Friday, 18 April 2014

An apple a day...

Apparently the old adage of, 'an apple an day...' is no longer sufficient to keep the doctor away. In fact, if recent press is to be believed, then your 'five a day' needs to be at least seven, and ideally, should be twelve. It's enough to drive anyone to drink, particularly if your idea of fruit and veg includes the slice of lemon in your gin and tonic (that does count, right?) Mr TG and I are tireless in our quest to up our vitamin intake through the medium of cocktails and we calculate that if you drink all of these, you should be at least two portions of fruit closer to your daily goal. The naysayers among you may spot the potential flaws in this plan, but if you actually manage to drink them all, the chances are, you won't care too much...

The inspiration for this week's post came from my friends at Pinkster whose deliciously pink gin recently crossed the ocean, popping up in New York City by the Empire State building (click here to see the picture). Pinkster Gin in the Big Apple immediately suggested a cocktail opportunity and the Big Pink was conceived - a fresh and simple combination of Pinkster Gin, raspberry, fresh mint and cloudy apple juice. 

The Big Pink

4 fresh raspberries
6 mint leaves
Cloudy apple juice
Sprig of mint to garnish

Add the gin, raspberries and mint to the bottom of a tall glass and gently muddle together - the object is not to really squish them together but just to slightly bruise the mint and fruit to release the flavours.
Add a handful of ice and top up with cloudy apple juice.
Stir with a swizzle to mix and garnish with a sprig of mint.

My inspiration for the next cocktail came from a little further down south in the US of A, from the state of Kentucky - home to the world renowned Kentucky Derby where the drink of choice is the Julep. Derby day falls on May the 10th of this year and I always like to mark the occasion with a Julep or two, although this time, I am playing pretty fast and loose with the traditional Julep formula (click here for the traditional Mint Julep and the alternative, Lavender Julep recipes). I like this apple version as it is a little less alcoholic and fruitier than the traditional Mint Julep.

Apple Julep

2oz bourbon (I used my favourite Buffalo Trace)
10 - 15 mint leaves
2oz cloudy apple juice
Sprig of mint to garnish

Muddle the mint and bourbon in the bottom of a Julep tin or tall glass.
Fill with crushed ice and pour over the cloudy apple juice.
Use a swizzle stick to mix the drink thoroughly and garnish with a sprig of mint (gently slapping the mint between your palms beforehand, will release the minty aroma).

This next cocktail combines the sharp, sweet flavour of apples with the fiery kick of ginger. Here we get a double shot of fresh apple flavour from both cloudy apple juice and the exceptional, Chase Sharp Bramley Apple Vodka. This vodka was distilled in a small, limited edition batch and is nigh on impossible to get hold of. However, I live in hope that with enough demand, the clever people at Chase Distillery will decide to create another batch, so please feel free to make enquiries at their website and perhaps we can collectively make it happen...

Chase Apple and Ginger 

2oz Chase Sharp Bramley Apple Vodka
5 mint leaves
1 strawberry (quartered)
1oz cloudy apple juice
2oz Fever Tree Naturally Light Ginger Beer

Gently muddle the mint, strawberry and vodka in the bottom of a glass, taking care not to overly bruise the fruit.
Add a handful of ice, the ginger beer and juice and stir with a swizzle stick to mix the drink.

Finally, we come full circle and back to Pinkster Gin who inspired the post in the first place with their appearance in The Big Apple. This cocktail, The Big Pink Martini isn't a martini in the traditional sense, but is served in the martini style. In place of dry vermouth, we are using Sauvignon Blanc and cloudy apple juice with just a dash of simple syrup to approximate the intensity. The result is much lighter and of course, fruitier...

The Big Pink Martini

1oz Sauvignon Blanc
1oz cloudy apple juice
3 raspberries
Dash of simple syrup

Muddle the raspberries with the gin in the bottom of a shaker.
Add the remaining ingredients with a handful of ice and shake hard to mix.
Double strain the contents into a chilled martini glass.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Up in Smoke

A recent visit to Asia de Cuba in London for their fusion tea experience with the Secret Tea Society served to remind me how much I enjoy the wonderful, rich, smokey flavour of Lapsang Souchong tea, particularly when it's as fine as the Jing Tea lapsang that is served there. The aroma is quite savoury, like smoked meat or fish, but the taste is incredibly smooth and fresh. The mouth is left feeling smokey yet clean. It's an oddly compelling sensation and one I wanted to explore further.

Smokey cocktails have been popping up in trendy bars, worldwide; some using liquid smoke to not only impart some smokey flavour but to create an incredibly dramatic look and some, using ingredients that have been smoked in advance. Smoked ice cubes have been tantalising the tastebuds of cocktalians, along with smoked lemons, chillis and herbs. All very clever and very interesting, but not necessarily something that can be easily replicated at home.

This is where the smokey flavour of a high quality Lapsang Souchong tea comes in - not only can the cold tea be used as a cocktail ingredient, but it is incredibly easy to make an intensely flavoured syrup from the tea, that can be used to sweeten and enhance your drinks.

Lapsang Souchong Syrup

The trick is to make the tea far stronger than you would normally as you want maximum flavour for a minimal amount of syrup. I used 1 tsp of good quality Lapsang teas to each ounce of liquid and let it steep for no more than 3 minutes to avoid it becoming bitter.

3 tsp Lapsang Souchong leaves
3oz boiled water
6oz caster sugar

Make the tea as directed above, then strain and discard the leaves.
Stir in the sugar while the tea is still very hot and continue to stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
Allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

Another, 'must try' ingredient if you want to get the full smoke experience, is Chase Smoked Vodka. It's made from their top notch, smooth and creamy tasting potato vodka and has won numerous awards. From personal experience, I can attest that it makes an amazing Smoked Espresso Martini and Smoked Mary (like a Bloody Mary) which you must try, should you treat yourself to a bottle. This week I decided to pair its clean, smoked flavour with the herbal sweetness of a rosemary syrup, contrasted against the sharp citrus of freshly squeezed lemon in a martini style drink. It's a nice combination even with regular vodka, but the smoke really adds another dimension - a perfect aperitif for those summer barbecues...

Smoked Rosemary Sour

2oz Chase Smoked Vodka
1oz lemon juice
3/4oz rosemary syrup
sprig of rosemary to garnish

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

This next cocktail uses Lapsang Souchong tea to compliment the many tasting notes of Jura Superstition single malt. It's lightly peated with hints of honey and pine, so has a great deal in common with Jing Tea's Lapsang. To balance out the drink I added a touch of heather honey and some freshly squeezed clementine juice which bring a delicate, fragrant sweetness and just enough citrus to keep it fresh. The final touch was a dash or two of Angostura orange bitters which adds a subtle, but discernible note of aromatic spice.

Bonnie Lassie 

1oz cold lapsang souchong tea
1oz freshly squeezed clementine juice
1 tsp Tiptree Heather Honey
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Clementine wheel to garnish

Add everything but the garnish to a shaker with ice and shake hard to mix.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish.

This next drink uses the quite remarkable Gin Mare which has an incredibly distinctive taste unlike any other gin. Of course there is juniper and citrus, but the rosemary and thyme really stand out, blending with olive to create an unusual and unique spirit that evokes the mediterranean in every sip. In fact, the flavour is so wonderfully overwhelming that the addition of Lapsang Souchong syrup (see above) just added a subtle, smokey aftertaste as though it were being sipped whilst sat around a campfire on the beach.

Smoked Mare

2oz Gin Mare
1oz lemon juice
3/4oz Lapsang Syrup
dash of soda

Add the gin, syrup and lemon to the bottom of a shaker with ice and stir to combine until the outside of the shaker frosts over.
Strain into an ice filled glass, add a dash of soda and stir gently to combine.

Finally, and possibly my favourite of the lot, was this Smokey Bourbon Bramble; sweet, sour, smokey and quaffable - a great one to scale up and serve in pitchers on a sunny afternoon (a girl can dream...)

Smokey Bourbon Bramble

2oz Buffalo Chase Bourbon
3/4oz Creme de Cassis
1oz cold lapsing souchong tea
1/2oz lemon juice
6 fresh blackberries

Press the blackberries through a fine sieve to remove the pips and collect the juice.
Add the juice, along with all the other ingredients to the bottom of a shaker with ice and shake hard.
Strain into an ice filled glass and garnish with a whole blackberry.