Friday, 31 May 2013

Father's Day Cocktails

For those of you, reading this, after the event, don't let the title put you off. This post's selection have been curated and created with Father's Day in mind and are perhaps a little less feminine than is my wont, but are in no way limited to the chaps. What I will say, is that they are not overly fruity or floral and even include a couple of drinks that can be knocked together without the aid of a cocktail shaker or any fancy shenanigans. Whether young or old, I'm sure you'll find something to impress dad, this June 16th and you might want to consider my Bespoke Cocktail Service, that takes into account, taste, personality and lifestyle to create a tailor made mix to perfectly suit the recipient. For further information, please click here.

This first cocktail is being hailed as a modern classic and deservedly so. It was created by Sam Ross; beardy Australian and celebrity bartender at Attaboy, the Uptown reinvention of New York's Milk and Honey bar. It's a whisky cocktail that cleverly uses two types of scotch, a blend for the main body of the drink and a small amount of a good smokey, single malt, floated on the top. As someone who doesn't really like whisky, I wasn't too sure about this, but the initial taste of a good single malt is fine and just as it gets to the point where I would normally gag (yes, I really struggle with whisky), the sweet ginger and lemon flavours come through. Of course, it does involve making Honey-Ginger Syrup, but that in itself is delicious and worth making a small pot of it to keep in the fridge. Click here for Honey-Ginger syrup recipe. The original recipe does specify using an Islay single malt to float on top. I have used Jura Superstition for it's spice and smoke and as the isle of Jura is a stone's throw from Islay, the whiskies produced from distilleries on both, share many of the same tasting notes. Laphroig, Laguvilin and Bowmore would all work well.

Penicillin Cocktail

2oz blended scotch (I used Grants)
1/4oz Islay single malt
3/4oz lemon juice
3/4oz honey-ginger syrup

Add all of the ingredients, bar the single malt, to a cocktail shaker, with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into an ice filled rocks glass
Pour the single malt over the back of a spoon, to float on the top of the drink

This next drink is simplicity itself to make and can be adapted to make any number of variations. It works well with whisky too and you can substitute lemon for lime. Use white rum and fresh lime and it's practically a mojito. The main thing is, it's a doddle to mix up and will appeal to those who don't like too much fuss. I used Blackwoods gin which already has slight mint undertones from the watermint in it's botanical mix.

Gin Smash


2oz Blackwoods gin
1/2 lemon, cut into quarters
3/4oz simple syrup
7 fresh mint leaves
Dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle (squish) the mint, lemon and simple syrup in the bottom of a large tumbler or highball glass using a muddling stick or similar implement
Half fill the glass with crushed ice, pour in the gin and bitters and stir carefully, ensuring that the alcohol mixes in well
Top up with more crushed ice  and stir again before drinking

Followers of the blog will know that last week I made Vanilla Infused Vodka and deemed it such a success that I then went on to make a slightly larger batch. One of the things that really struck me about it was the earthiness that using natural vanilla brings - absolutely nothing like sweet vanilla flavouring and with a touch of the pipe tobacco about it. 'What could be more manly than pipe tobacco and single malt?', thought I and so the Old Timer was conceived. Otherwise, the cocktail is made just as you would make an Old Fashioned, using a little simple syrup, rather than a sugar cube, as the extra work is entirely unnecessary in my opinion. In an ideal world , you would serve the drink with one very large ice cube in the glass so as to keep it chilled, but not over diluted. The initial aroma is mellow and sweet from the vanilla and orange, but the lingering taste is the smoke of the single malt.

Old Timer

1oz vanilla vodka
1oz single malt whisky(I used Jura Superstition)
1/4oz simple syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters
Large strip of orange zest

Using a sharp knife, cut a long thin strip from the peel of an orange, leaving behind the pith and set to one side
Add the simple syrup to the glass, along with a dash of Angostura bitters
Add the spirits, stir and add ice - preferably a large cube or two
Squeeze the orange zest around the rim of the glass to release the oils. This creates an orange aroma without adding juice to the drink

The final cocktail today is loosely based on the El Diablo cocktail, a big favourite of mine and you can get the recipe by going to my Summer Spice cocktails post. What surprised me about the El Diablo, when I first tried it, was how well tequila and ginger work together and so, pairing tequila with King's Ginger, one of my favourite liqueurs, seemed an obvious move.

El Rey


1oz tequila resposado
3/4oz King's Ginger
1/4oz Creme de Cassis
1oz lime juice
Dash of Fever Tree Naturally Light Ginger Beer

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 20 secs
Strain into a tumbler with ice and top up with a dash of ginger beer.

This drink also works rather well without the lime and prepared in much the same way as an Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioned El Rey

1oz tequila resposado
3/4oz King's Ginger
1/4oz Creme de Cassis
Dash of bitters
Strip of orange zest

Add all of the ingredients apart from the zest, to a tumbler/ rocks glass and stir well to combine
Add one or two large ice cubes
Squeeze the strip of zest to release the oils and wipe around the rim of the glass

I gave myself the challenge of 'manning up' this week and I have to admit that I am rather enjoying it - so much so, that I have had to force myself to stop because we can't possibly drink any more cocktails. Still, watch this space as there are many more to come in the future. Have a fabulous weekend and test a few cocktails before you try them out on dad for Father's Day x

All of the glasses used and indeed, any in my Etsy shop, can be personalised to make a special gift for Father's Day.

Honey-Ginger Syrup

This delicious syrup is a must for creating the Penicillin Cocktail, but don't just stop there. You can use the syrup in cocktails, drizzled on baked apples and mixed with a little soy sauce as delicious salmon marinade. It makes a fantastically warming drink, mixed with lemon juice and hot water and adds spice to a glass of sparkling water.

The recipe below will yield about 350 - 400ml of syrup which is quite a lot, but I really love the stuff. If you feel this is too much for you, then just scale down the quantities - you will only need 25ml for one Penicillin Cocktail. It should keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Honey-Ginger Syrup


200ml runny honey
250g piece of fresh ginger
65ml water
6 tbsp sugar

Start by peeling the ginger root. If you have a juicer then this will really be a doddle - just juice the ginger root and set the juice aside. Otherwise, grate the root into a bowl and then carefully tip the juice into a jug, through a mini sieve/tea strainer. Then, it is vital that you extract as much juice as possible by pressing the pulp in the strainer with back of a spoon. Alternatively you can squeeze it out through a muslin cloth, but this involves more mess and washing.

Add the sugar to the ginger juice and stir it in until completely dissolved

Add the water to the honey, in a bowl and stir until completely mixed

Add the sweetened ginger juice and watered down honey together. Stir until mixed and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

As well as the ideas outlined above, you could use the syrup to make this delicious and refreshing drink. for added bite, sneak in a shot or two of either vodka, tequila or whisky.

Ginger Cooler


3/4oz honey-ginger syrup
3/4oz lemon juice
Sparkling water

Mix the syrup and juice in the bottom of a glass
Add ice and top up with sparkling water and stir

Friday, 24 May 2013

Lavender Cocktails

I am always on the look out for new cocktail inspiration and last week it came from Gin Monkey, whose fabulous website gives independent and impartial reviews of  cocktail bars in the UK and around the world. I am an avid user of twitter and was following the exploits of @GinMonkeyUK, tweeting about cocktail bars in Prague and in particular, the Hemmingway Bar where one of the drinks on offer was a Lavender Martini. As a huge fan of anything with lavender in, this instantly got my attention and I set to work, tracking down lavender to make lavender syrup, full details of which you can find by going to my Lavender Syrup post.

Having made the lavender syrup, the first recipe I tried was a classic martini with the addition of lavender syrup. I have to admit that I am not a lover of neat spirits, hence my love of cocktails and whilst I can appreciate the nuances of a neat gin for tasting purposes, I would find it hard to drink a whole shot. Therefore, I am perhaps not best placed to judge this impartially, but I have to be honest, this was a tough drink to get through. Gin is very aromatic and the lavender syrup is very floral. Combined with only a little vermouth and bitters, no amount of shaking will disguise the fact that there is a lot of alcohol in there. The result, I have to say was a bit like drinking your grandmother's perfume. That said, I did drink it all, albeit, very slowly and if you are a fan of the classic gin martini (and/or Yardley), then do give it a whirl. I am definitely going to experiment a little more with some of the more classic cocktails and see if I can't educate my palate.

Lavender Martini


2 1/2 oz gin (I used Hendricks)
1/2 oz dry vermouth (I used Noilly Prat Dry)
1/2 oz lavender syrup
dash of orange bitters

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into chilled martini glass

Slightly deflated by my result, I decided to try another recipe, loosely based on the martini, using home made vanilla vodka. You can find out how to make it in my Vanilla Vodka post. Don't worry, it's ridiculously straight forward. The resultant drink here, was far more to my taste. The vanilla vodka has a slight natural sweetness and a little earthiness that is a suprise hit with lavender which is used to a lesser degree in this recipe. The lemon juice works very well with lavender and gives the whole drink a nice sweet/sour balance. For me, this was a big hit and my independent tester, neighbour Amy (Mr TG is away), enjoyed it too. She did comment that it too, was reminiscent of Yardley, but not in a bad way.

Vanilla, Lavender Martini


1 1/2oz vanilla vodka
1/2oz lemon juice
1/4oz lavender syrup

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass

This next cocktail is a great, refreshing drink that marries together the obvious pairing of lemon and lavender. It makes a fantastic non-alcoholic drink, minus the alcohol and is delicious with either gin or vodka. I have chosen to go with gin on this occasion as the botanicals that flavour gin really add more depth to the drink. I wanted to try a different gin this week and so tested Blackwoods Vintage Gin, made using botanicals from the Shetland Isles. The gin is very competitively priced and really does deliver. The label stated that amongst other things, it was distilled using violet and water mint, both of which I could discern from sipping it neat. It was slightly floral and fresh and seemed perfect for this drink.

Lemon and Lavender Cooler


2oz Blackwoods Gin
10z lemon juice
1/2oz lavender syrup
sparkling water

Add the gin, lemon and lavender to the shaker and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into highball glass with ice
Top up with sparkling water

Keeping with the long drinks, in the hope that the sun will start shining again and I can sit in the garden, sipping iced cocktails, this next drink mixes vodka with dark, berry fruits, lavender and citrus. It is quite sweet, depending on how much sparkling water you use to top it up. For my tastes, I would only half fill the highball with ice, leaving more room to add sparkling water, making a longer, more refreshing drink.

Lavender Berry Cooler


1 1/2oz vodka
1/4oz creme de cassis
1/2oz lavender syrup
1oz lime juice
6 blueberries

Muddle (squish) the blueberries in the bottom of a shaker with the lime juice. If you don't have a muddler, then improvise with a pestle or handle of a cooking implement.
Add the vodka, cassis and lavender syrup to the shaker.
Half fill with ice and shake vigorously before straining into a highball glass, half filled with ice.
Top up with sparkling water.

Finally, and this is a first for Toasted Glass, I have made a whisky cocktail, loosely based on a Rusty Nail (whisky and drambuie), which is one of the few ways I have ever been able to stomach Scotland's finest. It is a shameful admission that as a Scot myself, I have no love for the whisky, but a cocktail is an incredible thing, that done correctly, can really turn flavours around. Because I wanted to add sweetness and warmth to the whisky, I chose to mix it with King's Ginger, which, if you follow this blog, you'll know I am a fan of it's sweet, earthy warmth. Knowing that I like the lemon and honey of a hot toddy, I was fairly confident that lemon and lavender syrup would work with the whisky. I deliberately chose a whisky with a sweeter flavour and honey overtones, but decided to go for miniatures as I'm not quite ready to embrace whisky wholeheartedly. This Jura 10yr old whisky definitely has a sweet finish to it, but one sip was enough to tell me that I've a long way to go before I'm able to drink it neat. My late gramps would turn in his grave if he knew what I'd done to a good single malt...

Summer Toddy


1 1/2oz Jura 10 yr old whisky (or similarly sweet)
1/2oz King's Ginger
1/2oz lavender syrup
3/4oz lemon juice

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled tumbler

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked this and who knows, maybe, in the same way as I have been with tequila, I'll be persuaded to choose it more often. I'm not sure what whisky purists would make of it, but I think anyone who enjoys a whisky with a mixer, will approve.

Next week, I'll be looking at cocktails to impress your father with, on Father's day, so probably a little less of pink drinks and glasses with butterflies and possibly a little more whisky - who knows....

Have a great weekend and drink safely x

All of the spirits and liqueurs listed are available to buy at Amathus Drinks (see link to their shop on the  left of the page) or similarly high quality purveyors of wines and spirits.

Vanilla Vodka

Like all infusions, vanilla vodka is very straightforward to make and the result is worth waiting a few days for. Using vanilla pods gives an earthy undertone that is reminiscent of pipe tobacco and a hint of sweetness that makes the vodka very smooth to drink. In fact, it was so great, I decided to make some more so I could make more delicious Vanilla, Lavender Martinis. This recipe will make 6 x 1oz shots - if you wish to make more, just scale up the quantities, adding one vanilla pod for every 150 ml of vodka,

Vanilla Vodka


150 ml vodka
1 vanilla pod (whole)

Score the length of the vanilla pods with a sharp knife and open out slightly to reveal the seeds
Add the pods and vodka to a clean, airtight container and close the lid.

Leave for a minimum of five days, swirling the container gently, each day

The vodka will become progressively darker each day

After five days, or more, if you can wait, your vodka will be ready to strain

Pour the vodka through a coffee filter paper, into a jug and that's it. 

Now you can get mixing or enjoy it chilled and neat if you prefer.

Lavender Syrup

Lavender syrup is so easy to make and is a delicate, floral ingredient that can be used in a number of cocktails. I have put together a selection in my Lavender Cocktails post that all use this delicious syrup. It will keep in the fridge for at least a week and to be honest, probably a lot longer, but you can scale the ratios up and down to make more or less as you please. Also, if you omit the lavender, you have the recipe for simple syrup, which I use all the time the majority of cocktails I make.

Lavender Syrup


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp lavender flowers

If you use fresh lavender flowers, try to pick the ones that have plenty of colour but aren't fully open. Alternatively, you can use dried culinary lavender as I did. I bought mine online from Lavenderworld.

Add water and lavender to the pan 
Bring to the boil and stir in sugar until fully dissolved
Reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins

Remove from heat and allow to cool

Pour into a bottle or air tight container and keep in fridge

Click here for delicious Lavender Cocktail Recipes

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Grey Fox Cocktail

Last week, I put my mixology skills to good use and created a bespoke cocktail for style blogger and twitter friend, Grey Fox.

Mr GF writes a most excellent blog, Grey Fox Blog aimed at the older gentleman and by that, I  mean, over forty, providing style inspiration and challenging the fashion industry's obsession with youth. As he quite rightly points out, there is a large, affluent market of middle aged men that the fashion industry fails to address by aiming their advertisting at the younger generation. Large fashion houses and high street retailers alike, are wont to use young models to advertise to a market that is made up, in part of men over forty. Grey Fox uses his blog to highlight these issues and his growing reputation has given him the opportunity to ask those in the fashion industry, why they are blind to such a large demographic.

His blog provides a wealth of style inspiration for the older man, with the emphasis on quality and where possible, championing exceptionally well made, British goods from new UK companies.

So what kind of cocktail do you make for a very stylish man with a penchant for Harris tweed, a colourful sock and expertly polished brogues?

Well, the first step, obviously, was to ask him what spirits and flavours he liked and having established that his preference was for gin and lime, I went from there. I wanted to create something with a British heritage, a traditional feel and preferably, a grey colour. Luckily for me, gin already has a great British background and Hendricks fitted the bill perfectly.

 It is distilled in Britain and bottled in very stylish but very traditional, black, stoneware bottles. I added to the mix, King's Ginger, a warming, sweet, but spicy liqueur with a very British heritage.

 The final touch was a few drops of Creme de Violette, not terribly British, I'll grant you, but essential for that all important grey hue. In the bottle, it is deep violet colour, but in moderation it produces a wonderful silver grey.

 It can be quite tricky to get hold of in this country, but you can buy all of the ingredients you require from Amathus Drinks (there is a permanent link to their online store on the left of the page) or similarly high quality alcohol retailers.

This was the basis for the cocktail which I bottled and sent out with instructions on how to make a martini style cocktail by adding lime and shaking over ice. This could then be adapted to a  long drink, by serving over ice and topping up with Fever Tree tonic water.

This week, I has the pleasure of meeting up with Mr Grey Fox and assured me that the cocktail had got the GF family seal of approval, having been rigorously tested by himself and his his wife and son. In fact, he had been inspired to buy a bottle of Kings Ginger so he could make more and having tested it myself, I can vouch for it wholeheartedly.

If you would like to have a bespoke cocktail created for you or as a gift for someone else, click here for details.

The Grey Fox Cocktail


1oz Hendricks gin
3/4oz Kings Ginger
1/4oz Creme de Violette
1oz fresh lime juice

Martini Method

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Highball Method

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker
Shake vigorously and strain into a highball glass or large tumbler filled with ice and top up with Fever Tree tonic water

Please do try this delicious cocktail and if you are wondering what to do with the rest of the Kings Ginger, should you buy a whole bottle, why not try a Knock Down Ginger or a King's Chase from my Alfresco Cocktails post. 

Bespoke Cocktail Service

So what is a Bespoke Cocktail Service?

I will create a tailor made cocktail, based on the answers given to questions pertaining to your lifestyle and drinks preferences. When the cocktail is designed, you will receive a recipe and full instructions on how to create your drink at home. You will also receive a handwritten letter from me, explaining why I chose your specific blend. The recipe and letter will be accompanied by a hand painted miniature bottle containing a free sample of the alcohol required to make your drink. The design on the miniature bottle can be used to reflect your personality and you can choose from the motifs available on my range of shot glasses, or you can design your own.

If you are creating a cocktail to represent your company brand, I can paint your logo on to the bottle by hand. You will need to provide me with clear artwork that I can use as a reference.
The order does not include the perishable elements of the cocktail such as fruit or mixers, but the instructions will be clear as to what must be added and there will be nothing that is not readily available in larger food stores.

This service can be used to create a thoughtful and memorable gift for anyone who is partial to the occasional (or frequent) cocktail and is also a fantastic way to represent a company brand. With wedding season in full swing, this would be a perfect gift and what cocktail lover wouldn't be thrilled to receive a tailor made cocktail on their birthday?

The price shown does not include a bespoke glass, but you can order one to match the design on the bottle or pick one from the large range of cocktail glasses and tumblers available. Prices range from £8 - £19. Please contact me to discuss your requirements. Once you have paid for your order, please allow 1 week until dispatch.

Unfortunately this service is only available in the UK.
Overseas customers can order a bespoke cocktail recipe with instructions, handwritten letter and glass. Please contact me through Etsy if you would like to discuss this further.

The basic price for this service is £60. 

You can see the full details of the bespoke Grey Fox Cocktail  , the Love Sonnet Cocktail, the Secret Tea Society Cocktail or the Velvet Teas Cocktail if you would like to see examples.

I can begin the process of creating your bespoke cocktail as soon as you complete the questionnaire, but please contact me in advance  to discuss your requirements. Click here to contact me.

Click here to take survey

All orders must be paid for before work can commence. When I have received your response and payment through the link to Etsy, it should take between 5-7 days to receive your bespoke cocktail.

Mother's Ruin

After veering seriously off piste with last weeks selection of Alpine Inspired, Genepi cocktails, I thought I'd bring it back closer to home and what can be more British than gin?

 Well, quite a lot apparently, as gin actually originated in Europe in the middle ages, as a kind of moonshine liquor, flavoured with juniper berries, distilled by monks, no doubt looking for a little entertainment to relieve the tedium of endless chanting and scratchy robes. In fact, gin didn't appear in England until the early 17th century, but it's popularity soon took hold when, due to the heavy duty imposed on imported spirits, gin shops sprang up all over London. Cheap gin was considered to be the root cause of many the social problems facing the poor and was famously depicted by Hogarth in his series' of engravings, including, Gin Lane (seen below).

These days, gin has become a drink for the discerning tippler, with a vast array of wonderful distillations to choose from. The wonderful Hendricks gin has a distinctive flavour, due to the botanicals used in it's distillation and the infusion of rose and cucumber which may well make it a wonderful facial toner too, although, perhaps best not to try that out.. Other notable gins include Tanqueray and of course, Gordons; a bottle of which is always in my drinks arsenal, as it is the favoured beverage of the in laws. So, for the purposes of this week's blog, I am using, the eternally popular, Gordons, although should anyone (ahem, take note Mr TG) wish to gift me a bottle of Hendricks, I would love to try out some other fabulous gin cocktails.

For a mind boggling selection of gins, including Hendricks (pictured), Tanqueray and the amusingly named range from Van Wees. visit Amathus Drinks , either online or at one of their London stores.

The first cocktail I tested, was the Earl Grey Martini, a drink that sounded like my perfect cocktail, combining the flavours of Earl Grey tea, lemon and gin - what's not to love? And sure enough, it was a triumph - a delicious and refreshing marriage of flavours that left me wishing I had infused more gin so I could 'test' another one! The infusing bit does require a little forethought, but is in no way complicated. 

Earl Grey Martini


2 oz gin
1 level tsp good quality earl grey tea
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz sugar syrup
3/4 oz egg white

Ahead of mixing, pour the gin into a glass and sprinkle over the loose tea.
Allow to infuse for 2 hours and then strain, discarding the tea leaves.
Separate the egg white from the yolk and set aside the white 
Place the egg white, lemon juice and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker
Whisk until frothy, then fill the shaker with ice and add the strained gin
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass

Next up was the Aviation cocktail. My decision to include this was mostly led by last week's purchase of Creme de Violette and Luxardo's Maraschino liqueur from Just Miniatures, two unusual ingredients, that happily, both feature in this classic cocktail.

The Aviation first appeared in print in a book by New York barman, Hugo Ensslin in 1916. The drink called for London Dry Gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and Creme de Violette. The drink's name was in reference to the emerging era of flight, a truly monumental advance for mankind that was initiated only a few years previously by the Wright brothers. The addition of Creme de Violette gives a sky blue tinge to the drink and it's association with flight, gave it a modernity that it made it a popular choice. Today it is a classic cocktail that is enjoyed by cocktail aficionados, in part, due to the inclusion of two, rather more unusual ingredients. 

The Aviation Cocktail


2 oz gin
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz creme de violette
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker
Fill with ice and shake vigorously
Strain into a chilled martini glass
This week's final cocktail is a Gin and Elderflower Martini and if you follow this blog, you'll know I am a huge fan of the Chase Elderflower Liqueur, made in Briitain at the Chase Vodka Distillery. Not only is it delicious, but it comes in a divine bottle.

For other delicious cocktail recipes using Chase Elderflower liqueur, do take a look through some older posts.

Gin and Elderflower Martini


1 oz gin
1 oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker
Fill with ice and shake vigorously
Strain into a chilled martini glass

With a bit of sunshine on the horizon, I enjoyed this week's cocktails immensely. The flavours were fresh and zingy, just right for sipping in the garden (or anywhere else for that matter). The Aviation Cocktail is one I will definitely ask for when out as I think it deserves to be enjoyed in a glamorous, old fashioned cocktail bar and the Gin and Elderflower Martini was always going to resonate well with me, but this week's clear winner, is the Earl Grey Martini. A heavenly marriage of flavours that really works perfectly with gin.

Enjoy trying them for yourself and as always, drink responsibly. Have a fabulous weekend x

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Cherry Vodka

If you follow me on twitter or facebook then you will know that this week I have been all about the Cherry Vodka. I am no stranger to making flavoured vodkas as I used to work in a cocktail bar, many years ago, where the in-house, flavoured vodkas were our speciality. Most were sugary sweet like the Loveheart Vodka I showed you how to make in an earlier post, but I was intrigued to try making a fruit infused vodka. I settled on cherry because I figured the colour would be pretty amazing and also because I had some in the freezer, left over from making Cherry Margaritas. As I said before, I think frozen cherries are just fine for cocktail making. They are frozen at the point of picking and retain all the colour and flavour. The only thing lacking, when they defrost, is a little of the firmness, but when you are squishing them up or steeping them for days in vodka, it doesn't really matter. I used Absolut Vodka because that was what I had and I would recommend that you use something of a similar or even higher quality. This is a fruit infusion and the flavour is quite subtle and not sweetened with sugar so the quality of the vodka will make a big difference to the end result. If you fancy giving it a go yourself, follow the simple steps below.

How to make Cherry Vodka

You will need 

300ml good quality vodka
100g frozen cherries

Pour out 300ml of vodka into a clean measuring jug. Obviously you can make more if you wish - just scale up the quantities accordingly.

Place the cherries in a sieve and run cold water over them to get rid of the ice glaze - if you don't, when the cherries defrost in the vodka, you'll actually be inadvertently adding water. Similarly, allow the cherries to drain before adding them to the vodka.

Transfer the cherries into an airtight container, cover with the vodka, close the lid and wait.....

And finally , on the fifth day, it was good to go.

As you can see, the colour got more intense with each passing day and depending on your patience, you could leave it even longer, although the cherries themselves, by this point, have lost their colour and flavour, so I'm not convinced it would produce any better a result.

The cherries had retained their shape and it would probably have been fine just to use a sieve, but incase the fruit should break up when you separate it from the vodka, I suggest using a coffee filter paper. They will come in handy, should you decide to try the Loveheart Vodka too.

Tip the contents of your airtight container into a measuring jug before filtering, to avoid messy spills.

Allow the cherries to drain for quite a while as they are holding a lot of vodka.

Store the left over cherries in an airtight container in the fridge. With so much vodka in them, it would be a shame to throw them away!

Pour your vodka into a clean bottle and label it clearly to avoid any mishaps (especially if you have children).

So now you have your Cherry Vodka, what can you make with it? Well, of course, you could just drink it schnapps style, but that's not for the fainthearted. There is a sweetness to the vodka and a fruitiness that makes it quite palatable, but it's no sweet liqueur and in my opinion, it is best suited to cocktail making., so here are a few ideas.

Cherry Sour


1 1/2oz Cherry Vodka
1oz Cherry Heering
2oz Vita Coco
1/2oz fresh lime juice

Vita Coco, if you haven't heard of it before, is natural coconut water with no added sugar. It has an almost imperceptible coconut flavour and a slight natural sweetness. It is very different to coconut milk or coconut creme, both of which are quite calorific and thicker in texture. Apparently it's very good for you - lots of electrolytes, which is a good thing, so the blurb says, but that's probably a moot point when it's in an alcoholic beverage. Still, every little helps I suppose.

This recipe also contains Cherry Heering which adds a stronger cherry flavour and some sweetness. You can read more about Cherry Heering and where to buy it, in my Alfresco Cocktails post.

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and add a handful of crushed ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs and strain into chilled cocktail glass

This cocktail has the whole sweet and sour thing going on, that I like so much, but it's fairly subtle, which is nice. It is refreshing and would work well as a long drink over ice, too.

Next up, a very fruity and delicious cocktail that tastes like summer in a glass. It's sweet but in a very natural tasting way and if your fruit tastes sweet enough, don't bother adding the 1/4oz simple syrup

Cherry Berry


2oz Cherry Vodka
3 strawberries
6 blueberries
1/4oz simple syrup (optional)

Place the fruit in the shaker and muddle (squish). If you don't have a muddler, I find the handle of an ice cream scoop or something similar, works quite well.
Add the Cherry Vodka and a handful of ice
Shake vigorously for 20 secs and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
NB - this cocktail is quite slow to strain through the holes in the shaker as berries become a little gloopy, but be patient, turn the shaker upright again and jiggle it a little before straining out the rest.

This next cocktail is aptly named Lolita. It has an almost bubble gum sweetness due to the apricot brandy that belies its alcoholic content and it is the most sensational colour.



2oz Cherry Vodka
1oz apricot brandy
1/2oz lemon juice 

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with a handful of crushed ice and shake vigorously for 20 secs
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Our last cocktail today is a tropical inspired little number featuring a lovely rum I picked up in Amathus City a couple of weeks ago, which has an almost coconut flavour of it's own.The addition of fresh pineapple and coconut water, definitely give it that tropical feel and make me long for a more temperate climate. Still, whip up one of these, turn on the heating and samba round the living room - job done.

Carmen Miranda


1oz Cherry Vodka
1oz Flora de Cana rum (or similar quality)
Handful of fresh pineapple
2oz Vita Coco
1/2oz agave nectar (see Ay Caramba post for info on Agave nectar)

Muddle the pineapple in the bottom of the shaker
Add all of the other ingredients, plus a handful of crushed ice
Shake vigorously and strain into chilled cocktail glass

This is another cocktail that would be a lovely drink over ice in a highball glass and perhaps with a squeeze of lime too, but then I like a squeeze of lime on most things.

So there you have it - Cherry Vodka - worth the wait for the colour alone. It's so easy to do, I recommend you give it a whirl, even if it just so you can drink a pink V&T. Have fun making cocktails, drink responsibly and have a wonderful weekend X

Friday, 10 May 2013

Alfresco Cocktails

Strictly speaking, any cocktail is an 'afresco' cocktail, provided you drink it outdoors and indeed, go to most of my previous posts and you'll find something to fit an outdoor occasion, but the combination of good weather and a long weekend, gave Mr TG and I, more time than usual, spent in the garden, cocktail in hand. There's nothing quite like sipping on a chilled glass of something or other, barefoot, toes in the grass and listening to the sounds of the garden. Of course, back in the real world, the idyll was short lived as we were invaded by our Nerf gun toting offspring declaring war, but the cocktails helped soften the blow.

All of this week's selection would make an excellent accompaniment to an afternoon spent in the sun, although I do recommend slapping on the sunscreen beforehand and quaffing lots of water too, as cocktails have a habit of making you forget to take the basic precautions and before you know it, you'll have a blinding headache and rosy glow that could guide ships in at night.

Our long weekend began on Friday, when we bunked off to the City of London for a spot of lunch and to visit the wonderful Amathus, City in Leadenhall Market.

If you click on the link you'll be able to see the lovely staff, who were both in store when we visited and couldn't have been more helpful. We were treated to a tasting of gins, one of which is definitely on my list for when the Hendricks runs out and to delicious Coffee  and Cherry Heerings. In the end, we left with a bottle of Kings Ginger, a bottle of Cherry Heering, a miniature of Chase Marmalade Vodka and a bottle of rum which I will save for another post. Suffice to say that my knowledge of rum is greatly enriched and that I am inspired to devote a post to it entirely when I've learnt a little more.

King's Ginger is a delicious  and warming liqueur, prepared from the maceration of ginger root and added lemon oil. It is both spicy and zesty, not to mention more alcoholic than many liqueurs, weighing in at a hefty 40%. The story goes that it was developed for His Majesty, King Edward the VII, to stimulate and revive him whilst out driving his new horseless carriage.

Cherry Heering, produced in Denmark, is an intensely fruity, cherry flavoured liqueur with a brandy base. It is world renowned, highly valued in cocktails and generally considered the best of the dark cherry liqueurs. As you can probably see from the picture, it is so delicious, we had opened the bottle and had a snifter before I remembered to take a picture of it.
I was extremely excited to try this out, having fallen in love with Chase Elderflower Liqueur, in the past. A perusal of previous posts will play this out as you'll notice that it crops up a lot. Let me just say, it did not disappoint. It has all the zesty, oranginess you would expect and a slight caramel, sweetness that gives it that unmistakable, marmalade flavour.

All of these tipples are worthy of drinking straight, in a schnapps glass or in a tumbler, over ice, but equally, make some great cocktails, so if you decide to buy, you can be sure they won't be lurking malevolently at the back of the cocktail cabinet, gathering dust. Anyway, enough the cocktails!

Cherry Sling


1oz gin (I used Hendricks)
1oz Cherry Heering
1oz lime juice
1/4oz simple syrup (optional)
Splash of soda water

Add all of the ingredients, apart from the soda, to a cocktail shaker and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain in to a highball glass filled with ice
Top up with a dash of soda 

This is a variation on the Singapore Sling, a cocktail made famous by the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. There are so many different interpretations, all claiming to be the original, but this definitely isn't. The original did not use soda and featured lemon rather than lime, not to mention, the ratio of gin to Heering was more in favour of gin. The original was a very sweet cocktail, but this is not, particularly if you leave out the simple syrup. To be honest, on this occasion, I preferred it with, as it still wasn't too sweet when served over ice.

Knock Down Ginger


1oz gin (I used Hendricks)
1oz Kings Ginger
1/2oz lemon juice
1/2oz orange juice
1/4oz Fever Tree ginger beer

Add all of the ingredients, apart from the ginger beer, to a cocktail shaker and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass and add the dash of ginger beer

Originally this recipe was made without the ginger beer, but it didn't quite have the warmth you would expect with the addition of Kings Ginger. As Mr TG noted, it was a bit like a very strong vodka and orange, which is odd because it's made with gin, but his senses may have been slightly impaired by then. Anyway, a quarter ounce of Fever Tree ginger beer was just what it needed and so it was renamed, the Knock Down Ginger.

I picked this next recipe because of it's inclusion of Cherry Heering and because the name, Flying High, sounded fairly auspicious. The cherry flavour is quite intense in this one, so if you're not a fan of that, it's probably not for you. The egg white gives the drink a nice texture, but the colour does let it down a bit. After I had tested it, I put it in the fridge, to wait for Mr TG to come home and offer his insight and strangely enough, the drink cleared and looked far more appealing. Incidentally, Mr TG was rather partial to this one.

Flying High


1 1/2oz gin (I used Hendricks)
1oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz lemon juice
1oz orange juice
1 egg white
dash of Angostura Bitters

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and shake without ice for 20 secs
Open the shaker, add ice and shake for a further 20 secs
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

This next recipe was devised, purely on a whim, without much forethought and it turned out to be rather exceptional. Of course, the fine ingredients are the stars here, but I'm rather proud of my effort all the same.

The King's Chase

1oz Chase Marmalade Vodka
1oz King's Ginger
1 1/2oz orange juice
1/2oz lemon juice
1 egg white

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and shake without ice for 20 secs
Open the shaker and half fill with ice
Shake vigorously for another 20 secs and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Although there is no added simple syrup in this cocktail, both King's Ginger and Chase Marmalade Vodka are sweet, so the addition of lemon juice stops it veering into sickly territory. I used a full two ounces of juice in this one because I wanted something refreshing, without resorting to serving it over ice. The addition of egg white adds a silkiness to the texture without altering the flavour and gives the cocktail a little more substance. 

So, of all this week's cocktails, The King's Chase was a clear winner for me and I will definitely be making it again. I can highly recommend investing  bottles of both Kings Ginger and Chase Marmalade Vodka. The Cherry Heering is delicious too, but I've yet to try a cocktail, made with it, that really blows me away. Perhaps I need to come up with my this space.

Have a great week, drink responsibly and please have a look round some of the other posts for more cocktail inspiration x

Friday, 3 May 2013

Skinny Cocktails

As I write this, the weather, here in the South East of England is rather fine and sunny. Now I realise that it will not be so for all of you, but by and large, days are getting longer and the sun is making more and more of a regular appearance. This, I am sure you will agree, is a good thing - even my father, who is a die hard Scot who views the southern climate with deep suspicion, can appreciate the approach of summer, but with warmer weather, comes a whole set of issues which admittedly affect the female of the species more, but bear with me. Warmer weather means less clothing and less clothing means more exposed body parts and if like me, you are wondering where that extra bit of body padding came from, then this week's post is for you, because this week, as the title suggests, we are making skinny cocktails.

To be honest, I tend not to favour the creamy cocktails anyway and generally find that the addition of simple syrup in many, can be reduced, without spoiling the flavour. In fact, in many cases, it's an improvement and I always try to use the actual fruit, squeezed or muddled, rather than concentrated juices. However, this week's selection are, in the main, especially low calorie, without resorting to artificial sweeteners, which are just horrid.

Aside from containing less sugar and therefore, less calories, another notable point, regarding skinny cocktails is that the flavour of the alcohol is not masked so greatly. The benefits of this are twofold -

1) You will not drink so quickly and therefore will probably drink less over all
2) Being able to taste the alcohol more, makes it worth investing in a decent bottle of booze (admittedly, this could be see as a negative, but I relish the opportunity to treat myself to something a bit special)

As I discovered last week, when I tested Hendricks gin, there really is a difference in the taste that makes it worth spending that bit more, especially when it comes to making cocktails where the star is really the main ingredient. This first cocktail is a prime example and if you're not too keen on gin, then it's probably not for you, but it comes straight from behind the cocktail bars of LA and if anywhere knows about skinny, it's got to be La La Land. This drink, I actually picked up from an article about Robert De Niro and how incredibly fussy he is about his drinks. Well, fair play to him, I say. If you're going to have a drink, it should be a treat and it should be exactly how you want it. That's why I tend to shy away from public houses, unless they come recommended, as I am not a fan of beer and so many establishments can't even fix a decent gin and tonic, never mind anything more adventurous. That and the fact I just don't get out much, but thankfully, I have my trusty cocktail shaker and an ever increasing arsenal of cocktail recipes to keep Mr TG and I amused.

So here you have it, from the incredibly fussy and undeniably svelte, Robert De Niro...

Gin and Cucumber Martini


1 3/4oz Hendricks gin
10 cm length of cucumber, peeled and diced

Add the cucumber to the shaker and muddle until pulped
Add the gin and a handful of crushed ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute
Strain into a chilled martini glass

Well, I have to be honest - this is not an easy drink. By that I mean, it doesn't lend itself to quaffing, in the slightest, but I did feel incredibly grown up and sophisticated whilst drinking it. Plus, your arms get a mini workout, just shaking the shaker for that long. Apparently, Mr De Niro insists that it be shaken for that long to ensure it forms 'frothy chips' - I guess that's the closest to chips you get in LA.

Next up is the slightly more calorific, but infinitely more quaffable Minty Mule. Like a Moscow Mule, but with lots of fresh mint, this cocktail uses Fever Tree ginger beer, which I discovered last week as I was making El Diablos. This ginger beer really is a superior beverage. It's sugar content is greatly reduced from that of normal ginger beer and it uses no artificial sweeteners whatsoever. However, what it lacks in sugar, it more than makes up for by packing some serious ginger. This stuff is really quite fiery, which is great as you don't need to use too much and if you make sure that there's plenty of ice in the glass, you'll use even less.

Minty Mule


2oz vodka
1oz lime juice
6 mint leaves
Fever Tree ginger beer to top up

Add everything apart from the ginger beer to a shaker and half fill with ice
Shake hard for 20 secs and strain into a tumbler, filled with crushed ice
Top up with a little Fever Tree ginger beer

I think this is absolutely delicious. There's a nice balance of sharp, sweet and spice and the mint just makes it all taste super fresh and summery.

This next cocktail is a margarita of sorts, which uses a teaspoon of agave nectar to sweeten and the juice of an orange in place of cointreau or triple sec. You can also find a recipe for a Puro Margarita in my Ay Caramba post, which won't cause you to pop any buttons either and is very zesty and fresh.

Skinny Margarita


2oz tequila resposado
1 1/2oz lime juice
1oz orange juice
1 tsp agave nectar
sea salt to rim the glass (optional)

If you wish to salt the rim of the glass, lightly rub it with a wedge of lime  and carefully pull the edge through a small pile of salt

Add the tequila, orange, agave nectar and lime to a shaker and half fill with crushed ice
Shake hard for 20 secs and strain into the prepared cocktail glass

I absolutely love this and genuinely prefer cocktails with a bit less sweetness to them anyway - I think the main lesson I'll take from this, is that a little sugar (or agave syrup) goes a long way. Most of the cocktails I have featured over the weeks, could be made with just a little agave syrup instead of so much simple syrup and some, like the Country Thyme cocktail from the Easter Cocktails blog post are already much lower in sugar. That said, it doesn't do to be too rigid about such things, but it's nice to have options.

Our final cocktail today is a Grapefruit and Basil Champagne Cocktail which includes a splash of fizz. Although the recipe does not specify which colour of fizz, I am going for pink as that is what I have in my fridge and I've been wanting to open it for ages, not least because I have some rather fabulous champagne flutes with Flamingos on that are just begging for a spot of pink fizz. Anyway, I digress....

Pink Grapefruit Basil Champagne Cocktail


1 3/4oz Hendricks gin
1oz pink grapefruit juice
2 basil leaves
1 tsp agave nectar
Splash of pink fizz

Add everything but the fizz to a shaker and top up to half way with crushed ice
Shake hard for 20-30 secs and strain into a chilled martini glass
Top up with a splash of pink fizz 

This is rather wonderful - the basil works well with the botanicals in the Hendricks and although the combination of pink fizz and grapefruit could be bitter, that little teaspoon of agave syrup just takes the edge off. I'm pretty sure that combining wine and spirits in the same glass is just asking for trouble, but seeing as I'll be sharing this one with Mr TG, we'll probably be okay....

I hope this week's post has shown that it is still possible to enjoy a delicious cocktail without piling on the pounds, although, if you insist on drinking them by the bucket load, it's probably not going to help that much. So drink responsibly and enjoy. Have a fabulous weekend x