Archive for the 'Projects' Category

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.

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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.

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.

Federação
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.

Twenty Four & Twenty Five: Colisão & Plantação

July 8, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about cachaca recently. This is not unconnected to receiving a couple of samples from Anthony at Abelha Cachaca the other day. It might be the third most popular spirit in the world, but cachaca is in pretty similar position to that of vodka in the 1950s/60s – there is a global awareness of the product, but the majority of the spirit produced is not exported and it hasn’t quite hit the mainstream in the export markets yet. Wikipedia suggests that only 1% of the 1.3 billion litres of cachaca produced annually are exported. While the availability of cachaca outside of Brazil is on the increase, we’re still at the stage where there are only a handful of notable brands – Sagatiba, Germana, Ypioca, to name three.

This is probably an excellent time to launch an organic, artesanal brand into the UK market. But I tend to be pretty busy most days, what with the working and the not working and the sleeping and the not going to Tales of the Cocktail, so it’s helpful that Abelha have been bringing some over for a couple of months now. Both expressions are small batch, artesanal (pot-distilled, as opposed to the column distilled “industrial” style) cachacas – the Silver is unaged while the Gold is aged for three years in small (250ltr) Brazillian hardwood barrels.

I’ll write about the Gold in more depth tomorrow, but I was completely blown away by the Silver. On the nose it has those familiar vegetal notes that come with cachacas and rhums agricole, but it also has a pleasant honey scent with a touch of citrus to it. The mouth feel is great – a slightly viscous texture, with a strong finish but without chemical burn of column-still spirit. Esquire just listed Abelha as one of its top three cachacas, but I’m not sure if you need the other two.

Unfortunately, the sampler I got wasn’t big enough to try in some spirit/mixer combos, but there was just enough to make up a couple of cocktails.

The first thing I did was based around the other classic cachaca cocktail, the Batida. It’s the Caipirinha’s longer, more laid back cousin and totally deserving of some of the love thrown at the little peasant drink. I ended up crossbreeding it with a Smash, with the intention of coming up with something fruity for summer.

Colisão
45ml Abelha Silver Cachaca
25ml freshly squeezed red grapefruit juice
25ml pineapple juice
6-8 mint leaves
Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into an old-fashioned/rocks glass over crushed ice. Feel free to add a touch of gomme/simple syrup into the shaker to taste. Garnish with a grapefruit slice and a mint sprig.

After that, I decided to go old-school. Cachaca tends to be used in caipirinhas and long punch-style drinks and not a lot else, but the Abelha Silver struck me as something that would work really well as an alternative to a white rum. So, I went with a simple mod of a daiquiri.

Plantação
50ml Abelha Silver Cachaca
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
10ml sugar cane syrup
1 barspoon Maraschino
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled martini/coupette glass. Twist a lime zest over the top and discard. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow, I’m getting to know the Abelha Gold.

Twenty Three: Reina Amargo

July 3, 2009

We are on the edge of a great moment in British history. We are in sight of the point at which the great British public see tequila as something other than a shot or a frozen margarita. My friends, the road to that point will be long and hard, but with courage, strength and resolve, we can make this dream our new reality.

Reina Amargo
50ml José Cuervo Tradicional
25ml lime juice
1 barspoon Campari
2 barspoons honey
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into chilled martini glass.

Twenty Two: Twice-Shy Negroni

June 21, 2009

I’ve been using a bottle of Punt E Mes as my go-to sweet vermouth for a good while now. I’m a big fan of the bitter note it brings to drinks, but I’ve been predominantly using it as a generic sweet vermouth which has slightly warped my expectations of certain drinks at the bitter end of the scale.

Case in point: the Negroni. When I have one in a bar, I can notice the absence of the extra bitterness provided by the Punt E Mes and it takes me an instant to remember that it’s my Negronis that are slightly out of whack, not the one I’ve just bought.

But then it also occurs to me that bitter is a very divisive flavor, and that if I can up the bitter content of a Negroni, surely it’s possible to mellow it out a little.

Twice-Shy Negroni
45ml Plymouth Gin
30ml Martini Rosato
4 mint leaves
50ml Campari (in an atomizer)
Give the mint leaves a quick smack to wake them up and place them in the base of a mixing glass. Add the gin and vermouth and stir with ice. Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Spray some Campari over the top and garnish with an orange zest and a mint sprig.