Friday, 15 November 2013

Vitamin C

Mr TG and I have oft remarked that since I began my foray into the world of mixology, neither one of us is ever likely to fall foul of scurvy, given the vast amounts of limes we habitually consume through the medium of cocktails. Our livers may be the size of an elephant's, but by jingo, our vitamin C levels are through the roof...This week's cocktails all feature cranberry juice which is also high in vitamin C, not to mention antioxidants and flavonoids and has been shown to have an antibacterial effect in the body - admittedly, the health benefits are largely mitigated by the addition of sugar and alcohol, but it does look pretty and it tastes good too.

For those of you of an age to have been partying in the 90's, you will no doubt have sampled the delights of cranberry cocktails. The Cosmopolitan, the Woo Woo and the Seabreeze were all cocktail bar favourites and still persist today, but I wanted to mix up my own drinks, using some of my favourite ingredients. My problem with the aforementioned cocktails is that they all feature vodka, which is fine, but it doesn't bring a lot to the drink other than alcohol content and I wanted to mix some drinks that created new flavours with the cranberry, drawing on that slightly bitter fruitiness.

I personally love a cocktail with bitter sweetness to it and am a big fan of Campari and Aperol, so the combination of cranberry with that, works perfectly and creates the most beautiful colour as well. Cranberry and orange work very well together, so the bitter citrus of Campari and the sweeter orange of triple sec in this first cocktail, are a great combination with the juice. I used Williams Chase GB Gin as it's big, juniper and spice notes are fantastic with Campari and the addition of a little lemon juice balances out the flavours.

Vitamin C

3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Triple Sec
1/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz cranberry juice
Dash of sparkling water
Strip of orange zest to garnish

Add the everything except the sparkling water and garnish to the bottom of a shaker or large glass, with some ice and stir until the outside begins to frost.
Strain into an ice filled tumbler and add a dash of sparkling water to taste.
Cut a strip of zest from the peel of an orange and twist over the drink, releasing the essential oils, and garnish.

This next cocktail was inspired by the Woo Woo, which is a rather sickly mixture of vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice. I actually used to love this drink, but since discovering the joys of Catron Creme de Peche de Vigne, I could never return to the artificial flavour of peach schnapps. The original drink is served long, over ice whereas this is served in the Martini Style. Rather than vodka, I have used Bloom Gin as it's delicately floral flavour works beautifully to enhance the peachy notes, rather than overpowering them. To avoid the flavour being too sweet, the addition of lemon juice is a must and as with all Martini Style drinks, it must be as cold as possible, so shake, shake, shake....


2 oz Bloom Gin
1 oz Catron Creme de Peche de Vigne
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz cranberry juice
Strip of orange zest and fresh cranberries to garnish

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and shake hard for about 20 secs.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a strip of orange zest and fresh cranberries, as shown.

Now I have to be honest and 'fess up that I originally made this last cocktail with Bloom Gin and it was delicious. In my opinion it was even nicer than the rum version, but I absolutely love gin above all other spirits, so I would think that. In the interests of proffering options to those of you who who might want to drink something other than gin, I thought it only fair to try it with rum too and actually, it is very nice. The trick is to use a rum agricole such as the Clément Blanc which has an almost fruity taste to it and to avoid one that might be too nutty in flavour, which doesn't sit well with the Elderflower.

Cranberry and Elderflower Mojito

2 oz Clément Blanc Rum
1 oz freshly squeezed lime
6-8 fresh mint leaves
1 oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
Dash of simple syrup
2 oz cranberry juice
Sprig of mint and fresh cranberries to garnish

Add everything but the cranberry juice and garnish to a shaker and muddle (gently squish with a blunt ended utensil) the mint with other ingredients.
Add a handful of ice and shake for 20 secs.
Strain into an ice filled glass and top with the cranberry juice.
Garnish with a sprig of mint and fresh cranberries, as shown.

Overall, I found cranberry juice to be a versatile and attractive ingredient despite it bringing back hazy and often toe-curlingly, embarrassing memories of a bygone decade. In fact, I could have made many more cocktails, but Mr TG and I are trying to show some restraint in our cocktail consumption, so my ideas will just have to wait for another post. Watch this space....

Friday, 8 November 2013

Winter Spice

In nature, winter is a time of hibernation, conservation and storing of energy, ready to burst forth and be plentiful again in the spring. Sadly, in the kingdom of men, there is no such respite. We may be top of the food chain, but with great power, comes great responsibility and apparently, it is our responsibility to buy vast amounts of Christmas gifts and eat our way through the rest of the food chain. So no rest for us; while foxes, badgers and squirrels snuggle up until spring, we must pull on our woolly hats and soldier on through the cold, battling the the elements and other high street shoppers as we try to find the perfect Christmas gifts. Alternatively, you could take inspiration from our woodland creatures and snuggle up indoors. Bearing in mind the cost of heating our homes this winter, a soft, woolly blanket, a pair of slipper socks and a cocktail that is guaranteed to warm you up from the inside, sound like the perfect accompaniment to a spot of online Christmas shopping....

After infusing Campari with chilli for last week's cocktail - 'Satan's Circus', I decided ( as I often do ) that it would taste even better made with gin, which proved to be the case in my opinion at least. Now this cocktail may be served chilled, but the heat of the chilli infused Campari will have you feeling toasty in no time. The trick is to infuse the Campari for just long enough to give you a glow without getting into ‘vindaloo’ territory. Let the chilli steep for no more than an hour and the resultant drink will warm you deliciously without burning the throat. To get the recipe for Chilli Infused Campari - click here.

This recipe also requires Cherry Heering, a cherry liqueur made from the maceration of real fruit with an intense, but natural, cherry flavour. If you do not already have some, you can buy online or in store from more specialist purveyors of spirits, such as Amathus Drinks. Finally, you will need gin, of which there are literally hundreds to choose from and all with surprisingly different flavours. I used Gin Xoriguer, a small batch gin from the Balearic island of Menorca, which has enough juniper and spice to stand up to the Chilli Infused Campari.

Cherry Devil

2 oz Gin Xoriguer
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
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 develops a frosty bloom.
Strain into a chilled martini glass.

This next recipe uses the warming power of ginger to chase away the winter blues and will require making some honey-ginger syrup. To get the recipe for Honey-Ginger Syrup - click here

As the following recipe is a variation of a traditional margarita, it will of course require tequila. It is best to use a ‘resposado’ tequila rather than a young, ‘blanco’ or ‘silver’ tequila as the more aged spirit has an earthier flavour that works best with the honey and ginger.

Ginger Margarita

2 oz Tequila Resposado
1 oz honey-ginger syrup
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Strip of orange zest and slice of ginger to garnish

Add all of the ingredients, apart from the garnish, to a cocktail shaker.
Shake hard for about 20 secs and double strain (to remove the grated zest) into a chilled cocktail glass.
Twist the strip of zest over the glass to release the essential oils and garnish the drink.

Our final winter warmer cocktail is a warm, boozy beverage that can be prepared almost as simply as a cup of tea and in fact, you may wish to scale up the quantities and make a pot for friends.

Rum Toddy

1 1/2 oz dark rum
3/4 oz apricot brandy
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tsp light muscovado sugar
3 oz boiling water
Cinnamon stick to garnish

Add the rum, brandy and lemon juice to a cup and top up with boiling water.
Add the spoonful of dark muscovado sugar and stir with a cinnamon stick until the sugar dissolves.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Christmas Spirit - a recipe for success

Picture the piled high with crockery, table covered in bits of Christmas dinner, spilled wine, soggy paper hats and cracker toys. Yes, it's Christmas Day, the meal is finished and you think you might just spontaneously combust if you eat another thing. This is traditionally when you would serve a digestif; an alcoholic drink that will aid the digestion  and settle the stomach in order that you can then attempt the Christmas Pud, the mince pies, the cheese and biscuits and the Elizabeth Shaw chocolates which mysteriously materialise during the festive period. Whilst it would make far more sense not to stuff oneself like a goose bound for fois gras, we all know we're going to do it and if a digestif will help (and even if it doesn't), it's worth a try.

This recipe is for a Christmas Liqueur that you can make at home, really simply and store indefinitely. It improves with age, but can be drunk immediately and is still very pleasant. It uses lots of traditionally festive flavours and creates a drink with a lot of the same flavour notes as a Drambuie, but with vodka, rather than whisky at it's heart. Not only can you serve it up after the Christmas meal, but it will make fabulous gifts for friends and family if you decant it into pretty bottles. 

Christmas Liqueur

600ml vodka
200g light muscovado sugar
Zest of 2 large oranges, peeled off inn strips
1 large cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 cardamom pods
4 cloves
4 juniper berries
1 vanilla pod
300ml water

When peeling the zest from the oranges, ensure that you do not leave the white pith on. If some remains, scrape it off carefully with your knife.
Add the zest, spices and water to a pan and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat right down and place the lid on tight.
Allow to simmer at the lowest heat for about 45mins - check periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away.
When the liquid has reduced by 2/3, remove from heat and strain the remaining fluid into a jug, gently pressing the remaining spices etc with the back of a spoon to ensure you extract the maximum amount of flavour.
Discard the solids and pour the liquid back into the pan, bring back to the boil very briefly and add the sugar. 
Stir until dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool.
When sufficiently cooled, pour on the vodka and stir briskly until fully combined, then bottle and cork it until you're ready to use it.
Ideally, you should wait a week or two to really let the flavours blend, but a sneaky taste won't hurt...