Category Archives: Drinks

The Cocktail Lovers look at classic and new drinks

Whisky

How to… buy whisky

Judging by the shop window displays it seems to have been Christmas since September. However, now we are finally in the month that matters and the big day is less than three weeks away we can all really start getting into the festive spirit. And a festive spirit we’re particularly fond of is whisky. It warms us up nicely after a day’s Christmas shopping and this being the season of giving it also makes for a very welcome present.

Buying whisky can be a little daunting though. So we asked our good friend Colin Dunn, Malt Whisky UK Brand Ambassador at Diageo, for a few tips.

How much should you expect to pay for a ‘good’ entry level whisky?
“There are loads of entry level whiskies under £25, Johnnie Walker Black Label for instance, there’s so much going on that you can pick out the nuances quite easily.”

What are the key characteristics to look out for?
“It’s all about balance between the wood and the grain that give each their characteristics but kept in small compartments that don’t make it one-dimensional. I often find that whiskies change in the glass after being poured, which is where the fun begins in identifying different compounds.”

How should you drink it?
“Initially neat, so that you can then decide whether you want to add water to soften or tone down the alcohol.”

What’s your favourite whisky?

“The one in my hand! I get asked this a lot and my opinion keeps changing. At the moment I am having a love affair with Rosebank, in particular the 21 year old which exudes a perfumed fragrance and is packed with citrus notes that show off Rosebank in all its glory”.

What’s your favourite serve?

“North Atlantic Oysters served up with Talisker 57 North, sprayed on with an atomizer. This gives a peppery note to the saltiness of the oyster and gives a top note to the whisky when the salt and pepper meet in the roof of the mouth”.

The Cocktail Lovers say:
While you’re Christmas shopping take a little time out for yourself too and head to the stunning new Hackett flagship store on Regent Street. Packed with everything the well-dressed gentleman needs in the way of attire it also has something else he might like, a rather grand bar courtesy of Beefeater 24. In keeping with the sartorial setting customers can tailor their Gin and Tonics with one of three specially created tinctures; citrus, berry or winter spice. But why should guys have all the fun? We think the bar and drinks will also go down well with wives, girlfriends and shopping companions in general.

Hackett, 193-197 Regent Street, London W1B 4LY, hackett.com

This week we’re loving:
The London Eye Winter Cocktail Experience. Enjoy a couple of seasonal cocktails 135 metres above London, created by boutique gin distillery, Sipsmith London and served by an in-capsule mixologist. You can even try your hand at mixing your own cocktail. Personally though we’ll concentrate on sipping the fabulous gin concoctions and drinking in the spectacular night time London views.

The London Eye Winter Cocktail Experience, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 6pm until 4th January, londoneye.com

Satan’s Whiskers. Simple, well made drinks focusing on traditional classics and modern classics, featuring premium spirits at affordable prices. And all served up in friendly, beautifully designed, neighbourhood East London bar with a Hip Hop soundtrack. What’s not to like?

Satan’s Whiskers. 343 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA. Tel. 020 7739 8362, facebook.com/satanswhiskers

As featured on The Independent, Dish of the Day blog 5/12/2013

The Independent

Benedictine

Cordial of the Bénédictine Monks of the Abbey of Fécamp (that’s Bénédictine to you and us)

Bénédictine window from The Palais Bénédictine in Fécamp Normandy

The Bénédictine story depicted in stained glass at its home in Fécamp

So, you’ve unearthed a unique recipe for a mysterious elixir originally created by monks hundreds of years ago. You’ve spent a year painstakingly recreating it. And you’ve been meticulous in every detail of launching it commercially to a contemporary audience. So what will you call this wondrous creation? How about ‘Liqueur des Moines Bénédictins de l’Abbaye de Fécamp’, which roughly translated means ‘Cordial of the Bénédictine Monks of the Abbey of Fécamp’? Of course you do, after all it’s nice and snappy right? Fortunately the clever chap who discovered and launched the liqueur in question had second thoughts about the description and later decided to simply go with the name Bénédictine.

Classic advertising

Classic advertising

So what is the story behind this unique liqueur? Back in 1863 Alexandre Le Grand, a wine merchant from Fécamp, was sorting through some family papers when he came across a book that had been tucked away in his library for many years. How old was the book? Well it had apparently fallen into the hands of his family around the French Revolution in 1789. And when he started to read it he realised it had originally been written by a Bénédictine monk named Dom Bernardo Vincelli in 1510.

Yes, 1510. The 200 pages of Gothic script largely consisted of the serious study of alchemy, but hidden amongst them was a recipe. This elixir contained some 27 plants and spices. Intrigued he spent the next year using his knowledge of distillation and spirits to unravel the ingredients and recreate the mixture. Not content with just recreating the liquid he also sought permission from the Superior of the Bénédictine order in Rome the right to use the name and the coat of arms of the Benedictine Abbey in Fécamp. He was also meticulous in his requirements for the design of the packaging specifying specific details for the label and ordering a special glass bottle.

Just one year after discovering the recipe he launched his liqueur in 1864 describing it as ‘Cordial of the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Fecamp’. Some three years later he decided the shorter and simpler Bénédictine was preferable, and by 1870 this name was trademarked. In the process making it a whole lot easier for us to order at the bar.

Fake Bénédictine bottles

Cheeky fakes from around the world

The home of Bénédictine is also well worth a visit in its own right as we recently found out. The Palais Bénédictine in Fécamp Normandy is part distillery, part palace and a very curious mix, capturing both the liqueur’s ecilastical origins and its unique story. There are beautiful archive advertising posters and historical objects, not to mention an eccentric collection of Bénédictine fakes from around the world. And even if you’re not an academic or aesthetic you might want to go along simply because it’s the only place where you can sample Bénédictine Single Cask, a supercharged, super delicious version of the liqueur.

Bénédictine has long been a key ingredient in classic cocktails such as the Singapore Sling and Bobby Burns. But nowadays it doesn’t just restrict itself to modestly playing the supporting yet vital role in cocktails, it’s also becoming something of a star in its own right. For proof try out the Big Ben and Pampemousse recipes below. And if you want to make like a Fécamp local simply pour a single shot of Bénédictine into a cup of good quality black coffee. We heartily recommend it to round off a meal.

For more recipes and details of how to visit the Palais Bénédictine see www.benedictinedom.com

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling (original Singapore Raffles Sling)

35 ml Bombay Sapphire gin
15 ml Bénédictine
15 ml cherry brandy
Top up with club soda
Lime wedges
Cherry

Method
Pour the gin, Bénédictine and cherry brandy into a tall glass. Fill with ice cubes and top up with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge and cherry on the rim. Squeeze and drop another lime wedge into the glass.

Bobby Burns

30 ml Blended scotch whisky (Dewar’s 12)
30 ml Sweet vermouth (Noilly Prat Rouge)
15 ml Bénédictine
Lemon peel

Method
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, strain into the cocktail glass, twist the lemon peel over the glass to release its oil and drop it in.

Big Ben

50 ml Bénédictine
Tonic water
Lime wedges

Pamplemousse

Pamplemousse

Method
Pour the Bénédictine into a tall glass, fill with ice cubes, top up with tonic water and garnish with a lime wedge on the rim of the glass. Squeeze another lime wedge over the glass and drop it in.

Pamplemousse

50 ml Bénédictine
White grapefruit juice
Grapefruit slice

Method
Pour the Bénédictine into a tall glass, fill with ice cubes and top up with the freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice. Garnish with the grapefruit slice.

Sloes

How to… take it sloe for winter

Sloe Bloom

Sloe Bloom

Like fashion, the drinks we gravitate to tend to be dictated by the seasons: fresh, zesty and light during the summer months; bolder, more intense and warming once the colder weather kicks in. Sloe gin is definitely a winter spirit. That deep berry shade, that rich, comforting taste – it’s the liquid equivalent of slipping into a cashmere coat.

If you’re organised and pride yourself on making your own, you’ll have picked your sloes a couple of months ago. Right now they’ll be steeping in an airtight jar with sugar, topped with good quality gin ready to be cracked open for Christmas.  Well done you.

If on the other hand, like us you’ve missed the boat on the foraging front you can still get into the sloe groove – you’ll just have to seek out the riches of the professionals.

Not that that’s a bad thing. Okay, you won’t get to bask in the warm glow that comes from nursing your boozy sloes until they mellow to perfection but hey, a good sloe gin is a good sloe gin.

And in our humble opinion the best shop bought varieties come from Chase, Sipsmith, Plymouth and the new offering from Bloom – Sloe Bloom Gin. All have an agreeable lush, smooth almost medicinal quality that warms you from your head to your toes, with a shock of tartness that makes your tastebuds perk up and take notice.

Do like the outdoorsy set and add to your hip flask for emergencies, or simply sip and enjoy by the fire.

Available from Master of Malt, www.masterofmalt.com. Sloe Bloom Gin available from Harvey Nichols stores nationwide and online at www.harveynichols.com.

The Cocktail Lovers say

Whether you’ve rocked the D.I.Y version or gone for shop bought, try your sloe gin in a cocktail. The simplest is a shot of sloe gin topped with Prosecco, served in a champagne flute. If you want to get more adventurous, try the two recipes below.

Sloe Bloom Punch

50ml Sloe Bloom Gin
Dash of lemon juice

Dash of apricot brandy
Cranberry juice

Method:

Shake all ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a cocktail glass.

Hot Mulled Sloe

50ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin

50ml cloudy apple juice

50ml water

Cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks

Slice or two of fresh orange or satsuma

Method:

Pour the cloudy apple juice and water into a saucepan. Add a few cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks, plus a slice or two of orange or satsuma. Cover and simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes. Add Sipsmith Sloe Gin and allow to warm back up to a simmer. Serve in tea cups, mugs or Irish whisky glasses, garnished with half a slice of orange and/or cinnamon stick.

Recipe by Jared Brown, Master Distiller at Sipsmith

This week were loving

Talking of seasonal cocktails, the Arctic Clarity on the menu at Claridge’s is just the ticket for warming your cockles in style. Created by Leon Dalloway as the signature serve for Martin Miller’s gin the clever blend of MM gin, Zerbinz Alpine pine liqueur, a tot of Laphroig Whisky and a couple of dashes of grapefruit bitters is more than a great drink, it’s an experience for all the senses.

“It’s like walking though a forest which has just enjoyed a soft, woody, citrusy-noted shower,” says Dalloway. “The Laphroig adds a smoky mystique and the grapefruit bitters give balance and depth.”

Add one solid block of ice (made from water flown in from Iceland and flavoured with Silver Needle tea no less), serve on a basalt rock slate spritzed with sandalwood and garnished with an alpine flower and a zest of grapefruit and you have a sophisticated winter cocktail in HD.

Available in Claridges Bar and The Fumoir from Monday 18th November. Claridges, Brook Street, W1K 4HR. www.claridges.co.uk.

As featured on The Independent, Dish of the Day blog 19/11/2013

The Independent

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Win a Ginvent or Whisky Advent Calendar in time for Christmas

Premium Whisky Advent Calendar

Stop pretending you’re all grown up and sophisticated: we’re all still big kids at heart. That’s why the advent calendars from Gin Foundry and Drinks By The Dram are essential Christmas buys. They appeal to the eight year-old that is alive and well in all of us but, and here’s the clever bit, instead of cheapo chocolate or glittery pictures of robins and carol singers, behind each window lies something that is very much aimed at adults.

How marvellous! 24 dinky 3 cl. bottles of gawgeous spirits hidden behind a numbered window waiting for you to open and enjoy each day. Whisky aficionados and newbies alike can choose from either The Whisky Advent Calendar (£149.95), or The Premium Whisky Advent Calendar (£249.95), both of which proudly boast a special selection of bourbons, single malts and ryes from around the world.

The Ginvent Calendar

Gin lovers meanwhile can count or more importantly, sip down to Christmas with The Ginvent Calendar (£99.95), containing two dozen 3 cl. bottles of super tasty gins. The styles might be different but the quality of each is absolutely tip-top. If you want to take it on another level, there’s The Craft Ginvent Calendar (£109.95), containing a whole lot of junipery goodness from craft or small volume distilleries. All four come in beautifully designed boxes with helpful flavour profiles illustrated on the back.

If last year’s sales are anything to go by, these babies won’t be around for very long. Get your orders in PDQ, and see if you can wait until December 1st before revealing the treasures behind each window…
Available from Master of MaltHarvey Nichols, Selfridges, Ocado and many more.

We have one calendar to give away (yes, Santa has come early and he’s bringing the good stuff.) All you have to do is drop us a line here (making sure to tick the box to sign up for our newsletter if you’re not already on our mailing list) and mark your choice of either a Ginvent Calendar or Whisky Advent Calendar in the subject header then Tweet “I’ve just entered the @cocktaillovers and @drinksbythedram competition. #ginvent or #whiskyadvent” depending on your choice Good luck!
You must be 18 or over and reside in the UK to enter. The winner will be notified on Monday 25th November.

With thanks to Maverick Drinks maverick drinks.com

 

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Bartenders, be on alert for the Quintessentially Vodka Mystery Customer

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Psst! Here’s a heads-up to London bartenders: the next time a customer asks you to recommend a vodka of your choice, they just might be the Quintessentially Vodka Mystery Customer.

From December 1st, someone – it might be a man, it could be a woman; they might be young and funky or perhaps they will be business style and suited and booted – whoever it is will be visiting bars, restaurants and hotels in the capital asking bartenders for their vodka of choice. Nothing extraordinary about that but, here’s the bit worth knowing about: the hundredth one to recommend Quintessentially Vodka will be rewarded with a none too shabby £5,000 on the spot. In cash!

It’ll help if you know something about Quintessentially Vodka, so here’s the top line:

a) It’s produced in one of the oldest continuous working distilleries in Britain.
b) Maximum respect is given to the bottles: each one is handled by staff wearing white cotton gloves to keep it in pristine condition.
c) Quintessentially Vodka is made from organic wheat and pure English water.
d) It comes in a very sexy matt black bottle.
e) Give it a sip and discover the smooth, clean taste for yourself.

See quintessentiallyspirits.com for more details