Thursday, 25 April 2013

Summer Spice

I was inspired this week, by the long overdue appearance of the sun and got to thinking of all the exotic locations I won't be visiting this year (boo), and how I might bring a little of their flavour to this week's blog. Add to that, the discovery that my local supermarket now stock Hendricks Gin and several ideas began to form. At first, I was going to dedicate the whole blog to my newly accquired bottle of Hendricks and indeed, I believe it more than worthy, but there was one tequila cocktail that I have rather fallen in love and felt I had to share it with you, so instead, this post will be dedicated to cocktails with a bit of spice. However, expect to see a lot more of the wonderful Hendricks in the weeks to come and do take a look at their website for some other inspired cocktails and if you like gin, their are some fabulous recipes and a bit more about Hendricks in this earlier post - Mother's Ruin

This first cocktail was taken from their website, although I inadvertently gave it my own twist by misreading the ingredients list. The recipe calls for elderflower cordial, but in my excitement, I took it to mean elderflower liqueur and if you are a regular to this blog, then you will know that my love for Chase Elderflower Liqueur runs deep. Thus, it was only when the drink was made, that I noticed it should have been cordial, but upon tasting, deemed it a success, so stuck with it. The resultant drink is less sweet because the liqueur has less sugar and more alcohol and by default, is more alcoholic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly, it floated my boat. The basil works well with the botanicals of the gin and lemongrass imparts a delicate and fragrant flavour.

The Hendricks Experience (almost)


1 3/4oz Hendricks Gin
3/4oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
3/4oz fresh lemon juice
2 basil leaves
1/2 stick of fresh lemongrass

Slice the lemongrass and put in the bottom of the shaker and muddle (squash it a bit with a pestal or something similar)
Add all of the remaining ingredients  and half fill the shaker with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass

Next up, I took my spice inspiration from India and more specifically, the sweet spices used to make masala tea and other spiced Indian drinks and blended them with freshly squeezed orange and a touch of vanilla to give the drink a little sweetness and warmth, without being cloying. in an ideal world, I would have used vanilla gomme syrup which, with the addition of acacia gum, adds a silkiness to the drink, but I didn't have any. So, in it's place, I used a little vanilla pod for the flavour and egg white, for the texture. The cardamom and cinnamon definitely add to the mix of flavours, without overpowering the wonderful flavour of Hendricks. A success, I feel.

All the Raj


1 3/4 oz Hendricks Gin
1 oz orange juice
2 cardamom pods
Pinch of cinnamon
2cm length of vanilla pod
1/2oz simple syrup (sugar syrup)

Add the egg white, syrup and orange to the shaker and whisk until frothy
Lightly crack the cardamom pods before adding to the shaker
Slice the length of vanilla pod and scrape out the black seeds and add seeds and pod to the shaker
Add the Hendricks and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass

My newly rekindled love affair with tequila shows no signs of abating, at least, not until the bottle runs out, and this next cocktail takes it's inspiration from Mexico, with the inclusion of chilli. I find that tequila works well with a bit of fire to enhance its own spicy aroma, or, depending on your opinion, to kill the taste of it. Either way, it's a winner, but do test the heat of your chilli before you start, or you could get more than you bargained for! The peppercorns might seem like an odd pairing, but the earthy, spiciness works well with tequila and peppercorns are a surprise match with strawberries as well. One of the most delicious puddings I ever had, was a bowl of warmed strawberries with a balsamic and black peppercorn reduction - who knew?

Fresa Picante


1 1/2oz tequila resposado
2-3 strawberries (depending on size)
1/2 chilli (medium heat) adjust according to taste and the strength of your chilli
6 black peppercorns
1oz lime juice
1/2oz simple syrup

Muddle the strawberries in the bottom of the shaker until they are pulped
Add the chilli and black peppercorns and muddle again
Add the remaining ingredients and half fill the shaker with ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs minimum and strain into a cocktail glass

This last cocktail, I discovered last week when I was making margaritas, but as it is a drink over ice, it didn't make the cut for last weeks blog post - Ay Caramba. However, both Mr TG and I thought this was a great drink and so simple to recreate. Admittedly, classing ginger beer as a spice is a little tenuous, but it does have ginger in it, so....

El Diablo


1 1/2 tequila resposado
1/2oz creme de cassis
1/2oz lime juice
ginger beer

Add the tequila, cassis and lime juice to a shaker half filled with ice
Shake vigorously and strain in to a tumbler filled with ice
Top up with ginger beer

Well that's it for another week. I hope you find something you want to try here and if you do, I'd love to know your thoughts. Have a fabulous weekend, drink responsibly and come back next week for more cocktail recipes x

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Ay Caramba.

To date, this blog has featured all the cocktails I personally wanted to try, which seems like a good place to start. Hence, they have all tended to be zesty, fruity, occasionally with floral or herbal undertones and built around vodka, gin and rum. While this seems to me to be more than enough to work with, I am willing to concede that there is far more to be discovered in the world of mixology and so, like the intrepid explorers of yore, I am donning my pith helmet and venturing out into the jungle of wild and untamed spirits. That said, I am not veering into totally unchartered territory, as all of this weeks picks are indeed zesty and fruity, but I am ringing the changes by making margaritas, which, as I'm sure you know, all feature, tequila.

The very mention of tequila, sends an involuntary shudder down my spine and sadly, not in a good way, but it was not always so and I am hoping, that with the right ingredients, I can rediscover my love of it once again. Let's hope so, because I now have a whacking great bottle of the stuff to get through! Once, in a time before children, before hangovers gained such an intensity as to render all cognitive behaviour, impossible, tequila was an oft time companion in the relentless maradi gras that was my life, but over familiarity does indeed, breed contempt and our relationship has been frosty, to say the least, since 2003. However, cocktail aficionados, assure me that the problem lies, not with Tequlia itself, but with the quality of tequila we buy - although I suspect, my personal issue was one, more of quantity, than quality, but moving on....

Tequila is distilled from the heart of the blue agave, a large succulent plant found in Mexico and must be produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco to qualify as genuine. It is sold as either 100% agave or mixtos, which must be at least 51% agave and the rest being made up of other sugars. There are then five sub categories that the pure tequila is divided into, according to age. For a smoother, more palatable drink (yes please) you should look to buy a 'resposado' or 'anejo' tequila. The 'resposado' has been aged for a minimum of two months, but less than a year, in oak casks and the 'anejo', a minimum of one year, but less than three.

I had wanted to head to Amathus for a bottle of their superb Calle 23 Resposado tequila, but time constraints were such, that I could venture no further afield than my local Tesco, where, by fortune, they had a bottle of Sierra Resposado, complete with amusing, Mexican hat lid, more than adequate, I hope for mixing up a few tequila cocktails.

So, to begin with, we are going to make a margarita. There are so many variations on the basic drink, which consists of tequila, triple sec (or similar orange liqueur), lime juice and salt. This first margarita is called a Puro Margarita and does not use triple sec, but rather, the sweetness comes from the addition of agave syrup, which, if you haven't heard of it before, is a natural sweetener, made from the agave plant and with a much lower GI than sugar. It is readily available in larger supermarkets and of course, health food stores.

Puro Margarita


1 oz lime juice
Zest of  1/2 a lime
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 oz agave syrup
2 oz tequila Resposado

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker
Half fill with crushed ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs
Strain into a cocktail glass

Now here's the shocker - it's actually really nice. I could definitely detect tequila, but the addition of lime zest, seemed to pick up a spiciness, I hadn't ever really noticed before, with tequila and the sweet, sour and salt worked beautifully, together. 

So, flush with success, I am moving on to a variation on the theme and making a Cherry Margarita. This recipe calls for 8 cherries and I am using freshly frozen cherries, not least because they appear to  be more expensive, pound for pound, than plutonium, at the moment, but also because they actually break down more easily and the whole thing can be made in a shaker. This recipe also calls for Luxardo's maraschino liqueur, which I purchased as a miniature, to try out, a few weeks ago, from Just Miniatures, and in fact, have almost finished it, so may be investing in a full size bottle soon.

Cherry Margarita


8 frozen cherries
1/2 oz sugar syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Luxardo's maraschino liqueur
1 1/2 oz tequila Resposado 

Run cold water over the cherries in a sieve and pat dry
Add the cherries and sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker and muddle until the cherries are fairly pulped
Add the remaining ingredients and top up with crushed ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs and strain into a cocktail glass

Again, I surprised myself by really enjoying this. If I had any criticism, it was that it was a little sweet for my taste and possibly could have benefited from less added sugar, but the colour was so magnificent, I could forgive it that.

This last cocktail is adapted from a daiquiri recipe, favoured by Ernest Hemmingway, but the the rum is substituted with tequila. I like to think that Hemmingway, the alcoholics' poster boy, would have approved. I imagine he would have probably approved, had I substituted the rum for turpentine, in the appropriate circumstances....

Hemmingway Margarita


2 oz tequila Resposado 
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 oz Luxardo's maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz sugar syrup

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill to half way, with ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs and strain into a cocktail glass

This, I thought, was delicious - sweet, but not cloying and very refreshing. I do believe, Hemmingway would have happily sunk a few of these and no doubt written some outstanding work of fiction, whilst pie-eyed. I, on the other hand, am struggling to finish this post after sharing all these with Mr TG. 

So, in brief, tequila isn't half as dreadful as I thought and I would happily whip up any of these cocktails to entertain guests. Of all of them, I would choose, as my number 1, the Puro Margarita - the addition of lime zest, elevating it from Cheesh and Chong, to Frida Kahlo.

And finally, I couldn't write about tequila, without a nod to the classic, shot, with salt and lime. I find it hard to believe there's a person of drinking age, alive, who hasn't tried this - possibly with disastrous consequences- but, just in case, here it is...

Tequila, Salt and Lime


1 oz tequila Resposado 
1 wedge of lime
1 pinch of salt

Pour the tequila into a shot glass
Take a pinch of salt and put it on the back of your opposite hand
Throw back the tequila shot in one gulp and immediately suck on the wedge of lime

Now, I have to be honest and admit that I did not try this one at home, but I did sniff the glass and was surprised to find that I did not retch. I think my days of tequila shots are well and truly over, but I may well make the Puro Margarita, part of my cocktail repertoire.I hope that you get the chance to try these out for yourself and please let me know your thoughts. Drink responsibly and have an amazing weekend x

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Alpine Inspired Cocktails

My family and I took our first ever ski trip to the French Alps recently and discovered the wonders of an active holiday with lively children. I cannot recommend it enough. For once, our children were interested in something that didn't involve staring at a screen and their ability to just boldly, set off, head first, down a mountain, put me to shame.

Whilst we were away, there was little time to keep up with blogging, so I apologise for the lack of cocktail recipes, but I have prepared a bumper selection this week which all feature, in varying degrees, the French Alpine liqueur, local to the Courchevel area, Genepi.

Génépi is a liqueur or aperitif, similar in makeup to absinthe. The word is also used to refer to alpine plants of the genus Artemisia (commonly called wormwood) that provide the liqueur's flavour and colour.
Like many European herbal liqueurs, especially those used as digestifs, Génépi can be an acquired taste. It is less sweet than many digestifs, and the flavour imparted by the herbs is reminiscent of chamomile. It is naturally pale gold in color, but some varieties have a final maceration of the wormwood which yields a light green color. A few commercial products are made bright green through the addition of food colouring.

Because Génépi is produced by steeping the aromatic wormwood flower heads in a strong, clear alcohol such as vodka or pure grain alcohol rather than distilling or fermenting, it cannot be considered an equivalent to French eau-de-vie. Also, the added sweetness marks it out as a liqueur, rather than a spirit. 

We also brought back a bottle of Marc de Savoie (French Eau de Vie) and I can categorically state that I would not feed it to my worst enemy. Anything that smells like diesel, is probably not recommended for human consumption and nothing I tried mixing it with could disguise the aroma of lighter fuel. In fact, we only had a few sips of the evil stuff and I could not rid my mouth of it's foul taste and have awoken today with a sore throat, which may or may not be related...

Anyway, back to the infinitely more palatable, Genepi. Most of this week's cocktails would probably work equally well with Absinthe, particularly as many commercially available bottles are closer to the 40 % proof of Genepi anyway, but you can buy Genepi in this country and it's not a bad little drink. As well as it's cocktail potential, you can enjoy it straight up, chilled or over ice as a digestif. The wonderful Amathus Drinks sell it online or from their London stores, where knowledgeable staff are happy to assist. 

There were quite a few other ingredients needed for this week's selection, all of which can also be sourced from Amathus as full size bottles. However, I decided to play it safe and try out some of the ingredients in miniature as I wasn't sure how often they would get used. The Creme de Peche de Vigne could not be sourced from Just Miniatures, but they were able to provide me with Creme de Cassis, Creme de Violette and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. I paid a little more for express service and was not disappointed as everything arrived within 2 days. 

I have to be honest, not everything was to my taste this week, but I will give you all the recipes, my honest opinion and ways in which I think they could be improved, if any. First up is La Poudre, a cocktail which can be found in many of the bars in and around Courchevel. I found this to be a little cloying and personally, would add an ounce of lemon juice just to give it a bit more bite, but if you like it sweet, then this is for you.

La Poudre


1 oz Genepi
0.5 oz Creme de Cassis
0.5 oz Creme de Peche de Vigne
2.5 oz fresh orange
(1 oz fresh lemon juice) if you want a bit more tang

Fill a tumbler with crushed ice
Add all the ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into the prepared glass

Next up was the L'Arc de Triomphe, originally devised as an Absinthe cocktail, but working beautifully with Genepi. 
Featuring the unique influence of bitter orange marmalade, this cocktail from Scott Baird of 15 Romolo and the Bon Vivants in San Francisco is a bold and colorful quaff. It's not too alcoholic, but truly delicious and perfect for an afternoon tipple. I think, of all the cocktails, this one was my favourite.

L'Arc de Triomphe


1 ounce Genepi
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce bitter orange marmalade
¾ ounce egg white
Angostura bitters
1 ounce soda water

Add the Genepi, orange juice, lemon juice, marmalade, egg white, and a dash of Angostura to a shaker and whisk by hand, until frothy. Add ice, and shake well to make cold. Strain into a chilled tumbler and enjoy. 

Another delicious and infinitely more potent cocktail was the Hobnob. Again, it was originally created as a cocktail with Absinthe, but Genepi works very well too. The grapefruit and lime really give the cocktail some bite, not to mention the heavy shot of alcohol. As a daytime drink, I would just use 1 oz of gin or you may find yourself under the table by tea time.



¼ ounce Genepi
one 1-inch square of grapefruit zest
one 1-inch square of lime zest
½ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
½ ounce fresh lime
2 ounces gin
½ ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Add grapefruit zest, lime zest, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the zests until they begin to break apart. Add the grapefruit juice and lime juice. Fill the shaker with ice. Add the Genepi, gin and maraschino liqueur. Shake hard. Strain the drink into the prepared glass.

This is a version of the cocktail Death in the Afternoon (absinthe and champagne), which was created for a 1935 book of humorous cocktail riffs called So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon. While Death in the Afternoon is a great name, it is a little lacking as far as drinks go. The addition of crème de violette has a rounding effect and gives the drink some subtlety. I have substituted the absinthe for Genepi and although I enjoyed the result, Mr Toasted Glass said it tasted as though I had added Blueberry Nerds (horrid kiddy candy) to it. Admittedly, I do like anything that involves a bit of fizz and have adored Parma Violet sweets since I was a child, so I may be rather biased. Click here to read an earlier post with the original Death in the Afternoon recipe.

Death at Dusk


½ ounce crème de violette
5 ounces sparkling wine
¼ ounce Genepi

Pour the crème de violette and wine into a flute and float the Genepi on top. Serve.

I hope you enjoy this week's selection and if you have any feedback, I would love to hear from you, especially if you tried out any of the recipes, either with Genepi or with Absinthe. As always, drink responsibly and enjoy x