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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cocktail of the Week

Cocktail of the Week: The Grasshopper

Unapologetically sweet, refreshingly minty and positively viridescent, the Grasshopper is practically a dessert all on its own. Flavour-wise, it’s rather like liquifying an After Eight mint and drinking it –…

Unapologetically sweet, refreshingly minty and positively viridescent, the Grasshopper is practically a dessert all on its own. Flavour-wise, it’s rather like liquifying an After Eight mint and drinking it – but that’s precisely why it’s so delicious. Here, Robin Summer, general manager at London’s Coin Laundry, talks us through the serve…

Few drinks are as visually striking as the Grasshopper. It looks like a Flip wearing a Halloween outfit, but in a good way. The timeless combination of cool mint and velvety white chocolate have earned this after-dinner cocktail a place in the history books, thanks to a shouldn’t-work-but-it-does combination of crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and fresh cream.

The Grasshopper originates from New Orleans, specifically a bar in the French Quarter called Tujague’s – said to be America’s oldest stand-up bar*. It was invented in 1918 by then-owner Philip Guichet for a cocktail competition in New York City. The drink came in second place, ‘and has remained a winner at Tujague’s bar ever since’, according to the venue’s website.

The original recipe combined white and green crème de menthe, white and dark crème de cacao, heavy whipping cream and brandy. It was a massive hit, proving extremely popular during the 1950s and 1960s throughout the American South – and later across the globe – until eventually the Grasshopper and other similarly sweet, milky cocktails fell out of favour. 

Grasshopper cocktail

“Positively viridescent”

Long relegated to the bottom shelf of the back bar, crème liqueurs are now making their way into such cocktails once again, spurred on by a recent revival of seventies-style ‘disco’ drinks. The Grasshopper in particular has seen a resurgence for a number of reasons, says Robin Summer, general manager at London bar Coin Laundry.

“Primarily, it’s easy to riff on,” Summer explains. “All the ingredients can be changed or substituted and you can introduce a number of techniques and flavour combinations – as long as you serve it cold and it comes out green! I also think a lot of modern bartenders probably found old bottles of crème de menthe in their stock and needed approachable ways of using it.”

With so few ingredients required, and in such equal quantities, you can’t really go too far wrong where the recipe is concerned. However, with this serve, texture and temperature is everything. If you’ve never frozen your glassware before, the Grasshopper is a cocktail that’ll really benefit from it. 

“This drink is definitely all about the texture,” says Summer. “Smooth and creamy is equally important as the combination of mint and chocolate giving it a bitter-sweet, rich-fresh vibe. It also has to be cold and has to be green, and should be garnished with shaved chocolate or a mint leaf. Personally I enjoy a combination of Gabriel Boudier Creme de Cacao Blanc, Get 27 Mint Liqueur, and double cream.”

Coin Laundry, don’t bring your dirty undies cos it’s actually a bar. So confusing.

The Grasshopper is also easy to twist, and “lends itself to being fortified,” says Summer. “Add a splash of gin, Cognac or even a bitter or an amaro. Try it with a splash of Fernet Branca Menta.” You can also try coconut cream, he adds, by combining equal parts coconut water (or milk) and cream. Delicious.If you want to really go all-out on the ‘dessert’ aspect of the drink, swap the cream for ice cream and whizz the whole lot in a blender before serving; the traditional method of making a Grasshopper in Wisconsin. The drink has long been a supper club staple in the state – which is also said to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae FYI – so it’s safe to assume they know their stuff.

Whichever version takes your fancy, whipping up a Grasshopper at home is no trouble at all. “It’s really simple to make,” says Summer. “Start with equal parts in a shaker and serve in a Nick and Nora glass. It will definitely help use up the bottles you’ve never touched at the back of your drinks cabinet.” The pour sizes are ultimately your call, but if you’re after a little guidance, follow the recipe below:

25ml Gabriel Boudier crème de menthe
25ml Giffard white crème de cacao
25ml single cream

Combine crème de menthe, crème de cacao, cream, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake until chilled and the outside of the cocktail shaker is cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with a mint spring and chocolate shavings.

*Bar at which you stand rather than a bar that has stand-up comedy nights.

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Cocktail of the Week: All Cobbling Together

Today’s we’re mixing up a take on a classic sherry cobbler but made with English blackcurrant liqueur, created by bartender extraordinaire Alex Williams. The Cobbler is one of the great…

Today’s we’re mixing up a take on a classic sherry cobbler but made with English blackcurrant liqueur, created by bartender extraordinaire Alex Williams.

The Cobbler is one of the great old time cocktails: a refreshing blend of ice, sugar, fruit and alcohol, like a Slush Puppie for grown-ups. It’s usually made with sherry but you can use pretty much anything, Champagne, Port, even claret. Today, we’re mixing up a new version of this classic created by Alex Williams, head bartender at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London which opened last year. When we visited in January, we were particularly taken with one of William’s concoctions, the Clear Conscience. Based on that old warhorse the Grasshopper, it’s made with poitin, Branca Menta and lashing of booze alchemy. The result is something that smells just like a Matchmaker mint. Very clever but also completely delicious. 

Like many in the business, Williams never intended to be a bartender. After studying classics, he intended to pursue an academic career. But while struggling with his MA thesis, he got a job at The Whisky Shop in Guildford and never returned to his books. Since then he’s worked for Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands followed by a stint working in India with Chivas Brothers and then behind the bar at some of London’s best venues including Black Rock, London Cocktail Club, Discount Suit Company and now at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel. 

The hotel is still currently closed but Williams hasn’t been sitting at home playing endless games of Super Mario Kart. He’s studying for his WSET Level 3 in spirits, “an absolute beast of a qualification” he told us. And to bring in the money he told us he’s been doing a bit of writing for Imbibe, “acting as a bicycle courier for Highball Brands’ Drinks Drop”, and “collaborating with Love Drinks on these summer drinks”, like this week’s cocktail which he calls All Cobbling Together.

It’s a bit unusual as it’s made with non-French cassis. Williams filled us in: “I first encountered White Heron British Cassis while working at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel. It was one of the ingredients in our house Punch, the Elephants Cup. In contrast to more widespread creme de cassis brands, White Heron retains great acidity while also showcasing the vibrancy of the fruit flavours. At the time when I was approached by Love Drinks to collaborate with the brand, I was drinking a lot of sherry at home, mainly oloroso, and it struck me that the combination of the cassis and oloroso might sing loudly in a riff on the classic Sherry Cobbler. In my opinion, the Cobbler is a quintessential summer drink: one that is bright and refreshing, with great lip-smacking acidity. While traditionally one might use orange and/or pineapple juice, I found that pink grapefruit juice melded beautifully with the cassis and the sherry, creating a tall, refreshing, and, most importantly, incredibly moreish summer tipple.”

Sounds good doesn’t it? Here’s how to make it:

50ml White Heron British Cassis
20ml Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso Seco
50ml Pink grapefruit juice
5ml 1:1 sugar syrup (Monin or you can make your own)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, shake and strain into a Highball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a blackberry.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Bee’s Knees

It’s time to dust off your dusting shoes, put on some Duke Ellington and shake a leg, as we make the ultimate Jazz Age gin cocktail. It’s the business. There’s…

It’s time to dust off your dusting shoes, put on some Duke Ellington and shake a leg, as we make the ultimate Jazz Age gin cocktail. It’s the business.

There’s an easy way to spot a cocktail that was created or popularised during Prohibition, look for sugar and fruit juice. Cocktails like the Bronx, the Southside (apparently Al Capone’s favourite) and our Cocktail of the Week, the Bee’s Knees, contained lots of both mainly to hide the fact that the gin you were drinking wasn’t exactly Tanqueray. It might not even be gin. David A. Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948 when Prohibition was still a recent memory, refers to such concoctions as ‘pernicious recipes.’

Don’t listen to old grumbles Embury, however, as the Bee’s Knees is actually delicious. The name is a bit of Jazz Age slang that was popular among bright young things of the time. Much, one imagines, to the disapproval of their parents. There’s a story that the phrase was inspired by Bee Jackson, aka Miss Fancy Feet or the Charleston Queen. A New Yorker, she helped bring the dance to London with a series of shows at the Piccadilly Hotel and the Kit Kat club. Or the bee’s knees might just be a hep way of saying ‘the business. It was one such phrase along with the cat’s pyjamas, monkey’s eyebrows or badger’s whiskers which all mean absolutely spiffing. You’d say them while dancing the Charleston to your new Duke Ellington 78 while assuring your friends that there would never be a war like the last one.

To keep it true to the spirit of the roaring ‘20s, we’re using Bathtub gin. Bathtub gin originally got its name as it was usually made from industrial alcohol (hopefully not containing too much methanol or customers would go blind) which would be dumped in a large container, such as a bathtub, and flavours added. If you were lucky this might be juniper essence and sugar, if not turpentine or even sulphuric acid. Mmmm, tangy! 

I should hasten to add that the only thing this Bathtub Gin has in common with the illicit stuff is that the botanicals, including juniper, orange peel, coriander, cassia, cloves and cardamom, are added to the spirit post-distillation in a technique known as cold-compounding where they slowly give up their aromas. The result is something richer, heavier and more intensely-flavoured than a London dry, and also very lightly tinted from the botanicals. It’s a gin for all seasons but it’s particularly good when paired with strong flavours like lemon juice and honey because it’s not going to get drowned out. In short, it’s a gin that means business. 

Which brings us back to our cocktail. Made using Bathtub gin, fresh lemon juice and a nice drop of honey, it really is the cat’s pyjamas. 

Right, let’s get shaking!

60ml Bathtub Gin
30ml fresh lemon juice
15ml honey

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and double strain into a chilled coupette glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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Cocktail of the Week: The White Russian

Today we’re shaking up perhaps the most famous cocktail in cinema, the White Russian, with Black Cow, a vodka distilled from milk. Whatever next! There are some cocktails that are…

Today we’re shaking up perhaps the most famous cocktail in cinema, the White Russian, with Black Cow, a vodka distilled from milk. Whatever next!

There are some cocktails that are inextricably linked with films or TV series: like the Cosmopolitan in ‘Sex and the City’, ‘Mad Men’ and Martinis and the Tequila Sunrise in, um, ‘Tequila Sunrise.’ But the union of drink and film reaches its apotheosis in the Coen Brothers’ 1998 fim, ‘The Big Lebowski.’ It’s now not possible to drink a White Russian without thinking of Jeff Bridges as The Dude in his dressing gown saying: ‘careful man! There’s a beverage here!’ The film, which initially had an underwhelming response on its launch, has become a cult favourite with Big Lebowski-themed evenings involving the consumption of many White Russians.

The cocktail also known in the film as a Caucasian (cos it’s white) is a derivation of the Black Russian (a mixture of vodka and coffee liqueur) with cream and/or milk added to it. Both Russians, Black and White are relatively recent cocktails, the Black was first mentioned in 1949 and the White in 1965. The big question is should you use cream or milk in your cocktail. Well, the Dude uses both. Fans of the film will recall the Dude paying for a carton of half and half in Ralphs with a cheque for 69 cents. For non-American readers, half and half is a mixture of milk and cream weighing in at about 10% dairy fat (and Ralphs is a chain of Californian supermarkets). Personally, I prefer my White Russians a little lighter so would just use whole milk, with about 4% fat. The other ingredients are vodka and coffee liqueur, the Dude uses Kahlua but you can use Tia Maria. Or there are other coffee liqueurs out there, or you could even add a shot of espresso, though you might want to sweeten it a bit then.

With real dairy goodness

Finally vodka, the Dude uses Smirnoff. But we’ve got something that’s custom built to go with dairy products because it is itself a dairy product. Black Cow vodka was launched back in 2012 by dairy farmer Jason Barber and his friend Paul Archard. It’s made by fermenting the whey, the liquid left over from making cheese, and distilling it. They then filter the vodka through coconut-shell charcoal. The result is something distinctly creamy and dairy, but at the same time tasting clean and fresh like a vodka should. It sounds a bit weird, but it really works. 

There are tonnes of variation on the classic White Russian. Our favourite is the addition of ice cream and then blending it to create a decadent boozy milkshake. But today, we’ve just kept it classic. With it’s simple sweet flavours, high dairy content and coffee kick, the White Russian is the perfect cocktail for when you just got up, or look like you’ve just got up. Which is perhaps why the Dude likes them so much. 

Right, got your dressing gown? Got your Creedence tapes? Let’s make a White Russian!

35ml Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka
35ml full-fat milk
35ml Kahlua 

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, shake quickly and strain into an ice-filled tumbler. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Piña Colada

Today we’re making one of the world’s most delicious cocktails, the way it should be made. With a good flavoured rum and fresh ingredients. I had a Piña Colada epiphany…

Today we’re making one of the world’s most delicious cocktails, the way it should be made. With a good flavoured rum and fresh ingredients.

I had a Piña Colada epiphany a few years ago. I’d always dismissed it as the sort of lurid concoction laden with sugar, cream and cocktail umbrellas that Del Boy might order in Only Fools and Horses. Or that my older brother would drink on family holidays on Lanzarote. But a French friend made one for me with fresh pineapple, coconut water and Martinque rum, and it was about the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. It was so delicious, that I didn’t notice how much rum was in it until I tried to stand up. 

So what is a Piña Colada? The name literally means ‘strained pineapple’ in Spanish and something like the modern version was invented in 1954 by a barman at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico called Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, or so the story goes. There are other pretenders to the crown of the inventor of the world’s greatest pineapple-based cocktail. The story is further complicated by the existence of a Cuban cocktail called a Piña Colada mentioned in the 1920s which mixes pineapple with rum but doesn’t contain coconut. It was the Puerto Rican version, however, that went global in the 1960s and naturally it began to change a bit. The cream of coconut from the originally was substituted with the sort of cream that might once have had something to do with cows, pasteurised or tinned pineapple replaced the fresh stuff, and cheap rums sneaked in like cheap rums do along with glace cherries, umbrellas, fireworks etc. Just the sort of thing that Del Boy would have ordered in the Nags Head.

But made properly, a Piña Colada is a magnificent thing combining as it does the three most tropical ingredients imaginable: pineapple, rum and coconut. Imagine if you could get a mango in there somewhere, or would that be too tropical? Anyway, as long as you use decent ingredients you can’t go wrong. So fresh pineapple juice, coconut cream or water and, of course, a rum that tastes like rum. 

We’re using Aluna Coconut rum; it’s unusual among coconut rums in really tasting of both rum and coconut. In fact, it tastes like opening up a coconut to find that it’s full of rum rather than coconut water. Wouldn’t that be amazing? That’s because it’s not only macerated with coconut but also sweetened with coconut water so it’s about the nearest thing you’ll get to a rum-filled coconut. The base spirit is a blend of Guatemala and Caribbean rums. It’s bottled at 35% ABV, so significantly stronger than some other coconut rum drinks so be careful standing up after a couple. 

So whether you’re celebrating Piña Colada day on the 10 July or want to make the ultimate a tropical cocktail now, here’s how to do it properly:

50ml Aluna Coconut rum
50ml Coconut water
100ml Fresh pineapple juice
Juice of half a lime

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake hard and strain into a tumbler or Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of lime or pineapple. And, what the hell, a glace cherry, umbrella and sparkler too. Lubbly jubbly!

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Cocktail of the Week: the Bicicletta

Spritzes are two-a-penny these days, if you really want to be ahead of the cocktail peloton, then get yourself a Bicicletta. The Bicicletta is the ultimate DIY cocktail. Fancy ingredients,…

Spritzes are two-a-penny these days, if you really want to be ahead of the cocktail peloton, then get yourself a Bicicletta.

The Bicicletta is the ultimate DIY cocktail. Fancy ingredients, you won’t need them. Exact measurements, throw that jigger away and just pour. It’s a mixture of white wine, amaro and fizzy water. Apparently the name comes from how old Italian men would wobble home on their bicycles after a few. It’s essentially a slightly less spritzy Spritz as it’s made with still wine instead of Prosecco.

The big question is, ‘which bitter thing to use?’ Now, most people will be reaching for the Aperol, and if that’s what you like then ignore the Aperol critics (honestly why do people get so upset about Aperol? That’s a subject for another blog post). Or for those who like it a bit bitterer, then Campari is the obvious choice. I actually like a mixture of half Aperol and half Campari

There’s a whole world of amari to try but seeing as Spritzes, Biciclettas and aperitivos in general are typically Venetian, we’re going with Venice’s own Select Aperitivo. It celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The drink was created in 1920 in the Castello district of the city at the Pilla distillery. Today, it’s made with over 30 botanicals including rhubarb and juniper berries. The flavour profile is fruitier than Campari with less bitterness but without being quite as sweet and orangey as Aperol. It’s custom made to do with all those little snacks that the Venetians do so well: green olives, cured anchovies, bruschetta, that sort of thing. 

Could this be any more Venetian?

Then you have to decide what wine to use. Decisions, decisions! Well, anything goes really but you shouldn’t use something too expensive or too rich; you don’t want a great big oaky chardonnay in the middle of this. But at the same time, Select isn’t going to cover up that bottle of wine that’s been sitting on the counter for a week. A Bicicletta calls for a fairly neutral (but not completely bland) white wine of the kind that Italy does so well like Pinot Grigio, a dry Orvieto, Grillo from Sicily etc. Rosé also works a treat, either pale pink Provence or something darker and fruitier from Spain. The final thing you could do is use a light red, Spanish Garnacha or Italian Barbera to create something like an instant Sangria. Sounds a bit mad, tastes absolutely delicious. 

It’s the perfect hot weather lazy day in the garden sort of drink. Just keep topping it up with soda water, Select, wine and ice, and it’ll last all day. Just be careful on your bike on the way home. 

Right, here’s the recipe, if you need one:

50ml Select Aperitivo
50ml white wine like this Pinot Grigio
30ml sparkling water

Fill a tumbler or wine with ice. Add the first two ingredients, give it a good stir, top up with soda, stir again and garnish with an orange wheel and a green olive if you have any.

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Cocktail of the Week: The White Port and Tonic

White Port and Tonic in hand, we take a stroll around the beautiful city of Porto which despite the cancellation of this year’s Festival of São João is welcoming visitors…

White Port and Tonic in hand, we take a stroll around the beautiful city of Porto which despite the cancellation of this year’s Festival of São João is welcoming visitors once more with the opening of the much-anticipated  all-singing, all-dancing World of Wine museum. 

If you’re in Porto and someone hits you over the head with a plastic hammer, do not be alarmed. It’s just the Festival of São João and the person hitting you means you no harm. Ostensibly a religious festival celebrating John the Baptist, it probably predates Christianity and offers an excuse for the whole city to go bananas on midsummer’s eve, 23 June. There’s music, fireworks, concerts, sardines and squeaky plastic hammers. Don’t ask why, just join in. Apparently, Tripeiros (tripe eaters, as people from Porto are known) used to hit each other with leeks which makes complete sense but at some point this changed to plastic hammers. And to keep you refreshed while bashing your neighbour, there’s a choice of two drinks: Super Bock beer and White Port and Tonic, Porto’s answer to the G&T.

Sadly this year because of Covid, São João has been cancelled. It’s hard to social distance while hitting someone on the head with a plastic hammer (unless you have a really big one.) But you can still get in the spirit by having a White Port and Tonic at home. We’re using Taylor’s Chip Dry white Port. This label dates back to 1934, the name comes from the old English expression ‘dry as a chip.’ The name is apt because there’s less sweetness than most white Ports; the alcohol in the form of aguardiente is added later so more sugar is fermented into alcohol. It’s not, however, as dry as fino sherry. The principal grape variety is the honeyed Malvasia Fina combined with other white Portuguese grapes, then aged in oak for between four and five years which gives it a nutty roundness without losing the fresh fruit. It’s a great tapas sort of wine sipped chilled and neat with cheese, or especially melon and ham. Or, of course, mixed with tonic as they do in Porto.

Porto looking lovely as always. WOW is under the red roofs in the foreground

São João might have been cancelled this year but the city is opening up again. According to Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor’s, Portugal has had a relatively good Covid. “Portugal has come out as a very safe destination,” he told me. Restaurants and hotels are once again doing business, the border with Spain opens up on the 22 June and Michael O’ Leary from Ryanair is itching to get flights running to Porto airport. Bridge has a particular interest in some degree of normality returning to the city as his €100 million World of Wine (WOW) is due to open at the end of July consisting of six museums, devoted to fashion, cork, Portuguese history, chocolate and, of course, wine all housed in historic Port warehouses on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river

There will also be five restaurants where I imagine thirsty visitors will get through a lot of Chip Dry and Tonics. Just as with a Spanish G&T, it’s fun to play around with garnishes. Mint and lime are good though I find a piece of rosemary brings out woody spicy notes in the wine and a piece of orange peel accentuates the fruit. The orange bitters is a nice addition but not essential. And don’t forget the plastic hammer. In fact, an idea for the Taylor’s marketing department, free plastic hammer with every bottle. I’ll suggest to Adrian Bridge now.

Right here’s how to make a White Port and Tonic:

35ml Taylor’s Chip Dry
65ml Tonic water
1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

Fill a Highball or goldfish bowl glass with ice, add the white Port, stir, and top up with tonic, Add one dash of orange bitters, stir again gently and garnish with a spring of rosemary and a piece of orange or lemon peel (or mint and lime if you prefer).

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Cocktail of the Week: The Cosmopolitan

A simple vodka sour with a hell of a reputation. This week we made The Cosmopolitan.  The story of The Cosmopolitan cocktail is similar to many classic drinks. Nobody is…

A simple vodka sour with a hell of a reputation. This week we made The Cosmopolitan. 

The story of The Cosmopolitan cocktail is similar to many classic drinks. Nobody is quite sure who invented it. Nobody is quite sure who popularised it. Its had various incarnations through the ages and it can seriously divide opinion. The latter is particularly true of this technicolour treat, which has had its fair share of controversy over the years. But when made well is all kinds of delicious. Like pretty much all drinks, to be honest. And who doesn’t want to drink something very tasty?

While there’s no certainty over when The Cosmopolitan emerged, there are five very different serves all carrying the Cosmopolitan name to be found in Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars, a book that dates back to 1934. One recipe, a variation of a Daisy cocktail, has a familiar blend of berry, citrus and white spirit. Ocean Spray, the cranberry juice brand, also created a drink called the ‘Harpoon’ in the late 60s that combined cranberry juice with vodka or rum, lime cordial and soda in an effort to attract adults to drink their brand. But the debate over who came up with the classic recipe of vodka, cranberry, fresh lime and Cointreau and where the name originated still goes on. 

One of the widely recognised theories is that Neal Murray, a bartender at the Cork & Cleaver steakhouse in Minneapolis made the drink in the autumn of 1975. Murray combined a Cape Cod and Kamikaze, adding triple sec from the Kamikaze to vodka with cranberry and lime. A regular supposedly remarked, “How cosmopolitan” when first tasting his creation and Murray carried a business card that claimed he invented The Cosmopolitan. Another story credits Cheryl Cook, head bartender at The Strand on Washington Avenue in Miami. Cook created a cocktail based on Absolut Citron vodka after it had just launched, adding a splash of triple sec, a dash of Rose’s lime and enough cranberry juice to create a distinctive pink hue. The name came from a March 1989 copy of Cosmopolitan Magazine which featured an article on The Strand and the hostess titled ‘The Maître d’ is a Ms.’ and it’s said that Sex and the City’s costume designers Patricia Field and Rebecca Weinburg were regulars of hers.

The Cosmopolitan

For a simple drink, The Cosmopolitan has sparked a lot of debate

What makes the tale of The Cosmopolitan so complex it’s not just the creator that’s up for debate, but so is the bartender responsible for cementing the cocktail’s recognised recipe and establishing its immense popularity.  John Caine is often said to be that person. He came across a version of The Cosmopolitan in Cleveland at a bar called the Rusty Scuppe which was influenced by a drink popular with the gay community in the 1970s in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where a huge amount of cranberries were grown. The drink consisted of vodka, triple sec, Rose’s lime juice and a splash of Ocean Spray cranberry juice and when Caine moved to San Francisco in 1987 to work at Julie’s Supper Club, he introduced it there, where they sold like hotcakes. Caine has remarked that “people said I invented the Cosmo. I just transported it”.

Others claim that the internationally recognized version of the cocktail was created by Toby Cecchini. Cheryl Charming, author of 16 books on cocktails and bartending, found in her research that Melissa Huffsmith-Roth also played a key role in this particular story. Huffsmith-Roth learned about the drink from Patrick ‘Paddy’ Mitten, who she worked with at Life Café, Manhattan. Mitten made an interpretation that was popular in San Francisco during the late 70s and early 80s and says he served Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker. When Huffsmith then worked at The Odeon in Manhattan in the late eighties, it’s said she altered this version while feeling experimental and used Absolut Citron as a base, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and cranberry juice. Things become cloudy again, though, as Cecchini says that it was he who reformulated the cocktail at The Odeon after he was introduced to a drink being made with rail vodka, Rose’s lime juice and Rose’s grenadine. He then made his own spin with Absolut Citron, which he combined with cranberry juice and Margarita ingredients. 

However, some credit bartender Dale DeGroff, who was described in The New York Times in 2015 as “one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts”. He came across the Cosmopolitan at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco in the early to mid-90s and created his own spin at the Rainbow Rooms, Manhattan, with the signature addition of a flamed orange twist garnish. Madonna was photographed with one there and DeGroff was mistakenly named as the man who invented the drink, despite never claiming to do so himself. In his 2002 book, The Craft of the Cocktail he clarified that he was not the inventor, but did say that he popularized a “definitive recipe that became widely accepted as the standard”. It’s very difficult to know where the credit should lie where The Cosmopolitan is concerned because there are so many competing stories, but I think it’s fair to say that most, if not all the people mentioned so far at least had some role in contributing to what the drink is today.

One thing that’s for sure, is that The Cosmopolitan’s popularity went to another level in 1998 when the HBO television series, Sex and the City debuted. It was based on the eponymous column written by Candace Bushnell in the New York Observer, who previously described Cosmopolitan as her ‘signature drink’. As Carrie Bradshaw was her alter-ego, it was only natural that she similarly imbibed. This effect propelled the Cosmopolitan to its own stardom parallel to the show and “let’s have Cosmos!” became the order of its heyday. This cultural dissemination meant the drink becoming a common sight in bars and it’s ascent coincided with the vodka-based domination of cocktail culture at the close of the 20th century.

But despite it playing its part in helping to catalyze a new age of cocktail drinking, in the new craft cocktail boom The Cosmopolitan became the kind of drink that a new wave of bartenders rallied against. Prohibition-era serves and spirit-forward drinks were preferred and pushed sweet, colourful and populist drinks to the side. The Cosmopolitan was too simple, too lacking in texture and flavour and fundamentally suffered from a lack of perceived ‘cool’ and authenticity. This was compounded by Sex and the City’s disastrous big-screen appearances. Cecchini describes becoming known among bartenders as “the asshole who invented that pink drink that we are now enslaved by”. The ‘Let’s have Cosmos’ line became a parody. Mad Men became the show to order cocktails from. Its bubblegum pop reputation has meant that The Cosmopolitan is no longer something that people order regularly, in the same way that people don’t wear double denim or listen to Billy Ray Cyrus without irony. 

There’s now something of a notion that a self-respecting bartender won’t touch a Cosmopolitan. But we will. Because it’s an important part of cocktail history and a drink is ultimately about what’s in the glass. In the case of The Cosmopolitan, that’s a light, refreshing and fun serve that’s perfect right now if you want to feel a bit glamorous in the house. So, let’s make one. 

The Cosmopolitan

You can garnish The Cosmopolitan in a number of ways. The lime wheel is an effective and simple choice.

The Cosmopolitan is often made with citrus vodka but I prefer using a regular vodka, which is also commonplace. When it comes to your choice of vodka, it’s worth noting that you don’t need to splash out, the trick is to economize while still using something quality. I chose Ephemeral Vodka because it’s got a clean flavour profile that’s ideal for mixing but is rich enough to still add weight and texture. I’ve also used Cointreau because there’s a reason the classics are classics, folks.

When it comes to cranberry juice, I recommend the unsweetened kind, (I’ve gone for Ocean Spray as a nod to its history with this cocktail), which makes it a slightly drier drink and the measurement provided gives the cocktail that elegant pale pink hue. If that’s not to your taste, adjust accordingly. The lime juice should be fresh, so get squeezin’. For the garnish, I just popped a lime wheel on the rim of my glass, but an orange peel or twist also works well, as does flaming them in the style of DeGroff. It’s worth filling your glass (typically a Martini glass, but you can also use a coupe or this delightful creation) with ice and water to chill it prior to making your cocktail.

If you want to experiment with different variations, you can use Absolut Citron Vodka as your base as many have before, or add some simple syrup if you’ve got a sweeter tooth (you shouldn’t need any more than 10ml). Equally, you can lengthen a Cosmo with 60ml of good Champagne and if you drop in a dash of Maraschino Liqueur to this recipe, you might just be the kind of maverick badass I can get along with. Enjoy!

The Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan in all its glory.

Recipe:

45ml of Ephemeral Vodka

20ml of Cointreau

20ml of cranberry juice

20ml of fresh lime juice

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Dark ‘n’ Stormy

It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we…

It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we delve into the cocktail’s history and show you how to make the perfect one, with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, naturally.

Cocktail history can be pretty hard to get to the bottom of. Think of all the competing stories about the origins of the Margarita. Mix tall stories with alcohol and you get a whole world of confusion. To be honest, with most cocktails, we don’t know for certain when they were invented, by whom, how and even why. The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is different as there’s actually a foundation date, 9 June 1980, that’s 40 years ago this week. This was the date that Gosling’s trademarked its signature cocktail. 

As Malcolm Gosling puts it: “While in Europe, food and drink products can be granted Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication accreditation to stop them being appropriated, abused and misused, Bermuda has no such thing. With the popularity of Bermuda and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy® growing in the late ’70s, we felt it was vital that we started the process of protecting our heritage around this special drink.”

Gets our seal of approval, arff, arff

It’s been something of a mixed blessing for the firm ever since because on the plus point, it has its very own cocktail, no other rum brand has that. But at the same time, the family has to decide whether to send in the lawyers whenever someone advertises its cocktail with a different rum or creates a ‘Dark and Stormzy’ or suchlike. What would be in a Dark and Stormzy? The mind boggles.

Anyway, I digress. According to the press bumf, the name of the drinks comes from: “when an old salt observed that the rum floating on top of the ginger beer was the ‘colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under’”. Mmmm, well maybe, or perhaps it came from the timeless opening line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford: “it was a dark and stormy night.” A line that has become the classic way to open a shaggy dog story, so apt for delving into cocktail history.

According to Gosling’s lore, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy was invented in the early 1920s by the British officer’s mess in Bermuda. They added Gosling’s Black Seal to their own homemade ginger beer and thus a classic was born. Now, rum and ginger have a rich history together, think of punches. And whisky and ginger has been drunk for years so it seems unlikely that nobody had ever mixed rum with ginger beer before those British officers. But of course,  Gosling’s is trademarking the name, not the drink. Any rum can be in a rum and ginger, but only Gosling’s Black Seal can be in a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. As Malcolm Gosling eloquently puts it: “Fair enough, mix any rum and ginger beer you want but if it doesn’t have Gosling’s, don’t call it Dark ‘n’ Stormy®!”

The Gosling’s begins in 1806 when English merchant James Gosling left for America. He stopped in Bermuda and liked it so much that he decided to stay on to sell wines and spirits. The family has been there ever since. His rum blend dates back to the 1850s when it was sold from the barrel. Around the time of the first world war, it began to be bottled for sale, in used Champagne bottles from the officer’s mess, and sealed with black wax, hence the name. The business is run by the seventh generation of the Gosling family.

A pretty two-layered effect

Luckily for cocktail lovers, Gosling’s Black Seal is an extremely nice rum. It’s a classic navy-style blend made with a mixture of pot and continuous still rums from around the Caribbean. There’s plenty of proper aged rum and the sweetness is the perfect foil to. . .  yes, you’ve guessed it. . . ginger beer. And happily, Gosling’s makes its own special version (there’s even a premixed can for when you want a Dark ‘n’ Stormy on the move.) The final ingredient is lime. In the classic recipe, below, it’s just a wedge but some versions call from lime juice as well and even Angostura bitters. Heresy! A nice upgrade, however, if you’re feeling lively, is a tablespoon full of overproof rum on the top. Gosling’s, naturally. 

Right, here’s how to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Don’t forget the ®!

50ml Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
75ml Gosling’s ginger beer

Fill a Highball glass with ice and add the ginger beer. Pour the Gosling’s Black Seal over the top for a pretty two-level effect and garnish with a lime wedge.

Everything you need including the glass is in this special Dark ‘n’ Stormy bundle from Master of Malt.

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Cocktail of the Week: the Gulliver’s Travels

This week’s cocktail is New York meets Ireland. It was created by Samuel Stepney at Underdog in Manhattan using Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey. It’s often overlooked in preference…

This week’s cocktail is New York meets Ireland. It was created by Samuel Stepney at Underdog in Manhattan using Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey.

It’s often overlooked in preference to rye or bourbon, but Irish whiskey can be a great mixer. This week’s recipe is doubly Irish as it’s not only made with an Irish whiskey, Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old, but also named after one of the great works of Irish literature, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. It was created at the Underdog, a bar located right at the tip of Manhattan island in Battery Park. Its creator Sam Stepney began tending bar with a stint at TGI Fridays. Not very cool but a surprising number of successful bartenders got their break at this chain. 

From there he moved to a bar on Staten Island with the tremendous name of Bootleg Mannings. Stepney said: “It was essentially a massive warehouse converted into a sports bar with a stage and outdoor space. The owner/manager at the time wished for Bootlegs to be a whiskey/craft beer bar and then proceeded to will it into being. During this process, as I learned more and more about whiskey, craft beer, and now classic cocktails, I was eventually inspired to make my first original cocktail which was a riff on an Aviation called the Frequent Flyer”.

Then three years ago he moved to Underdog, a Manhattan stalwart since 2013. He loves working in New York because “it is constantly growing and evolving. But unlike some other big cocktail cities, we champion the classics, and the heritage of the golden age of the cocktail in New York without being swayed too much by trends or gimmicks.”

The idea for the Gulliver’s Travels came from working at Underdog: “This particular menu needed a stirred and boozy cocktail that was not a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned variation”, he said. “I wanted to do something that would be strong but also accessible, bright, and maybe a little elegant. Essentially, I came up with a more spirit-forward reimagining of a Corpse Reviver #2 or 20th Century cocktail.”

He went on to explain some of the flavours in his choice of Irish whiskey: “I found myself picking up a ton of chocolate, banana and orange notes”, hence the use of creme de cacao and banane du Brésil, “I wanted to augment those notes but only enough to make sure that Knappogue 12 was still lead vocals. I love Lillet, it is one of the few modifiers that I will willingly drink straight, and it has that nice touch of lime/orange citrus that I was looking for.”

He also recommends the 12 year old Marsala cask expression from Knappogue but it’s not all about Irish whiskey: My other favorites generally rotate during the seasons and whether I’m on vacation or not, but since the pandemic has exiled me to Staten Island, this lockdown has been appropriately rum-heavy”, he said. “The most used bottles at the bar are Cynar and rye to make Ryenar shots for the guests, and at home it’s typically a nice overproof rum, probably Wray & Nephew.” Sounds like he’s doing lockdown in style.

Right, here’s how to make a Gulliver’s Travels: 

40ml Knappogue Castle 12 Year single malt
20ml Lillet Blanc
7ml Banane du Brésil Giffard
3ml Creme de Cacao Giffard

Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir until cold and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Express oil from lemon peel and discard. 

 

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