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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cocktail of the Week

Cocktail of the Week: the Americano

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari from Milan and Martini Rosso from Turin, in one glass. It’s the Americano! The Americano used to be called the…

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari from Milan and Martini Rosso from Turin, 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.

Loose morals, hot jazz, and enormous baggy trousers

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 ex-pat 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, and 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.

How to make an Americano

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 glass 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 Silent Third

With World Whisky Day coming up, we’re shaking a cocktail that’s very much like a Sidecar, but made with Scotch instead of Cognac. It’s called the Silent Third. I’m just…

With World Whisky Day coming up, we’re shaking a cocktail that’s very much like a Sidecar, but made with Scotch instead of Cognac. It’s called the Silent Third.

I’m just back from Paris, the first trip my wife and I have had out of the country since the dreaded ‘rona appeared. It was also our first weekend away without the children since the birth of our second child in 2020. 

As you can imagine we went a bit overboard with the eating and drinking. When in Rome and all that. Between feasts, we stopped to meet a friend of my wife’s and his girlfriend at a place called Au Petit Fer a Cheval in Rue Vieille du Temple. On a warm summer’s day, Le Marais was swarming with tourists and looked like the last place you’d find an old-fashioned Parisian bar. But rather as there are still some great old pubs in Covent Garden in London, there’s still cafes in Paris that look like they haven’t changed since François Mitterand was in his prime.

The Silent Third

A classic Parisian café

Au Petit Fer a Cheval

The name means the little horseshoe, perhaps after the shape of the bar where we sat. For fans of traditional cafes, this place has it all, tiled floors, old posters, and middle-aged waiters in black waistcoats and aprons some of whom look like they’ve been with the place since it opened in 1903. It’s very much not the kind of place you ask for le wifi password, plug-in, and zone-out. In fact, in its ambiance, it has a lot in common with a good English pub. The only remotely modern thing about Au Petit Fer a Cheval is the all stainless steel lavatory which is like being trapped in Das Boot

Hot from a schlepp across town and, I admit, a rather lavish lunch, I ordered a draught beer and was surprised to be asked whether I wanted an IPA rather than the usual ordinary lager. Next, the surprise was the quality of the coffee. Not something guaranteed in France.

The Silent Third

Think of this as a classic Sidecar but with whisky instead as the star of the show

Monsieur, these will be my pleasure

We lingered a while and then out of the blue Hassan, the bartender, knocked us up a refreshing little cocktail and placed the glasses before us: on the house. My wife’s friend Christian was clearly a regular. It tasted a bit like a cross between a Whisky Sour and a Margarita. And it turned out to be a mixture of whisky, lemon juice, and triple sec. Essentially a Sidecar made with Scotch whisky instead of brandy.

It came in little tumblers, and it was refreshing and not too strong. A beautifully-made cocktail made all the more delicious because it’s not the sort of thing I’d expect to get in a French cafe. And so feeling pleasantly boozy and decidedly Parisian, we idled the afternoon away until it was time to visit another restaurant.

The Silent Third

The Silent Third

Bring out the Black Bottle

Now back in England, I’ve decided to bring a little Parisian glamour to deepest Kent by attempting to recreate Hassan’s cocktail. I didn’t catch the brand of whisky used or indeed the ratios but consulted the ever-reliable Difford’s Guide. Apparently, such a cocktail is known as the Silent Third, and it comes from the 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book

You could make this with bourbon or Irish whiskey but I’m going Scotch with Black Bottle Double Cask. It’s a great cocktail whisky as it has a strong American oak sweetness allied with a handy 46% ABV. I’m also using Grand Marnier instead of triple sec as that’s what I have in the house because I am fancy.

So, let’s raise a glass to Au Petit Fer a Cheval. Vive la France!

How to make a Silent Third

50ml Black Bottle Double Cask

25ml triple sec or Grand Marnier

25ml lemon juice

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Give it a good shape and strain into a chilled coupe or tumbler and garnish with a lemon twist. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Strawberry & Lemongrass Blush

Today, we’re putting some new flavoured spirits from Grey Goose through their paces. Called Grey Goose Essences, they come in three flavours and we’ve picked one in particular to make…

Today, we’re putting some new flavoured spirits from Grey Goose through their paces. Called Grey Goose Essences, they come in three flavours and we’ve picked one in particular to make a Strawberry & Lemongrass Blush.

Do you remember flavoured vodka? If like me you grew up in the ‘90s you wouldn’t have been able to move for the stuff: strawberry vodka, bison grass vodka, vanilla vodka, and fiery chilli vodka that would make you cry when you had a shot. Ah, happy days!

Some flavoured vodkas were delicious but many were sickly sweet and decidedly unpleasant. The sort of things that you would only drink because of the effect, not the taste. Flavoured vodkas gradually went out of fashion while all the excitement in spirits moved over to gin with the great gin explosion of 2009.

Vodka is back, apparently

Now, however, the gin boom is over and vodka is back! Now as I am sure many people will point out, vodka has never gone away. It’s the world’s most popular spirit and in Britain only very slightly less popular than gin. 

What has changed, however, is there are lots of new brands coming to the market either from small producers or from the big boys looking to exploit vodkas’ new-found fashionability. Enter Grey Goose Essences.

Grey Goose is the original cult vodka. It was created by New York booze tycoon Sidney Frank who saw how successful Absolut was and thought he could easily sell something more premium (read the full story here). But rather than make his vodka in the US, or in more obvious countries like Finland, Sweden or Poland, he decided that Cognac in France would be the home of his new brand. After all, they do know a bit about distillation there. 

Grey Goose Essences

Enter Grey Goose Essences

Today, Grey Goose is made from winter wheat grown in Picardy and distilled in Gensac by maître de chai François Thibault. He’s the man behind this latest product, Grey Goose Essences. “Grey Goose Essences has been a labour of love for both me and the brand. The freshest ingredients were meticulously searched for and a unique distillation process is used for each fruit and each botanical to ensure we captured the purest flavour in every bottle,” he said. 

Rather than just add flavour to vodka as in the past, Thibault uses techniques from gin production to make Grey Goose Essences. Some of the botanicals, which come from countries including France, Spain, Thailand and Sri Lanka, are infused while others are cold-distilled. And here’s the big change from flavoured vodkas of old, no added sugar. 

At the moment there are three varieties: Strawberry and Lemongrass, White Peach and Rosemary, and Watermelon and Basil, all bottled at 30% ABV which means they are spirit drinks rather than vodka. A good way to think of them is as a cocktail in a bottle, just add tonic or soda water, and a garnish. Perfect for entertaining this summer. 

Click here to see the full range from Grey Goose.

How to make a Strawberry & Lemongrass Blush

50ml Grey Goose Essences Strawberry & Lemongrass
100ml soda water
Cloudy apple juice

Add the first two ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass, stir gently and top up with apple juice. Garnish with a twist of lemon. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Tequila Sunrise

It’s Mexican week here at Master of Malt, so we’re celebrating the joys of Patrón Tequila in a cocktail that dates back to the 1930s but owes its modern incarnation…

It’s Mexican week here at Master of Malt, so we’re celebrating the joys of Patrón Tequila in a cocktail that dates back to the 1930s but owes its modern incarnation to 1970s California. It’s the mighty Tequila Sunrise.

What came first, the song or the cocktail? Well that’s an easy one, it’s the cocktail. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ by the Eagles came out in 1973 whereas the Tequila Sunrise cocktail has been kicking about in one form or other since the 1930s. Originally it was far closer to a Margarita or Paloma being made with lime juice and fizzy water, and it got its trademark reddish haze from crème de cassis rather than grenadine. 

The Tequila Sunrise as we know it is far more recent. It was probably invented in the early 1970s by two bartenders Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice at the Trident, a bar in Sausalito near San Francisco. It could have just been another cocktail that achieved a modicum of local fame before disappearing into oblivion, but for a chance meeting with an up-and-coming young beat combo known as the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger tried the cocktail, loved it and the band and its entourage took it up as their drink du jour. In his autobiography Life (well worth a read, it’s brilliant), Keith Richards referred to Stones’ 1972 tour of America as “cocaine and Tequila Sunrise tour”. How’s that for a serving suggestion?

With publicity like this, how could the cocktail fail? It quickly became one of the best known cocktails in the world. The Tequila Sunrise’s heyday was the ‘70s and ‘80s. There was even a baffling thriller named after it starring Mel Gibson, Michele Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell that came out in 1988. 

How to make a Tequila Sunrise

It’s not a difficult drink to make but I am sure that readers like me have had some pretty revolting versions. As always you need top quality ingredients starting with the Tequila. I’m using the delightful Patrón Silver Tequila made with 100% Blue Weber Agave. Next, you must use freshly-squeezed orange juice, NOT juice made from concentrate. Then there’s the grenadine. You can buy grenadine but it tastes better if you make it yourself from pomegranate juice (recipe below).

The basic Tequila Sunrise is nice but it can be improved with some judicious fiddling.  Adding a little lime and/or grapefruit juice freshens it up beautifully and takes it back into Margarita/ Paloma territory. And while we are going there why not go old school and use cassis to get that pretty sunrise effect, or perhaps Campari or Aperol?

The Tequila Sunrise,

The Tequila Sunrise, if it’s good enough of Keith, it’s good enough for us

Right got your ingredients in place? Stick on Exile on Main Street, and let’s make a Tequila Sunrise!

60ml Patrón Silver 
120ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons grenadine*

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the orange juice and Tequila. Shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Slowly pour the grenadine down the side of the glass to get that red haze. Garnish with an orange slice or a maraschino cherry, or both, rock n’ roll!

* Pomegranate juice (make sure it is pure pomegranate juice and not a drink containing pomegranate and sugar) is already sweet so you don’t need to add as much sugar as to water. A ratio of two parts juice to three parts sugar is ideal. Pour the pomegranate juice into a saucepan and gently heat, don’t boil, add the sugar and slowly and stir until it dissolves. Remove from the heat, pour into a sterilised jar (heated in the oven or with boiling water) and it should last in the fridge for months.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Bronx

This week’s cocktail conjures up images of wild Jazz Age parties and all manner of ‘20s excesses. A mixture of gin, orange juice, sweet and dry vermouth, it’s the Bronx!…

This week’s cocktail conjures up images of wild Jazz Age parties and all manner of ‘20s excesses. A mixture of gin, orange juice, sweet and dry vermouth, it’s the Bronx!

You really wouldn’t want to drink a Martini during Prohibition unless you could get hold of some authentic imported gin which would have been very expensive. So instead you’d have to use a rough bathtub gin, which might be flavoured with turpentine or sulphuric acid (mmmm, tangy), with nothing to temper it except something labelled vermouth (very likely a mixture of grape must, sugar and more rough alcohol). No wonder cocktails with high sugar and fruit content became popular during those sad years. They would hide the taste of the alcohol.

The invention of the Bronx

Take the Bronx, for example. It was invented in 1906 at the Old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York by a barman called Johnny Solon, but it came into its own when good liquor became scarce. Get hold of some orange juice, some “vermouth” and some alcohol that vaguely smelt of juniper, and you could make yourself a palatable cocktail. Especially if you served it really cold. The Bronx is basically a sweet Martini made with orange juice. No wonder the Bronx was the cocktail of the 1920s. It’s the sort of thing that could be made by the bucketful for your Gatsby-esque parties.

The Bronx

The Bronx, next to its better-known cousin, the Martini (photo credit: The Home Bar)

It’s rather gone out of fashion now. There’s a National Martini Day and a Negroni Week, but nobody designates time to enjoy the Bronx. Poor Bronx. Perhaps it’s because we now have good gin coming out of our ears. There’s no need to disguise the flavour. Then there’s the borough itself, which doesn’t have the glamour of Manhattan or the hip of Brooklyn. Plus it’s an easy cocktail to make badly with concentrated orange juice and cheap cooking vermouth. But if you use freshly squeezed orange juice, or my own favourite, blood orange juice, then it’s a marvellous concoction. Then when choosing your booze, think orange. I’m using Brighton Gin which has orange peel as one of its botanicals, and two citrus-heavy vermouths, Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato and Noilly Prat Extra Dry.

How to make the Bronx

To turn a Bronx into a Queens, you swap the orange juice for pineapple juice, or in some recipes combine the two, or in others add a bit of lemon to the pineapple. Or you can add a few drops of Angostura bitters in which case it is called an Income Tax (who comes up with these names?). Anyway, enough variations, let’s make the Bronx:

50ml Brighton Gin
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato
15ml Noilly Prat Orginal Dry
30ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters

Shake all the ingredients hard with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and shake a wicked calf

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Cocktail of the Week: The Grand Sour

This week we’re making good use of Grand Marnier’s orangey, Cognac-soaked flavour profile by shaking it up with bloody orange and lemon juice to create the irresistible Grand Sour. Cognac runs…

This week we’re making good use of Grand Marnier’s orangey, Cognac-soaked flavour profile by shaking it up with bloody orange and lemon juice to create the irresistible Grand Sour.

Cognac runs in Patrick Raguenaud’s veins. Well, not literally, that would be lethal, but his family has been farming in the region since the 17th century. He distils from his family’s vines in the Grand Champagne region, is president of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), oh, and he’s the master blender at Grand Marnier. Where does he find the time?

The breakfast of champions

We met him for the perfect start to a day, a Grand Marnier breakfast masterclass. He presented surrounded by little orange trees and bowls of sweet oranges which looked pretty but are actually very different from the fruit used in Grand Marnier. The recipe calls for bitter oranges which are bought from the Caribbean, Tunisia and South America. The oranges are picked when just turning from green to orange. “They have a very rustic flavour”, Raguenaud told us; the pulp is inedible and goes into compost while the skin is dried in the sun. He gave us some dried fruit to try: it was mouth-puckeringly, almost painfully bitter. The next step is to remove the pith and then the zest is macerated for two weeks in neutral alcohol.

The resulting orangey boozy liquid with the zest included is watered down and redistilled in a special still, similar to how gin is made. Then to make the classic Cordon Rouge expression, the distillate is diluted (to 40% ABV) and blended with sugar syrup and Cognac, which makes up 51% of the finished product. Raguenaud is very particular about the spirits he uses. He wants a light, fruity Cognac so doesn’t distil on the lees. He gave us some to try which was grassy with notes of pear and lemon and only a little wood influence. “We don’t want too much oak or it will spoil flavours”, he said.

Patrick Raguenau

Patrick Raguenaud with the Grand Marnier range

Maintaining consistency 

“It’s a very complex job to maintain consistency”, according to Raguenaud. The company ages eaux-de-vie distilled to its specifications and buys in aged Cognac. This year it released a special version, Cuvée Louis Alexandre, using a higher percentage of Cognac, and older spirits. We tried it alongside the standard model and it’s richer, sweeter and longer. He also let us try some of the completely fabulous and astronomically-priced Quintessence which is made with XO Cognac.

Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge was created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle. Since 2016 the company has been part of the Campari group. The biggest market by far, according to Ragueneau, is America where it’s used in Margaritas. I love a Margarita as much as the next man but I think this week’s cocktail makes better use of Grand Marnier’s intense sweetness, mouth-coating bitterness and length that comes from the Cognac. In fact, as it contains high ABV spirit, a bittering agent, orange, and sweetness, Grand Marnier is almost a cocktail in a bottle. So all you really need to add is something sour and voila! You have an elegant drink.

How to make a Grand Sour

This recipe comes is based on one from Difford’s Guide. It’s really very special and harmonious. Best of all is the finish where the complexity of the base Cognac really comes through, though I have a feeling that using one of the fancier versions would be even more delicious.

Grand Sour (credit Misti Traya)

Grand Sour (credit Misti Traya)

Got your bottle of Grand Marnier ready? Let’s get shaking.

60ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
30ml lemon juice
15ml blood orange juice (both freshly-squeezed)

Shake all the ingredients hard with ice and double strain into a chilled tumbler (or similar) with ice (or you could also serve it straight up in a coupe). Garnish with an orange round.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Rob Roy

Today’s cocktail is one for all those mixing Scotch whisky doubters out there. We’re using Black Bottle Double Cask to make Scotland’s answer to the Manhattan. It is, of course,…

Today’s cocktail is one for all those mixing Scotch whisky doubters out there. We’re using Black Bottle Double Cask to make Scotland’s answer to the Manhattan. It is, of course, the Rob Roy!

We spent a very jolly 45 minutes last week with Brendan McCarron from Distell tasting through the Black Bottle range*. You can watch him in action here. These are blends that speak for themselves, though having the always amusing McCarron as a guide certainly heightened the experience. Everything from the lightly-smoky standard expression, the ‘standing on the south coast of Islay in a gale’ Island Smoke to the mellow 10 Year Old are well worth your time and money. But this time it was the sweet and spicy Double Cask that stood out for me.

Black Bottle

Black Bottle Alchemy Series Double Cask and Island Smoke

A blend for mixing

One little sip and I thought what a fantastic cocktail whisky it is. The rich, toffee-laden spicy flavour profile comes from a mixture of malt whiskies finished in Spanish sherry casks and grain whisky aged in red wine casks. Also, according to McCarron, there’s a lot of virgin American oak in here as well. It all adds up to a blended whisky that majors on all the things that make bourbon so mixable: smoothness, sweetness, and spice, but there’s a whisper of smoke in here too. Best of all, it’s bottled at 46.3% ABV, so the flavour really comes through.

So think of all those cocktails that taste great with American whisky like an Old Fashioned or Boulevardier, and use Black Bottle Double Cask instead. Substitute rye for Scotch in a Manhattan, and you’ve got a Rob Roy. 

The Rob Roy story

Learned Master of Malt customers might assume that the cocktail was named after the novel by Walter Scott based on the life of Rob Roy MacGregor (made into a film with Liam Neeson and Tim Roth that was completely overshadowed by another Scottish history film that came out at the same time starring Mel Gibson). But in fact the Rob Roy gets its name from a now-forgotten Broadway musical based on the story which opened in New York in 1894. There seems to have been a trend for naming cocktails after musicals. The Pink Lady is named after a show that ran on Broadway before the First World War.

The Rob Roy is simply a Manhattan made with Scotch whisky instead of bourbon or rye. If you want to make it with Irish whiskey, it becomes an Emerald. As with a Manhattan you can make a dry version by using a dry vermouth like Dolin, or make it ‘perfect’ by combining sweet and dry. I’m sticking with sweet in the form of the decadent Azaline Saffron Vermouth.

For the whisky component, I find a big rich blend works best, like Black Bottle Double Cask, Johnnie Walker Black Label or Hankey Bannister. But a well-aged grain like Compass Box Hedonism would be great too. What’s also quite fun is to add just a teaspoon of something smoky, like Island Smoke, to give it a dose of peat.  Oh and don’t forget a dash or two of Angostura bitters.

Cocktail of the Week Rob Roy

How to make a Rob Roy

Right, let’s cocktail!

50ml Black Bottle Double Cask
25ml Azaline Saffron Vermouth 
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Stir all the ingredients with lots of ice in a shaker or jug. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass, and garnish with a twist of lemon or a maraschino cherry. Or both!

*For a limited time only we are offering the Black Bottle bundle – all four expressions for a very good price. 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: the Thunderer

This week we’re resurrecting a lost cocktail created by Dick Bradsell for The Times in 1982. It’s a kind of proto-Bramble called the Thunderer!  The Bramble is the second most…

This week we’re resurrecting a lost cocktail created by Dick Bradsell for The Times in 1982. It’s a kind of proto-Bramble called the Thunderer! 

The Bramble is the second most famous creation of legendary bartender Dick Bradsell (the first being the mighty Espresso Martini.) The story goes that it was invented when he was working at Fred’s Club in Soho in the mid-’80s.

It was inspired by his childhood holidays on the Isle of Wight. In 2001, he wrote this for Difford’s Guide on his creation: “I wanted to invent a truly British drink for reasons that escape me now…. A bramble, by the way, is the bush where the blackberry grows, I know this as I spent an inordinate amount of time in my Isle of Wight childhood cutting and scratching myself on their jaggy thorns in attempts to capture those elusive berries that others had failed to harvest.”

Thunderer times extract

Image courtesy of Jane MacQuitty from The Times

The Bramble’s ancestor

What’s not so well-known is that the Bramble has an ancestor that is now almost completely forgotten. Almost, but not quite. Jane MacQuitty, long-time wine columnist of The Times, remembers a kind of proto-Bramble.

The year was 1982 and MacQuitty was writing a column on how cocktails were back in, there really is nothing new under the sun. To tie in with the feature, the Times team commissioned Bradsell and others including the American Bar at the Savoy to come up with a special cocktail for Times readers. She told me that “Dick at Zanzibar was by far and away the best ….”

She wrote at the time: “A panel of experienced imbibers sampled several impressive concoctions before giving its unanimous vote to one which, although not in the fashionable fruit-and-parasol idiom, may well become a classic.” It was dubbed the Thunderer, after the paper’s nickname, and then seems to have largely been forgotten about. The only reference I could find of it was on the Absolut website with no mention of its inventor.

Its descendant, however, the Bramble did indeed become a classic. The two drinks work on a similar theme but the Thunderer uses cassis instead of creme de mure, vodka instead of gin, a tiny amount of parfait amour, and is served ice cold straight up rather than on crushed ice. Apparently it proved very popular with readers, MacQuitty told me, and got more than a few drunk. 

A few years later when, Bradsell had by then left Zanzibar and was at Fred’s Club in Soho, he unleashed the Bramble on the world and the rest is history. He would later invent the Espresso Martini as well as work at the quintessential ‘90s bar The Atlantic. Sadly, Bradsell died in 2016 of brain cancer aged only 56.

Thunderer cocktail of the week

How to make a Thunderer

Bradsell’s legacy would be to inspire a generation of bartenders to make classic simple cocktails using high quality ingredients, rather than the lurid sugary concoctions that MacQuitty is alluding to above. 

And the Thunderer is vintage Bradsell being both incredibly simple and incredibly delicious, as long as you use the right spirits. The original recipe calls for Stolichnaya or just Stoli as it is now known. I think, however, Kavka from Poland would be even better as it’s made with tiny quantities of fruit brandy. 

Finally, MacQuitty adds that you can leave out the parfait amour, a strongly floral liqueur which some people hate, if you find the flavour “too provocative.” She doesn’t specify a garnish but a raspberry dropped in the glass would be lovely. 

60cl Kavka vodka
1 teaspoon White Heron British cassis
½ teaspoon Giffard parfait amour (optional)

All the liquids should be as cold as possible. Swirl a frozen coupe or Martini glass with creme de cassis, add the parfait amour and the frozen vodka. Then, as MacQuitty puts it: “serve instantly before the glass defrosts.” 

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Cocktail of the Week: the Sazerac

Today, we’re making a cocktail with its heart in old Louisiana. Like an Old Fashioned but with a French twist, it’s the drink of New Orleans. It is, of course,…

Today, we’re making a cocktail with its heart in old Louisiana. Like an Old Fashioned but with a French twist, it’s the drink of New Orleans. It is, of course, the Sazerac!

New Orleans, with its blend of French, Spanish, British, African, and Native American cultures, is a rich place for drinks. It’s the home of the Hurricane, and the city’s old town gives its name to the Vieux Carré. But against such stiff competition, it’s the Sazerac that is the definitive New Orleans cocktail. So much so that in 2008 the Louisiana Legislature proclaimed it as the city’s official cocktail. 

Who invented the Sazerac?

It was probably invented in 1838 by Antoine Peychaud, a Louisiana apothecary and inventor of the eponymous bitters. The Sazerac was named after a now defunct brand of Cognac: Sazerac de Forge et Fils. The Sazerac was originally made just with brandy but when the vineyards of Europe were destroyed by phylloxera (the vine-eating louse that came originally from America) in the late nineteenth century, bourbon or rye whiskeys were used instead. 

Now it gets a bit confusing because there is now a highly-regarded make of rye whiskey named after the famous cocktail. The Sazerac Company also owns Buffalo Trace bourbon, Southern Comfort and Peychaud’s bitters so they have the Cajun cocktail game sewn up. 

To further confuse matters, the Sazerac company launched its own brand of Cognac in 2020 called Seignette VS. And to make things even more complicated, it has now revived the Sazerac de Forge Cognac brand. So the Sazerac brand will be returning to its French roots. 

New Orleans

It’s like a French Old Fashioned

The Sazerac cocktail is part of the Old Fashioned family. A mixture of alcohol, usually brandy or whiskey, sweetened with sugar, seasoned with bitters and chilled, these would have originally just been known as ‘cocktails’. That’s before the great vermouth revolution when all kinds of new-fashioned drinks like the Martini and Manhattan usurped the name cocktail.

Eric Felten, in his great How’s Your Drink, writes: “It may not be the World’s Strongest Drink, but the Sazerac with its spicy-sweet contradictions, is a cocktail according to the original specifications. Taste one, and you’ll realise why the concept caught on.” According to him, the best Sazerac in the world is made at the Library Lounge of the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans.

Aniseed haters avoid

The Sazerac’s uniqueness lies in the addition of aniseed in the form of absinthe to the simple Old Fashioned recipe, and that it is stirred down and strained rather than served on the rocks. Beware, it’s not a drink for those who don’t like aniseed. So all you aniseed haters out there, avoid. Instead of absinthe, you could use pastis or Herbsaint, a New Orleans aniseed liqueur which it won’t surprise you to learn is also owned by Sazerac. Almost nobody will know the difference. But whatever you do, you must use Peychaud’s bitters or it isn’t a Sazerac. 

Finally, do you use Cognac as in the original recipe or rye as they do at the Library Lounge? Well, I’m going for both, using Seignette VS Cognac and the magnificent Oxford Rye cos it’s what I have in the house. And it’s magnificent. You could keep it on brand by using Sazerac Straight Rye, and save yourself some money.

Whichever you use, the spice of the rye does something magical with the fruit from a vibrant young Cognac. Add a dash of aniseed and some Peychaud’s bitters, and suddenly you’re in the French quarter of New Orleans with the sound of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band floating on the breeze. 

Homemade New Orleans Sazerac Cocktail with Bitters and Rye

How to make a Sazerac

30ml Seignette VS Cognac
30ml Oxford Rye Whiskey Batch 4 or Sazerac Straight Rye
Teaspoon of sugar
Tablespoon of absinthe or Ricard Pastis
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Dash of Angostura bitters

Coat a tumbler with the absinthe and shake it out. Then in a shaker stir together the brandy, whiskey, bitters and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add ice and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds. Strain into the absinthe coated glass and serve with a twist of lemon.

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Cocktail of the Week: the Brandy Alexander

This week’s cocktail is a decadent concoction made with Cognac, Cream, and Bols creme de cacao. John Lennon was a fan, and so should you be too. It’s the Brandy…

This week’s cocktail is a decadent concoction made with Cognac, Cream, and Bols creme de cacao. John Lennon was a fan, and so should you be too. It’s the Brandy Alexander!

We’ve just had a load of liqueurs and other fine alcoholic beverages from Bols – we’ll be running a profile on the Dutch masters of booze tomorrow. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time on the company’s cocktail recipe page to put them to good use. A few jumped out at me, the After Eight, made in honour of the poshest mints known to man, but then I realised that we hadn’t covered the Brandy Alexander, and I really wanted to make something with Creme de Cacao.

This is a liqueur containing herbs, spices, oranges and, of course, chocolate, and Bols has been making it since the 16th century. It comes in two versions, white, which is sweeter and more like milk chocolate, and brown, which is bitter like the dark stuff. I’m going to use the latter in my Brandy Alexander. 

Which Alexander?

It might surprise you that an ‘Alexander’ is actually a type of cocktail.  Before the Brandy Alexander, there were other Alexanders such as the Gin one (which sounds revolting). The Alexander in all its forms was invented some time around the 1920s and may have been named after Alexander Woollcott, drama critic of the New Yorker, or even Tsar Alexander II. 

Whoever it was named after, it’s the Brandy Alexander of all the Alexanders that has lasted the course. It’s quite a favourite of 20th century literature, cropping up Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and others. But for me it’s most memorable role is in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited when Anthony Blanche orders it before his meal with Charles Ryder – this is one of the funniest scenes in the 1981 ITV adaptation of the book with Nickolas Grace playing the role of Blanche:

‘At the George bar he ordered ‘Four Alexandra [sic] cocktails please,’ rang them before him with a loud “Yum-yum” which drew every eye, outraged, upon him. ‘I expect you would prefer sherry, but, my dear Charles, you are not going to have sherry. Isn’t this a delicious concoction? You don’t like it? Then, I will drink it for you. One, two, three, four, down the red lane they go. How the students stare!’…”

Brandy Alexander Brideshead Revisited

Anthony Blanche (Nickolas Grace) enjoying a few Brandy Alexanders

Like a milkshake for grown-ups

Brandy Alexander’s most notable champion was probably John Lennon. The story goes that he was introduced to the drink by singer and noted booze enthusiast Harry Nilsson in 1974 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Apparently after his first taste, he commented: “Wow, it’s like a milkshake.” Later he and Nilsson got hammered, started a fight and continued on an almighty bender but that’s another story

Lennon was right about the taste, a Brandy Alexander is like a milkshake for grown-ups. It’s essentially a pudding in a glass, so rather than drink it before a meal like Blanche does in Brideshead Revisited, it works much better after instead of dessert. 

Once you’ve got your Bols Creme de Cacao, then it’s a question of what sort of brandy to use. You certainly wouldn’t want to pour in your best XO. I’m using Remy Martin’s delightfully rich 1738 but something like a decent Brandy de Jerez like Carlos I Gran Reserva, or an Armagnac like Janneau VSOP would be more than adequate. 

Swap the brandy for vodka and you have something not far from a Mudslide. Use Irish Whiskey and you have what is essentially Bailey’s. As for the cream, American recipes call for something called ‘heavy cream’. This is equivalent to British whipping cream. Single cream is too light and double cream too thick. 

You’ll want to give this a really good shake. Probably one is enough, they are very rich and you don’t want to end up doing a John Lennon.

Brandy Alexander

How to make a Brandy Alexander

30ml Bols Brown Creme de Cacao
30ml Remy 1738 Accord Royal Cognac
30ml whipping or heavy cream

Shake all the ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with some grated nutmeg or a piece of Cadbury’s flake if you’re feeling decadent.

 

 

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