The end of the beginning

August 12, 2009

I’ve been blogging here at ednbrg since the dark, distant days of May 2008 and it’s proven to be my most successful attempt in nearly seven years of trying. There could be any number of reasons, but the two biggest ones are easily the support of the community of cocktail bloggers around the world and the fact that I’ve finally found a subject that I genuinely enjoy focusing on.

With that in mind, I think it’s time to step things up. I’m going to keep posting recipes and reviews and anything vaguely mixological that catches my eye , but I’m moving the operation over to its own shiny new domain:The Old Town Alchemy Co.Everything that was – and will remain – here is there. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds. Feedback is welcome via email and comments.

Thanks for reading, see you at the new place!

Jon [RSS]

MxMo: Vodka is your friend

August 10, 2009

Mixology Monday is billed as the monthly online cocktail party, where our host chooses a theme and we rock up a couple of hours late, stinking of cheap wine and muttering something about “consumption”. This month, Felicia’s Speakeasy is graciously listening to our ramblings about our favourite Doctor Who and the fact that vodka is your friend.

In Scotland, of course, vodka is everyone’s friend. It’s been the biggest selling spirit in both on- and off-licence sales (that’s bars and liquor stores) since 2008, while Diageo’s Cameronbridge distillery produces several quadrillion litres of Smirnoff every year. As far as Scottish bartenders go, vodka should be our friend, because selling it pays our wages but it’s not. Read the rest of this entry »

Thirty Two: Drake’s Fortune

August 4, 2009

I’ve been thinking a bit about gin cocktails of late, which is useful given that all the recipes I’m currently owe various people and competitions are supposed to be rum based. I set myself to making a summery drink that wouldn’t be torture to make – essentially the polar opposite of A Walk In The Clouds.

Drake’s Fortune
50ml Tanqueray Gin
25ml pink grapefruit juice
10ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 dash Angostura Bitters
6 mint leaves

The recipe is inspired by the Victorian Mojito – basically a standard Mojito, but with gin and apple juice instead of rum and soda – but I wanted to get away from the shorthand of using crushed ice to signify summer drinks. From there, it seemed obvious to use elderflower to complement the gin and a touch of Angostura to bring everything together.

And yes, more drinks should be named after videogames.

Thirty One: Jade Sky

July 31, 2009

It seems like just two weeks ago that Diageo’s Reserve Brands division named Aristotelis Papadopoulos as the World Class Bartender of 2009. But two weeks is a long time in the cut-throat world of cocktail competitions and the search for Aristotelis’ sucessor starts on Monday at a training day for Edinburgh’s bartenders on the Reserve Brands rum portfolio.

It’s so unfair, having to go to a secluded bar and spend the afternoon tasting Pampero and Ron Zacapa.

As part of the competition, bartenders from all over town are invited to submit recipes with the top five facing off in a regional heat with a trip to Venezuala up for grabs, not to mention a spot in the UK final sometime in 2010.

Jade Sky
3 slices of cucumber
50ml Pampero Especial
25ml lime juice
10ml sugar cane syrup
3 dashes Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
1 dash egg white
Muddle the cucumber in the base of a shaker. Add other ingredients and shake with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice on the rim.

Thirty: A walk in the clouds

July 26, 2009

New Zealand. The land of the long white cloud, famed throughout the world for its zeals and their newness, and if there’s any justice in the world, 42 Below Vodka.

42 Below Vodka. The world’s most awarded vodka, according to, uh, 42 Below Vodka and hosts of the annual Cocktail World Cup.

The Cocktail World Cup. An annual cocktail competition open to bartenders all over the world which may or may not involve shaking a cocktail while being thrown off a bridge.

In fairness, they tie you to the bridge first. Apparently.

42 Below Feijoa

Entries have been open for next year’s CWC since early July and the ednbrg inbox is appropriately full of reminders from both 42 Below and their corporate overlords at Bacardi, given that they close at the end of the month. The competition follows the now standard write-in/regional/national/global format, but is seemingly a little less restrictive in terms of ingredients. A lot of competitions specify a maximum number of ingredients or restrict brand usage, but the CWC seems to only request that drinks are made with 42 Below or one of their flavoured vodkas. While the Manuka Honey, Kiwi and Passionfruit vodkas are all pretty awesome, I opted to use the Feijoa, mainly because I like making my life difficult.

Feijoa is a fruit that is firmly planted in the exotic category. It has been adopted as New Zealand’s national fruit (originating from South America and named for a Portuguese explorer), looks something like a lime and tastes something like root beer. It’s a divisive flavour, like Marmite or Vegemite or anything else that ends in -mite. As for the vodka, it’s all eucalyptus and menthol on the nose, with rich herbal flavours and a smooth mouthfeel. If you’ve never tried it, it’s probably worth doing at least once.

Anyway, this one’s in the electronic post to the Vodka University.

A walk in the clouds
60ml 42 Below Feijoa
1 barspoon Acacia honey
15ml lemon juice
An eighth of a Galia melon, diced
A third of an avocado, diced
10ml sparkling water
Muddle the diced avocado with the sparkling water in the base of a shaker tin until it forms a smooth paste. Muddle the diced melon with the vodka, honey and lemon juice in the base of a mixing glass. Add this to the puréed avocado and shake with ice. Single-strain into a chilled coupette and garnish with a melon ball on a cocktail stick with a spear of spring onion.

Twenty Nine: 2000 Man

July 24, 2009

Change, it has been said, is a good thing. The world turns and becomes new.

I’ve just started a new job. After more than three years in one place, I felt it was time to seek a new challenge and so far, everything’s going well. We’re getting ready to head into the Festival – one of the busiest trading periods in the Edinburgh year – which is the perfect time to be facing a metric ton of cocktail competitions.

The next two/three weeks see deadlines for entries for 42 Below’s Cocktail World Cup, Chambord’s Hunt for Holly (supporting their sponsorship of the West End revival of Breakfast At Tiffany’s) and the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix. The upshot of all of that is I’ve been forced into thinking of new recipes perhaps more than usual.

Yes, life is hard.

2000 Man
45ml white rum (I used Element 8 Platinum)
20ml Navan
25ml lemon juice
15ml orgeat
1 dash egg white
1 dash La Fée Parisienne Absinthe
Shake first five ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass. Using an atomiser, flame Absinthe across the top of the drink as a garnish.

Twenty Eight: Downtown Rio

July 20, 2009

One last blast on the cachaca front – it turns out that I’ve only got two weeks to put together a recipe for the 2010 Cocktail World Cup, so the next batch of drinks are going to be more focused on a certain Antipodean vodka.

Anyhow, aged cachaca worked pretty well in a twist on the traditional Old-Fashioned. How does it fare in a modified Manhattan?

Good, as it happens. Abelha Gold is aged for three years but it won’t stand up to a particularly robust style of sweet vermouth, so it’s probably worth leaving the Punt E Mes and the Dubonnet in the fridge.

Downtown Rio
50ml Abelha Gold cachaca
20ml Martini Rosso
1 barspoon maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist.

Dressed for summer

July 19, 2009

Zubrowka jacket

Zubrowka is famously susceptible to the extremes of the Scottish summer. Appropriate cover is essential to make sure that rare creature makes it through to autumn.

Twenty Seven: Cherry Republic

July 14, 2009

Today is Bastille Day, the annual French celebration of storming prisons and liberating hundreds of deserving criminals. As we speak, this year’s breakout has seen no less than four hundred benefit fraudsters, petty thieves and mimes flood the cafés and galleries of Paris, smoking Gitanes and complaining about the food.

There’s no better way to mark the occasion than with a drink, but I’d been having some trouble pulling things together until I spotted a carton of cherry juice in the supermarket. It’s a little bland and quite dry by itself, but add a touch of gomme and a decent measure of Cognac, et voila!

Cherry Republic
45ml Courvoisier Exclusif
30ml cherry juice
1 barspoon gomme
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks/old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon zest twist and a cocktail cherry.

Twenty Six: Federação

July 12, 2009

We’ve been experiencing a small technical issue, so bear with us. We’re trying to find a way to kick off another post about cachaca and, of course, the obvious thing to do is make a joke about Brazil’s notable exports – sugar, bikini waxes, footballing humiliation – and follow the punchline with the words “and now there’s one more: cachaca.”

The problem is 1) doing this in a slightly less clichéd manner, and 2) without sounding like a total prick. Don’t worry, we’ve got the guys from Grammar & Syntax doing their thing and we can get things kicked off in just…a couple…of…

…And now there’s one more: cachaca.

There are aspects of the spirit that are still to be fully revealed to markets outside of Brazil and while some varieties are available in the UK, I suspect that aged cachacas are one of those categories. Abelha Gold is aged for three years in small barrels made from garapeira – a Brazilian hardwood – which gives the liquid a fantastic golden amber colour. The aroma is reminiscent of an anejo tequila – the vegetal notes are less pronounced, with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and caramel. It’s a proper grown-up spirit with a great range of flavour. Being honest, it’s the first aged cachaca I’ve spent much time with, but it’s made me eager to try more.

50ml Abelha Gold Cachaca
2 barspoons sugar cane syrup
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
15ml pressed apple juice
Place the bitters and syrup in the base of a rocks/old-fashioned glass. Add a couple of ice cubes and stir to thin out the mixture. Add the cachaca, fill the glass with ice and stir. Float the apple juice and garnish with an apple fan.