Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Dark Side of the Cocktail Cabinet

Since having children, Hallow'een takes on a very different light, possibly more terrifying than I could ever have imagined. Gone are the quandaries as to which party I should attend and whether or not I should go, 'sexy witch' or 'slutty vampire' and instead, it becomes an evening of cursing every time the door knocker sounds, interrupting my busy sofa surfing schedule with a parade of stunted grotesques, demanding sweets. I am ashamed to admit that despite my children's pleas, I refuse to decorate the doorway or furnish the front step with a pumpkin, lest it should lend further encouragement to  the little blighters to come begging for confectionary. I have noticed that some enlightened recluses actually leave a bucket of sweets outside the door, thus avoiding the awkward shuffling on the doorstep, accompanied by unintelligible mumbling through a (fake) bloodstained, skeleton mask. I am tempted to adopt this approach myself, except that my boys are quite concerned that there would be no sweets left for them....

To mark the spookiness of the occasion (and to ease the pain of social interaction with minors), Mr TG and I will be taking a trip to the dark side of the cocktail cabinet and drinking a couple of bourbon cocktails that look suitably gothic, without veering into parody. Both are drinks I had been meaning to try for some time, having come across them whilst researching material for previous posts and although I do like create my own cocktails a lot of the time, sometimes it is nice to try out what's hot right now.

'Hot' is definitely an appropriate description for our first cocktail, the spookily monikered, 'Satan's Circus', which contains a thai red birdseye chilli infusion that certainly awakens the senses. The original drink was created at the NoMad Hotel in New York and named after the area which was known as 'Satan's Circus' in the 19th Century due to the profusion of brothels and speakeasies that sprang up there. According to Bar Manager, Leo Robitschek, the cocktail was created as a homage to that history and certainly, there is an air of danger to the drink.

I have replicated the recipe as best I can, but the original does call for Aperol rather than Campari, so if you have some, do use that instead. However, I think it's an equally marvellous drink with Campari and Campari does tend to be easier to get hold of. Both Campari and Aperol are Bitters and taste fairly similar, although Campari is higher in alcohol content and not quite so sweet. The most obvious difference to most, however, is in their colour; Aperol is an intense orangey red and Campari, a bright ruby.

The only preparation needed for this cocktail, is to infuse the Campari/Aperol with the thai birdseye chilli, which is simple enough to do.

Chilli Infused Campari

6 oz Campari
1 red thai birdseye chilli

Slice the chilli lengthways and pop it in the Campari with the stalk still on.
Leave to infuse for 1 hour and then remove the chilli.
Strain to remove any seeds and store in a sealed container indefinitely.

Satan's Circus

2 oz rye bourbon (I used Buffalo Chase)
3/4 oz chilli infused Campari
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake hard until the outside of the shaker frosts over.
Strain into a chilled martini glass.

This next drink also hails from New York and is an unusual, but rather wonderful take on a Whisky Sour. The idea of combining wine and spirits in cocktails is very popular in cool bars, but actually, this drink dates back to the 1870's when there was a trend for creating drinks with a 'claret snap'. Although claret refers to a particular type of wine nowadays, back then, it could be used to mean any type of red wine. The best wine to use for this drink is something rich and fruity like a Shiraz or Malbec and I have used one of my favourites, Yellow Tail Shiraz, which is so fruity and chocolately, it's hard to stop at just one glass. The idea is to float the red wine on the top of the drink so that it sits in two distinct layers, but I recommend that once you have admired your skill at cocktail creation, take a swizzle stick and give it a mix, as it tastes even better that way.

New York Sour

2 oz rye or bourbon whiskey (I used Buffalo Chase)
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Shiraz or Malbec red wine

Add the bourbon, lemon and syrup to a shaker with ice and shake hard for 30 secs.
Strain into a tumbler filled with ice and carefully pour the red wine over the back of a spoon so that it floats on the surface in a separate layer. 

If you would like to try something suitably spooky looking this Hallow'een, I can highly recommend you try the 'Ruby in the Weiss' cocktail from my Beer Cocktail post, but to give a special eerie twist, use blue curaçao instead of triple sec. This will taste equally delicious, but the colour will turn from deep ruby to almost black.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Bloom Gin

I've had my eye on the delightfully presented Bloom Gin for quite some time now; ever since it was recommended to me by my favourite purveyors of fine spirits and liqueurs at Amathus City. I was intrigued by it's list of botanicals that include, alongside the essential juniper; sweet honeysuckle, pomelo and chamomile. I was promised a delicate gin that sounded perfect for making the kind of floral and fresh cocktails that I love.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a big, punchy gin as much as the next ginthusiast, but variety really is the spice of life and there's always room in the cocktail cabinet for another juniper based spirit and they really do vary. The only hard and fast rule, to which distillers must adhere when producing gin, is that the predominant flavour should be juniper, but otherwise, the options are infinite. The base spirit is generally a clear, grain spirit (vodka), but even that, needn't be the case, as Chase Distillers have proved, by producing a number of gins using apples from their orchards in Hereford. When it comes to botanicals, gin producers can get creative and no two brands will taste the same. Hendricks, for instance, uses a rose and cucumber infusion, Gin Mare is flavoured with olive and Blackwoods lists water mint and wild violet among it's ingredients, all of which give each gin their own, unique flavour.

Back to Bloom, our light and delicately flavoured gin. As you would expect, it's subtle on the nose; predominantly juniper with floral notes. The flavour is similarly understated and pleasantly sweet on the palate, without losing it's essential gin-iness. The pomelo makes for a softer citrus flavour than usual which is beautifully balanced by the unobtrusive hints of chamomile and sweet honeysuckle. All in all, I think it's rather lovely and would highly recommend it, but do pick and choose your cocktails carefully. The combining elements in some other cocktails could overwhelm such a delicate flower and that would be a shame. You need to make drinks that play up to it's floral delicacy rather than obscure it. There are a number of delicious sounding cocktails on their website that you should definitely have a look at and I have created a few here that I am particularly pleased with. So, without further ado...

I named this cocktail 'Forbidden Fruit' because pink grapefruit, (which is a hybrid of pomelo and sweet orange) when first discovered in Barbados, was given that name. Having a very similar taste profile to pomelo, pink grapefruit is good choice to bring out the best of Bloom gin. It's sweeter than ordinary grapefruit and of course, it's a wonderful colour. I find that basil and pink grapefruit work remarkably well together, but basil is a powerful herb, so less is most definitely more in this case.

Forbidden Fruit

2 oz Bloom Gin
1 large basil leaf
2 oz freshly squeezed pink grapefruit
1 tsp agave syrup
Pink Grapefruit zest and basil to garnish

Before cutting the pink grapefruit to squeeze it, first pare off a long strip of zest, ensuring to leave as much of the pith behind as is possible and set aside for garnishing the cocktail at the end.
Add the gin, basil and pink grapefruit to a cocktail shaker and muddle gently to release the aroma from the basil.
Remove the basil leave and discard before adding the agave syrup and a handful of ice.
Shake hard until the outside of the shaker is completely frosted and then double strain into a chilled martini glass.
Before  garnishing, twist the zest over the drink to release a micro fine spray of citrus oil and gently slap the basil between your palms to allow the aroma of the herb to escape.

This next cocktail makes me think of warm, mediterranean summers. The lemon and rosemary keep it fresh and light and I used Prosecco because it's a touch sweeter. You only need a little of the rosemary syrup, and the peachy citrus notes of the bubbles are perfect with this light and floral gin.

Bubble and Bloom

2 oz Bloom Gin
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon
1 tsp rosemary syrup
Prosecco to top up
Lemon zest and rosemary sprig to garnish

Before cutting the lemon to squeeze it, first pare off a long strip of zest, ensuring to leave as much of the pith behind as is possible and set aside for garnishing the cocktail at the end.
Add the gin, lemon and rosemary syrup to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice and shake.
Strain into a champagne flute and carefully top with Prosecco.
Strip the lower needles from the sprig of rosemary and twist the lemon zest around the stem and garnish.

This last cocktail was my personal favourite, not least because, as soon as I opened my bottle of Bloom Gin, I knew I wanted to make a cocktail that involved chamomile tea and the drink that I created in my head at that moment, worked perfectly. I wanted to use whole dried chamomile flowers to make the tea, but was unable to source them at short notice. However, to my delight, I discovered that teapigs chamomile tea temples are stocked in my local Tesco. Each little 'temple' contains a generous quantity of whole, dried chamomile flowers which brew up to produce a perfect cup of naturally sweet and golden tea. The teapigs website is well worth a visit if you are a fan of tea. It's fun, easy to use and they sell a myriad of loose and bagged, high quality teas.

Chamomile Lawn

2 oz Bloom Gin
1 oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon
1 tsp agave syrup
3 oz cold chamomile tea
Sprig of mint to garnish

Pour around 200 ml of just boiled water into a cup containing a teapigs tea temple and allow to infuse for around 10 mins.
Remove the chamomile and allow to cool before refrigerating until chilled.
Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice and stir steadily until the outside of the shaker develops a frosty bloom.
Strain the contents into an ice filled tumbler.
Gently slap the sprig of mint between your palms to release the aroma and garnish the drink.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Southern Belles

This week, my thoughts have turned back to bourbon. Perhaps it's the chill in the air that makes the smooth vanilla and spice of a rye bourbon seem so appealing right now...? Perhaps I'm running out of Gin-spiration...? Whatever the reason, it felt like the time was right to crack open the bottle of Buffalo Trace (again) and mix up some new drinks.

Any regular readers will know that bourbon is not necessarily my drink of choice, but I have mixed up the occasional Manhattan and in an earlier post, (Kentucky Fried) discovered that given enough of a cocktail makeover, bourbon has what it takes to be a tip top tipple. Obviously, hardened bourbon drinkers may crack their hairy knuckles in consternation, but that's just fine; they can continue to swig it neat from a chipped mug and good luck to them. I, on the other hand, will be taking my medicine with a large spoonful of sugar and probably some lemon and mint. It might not be macho, but it sure does taste swell.

Bourbon is a grain spirit, made, using predominantly corn (at least 51%), but the remaining 49% can come from a combination of barley, rye and wheat. Using more wheat than rye will result in a smoother, creamier bourbon as wheat allows the sweetness of the corn and the vanilla (from ageing in oak barrels) to shine through. A bourbon made with rye will have a higher concentration of  spice notes such as pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. It typically has more 'bite' than it's wheatier counterparts and the end result of your cocktails will vary depending on the type of bourbon you use. Buffalo Trace contains rye and is therefore a little spicier, but is by no means at the spiciest end of the spectrum. It's a good, all round bourbon that adds a little bite without totally overpowering. That said, don't be afraid to experiment with other bourbons - you might just find your new, favourite drink.

One of my favourite cocktail ingredients, of late, has turned out to be ruby port. It seems that barely a week goes by when I'm not sneaking in yet another port based beverage and surprise surprise, I'm at it again.

My inspiration originally came from a cocktail recipe I stumbled across, that used red wine and bourbon. I had made a mental note to give it a try and then got sidetracked and forgot all about it. When I tried to recall it, the details were hazy, but I knew that some kind of sweetening would be necessary to bring the flavours together. That's when I realised that using port would bring the flavour I was looking for, along with the sweetness that was required. The addition of triple sec brings a bittersweet orange note that blends with spice of the bourbon and the brambly fruitiness of the ruby port. A spot of fresh lemon juice prevents the cocktail from descending into cloying sweetness - perfect...

Scarlett O'Hara

1 oz Buffalo Chase bourbon
2 oz Cockburns Ruby Port
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Twist of lemon zest to garnish

Before cutting your lemon to squeeze it, use a sharp knife and cut a wide strip of zest from your lemon.
Add everything apart from the the lemon zest to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice.
Shake hard for 20 secs and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon zest.

This next cocktail is basically a martini style version of my 'Bird on the Wire' cocktail, created as a bespoke cocktail for a client, but I'm sure they won't mind this apprehension and adaption of their drink. Some things are too good to keep under wraps..

Southern Passion

2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
1 oz Giffards Passion Fruit Syrup
1 passion fruit
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
6-8 mint leaves
Twist of lime zest to garnish

Before cutting the lime to squeeze it, take a paring knife and cut a strip of zest from the peel.
Halve the passion fruit and scoop out the pulp and add to a cocktail shaker.
Add everything apart from the zest and muddle (squish)the mint leaves to release their minty essential oils.
Add a handful of ice and shake hard until the outside of the shaker develops a frosty bloom.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist of lime zest.

This last cocktail combines Buffalo Chase bourbon with Cartron Creme de Peche de Vigne which may not seem like an obvious pairing, but actually, peaches are big news in the Southern States and the fruit pairs well with the vanilla, spice and nuttiness of bourbon. 

I am a huge fan of the fragrant taste of peaches, but when it comes to alcohol, not all peach liqueurs are made the same, but Cartron Creme de Peche is made using lots of beautiful vine peaches and is bursting with natural flavour. When making this cocktail, ensure that you use a peach liqueur that is made using the 'creme' method of macerating real fruit and contains no artificial flavouring.

Kentucky Peach

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
Twist of lemon zest and sprig of mint to garnish

Before cutting your lemon to squeeze it, use a sharp knife and cut a wide strip of zest from the peel.
Add everything apart from the the lemon zest and sprig of mint to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice.
Shake hard for 20 secs and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon zest and sprig of mint.
Tip - slap the mint gently between your palms to release the aroma, before garnishing the cocktail.

This week's cocktails were served in these Vintage Pin Up cocktail glasses; The Scarlett O'Hara cocktail was brought to you by lovely brunette, Jane; Southern Passion came courtesy of bombshell blonde, Marilyn and Kentucky Peach was served up by lovely Rita, redhead. Who's your favourite?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

One for the ladies...

It has been a busy old week at Toasted Glass HQ and although we are barely into Autumn, the Christmas orders are already beginning to roll in. As sole designer and painter, this means that my time is largely spent, paintbrush in hand, hunched over, wishing my studio wasn't the coldest room in the house. However, help is on it's way, in the form of a free standing gas heater, so I will have no cause for complaint and of course, at the end of a long day of painting, there's always the promise of a cocktail to refresh and invigorate. Strangely, despite the cold, I am no less inclined to charge my shaker with ice and create a new libation and seeing as I have been painting rather a lot of Vintage Pin Up Girl designs lately, I thought I would create some drinks for them.

Of all the drinks I made this week, the Bramley Blue was Mr TG's clear favourite. If I want to curry his favour, I can guarantee a positive response to any drink I create, that contains lime, mint and sugar and I have noticed he is also rather partial to a dash of triple sec. However, having used the last of the triple sec in last week's creations, I turned to it's rather garish counterpart, blue curaçao. 

Blue curaçao can vary, depending on the brand you buy, but essentially, it is made with citrus peel (from the laraha fruit), as is Curaçao triple sec, although some, such as Bols Blue Curaçao, also have added spices. The overriding flavour of both liqueurs, however, is that of orange and of course, it is sweet, so despite the comedy colour, it actually mixes well with many  drinks, but if you find it a little off-putting, just use triple sec instead.

The star of this drink is the Chase Bramley Apple Vodka, a purchase made whilst taking a guided tour of the distillery earlier this year. It has a slight sweetness, tempered with the sharpness of Bramleys and a very natural, apple flavour. In short, it is delicious and can be enjoyed, ice cold and straight up as well as being a fine addition to the cocktail cabinet.

Bramley Blue

2 oz Chase Bramley Apple Vodka
1/2 oz blue curaçao
1/2 oz simple syrup
6-8 mint leaves
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Sparkling water to top up
Strip of lime zest for garnish

Before cutting the lime for squeezing, pare off a thick strip, using a small, share knife, ensuring the pith is left behind.
Add the mint leaves and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker and muddle (squish) gently to release the essential mint oils
Add everything else apart from the sparkling water and garnish to the shaker with a handful of ice.
Shake hard for around 20 secs and then strain the contents into an ice filled tumbler.
Top up with a dash of sparkling water and garnish with a strip of lime zest, twisting it over the drink to release the citrus aroma.

This next drink contains my two, latest purchases from my favourite purveyors of fine spirits and liqueurs, Amathus Drinks; Van Wees Three Corners Gin, distilled in Holland using only juniper and citrus as it's botanicals; and Cartron Creme de Peche de Vigne, a superior peach liqueur that uses a maceration of real fruit, rather than any artificial flavourings. The result is a slightly floral and fresh flavour with plenty of citrus to counteract the sweetness of the peach.

Juniper, Lemon and Peach

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Sparkling water to top up
Strip of lemon zest for garnish

Add all of the ingredients apart from the water and the garnish, to a shaker with ice.
Shake hard until the outside of the shaker begins to frost and strain in to a chilled, ice filled tumbler.
Add a dash of sparkling water to top up the drink.
Garnish with a strip of zest, twisting it to release the essential oils.

This final drink combines the bitter orange of Campari with the sweetness of ruby port to create a complex mix of flavours that give this cocktail real depth.and of them all, this was possibly my favourite drink of the week - I can't seem to get enough of port in cocktails at the moment. Plus, I just love that unexpected, slightly bitter aftertaste from the Campari - delicious!

Bittersweet Ruby


1 oz Campari
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Dash of sparkling water
Strip of lemon zest

Add all of the ingredients, except for the sparkling water and garnish, to a shaker with ice.
Stir with a bar spoon (long handled, like a sundae spoon) until the outside of the shaker develops a frosty bloom.
Strain the contents into an ice filled tumbler and top with a dash of sparkling water and a twist of lemon zest.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Beer Cocktails

There has been a bit of a theme running through the posts of late, albeit, unintentional, and this week is no exception. Firstly, couple of weeks ago, we had a surfeit of pears, so I made pear nectar. Next, it was peaches, so I made peach nectar and this week, it's Weissbier so we are making Beer Cocktails, as close to 'beer nectar' as you can get.

You see, Mr TG has developed a bit of a taste for German Weissbier and actually, although beer is generally not my thing, I have to concede that it is quite tasty. So tasty in fact, that I thought it a jolly good idea when he discovered you could buy a 5 litre keg at a considerably more reasonable price than by the bottle. However, what we didn't realise is that it immediately starts to go flat as I believe these little barrels are designed for serving at parties and not intended to be stored in the fridge for a cheeky glass of beer of an evening. So what do you do with a couple of litres of rather lifeless Weissbier? Why you make some cocktails, of course...

All of the following cocktails are actually delicious and worth buying a bottle or two of fresh Weissbier to enjoy them at their best. When buying weissbier for this purpose, I recommend you buy a German brand such as Erdinger or Paulaner as oppose to a Belgian Witbier, which has very different tasting notes due to the tradition of brewing it with orange peel and coriander. I tried making Mr TG's beloved 'Flintoff' cocktail with a Belgian Witbier and the result was not up to par. No doubt there are some great cocktails to be made with it, but that's for another time.

Today we are all about the Bavarian Weissbier which is generally cloudy, naturally sweet with an often, quite distinctive, banana note, not to mention, clove and vanilla - basically, very delicious. It is actually quite a highly carbonated beer, hence the big frothy head you associate with German beers, which helps counterbalance the malty sweetness of it. However, for the purpose of making cocktails, it is best to pour out what you need and allow it to settle, before adding it to the mix. Otherwise, you may have a few frothy overspills to clear up. Of course, there were no such worries for Mr TG and I, given that the fizz had long since departed from our brew, but even so, the use of a shaker is not recommended, except as static, mixing receptacle.

The first cocktail is not one I can claim to have invented and there are many variations on the theme. Basically, it's a Mojito, but instead of topping up with sparkling water, you are using beer. If you are using a Rhum Agricole like Clements, which is a very young, white rum, with almost citrus notes to it, I recommend a less hoppy, lighter, more citrus tasting beer, like Corona, but with the Weissbier, I found  a mix of white rum and dark rum worked better.


1 oz Clements Rhum Agricole
1 oz Havana Club Añejo 7 años
1 oz lime juice
8 mint leaves
1 oz sugar syrup
3 oz Weissbier
Sprig of mint to garnish

Muddle (squish) the mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or large glass with the lime juice.
Add the rest of the ingredients, plus a handful of ice and stir with a bar spoon (long handled like a sundae spoon) for about 20 secs.
Strain into an ice filled tumbler or hi ball glass and garnish with the sprig of mint.
Tip - if you slap the mint very gently between your palms, it will release the essential oils and enhance the minty aroma of your creation.

I'm not sure what exactly inspired me to make this next drink, but I think it will be a moment of inspiration, I'll be eternally grateful for. It's very simple to make and would be a great one to scale up the quantities and serve as a punch at parties.

Ruby in the Weiss

1 oz Ruby Port (I used Cockburns)
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
4 oz Weissbier

Add all of the ingredients to a the bottom of a shaker or large glass, with ice.
Stir with a long handled spoon for about 20 secs, then strain into an ice filled tumbler.

This final cocktail is loosely based on one of my favourite tequila drinks, El Diablo and is such a fabulously spooky colour, it's just crying out to be a Halloween party special.

Devil's Brew

2 oz tequila resposado
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
2/3 oz creme de cassis
1/3 oz blue curaçao
2 oz Weissbier
2 oz ginger beer
Strip of lime zest to garnish

Firstly take a sharp paring knife and cut a strip of zest from your lime before you squeeze the juice out.
Next, add all of the ingredients, apart from the zest, to a cocktail shake or large glass with ice.
Stir for 20 secs and then strain into an ice filled tumbler.
Twist the strip of zest over the rim of the glass, to release the essential oils and garnish the drink.