Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt 8:- Putting it together

If you've been buying along you should now have a pretty good drinks cabinet.
Let's look at some things we can make.
Gin & both types of vermouth is the basis for a number of great drinks, here's one that uses pretty much everything at once

The journalist

6 pts gin
1 pt sweet vermouth
1 pt dry vermouth
1 dash bitter
1 dash lemon juice
1 dash triple sec.

Shake hard over ice.

or for a real classic

The Bronx

3 pts gin
1 pt dry vermouth
1 pt sweet vermouth
1 pt orange juice

finishing up with gin if you switch it in for the brandy in a side car you get

The white lady

2 pts gin
1 pt lemon
1 pt Cointreau or if you prefer you can use Embury's formula for a sour type drink of 8 base spirit (gin in this case) 2 sour (lemon juice) 1 sweet (Cointreau)

you can swap brandy for bourbon in both the old fashioned & the Manhattan for a deeper taste or try one of these

The gazette

5 pts brandy
4 pts sweet vermouth
2 dashes lemon juice
a pinch of sugar if wanted & stir with ice

The Charles

1 pt brandy
1 pt sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters stir with ice

and finally our last base spirit


The admiral

6 pts bourbon
3 pts lemon juice
2 pts dry vermouth shake over ice & serve

The westminster

4 pts Bourbon
3 pts dry vermouth
3 parts sweet vermouth stir with ice

Of the above the journalist & the white lady are the ones I've drunk most, but my taste tends to run to dry citric gin cocktails. The admiral makes a good aperitif and I make it now & then. Brandy is tricky as its a very aromatic base so it tends to steer clear of vermouths and run with Brandy liqueurs, such as apricot & cherry.

Next time we'll look at another base spirit and another real classic cocktail

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Jack Cain & white cargo

Jack Cain's is a premium small batch gin from Northumberland. They use hedgerow botanicals, and on first sip you can tell, the gin has a wonderful elderflower note. I'm guessing its not the easiest gin in the world to get hold of (my bottle is #16 from batch 90) but here is the website. A gin this tasty needs careful handling, of course it makes a great dry Martini, but sweet or perfect might ruin it unless you are very careful with the vermouth.

The white cargo

1pt gin
1pt vanilla ice cream

Shake hard, serve.

How easy is that ?

Of course you need excellent ingredients and luckily we have a local ice-cream maker and I'm using the clotted cream vanilla. That said I'm very tempted to give the elderflower a shot, but then that might well be over egging the pudding.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Vinegar cocktails ?

This post from "the paupered chef" caught my eye. It looks counter intuitive, but then I am a fan of the gibson and pickle vinegar from the onions must sneak in somehow. So I thought I'd take a taste test. I started out with the idea of a Martini, because its familiar ground and I know the gibson works. Looking through the cupboards I spotted some Sushi vinegar. This is basically rice wine vinegar to which some sugar has been added. That suggested a sake-tini or similar.

So here we go
1 barspoon sushi vinegar
1 pt Sake
5 pts Gin

Stir or shake depending on your preference.

The sake, is sweeter than vermouth, so you may have to play with the proportions to get a drink that you like. The vinegar definitely adds a certain something, but you'll probably be quite hard pressed to say exactly what. In fact my test audience were shocked to find out that the drinks contained vinegar.

I've got a couple of other ideas lined up for this as well as something more along the lines of the cocktail in the article.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt 7 :- Gomme & Grenadine

Two ingredients this week, both from, the what the hell is that end of the scale. Well they are both syrups, that's right reader dear non-alcoholic ingredients(*). Grenadine is pomegranate syrup, used to colour & flavour drinks. Your best bet is to buy it,  Monin is easily available (though they say their syrup has little pomegranate, being red berry & vanilla). Gomme, gum or simple syrup is just that a mixture of sugar and water, this you can make at home. The standard recipe is 2 volumes of sugar dissolved in 1 volume of boiling water and then allowed to cool. Some recipes call for 3 sugar to 1 water, I tend to split the difference and go with 2.5 :)

So onto the drink. This is another classic, the old fashioned. Making a traditional old fashioned is quite a job, and tends to take about 20 minutes, it is worth the work, however with a bottle of gomme to hand we can make a good old fashioned. This is something the Fontana bar at the Bellagio (Las Vegas) would do well to learn as they served me a mess of an old fashioned gritty with undissolved sugar.

 The Old Fashioned

In a tumbler/rocks glass put 1 or 2 teaspoons of simple syrup, add a couple of dashes of bitters (angostura is usual) stir to combine. (If you are making an traditional old fashioned, you would be working on dissolving sugar into the bitters with a meagre drop of water, this takes time). Add in a good measure of Bourbon, I'm not giving exact amounts because it depends on taste & glass size, but a standard single measure (25ml) is where you want to aim. Stir some more, again you are after a homogeneous mix of whiskey,bitters and sugar syrup.
Add a couple of lumps of cracked ice and top up with more Bourbon. This brings us to the tricky question of garnish. My old fashioned (on the left) has a Maraschino cherry, as I added a drop of Maraschino liqueur. Normally a strip of peel, either orange or lemon is best. Some people would have orange slices, lemon wheels, cherries, and other assorted fruits. At this point it is worth remembering the words of "hot-lips"Houlihan. "Bring me a scotch old fashioned & remember hold the fruit"

(*) Ok sometimes a little alcohol is added to stabilize them.

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Gilded Truffle

A bit of a tale here, Mum brought over some of her home grown blueberries and I didn't have time to get them into a recipe, so I chucked them in a kilner jar with some vodka. After sometime I'd got a nice blueberry vodka, it makes a great vesper, lightening the Lillet slightly. I also had a few vodka soaked blueberries, they might make a nice truffle I thought. What I really wanted was something similar to the Dutch Slagroom truffle (the best I've had are from michel in haarlem) which is pure whipped cream in a thing bitter chocolate shell. I was unable to find a recipe, so made do with a white chocolate ganache, using a 2:1 chocolate: cream ratio (hotel chocolat make a nice organic white).

The ganache came together with no trouble at all, unfortunately though it set far too solid to be workable, so I gave it 10s in the microwave, that turned out to be 5s too long and I now had a bowl that was far too liquid. I let it reset and then scooped out the truffle and melted it in my hands (hey cocoa butter is good for the skin right ?) until I could roll the blueberries in it. As you can see I wasn't completely successful,but I did have some mostly spherical, mostly covered blueberry balls, ready for coating.

I'd been given some very strong dark Ecuadorian chocolate, that looked just the job. I shaved some off and melted it. Realizing the ganache was quite temprature sensitive I stuck my thermometer in to the molten chocolate and let it cool down to 28c. Hoping that would be liquid enough to work with, but cool enough not to instantly melt the truffles.

As you can see it appeared to be working quite well, though sometimes we didn't have the best hold on the cocktail sticks, so some of the shapes we ended up with weren't going to win any beauty contests.

I had some pure gold leaf left over from a DIY project (involving neither food nor drink !) so I thought I'd put a dab on each truffle. If you are going to do this the truffles need to be set first, other wise you just end up with chocolate smeared gold leaf.
They taste really nice, the shell is rich & bitter, then the truffle is creamy with a fair hit of vanilla and then the tartness of the blueberry, with a solid hit of vodka.

So if you have a recipe for Dutch whipped cream truffles, let me know, otherwise I'll be using this one again once soft fruit season is upon us

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Not green beer

Yes that is a Guinness cocktail. It's a Fejoia/Guinness sour. Some how the flavours work really well together, the lime cutting through the sweetness of the Guinness. The mint garnish providing a note of interest on the top. Another grand drink from my favourite cocktail bar.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Cocktailing for beginners pt 6 :- Brandy

I could wax lyrical for hours about brandy as its one of my favourite spirits, but I'll spare you all that and suggest that for making cocktails you want a reasonable brandy, and unless the recipe calls for brandy from a particular region I'd stick with cognac. In fact I'll go further and say you want a V.S.O.P. Cognac. You can probably get away with a V.S. from one of the better houses if needs be. Don't forget if you wouldn't drink it neat why inflict it on a cocktail ?

I Mentioned in the Triple Sec Edition that it played it's part in several classics, today we'll look at the Sidecar, a gorgeous brandy cocktail.

Embury (one of the great cocktail writers) claims to have been involved in the origins of the sidecar and that it has several ingredients before being streamlined to its present form. He also adds that the standard American recipe of equal measures wrecks the drink entirely. The more perspicacious of you will have noted 2 similar but distinct drinks to the left. The furthest left is Harry Cradock's Sidecar
1 pt Lemon juice
1 pt Cointreau
2 pts Brandy

Shaken over ice & served.

The one on the right (in the glass with the wobbly stem) is Embury's all purpose sour-type recipe

1 pt Cointreau (or sweet in the general form)
2 pts Lemon juice (or sour in the general)
8 pts Brandy (or base spirit)

Shake over ice & serve.
The Embury recipe isn't that much stronger (in alcohol terms) than the Craddock recipe, differing by no more than 5% abv. In taste terms however its leagues apart, it's much drier and the Cognac comes through, just being smoothed by the other ingredients, if you are going the Embury route, you really need the good stuff. The Craddock sidecar is a more easy going drink, if you aren't upto very dry aperitif cocktails make that over Embury's.

If you want to try the standard which Embury rails against, its 1 pt lemon, 1pt Cointreau, 1pt brandy, but that is probably too sweet to be properly enjoyable.

Monday, 15 March 2010


Hotel Chocolat make some unusual cocktail chocolates, in their seasonal range (which the website doesn't show) they are currently doing an "Alcohol-led" White lady truffle.

That's the truffle on the right, next to it is a freshly shaken White lady, let us see how they stack up.

The savoy book gives the recipe as 2 Gin, 1 Triple-sec, 1 Lemon juice, which seems to be quite standard. If you know your cocktails, you might notice that that is very similar to a sidecar, indeed you may find the White lady listed under Chelsea sidecar.
This gave me a bit of a start as Embury has a very different ratio for this family of drinks, which generally results in a cleaner, sharper taste. Since I don't know the relative proportions inside the chocolate shell I decided to forego Embury this time and go with the more widespread result.

Inside the chocolate shell is a creamy white ganache flavoured with well a white lady cocktail, the lemon & Cointreau notes are right up in front, the gin however is very faint and more of a back note. The cocktail however pushes the gin forward and gives a more citrus finish, now whether this is indicative of a different ratio in the chocolate or just an artefact of the manufacturing process its difficult to tell (had I gone with Embury's recipe the gin is very much the base ingredient).

It's a fun little thing to do, and if more of the cocktail truffles come out I'm probably going to try the experiment over, this time with a little more strictness in the procedure. For now though if you like either the chocolate or the cocktail, its pretty likely that you'll enjoy both.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Roast Beef

Another Sunday, another roast. I've been eyeing up the côte be bouef at the butchers for a while, and this seemed an ideal opportunity.

That's a kilo & a half, with a bit of marrow bone the butcher provided to give the meat a glaze. Opinion seemed to be dived over using the hot oven and then turn down or the skillet & slow oven method. I went with the skillet, coloured the sides and then put it into a slow oven (gas 3) with the meat thermometer set to go off when the central temp reached 57c (about medium rare).

One mistake I made was not to leave the joint in the kitchen for a hour or two before cooking. Still it wasn't a disaster, I think it would have just improved the timing.

Don't forget to let it rest, whilst it was doing that I turned the oven up high & chucked the potatoes in the pan juices (supplemented with a dash of olive oil) to roast. I got a good yield of meat, with some on the rare side and other bits heading towards medium, keeping everyone round the table happy.

I'd been given orders to reprise the treacle sponge (Mothers day meal, so I do what I'm told). Which coming after this was a calorie festival of epic & somewhat delicious proportion. I'll be buying this joint again, maybe in a half Kg so I can do it as a rich steak rather than a roasting joint.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt 5 :- Triple Sec

Another odd ingredient, that turns out not to be as weird as you think. Triple sec is a liqueur made of bitter oranges, Cointreau is pretty much a premium brand triple sec (though it is stronger than most )  and 90+% of the time can be switched in without issue. The sec (french for dry) refers to the fact that it is less sweet (typically a 1/3rd the sweetness) than  Curaçao. Grand Marnier is an imperfect substitute as it is made from cognac rather than neutral spirit, often leading to the wrong balance of flavours in a drink.

Triple sec finds its way into a whole raft of different cocktails including several of the "classics" since the big 3 Cointreau cocktails require spirits we've no got round too yet I've gone off the beaten track and into the stacks to bring you something using the ingredients we have covered.

The New York Experience
Equal parts

Dry vermouth
Triple Sec

Stir with ice, strain pour & garnish with lemon peel

An easy one to make with a really complex taste, the herbals from the vermouth get tangled in the citrus of the triple-sec and the wood/smoke notes of the bourbon. But its an easy drinking cocktail and an almost perfect aperitif, the dryness stimulating the taste buds nicely.

If you are enjoying making cocktails and are thinking of buying some equipment you could do worse than investing in a bar spoon. This is a long handled teaspoon, often with a muddling plate at the opposite end of the handle. Whilst any old spoon will do for stirring drinks the barspoon makes it easy to get to the bottom of a mixing glass and ensure that everything gets thoroughly stirred up before pouring. Most cocktail writers don't like to give a teaspoon as a measure, using a barspoon instead. Its a handy tool though and a good start on building a cocktail tool kit.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


I'm sorry but cocktailing for beginners will be a little late this week.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 8 March 2010

Roast Dinner

Remember that lamb shoulder ?

Here it is ready to go into the oven having been studded with garlic & herbs. For shoulder I use Jamie Oliver's slow roasted lamb recipe. I ignore the vegetables, preferring to go with a more standard roast potatoes and 2 veg serving style.

If you can get yourself a full shoulder this is one of the nicer things you can do with it. Season and herb stud the lamb and then slide it into the oven, it's going to be in there for 3-4 hours. you can leave it alone and just enjoy your kitchen warming up and being scented with roasting herbs & meat.

Its a very lazy way to make an impressive roast dinner, there are maybe 10 minutes of prep work required and then you've a couple of hours in which to do what ever you fancy before heading back to the kitchen to sort out veggies, mint sauce and any other bits of  dinner that you want.

The lamb comes out of the oven tender and juicy. Shoulder is horribly difficult to carve, so don't bother, shred it.

A full shoulder will comfortably feed 8 but don't plan on left overs (even though cold it makes a very good lunch) as somehow there never seems to be any.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cocktailing for beginners Pt 4 :- Bourbon

I promised a new spirit, and here it is, first an apology, I somehow had neglected to photograph today's cocktail, so I had to make one and sort out an image (such hardship I put myself through for you guys).

Bourbon, is an easier spirit to use than scotch as it's generally smoother & less strongly flavoured, it has a drink all to itself in the roster of classic cocktails, the Manhattan. Lets make one and then talk about it a bit more.
The Manhattan

1 Part sweet vermouth
2 Parts Bourbon
1 dash angostura bitters

Stir with a lot of ice, strain into a glass, drop in a maraschino cherry (and a little of the syrup)

Simple enough. What you get is an outstanding cocktail that you can spend a lot of time experimenting with. Some aficianados rate this as the king of cocktails, placing it above the Martini. As with a Martini you have a lot of variation to play with, the Manhattan comes in dry,sweet & perfect by altering the vermouth. You can also move it around the dryness scale by altering the Bourbon. Jack Daniel's (not a Bourbon, but easily obtained) is quite neutral, Woodford reserve makes a very fine Manhattan. Use your favourite Bourbon & treat it well, its the major player in this drink. I like to drop the maraschino cherry through the completed drink as I can use a dash of the syrup, the same way I use pickle juice in a Gibson. Spend time tweaking your Manhattan, and your Martini, this will give you 2 killer cocktails that are very easy to make. Knowing them well will mean you can rustle up an impressive drink with a limited drink cabinet.

If you take a close look at the photo, you'll see "the tears of strong wine" in what cocktail fans like to call "the window". It's the space between the top of the drink & the rim of the glass, that prevents spillage. A classic cocktail glass is that shape for a reason, most of which is allowing you to circulate a party holding the glass and not getting your drink warm. I'll talk about glassware in detail later, now though I'm going to enjoy my Manhattan, I suggest you do too.