Sunday, 28 February 2010

English garden martini

On Friday night I was out at a chain cocktail bar. The menu was the usual stuff with a couple of interesting bits. Down on the classic section was the aviation, a solid classic when it's well made. (The one I had was competant, nothing to write home about). In the house specials was the English garden martini, gin, elderflower, apple & lime. I ought to have been warned by the lime, as the result was too sweet and the flavours of gin & elderflower submerged in sweetened apple. Could I do better at home ?

Attempt one is a pretty standard martini using Bombay sapphire (Hendrick's or Tanqueray would be better) the vermouth replaced with St. Germain elderflower liquer. I was a little too heavy handed with that but we definately have a base to work from, finding a bramley apple juice might be the next step. Hopefully by the summer I'll have a working drink.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


I like to eat snails, I enjoy their taste and texture, but I have to confess I do like the shock effect eating snails causes.

I was at a new Korean/Japanese restaurant last night. Firstly I've no idea why that combination was chosen, unless perhaps they thought we'd be frightened by just Korean food here in the bustling metropolis that is Nottingham.

I'm not going to review it because a) its a very new place & I'm not sure they've got all the bugs out yet and b) for various reasons (Including having to pay in cash unexpectedly I wasn't able to give the menu a thorough look. What we did have though was very nice, and I'll be going back if only for the Korean BBQ rice which was a lovely mix of Beef, sauce, steamed rice & pickles.

I've been trying to find out more about the snails as I wasn't convinced at the time they were land snails, the internet seems to suggest that they may actually be whelks. It tasted like a good chilli squid, with the same sort of bite but after 3/4 of a plateful the spicing got a bit much & my eyebrows broke out into a sweat.

Famous snails

This is one of the most famous/infamous snail dishes available in the UK. Heston Blumenthal's Snail porridge. This is a phenomenal dish, full of great textures & rich earthy tastes. In fact it tasted so good I almost forgot to document it. The snails are slow roasted, and have a mushroomy earthy flavour, which is slightly unexpected (most of the time the taste of snail (here in Europe) is masked by garlic.

So yes I eat snails, and am quite happy to do so, from the humble escargot drowning in garlic butter to the dizzy heights of Michelin starred molecular gastronomy snails. The gastropod has it's place on the end of my fork.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt III:- Sweet Vermouth

I know it's vermouth again, but bear with me a little. We'll also have a little look at shaking & shakers. Generally speaking French vermouth is dry, whilst Italian is sweet. Red vermouth is generally the sweetest & adds a pretty good colour to a drink. A 50/50 mix of dry & sweet vermouth used in a spirit & vermouth cocktail is generally referred to as "perfect", ask a good bartender for a perfect Martini & that's what you'll get. Its a good idea to keep both in your cabinet.

The shaker is the iconic cocktail tool, there are two main types, the boston, which consists of a glass & a tin that fit together and are held in place by the contraction of the tin, and the Cobbler which is all metal. You are probably thinking of a Cobbler shaker at this point, which comes in 3 parts. A tin, a strainer and a cap. You fill the tin with ice & ingredients which can often be measured using the cap, fit the strainer, fit the cap, shake hard remove the cap & pour. These kind of shakers can be had quite cheaply, you ought to be able to pick up a reasonably nice one for £5-10 from a second hand shop or on line. Of course you can spend more and get silver or designer or antique, its up to you.

Fibber McGee

 Given we have sweet vermouth & a cocktail shaker (improvise with a container with a well fitted lid) let's put them to use.

3 parts Gin
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part Grapefruit juice
1-2 dashes bitters

fill the tin of your shaker with ice, and then add the ingredients. I like to use pink grapefruit juice as it's slightly sweeter, but thats a personal preference. If you are using fresh squeezed juice you might want a finer strainer on had to catch stray pips & pulp. Fit the strainer & cap, check its a tight fit. With the top aimed over your shoulder, shake hard for 10-15 seconds. The tin should get very cold. Set it down remove the cap & pour.
Enjoy your drink, you've earnt it.

Next time we'll look at a different base spirit to gin and another classic cocktail.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Dinner party

Well it all almost went to pieces due to a surprise snowfall.

Let me explain. I meant to go & get the meat for the main course on Saturday, unfortunately things conspired to get in my way. No problem, the farm shop is open 10-4 on a Sunday, the only thing I need is the Beef (vital, after all the centre piece is a Beef Wellington). I have several recipes for Beef Wellington, the traditional ones require gallons of claret and heaps of Foie-gras. The more modern ones use a mushroom Duxelles. I prepared that & the puff pastry on the Saturday, thinking Sunday would be a quick dash out to get the beef, some work with our friends & then assemble & go.

Fortunately the snow didn't bring everything to a grinding halt & I was able to get out to the farm and get my fillet. The beef I buy is traceable from birth local meat (the cows are usually in the field opposite the shop) that is properly aged. I'm happy to eat this beef raw (and have in the form of carpaccio). However it made a 40 minute errand into a two hour expedition. Needless to say no work got done & I spent time in the Kitchen instead. The pastry was already made as was the duxelles, so the first job was to whip up some square pancakes. In a modern beef Wellington these stop the pastry going soggy by acting as a barrier to the beef juices. Traditionally you used short crust as the bottom pastry & puff on top. Once done (and there is something very odd about square pancakes) they get set aside to cool.

Whilst that was happening I whipped up the batter for dessert a traditional treacle sponge pudding, that was going to be steamed for a couple of hours. The recipe I was using was an all-in-one method, which was a bit of an arm ache since I don't have an electric mixer (mind you it burnt the calories the snowfall had prevented me burning so...). Here it is in the pudding basin.
Remember when making steamed puddings put a string handle on the basin before it goes anywhere near your steaming set up. Also with this one it's going to expand, so make sure you put the pleat in the top covering its going to need it. With all that in mind I wrapped the pudding safely and then found a handy secondary use for crumpet rings as they can be used to keep the basin a lot higher up in the pan so you don't have to keep a very close eye on the pudding boiling dry. The pancakes had cooled enough by this time so it was out with the duxelles and the spatula to coat them. Your fillet then needs to be seared, do this in your favourite way (a quick flaming with brandy is always fun) and then let that cool (yeah there is a bit of waiting about with this recipe).

Beef Wellington construction then begins. Roll out a rectangle of pastry big enough to envelope your beef. Lay the duxelles covered pancakes mushroom side up on the pastry & then lay your fillet in the middle of them. Seal the fillet in the pancakes, then to make things a bit neater & more secure flip the fillet over so the pancake seam is in the middle of the pastry. Seal the beef & pancake construction in the pastry and give it a good egg wash & make sure everything is sealed up, decorate if you like and put in a couple of small steam vents, put aside till about 30 mins before serving. Get the oven warmed up to gas 4 and set your potatoes & veggies going. The beef wants to go in for 25-30mins .As somebody once said to me, "if you aren't going to eat the beef pink, then don't bother with this recipe, its a waste of your time & money".
Let it rest for 5-10 mins & then cut into it.
As you can see I went with rare, rather than medium. The pastry grows & the meat shrinks, so you end up with a bit of extra pastry ends. I was really worried about this dish once it went in the oven, beef fillet is an expensive cut & I was scared it was going to get ruined, fortunately that didn't happen. Between the five of us we managed to eat the entire Wellington, not bad for a 750gr fillet, even the meat free bits of pastry from the end got eaten and one person actually had 3rds of this incredibly rich confection. I was holding back, because simmering away was the pan in which the treacle sponge was steaming.

Another success (phew) even if I didn't grease the basin quite thoroughly enough or allow for the amount of expansion I should have. Serve with crème fraîche ? I don't think so, its not going to make an appreciable dent in the vast pile of calories that you are consuming by simply sticking your spoon in a treacle pudding, so treat yourself and go with real cream or in our case clotted cream. Somehow 3 of us managed seconds on dessert. So there we have it a hugely calorific meal, given the cocktails before hand (a nice Gin & grapefruit number that I'll talk about in more detail later and the wine (a pair of good new world shirazs) I dread to think what we actually consumed. It was a success & I'd be happy to do it again, but its definitely a winter menu.

Friday, 19 February 2010

MixMo Absinthe

It's mixology Monday time again and our hostess thinking of drinking has picked the bad boy of the drinks cabinet :- Absinthe. To be truthful, I use absinthe frequently, I just don't use a lot, it's place is in drops, dashes & rinses. I just wasn't that inspired, but hang on, this is the green fairy, Van gogh, Lautrec, and Paris. The more I thought about it the more I started leaning towards doing something a little bit different, sure I could mix up something playing to the strength of Absinthe, maybe a Ultra-dry Martini I like to call "Death right now" in punnage to Hemingway, or to play with that wonder drink the "Corpse reviver #2" , but different was where I wanted to go. Here then is a bit of a story and a cocktail to go with it.

It was February the 26th 2008, I'd been reading "Last of the mohicans", but it was time to sleep, I turned out the light. I was rather rudely awoken by a roaring noise & the bed shaking. I rolled out of bed onto the floor & back under the bed, it was an EARTHQUAKE ! About here I need to point out I live in the UK in the Midlands, earthquakes aren't that common, but I'd just been woken up with a depth charge of adrenaline, so rolling under the bed seemed reasonable. A couple of seconds (or more subjectively a lot of seconds) later and calm had been restored. For those who've never experienced an earthquake they are pretty loud and of course anything jigglable has been set making a noise too. I flipped the computer open & attempted to log on to the BGS to find out more, I also fired up a chat window to talk to some friends who would be awake in a different time-zone.

Then I thought maybe a nightcap would help settle everything down.
Quite what possessed me to open the savoy cocktail book I'll never no, but the redoubtable Harry Craddock had just the thing, an earthquake cocktail. Its not a drink for the faint hearted, in fact it's pretty ferocious.
1/3rd Gin
1/3rd Whisk(e)y
1/3rd Absinthe

Apparently it'll make you forget you are drinking through an actual earthquake, a claim I can well believe. It's shaken hard with ice. Unsurprisingly the main flavour is aniseed, the Whisky & Gin having been bullied out of the way. They do however calm the bitterness down (I've tried it made with pastis & it's almost sickly sweet) and take away the burn of the alcohol. Refortified I went to see what the BGS were saying about matters geological. Not a lot, most of the UK was hitting the site, so I checked a few other places and found that it was magnitude 4-5 tempting me to play "Fünf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala" by Einstürzende Neubauten, but my neighbours may have managed to get back to sleep and it is somewhat raucous. After 45 minutes or so the drink & friendly banter had done their work and I was beginning to feel sleepy once more.

The earthquake turned out to be a mild 4.7, did no visible damage to my home, but was the topic of conversation for a good week. Before finding out that MixMo was absinthe I'd pretty much ignored the Earthquake cocktail, and making one to photograph and get tasting notes for reminded me why. Its a very strong drink, with one overwhelming taste aniseed, although it is quite well balanced, taking away some of the bitterness and burn. If you like the taste of absinthe & are looking for something different to the usual give it a go.

If you are caught in an earthquake of the smaller kind with little danger to life & limb get one mixed up and embellish the story, telling how you let the quake shake the drink for you and how you downed 2 or 3 straight to calm your nerves.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Yesterday was shrove Tuesday or as it's better known in these parts pancake day (not Mardi Gras, we don't do that kind of thing). So time to get pancaking.

I'm not talking about US style buttermilk pancakes, nor am I talking about crêpes, the closest none English equivalent is the Dutch pancake, except they cook the filling into the batter.

This is one in the frying pan. To make them you need a thinnish batter, I base mine on 2 eggs & 500ml of whole milk with enough flour (self raising) to make a batter that drips. Some people add a little melted butter, some use less egg and some water instead of all milk, that is as far as I'm concerned a bit on the stingy side. We were taught in school that the pancake (and its traditional sugar & lemon "filling") was made to use up ingredients that were forbidden during lent, so there is no need to hold on to spare eggs, milk, cream or butter. The batter should be allowed to stand, 30 minutes is a minimum, at home pancake batter was made in the morning & pancakes eaten in the evening. The batter goes into a hot frying pan, here we meet the first cooking ritual. A bare amount of fat goes into the pan over a high heat and it's then carefully watched for the blue haze. Once this elusive wisp of smoke is seen in goes some batter. Enough to cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 5mm (any more is a bit too thick, much less is stingy). Once the top of the pancake is set you get to turn the pancake over.

Tosser or Flipper ?
 As you can see I'm a tosser (it took several attempts to get this shot, so I'd taken to pulling faces to amuse myself).
Which is the traditional way to turn a pancake over. There is a whole host of peripheral stuff associated with the pancake toss. Its a staple of slapstick (they stick to the ceiling and fall down at the most hilarious moment) and several folk rituals, usually races. Science tells us that the best toss comes when the pancake has slithered to the far side of the pan, experience tells us that a crisp wrist action is better than power from the fore-arm. If this sounds like hassle & a potential waste of good food, flipping is the answer, just slide a spatula or fish slice under the pancake and turn it over in the pan, we won't think any less of you, but you'll be missing out.

After a couple of minutes the underside should be done, slide the pancake out onto a warm plate, sprinkle with sugar and squeeze lemon juice over, roll up slice & eat (The chef usually gets to eat whole as they are a pancake production line). If you can get everyone in the kitchen & dole out hot pancakes to them so much the better, there is no really satisfactory way to keep them warm. The "filling" is traditionally lemon & sugar as described, some people go with jam, others with syrup (either golden or maple) but generally on pancake day the filling is sweet.

Here is another interesting take on the English pancake day experience

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt 2:- Bitters

One of the first things that throws beginning Cocktailers strolling through a shiny new cocktail book is bitters. What are they, Where do they come from & who the hell has any.

What bitters are.
Primarily a vegetable tincture or Elixir, with no added sugars. They tend to be very alcoholic ranging from 40-80% abv. Unsurprisingly they are bitter in flavour. They belong to the class of ingredients described as aromatic, imparting a bitter, spicy or herbal flavour. They come in a range, most bottlers making their own formulation. The good news is unless you are making very specific high end cocktails they are reasonably interchangeable. The exceptions being fruit or vegetable bitters eg: orange bitters,celery bitters, and so on.

So where do they come from ?
Usually the ingredients are tropical, with Quinoa bark (a source of quinine) being quite common. Rather than roaming about for a bunch of barks & herbs though Angostura bitters are found in most UK supermarkets (occasionally on the baking aisle as they make a good addition to various cakes). They aren't expensive and a bottle will last you quite some time. Otherwise its the internet. ( The bitter truth have a good selection).

Who has any ?
Pretty much anyone who makes cocktails, especially if they are making the older classics (A lot of 80's cocktails do away with bitters completely). You can often see a battered bottle of Angostura hiding on back shelves in ordinary bars.

That's enough about bitters lets get down to making drinks.
Pink Gin
(Sorry its not a good photograph)
Pink gin, like a Martini is quite simple but you can spend ages fiddling about with it. Some people use the bitters as a rinse, and decide to either chuck any remaining out afterwards or leave it in, like an extra dry Martini.

We'll stick with a reasonably simple recipe though. Fill your mixing vessel with ice. give it a couple of dashes of bitters (its just like shaking out sauce or vinegar, but go easy we only want a couple of dashes for now) per person. Then add a glass of gin per person. Stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain the drink into serving glasses making sure the ice stays behind. You should now have a pale pinky-maroon drink. It won't taste like gin, and it won't be so bitter you end up pulling faces when you taste it (If it does, you've been a trifle heavy handed with the bitters). Once again when you've got a bit of a feel for it experiment. Here's a quick description of rinsing.

Put a drop or 2 of bitters in the bottom of your glass, swirl it, the idea is to get a film of bitters all over the glass. You can normally manage this and have bitters left over in the bottom. You can pour that drop away or leave it be, its up to personal taste (left in you have a Pink Gin "innie" poured off you have a Pink Gin "outtie") Then fill the glass with cold gin or cold lemonade (this makes a Campbell, not a bad non-alcoholic drink(*)).

We'll be adding another ingredient next week, but it'll be a bit more simple than bitters (the drink however will probably be more complex than the 2 we've made so far)

(*) If you are strictly tea-total, there is a minute percentage of Alcohol, but its diluted way down by the lemonade.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Manchester Tart

Those of you of a certain age from the Northern UK will recognize this as one of the very best school dinner puddings (Usually coming second only to varieties of chocolate cake). The rest of you are in for a treat.

I had some pastry left over from an apple pie and was trying to decide what to use it up with, after toying with the idea of jam or Bakewell tart, I remembered this. It's simply a tart case, covered with a layer of jam (raspberry or strawberry, preferably seedless), which has custard poured over it and then toasted coconut drizzled on top.

Get yourself a shortcrust pastry tart case, either making your own or buying a premade one. If you are making your own it'll need blind baking & then cooling. Spread a healthy (I mean thick) layer of jam over the base. Then get to making custard. For the correct taste custard powder is a must (Custard powder is also an enormous mount of fun, in amongst its many properties are the fact it's pyrophoric and it can be used to create a non Newtonian fluid) for a standard (20cm) tart you need about 500ml (Follow the directions on the tin/packet). You can of course make custard from scratch, but I was going for nostalgia. I snuck some sliced banana ontop of the jam & under the custard. You want the custard to be cool not set BTW.

The whole lot goes in the fridge overnight, before you are ready to serve toast a good handful of dessicated coconut, so its a nice mid-brown colour (beware coconut is a tricky substance an will go from white to burnt in the blink of an eye). Then sprinkle it evenly over the custard. 

Allow the combination to come to room temperature, slice up & serve

The Flute full of dark liquid in the back is a Nelson's Blood cocktail. To make put a good measure of port in a champagne flute & top off with champagne (you are after a 1:4 ratio port to champagne).

It goes surprisingly well with what is quite a humble dessert as the fruit & honey notes come to the front & the tannins are masked.

You don't see Manchester tart much these days, Its been *ahem* years since I last saw on, let alone had a slice, but it is as good as my fond memory recalls. Give it a go

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sausage plait

I'm having a ind of dinner party thing next weekend, and I've been wanting to make a beef wellington for ages. However puff pastry is involved & since I've been making shortcrust variations recently I thought I might be tempting fate with a whole heap of hubris. As they say practice makes perfect, but what to make with my puff pastry ? How about a cheap version of the beef ? A sausage plait is one of those English dishes that is cheap filling & great hot or cold. You can go the Delia route and stir onions into store sausage (or force) meat  then wrap it up in Jus-roll or similar or you can go the whole hog & make it from scratch.
Sausage meat can't be that hard can it ? Apparently not, its meat (pork is my choice),fat, spices & filler. I asked the butcher about the meat and he recommended a mix of shoulder & belly & make sure I used the fat.
That's it diced ready to go through the mincer. The question of filler is a vexed one, but several bits of reading pointed to breadcrumbs being necessary to get the required sausagey (actually "banger") texture, so I blitzed a slice of stale bread & some garden sage, with a teaspoon of colemans mustard and then stirred it into the meat before running it through the mincer a second time. I now had reasonable sausage meat, into the fridge it goes to rest & firm up. Time to sort out the puff pastry. A couple of easy recipes for what is technically a rough puff pastry are simple to get hold of. Though I disagree with Gordon Ramsey about pie, he knows what he is doing and his pastry looked like a reasonable job. With puff pastry, the rolling & folding to create layers is pretty important, I actually added a couple of extra roll & fold steps figuring it'd do no harm. I left that to rest whilst I turned my sausage meat into plait filling with some onion and a geneous splash of "King of Oudh's" sauce (its a posh version of lea & perrin's with a fruitier taste & a touch less pepperiness). Then it was time to roll out the plait and get the meat into it.

I found I had a little too much of everything to make a manageable plait, so I trimmed things off to make sausage rolls with the left overs. Then came the plaiting. I really am not good at this kind of thing & the book wasn't much help (simply work left to right creating a plait along the meat).
So the plaiting was well pretty wonky (thank goodness thats not going to be needed for the wellington as it does distract at least a little from the dish). My oven is a bit random at times and having done a bit of cooking earlier the suggested gas 8 was a bit full on for the pastry, so Iturned it back & used my trusty Fantast to let me know when the pork had reached a reasonable temperature. Once it was done I let it rest whilst I steamed some leeks & mashed some potato to go with it. It turned out pretty well for a hot & filling supper, plus there is enough to eat cold for lunch at work tomorrow, which will be pretty nice.
Like I said, a little wonky but very tasty.  

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt 1

A few people have asked me about getting started making cocktails, so here is a quick multi-part guide to getting going.

Equipment:- You don't really need anything. A cocktail shaker will make life easier later on but for now we can improvise.

Our first cocktail
The dry Martini.
Easy to make, tricky to perfect. Whole books have been written about the Martini, there is a whole lot of lore around it & it has a place in popular culture.

What you need
Vermouth (dry)
Garnish (lemon peel, olives, onions)

Ice :- all cocktails need ice, you'll probably find it easier to buy a bag of ice from a supermarket or similar. The most important thing is to have more ice than you think you'll need.

Gin:- Choose a good gin. Whilst its true cocktails in the prohibition era were made to disguise the awful home brewed spirits that's not the case any more. If you wouldn't drink it neat then don't put it in a cocktail. So which gin ? It's pretty much down to personal preference, but if you aren't sure get a half bottle of a recognized brand. (I tend to go for some of the big hitters, Bombay Sapphire, Tanquery et al).

Vermouth :- Get dry vermouth, Noilly prat is readily available and a good dry. In general French vermouths are dry and Italian ones sweeter. Some of the supermarket own label vermouths are fine for their price, again as with gin the quality is better.

If you have a shaker take off the top & put to one side, fill the tin with ice. If you don't have a shaker then a measuring jug will do just fine.
There is an awful lot of talk about making very dry Martinis using ever decreasing amounts of vermouth, but to start with we'll make something about standard. Normally I use proportions when giving cocktail recipes as that means you can match it to the number of drinks you are making, the size of your glasses and any other factors. In a dry Martini its 1 part (pt or p) of vermouth to 5 parts gin.

Measure it, or do it by eye, again what ever you are most comfortable with. Put the vermouth in first and then add the gin. Stir briskly for about 20-30s, the aim is to chill the drink & mix it, some of the ice will melt, taking the raw edge of the alcohol(*).
If you are using a shaker, put the strainer part of the lid back on, if you are using a jug a sieve or tea strainer will make pouring easier, but again you can improvise with a lid or a spoon. Pour into glasses (traditionally a v-shaped cocktail glass, but any glass with a wide rim will do) keeping the ice in the mixing vessel.
Time to garnish, the garnish adds to a Martini (and most other cocktails) you can use olives (green or black) or lemon peel to give a Martini or cocktail onions to make a Gibson. Drink it before it gets too warm (but don't just knock it back, you've spent some time making the drink, spend some enjoying it).

Try adjusting the proportions, the different garnishes, adding a bit more of the pickle juice or olive brine (this makes your Martini "dirty") until you get the taste you like.

Next week we'll add another ingredient to our drinks cabinet and see what options that gives us.

(*) There are lots of thoughts about the role of ice in mixing drinks, over the coming weeks I'll touch on theory & equipment, usually down here in the footnotes

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Beef stroganoff

Ahh beef stroganoff, always a quick warming tea. I'm lucky to have a very good butcher at a farm shop. The beef is raised over the road, and looked after well either side of the knife. It means I can use pretty much any cut for the stroganoff. So I had a couple of left over rump steaks, some mushrooms & an onion. Oh & a bottle of the Beaujolais nouveau. Chop the onion & sweat down whilst slicing the steaks and mushrooms. Turn up the heat season with salt & pepper, throw in the steak. Flame off with some brandy (if you like) and seal. Toss in paprika to taste (I have some from Spain that has a variable heat), mushrooms. Add red wine reduce, stir in double cream (ok you can use single, just as long as it's cream) mix well & serve of plain rice. Oh help yourself to a glass of the wine you didn't use cooking

The Beaujolais this year has a strong vanilla note with very light tannins and red fruit on the finish. I'm not a big red (or even White) wine drinker, but this is rather tasty

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 5 February 2010

Accidental Manhattans

It's been a long week with a somewhat tedious drive at the end. It was a week that deserved a cocktail, but there are few things worse than getting a mediocre drink when you are looking forward to a relaxing end of week. The idea of a pre-mix is pretty much repugnant, but maybe putting together a manhattan might be possible. At the house of bols I grabbed a small bottle of original bitters, a half bottle of Jack & filling my flask with vermouth. A small jar took care of some maraschinos, looking good. It's quite easy to get a pint glass of ice from hotel bars, time for a bit of undercover mixology. You'll have to be resourceful or pack a shaker & strainer (stuffing a plastic tooth glass into the mouth of the pint pot works fine as a strainer, a stirred drink seemed easier than a shaken one). Here we go

Better than an overpriced badly made bar drink for sure. Slainte !

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:The Silverlink,North Tyneside,United Kingdom

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A dry Gibson

I'm not a fan of olives, so I like my Martinis with a twist, I also Like them dry,very dry, so dry I'l need a drink afterwards. I've experimented with rinsing, with drier vermouths (Noilly Prat gets a lot of use, being dry & easy to obtain),misters, and homoeopathic techniques. I'm now a bit more sensible, but I still want my Martini to be dry (and vodka free).

Early on in my cocktail experience I found the Gibson, in which the olives are swapped out in favour of tiny pickled silverskin onions. It was some kind of nirvana and its a handy thing to order if you are unsure of the ability of the bar-staff.

Those of you who poke about in EXIF info will find out that this picture was taken on Xmas day 2008. I'd gone to Las Vegas for xmas & was determined to enjoy a few cocktails. Unfortunately I met with a lot of disappointments. We went to Wynn and got ourselves a grand table on the terrace. Unfortunately my Gibson was less than grand, merely OK (I make better at home).

Waiting around in the Hotel (the Luxor) I wandered up to the main bar (liquidity) and sat down to order a coke. The bartenders were mainly chatting & milling about and one asked me why I was drinking coke. Normally I'd give a bit of a snappy answer, what I drink is my choice. This time though I had a bit of time & was pretty relaxed so I started to discuss my cocktail experiences. The bar guy told me "I make seriously good Martinis",
"yeah you & every other bartender in this town",
"OK here's what we'll do, I'll make you, your Martini of choice. You don't like it you don't pay, you do like it you tell everyone"
"fair enough, one terribly dry gin Gibson please"

He went away rattling through the bottles of gin, vermouth, and collected up his tools. A mixing glass full of Ice went on the bar in front of me, and the Martini was stirred up there & then. Once it was done the bar (a couple more staff & a friend had joined in my now) fell quiet, punctuated of course by the quarter rattle of a large casino. I took a sip.

"so how much is a dry Gibson then ?"
I put $20 down and spent a seriously happy 20mins chatting with the staff & my friends (the rest of the party turned up) drinking a Serious Martini.

Like the sound of it ? Gibson my way.

20 parts GOOD London gin (Tanqueray, Bombay sapphire, or the like)
1   part Dry vermouth
3 small silver cocktail onions
Lots of ice

Shovel enough ice into a Martini glass to give it a heaped fill, pour in water to help chill, Fill you mixing glass with ice, pour in a splash of Vermouth, stir it all round and drain the vermouth, put in your measure of Vermouth, and then add the gin, stir for 20-30s dump the ice out of the glass & quickly dry up any remaining water. Pour Martini into glass. On a cocktail stick skewer your 3 onions(*) stir the drink with them a couple of times & then serve.

(*)3 is the ideal number, I only have empirical evidence for this, so if you are after a good Gibson stick with3, if you are experimenting, good luck and take care.