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

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