Posts Tagged ‘gin’

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.


Happy birthday America!

July 4, 2009

It’s been 233 years since the bouncing baby United States of America declared its independence from the United Kingdom, and it’s been thirteen years since a hardy band of patriots led by no less than the US President repelled the alien invaders intent on exterminating mankind. If that’s not worth celebrating, then seriously, nothing is.

There are an actual ton of recipes kicking around to mark the occasion, which is handy because I haven’t had a lot of time to put one together myself. The one that caught my eye is Jonathan Pogash‘s American Collins (or Red, White & Blue Collins).

American Collins
45ml Bombay Sapphire
25ml simple syrup
15ml lemon juice
4 pitted Bing cherries
8 blueberries
Muddle the blueberries and cherries with the syrup and the lemon juice. Add the gin with ice and stir briefly. Top with club soda.

Whatever you’re drinking today, raise a glass to Uncle Sam. No, not the cantankerous old sod who lives in your basement. The mythologised personification of the American Spirit.

Yes, the creepy thin old man with the starey eyes. That Uncle Sam.

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.

Week Twenty One: Blackberry

June 7, 2009

If David Embury is to be believed, mixed drinks fall roughly into two categories – cocktails of the sour type, and those of the aromatic type. The former covers drinks that include – surprise! – a sour element like lemon or lime juice while the latter comprises recipes with some kind of aromatized or fortified wine component, such as vermouth. But I don’t think that these two categories have to be mutually exclusive.

I don’t mean drinks that contain both aromatic elements and sour elements – there are some, most notably the Corpse Reviver – more I think that it is often possible to present both a sour version and an aromatic version of the same drink. There will be differences in the two versions of the drink, but the overall flavor profile will pretty much the same.

I’m going to use a Bramble to illustrate the point. It’s a gin-based drink invented by Dick Bradsell in London in the early part of the 1980s.

45ml gin
25ml lemon juice
10ml gomme syrup
15ml Creme de Mure
Stir the first three ingredients with crushed ice in an old-fashioned glass. Float the Creme de Mure and garnish with a lemon wedge and a couple of blackberries.

The thing with sour drinks is that they’re not actually sour. It’s all about that balance between sweet and sour, finding that spot between zingy and refreshing, and avoiding gum-sucking acidity. The immediate hit is something that is going to be lost in the aromatic version, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to lose the citrus notes entirely.

50ml gin
15ml dry vermouth
10ml Limoncello
4 kaffir lime leaves
15ml Creme de Mure
Stir the first three ingredients with cubed ice in an old-fashioned glass. Float the Creme de Mure and garnish with a blackberry and a lime leaf.

And there we go – complementary sour and aromatic cocktails based on a single flavour profile.

Newsdesk: summer is coming

May 7, 2009

(splash by Trevor D., licensed under Creative Commons.)

It’s summer! It must be, all the clues are there. There was sunlight this afternoon – proper sunlight with warmth and everything! The other big clue?

Week Four: a Barbore Martini

January 29, 2009

There are a number of things I want to talk about.

  1. Angus Winchester has promised a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten and a book from his extensive library of vintage and modern mixellany to the inventor of the drink named as the official Martini of Barbore. This is madness. I am, of course, totally there.
  2. Tea. A liking of tea is culturally hardwired into anyone who lives in the UK for more than six months. But there’s way more to it than the bags of gunpowder routinely sweetened and enmilked in mugs across the land.

On the first, I really don’t need a lot of encouragement to play around with Martini variations. I’m on the record saying that I think the Martini is a great drink but the current fashionable serve – vodka with next-to-no vermouth and no bitters – is hard work. So, honestly, the mere possibility of more cocktail reading and free gin (free gin!) is another carrot. Read the rest of this entry »

Week Two: Bloomsbury Cosmo

January 11, 2009

I’ve been kicking around some ideas ahead of Thursday’s regional for the Diageo World Class competition. The heat could involve presenting up to three different drinks, including one classic or twisted classic gin cocktail. I’m not sure if this one is right for the comp, but y’know, still tasty.

Bloomsbury Cosmopolitan
40ml Tanqueray Gin
10ml Elderflower cordial
30ml Cranberry juice
15ml Lime juice
1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a flamed orange zest.

In Review: The Much Lamented Death of Madam Geneva

January 2, 2009

Gin is not dead. Hope I didn’t spoil the plot or anything, but I had some last night and it was quite tasty. Very herby. And junipery. In fact, you could argue that, with the recent births of a number of high quality US gins and the global relaunch of Bols Genever, that gin has never been in better health.

But I’m not one for arguing, and anyway, of course it has. Patrick Dillon‘s book is concerned with the period of time known as the Gin Craze, the mania that accompanied London’s fixation with cheap spirits in the 18th Century. In 1743, the stills of the capital produced 2.2 gallons of the stuff for every man, woman and child in the city, which still wasn’t enough for Judith Defour, who left her child naked in a field while selling her clothes in order to buy more gin. Such excess couldn’t be tolerated and Dillon tells of the attempts to bring Madam Geneva to heel.

Of course, not all of those attempts were intended as a moral cleanser. The First Gin Act of 1729 is weighed against Robert Walpole’s search for “enough cash to buy off a king” while the Act that actually worked was not one of prohibition, but one that would allow the Government to incrementally raise the revenue it gained from spirit production. Dillon provides a useful chronicle of how societies deal with new drugs: first there is wild consumption set against staunch moral outrage, followed by prohibition and widespread lawlessness, and finally, the intervention of central government once a potential revenue stream is identified. This is how drugs move from illicit through illegal into acceptability.

Dillon gives his tales of debauchery and heavy-handed sermonising a wonderful sense of place in the growing metropolis. Even with its splintered boroughs and conflicting laws, London itself almost seems a character in a cast that includes Daniel Defoe, Dick Turpin and the lawman Thomas De Veil amongst a milieu of prime ministers, kings and ambitious clergymen.

The Much Lamented Death of Madam Geneva is a fantastic book, accessible yet packed with detail. For anyone interested in the history of spirits, it shows how the industry has moved from Hogarth’s Gin Lane to something looking a lot nearer Beer Street.

Gin: The Much Lamented Death of Madam Geneva (
The Much Lamented Death of Madam Geneva (Andrew Lownie Literary Agency)

On the Martini

November 2, 2008

I’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about gin recently. There are worse things to think about and I’ve sat in on two training sessions on it over the past fortnight.

One thing that always comes up in any gin training is the Martini. It’s one of the most iconic cocktails – everybody knows of the Martini, even if not everybody knows what it exactly is. It strikes me that the modern Martini drinker falls into one of two schools:

a) an experienced, hardcore drinker who knows exactly how they want their drink, or
b) someone who’s just seen a Bond movie and really doesn’t know what they’re getting into. I have fond memories of the aftermath of Casino Royale’s release – making Vespers and, five minutes later, being asked to top them up with lemonade.

All of it boils down to this: the Martini – or, rather, the modern dry Martini – is an incredibly inaccessible drink. If you don’t like the taste of straight spirits, there’s no point of entry unless you turn to neo-martinis which are an entirely different beast.

It’s a shame, really. I used to make a Cosmopolitan-flavoured martini-style cocktail as a party trick. At work, we’ve prototyped something that looks like a proper, old-school martini, and tastes like Neopolitan ice-cream. In both cases, I’ve found that people are really surprised in the sheer amount of flavour that you can get from a clear, colourless drink. Taking that idea further, I tried to come up with a more accessible Martini.

The other thing that sticks out at me is how unfashionable vermouth is in the mass-market these days, despite George Clooney’s best efforts. If you want to blame someone, Winston Churchill’s probably your best bet. Depending on who you ask, he took his Martinis with either a glance at the bottle while stirring or a pass of the bottle over the chilled glass. The drying of the Martini probably reached its logical conclusion with Salvatore Calabrese’s Naked Martini, where the vermouth is sprayed into a chilled glass before adding gins straight from the freezer, creating possibly the most hardcore cocktail the world has ever known.

So, yeah. Let’s make a more accessible Martini, but without using vermouth.

I do try to make things easy for myself.

The Duke of Marlborough
50ml Tanqueray Gin
25ml Sauvignon Blanc (I used Anapai River 2007 from Marlborough, New Zealand)
1 barspoon Acacia Honey
1 dash Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Dissolve honey into white wine in a mixing glass. Add the gin and bitters, and stir with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a mint leaf wrapped in a lemon zest twist.

(Picture credits: Martini Time, from wickenden’s Photostream on Flickr;

On selling gin

October 29, 2008

From grahams Flickr photostream, issued under a Creative Commons licence.

Tomorrow, I’m lucky enough to be attending a gin training session at work hosted by an ambassador from Diageo’s Reserve Brands division and I reckoned it would be worth doing a bit of homework. I’m pretty familiar with gin, but I figure it’s always worth refreshing myself every once in a while. I don’t know if they’re going to touch on Gordon’s Gin tomorrow, but I stopped by the website anyway.

Gordon’s have been using Gordon Ramsay as the face of their advertising for a while now, in a campaign that plays on his uncomprimising pursuit of excellence – stop laughing at the back – and he appears in a video on the website demonstrating how to make the perfect G&T. And it’s annoying the hell out of me.

Gordon’s is one of the oldest spirit brands in the world, but in recent years it’s fallen out of favour among bartenders, particularly in the upper end of the trade. We switched from it to Bombay Sapphire as a house pour about eighteen months/two years ago, and it’s rare to see it being poured along George Street which is as zeitgeisty a market as you’ll see in the bar industry. Gordon’s is still (I believe, I haven’t got the numbers) the biggest gin brand in the UK, but I wonder how much of that is driven by off-license (liquor store) sales, and from that point of view, it makes perfect sense to use someone like Gordon Ramsay as your corporate face.

I still feel weird about that video. I think it’s territorial – Ramsay’s a great chef, but my experience would suggest that chefs are much better in front of a bar than behind one. I can think of any number of bartenders, trainers or brand ambassadors that exhibit the same passion for spirits and cocktails as Ramsay does for food, yet no-one’s made the leap into the mainstream in the same way as celebrity chefs have.

I guess the point I’m aiming at is, who’s going to be the first mainstream celebrity bartender?

(Photo from <<graham>>’s Flickr photostream, issued under a Creative Commons licence.)