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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cocktail of the Week

Cocktail of the Week: The Hard Seltzer

Those who live outside of the US might not be familiar with the concept of a Hard Seltzer. The trend is certainly yet to catch on among us Brits. To…

Those who live outside of the US might not be familiar with the concept of a Hard Seltzer. The trend is certainly yet to catch on among us Brits. To gain a little industry insight, we stirred down the popular Stateside serve at a J&B Rare masterclass with Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch drinks experts Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison…

A whisky highball on steroids. That’s my first impression of America’s beloved Hard Seltzer, which has exploded in popularity both as a bar serve and in bottled form. Seltzer drinks – “effectively naturally-flavoured sparkling water,” Harrison explains – are absolutely booming across the pond, and their boozy iterations are set to become a US$2.5 billion category by 2021, according to an estimate shared with Business Insider.

If you hadn’t already guessed, the Hard Seltzer is flavoured water “with an added element of alcohol,” Harrison continues, “often whisky, so it’s essentially a Highball but with flavoured water.” Despite runaway success overseas, in Blighty, the term has most of us scratching our heads (hard soft drink doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), which is ironic, really, since the serve in its simplest form was initially made with liquid from the UK. 

Well, sort of. In The Mixicologist, Or, How to Mix All Kinds of Fancy Drinks, penned by Chris F. Lawlor in 1895, there are two recipes, says Harrison. “The first calls for British Isles whisky, likely Irish whiskey at the time, lengthened with soda water,” he explains. “In terms of measurements, [Lawlor] simply says, ‘Let your guests help themselves to the amount of whisky they like, and top the rest up with water’. There is also another recipe for a B&S (Brandy and Soda), where he calls for a ‘pony’, which would’ve been about 28ml. And that kick-started this refreshing club soda-style drink.”

Hard seltzer

Hard Seltzer, easy to make

Among the first to tackle the trend was Scotland’s J&B Rare. Made with 42 different whiskies, the blend was created first and foremost for club soda-style drinks, says Ridley. “If you were going out for dinner or having a lavish dinner party, you want to spoil your palate for all these fantastic wines that you were going to be drinking. At the time, people weren’t drinking single malt, largely speaking they were very peaty, smoky, heavyweight whiskies. The idea was to create eminently lighter, more delicate, and more refined.”

Such was its success in the UK, parent company Justerini & Brooks rebranded the bottling J&B Rare and took it to America just in time to toast the end of Prohibition. US drinkers loved it, and soon the brand found a real foothold in New York and Las Vegas, becoming a firm favourite among The Rat Pack – particularly Dean Martin. The Highball spread to Japan, where it became a striking vessel for the nation’s light, delicate whisky style and was adopted as a cultural icon., Japan’s bartenders refined the signature serve with crystal-clear ice and delicate glassware, paving the way for the modern Highball you find on menus in bars around the world today.

But I digress. Back to the Hard Seltzer serve. You don’t need a fridge full of flavoured soda to execute your own perfect version of the drink. In fact, Ridley and Harrison recommend giving the dodgy artificial-tasting stuff a wide berth in favour of making your own flavoured sparkling water seltzer at home. It’s easy enough – just infuse fruits, vegetables and other tidbits with sparkling water in one of those lovely glass barrels with the tap attached. 

Hard Seltzer

You can buy ready-made flavoured water, or make your own

Flavour-wise, you could go for a refreshing cucumber and mint combination, spice things up with ginger, apple, and cinnamon, or keep things simple with a classic lemon and lime. However, if you don’t fancy making your own and would rather stockpile the bottled stuff, a handful of health-conscious flavoured sparkling water brands are starting to crop up in the UK, for example No1 Rosemary Water (which has also started branching out with fizzy versions of other tasty herbs like fennel).

You’ll also need bitters, preferably fruit-flavoured – peach, orange, lemon, rhubarb, plum, grapefruit, whatever you’re feeling – and a handful of tasty garnishes to really set the drink off: lemon zest, rosemary, cherry, or mint, for example. Ready to jump on the Hard Seltzer trend? Here’s the recipe for the Rosemary Hard Seltzer to get you started:

25ml J&B Rare 
125ml No.1 Sparkling Rosemary Water

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add J&B Rare and top with Sparkling Rosemary Water. Stir slowly and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary. Could not be simpler.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Martinez

It’s not easy being a Martinez, watching your child, Martini, become the most famous drink in the world while you lay forgotten about in dusty old cocktail books. So this…

It’s not easy being a Martinez, watching your child, Martini, become the most famous drink in the world while you lay forgotten about in dusty old cocktail books. So this week, we’re resurrecting this classic with a special oak-aged gin from Martin Miller’s. 

Before anybody had thought to put the words ‘craft’ and ‘gin’ together, there was Martin Miller’s Gin. It was launched in 1999, that’s 10 years BS (Before Sipsmith), by Martin Miller of Miller’s Antiques guide fame. Craft gin years work rather like dog years, making Martin Miller’s 70 years old! It’s distilled at the Langley Distillery in the West Midlands before being shipped to Iceland where it’s blended with spring water. This makes it sound a bit gimmicky but Martin Miller’s quickly established itself as a favourite among bartenders and drinks writers. 

Martin Miller himself died in 2013 but the company goes from strength to strength. It produces a range of oak-aged gin called 9 Moons after the number of months the spirit is aged. The latest version has just been launched, called Solera Reserve – it uses French oak barrels and a solera process to ensure consistency. Some oak-aged gins can rather whack you around the head with oakiness but this is quite subtle, giving a creaminess, roundness and spice without overpowering the botanicals.

Martinez

A Martin Miller’s Martinez

The company recommends serving it in a Martinez. This 19th century classic is often thought of as the forerunner of the Martini. David Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks refers to the Martinez as “the original Martini.” The cocktail itself is probably named after a town in California called Martinez, the inhabitants of the town certainly think so as there’s a plaque saying as much in the town square. It’s essentially a Manhattan made with gin instead of rye or bourbon. An early recipe in O. Byron’s The Modern Bartender from 1884 specifies using Dutch gin which would have been oak-aged so this version from Martin Miller is a nod to the original Martinez, though the Dutch gin would have also been sweet. Other original versions call for another sweet gin, Old Tom.

For a long time, the Martinez lived in the shadow of its more famous off-spring. Ask for one and you might be given a blank look, but in recent years there’s been a mini-revival, helped by the return of sweeter styles of gin and the availability of exciting new vermouths. The Martinez is a very broad church running the gamut from very sweet, made with Old Tom gin and a high percentage of Italian vermouth, to almost Martini levels of dryness. Some versions call for a rinse of absinthe which certainly makes it distinctive. This one is at the drier end but still is very much a sweet cocktail as it uses Italian vermouth and Maraschino liqueur. The creaminess and spice of the oak-ageing takes this into Manhattan territory. One could use it as a gateway cocktail to tempt your gin-loving friend into brown spirits.

Anyway, here’s the Martinez. We hope you like it.

50ml Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Solera Reserve Gin (or another oak-aged gin)
20ml Martini Rubino vermouth
5ml Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir all the ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice for a minute or so. Strain into a chilled coupe or Martini glass and garnish with a piece of lemon peel.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: Spiced Hot Apple Punch

Brrrrr, it’s freezing! At least it is around MoM HQ. So this week we thought we’d make something to warm you up, a hot Spiced Apple Punch spiked with some…

Brrrrr, it’s freezing! At least it is around MoM HQ. So this week we thought we’d make something to warm you up, a hot Spiced Apple Punch spiked with some WhistlePig Rye. If that won’t keep out the cold, then you need a new coat.

Hands up who likes mulled wine? I mean really likes mulled wine. Yes, when made properly it can be a fine thing but it’s usually much too sweet, made with terrible wine and over-boiled so that it loses its alcohol and the spices have turned bitter. Not very nice. Hot cider is much more my cup of tea. Partly because if someone is serving you a mulled cider, it is usually a sign that they have put some thought into it.

My wife, who is American, introduced me to the joys of hot cider. It’s something of a holiday season tradition over there. Beginning with Halloween and taking in Thanksgiving and going up until Christmas, in the colder states there will always be hot cider on offer. But it’s not exactly what it sounds like because in the US cider means apple juice, if you want proper cider you have to ask for hard cider. The recipe my wife makes involves taking lots of apple juice, good quality cloudy stuff, and mulling it gently with lots of spices, fruit juice, etc, and then adding alcohol in the form of bourbon or rum at the end. She also adds butter which sounds a bit mad but it gives the cider a lovely creamy quality. 

What’s more fun though, is to use proper honest-to-god English cider. The stuff that contains real booze and then spike it at the end for added merriment. The big question is what cider to use. It’s sad but true that cider in this country is often a pale imitation of the real thing. To be legally called cider you only need to have 35% apple content, the rest can be sugar, water and flavourings. And that 35% can be concentrate made from apples grown anywhere. You’ll be very lucky if your cider contains any English fruit. Of the widely available brands, Old Rosie from Westons, Dunkertons and Orchard Pig are all good. If you’re lucky enough to live in a cider producing part of the country like the West Country or Kent, visit your local ciderist. And please avoid flavoured ciders which are essentially alcopops.

Whistlepig-Autumn-JustinDeSouza-1

Couple of these will keep the cold out

The recipe below is an approximation. It will depend on how sweet your cider is. The most important thing is don’t boil it or it will become bitter and lose alcohol. And finally don’t forget the pièce de résistance, a good slug of Whistlepig 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey. 

It’s time to get mulling. Here’s what you need:

3 litres of good quality cider

150ml (or more) WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye
Juice of 3 lemons
Juice of 3 oranges
1 tablespoon of orange zest
½ tablespoon of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of sugar
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 knob of butter

Put all the ingredients except the whiskey and the butter in a large saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Do not boil. Taste, it might need some more sugar. Leave to infuse for as long as you can. Gently reheat. Add the butter and the whisky. Serve in Toddy or wine glasses, garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick to use as a stirrer.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Corpse Reviver No.1

With the party season looming we thought it would be a good idea to look at a famous cocktail to take (in moderation, of course) the next day after a…

With the party season looming we thought it would be a good idea to look at a famous cocktail to take (in moderation, of course) the next day after a big night out. It’s the mighty Corpse Reviver No.1!

Even for drinkers as responsible and mindful as the Master of Malt editorial team, there are times when we might have one too many Brandy Alexanders of an evening. The next day, there’s the familiar dry mouth, headache and general sense of impending doom, though that might just be the forthcoming General Election. We all have our little rituals for such days: some swear by Alka Seltzer or breakfast at McDonald’s; for me nothing works better than ice cold full fat Coca-Cola. Annie Hayes wrote something recently on the industry devoted to curing one of mankind’s most perennial ailments.

Some hangover remedies, however, are a little more fiery. In PG Wodehouse the Inimitable Jeeves, Bertie Wooster’s butler comes up with a concoction consisting of a  raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper. Jeeves describes it as “extremely invigorating after a late evening.” It’s what Americans would call a prairie oyster and the idea is, I think, that it’s so unpleasant that it distracts from the pain in the head. Bertie describes it as like “a bomb inside the old bean.”

Working on a similar principle is the hangover cure recommended by Fergus Henderson from St John restaurant in his book Nose to Tail Eating consisting of two parts Fernet Branca to one part créme de menthe drunk over ice. Which sounds like the kind of thing that will send you to an early grave. 

The Corpse Reviver No 1. is an altogether more generous pick-me up. The recipe below is from Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) where he writes: “To be taken before 11am, or whenever steam and energy are needed.” It is, however, a much older cocktail, dating back to foggy 19th century London where there were a whole variety of cocktails designed to get your day off to flying start with names like Gloom- Lifters, Eye-Openers, Smashers and Morning Jolts. There’s also a Corpse Reviver No. 2 for when the No. 1 doesn’t work which consists of gin, triple sec, sweet white vermouth, lemon juice and just a hint of absinthe; Craddock comments: “Four to these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again”, so watch out!

Corpse Reviver cocktail

“Hope will dawn once more”

But back to No. 1, it’s not unlike a Manhattan but made with two sorts of brandy, Cognac and Calvados, instead of bourbon or rye. You might be drinking this at breakfast but don’t use cooking brandy. H by Hine VSOP is one of the best value Cognacs on the market, specifically designed for cocktails. For the Calvados, you could go for some funky farmhouse stuff but instead I’ve plumped for something smooth and fruity from Boulard. And to finish off your pick-me-up, Cocchi Storico Vermouth Di Torino is hard to beat. 

Right, let’s wake the dead!

40ml H by Hine VSOP
20ml Boulard Grand Solage Pays d’Auge Calvados
20ml Cocchi Storico Vermouth Di Torino

In a shaker stir with lots of ice and strain into a chilled Coupette glass. Drink, and to paraphrase Bertie Wooster, hope will dawn once more.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Old Fashioned

It’s Old Fashioned Week! Time to dust off those plus fours, oil the old penny farthing and start getting excited about the new Sherlock Holmes story that’s being serialised in…

It’s Old Fashioned Week! Time to dust off those plus fours, oil the old penny farthing and start getting excited about the new Sherlock Holmes story that’s being serialised in the Strand magazine. Or you could just make an Old Fashioned cocktail. 

Why is an Old Fashioned called an Old Fashioned? Well, once upon a time, a cocktail wasn’t a general term for a mixed drink, it was a combination of a spirit (usually whiskey), sugar, ice and bitters. But in the 1850s and 60s, new fangled European concoctions like vermouth arrived in America and the term cocktail expanded to include drinks made with vermouth: proto-Manhattans, Brooklyns and Martinis. Hence, if you wanted an old timey cocktail, you asked for an Old Fashioned.

The Cocktail Book (published in 1900) lists cocktails, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, made with Cognac, rum, gin, and Scotch whisky but until quite recently the Old Fashioned was synonymous with American whiskey. Bourbon is the classic choice and this Old Fashioned Week (1-10 November), Woodford Reserve is putting on a series of events where top London bars like Swift, Homeboy, Murder Inc, Discount Suit Co. and Three Sheets are offering their takes on the bourbon Old Fashioned. 

We are, however, rediscovering how good this drink can be made with other spirits like aged Tequila, Jamaican rum or single malt Scotch. This week, therefore, I’m using a Speyside whisky, Glen Moray Classic Port Cask Finish. Something that might annoy the malt purists but the Old Fashioned is such a good drink because it highlights rather than masks the flavour of the base spirit. So much so that Glen Moray has really got behind the whole thing and released a series of Old Fashioned recipes produced by those diffident drinks enthusiasts Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley from World’s Best Spirits. These include a particularly nice one made with marmalade instead of sugar syrup. In fact, playing with the sweetening agent you can have a lot of fun. Other great sugary switcharoos include the syrup from maraschino cherries, honey or Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Glen Moray

The Old Fashioned is so adaptable that you can even put a burning sprig in it

But if you’re sticking with pure sugar, the big question when making your Old Fashioned is whether to use granulated sugar and spend ages stirring, or just use sugar syrup. If I was a professional bartender, I’d go for syrup every time. Time is money after all. But at home, I like the ritual of using sugar, preferably brown, and stirring for a good two minutes. It’s therapeutic. 

Finally the bitters. Angostura is a great all rounder, but fruity and chocolate bitters can be fun, accentuating flavours in the whisky (or whatever you are using). Cherry bitters are a great foil to the Glen Moray Port Cask Finish bringing out the red fruit but the distillery has also come up with its own bitters which are only available to bartenders. 

This spirit of constant experimentation is what makes the Old Fashioned perhaps the most satisfying cocktail to make at home. Choose your spirit, and then play around with different sweeteners and bitters, and you can’t go wrong. Well, you can but mistakes are easily rectified. So, find a nice heavy glass, get out your sturdiest spoon and let’s make a cocktail the old-fashioned way.

50ml Glen Moray Classic Port Cask Finish 
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
2 teaspoons hot water
1 dash Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters

In a tumbler add the sugar, bitters and hot water. Stir vigorously until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add half the whisky, keep stirring until there is no graininess left. Now add three or four big cubes of ice and stir. Finally, add the rest of the whisky, stir some more and serve with a maraschino cherry. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Red Devil

Today we’re getting all diabolical with a special smoky Tequila from Maestro Dobel and a cocktail inspired by Día de Muertos. Agave 101 is that mezcal is smoky while Tequila…

Today we’re getting all diabolical with a special smoky Tequila from Maestro Dobel and a cocktail inspired by Día de Muertos.

Agave 101 is that mezcal is smoky while Tequila isn’t. Well, it’s time to tear up the rule book because Maestro Dobel has just launched Humito, a smoky spirit which the company claims is the “world’s first smoked silver Tequila.” We won’t get into an argument about who got there first only to say that there are other smoked Tequilas out there and, in the distant past, agave used in Tequila production would have been cooked over wood. Maestro Dobel won’t tell exactly how its process works, only to say that it involves: a secret technique that harnesses mesquite wood”. And who doesn’t love a secret technique?

We tried it earlier this year at a special evening put on by Maestro Dobel. The brand is owned by the Beckmann family who also own Jose Cuervo, but Maestro Dobel is independent. Over the course of the evening we tried a number of Tequilas from the range: first the Diamante which is an aged blanco Tequila, the world’s first, apparently. This is like the white rum of the Tequila world, aged in oak and then filtered to remove colour. It’s a category that has inspired a certain amount of scepticism among Tequila fans. Why remove the colour? But it certainly tastes good, the ageing giving it a gentle creaminess without masking any of the fruity character. We also tried a very special Tequila called Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967) who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks. There’s no filtering here. In its colour and flavour, it’s not unlike a very swanky rum. The price is pretty swanky too: it’s only available in a few select hotels where a measure will  cost you about £200!

Which makes the Humito at £43 sound like a terrific bargain. It’s a delicious drop too, lots of fruity aromatic agave character, very smooth, with the smoke present but sort of lingering in the background. Like a good drummer. We tried it in conjunction with food from top Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in East London (who won a Michelin star earlier this year). 

Maestro Dobel Humito

Serving suggestion

Humito is a great cocktail Tequila providing lots of character but it’s not overpowering like some mezcals can be. In fact, it’s rather like adding a teaspoon of mezcal to a Tequila cocktail. To tie in with Día de Muertos, which is turning into quite the international event, Maestro Dobel has come up with a suitably diabolical cocktail called the Red Devil which accentuates Humido’s subtle smokiness with hibiscus syrup. Rafael Cagali has even come up with some recipes to go with it including beef tartare and mackerel croquettes but we are sure it will go equally well with nachos.

Right, got your red horns on? It’s time to make a Red Devil:

40ml Maestro Dobel Humito
15ml fresh lemon juice
5ml agave syrup
10ml hibiscus syrup

Add first three ingredients into ice-filled highball glass and give it a good stir. Top up with soda water, stir again and pour on the hibiscus syrup. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Adonis

This week we’re tapping into the collective cocktail brain of two bartending brothers, Joe and Daniel Schofield, and harnessing the awesome power of sherry to create the Adonis. As one…

This week we’re tapping into the collective cocktail brain of two bartending brothers, Joe and Daniel Schofield, and harnessing the awesome power of sherry to create the Adonis.

As one of our columnists noted, sherry is a very underrated ingredient. Recently I attended the launch of a very special whisky that was aged in sherry solera casks. Before we tried the whisky, we drank some sherry from the same solera. I won’t say the sherry was better but it was at least as interesting, intense and complex as the whisky. The sherry cost about £75 a bottle, the whisky £4,000. Bananas!

Sherry contains many of the flavours, like brown sugar, hazelnut and butterscotch, of aged brown spirits at a much lower ABV, perfect if you’re cutting back or just fancy a bit of a session. This week’s cocktail, the Adonis, is very like a Palmetto but made with sherry instead of rum. The recipe comes from a rather swanky book called Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails that landed at MoM towers last week. 

Schofield cocktail book

It’s written by two brothers from Manchester, Joe and Daniel Schofield. Between them, they have won many many awards, worked in cocktail bars all over the world, including the American Bar at the Savoy, and collaborated with another pair of brothers, Asterley Bros, on a vermouth. Now, all that learning and experience can be found in one place. The book contains advice on making cocktails as well as classic and modern recipes. 

The Adonis is named not after the figure from Greek mythology nor the Labour peer and educational reformer, Lord Adonis, but after a musical. Adonis was a long-running Broadway show in the late 19th century. It’s part of the long line of cocktails named after shows like the Rob Roy, and the Pink Lady. Sadly this habit of naming cocktails after musicals seems to have died out. One can almost imagine a Miss Saigon or an Oliver! though I wouldn’t fancy a Les Miserables.

Traditionally the Adonis is made with fino sherry but the Schofield brothers have suggested using an oloroso instead to make it richer. The Alfonso from Gonzalez Byass offers amazing intensity for the money. The Schofields recommend their collaborative vermouth (well, they would, wouldn’t them) but I have defied them and kept it 100% Jerez with the Lustau Vermut Rojo. The other non-trad element is sugar syrup; the brothers write: “sugar is a great flavour carrier and works well here, enhancing the relatively subtle sherry and vermouth. You won’t find this extra touch of sweetness in traditional versions of the drink, but we like how it underscores all the flavour notes”.

The Adonis, not as strong as you’d expect from the name

The result is something with all the depth of flavour of a Manhattan or Rob Roy, but with much less alcohol and it’s cheaper too. Your doctor and bank manager will thank the Schofields

Right, let’s make an Adonis. 

30ml Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso Seco
30ml Lustau Vermut Rojo
2 dashes of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
½ teaspoon of sugar syrup

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass or shaker with ice, and give it a good stir. Strain into a coupette and garnish with an orange coin.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Americano

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari and Martini Rosso, in one glass. It’s the Americano! The Americano used to be called the Milano-Torino because it contained…

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari and Martini Rosso, in one glass. It’s the Americano!

The Americano used to be called the Milano-Torino because it contained Campari from Milan and Martini Rosso vermouth from Turin. It was originally served at the Milan bar belonging to the creator of Campari, Gaspare Campari. The name changed when American tourists arrived in Italy in the 1920s. They were escaping Prohibition and with the strong dollar, continental Europe was their playground. It’s the decadent generation immortalised in the novels of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

And what did these louche Americans drink when they were in Italy splashing their cash around and upsetting the locals with their loose morals, hot jazz and enormous baggy trousers? Why, Campari and Martini, of course, with a splash of soda. Due to its ubiquity amongst expat Americans, the drink became known as an Americano. A similar thing happened with coffee. Espresso was a little too strong for the tourists so they asked for it diluted with hot water, the Americano coffee was born.

Americans were still causing trouble in the 1950s. There’s a song about their influence on Italian youth by Neapolitan musician Renato Carosone called Tu ‘Vuò Fà L’Americano’. You might recall it from the 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr Ripley (the film has its moments but the book is brilliant. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat). Carosone’s song is about an Italian boy trying to ape American fashions: smoking Camel cigarettes, dancing to rock n’ roll and playing baseball (though he drinks Whisky and Sodas, not Americanos). Despite his modish veneer, this wannabe Italian is still living off his parents. 

But it’s not just Americans and Italians who fell for the charms of the Americano. It crops up in Ian Fleming’s short story ‘From a View to a Kill’ where Bond recommends drinking it in hot weather where one of his more usual drinks like a vodka Martini would be too strong. It’s a great drink for when you really want a Negroni but plan to get some work done/ bump off a Smersh agent in the afternoon.

It’s one of those cocktails that requires very little thought. You could experiment with other amari but I’m keeping it traditional with Campari. Then for the vermouth, well, it really has to be Martini. I’m using Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino which is made with red wines from Piedmont, the flavour is more floral and complex than the classic Martini Rosso. 

Right, that’s enough preamble, it’s time to put on some appropriate music and let’s make an Americano!

35ml Campari
35ml Martini Rubino Riserva Speciale Rosso vermouth
Soda water

Fill a highball or tumbler with ice, add the Campari and Martini and give it a good stir. Top up with soda, stir gently and garnish with an orange slice.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Irish Coffee

Now that the nights are drawing in, and summer is a distant memory, it’s time to get out those woolen socks, fire up your wood-burning stove and make some Irish…

Now that the nights are drawing in, and summer is a distant memory, it’s time to get out those woolen socks, fire up your wood-burning stove and make some Irish Coffee. John Quinn from Tullamore DEW is on hand to explain everything.

It would be hard to think of a more incongruous setting for a talk on Irish Coffee. We were by a swimming pool in a villa in the hills above the Catalan resort of Sitges. It was May and the temperature was already in the high 20s (degrees centigrade). Oh, and almost everyone had had very little sleep. This didn’t deter John Quinn, brand ambassador for Tullamore DEW, who gave us an amusing history of the drink, and then, naturally, served up the hot, boozy, creamy concoction.

We were there for the annual conference of the European Bartenders School (EBS). Quinn is something of a legend in Irish whiskey. Indeed he was greeted by the team from EBS with great reverence. He’s been with Tullamore DEW since 1974 and in December was voted vice chair of the Irish Whiskey Association. 

John Quinn

John Quinn, on brand since 1974

Before showing us how to make the perfect Irish Coffee, Quinn admitted that he had a bit of an ambivalent relationship with the drink because until recently many bars only kept Irish whiskey for this purpose. But at the same time, he noted how important Irish Coffee was in the survival of Irish whiskey during the dark times. Its popularity meant that (nearly) every bar and restaurant in the world had to have a bottle of Jameson or Tullamore for when the inevitable call for a postprandial boozy coffee came in.

Interestingly, according to Quinn, the drinks creator, Joe Sheridan, also got a bit sick of his creation. Quinn’s version of the story goes a bit like this: some time in the 1950s a planeload of Americans had to land at Foynes Airport in the west of Ireland (in some versions it’s Shannon). It was freezing cold so the bartender there, Sheridan, made some coffee with whiskey and cream to warm up the stranded passengers. A classic was born. Then an unlikely-monikered American journalist called Stanton Delaplane tried Sheridan’s invention, and brought it back to the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco where it became the house speciality. Sheridan later emigrated to America and worked at the Buena Vista but quickly became bored with having to make his creation all day every day; he left after three months and was never heard from again. Nevertheless, the Irish coffee proved a lifeline to the Irish whiskey industry which was struggling at the time.

As you’d expect from such a ubiquitous drink, it’s often made very badly with stale or even instant coffee, and aerosol cream. To make it properly, always use freshly-brewed coffee, from a cafetiere or filter, and proper whipped cream. And then which whiskey to use? Well, Quinn used Tullamore DEW obviously but any smooth, sweet Irish whiskey will do – like Jameson, Powers or Black Bush. Under the burning Catalan, it tasted damn good.

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee, tastes even better served with denim napkins

Here’s our recipe:

50ml Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey
150ml freshly-brewed hot coffee
Two tablespoons of lightly-whipped double cream
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

First whip your cream, not too thick because you want to pour it so that it settles on top of the coffee. In a large toddy glass add the whisky, the coffee (and sugar if you’re using it) and stir. Warm the cream very gently and then pour it over the bowl of the spoon into the coffee. You can garnish with some chocolate flakes or a grating of nutmeg. Serve immediately. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Hemp Highball

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the…

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the base of this week’s cocktail.

You may have read a few things recently (here, here and here, for example) about the rise of CBD-infused spirits. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis, not the one that gets you all confused and hungry (that’s THC, apparently), but may have some generally groovy effects. Or it might not. By law producers aren’t allowed to make any claims for general grooviness. We tried CBD rum Dead Man’s Fingers at Imbibe this year (very nice it was too though we can’t report any unusual effects), now we’re delighted to speak to the man behind it, William Borrell.

“The idea was first conceived at the Ladies and Gentlemen bar distillery and working kitchen in Camden. This is where we try new ideas during the day before the hoards of punters descend,” he told us. The process involved, according to Borrell “a lot of trial and error”. Things moved very quickly: “we had begun experimenting with the flavours you get from a basic hemp in May and then quickly moved to a range of specialist CBD hemp strains,” he said. We tried the finished version in July. It wasn’t all plain sailing though: Borrell was worried that “we would never be able to replicate the exciting flavours we stumbled on to at the beginning of the journey when it was just our team in the Ladies & Gentlemen bar but I think we got there in the end.”

William Borrell

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr William Borrell!

Borrell has been working in the booze business for nearly ten years now. His first venture was with a series of “terroir-focused” potato Polish vodkas, Vestal. A bar followed, Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, and then earlier this year he opened a new venue down the road in Camden Town. Both are housed in converted Victorian toilets, hence the name. Don’t worry, Borrell and the team gave them a good clean first. This summer, a new non-lavatorial venture set sail, a Ladies & Gentlemen rum boat for cruisin’ n’ boozin’ on the Regent’s Canal.

Back to this week’s cocktail: the Hemp Highball, according to Borrell was inspired by “Joerg Meyer who at his highly acclaimed bars in Germany is reclaiming the Highball as the go-to drink at the moment.” And finally, the big question is which sort of music should you listen to while sipping your CBD drink. Borrell recommends: Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (on vinyl, natch). He went on to tell us that at his bar, “we have a BYOV night every Sunday where customers receive a taste of Dead Man’s Fingers for free if they bring their own vinyl, why not pop down.” Why not, indeed. Or you can make a Hemp Highball at home. Here’s how:

40ml Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum
20ml Giffard Triple Sec 
20ml Lime Juice
5ml sugar syrup
100ml Sekforde Rum Mixer (or tonic water if you can’t get hold of it) 

Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass. Give them a good stir, top up with Sekforde Rum Mixer, stir again gently and garnish with a lemon wedge, a mint sprig and a basil leaf. Now take it away Bill Withers!

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