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).

Friday, 30 September 2016

Gutter clearer

1 shot aged/light run
1 shot grapefruit juice
1 shots honey syrup
0.5 shots goldschlager/maraschino
1 shot lime juice
Dash Angostura bitters
Float overpriced rum

Make the honey syrup by mixing honey 1:1 with hot water, and stir thoroughly to mix (you can do it in a jigger). add it and the rest of the ingredients to a shaker can, shake with hard ice and strin into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a grapefruit peel because you have it (see below).

Lizard lounge, although it's probably close to a Tiki recipe I didn't find.

I've always loved the autumn. I'm not sure why, as it should be a depressing time of the year: nights draw in, the mornings are dark, the air turns chillier and the damp fingers of winter beckon. But against that I have fond memories of treacle toffee, gloved fingers, the furnace glow of bonfires and the smell of fireworks. These have always exerted a draw on me, and still do. In fact, give me the smell of smoke on a misty, clear morning and I'll forgive Autumn all the cold, wet darkness it can muster - especially when the late sunrises mean you can photograph them without getting up at 4am.

One of the things I don't like about autumn is that the local trees tend to turn out gutters into leaf mulchers. So a week ago I was crawling through windows and balancing on ladders in an attempt to ensure that the ever-increasing rainfall had a clear run at the drains. Waterfalls are great, just not down our fragile brickwork please.

At the end of this, tired and smelling vaguely arboreal, I was feeling very deserving of liquid sustenance, and disinclined to faff around for the next hour deciding what to drink. In fact, I had distinct opinions about what I wanted, but couldn't find a recipe to match.

This drink is the result. I should also mention that I had a fresh grapefruit to use up. Grapefruit goes hugely well with cinnamon, I wanted the richness of honey and... well, read the ingredients. Tiki doesn't come simple. If there's one think I slightly regret, it's the Maraschino - I love it, but it's a strong flavour and is a little overbearing here.

The other thing I slightly regret is making another to use up the other half of the grapefruit, although that only surfaced the next morning...

Friday, 23 September 2016

Sparkling apple sherry cocktail

1 shot pressed apple juice
1 shot Lambig apple brandy
0.75 Mandarine Napoleon
0.5 shots Pedro Ximenez sherry
top ginger ale

Shake all except ginger ale with hard ice, fine strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top up with ginger ale.

Full credit for the original goes to Elana at . For all variations and shortcuts I take full responsibility.

Ok so this isn't so much about how to make a cocktail as how not to make it. I confess I might have skipped this one altogether if the photo hadn't worked. I planned it because... well, because it looked tasty and interesting, but then I realised I had a limited amount of time and an absence of two of the ingredients. This is not so much improvising as making do.

So let me go through the alterations, and why they might not have been a good idea:

1) apple juice rather than a muddled apple. We have an Avogadro's number of apples at the moment, but they're all either windfalls or still on the tree. Windfalls are good for making juice if you cut the brown bits/worms out, but frankly I didn't feel like making a cocktail with the result. However, we have an enormous amount of apple juice, both from last year and the beginnings of the 2016 crop. Using juice probably made it sweeter and slightly longer than it should have been: it probably would have been better with a crisp, fresh apple or an early pressing.

2) 1 rather than 1.5 shots apple brandy. It's expensive stuff, and the cocktail was already plenty alcoholic (but see below). Fine with this, although it merits experimentation.

3) Pedro Ximenez rather than Oloroso sherry. Not a good idea. Big fan of the PX, but think this needed the nutty, vinous nature of the Oloroso rather than the sweet, Christmas-puddingy taste of PX. I do think the idea works, and the drink wasn't bad because of it - it just would have been better. I got the bottle of PX for Christmas 2015 and am still trying to use it up to be honest: it's a little hard to mix with without it dominating.

4) Ginger ale and not Prosecco. Don't do this. It was merely that I was persuaded that drinking Prosecco with the main mean was a Bad Idea (this was correct), and wasn't about to open a bottle and let it go flat. I don't have any small bottles of Prosecco, only Cava, and substituting the one with the other is nearly always a bad move. Ginger ale is... well, it's fine, but no substitute, especially in a drink which is already alcoholic.

This uses some expensive ingredients. Apple brandy and Mandarine Napoleon aren't cheap, and to be frank the Mandarine is once again better in concept than execution: it's subtle and gets lost. I suspect subbing Grand Marnier (also expensive) might hold its own better. The concept holds true, and I think it'd work beautifully as Elena originally intended. The knock-off version here isn't bad or unbalanced, but is a little syrupy and would benefit from some more bite courtesy of the Prosecco and the correct sherry. So it's a B- to me for quantity surveying, but the drink itself deserves revisiting. It's not like we don't have the apples...

Saturday, 17 September 2016

La Cucaracha

1.5 shots anjeo tequila
0.5 shots Agavero
0.75 shots lime juice
1 fresh passionfruit
2 shots pressed apple juice
2 tsp vanilla sugar

Scoop passionfruit seeds and flesh into a shaker can, add the other ingredients, and stir well to dissolve the sugar. shake with hard ice, then strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. garnish with a sprig of mint if you can find any in the garden at this time of year.

Douglas Ankrah in Shaken and Stirred.

First off, there are no cockroaches in this drink. I checked.

Second, you are no doubt thinking that this is very similar to the epically-good Georgiana. You are correct. In fact, this is pretty much a Georgiana built with apple juice rather than grapefruit. There's a good reason for this: the Georgiana was a cocktail we got from an old Lab menu. Very old - we're talking at least ten years ago. At that time, they were getting a new menu printed: they'd run out of menus because everyone walked off with them, so they just had photocopies which they were giving away! I still have mine.

The reason this is relevant is because La Cucaracha comes from Douglas Ankrah's sublime Shaken and Stirred. That's Douglas Ankrah of Lab and Townhouse fame. I'm guessing that the Georgiana was an earlier version of the Cucaracha, if only because this is the one that made it into the book.

This puts me in a quandary. Disagreeing with Mr Ankrah over cocktails is not generally a clever thing to do, but I'm tempted to think the Georgiana a better drink. Tequila and grapefruit go so well together that Mexico's other national drink is the Paloma, whereas apple doesn't bring a lot to the party here. It's a good sweetener and lengthener, but the stand out flavours are still tequila and passion fruit, as they should be. I think grapefruit holds it own slightly better, but this will obviously depend on your personal grapefruit tolerance.

One small hitch is that you need grapefruit juice to make a Georgiana. I didn't have any, and we still have quarts of apple juice from last autumn, so that made the decision for us. I did serve it on crushed ice because it's pretty short and intense. Also our freezer does it for us.

Final notes: fresh passion fruit is necessary: try to make sure it's ripe. I got large ones from Waitrose which were awesome, but at that price they should have been. You can make without Agavero, and I'd understand as it's expensive and not widely used, but it's not quite the same without it.

Friday, 9 September 2016


1.5 shots apple brandy
0.75 shots Benedictine
0.25 shots triple sec
0.5 shots lemon juice
(white of half an egg)

Shake and double strain (if not using egg white)

Difford sez "a 1930s classic"

If you're like me you probably think "Lambig" is a mispelling of a Belgian beer. However, as I learned on our recent trip to Brittany, it's actually a traditional Breton apple brandy which is Definitely Not Calvados. However, for mixing it's functionally identical, and my Calvados pallete would need a lot more training before I could distinguish them.

I had to get a bottle, of course. On my return, I found that it's stocked by neither the whisky exchange NOR Gerry's which must make it practically unique.

I also had to find something to do with it when I got home. Things like the Apple Cart exist of course, and are good, but I was after something a bit more inventive. This was it, and very tasty it is too, if still a sidecar variant. Which is good, because Sidecars are one of my favourite things. Pity decent brandy is so expensive.

This relies on the Benedictine for sweetness. Have I mentioned how well Benedictine mixes? It's like magic. Wouldn't drink it neat particularly, but blends wonderfully for that "more than the sum of its parts" effect that I love. Not cheap, but no substitutes. I'd watch it with the lemon juice: you could spoil the balance, but it does need to be tart. The original also has half an egg white in it. I approve, and it would smooth it nicely, but we had just got back from holiday and there were no eggs in the house.

The brandy has that lovely, slightly "pear drops" edge to it which reminds me a little of Sauternes. Filled out with the subtly herby Benedictine and sharpened with the lemon, this is one beautifully-balanced cocktail with real depth.

(You can make it with Calvados too. Don't tell anyone.)

Friday, 12 August 2016

Jamaican breeze

1.5 shots spiced rum
0.5 shots vanilla liqueur
1 shot lime juice
3 shots pressed apple juice

build in a tall glass with lots of ice. Garnish with a lime wheel or similar

Douglas Ankrah's superb Shaken and Stirred

So on Sunday we get back from Chessington World of Adventure, and any thought of making something short and sophisticated went out of the window. It was hot, we were hot, we were tired and I needed something long and refreshing. And preferably easy to make.

Only problem: no fizzy mixers bar ginger ale, and no fruit juice of the non-citrus variety apart from apple juice. Which is our own, and thanks to the miracles of Mr Pasteur still being drunk from last autumn's bumper crop, but as it happened the kids had drunk most of it (did I mention it was hot?) and I was rapidly running out of ideas.

However, I did recall that Shaken & Stirred had a section on breezes and Collins (Collins's? Let's not go there), so I turned to the evergreen Mr Ankrah and he came up trumps.

Did I say there was only one problem? The other problem was that it involved spiced rum, and I don't have any. This is more a policy decision than a shortcoming. There's limited space in my bar - well, that's a lie, I'm fortunate enough to have a relatively cavernous bar, but the generous quantity of space it affords is full of nice things[1], and new bottles have to earn their place. Regular spiced rum always strikes me as sweetened sub-Bacardi cooking rum with a dash of vanilla. We can do better than that. Well, we could make proper spiced rum, but as I didn't have a time machine, I present: 

fake spiced rum
1.5 shots Appleton special golden rum
1 spoon Goldschlager cinnamon liqueur
dash homemade allspice dram

(My allspice dram is more accurately described as pimento bitters, due to it being a first attempt and steeped for Far. Too. Long. It does taste of allspice, but you shouldn't use more than a tsp in anything)

This is not subtle, and you could do far better with a vanilla pod, some cracked allspice berries, and a few other doodads, but we are mixing this with apple juice and vanilla liqueur, and it tasted just fine. Sure I wish I had some beautiful transparent cubes of ice to make a beautiful image, but if a genie materialised I'd probably still go for world peace an/or a reset button for 2016 and I'm afraid this was a very quick shot taken with whatever lens was on the camera[2]. This is not the whizziest cocktail, but it certainly hit the spot.

1. There is some debate as to whether my bottles of absinthe and green Chartreuse can be described as nice. I maintain the dose makes the poison, but I also have some crème de menthe, so perhaps I shouldn't push that one too far.2. Sony E 18-105 f/4 PZ G OSS, because you really wanted to know that. Getting back while there was still any sunlight would have helped far more, but there we go.