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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

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.

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