Stir all ingredients in a metal shaker can, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if you haven't already eaten them all.

Lizard lounge.

So last week we had some technical difficulties which made it into the national press, but meant I couldn't get the photo I had from the PC to the internets. Apologies for the disruption in service, circumstances beyond our control, etc.

This is a simple number which is certified safe for after-dinner use, unlike a lot of things featured here. It also has the merit of few ingredients and not requiring anything time-consuming to be done with citrus fruits. If you really wanted to you could add a squeeze of lemon, but unless your sloe gin is really insipid it doesn't need it.

And yeah, the 90's called and wanted it's selective colour photo back. The original image was brown on a brown background, so serious measures were called for. I liked the wood grain, but the cocktail needs colour otherwise it could be tap water, so here's the rather cliched compromise. I would claim as a mitigating factor that the coloured reflection elevates it above the "bare-chested man holding baby" level, but I'm not sure if the jury would be sympathetic.

If you were wondering, the title is a reference to the peach kernels used to make Amaretto, not Linux. Sorry.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Royal Bermuda yacht club daiquiri

2 shots golden rum
0.25 shots triple sec
0.75 shots lime juice
0.25 shots falernum

shake and double strain. Garnish with a lime wedge if you feel like sacrificing another lime to the garnish gods.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. No really. Via Trader Vic's bartenders guide and Simon Difford.

I love cross-overs as a general rule, although I'm not young or hipstery enough to call them mash-ups. This is a cross-over, but not in the deliberate or ironic sense: it was created at the genesis of the Tiki movement. Because of this it has some Tiki hallmarks without being the full on article. The Yacht Club was founded in 1844 and the earliest publication date I can find for Vic's Bartender's Guide is 1948, so there's an decent area of doubt and uncertainty about when the drink was invented or written down. "Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it," as Galadriel is reported to have quipped.

One of the most important things it does have is falernum, that wonderful spiced sugar syrup which is far better homemade than bought. It's on;y a quarter of a shot, but it makes the drink, and stops it being JAFD.

You could think of this as a sort of Oh Gosh!  - I'll wait here whilst you look it up. See what I mean? However, I think you'd be wrong to draw too many parallels. The Oh Gosh!, aside from having too much punctuation, has a full shot of triple sec and less lime. I always think of it a little like a sweeter Margarita with less punch, shortly before I go and make myself the real thing instead. Seriously, the Oh Gosh! is a fine cocktail, I just need to be in a subtle mood, and rum and subtlety aren't always the best bedfellows.

This is just the sort of tart, spicy thing that is my cup of tea. It elevates itself by being a relatively simple, almost restrained, drink that doesn't sacrifice the bite or complexity. It's also, being based on golden rum, ideal if you suddenly find you've run out of both white and Navy. Not that anyone would be stupid enough to do that. It would probably taste just dandy with aged rum to be honest, but other than that don't tinker, just appreciate.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Pegu club No. 2

2 shots dry gin
1 shot Grand Marnier
0.5 shots lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash orange bitters

Shake all with ice, double strain. Garnish with a lime wedge, although that is a terrible waste of a lime because they're difficult to squeeze afterwards.

Created in the Pegu club in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar during the 1920s, which was apparently still in the colonial era. Published by Harry McElhone in 1927. That's the Harry McElhone responsible for Harry's bar in New York, purported inventor of the Bloody Mary and the Sidecar. He was, however, nothing to do with Harry's Bar in Venice - that was Cipriani's joint, where he invented the Bellini (Cipriani, not McElhone).

This is the dryer version of the Pegu Club, which I made for three reasons:

1. When all is said and done, this is a gin margarita (thus combining two of my favourite things), and so not something I'd sweeten by default;
2. It has Grand Marnier in it rather than the more pedestrian triple sec, which I must order some more of;
3. It was the one I opened the book at first.

This mix is pretty bone dry, but about as complex as you might expect from all the bitters and the Grand Marnier. I mixed with Tanqueray, but you might want to try something a little less hard edged. Not sure what: can't quite envisage Miller's working, the floral's are obviously out, and it says dry gin so reluctantly no Plymouth either. Tanqueray Rangpur intrigues me, and you might want to read what this man has to say about it. He seems to have a serious thing about all things Pegu...

One final warning. This is short and strong, so don't gulp it, and do chill your glassware so it doesn't end up warm otherwise. Three units in a 3.5 shot drink is a lot, so think of it like drinking spirits, savor it and keep it to just the one.

Well, two at the most.

Photography note: I'm very disappointed in this shot, for reasons which I won't bore you with. Suffice it to say that a flash and umbrella light the whole room up, and don't really work for dark field shots. What would have worked would have been a small aperture and light painting, but I wanted to try something different. Live and learn. Proper dark field requires more props than I currently have, but at least I now know how to do it (in theory).