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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cocktail of the Week

Cocktail of the Week: The Foraged Martini

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three…

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three Sheets. Here, co-owner Noel Venning walks you through the drink…

Much like the wider cocktail menu at Three Sheets, the light, fresh Foraged Martini is proof that when it comes to ingredients, less really is more. Ever since Venning brothers Noel and Max first flung open the doors on Kingsland Road back in 2016, the bar has been known for its minimalist ethos – from the contents of the back bar to its marble-topped counters – and this is reflected not only in the way they developed each drink, but also in the design of their menu.

There are nine cocktails in total, split across three key sections. Three Sheets, if you will. While each sheet is characterised by strength and flavour, all of the drinks on the menu are designed to be approachable in nature. Over on the left, you’ll find the lightest cocktails – such as the Almond Flower Sour, which combines Bombay English Estate, almond flower, egg white and lemon. Heavier-going drinks – like Café Français, which combines Seven Tails XO Brandy, salted coffee butter and madeleine cream – tend towards the right of the menu. 

Three Sheets Dalston

Three Sheets, so minimalist

“At Three Sheets, we aim to put drinks on the menu that we think our guests will enjoy,” Noel Venning explains. “Moving away from using popular bartender products that might not be enjoyable for guests. This has led to a lighter style of drink and the Foraged Martini is a great example of that – taking a classic vodka Martini but making it more approachable for a wider audience.”

In the spirit of keeping things simple, the base structure is similar to that of a classic Martini, says Venning. Indeed, just three ingredients are required to make the Foraged Martini: Absolut Elyx, dry Italian vermouth, and Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle cordial. “The great thing about the Foraged Martini is that everything is available to buy in a shop,” he continues. “It is a wonderful example that making great drinks doesn’t necessarily have to come with fancy equipment or esoteric, obscure ingredients.”

It’s fair to say that one of the traditional Martini’s most defining features – its out-and-out ‘booziness’ in terms of flavour – is what tends to put most newcomers off. But you won’t find that brashness in the Venning brothers’ Foraged iteration. Thanks to the addition of the nettle cordial, this serve is made accessible for the non-Martini drinker, while packing enough of a punch to satisfy the drink’s usual devotees. 

“The idea behind this Martini was to have a lighter, more approachable version of a classic Martini that would appeal to a wider audience – while also being enjoyable for a guest who drinks Martinis all the time,” Venning adds. “The nettle cordial softens off the punchy nature of the Martini with some grassy, citrusy notes, and the vermouth ties it all together.”

That’s gypsophila (yes, we had to Google it)

Democratising the Martini is all in a day’s work for the Three Sheets duo. If you’re ready to take the Foraged Martini for a spin, you’ll find the recipe below. Now, aside from the liquid ingredients, you’ll also need ice, a twist of lemon (for the zest only), and a Nick and Nora, Coupette or Martini glass – the team usually opts for the latter, but at home you call the shots.

Oh, and if you really want to set the drink off in true Three Sheets style, source a small sprig of gypsophila for the garnish. Arty Instagram shots are not only welcomed but wholeheartedly encouraged.

Right, let’s forage up a Martini!

50ml Absolut Elyx
10ml Martini Extra Dry vermouth
5ml Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle Cordial

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to dilute and chill. Double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon zest (discard the twist afterwards) and garnish with a sprig of gypsophila (if you have one).

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Cocktail of the Week: The Improved Whiskey Cocktail

What’s better than a Whiskey Cocktail? A Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. And better than that? Why, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, of course. It’s an Old Fashioned but slightly better.  Back in…

What’s better than a Whiskey Cocktail? A Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. And better than that? Why, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, of course. It’s an Old Fashioned but slightly better. 

Back in the good old days, a cocktail was a specific type of drink rather than a generic term for an iced mixed drink. The Cocktail Book from 1900 lists pages of drinks called ‘cocktails’ that are variations on the spirit (or wine) plus bitters, sugar and ice theme. But you can also see new drinks creeping in involving vermouth like the Manhattan and early versions of the Martini. Therefore, in the book, an old timey Whiskey Cocktail is called a Whiskey Cocktail Old-Fashioned to differentiate it. There’s also something called a ‘Fancy’ version made with maraschino liqueur as a sweetener. So fancy!

The Old Fashioned may have been old fashioned but doesn’t mean that it stopped evolving in 1845. It’s an endlessly versatile drink, which is why bartenders love coming up with new versions of it. Jerry Thomas, of the Eldorado Hotel in San Francisco, is usually credited with the invention of the Fancy Old Fashioned. Though more likely it was something that was around at the time and he was the first person to write it down in his Bartenders Guide: How to Mix all Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks (1887). There’s that word again, fancy.

Adding maraschino liqueur to a drink that was often garnished with a bittersweet cherry is not such a leap. It’s just a twist on a classic. But Thomas’s next step was more extreme: to turn a ‘Fancy’ into an ‘Improved’, he added absinthe taking the Old Fashioned dangerously into Sazerac territory. For the many who loathe aniseed this is not so much improved as ruined. 

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Looks fancy. Sorry, I mean improved

Even as an aniseed lover, I will concede that a little goes a long way, so rather than add a teaspoon as with most recipes, you can add a few drops as a wash to the glass and shake it out before adding the rest of the ingredients. I’m using Ricard instead of absinthe as it’s what I’ve got in the house. It provides just a background note of aniseed. If you’re using proper absinthe which is drier instead of pastis then you might want to add more sugar. Then it’s a question of which whiskey to use. Well, it’s got to be American. Thomas would probably have used a rye but I’ve chosen a classic all-rounder bourbon, Woodford Reserve. It’s a really complex, well-balanced drop made, unusually for Kentucky, in a pot still. I’m serving it on the rocks but you could stir it over ice and serve it straight up. Oh and don’t forget the bitters. I’m using a mixture of Angostura and just a drop of orange which really lifts the whole thing.

Right, let’s improve a whiskey cocktail!

60cl Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 tablespoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1 tablespoon sugar syrup
1 tsp Ricard pastis (or absinthe)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

Add a teaspoon of pastis to an Old Fashioned glass, swirl it around and then shake it out. Add lots of ice cubes, all the other ingredients and give it a good stir. Express a piece of orange over the top and then serve. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Betty

Today we’re making a refreshing gin-based cocktail inspired by the great-grandmother of the founder of Ealing Gin. She was quite a gell (say it like the Queen saying ‘girl’ not…

Today we’re making a refreshing gin-based cocktail inspired by the great-grandmother of the founder of Ealing Gin. She was quite a gell (say it like the Queen saying ‘girl’ not like something you might put in your hair). 

America has Hollywood, India has Bollywood and England has. . .  Ealing. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it but the film studios in Ealing made some of the country’s best loved films like Passport to Pimlico, Whisky Galore! and The Lavender Hill Mob. These intensely British films known as Ealing Comedies were usually about small people (in society, not stature) taking on authority and winning. These were made in the ‘40s and ‘50s but the studio was founded in 1902 and is still going strong today: Shaun of the Dead and parts of Downton Abbey were filmed there. 

Ealing Gin

Amanda and Simon Duncan, with Felicity

Ealing is also home to the Ealing Distillery. Nice segway there, don’t you think? Set up by Amanda and Simon Duncan who came to the gin business from a PR and marketing background respectively, it operates from a tiny premises with one still, called Felicity, in Duncan’s home borough. They have styled their gin rather grandly “The Queen of London dry gins”. It’s not just marketing fluff, however, but a reference to Ealing being known as “The Queen of Suburbs”, a phrase coined by the borough’s surveyor Charles Jones in a book published in 1902, and then repeated ad nauseum by estate agents and developers ever since. Still, it is a nice part of London with it low rise suburban housing, wide open green spaces such as Ealing Common and magnificent art deco architecture like the former Hoover factory (now a Tesco) on Western Avenue, which I use to gaze at in wonder as a child as we drove past on our way back home to Amersham.

The bottle with its pink and green art deco motifs takes its cue from buildings like the Hoover. And happily the contents live up to the packaging, it’s a spicy floral London dry gin smelling headily of pink peppercorns and rose petals, but it’s very much juniper-led making it a good all rounder. The Duncans have come up with a special cocktail which they have christened ‘the Betty’ in honour of Simon’s great grandmother. According to the bumf she was an it girl on the 1920s and 1930s Ealing scene. She trained at RADA, and had bit parts in some of the local films while working as a waitress in the Lyon’s tea room in Berkeley Square. She lived to the ripe old age of 96. What a gell!

Swanky bottle!

The cocktail named in her honour is essentially a Tom Collins with the addition of rose syrup instead of sugar which accentuates the rose petal notes in Ealing Gin.  It’s a great sipper for a warm spring day. So, let’s raise a glass to the little man, to Ealing and, most of all, to Betty. 

50ml Ealing Gin
25ml lemon juice
2tsp rose syrup
50ml soda water

Pour the Ealing Gin, rose syrup and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes, shake quickly then strain into a high-ball glass filled with more ice. Top up with soda water, give it a quick stir and garnish with a slice of lemon.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Kir

Today we try one of the simplest cocktails imaginable. It’s just white wine mixed with blackcurrant liqueur. Not only is it delicious but it’s named after a hero of the…

Today we try one of the simplest cocktails imaginable. It’s just white wine mixed with blackcurrant liqueur. Not only is it delicious but it’s named after a hero of the French resistance. Can’t get better than that.

Kir was big in the 1980s in Britain, and then it just seemed to disappear. People stopped offering it at the fashionable south Bucks drinks parties I was dragged along to as a child. My parents still have some ancient bottles of crème de cassis in the garage gathering dust. I have a theory as to why it went out of fashion: wine got tastier. The kind of stuff my parents would mix with cassis were supermarket Muscadet or discount Chablis. Now Muscadet can be a fine and noble thing, but it can also be thin and highly acidic. Adding blackcurrant liqueur is a great way to perk it up. Then New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its wild flavours of gooseberries, passion fruit, and yes, blackcurrants hit the shelves and suddenly the Kir seemed old fashioned. 

The drink originated in Burgundy. The story goes that this region of France was full of blackcurrants and the wine wasn’t always that ripe so someone had the brilliant idea of combining them. Though in his book The Discovery of France historian Graham Robb has his doubt about whether this is true. He writes: “the Dijon area was not particularly rich in blackcurrants until an enterprising cafe owner made an explanatory trip to Paris in 1841, noted the popularity of cassis and began to market his own liquor as a regional speciality”. So like most traditional drinks, the Kir is not as ancient as the folklore would suggest.

Canon Kir, on a tank from the cover of Priests de la Resistance

Its name, however, can be precisely dated. A wine and cassis was known as a Blanc de Cassis until the drink was popularised by a French canon called Felix Kir. A famous gourmand and drinker, he achieved fame during the war for his acts of resistance against the Nazi occupation. When the local dignitaries fled in the face of the German army, aged 63, he became de facto leader of the town of Dijon and, in the words of Fergus Butler-Gallie in his book Priests de la Resistance!, “set about making life as difficult as possible for the Nazis.” Kir was involved with gun running, saved the town’s synagogue from destruction by suggesting the Germans use it to store military supplies and, by sheer force of personality, aided the escape of nearly 5,000 prisoners of war by pretending that they were required to help with local construction projects.

Eventually, the Germans cottoned on to Kir’s antics: he was arrested on a couple of occasions, survived an assassination attempt by French fascists, and had to flee. He returned though, riding a tank at the head of the liberating allied army: “Wearing his priest’s cassock, his cloak billowing around him and his beret wedged firmly on his podgy head, Canon Kir made his return to the city from which, a matter of months before, he had only just escaped with his life.” Butler-Gallie writes. He goes on to explain: “When he heard that French were due to roll into Dijon the following morning. Kir . . . quickly arranged to secure a place atop a tank, allowing the photographers, journalists and whoever it is that formulates the annals of local myth and legend to capture him as the liberator of Dijon for posterity.” 

 

Kir Royale, the fancy version

The blanc de cassis became known as the Kir in honour of this great Frenchman. Kir himself would have drunk his Kir with Aligoté, the second white grape of Burgundy which makes rather neutral wines, but the great thing about the Kir is that you can use pretty much anything: Pinot Grigio, Vinho Verde, unoaked Chardonnay, or Picpoul de Pinet. The only thing is that it mustn’t be sweet, oaky or have too much flavour. You can turn your Kir into a Kir Royale by using sparkling wine, Cremant de Bourgogne would be traditional, but any crisp dry sparkler would do. Prosecco won’t. Tarantino fans can serve it alongside a cheese board to create a Kir Royale with Cheese. You can spritz it up by adding ice, soft fruit like raspberries and a splash of soda water. Other fruit liqueurs work well such as Chambord or sloe gin (though I am not sure Kir would approve).

So, let’s raise a glass to the indomitable spirit of Canon Kir. Vive la France!

150ml white wine, this Portuguese one would be good
25ml Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon

Ideally both ingredients should be chilled. Add the cassis to a wine glass, top up with white wine and stir. Garnish with a raspberry if you’re feeling fancy and drink on a warm day in the garden with one of the two books above, both are highly recommended.  

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Cocktail of the Week: The Hanky Panky

With International Women’s Day coming up this Sunday (8 March), we thought it as good a time as any to look at Ada Coleman, the pioneering bartender who ran the…

With International Women’s Day coming up this Sunday (8 March), we thought it as good a time as any to look at Ada Coleman, the pioneering bartender who ran the American Bar at the Savoy, and try one of her creations, the Hanky Panky!

Most bartenders don’t get profiles in the London papers when they retire, but then again most bartenders aren’t Ada Coleman. Coley, as she was known, was a bit special. Born in 1876, she began her career at Claridge’s Hotel at the age of 24. Then in 1903, she landed one of the biggest jobs in booze, head bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel where she remained until 1925 when she officially retired from bartending (though would live a lot longer, dying in 1966 at the age of 91). Her successor was none other than Harry Craddock, who would go on to write The Savoy Cocktails Book. There were giants in those days.

Coley in her element

The American Bar was the place that put London on the cocktail map by introducing properly-made American-style drinks (hence the name) like the Manhattan (Coley said that this was the first drink she learned to make) and the Martini to England. It wasn’t just about the drinks, though – Coley’s hospitality was legendary and the bar attracted celebs from around the world like Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, and Marlene Dietrich. 

One such notable was the actor Sir Charles Hawtrey, who was a star of the London stage at the time. He’s not to be confused with the cheeky chappy actor from the Carry On films who took ‘Charles Hawtrey’ as a stage name. His real name was George Hartree. Hope that’s cleared that one up. Anyway, apparently Sir Charles came in one day feeling a bit low and wanted something to perk him up. In an interview with The People newspaper Coley said:

“The late Charles Hawtrey… was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was over working, he used to come into the bar and say, ‘Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.’ It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, ‘By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!’ And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.”

The Hanky Panky in all its glory

The result is something like a sweet Martini, supercharged with Fernet Branca. I’m using good old Bathtub Gin as you want something with a bit of power that isn’t going to get swamped by the Fernet. Vermouth is another old favourite, Martini Riserva Rubina. For the Fernet, I’m using something a bit different, one made in London by those clever chaps at Asterley Bros. It’s a little bit richer and more chocolatey than Fernet Branca but still with enough menthol oomph. One can imagine giving the performance of your life after a couple of these. Cheers Coley!

Right, here’s the recipe:

60cl Bathtub Gin
30cl Martini Speciale Riserva Rubino vermouth
1 tbsp Fernet Britannica

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, and fill with cubed ice. Stir for 30 seconds, and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist

 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Highball Gimlet

This week’s Cocktail of the Week is the Highball Gimlet – a mouth-watering Mediterranean take on the classic, reimagined by renowned Athens-based bar The Clumsies. Here, we chat with co-owner…

This week’s Cocktail of the Week is the Highball Gimlet – a mouth-watering Mediterranean take on the classic, reimagined by renowned Athens-based bar The Clumsies. Here, we chat with co-owner Vasilis Kyritsis ahead of the team’s five-day residency at London rooftop bar Madison…

The Highball Gimlet is a timely tipple, since it marks the UK arrival of the team behind all-day cocktail bar The Clumsies – currently sitting pretty in sixth place in the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards – who have touched down in the capital for a one-off and rather exclusive residency at Madison from Monday 24 to Friday 28 February.

Team Clumsies

Set in a three-story townhouse that dates back to 1919, The Clumsies is known for its hospitality and charm, homely-yet-refined Greek food, and pioneering conceptual cocktail menus. And now, the team behind the Athens mainstay are bringing their creative flair to the penthouse spot of One New Change, a shopping centre in the City of London.

Teamwork, Clumsies co-owner Vasilis Kyritsis emphasises, is at the heart of The Clumsies operation, in particular their approach to conceptualising and bringing to life each cocktail list – from 2015’s colour palate menu ‘Kaleidoscope’, to ‘Genesis’ in 2017, which was inspired by art and Greek words.  “The whole team is working on the concept for every menu, which changes every year,” he explains. “We always want to include a concept behind our drinks, because we’re staying creative, and [it keeps] our customers interested – what are we going to do to the next menu?”

Taking over Madison, Kyritsis will shake up the bar’s offering with five Grecian creations inspired by current menu ‘Revisited’, which sees the Athens stalwart’s greatest drinks refined even further. “We’ve taken some of our top-selling drinks and favourite recipes from past menus and reviewed them, or reconstructed them, in a different way,” Kyritsis explains. “We’ve given them the same identity but changed the style of the cocktail”.  He went on to say: “The menu that we’ve created for the pop-up in Madison is customised from this menu, Revisited, that we have at The Clumsies,” he continues. “It’s a showcase of what we do at The Clumsies, as cocktails, as inspiration, and the whole design.”

View from the Madison in London. Very nice!

Our pick of the list is the immensely refreshing and flavourful Highball Gimlet. Hailing from The Clumsies’ Colour & Taste Guide concept menu from 2014, the drink is served fresh and tall in a Collins glass and garnished with a green olive. This long, fizzy twist on the classic gin-and-lime juice Gimlet combination sees Tanqueray’s citrusy No. Ten gin lifted further with lemon and lime-infused Ketel One Citroen and balanced out with herbal, earthy wild greens and rosemary, with a touch of bitter-sweet grapefruit. Just delicious.

Further down the list you’ll find the Aegean Negroni, which combines Tanqueray No.Ten, blended vermouth, Martini Bitter, fennel seeds, and diktamus (a native Greek plant) and the Seasonal Daiquiri, a blend of Havana 3 Year Old, pear, apple, cherry, and lime. There’s also the New Fashioned, a mix of Bulleit Bourbon, salted caramel, and citric bitters; and The Conch, which contains Otto’s Athens Vermouth, mezcal, salicornia (another edible plant), and lemon, to round off the limited edition menu.

Ever since The Clumsies was co-founded by Kyritsis and fellow bartender Nikos Bakoulis in 2012, its menu has received international acclaim – shining a light on the burgeoning brilliance of Athens’ bar scene. “A lot of people visiting Athens now from our industry say that it’s one of the most inspirational and high-end bar scenes that you can find all over the world,” says Kyritsis. “At the same time you can find a good combination of restaurants – high-end restaurants, local restaurants – and coffee shops; coffee is becoming bigger and bigger in Athens,” he continues. “I definitely believe that it’s one of the most interesting and innovative scenes all around the world.”

It’s a Highball crossed with Gimlet. What are we going to call it?

Right, that’s enough about The Clumsies, let’s make a cocktail!

25ml Tanqueray No.Ten
25ml Ketel One Citroen
45ml wild greens cordial*
5ml fresh lemon juice
London Essence Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonic to top

Put all ingredients – apart from the tonic – into a shaker and shake them for 10 seconds. Then double strain into a Collins glass filled with ice, and top up with the tonic. Garnish with a green olive. 

*Wild greens cordial recipe: Boil 2kg of wild greens (called ‘chorta’ in Greece, you can use ordinary non-Greek non-wild greens instead) in 2 litres of water at 100 degrees Celsius for one hour. Strain it and reserve the liquid. To this, add 1,300g white sugar, 20g fresh apple geranium, the peel of 3 pink grapefruits, 10g rosemary, 5g dried fennel, the peel of 1 lemon and 100ml orange flower water. Cook in a saucepan at 80 degrees Celsius for one hour. Strain it and reserve the liquid. Once it has cooled, add 30g citric acid and stir until it has dissolved.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The French Martini

Today we’re rolling up the sleeves of our suit jacket à la Hall & Oates to make a cocktail that’s not particularly French and not really a Martini. It’s the…

Today we’re rolling up the sleeves of our suit jacket à la Hall & Oates to make a cocktail that’s not particularly French and not really a Martini. It’s the French Martini!

Often the word French is appended to things to make them seem more sophisticated or sexy than they really are. French fries are actually Belgian, French kisses were invented in Dunstable (fact!) and have you ever seen French toast (or eggy bread as we used to call it when I was growing up) in France? Which brings us on to this week’s cocktail, the French Martini. It is, like most cocktails, an American creation. It was invented or at least popularised in New York City by a man with possibly the least French name ever, Keith McNally.

McNally was a big noise in ‘80s and ‘90s New York (and still is). Such a big noise that The New York Times described him as: “The Restaurateur Who Invented Downtown.” Just as the French Martini isn’t very French, McNally isn’t American. He was born and raised in Bethnal Green. After a stint as a child actor in London, McNally came to New York in 1975 and opened a series of French-inspired restaurants such as Pastis, Cherche Midi and Augustine. His most famous venue, however, was Balthazar which became the hippest joint in town when it opened in 1997 and the French Martini was the trademark cocktail. It quickly crossed the Atlantic and found a home among the Cool Britannia crowd at the Met Bar in London. Balthazar itself arrived in 2013 with a branch in Covent Garden.

You don’t get more 90s than the French Martini, or rather, could it be any more ‘90s? It’s not only made with vodka but pineapple juice too. It’s part of the wave of so-called Martinis that were all the range back then like the Pineapple Martini, the Appletini, the Espresso Martini etc. etc. The French part comes from the addition of Chambord, a French raspberry liqueur with packaging so elaborate that it looks like a medieval incense burner, or, for Monty Python fans, the holy hand grenade of Antioch.

It’s a smoky French Martini (sung to the tune of Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc)

A squeeze of lemon helps temper the sweetness but still it might be a bit sugary for some so this week we’re using a fiery peaty whisky instead of vodka, Laphroaig 10 Year Old. According to Simon Difford, this variation is actually known as a Le Frog. See what they did there? Vodka or whisky, however you make it, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. We’re thinking baggy grey Armani suit like Richard Gere in his prime, and don’t be afraid to roll the sleeves up a little. Nice. Right, that’s enough preamble. Let’s make a smoky French Martini:

25ml Laphroaig 10 Year Old
25ml Chambord
10ml pineapple juice
A squeeze of lemon juice

Pour all of the ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake hard for eight seconds. Strain into a chilled coupette, garnish with a blackberry or raspberry and serve.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The 45th Parallel 

Drawing inspiration from Europe’s best-loved wine regions, The K Bar at The Kensington Hotel has captured terroir in cocktail form with a 16-strong menu unlike any other. Here, bar manager…

Drawing inspiration from Europe’s best-loved wine regions, The K Bar at The Kensington Hotel has captured terroir in cocktail form with a 16-strong menu unlike any other. Here, bar manager Salvatore Maggio divulges the recipe for 45th Parallel – a brooding, tannic, fruity number reminiscent of Bordeaux…

Do I fancy a glass of wine or would I rather have a cocktail? It’s a complex decision you’ll frequently find us pondering come aperitivo hour. Ordering both is extreme – not to mention a chaotic mix of flavours  – so ultimately there’s only ever going to be one solution. But now, thanks to bar manager Salvatore Maggio in collaboration with Master of Wine Anne McHale, we can have both at the same time (and without raising any eyebrows).

Their menu – aptly named Terroir – explores Europe’s most illustrious regions, including Jerez, Rioja, and Rias Baixas in Spain; Bordeaux, Chablis, Provence, Beaujolais, Alsace, Bordeaux, and Champagne in France; Piedmont in Italy; Porto in Portugal; and Mosel in Germany.

“People often order a glass of wine in a bar,” Maggio explains. “Our idea was to create a concept based on the regions of those wines. If you go into the bar and ask for a glass of Chablis, we can introduce to you a cocktail based on the Chablis region. It has the complexity and taste of the wine, but it’s a cocktail.”

Ah, le terroir! That’s Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes

Terroir, the menu explains, refers to “the complete set of environmental factors which create an unparalleled sense of character and place in wine from unique and different regions” such as the soil, weather, and local micro-climate. First, Maggio and McHale delved into the intricacies of each region and identified the key flavours and textures. 

Then, the team set about recreating their findings in cocktail form, often using local ingredients to achieve the desired effect – for example, Piedmont-inspired Foot of the Mountain, which combines Amaro di Angostura, hazelnut-infused Ketel One vodka, La Penca mezcal and rose. The Italian region has been cultivating its fine Nocciola del Piemonte (Piedmonte hazelnuts to you and I) for centuries, and is renowned for its vermouth and amaro.

On occasion, a small amount of wine has even been incorporated into the recipe. In Rioja-inspired Float On, for example, Bulleit Bourbon, Carpano Antica Formula, grapefruit, cranberry, blackberry and almond are combined to make a long golden cocktail that features a measure of Rioja wine floated on top.

“People [in London] are more familiar with French, Italian, Spanish and German wines, so we looked at each region and created something unique with the European style,” Maggio explains. “Let’s say, a glass of Champagne – we identified the taste of the Champagne, and we create a cocktail with similar flavours and complexity.”

Each cocktail on the menu has an accompanying fact box that explores the fundamentals of the associated terroir in detail, from the characteristics and composition of the region to the tasting notes and prominent flavours of the wines produced there, along with key grape varietals and surrounding production.

Our Cocktail of the Week is inspired by Bordeaux, which is positioned halfway between the Equator and North Pole on the ‘45th parallel’, hence the name. The combination of a ‘humid maritime climate’, ‘extraction of tannins during fermentation’ and ‘extended cellaring in new French oak barrels’ imparts tannic, oak-aged, savoury notes to the region’s wines.

The 45th Parallel

The 45th Parallel

Bordeaux’s main grape varieties are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and noted for dry reds known as claret, whites and heavenly sweet wines like Sauternes – but as the foodies among you will know all too well, the region is also renowned for its ceps (wild mushrooms), oysters and fois gras. 

Presented in a rocks glass with a mint sprig garnish, 45th Parallel combines Remy Martin VSOP, Evangelista Ratafia, Syrah juice, blackberry, and citrus. “Like having a glass of Merlot, there’s a natural fruity flavour – blueberry, blackcurrant, those sorts of tastes – a bit of light citrus coming through, with length and complexity from the Syrah jus,” says Maggio. It might seem off to use a variety not planted in Bordeaux but apparently that’s what tasted the best. 

Fancy whipping up this delightful tipple from the comfort of your own home? MoM has you covered – keep scrolling for the ingredients and methodology…

35ml Remy Martin VSOP
10ml Evangelista Ratafia liqueur
20ml Syrah juice (good quality juice from European grape varieties would work in place like this Merlot version)
3 blackberries
10ml lime juice
10ml sugar syrup

Muddle the blackberries in a Boston shaker before adding the rest of the ingredients. Shake and double strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Tuxedo

Today we’re making the best-dressed cocktail in town: it’s a variation on the Martini made with gin and a brand of fino with a mission to make “sherry cool again”. …

Today we’re making the best-dressed cocktail in town: it’s a variation on the Martini made with gin and a brand of fino with a mission to make “sherry cool again”. 

There’s more than one way to make a Tuxedo. The cocktail is named after the Tuxedo Club, a swanky country club in upstate New York. And yes, it’s where the Americans get their name for the dinner jacket. What a place! The eponymous cocktail is a variation on the Martini. Flicking through the extensive MoM drinks book library, many recipes call for the addition of maraschino liqueur, absinthe or both. There’s not a sherry bottle in sight.

But in Old Waldorf Bar Days by Albert Stevens Crockett from 1931, there’s something quite different, made with two parts gin to one part dry sherry with a dash of orange bitters. Which is what we’re going to make today. Using sherry instead of vermouth in a Martini isn’t so unusual. Bernard de Voto in his book The Hour describes similar cocktails: “These drinks are not Martinis, they are only understudies but they damn no souls.” 

Equipo Xeco (from left, PAF, BGE and AK)

At MoM, we’ve all over sherry in cocktails, so we’re going for the Waldorf take on the Tux. But which sherry to use? It has to be a fino, and we’re rather taken with a newish brand called Xeco. It was launched in 2017 by three magnificently-monickered ladies, Beanie Geraedts-Espey, Polly Aylwin-Foster and Alexa Keymer. The three met in 2013 in Hong Kong and bonded over a shared love of Andalucia’s finest. All had studied sherry for WSET and Geraedts-Espey’s first job was doing marketing for Gonzalez-Byass. So, they knew their stuff.

They set about trying to convert their friends but encountered a number of obstacles, not least sherry’s vicars and aunts image. So began what they call project “let’s make sherry cool again” which became Xeco. The word is derived from Secco, meaning dry, and it’s pronounced something like Zecco. There are currently two wines in the range both bone dry: a fino with the emphasis on the fruit, and a rich nutty amontillado. They don’t make their own wines and instead source them from Bodega Diez Merito in Jerez.

The first thing you notice about Xeco is that the bottles don’t look like traditional sherry bottles. The shape is more like something that might hold a trendy new vodka and there are no pictures of alluring gyspy ladies on the labels as with some traditional brands. Instead, they have playful designs inspired by Anglo-Spanish history. The fino features Alfonso X of Spain and Henry III of England who concluded a treaty where the English got sherry and the Spanish wool. We know which we’d prefer. 

El Tuxedo!

Both Xecos are excellent drunk in the traditional manner, cold out of a copita, but the website is full of more different ways to serve these most versatile of wines. Which brings us back to the Tuxedo. As a fino is much drier than even a French dry vermouth, with almost zero grams of sugar, you need to use more to temper the gin. To compliment the fruitiness of the fino we’re using Foxhole Gin made with leftover grapes from making English wine. The bitters are optional, but we think one dash really brings out the citrus notes in the sherry.

Right, on with the old DJ, and let’s get stirring:

Ingredients:

50ml Foxhole London Dry Gin
25ml Xeco Fino
1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters (optional)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir well and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel, or an olive stuffed with an almond. 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The All Jazzed Up

Today’s drink was created by Pamela Wiznitzer, one of New York’s top bartenders. She took some Frapin Cognac and then just sort of jazzed it up a bit to create…

Today’s drink was created by Pamela Wiznitzer, one of New York’s top bartenders. She took some Frapin Cognac and then just sort of jazzed it up a bit to create a disco cocktail for grown-ups. The name took care of itself.

Like many in the drinks industry, Pamela Wiznitzer fell into working in bars more by necessity than any sense of vocation: “I started to work behind bars full-time in 2009 during the recession (I lost my job and needed to make rent),” she told us. But since then she has become one of New York City’s top bartenders, winning 2014 Bartender of the Year in Village Voice. Following a stint as creative director for Seamstress on the Upper East Side (which closed in 2018), she currently writes for a number of publications and runs a consultancy called The Cocktail Guru with Jonathan Pogash, and works with brands such as Frapin Cognac. Which brings us neatly on to this week’s cocktail.

Wiznitzer has been a long time fan of Cognac. She said: “Brandy is one of my favourite spirit categories and Cognac is truly one of my favourite things to sip. It’s often overlooked on menus for cocktails, but I have always found ways to highlight it on my menus and to bring Cognac cocktails to life in an exciting way for guests. I love the versatility, the way it can easily play with other ingredients, and brings its own set of complexities to a drink.” So when Frapin came knocking with its latest release, called 1270, it was pushing at an open door. 

1270 is a Cognac specifically designed for cocktails. The cellar master at Frapin, Patrice Piveteau, said, “it will become the bartender’s best friend as it makes the perfect base for the finest Cognac cocktails.” That doesn’t mean that Frapin has stinted on quality. It’s a single estate Cognac made from fruit grown entirely in Grand Champagne, distilled on the fine lees, which gives it the body for ageing. 

Frapin Cognac cocktail

A disco cocktail for grown-ups

It’s delicious neat or in Bertie Wooster’s favourite drink, the B & S (Brandy & Soda). Wiznitzer, however, has come up with something rather special blending it with triple sec, amaro and coffee. It’s like having all your after dinner drinks at once. She calls it the All Jazzed Up: “Using coffee in cocktails means that there is going to be a bit of a ‘kick’ from the caffeine”, she said. “I wanted to have a fun play on that idea while keeping the idea of the drink really classy (which it is!)” She’s right, it is totally classy, while also being a great disco drink. Wiznitzer serves it over ice but it’s actually very nice served straight up like an Espresso Martini. 

Here’s how to make it:

45ml Frapin 1270
15ml Triple Sec
15ml Amaro Meletti
15ml Demerara syrup*
30ml Cold-brewed coffee** 

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add all the ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled drinking glass and garnish with a slice of orange.

* In a saucepan, mix equals quantities of water and demerara sugar over a low heat. Put in a sterilised jam jar when cool and it will keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

**Brew coffee with cold water and steep in the fridge for a few hours. Or purchase ready-made.

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