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Tag: Cocktail of the Week

Cocktail of the Week: The Bullshot

The heyday of the Bullshot cocktail was in the 1960s and’70s when it was enjoyed by such stars as Joan Crawford, Malcolm McDowell, and, um, Rodney Dangerfield. Since then, it’s…

The heyday of the Bullshot cocktail was in the 1960s and’70s when it was enjoyed by such stars as Joan Crawford, Malcolm McDowell, and, um, Rodney Dangerfield. Since then, it’s never quite reached such glittering heights. But Millie Milliken thinks the Bullshot is ripe for a revival. So grab a can of Campbell’s beef broth, and discover it for yourself.

It all started with a can of Campbell’s soup. So says cocktail historian Dave Wondrich in his recounting of the origins of the Bullshot cocktail. Detroit’s Caucus Club bar is the setting for this slightly strange cocktail which was invented by a soup PR man and a bartender. Somehow, it became a mainstay of American bars during the 1950s and ‘60s.

The Bullshot (which has also been known as a Jumping Bull, Matador and Ox on the Rocks is unsurprisingly bovine in nature. Traditionally, it comprises beef bouillon, vodka, lemon juice and hot pepper or Worcestershire sauce – a meaty version, for some, of a Bloody Mary – and although originally served cold, it can also be served hot as a warming toddy.

Despite its popularity in mid-20th century America, the Bullshot isn’t something you see on many bar menus in the UK. It did make an appearance at Claridge’s’ The Fumoir bar in 2014 and The Times even reported that it was among the meaty cocktails (‘stocktails’) making a comeback as recently as 2018. Surely, beef broth’s reputation as a virtuous liquid lately gives it a pretty good chance.

So, how did it all begin? And what can they look – and taste – like now?

Campbell's Beef Soup - The Bullshot cocktail

Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can

Holy cow

As Wondrich regales, one night, Lester Gruber, owner of the Caucus Club, got talking over the bar to John Hurley, a local PR man who just so happened to be looking after the Campbell’s account. One of the soup brand’s products at the time was a canned beef broth – the bouillon – and Hurley was having trouble shifting it. Gruber volunteered to help and with the addition of vodka, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, the Bullshot was born.

In the 1970s the brand took it one step further with a catchy ‘soup on the rocks’ advert, showing a can of Campbell’s beef bouillon being poured over ice: “Take it straight or add a dash of Worcestershire or lemon peel for a kicky switch,” the ad reads, notably eschewing the vodka. It’s follow-up was an ad for a Frisky Sour – beef bouillon, ice water, fresh lemon juice, shaken and served in a Champagne flute, again a non-alcoholic family-friendly drink.

If it’s good enough for…

The boozy version has been enjoyed by some of the 50s and 60s most notable Hollywood stars – except for Marilyn Monroe who apparently said, “What a horrible thing to do with vodka”.

Those in favour though include Malcolm McDowell who was reported to have been seen drinking beef bouillon and vodka while promoting Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange.

A contemporary of Monroe, Joan Crawford (of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? fame) was also a fan. She was said to enjoy a Bullshot – or six – 1960s TV sensation Richard Chamberlain at New York hotspot La Grenouille.

For those familiar with the 1980s golf comedy Caddyshack, you’ll even hear actor and comedian Rodney Dangerfield ask the film’s lead Chevy Chase: “Hey, can you make a Bullshot?”

Can-do attitude

Just like the Bloody Mary, the Bullshot is a drink that can be made easily at home, and can be as cheap or as premium as your palate prefers. Sticklers for tradition may want to do justice to the original recipe by using Campbell’s beef broth as the base (or something more contemporary such as Spring Broth’s bottled beef broth), while homemade broths will, of course, work just as well. Vegans can also get involved with a hearty mushroom consommé.

Staying with vodka and the likes of Black Cow Pure Milk vodka brings a slightly more creamy and sumptuous character to the drink, while Mermaid Sea Salt Vodka brings home the savouriness. Just as with a Bloody Mary as well, additions like Marmite in the mix or a celery or chilli salt rim on the glass can also add that extra kick of umami and spice. The recipe below is based on the one from Difford’s Guide. You may want more or less seasoning. 

Bullshot (credit: Difford's Guide)

The Bullshot (credit: Difford’s Guide)

How to make a Bullshot 

120ml beef bouillon
60ml vodka
15ml lemon juice
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes of hot sauce
1 pinch each of salt and black pepper.

Mix your vodka and beef bouillon together, add the lemon juice, Worcestershire Sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour over ice into a Highball glass. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and a salted rim (optional).


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Cocktail of the Week: Tommy’s Margarita

In the build-up to National Tequila Day (on Saturday) we’re enjoying a twist on a standard that originated from a small family restaurant and has gone on to become a fixture on…

In the build-up to National Tequila Day (on Saturday) we’re enjoying a twist on a standard that originated from a small family restaurant and has gone on to become a fixture on cocktail menus across the world. This week regular contributor Lucy is making Tommy’s Margarita.

The Tommy’s Margarita is an accidental modern classic, born out of a passion for Tequila and the boundless enthusiasm of the bar community. The drink essentially sees the triple sec in a Margarita replaced with agave nectar. But to get to know the Tommy’s Margarita, first you need to get to know Tommy’s.

Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco is one of my all-time favourite bars. The neighbourhood venue in the city’s Richmond district is a haven for Tequila fans, locals, football watchers, Mexican food lovers and anyone and everyone in between.

The actual bar area sits in a partitioned section along the side of the restaurant. If you’re lucky enough to get a stool up at the bar, don’t expect to move for the night. Instead, settle in for the Tequila journey of your life – and marvel at just how fast bartenders can squeeze limes.

This warm hug of a place is home to hundreds of Tequilas, a collection built up by highly respected Tequila expert – and one of the nicest people in the industry – Julio Bermejo. His parents, Tomas and Elmy, opened Tommy’s in 1965 and the family’s awesome approach to hospitality is a testament to the bar’s longevity.

Tommy's Margarita

Lucy, her husband Luke Ellis, and the legendary Julio (middle)

Creating Tommy’s Margarita

Today, Tommy’s is famous for its eponymous Margarita cocktail. A drink that is now enjoyed all over the world. “I never started to try and create a modern classic cocktail,” Bermejo says. In fact, several events formed the perfect storm.”

Bermejo talks about getting drunk on beer, rum and brandy at an early age and feeling horrible hangovers”, which eventually led him to try Tequila. He began learning more and more about TequilaHerradura Reposado specifically”, he says. At the same time, he mentions the introduction of agave fructose in Northern California, and a big one: “Making the decision to stop selling regular [mixto] Tequila in favour of 100% agave Tequila as our house pour, when 98% of US Tequila consumers only drank mixto.”

The move was ground-breaking. And it was motivated by Bermejo’s desire for his Margaritas to taste of Tequilanot the modifiers or triple sec. “What ended up happening as a by-product of no longer serving mixto, is I did away with the notion of ‘top shelf Tequila,” he explains. Then, as I began to stock more and more 100% agave Tequilas, I started making Margaritas with other Tequilas to demonstrate to guests how much of a difference replacing the Tequila made to the Margarita.

He says that for drinkers, the difference was “night and day”. His guests eventually found their favourite Margarita and their favourite 100% agave Tequila.

Tommy's Margarita

Tommy’s Margarita is all about showcasing quality Tequila, made entirely from agave

Spreading the love

Though the Tommy’s Margarita was born in San Francisco, Bermejo believes it was made on the international bar scene.

I think the real story is how it became so popular,” he says. For that, he gives credit to bar industry legend and Tequila expert Dre Masso and the late, great Henry Besant – who was a titan in the Tequila world – as well as the International Bartenders Association. They helped put Tommy’s Margarita on the map. And on the menu.

Tequila picks

When it comes to choosing a Tequila to make a Tommy’s Margarita with, I get the impression it’s like asking a person to pick a favourite child. Bermejo doesn’t name brands, but he offers some pretty solid advice all the same. I always say that if one wants a great Tommys, use a great Tequila. If one wants a bad Tommys, use crappy Tequila.Wise words.

He also says that because there are people, like him, who love Margaritas all day, the time and climatic conditions can greatly influence a choice. So, for example, if you live in London and you’re out at night and it is chilly, I would like a Tommy’s with more body and length,” he explains. “So, Tommy’s made with a reposado or even an añejo. If you are in Ibiza for summer, then you need a very bright and crisp Tommy’s, say one made with a great Highland blanco.”

Tommy's Margarita

Tommy’s Margarita: simple to make but so rewarding

Making a Tommy’s

The night we visited Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, we got chatting to a guy who turned out to be involved in American football. The Tequila flowed and Bermejo ensured we were very, very well educated when it came to understanding how different Tequilas influence the taste of a Tommy’s Margarita. So well educated, in fact, that I can’t remember which was my favourite. Or much about American football. So, here’s my home go-to Tequila brand in Bermejo’s modern classic…

60ml Olmeca Altos Plata

30ml freshly squeezed lime juice

15ml agave syrup

Salt the rim of your glass if you like. Then, shake all ingredients with ice and strain into your ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Belafonte

This week we’re stirring up a cocktail created by bartender Cas Oh. He’s the author of a lavish new cocktail book called Co-Specs. It’s called the Belafonte and it’s a…

This week we’re stirring up a cocktail created by bartender Cas Oh. He’s the author of a lavish new cocktail book called Co-Specs. It’s called the Belafonte and it’s a deliciously drinkable blend of Campari, white Port, and tonic. It might just be our drink of the summer.

As I mentioned last week, it’s not easy to invent a new cocktail. Someone has almost always had the idea before you. But this week’s drink does seem to be genuinely new. It’s called the Belafonte and, according to its inventor Cas Oh, it’s “a riff on the way white Port is served with tonic in Portugal.” 

Belafonte comes from the name of Steve Zizzou’s boat (which really existed) in Wes Anderson’s film The Life Aquatic starring Bill Murray as the Jacques Cousteau-esque explorer with a penchant for red hats as well as Campari.

The man behind the drink

But before we show you how to make it, we’re going to take a look at the man behind the drink, Mr Cas Oh (below). He’s just published a lavish new cocktail book called Co-Specs which has been shortlisted for a Fortnum & Mason award!

He’s still reeling from the news: “Being self-published I didn’t seriously think my book had a shot against the professionally-published submissions, but I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring anyway. I damn near soiled myself when I got the email letting me know I was shortlisted,” he said.

 What I love about this book is that for every cocktail featured, he’s gone back to first principles in order to find the “final version I felt was best balanced,” he said. The book took him five years to research and write or as he puts it “goddam forever”. “I essentially went into hibernation and upon my emergence years later I was three shades paler from lack of sun,” he said.

This exactitude extends to measurements. He warns: “every ingredient should be measured and whichever jigger you use, pour exactly to the line as if you were measuring for a science experiment.” He also advises not to use a bar spoon “as the amount you scoop up will vary every time; instead use cooking spoon measures, again flat to the line.”

Cas Oh author of Co-Specs

‘Is this whisky really Japanese?’

100 cocktail books in one

If you’ve just got into cocktails during lockdown, Co-Specs is a great place to start because he doesn’t just show you how to make a cocktail, he gives you the history too. He described it as: “it’s like having a vast library of important bar books condensed into just one.” He continued:The thing about that historical detail is it’s not just there for academic purposes. At the end of the day this is a recipe book, you want to know: ‘how do I make the most accurate, and best version of this classic cocktail?’”

As well as putting the work in researching it, he has also published the book the hard way. Doing everything himself which is described as an “extra headache” but he didn’t want to make any “editorial or creative compromises.” It’s a magnificent-looking book, hardback with shiny paper and colour photography by Debbie Bragg who “perfectly captured the unpretentious and silly vibe of the day.” 


All these, in one book

But it’s not a coffee table book, he explained: “I chose paper finishes that can handle some heavy-duty page-flicking and the occasional splash. The cover is scuff resistant, the formatting of recipes are separate on the page and in sans serif fonts so they’re really legible if you grab it and want to quickly read the recipe only. “

You won’t be surprised to hear that Cas Oh has done serious time behind the bar working in such famous venues as the Groucho and the Hospital Club as well as running the bar at the Ivy club for ten years. In short, he knows his stuff. 

So, when it comes to inventing his own cocktail he knows what he’s doing. We covered recently what a good cocktail ingredient white Port is either as the focus or in a supporting role. Here it adds depth and texture to the Campari while taming the bitterness somewhat. It’s also comparatively low in alcohol making it great for sipping in the sun. We think it could become a classic.

As Steve Zissou would say: “hey intern, get me a Belafonte.”


Inside Co-Specs

How to make a Belafonte:

30ml Campari
30ml Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port
Tonic water

Build over ice in a Highball glass, top with tonic and garnish with an orange twist or slice.

Co-Specs by Cas Oh is available to buy direct for £19.99.

Belafonte, Campari, White Port and Tonic

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Cocktail of the Week: The Sex on the Beach

This week Millie Milliken dons her visor and heads to 1980s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to find out the origins of the Sex on the Beach [adult content warning] ‘Spring break’,…

This week Millie Milliken dons her visor and heads to 1980s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to find out the origins of the Sex on the Beach [adult content warning]

‘Spring break’, a cultural phenomenon that started in the 1930s might be unknown to us Brits but it’s a bikini and budgie-smuggler-clad right of passage for most young Americans partying their way into adulthood. Every March, thousands of college students descend on the Sunshine State’s many beaches to partake in the holiday’s festivities: sun, shots and insalubrious antics are had by all.

It feels only natural then that the Sex on the Beach cocktail, rumour has it, was invented during one such sun-drenched and saucy spring break. Traditionally made up of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice, the drink – usually served to look like a sunset – is typically presented in a hurricane glass and topped with a wedge of pineapple or a slice of orange, a glacier cherry and a jaunty cocktail umbrella.

These days you’re most likely to see it featured on large, laminated menus alongside Piña Coladas (a personal favourite) and Long Island Iced Teas (again, not complaining). So, who invented the ’80s classic you wouldn’t want to order in front of your parents?

“I’ll have a Sex on the Beach” lol

Under pressure

The story goes that in 1987, a company called National Distribution launched a new product – peach schnapps. As a way of selling their new liquid, they launched a competition in Fort Lauderdale during the famous party season, asking bartenders to create a cocktail using it. One bartender was Ted Pizio of Confetti Bar. He mixed the schnapps with vodka, grenadine and orange juice and the partygoers loved it. When Pizio was asked to name his cocktail, his mind went straight to what he believed the Spring Breakers came away to Florida to do… and so, Sex on the Beach was born.

While this is the most accepted story, eagle-eyed cocktail nerds have disputed this being the drink’s origin story, noting its appearance in the American Bartenders School Guide to Drinks (published in 1982). In this version of events, it’s believed that the Sex on the Beach was actually created when a bartender combined a Fuzzy Naval (peach schnapps and orange juice) and a Cape Codder (vodka and cranberry).

Don’t you want me?

Whoever invented in, Sex on the Beach quickly achieved global fame, helped by T-Spoon’s 1997 song of the same name, the Sex on Beach. But it has not been immune to modernisation. Perhaps the most notable version is the Woo Woo, basically everything except the orange juice and a lime wedge garnish instead of pineapple or orange.

The most obvious change over the years has been the transition from grenadine to cranberry juice, while some recipes also call for the addition of pineapple juice for a slightly more tropical taste. A dash of raspberry liqueur is also a popular riff – think Chambord, Tiptree (of jam fame) or St George.

Then it’s the look. Some bartenders choose to mix the ingredient together punch-style before serving (as opposed to layering a combination of cranberry and vodka over the top of orange juice and peach schnapps). Glassware too has changed, from a Hurricane to a Highball, and more simple, low-key garnishes have come into favour.

Sex on the Beach Cocktail

Sex on the Beach, classic layered style in a Hurricane glass

Walk this way

It’s so easy to make this underrated serve at home and it’s just as easy to pump it full of quality. When it comes to the vodka, adding something salty like Mermaid Salt Vodka may help to balance the sweetness of this cocktail and satisfy 2021 drinkers. Ciroc Black Raspberry or Pineapple could be a hybrid option if you’re eschewing raspberry liqueur or pineapple juice. While Misty Isle Vodka is the sort of clean and crisp liquid able to bring this cocktail up in premium.

And then there’s the schnapps. You can’t go wrong with a trusty Archer’s Peach Schnapps but something like Freihof’s 1885 Marille Apricot will elevate your Sex on the Beach. Needless to say, make sure your juice is as fresh as possible. When it comes to the garnish, I’m in favour of a cocktail umbrella and a slice of pineapple for a touch of kitsch, although pineapple leaves in favour of the brolly make for a more sophisticated flourish. At the end of the day, this cocktail is meant to be a bit of fun – make sure you have plenty of it, if you catch my drift.

How to make a Sex on the Beach

50ml Master of Malt vodka
25ml peach schnapps
2 oranges, juiced
50ml cranberry juice

Mix the vodka, peach schnapps and orange juice together and pour into a hurricane glass over ice. Pour over the cranberry juice and garnish as you please. Stir before drinking.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Blood Orange Margarita

It’s Tequila time again as we’re making a refreshing twist on a classic using Mijenta Tequila, a new brand that takes sustainability very seriously. Here is the Blood Orange Margarita!…

It’s Tequila time again as we’re making a refreshing twist on a classic using Mijenta Tequila, a new brand that takes sustainability very seriously. Here is the Blood Orange Margarita!

One of the joys of amateur mixology is creating our own cocktails. Over the years, I have invented such not quite classics as the Martoni, basically a Martini with a tiny bit of Campari in it, the Christmas Negroni, a Negroni made with tawny Port, and, best of all, the Blood Orange Margarita.

Introducing the Blood Orange Margarita

This came about one sweltering day when my wife had cooked a massive Mexican feast, carnitas, homemade corn tortillas, black beans, roast tomato salsa, and her own secret recipe guacamole (the secret is mango). It’s pretty spicy so I was looking for something refreshing and not too strong to wash it down with so I started playing around with the proportions of the Margarita

To the classic 2:1:1 (Tequila, lime juice and triple sec) I added one part blood orange juice and served the whole thing on the rocks with a splash of soda water. Delicious. The next day, I was planning to take my drink to the cocktail patent office but a second’s search on Google told me that there were already dozens of recipes for Blood Orange Margaritas. And there’s no such place as the cocktail patent office.

No matter, it’s a damn good cocktail which has become something of a family favourite. I’m making it this week using a new Tequila called Mijenta which was founded by Mike Dolan, an ex-Bacardi big cheese (queso grande in Spanish) bartender Juan Coronado, and designer Elise Som.

Mijenta Tequila

Mijenta Tequila

To make their Tequila dream a reality, the trio enlisted the help of maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero. The agave is sourced from Arandas in the highlands of Jalisco, about 70 miles from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city. Naturally, the Tequila is 100% blue agave. The piñas are slow-cooked in the traditional manner and double-distilled in pot stills before bottling at 40% ABV. 

In an interview with the Spirits Business, Romero commented: “We really wanted it to have the local characteristics of the region. Things like the red clay soil, the agave, all these aspects really influenced the characteristics of the terroir. The characteristics are fruity flavours and aromas. I worked with jimadors to select the agave that was of a specific height and maturity to create the flavour profile of Mijenta.”

My people

The Mijenta team is into sustainability in a big way. That’s sustainable for the environment and for the community. The name comes from the Spanish phrase, mi gente, my people. The company has set up a non-profit foundation called the Mijenta Foundation which aims to preserve traditional ways of making Tequila, and invests in the local community. Juan Coronado explained, “We wanted Mijenta to tell a story of the land and its people and ensure that the artisanal nature of Tequila is not lost.”

The environmental side comes in the form of labels and boxes that are made from agave waste while all the packaging comes from Mexico. The company is even working to save the whales through an organisation called Whales of Guerrero.

All this is great, but happily Mijenta also really delivers on flavour. It’s pungent and full of mint and lime with black pepper, chillies and cinnamon tempered by the smoothest creamiest vanilla texture. Then the spices come back for a lingering finish. 

I think that creamy vanilla feel should work brilliantly with a little oak ageing so you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a reposado on the way and the brand is also working on a cristalino (aged and then filtered to remove colour) version. 

It’s a lovely sipping Tequila but that lime note means that it makes a magical Margarita. Or a bloody tasty Blood Orange Margarita, which I still like to think I invented. 

Blood Orange Margarita

How to make a Blood Orange Margarita

50ml Mijenta Tequila Blanco
25ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
25ml lime juice
25ml blood orange juice
Soda water

Briefly shake the first four ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler (you can salt the rim if you so wish but it’s not essential), top up with soda, stir and garnish with a half slice of blood orange.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Old Hickory

This week’s cocktail is a vermouth-heavy concoction named after a hard as nails American president. It’s called the Old Hickory and it’s delicious. Old Hickory was a nickname for General…

This week’s cocktail is a vermouth-heavy concoction named after a hard as nails American president. It’s called the Old Hickory and it’s delicious.

Old Hickory was a nickname for General Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States from 1829-1837. It was because he was as hard as nails, or rather old hickory, a particularly hard type of wood. This was a man who was born into poverty in Appalachia, who through ambition and toughness became the most powerful man in the country. He got the name in 1813 from his troops during a gruelling march from New Orleans to Nashville, Tennessee, when his young country was, yet again, at war with the British. 

A hoary old tale

So, what kind of cocktail would be named after Jackson? Surely a blend of overproof whiskey and bear blood. But no, Jackson’s cocktail is defiantly urban, sweet and low in alcohol. In Stanley Clisby Arthur’s book, New Orleans Cocktails and how to mix ‘em (1937), the author explains the story behind the Old Hickory Cocktail:

“According to hoary but unsubstantiated tradition, this was the favourite tipple of General Andrew Jackson, when he was in New Orleans in the winter of 1814-15 helping the pirate Jean Lafite win the Battle of New Orleans [fought against the British army].”

Arthur goes on to list a cocktail that is made from one part each of French and Italian vermouth with one dash of orange bitters and two of Peychaud’s bitters. It’s stirred with ice and served straight up with a piece of lemon peel. 

Not very rugged. Or likely to be very true. Vermouth did not arrive in America in any great way until the late 19th century when cocktails such as the Martini, Manhattan et al. were invented. Though, I suppose, it’s possible that New Orleans with its links to France may have had vermouth 50 or so years before the rest of the country.

Azaline vermouth

Azaline vermouth: great label, delicious contents

Use a quality vermouth

No matter, it’s an extremely delicious cocktail and handily light in alcohol. A word of warning though, there’s nowhere for the vermouth to hide in this cocktail. You have to use the best, and the freshest, vermouth you can find. So throw out that sticky old bottle that’s been sitting at the back of the cupboard since Christmas, and buy something new. Now, that could be some Martini Rosso and Dolin, but this is a good occasion to try something a little different.

Like Azaline Saffron Vermouth. This is made by the great liqueur house of Gabriel Boudier which is based in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy. Most red vermouth gets its colour from, well, colouring, but this is made from local Pinot Noir grapes which gives it a proper wine-like tang. This wine base is flavoured with wormwood, juniper, orange peel, tarragon and blackcurrants (Boudoir is also famous for its creme de cassis).

But it’s real party piece is saffron. Look at the bottle with it’s beautiful Persian-inspired label, that’s where Boudoir sources its saffron from. And it’s not just a hint of saffron. This is positively loaded with that distinctive either earthy, slightly bitter taste you’ll recognise from paella or indeed a pilaf. It’s distinctive and delicious neat but it really comes into its own when mixed.

In order to make the perfect Old Hickory, you need a dry vermouth that can compliment and not clash with Azaline’s distinctive taste. Regal Rogue Daring Dry fits the bill perfectly. It’s another wine-forward vermouth, made from organic Australian grapes, and it’s refreshing zingy profile is the perfect foil to the rich flavours of the Azaline.

Old Hickory cocktail

Old Hickory cocktail served on the rocks

Straight up or on the rocks

The classic recipe calls for half and half, though Difford’s Guide recommends upping the sweet quotient, 45ml to 30ml of the dry. He also ups the bitters level, which is a good idea to cut the sweetness. Ideally you should use Peychaud’s, for that classic  New Orleans taste, combined with orange bitters. 

The result is something a bit like a very light Manhattan. It might be low in alcohol but certainly not light in flavour. We’re serving it straight up, but it would be good served on the rocks too.

How to make an Old Hickory

70ml Azaline Saffron Vermouth
70ml Regal Rogue Daring Dry
Two dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Three dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

In a shaker or jug, stir all the ingredients with ice for one minute. Strain into a chilled coupe or tumbler (with ice if you want) and garnish with a strip of lemon or orange. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Gin Rickey

The sun is out, warmer days are here and so a classic summertime cooler is called for. Luckily we’ve got just the thing: The Gin Rickey. Ah, The Rickey. One…

The sun is out, warmer days are here and so a classic summertime cooler is called for. Luckily we’ve got just the thing: The Gin Rickey.

Ah, The Rickey. One of those delightfully simple 19th-century cocktails that takes seconds to make and tastes great. A Rickey typically consists of gin or whiskey combined with fresh lime juice and soda water. With plenty of ice. It’s a summertime classic, after all, and with the weather we’re having here in Kent at the moment, it’s the perfect time for one. 

A man walks into a bar

But first, a little history. Are you ready for another dubious cocktail origin story? Good. Let’s begin. We’re going back to 1880 at Shoomaker’s Saloon in Washington DC, where the bigwigs of the day would booze it up. The patron we’re interested in today was a Democratic lobbyist called Colonel Joseph Kyle Rickey, who would, apparently, squeeze lime into his whiskey before topping it with soda. Bartender George A. Williamson took this personal preference and put it on the menu.

Rickey would eventually purchase the bar in 1883 and become a major importer of limes into the US. Which is neat. His untimely suicide in 1903 was less so. An obituary published in the Washington Post on 24 April, however, does reveal a bit more of the story of his drink: “Col. Rickey, before he became the owner of the resort on E street, would go into Shoomaker’s and ask George Williamson, who is still there, for a drink composed of ‘Belle of Nelson’ whisky, a piece of ice, and a siphon of seltzer,” the passage reads. “Fred Mussey, now gone, watched Col. Rickey indulge in these beverages. He finally took the recipe to New York, and there called for a ‘Rickey drink,’ which he explained and thus spread its fame. One day Representative Hatch, of Missouri, went into Shoomaker’s and asked for ‘one of those Rickey drinks, with a half of a lime in it.’ This was given to Mr. Hatch and the rickey was complete”.

The Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey

Rickey recipes

George Rothwell Brown also credited Williamson in his book Washington: A Not Too Serious History (1930), suggesting a stranger taught the bartender how drinks were prepared in the Caribbean with lime. The next day Col. Rickey arrived, Williamson made him and he approved. And there you have it. Well, not quite. As with any of these cocktail creation stories, it’s incredibly hard to pin down the exact details and people simply didn’t record this history outside of the odd reference and recipe. It’s also likely that somebody, somewhere put lime, soda, and booze in a glass and drank it because, well obviously.

The cocktail first appeared in print in Harry Johnson’s Bartenders Manual in 1882. Johnson’s recipe calls for “1 or 2 pieces of ice” as well as the juice of “1 good-sized lime or 2 small ones” and “1 wine glass of Tom or Holland gin”. What a fantastic way to measure gin, by the way. He also said to use a “medium-size fizz glass” and to “fill it up with club soda, carbonic or seltzers if required, and serve with a spoon”.

Regardless of who made it, it’s fair to say now there’s a pretty established recipe, the one we mentioned in the first line. It’s a familiar one too, not far from a Southside, a Mojito, or a Tom Collins, the latter being separated only by its choice of citrus. The Rickey is all about lime juice, the Collins favours lemon. You’ll also tend to find your Rickeys are served in a shorter glass, but that’s not really an important distinction. What is paramount is that you use fresh juice. We can’t make that point enough in this series. It really does make all the difference.

The Gin Rickey

It’s a perfect summertime cocktail

Which gin to use?

You’ll also need some premium soda water if you’re not messing around and, of course, some lovely gin. Something like a classic Tanqueray No. Ten would work a treat, or you could go a little more patriotic with a touch of Bluecoat American Dry Gin. If you’re using a classic London dry-style gin but like your drinks on the sweeter side, then you might want to add 10ml of sugar syrup to your recipe to balance the sharpness of the lime. But, as the sun is splitting the rocks here in Kent at the moment, we wanted to try something a little different and mix things up to capture that summer garden vibe.

That’s why for this particular recipe we’re ramping up the citrus charm with a new treat from Citadelle called Jardin d’ete, or ‘summer garden’. See. It’s perfect. Jardin d’ete is made with the addition of Charentais melon flesh, whole lemon, yuzu zest, and orange peel to the 19 botanicals used in the original expression. The additional fruits are cold distilled to ensure the flavour and fragrance are retained and the result is a bright, fresh, and citrussy creation that’s as summery as a seagull robbing you of your chips and stick of rock at Brighton beach. 

The brand made its own serve to go with the new gin, which is called Citadelle Summers Lemonade, and combines two parts of Jardin d’ete, one part sugar syrup and one part fresh lemon juice in a jug which you then fill with ice and top with soda. Essentially a Long Collins. However, we’re in a Gin Rickey mood and we had a play around with this beauty and think you’ll enjoy the recipe below. Here’s to you, Col. Rickey, and your love of the humble lime.

The Gin Rickey

Citadelle Jardin d’ete is our booze of choice for this week

How to make a Gin Rickey

45 ml Citadelle Jardin d’ete
15 ml lime juice (freshly squeezed)
15 ml soda water
5 ml sugar syrup (optional)

Shake your gin and lime juice (and sugar syrup if you like things sweeter) with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass. Then top it off with your soda and garnish with a length of lime peel.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Tipperary

Today, we’re mixing up a classic Irish whiskey-based cocktail with a tangled history which might have you singing a famous song. It’s the Tipperary! One of the most unforgettable scenes…

Today, we’re mixing up a classic Irish whiskey-based cocktail with a tangled history which might have you singing a famous song. It’s the Tipperary!

One of the most unforgettable scenes from a film full of great moments is in Das Boot where all the German World War Two submariners put on a gramophone record and sing along, badly, to ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. Meanwhile the political officer looks on disapprovingly at the men singing an enemy song. 

The song was originally written for and sung by homesick Irishmen but it tapped into a universal nostalgia for home and a weariness with war. It was first performed in 1912 and quickly became part of the popular culture of Europe and America.

A man walks into a bar

And like much popular culture in the early 20th century, it inspired a cocktail too. 

The story goes that in 1916 a customer walked into the bar at the Hotel Wallick in New York singing the song, and asked for a drink. On the spot, the bar manager Hugo Ensslin came up with the Tipperary. He put it in his 1917 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks specifying equal parts Chartreuse, Bushmills Irish whiskey and sweet vermouth

Or the other story is that Ensslin invented the cocktail to cash in on the visit to New York of Irish tenor John McCormack, the most famous singer of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’.

This equal parts version shaken with ice and served straight up is the one that appears in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book under the name Tipperary Cocktail No. 1. There’s also a rather strange sounding Tipperary Cocktail No. 2 which is totally different, mixing orange juice, grenadine, French vermouth, gin and fresh mint. Must try it one day. It’s the no. 2 that is listed in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

To further muddy the waters, the 1935 Waldorf Astoria cocktail book contains a third Tipperary which it says was “invented long before the wartime song of the same name was heard, so it must be considered a direct namesake of the Irish county, and so-called by a fond exile.” It contains two parts sloe gin, one part French vermouth and a teaspoon of lemon juice. It doesn’t say what you do with the ingredients but we imagine shaking with ice and serving straight up would suit the cocktail well. Very nice but not terribly Irish. 

Modern variations

Nowadays, the Irish whiskey, Chartreuse, sweet vermouth version is canonical. But it’s often made heavy on the whiskey to suit drier tastes. Two parts whiskey to one part each Chartreuse and Vermouth makes it not dissimilar to a Boulevardier. Or you could try a version created by Gaz Regan from Dead Rabbit in San Francisco, a 4:2:1 ratio of whiskey, vermouth and Chartreuse. He writes:

The Savoy’s Tipperary Cocktail (No. 1) calls for equal parts Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth and green Chartreuse…. This is the formula I decided to play with when I gave myself the task of pimping this drink. I love Chartreuse, so this was an easy decision. Chartreuse, as you might know, is a heavy-duty herbal liqueur and, as such, it’s an ingredient that ought to be handled judiciously when one is indulging in cocktailian pursuits, lest it mask the other ingredients. I cut back on the vermouth in the new formula. Or perhaps I added more whiskey. I’ll let you decide. The new drink sips quite well, though. The vermouth plays well with the whiskey, and the Chartreuse merely dances in the backdrop, making itself known, but not going anywhere near center stage.”

Whiskey Tipperary Cocktail with Chartreuse

However you make it, use a quality Irish whiskey with a good dose of pot still to it, we recommend Powers Gold Label (though I’m using my house blend) and a decent sweet vermouth. It’s usually stirred over ice and served straight up but there’s no reason why you couldn’t serve it on ice like a Negroni. Because of its name, greenish tinge and the presence of Irish whiskey, it’s often saved for St Patrick’s Day but we think it’s much too good to serve only once a year.

Incidentally, the story of the song is almost as complicated as the cocktail. You might be surprised to hear that it was written by two Englishmen, albeit one of Irish descent: Jack Judge, whose parents were from Mayo, and Harry Williams. But then again Shane MacGowan was born in Kent.

Here’s how to make the Tipperary

70ml Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey
35ml Green Chartreuse
35ml Gonzalez Byass La Copa vermouth

Stir thoroughly over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Serve with an orange or lemon twist while singing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ in a thick German accent. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Disco Picante

This week we’re shaking up one of the snazziest-looking cocktails we’ve seen in a while. It’s sexy, it’s spicy and it’s called the Disco Picante! And for the second week…

This week we’re shaking up one of the snazziest-looking cocktails we’ve seen in a while. It’s sexy, it’s spicy and it’s called the Disco Picante! And for the second week in a row, we’ve mentioned Tom Cruise in Cocktail. There must be something in the air.

There’s something that just screams ‘80s about a blue cocktail. It’s Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, summer holidays in Tenerife or Tom Cruise in Cocktail. In that film. Cruise shakes up a drink called a Turquoise Blue, aka a Turquoise Daiquiri, combining white rum, triple sec, lime juice, pineapple juice and the all important blue Curaçao. 

Brilliant blue

For a long time, blue Curaçao was perhaps the naffest ingredient in a bartender’s armory. It’s not authentic, it’s not small-batch, nobody is going to get a blue Curaçao tattoo, unless they’re really drunk. But that’s part of its charm. Cocktails aren’t meant to be about beard stroking and willfully obscure ingredients, they’re meant to be fun and blue Curaçao is nothing if not fun.

It’s just orange Curaçao so it is sweet, orangey with a little bitterness but with the addition of a synthetic food colouring known as Brilliant Blue. You probably ate your bodyweight in synthetic colouring as a child, I know I did, and it never did me any harm. 

Disco Picante

None more blue

Blue planet

For a couple of years now, bar trend types have predicted that fun cocktails would be coming back in.  You know the sort of ones that you would order on holiday with a giggle like the Sex on the Beach or the Screaming Orgasm. The fact that this is the second week in a row we’ve mentioned Tom Cruise in the CoW slot, suggests that there is indeed something going on. Perhaps, the post-Covid roaring ‘20s really are happening. Heaven knows, we could all do with a bit of light-hearted fun at the moment. 

Like our Cocktail of the Week. Called the Disco Picante, let’s just pause there to reflect on what a great name this is, it’s a sort of halfway house between an ‘80s holiday cocktail and something a bit more grown-up. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s blue, and quite sweet, but it’s also spicy and made with smoky mezcal so there are some quite challenging flavours in there. For the spice element, you can use a spice liqueur like Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur or Giffard Piment. Or make your own chilli liqueur, it’s very easy, or just add something spicy like brine from a jar of jalapeno peppers.

Blue juice

The Disco Picante was created by Sarah Ben Saoud who swapped the corporate world for a life behind the bar. She said her favourite cocktail is a Dry Martini but she also has “an extreme weakness for a disco drink” when she’s in the mood. ‘I like disco drinks because they come from a time before roto vaps, sous vides, infusions and fat washing. There’s basically zero wankiness attached to them and I like that. They are just unapologetically garish and in your face, and more often than not they are absolutely delicious!” she explained.

And today’s Cocktail of the Week is nothing if not a disco drink: it’s blue and it has the word ‘disco’ in the title. You could use ordinary orange Curaçao but then it wouldn’t be blue and therefore not disco. Saoud explained: “we all know blue drinks are the best drinks. Seriously though, the colour is just wonderful. A drink with blue Curaçao in it makes me happy just looking at it. I couldn’t live without it.”

Following a stint at a bar called Bandra Bhai beneath an Indian restaurant which is described in the press bumf as: “delightfully tacky,” Saoud is just about to start a new role at The Duchess of Dalston in East London. She said that it’s “currently a building site but in the process of being finished in the next few weeks.” Let’s hope she puts the Disco Picante on the menu.

Right, stick on some  appropriate music, and get shaking. Do you wanna funk with me? Yes, yes I do.

Here’s how to make a Disco Picante

45ml Recuerdo Joven Mezcal
10ml De Kuyper Blue Curaçao
25ml lime juice
10ml agave syrup
15ml spice liqueur such as Giffard Piment D’Espelette or Ancho Reyes 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Serve in rocks or Highball glass over fresh ice. Garnish with lime or jalapeño pepper.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Kamikaze

A shot that mixes vodka, triple sec and lime, the Kamikaze is a party drink. And its most famous slinger is everyone’s favourite fictional bartender… In the words of the…

A shot that mixes vodka, triple sec and lime, the Kamikaze is a party drink. And its most famous slinger is everyone’s favourite fictional bartender…

In the words of the ‘World’s Last Barman Poet’ (aka Tom Cruise’s character Brian Flanagan in the 1988 stone-cold classic movie Cocktail): 

I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make,
America’s getting stinking on something I stir or shake,
The Sex on the Beach,
The schnapps made from peach,
The Velvet Hammer,
The Alabama Slammer.
I make things with juice and froth,
The Pink Squirrel,
The Three-Toed Sloth.
I make drinks so sweet and snazzy,
The Iced Tea,
The Kamikaze…

And so it goes on. And on.

The Kamikaze’s mention in this movie gives you a good indication of the type of drink we’re dealing with here: think ‘70s/’80s disco realness. And according to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Kamikaze appeared on the bar scene in 1976.

This cocktail started life as a shot. According to drinks experts Lynnette Marrero and Ryan Chetiyawardana in their MasterClass series, the recipe contains equal parts vodka, triple sec and lime. Not dissimilar to a Margarita, except with vodka in place of Tequila. Sometimes blue Curaçao liqueur is added to this classic cocktail in place of triple sec to turn it into a Blue Kamikaze,” the pair add.

Like pretty much every cocktail going, there are a few recipe variations when it comes to quantities. But since these are pretty staple ingredients, they are likely to already be in the cupboard/fruit bowl, so you can play around to suit your own tastes. Better still, stick Cocktail on in the background and chuck some bottles around the kitchen.

Disco inferno

In the book on which the film is based, also called Cocktail, author Heywood Gould describes Flanagan’s contempt for the drink, mainly because it’s a pain to make, only to be gulped down in one go.

“The Kamikaze is one of a class of disco cocktails invented by barbiturated teenagers,” Gould writes. “It is a senseless, infuriating concoction made of equal parts vodka, lime juice, and triple sec (some regional variations include Tequila), shaken and strained into an ounce-and-a-half shot glass, and thrown down in one gulp. Its intent is instant inebriation.”

Flanagan laments that a large shot of any spirit would do the job faster but then “these little sadists wouldn’t have the fun of watching the bartender pouring and measuring and shaking and straining to absolutely no end”.

I heard a bartender say once that he would tell customers he had run out of mint, when he could no longer bring himself to make yet another Mojito. Unfortunately for Flanagan, if you ran out of vodka, lime or triple sec in an ‘80s cocktail bar, you’d be pretty screwed.

Boozy Lime and Vodka Kamikaze Shots

The Kamikaze – it’s a lot of work for such a tiny drink

Linger longer

Though the days of disco might’ve been the perfect place for shots and shooters, the Kamikaze of today doesn’t have to be in miniature. In fact, Marrero and Chetiyawardana suggest the drink has “evolved into a fully-fledged cocktail served in a chilled cocktail glass, like a Martini glass or coupe”.

And Sex and the City Cosmo fans will also note that the cocktail isn’t a million miles away from the pink drink enjoyed by Carrie et al. In fact, bartending legend Salvatore ‘The Maestro’ Calabrese says a Cosmo is “basically a twist on a Kamikaze”, but, of course, the Cosmo sees the addition of cranberry juice.

When Gould wrote Cocktail (in 1984), he obviously wasn’t blessed with the plethora of vodkas we have access to these days. He writes that the drink has no particular attributes that would make it a bad or a good one. Now, though, we’ve got access to stuff like single estate vodkas, rye or potato vodkas, making for a more sophisticated Kamikaze. If you want one. 

Serious side

While there is a silly side to this drink, the origin of its name is more serious. The word Kamikaze is Japanese and translated means ‘divine wind’. The word was synonymous with Japanese pilots in World War II, who would deliberately crash themselves into their targets, committing suicide in the process. Why ‘divine wind’? Well, according to the encyclopedia Britannica, it’s a reference to a typhoon that fortuitously dispersed a Mongol invasion fleet threatening Japan from the west in 1281.

And though the Kamikaze cocktail is widely associated with the ‘70s and ‘80s, there is some speculation that its origins can be traced back to an American naval base in Japan, after World War II. Though it really hit the bar scene in the mid-1970s. Indeed its popularity in ‘70s and ‘80s US bar culture no doubt went hand in hand with the popularity of vodka.

Back to Brian Flanagan for some final words on the Kamikaze: “It exists merely to confer a little cachet on these pimpled baboons.”

Still, it’s worth a shot.

How to make a Kamikaze*

30ml Ketel One vodka
15ml Cointreau Triple Sec
15ml Freshly squeezed lime juice

Shake all ingredients over ice and fine strain into a shot glass. Garnish with a lime wedge. 

*Recipe from Difford’s Guide.

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