Friday, 28 June 2013

Peacock Cocktails

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been painting peacocks; peacocks on champagne flutes, peacocks on mirrors and of course, peacocks on cocktail glasses. Peacocks have long been a great love of mine and indeed, I previously dedicated a whole post to them, so enamoured am I  of their beauty. If you would like to read that, then please click here.

However, today's post is all about the cocktails and for all three, I am using Martin Miller Gin, which, as I mentioned in my Taste of London post, is a damn fine gin. So fine in fact, that Mr TG, who has never been a great fan of the stuff, has been won round to it's fresh, clear, citrus magnificence. In celebration of it's wonderful gininess (if I say it's a word, it's a word), I have made three, great, gin cocktails and shown them off in the same Peacock glasses, but all to very different effect.

The first  cocktail is a classic Martinez, whose history is a little hazy, but is thought to be a precursor to the Martini or even a variation of it. Indeed, there are theories that it may even have been a gin version of a Manhattan. To be honest, nobody knows for sure, but most can agree that a modern Martinez will have one part gin to two parts sweet vermouth, with a little splash of maraschino liqueur or perhaps even triple sec and a dash of bitters. The addition of orange zest is often used too, although not a prerequisite and I have chosen to leave it out of the glass as there would be too much going on, with such an intricate design. However, in a plain martini glass, it does look nice against the cocktail. The Martinez is a very simple cocktail that requires good ingredients to make it shine which is why  Martin Miller Gin is perfect. I generally prefer cocktails with more citrus or berry fruit, but the sweetness from the vermouth and the maraschino, alongside the spice and the herbal notes combine with the gin's botanicals to make a complex and surprisingly quaffable drink.


2 oz Martini Rosso
1 oz Martin Miller Gin
2 dashes Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Add all of the ingredients to a bar glass or the bottom of a shaker, with some ice.
Stir the drink for 20 seconds to fully mix the cocktail and to get the correct viscosity and temperature.
Strain into a chilled martini glass

This next cocktail, the Southside has an equally hazy history, with some claiming it dates back to the Prohibition and refers to the Southside district of Chicago Illinois. Others claim it was created at the 21 Club in New York City. Recipes also vary, from serving it as a mojito style drink over ice, with bitters or as I have done, shaken up and served in a martini glass. Whatever the history and however you serve it, it's a refreshing combination of lemon, mint and gin, which makes it just about perfect in my opinion.


2 oz Martin Miller Gin
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
5-7 mint leaves

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake hard for 20 seconds and then double strain into a chilled martini glass.

Finally, we have a variation on the Pegu, a cocktail made famous by the Pegu Club in Rangoon, a colonial hangout and listed in the Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930. It is a combination of gin, cointreau, lime juice and bitters and has an almost grapefruit flavour. My version uses blue curacao in place of cointreau, which gives it a blue colour, but doesn't alter the flavour too much.  It's refreshing and perfect for these glasses I think, with it's peacock hue.



2 oz Martin Miller Gin
1/2 oz blue curcao
3/4 oz lime juice
2 dashes orange bitters

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake hard over ice, for at least 20 secs
Strain into a chilled martini glass

Remember, if there are any cocktail terms that you don't understand, they should all be explained in this post, the Dufford's Guide and if you would like to read all about the fabulousness of Peacocks, click here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Love Sonnet Cocktail

One of the lovely things about creating bespoke cocktail for people are the little glimpses you get of peoples' lives. Poppy and Chris, the recipients of the Love Sonnet cocktail,  were kind enough to give their consent to let me share the details of it with you. In order to come up with something meaningful and appropriate, you must first get a measure of who they are and in the case of this lovely pair of newlyweds, it was a delightful back story of a couple with a real love for the theatre, who met later in life and were now getting married. Their wedding was to have a theatrical theme with plenty of Shakespearean references and the bespoke cocktail was being created as lovely wedding gift from a friend.

I wanted to create something that was both a celebration of love and romance and that acknowledged their love of Shakespeare and drama. The colour red symbolises love, is full of drama and is also the colour of poppies, which tied in nicely with the bride's name. The red in the bottle comes from a dash of Creme de Cassis, but the deep red colour in the finished cocktail is from fresh strawberries which also have romantic connotations. The cocktail was to have a floral note and for this I used a little Chase Elderflower liqueur which marries well with fruit and a dash of rosewater. The rose is to signify romance and doesn't overpower the drink, just adding a little complexity to the elderflower and complimenting the hint of rose infusion in the Hendricks gin.

The miniature bottles are painted with Shakespearean quotes about love and the masks of tragedy and comedy, which were part of their wedding's theme. Poppy's bottle was also painted with two little poppies to differentiate it from the groom's. The bottles, which contain the alcoholic part of the cocktail were accompanied by a recipe and handwritten explanatory letter, telling them why I had chosen the ingredients and painted the bottles with those designs.

Luckily for us, Poppy and Chris are willing to share the recipe for their delicious, martini style cocktail, so if you would like to join in the celebration of love, the recipe is as follows:

The Love Sonnet

1 1/4 oz Hendricks Gin
3/4 oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
Dash of Creme de Cassis
1/4 oz lemon juice
3 fresh strawberries
2 drops of rosewater

Muddle the strawberries and lemon juice in the bottom of the shaker until liquid
Add the remaining ingredients and a handful of ice
Shake vigorously for 20 seconds and double strain into a chilled martini glass

If you are thinking of ordering a bespoke cocktail, either for yourself, your company or as a gift, then please take a look at these links for examples and more information.
Bespoke Cocktail Service
The Grey Fox Cocktail
The Secret Tea Society Cocktail
The Velvet Teas Cocktail

Monday, 24 June 2013

Taste of London 2013

When I was but a young thing, the idea of a festival dedicated to food and drink, seemed an insane idea. After all, who needed food when you were leaping around in a field wearing a crop top? Thankfully for us all, the crop tops have long since been consigned to the the charity shop and the concept of spending a day just eating wonderful food and drinking cocktails is idyllic.So you can imagine my delight when I managed to procure a ticket for this year's Taste of London festival which ran for four days, finishing up on the 23rd of June.

The festival is held in London's Regent Park and is host to over 40 of the capital's hottest restaurants and food and drink suppliers. There are opportunities to watch amazing demonstrations, taste an array of beautifully presented dishes and sample some of the best that our epicurean city can offer. Of course, for me, it was all about the spirits, not that I wouldn't have loved to try everything, but time was sadly limited and there's only so much a lady of my size can imbibe before incoherence overtakes and I was trying desperately hard to be professional about it all.

My first stop was at the Pinkster Gin stand to meet  these new kids on the gin block and chat to the creator of their undeniably appealing, pink gin, Stephen Marsh.  Although he has making gin for the pleasure of friends and family for years, Pinkster has only been available to the public for the last 6 weeks. However, I suspect that it's natural, pink colour which comes from the raspberries used in it's distillation will set it apart from it's peers and make it a popular choice, especially with the ladies. There are a lot of gins on the market and no doubt some purists will baulk at this young upstart, but the taste is very pleasant and it makes a terribly  pretty G&T, especially with the addition of a raspberry and a sprig of mint. Sadly, there were no bottles available to take home on the day, so you will have to wait a bit longer to find out it's cocktail making potential, but I have high hopes...

Fortified by my Pinkster G&T, I popped over to the Sipsmith stand to sample an altogether, far more traditional gin. Sipsmith are master distillers of small batch, artisanal spirits, created in their bespoke built still, (charmingly named Prudence) in Hammersmith, west London. Their reputation for making high quality products is well deserved and I was keen to sample their take on Pimms, the Sipsmith Summer Cup. It is sweet and fruity with definite flavours of early grey tea and lemon verbena. For me, I would serve it with a lot of lemon and topped up with sparkling water as it is very sweet, but the bergamot and verbena tastes are right up my street. I also sampled their well renowned gin which did not disappoint. It's a very traditional, dry gin, flavoured with 10 different botanicals, all of which the young man behind the bar was able to name, but I have forgotten. However, there was definitely citrus, juniper, coriander and cassia bark in there, but whatever; it's good. In the end, I decided to take home a bottle of their barley vodka. It's unfiltered, but smooth to drink, with a hint of peppery spice and if you are the type to sip vodka neat, then this will perform well.

Feeling just a little wobbly, I swayed over to the Martin Miller stand, just to tell them how fantastic I thought their gin was. Admittedly, I may have been slightly buoyed by the two drinks I'd had, but it was true nonetheless - Martin Miller Gin is exceptionally good. I tried an array of gins at a tasting in Amathus Soho and it was my clear favourite. The flavour is incredibly fresh and light with all the flavours you expect from a gin, just arranged in an exceptional way. Perhaps it's the Icelandic water that Martin Miller insists is used to make his gin? As he rightly points out, over 50% of gin's volume is water so it should be the best of the best and Icelandic water is probably the purest and softest there is. As I already have a bottle of their wonderful spirit, I made my excuses and moved on, but it would wrong not to mention it as a stand out star of the show.

At this point I decided it was probably wise if I had something to eat or my impartiality was likely to be somewhat impaired and sustenance was provided, beautifully presented, in a scallop shell, by Theo Randall restaurants. Admittedly, I could have done with about 8 of these, but it was such a delicious combination of flavours that I was temporarily sated.

My final port of call was over to the Chase Distillery stand, where, stomach duly lined (sort of), I was able to finally sample their delicious Rhubarb Vodka, mixed up in a Rhubarb Sour cocktail. I have to confess that since first trying their Elderflower liqueur a few months ago, I have become a bit of a 'fan girl' to the Chase brand as is probably apparent from reading through many of the cocktail entries. Anyway, it was a real pleasure to meet the Alex and James who were behind the bar, coping admirably well with the high volume of visitors and I am looking forward to visiting the distillery in Herefordshire, this summer. Mr TG and I are planning a little pilgrimage there to see just how it is all made and maybe to sample a beverage or two.... In the meantime however, I left, having weighed myself down with a bottle of Rhubarb Vodka, Marmalade Vodka and their Extra Dry Gin.

So, on to the cocktails. What did I make with my fantastic array of delicious new spirits. Well, let's start with the Martin Miller Gin which, although I bought the previous week, I hadn't actually used to make any cocktails having been side tracked by bourbon (click here for Bourbon post). The cocktail I have made is a take on the modern classic, Bramble cocktail, given a raspberry twist and shaken up rather than stirred.

Raspberry Tumble

2 oz Martin Miller Gin
3 fresh raspberries
1/2 oz creme de framboises
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup

Muddle the raspberries in the bottom of a shaker before adding all of the other ingredients.
Add a handful of ice and shake vigorously for 20 secs.
Strain into an ice filled rocks glass (double strain if you don't want any raspberry pips)

This next cocktail I created to give a fresh, green flavour that would work with the spicy finish on the Sipsmith barley vodka.. Mr TG did question the pizza topping garnish, but was agreeably receptive to the flavour of the drink.

Lime and Basil Fizz

2 oz Sipsmith vodka
8 small basil leaves
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup
1 egg white
sparkling water

Muddle the basil leaves and lime juice together in the bottom of the shaker.
Add the vodka, sugar syrup and egg white and dry shake for 20 secs
Add ice and dry shake for another 20 secs then double strain into a chilled tumbler or highball.
Top up with a little sparkling water.

This next cocktail uses Chase Rhubarb Vodka in a martini style drink that is perfect for summer, combining the quintessentially British flavours of rhubarb and strawberry with a dash of bitters and lemon juice to cut through the sweetness and give a little more complexity to the drink.

Chase Summer Martini

2 oz Chase Rhubarb Vodka
2 fresh strawberries
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Dash of Orange bitters

Muddle the strawberries in the bottom of a shaker and add the remaining ingredients with a handful of ice.
Shake vigorously for 20 seconds until the outside of the shaker is frosted and double strain into a chilled martini glass.

Our final cocktail for today uses the magnificent Chase Marmalade Vodka. Regular followers will know that I love this stuff and have used it previously to create the King's Marmalade cocktail, a delicious combination of King's Ginger, Chase Marmalade vodka and citrus (get the recipe here). This time I wanted to create something totally different and combined the vodka with sweet vermouth to highlight the bitter orange flavour of the marmalde and take away some of the sweetness. I thought Mr TG would hate this as he is not keen on vermouth, but once again he surprised me by being actually rather positive. This is a great summer drink for enjoying outdoors in the sunshine, should we actually get the chance.

Wake Up Call

2 oz Chase Marmalade Vodka
1 oz Martini Rosso
3 dashes orange bitters
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Sparkling water

Add all of the ingredients apart from the sparkling water, to a cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake hard for 20 secs and strain into an ice filled tumbler or highball.
Top up with a little sparkling water

If you didn't get the chance to visit Taste of London 2013 this year then I highly recommend you try and make it along for next year. I will definitely be going and this time I'll make sure I don't have to rush home! Luckily, I can create a little Taste of London at home with my fabulous haul from the show. If you would like to get hold of any of the spirits I've mentioned, you can do so at Amathus Drinks or other, similar purveyors of fine wines and spirits. If you are confused by any of the terms used in the cocktail recipes, there are explanations provided here.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Kentucky Fried....

Don't worry, there's nothing chicken based about this post and my lifetime achievement of never setting foot in a fried chicken outlet, still stands. No, the 'Kentucky' I am referring to, is of course, bourbon and the 'fried', well, that's how I'm feeling now after sampling the delights of this week's spirited rye, Buffalo Trace.

I had the pleasure of taking tea in London at the weekend with my new companions from the Secret Tea Society, whom you might remember from an earlier post in which I detailed the rather delicious cocktail I created for them (click here for details). Anyway, whilst in the vicinity, I took the opportunity to pop in to the Soho branch of Amathus Drinks where the immensely helpful staff were able to assist me with a number of requests, including, a bottle of bourbon.

My knowledge of bourbon is limited to a brief period in my early twenties, when I made it my sole mission to  try just about every drink behind the bar. Along with the better known Jack Daniels and Jim Beam were the amusingly named Sheep Dip, Wild Turkey and Knob Creek. However, I have latterly, tended towards the clear spirits and although I have dipped a toe (metaphorically) into scotch, bourbon has remained a bit of an enigma. Thankfully, the resident cocktail expert at Amathus was able to point me in the right direction and impart some of his considerable knowledge. I now know that bourbon falls into two main categories - those that are made with rye, like Buffalo Trace and those that are made with wheat. Wheaty bourbon has a smoother, creamier finish and rye gives a bit more spice to the flavour. As I was looking to make cocktails, in particular, a Manhattan, he suggested I go for a rye as the spicy finish married well with the sweet vermouth and bitters.

I have consequently discovered that in actual fact, to qualify as a bourbon, at least 51% of the grain content must come from corn and in the case of Buffalo Trace, it is distilled from a mixture of corn, barley and rye. The clear distillation is matured in oak barrels for 8 years, in which time, it takes on some of the colour and the flavour of the oak. The makers say that it has a rich and complex flavour with hints of vanilla, toffee and candied fruit and I agree that there is a sweetness to it, which in my opinion, is reminiscent of glace cherry and yes, a bit of vanilla and spice too.

So, armed with my spicy bourbon, a bottle of sweet vermouth and some Peychaud's bitters, I made my first Manhattan. I used the 70's classic, Martini Rosso as my vermouth and yes, I know it's not very cool, but it's a good all rounder I feel and was more than up to the job. Peychaud's were the bitters, originally used in the Manhattan and although Angostura are more commonly used these days, I wanted to keep as close to the original recipe as possible. That said, I did go for a wetter version of the drink (more vermouth) as I thought it could be a tough swallow on an uninitiated palate. In the end, I went for a full ounce of vermouth as oppose to half and for me, it was definitely the right choice. Finally, I garnished the drink with a frozen fresh cherry, rather than a cocktail cherry, which is the norm, if one is including a garnish. My reasons were two fold - one, I'm not overly keen on maraschino and two, I didn't actually have any...oops. Anyway, the addition of the frozen cherry turned out to be a bit of ripping wheeze after all as it helped to keep the drink cold and actually, the slight infusion of cherry juice at the bottom of the glass was delicious and dare I say it, my favourite part of the drink. Overall, I really enjoyed the complex flavour of this cocktail; the slight bittersweet of the vermouth, the spice of the bourbon and Peychauds - there's a lot going on in every sip so that the complexity of flavour seems in disproportion to the amount of ingredients.


2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon
1 ounce Martini Rosso (sweet vermouth)
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
Cocktail cherry (or frozen cherry) to garnish

Pour the bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters into a large highball or the bottom of a shaker, with plenty of ice.
Stir well with a barspoon, for about twenty seconds to get the right temperature and viscosity and then strain into a martin glass
Garnish with a cherry if desired.

Following on from the Manhattan, I decided to make an admittedly, more complex cocktail, that built on the flavours I had identified and enjoyed, namely cherry and hint of orange that I discerned from the vermouth. I didn't want to totally overwhelm the bourbon, but at the same time, I wanted to make something a little easier for a novice like me to drink. The result was pretty delicious and still very much a bourbon flavour.

Kentucky Cherry

1 1/2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/2 ounce Cherry Heering
1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
Frozen cherry to garnish

Add all of the ingredients apart from the frozen cherry, to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds.
Strain into a chilled martin glass and garnish, if desired.

My final cocktail, before the Kentucky spirit got the better of me, was always going to work for me as I am such a big fan of King's Ginger. It's spice and warmth seem to work with just about everything, although I haven't tried it with rum yet... Anyway, pairing it with a spicy bourbon was a no brainer and adding to that, the classic sour mix of lemon and just a little syrup, as the King's Ginger is already sweet, made for a highly quaffable drink.

Ginger Bourbon Sour

1ounce King's Ginger
1ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Barspoon of simple syrup

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds.
Strain into rocks glass filled with crushed ice

On refection, I think my favourite drink of the day was the Kentucky Cherry as it retained the essential bourbon flavour and had a level of complexity that made it interesting, but was just more enjoyable to drink than the Manhattan - purists forgive me - I am trying ....

If you are in any way confused by any of the terms used in this post, then please take a look at the Dufford's Guide post which seeks to demystify some of the jargon.

And finally, if you are ever in London, I can't recommend enough, that you take a trip to Amathus City or Amathus Soho where the staff are so helpful, so knowledgeable and really make it a very pleasant, buying experience - and no, they're not paying me to say that... x

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Velvet Teas Cocktail

Following on from the success of the The Secret Tea Society Cocktail (click here for details) , my involvement with the wonderful world of tea has carried on apace and I was recently commissioned to create a bespoke cocktail for a lovely company, based in Bath who create vintage style tea party events.

Velvet Teas is run by the delightful Emma Reynolds and was born of a love of fine china, beautiful linens and the exquisite pleasure of wonderfully sumptuous afternoon tea. Her tea party events already boast a selection of delicious sounding menus and Velvet Teas work with clients to provide the perfect tea party experience for any occasion. However, Emma felt that a bespoke cocktail would be a perfect addition to the  Velvet Teas menu and would enrich the whole experience for her ladies.

The criteria this cocktail had to fulfil were manifold.
First and foremost, it had to have universal appeal. As Emma's clients are almost exclusively female, this meant finding something with mass, feminine appeal.
Next, it had to be easy to prepare as events are very busy and nobody wants to wait half an hour for a drink to be ready. For this reason, it was decided that it should be a cocktail that could be made in a pitcher so that large groups could all order it without sending the catering into meltdown!
Despite being a pitcher based drink, it still had to be served in a coupe style glass which meant it couldn't be served over ice, like a highball.
It was also important to create a cocktail that went well with cake, so it had to be sweet without being sickly. Finally, and crucially, it had to be purple, so as to make it relevant to the Velvet Teas brand.

Many purple cocktails later, the Raspberry Velvet Tease was created. It's a fruity and fresh blend of Gin, creme de framboises, cranberry and lemon with the addition of blue curacao to give it the desired, purple hue. The recipe can be adapted to make a martini style cocktail, a highball or a pitcher, which is perfect if you are thinking of having a party.

As with all the Bespoke Cocktails I create, the final recipe is accompanied by a hand painted miniature bottle with the alcoholic part of the cocktail, a recipe sheet and a hand written letter to fully explain the thinking behind the choices.

In the case of Velvet Teas, I also hand painted a large pitcher that will be used for serving the Raspberry Velvet Tease cocktail at their tea party events. If you would like to find out more about Velvet Teas and the wonderful events they can provide, then please click here to go their website.

Raspberry Velvet Tease

Pitcher Method

1 part gin
1/2 part creme de framboises
1/2 part blue curacao
1/2 part lemon juice
1 part cranberry juice
1 part sparkling water
lots of ice

Add all of the ingredients apart from the sparkling water, to a large pitcher, with ice.
Use a long handled spoon to stir the ingredients well, for about 20 seconds - it is important to get the drink as cold and as well mixed as possible.
Add the sparkling water and give another short stir to mix - not too vigorous this time or you will lose the fizz.
Strain the cocktail into martini style glasses to avoid including any ice.
Garnish with a fresh raspberry.

Bespoke Cocktail Service - hand painted pitcher

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Cocktailing Terms - The Dufford's Guide

My love for cocktails was ignited at an early age by the spectacle of a Mai Tai arriving at the table, amid great pomp and ceremony, fizzing sparklers and virtually obscured by a troupe of plastic monkeys hanging from the parasols and pineapple that adorned the enormous glass. By the end of the 80's, I had a spent a summer in Corfu, shaking up Grasshoppers, pouring Long Island Iced Teas and mastering the art of layering a B52. 

The 90's marked a big change in the fashion for cocktails. They never went away, but tastes changed. Martini style cocktails like the Cosmopolitan took over from creamy Piña Coladas and flavoured vodkas were big news. Cocktail making is enjoying a renaissance, emerging from the wilderness years of parasols, sparklers and plastic monkeys and into a new era of exotic spices, flame grilled fruit and fresh flowers. Some recipes are incredibly complex, with rare ingredients that are tricky to source, but equally, there is a retrospective move to the simple cocktails of yesteryear. Iconic characters such as James Bond and laterally, Don Draper, have ensured that straightforward drinks, well made, will always have a certain kudos. Basically, there's a level of cocktail making for all abilities and pretty much anything goes - just don't put a parasol in it...

It can be a little overwhelming when recipes use an array of unusual terms, but don't be put off. This post hopes to outline some of the most common terms that crop up and give their meanings as well as giving the lowdown on the equipment you really need to get started. It is not absolute and is not intended for aficionados, but for those who fancy dabbling with a bit of mixology and don't know their muddling stick from their jigger.

Cocktailing Terms

Bar Spoon
A bar spoon is just a long handled, small bowled spoon similar to a sundae spoon, used for stirring drinks and 'floating' alcohol. 

Cocktail recipes often call for the addition of bitters, which come in an array of flavours, the most recognisable being Angostura. Think of bitters as the final touch of seasoning to your recipe. Without them, your drink will probably still taste fine, but they can add an extra layer and little more complexity to the outcome. When a recipe calls for bitters, a dash simply means a gentle shake of the bottle, although each brand has it's own kind of pourer so what comes out can vary. When in doubt, go easy, although by all means, experiment to find what suits you. I'll be looking at bitters in more depth in a future post

 Cocktail Shaker
You can make cocktails without a shaker and not all require it, but frankly, it makes life so much easier and it's all part of the fun of creating them at home. There are many different styles out there, but in the main, they fall into two categories. There are what's known as the Boston Shakers - a metal beaker with a glass beaker that fit together and the more common style with a fitted lid and often with an integrated strainer. If you are a beginner, I recommend you avoid the Boston Shaker. It's a lot trickier to handle and one slip means you've got a sticky floor and a big dry cleaning bill. It is great for professional bar tenders as it's quicker to come apart and easy to clean, but for the majority of us, a secure lid and an inbuilt strainer are far more useful. That said, never assume that the lid of you shaker is totally secure. Always keep your hand over the top whilst shaking and use a cloth to stop your hand freezing to the outside of the shaker.

A Collins cocktail is traditionally made with a lot of gin, the juice of a lemon, sugar syrup and topped up with soda, over ice, in a large bar glass. A 'Collins' glass therefore, generally refers to a large tumbler.

Cordials are generally non alcoholic, sweet drinks made from fruits, herbs or berries (although not exclusively) that are used to flavour and sweeten drinks

In cocktail terms, creme does not mean cream, but refers to  a group of drinks that are similar to liqueurs but with a very high, natural fruit or floral content, giving them an intense and more natural flavour. Probably the most well known is Creme de Cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur used in a Kir Royal, but there are many, many more, including Creme de Framboise and Creme de Violette.

A basic daiquiri is rum, lime juice and a little simple syrup, shaken over crushed ice and served in a stemmed glass, like a martini or margarita. Variations on the original involve adding fruit to the basic recipe, such as Banana Daiquiri and Strawberry Daiquiri.

Double Strain
Sometimes it is necessary to strain a cocktail twice to ensure a clear liquid without fruit pips or particles of mint leaf. For example, the Southside cocktail should have a greenish hue as it uses a lot of mint, but there should be no pieces of mint floating in it and so it has to be double strained. If you are using a cocktail shaker with an integral shaker, just pour straight from that, through another strainer, into the glass

Dry Shake
When a cocktail recipe asks that you 'dry shake' the ingredients, it simply means to shake them without ice in the shaker. This method can be used for cocktails that contain egg white, as a way of frothing it, without having to use a whisk.

If a recipe calls for alcohol to be 'floated', it means layered on top of the drink below to keep the two separate. This is done by pouring carefully over the back of a spoon, in the same way that you would float cream on a coffee.

The term frozen is used to refer to cocktails made with ice in a blender, resulting in a kind of alcoholic slushy. Frozen margaritas and daiquiris are the most common.

Hawthorn Strainer
A Hawthorn strainer refers to a particular style of strainer used in bar tending that has a spring around the edge that allows it to fit inside the rim of the glass, stopping ice etc from slipping in. The spring like edge has the added bonus of working as a whisk which can be useful. Some cocktails call for the inclusion of egg white to provide texture and one method is to whisk it in the shaker before adding the other ingredients. In the main though, a strainer is not required if you are using a shaker with an integral one, but occasionally recipes call for the cocktail to be double strained.

A highball is a drink with ice and mixer, served in a tall, straight sided glass, referred to as a 'highball' glass

An infusion is when one ingredient or more, is added to a liquid, just as a tea bag is added to water, to allow the flavour to be imparted. Alcohol can be infused with all manner of flavours, quite easily, by adding ingredients and storing in an airtight container. The longer you leave the alcohol to infuse, the stronger the flavour, but generally, a week is a good marker for getting a noticeable result. Take a look at my posts about Vanilla Vodka and Cherry Vodka to get an idea. Tea, is a notable exception in that it should be left no longer than an hour or so as the flavour become bitter and woody.

I cannot stress enough, the importance of ice and preferably quite a lot of it. Most cocktails will require ice to some extent, both for shaking and serving, so a freezer with enough space for a lot of ice trays is a must. American style fridge freezers with ice makers are ideal. Crushed ice is a bonus, but rarely an absolute requirement. However, if you decide you prefer it and you don't have an ice maker with a crushed ice setting, then you can buy table top ice crushers that allow you to grind the ice as you need it. I'll be taking a look at the best of those in a future post.

A jigger is a measuring cup used to measure out quantities for drinks. Often a jigger will be double sided, giving one measure on one side and two on the other. You can buy stainless steel jiggers quite cheaply, but it is not entirely necessary as long as you have some of measure. Confusingly, a jigger is also a unit of measure, meaning about an ounce and a half. i say confusingly, because a jigger cup will not necessarily be an ounce and a half. Personally, I use a 1 oz shot glass as I have plenty to hand, but the important thing is to use a measure. When you alter the ratio of ingredients, you alter the result dramatically which is great if you want to experiment, but not if you are trying to recreate a recipe. Also, even if you are just experimenting, it makes sense to keep a close eye on what goes in so that successes can be reproduced.

A Julep is a type of cocktail, traditionally using bourbon or rye whisky, served over a lot of crushed ice, sweetened with sugar syrup and garnished with mint. It is served in a 'julep' tin which is traditional style metal beaker.

Like cordials, liqueurs are generally made from fruit, herbs or berries with sugar, but steeped in alcohol and with alcohol content of between 15 and 40%, tending towards the lower end of the scale.

A lowball is a drink with ice and a mixer, served in a short glass or tumbler, often referred to as a 'rocks' glass.

A traditional Margarita is a cocktail made with tequila, triple sec, lime juice and salt on the rim of the glass, but there are so many variations that it has become a style of cocktail in it's own right. It is traditionally served in a margarita glass, a variation of a champagne coupe.

A traditional martini is just gin and vermouth shaken over ice with a twist of lemon, but the term martini is now used to refer to all manner of gin and vodka cocktails that are shaken over ice and served in long stemmed martini glass. This style of glass is used to stop the drink from becoming warm due to transfer of heat from the hand as it is not served over ice

Muddle Stick
'Muddling' is a term often used in cocktail making and it basically just means, squishing to release flavour. For instance, in a Mojito, the mint and the lime are muddled together to release the oils from the mint and the juice from the lime. A muddling stick is not a necessity, as generally, you'll be able to find something in the kitchen that will suffice, but they aren't terribly expensive either and it is handy to have the right tools for the job. Generally, a muddling stick will look a bit like a mini truncheon, smooth and rounded at the end although I have also seen them with knobbly ends, which could be useful, but more annoying to clean. I'll be taking a look at a selection in a future post.

A pony is a unit of measurement equal to 1 fluid oz.

Rocks just means ice and a 'rocks' glass is a low tumbler with room enough for ice

Simple Syrup
Lots of cocktails call for the addition of simple syrup which is pure cane sugar syrup that is very easy to make using sugar and water, but it is even easier to buy and possibly cheaper too. Many large supermarkets now stock it in the drinks section. Alternatively, follow my recipe for Lavender syrup by clicking here and just leave out the lavender.

Great Shakes!

One of the most useful things I have ever purchased, is my cocktail shaker, which probably says too much about me! That said, if you are in any way, a budding mixologist, I recommend you get yourself one. It is possible to make cocktails without using a shaker, but why make life difficult? A cocktail shaker needn't be vastly expensive. Indeed every major store from Tesco to Argos is stocking them. Cocktail making needn't elitist, but this would be a rather boring post if I just showed you the best that the superstores have to offer. Instead, I am showing you the cocktail shakers that I would like to have if I didn't have lots of other things I ought to be spending money on, like children etc..

This first shaker is the one I actually have. I bought it a while ago and it is serving me well. It has an integral strainer and polishes up easily after cleaning. It's not too expensive and is on sale at the moment for about half what I paid for it!

Okay, so this next one does look a bit like something from a Coco de Mer catalogue, but it is a rather lovely simple, design.

Nothing fancy, but a nice big lid with large strainer.

This next one is made by Royal Doulton in brushed stainless steel and has a cheeky shock of bright pink on the lid.

This next shaker comes from a website called Urban Bar, who stock pretty much everything you need to set up your own, stylish home bar.

This next one comes from Alessi and is produced under licence from an original Bauhaus design. I have no idea how well it works, but I couldn't resist the unusual shape.

This classic shaker would make a great gift for a budding mixologist. 

Like the news, ending on a jovial note, this piece of whimsy made me smile. It's available from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and can be shipped, if you don't mind the cost and is designed to look just like a can of spray paint!

Friday, 7 June 2013


As summer approaches and we rush headlong into wedding season, more than a few glasses of Champagne will be raised, despite the country being in the throes of a double dip recession. In fact, we in Britain can't get enough of the stuff and are right up there as one of the world's biggest consumers, second only to France. Even in the midst of a global recession, we continue to quaff it in vast amounts, although admittedly, the market has seen a downturn over the last three years and this year, for the first time, sales of alternative, sparkling fizz will exceed those of Champagne. Of course, this is largely due to cost, Champagne generally being the more expensive option, but it can't be denied that some of the pretenders to the title of 'King of Wines', have a pretty good claim. I myself am no stranger to the charms of Champagne, but in all honesty, when it comes to taste, I prefer a Prosecco, providing it isn't too sweet. The crisp apple and peach notes of the Italian interloper are, in my opinion, far more palatable and don't dry the mouth to leave a sour taste. That said, nothing quite says it like a bottle of Champers!

Funnily enough, the one thing (well, other than the hefty price tag) that makes Champagne instantly recognisable, is its effervescence - after all, surely without the bubbles, it is just a very dry wine - but did you know that Champagne was originally a still wine? In fact, Dom Pierre Perignon, widely recognised as the mac daddy of Champagne, actively sought to eliminate the troublesome bubbles from his fine wine. Apparently the wine of the Champagne region was bottled in autumn, but by spring, the warmer temperatures could bring about a secondary fermentation process that caused bubbles to form in the wine. Rather than be appreciated, this 'mousse' was considered a fault and could actually prove to be a costly, even dangerous error, when the bottles sometimes exploded. Pierre Perignon, during his lifetime, was fastidious in his methodology for ridding his wine of bubbles, but luckily for us his faulty brew grew in popularity and with celebrity endorsements from the French nobility in the 18th century, it became associated with wealth and luxury.

When it comes to drinking Champagne or any other sparkling wine, it really is worth choosing your glass carefully. Why fork out so much money on a bottle of fizz that will be finished before the night is out, only to lessen the enjoyment by using an unsuitable glass? Champagne glasses traditionally come in two styles; the flute and the saucer.

The Champagne saucer or 'coupe' as it is called in France, has an open, flattened bowl which, legend has it, was modelled on the breasts of Marie Antoinette.

Amusing as this is, sadly, it is unlikely to be true. Marie Antoinette may week have been possessed of perky, round breasts, but the glass style had been in existence long before her lady bumps ever were. The Champagne coupe was the glass of choice in the 1930's and continued to be so, up until the 1960's, perhaps because it actually held a large amount of liquid, adding to the already decadent image of the drink. However, the wide surface area of the open style saucer allows the bubbles to dissipate at a rapid rate, leaving the drinker with a glass of fizzless fizz, which is no fun at all.

The Champagne flute is widely recognised as the superior design when it comes to enjoying your bubbly, but within this category, there are numerous variations on the theme. One of my personal favourites from a painting perspective, is the hollow stemmed Trumpet flute as it provides a really attractive shape for my designs. However, I have stopped using them as unfortunately, the hollow stem means that the heat of one's hand is transferred to the liquid, warming the Champagne within.

The style that best enhances the enjoyment of the drink is a solid stemmed glass with an elongated bowl with a smaller opening (unsurprisingly, no-one ever laid claim to it being modelled on their breasts).The smaller the surface area exposed to the air, the less effervescence and aroma you will lose. The longer bowl will allow the bubbles to travel upwards which is both visually pleasing and delivers the aroma to the nose, enhancing the taste.

So what will you be drinking this summer - Champagne, Cava, Asti or Prosecco? Whichever you choose, there's nothing quite like that moment when you first pop the cork. A bit of fizz always gets the party started. And if that's not enough for you on it's own, then why not try a Champagne Cocktail or two!
Click here to go to Champagne Cocktails.

Champagne Cocktails

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to hear that I am partial to a glass of bubbly (as demonstated in my Champagne post) and even more partial to a 'champagne' cocktail - I use the term 'champagne', loosely, as actually, this week's cocktails were all made with a decent bottle of Cava. In my opinion, there is nothing much to be gained from using actual Champagne in cocktails as a nice Cava or Prosecco will do the job just fine, but make sure that your chosen fizz is suitably dry as most Champagne cocktails tend to sweeten the bubbles anyway.

This first cocktail is a variation of my favourite Chase Elderflower liqueur, topped up with Champagne - you can see the original recipe in my Mother's Day Cocktails post. In this version I added a raspberry which I allowed to macerate in the  liqueur for about 3 hours until it took on a pinkish tinge, but still remained intact. The subtle raspberry flavour added another layer to the cocktail and the raspberry itself was a delicious sweet treat at the bottom of the glass.

Raspberry and Elderflower Champagne Cocktail

3/4 oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
1 raspberry
Champagne or Fizz to top up

Pour the liqueur into a champagne flute and pop the raspberry in the bottom of the glass
Cover the top of the glass and leave to macerate for upwards of 3 hours (if you can wait)
Top up with Fizz and stir gently to ensure the liqueur doesn't just sit at the bottom

This next cocktail is a classic and to really enjoy it, you should use a fresh ripe peach and make the peach puree, fresh, but at a push, bottled will do.

Bellini Cocktail

Peach Puree
Champagne or Fizz

To make peach puree, you must first score the skin of the peach and blanch in boiling water for about 20 secs, then remove with a slotted spoon and immediately run under very cold water
The skin of the peach should now peel off fairly simply, starting at the score marks
Cut the peach in half and remove the stone
Using the back of a spoon or a pestle, squish the flesh of the peach through a small sieve and collect the puree in a bowl underneath

The quantities for a Bellini are approximately 1/3 peach puree to 2/3 fizz, so 1 peach should be just about right to make 1 Bellini

Pour the peach puree into the bottom of a champagne flute and carefully top up with fizz, adding just a little at a time to avoid it fizzing over the top

You may have heard me sing the praise of Honey and Ginger Syrup before. It is delicious and fiery addition to cocktails, baked apples and salmon and now I have discovered that it is rather fantastic in Champagne too!

Queen Bee

3/4 oz honey ginger syrup
Champagne or fizz to top up

Pour the syrup in first and top up with fizz
Give a gentle stir to ensure the liqueur and fizz are properly mixed

I think this next cocktail was possibly my favourite of them all. I took a classic gin cocktail, the Southside, and added champagne. It's fresh, it's quaffable and probably very dangerous as it's not short on alcohol, but hey, just one won't hurt....

King of the Southside

2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
5-7 mint leaves

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well
Double strain to remove any traces of mint leaf, into a champagne flute
Top up with fixx and stir gently to mix

This final cocktail is also a take on a classic and for me, taste all the better for it. I really wanted to love the Aviation when I made it for my Gin Cocktails post. It seemed to sum up that wonderful era of Aviation, a true classic, but in truth, it wasn't a favourite. I loved the idea of it more than I loved the actual drink This version, for me, is far more palatable and although the alcohol content is actually more, it tastes far less innocuous - again, quite dangerous...

Night Flight

2 oz gin
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz creme de violette
1/2 oz lemon juice
Fizz to top up
1 raspberry to decorate

Add all of the ingredients, bar the fizz, to a shaker with ice and shake well
Strain into a champagne flute and top up with fizz
Stir gently to mix the drink

Well this was how Mr TG and I spent our evening, last Saturday and very pleasant it was too. What's more, there was not a trace of a hangover the next day which is nothing short of miraculous. Please don't sue if you aren't quite so lucky. Have a wonderful week and pop back soon to see what's new x

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Secret Tea Society Cocktail

I have recently had the pleasure and the privilege of creating a cocktail for the Secret Tea Society; an ever increasing  group of smart, tea drinking ladies from London, Surrey, Bath and Yorkshire, united in a love of good conversation and of course, tea. As a proud member of the Secret Tea Society myself, it was of course in my own interest, to create a cocktail that reflected the very essence of what the Society is all about, that could be enjoyed by the ladies during those times when a cup of tea won't quite suffice.

Our glorious leader and grande dame of the Secret Tea Society was kind enough to fill in the questionnaire for my Bespoke Cocktail Service which asks a number of questions, pertaining to flavour preferences, as well as finding out a little more about the intended recipient. Having established preferences for gin, rose, mint and lime, it was a matter of finding a way to best combine those flavours whilst making it pertinent to the Secret Tea Society. Of course, it was only right and proper to include tea and so the main ingredient of the cocktail is Rose Tea Infused Gin and it's name is Rosy Lee.

If you would like to make this cocktail at home, you will need to first, infuse a good gin with rose tea. I recommend using one that is just rose flavoured, as oppose to one mixed with fruit as well. I used Twinings Rose Garden teabags which are available from Selfridges, Waitrose and Tesco. You can also use loose tea and strain the gin into a cup or glass when it is ready. Use one teabag or teaspoon of loose tea, per 2 oz of gin. Add your teabag or loose tea to the gin and allow to infuse for 1 hr, then remove the tea and set the infused gin aside, for later.

The Secret Tea Society Cocktail

Rosy Lee


2 oz rose tea infused gin
2 drops of rosewater
5 leaves of mint
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
A little sparkling water

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle (squish) the mint, lime juice and simple syrup to release the oils from the mint.
Add the rose tea infused gin and rosewater
Shake vigorously and double strain into a highball glass, filled with ice
Top up with sparkling water