(Fizzy) Negroni Week

negroni

Hurrah, it’s Negroni Week, I thought it would never come.  Did you know, in Venice it is not legally considered to be summer until Negroni week (2-8 June)?  No?  That’s because I just made that up.  Despite what you might think Negroni week is not an age old celebration of all things bitter and difficult, it was in fact invented by Imbibe magazine (and Campari) in err 2013.

Anyway, I’m not a big Negroni fan (I have tried, honest) but couldn’t let this momentous occasion pass without comment, so here is my recipe for a Fizzy Negroni (makes 1 litre or 8 125ml servings):

  1. Combine 300ml gin, 30oml Campari and 300ml sweet vermouth in a mixing glass and add 100ml of water (to account for the dilution you would normally get from stirring).
  2. Stir well and add to a soda siphon.
  3. Charge the siphon with CO2 and then discharge into small bottles (Schweppes’ 125ml minis are perfect).
  4. Cap and refrigerate.
  5. Serve with a bottle opener and a straw.

Pistachio Sour

Photo courtesy of mjtmail, some rights reserved

The second of my ‘around the world’ themed cocktails (see Strawberry Fields for an explanation) took in the pistachio trees of the Middle East, the lemon groves of Asia, the sugarcane plantations of the tropics and the corn fields of the American South with a nutty twist on the classic Whiskey Sour. This drink wasn’t as well suited to scaling up to pitcher size (you get a much better texture/mouthfeel from the egg white if you shake these individually), but the proportions below will suit any sized vessel:

  1. Add a large (double) measure of bourbon, a measure of lemon juice, half a measure of pistachio syrup, half a measure of simple syrup, half a measure of egg white and a dash of bitters to a shaker.
  2. Fill 2/3 full with ice and shake well for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain the drink and dry shake (no ice) for a further ten seconds.
  4. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with some ground pistachios or a cherry.

( Don’t be put off by the murky browny-green colour of this one, it is delicious!)

Strawberry Fields

Photo courtesey of Wholesale of void, some rights reserved

My first garden party of the summer was in aid of a good friend’s thirtieth birthday party and had a ’round the world’ theme (i went as Willy Fogg by the way and came second in the fancy dress contest – thanks Mr & Mrs Cooke!).

I was asked if I could provide one or two drinks for the occasion that could be easily scaled up and served to a group of around forty people. Happy to oblige I combined a classic Barbadian rhyme* and some typically English ingredients to create a summer punch which was duly christened ‘Strawberry Fields’.

I made this in litre-jug sized batches, but the proportions below will work just as well glass by glass:

  1. Muddle a few leaves of mint and one strawberry (per serving) in the bottom of a mixing glass.
  2. Add four parts cold Earl Grey tea, three parts gin, two parts strawberry syrup and one part freshly squeezed lime juice.
  3. Add ice and stir well.
  4. Strain into a highball glass and garnish with a strawberry.
* The rhyme in case you were wondering is the old Bajan basis for a traditional rum punch “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak”.  For the rum punch it refers to lime juice, sugar, rum and water in that order (served with a dash or two of Angostura bitters and nutmeg, which don’t make the rhyme) but can easily be transposed to a whole range of other ingredients.

Camomile Sour

Whiskey Sour by Paul Goyette, some rights reserved

There’s nothing better than a delicious accident.  I made camomile bourbon a while back, and, for some reason, decided to use it in a Camomile Manhattan.  Look, I was young, experimenting, and a little obsessed with Manhattans, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Anyway, some months later, having run out of regular bourbon (shock-horror indeed). I tried the camomile-infused version in a Whiskey Sour.  What a revelation.  The lemon and the camomile sat so well together I now almost despair a little that I didn’t think of this in the first place.

So, making up for lost time, I heartily commend to you the Camomile Whiskey Sour:

  1. Add 9 tablespoons of camomile flowers to a bottle of bourbon.  Leave this to infuse for 24 hours and then strain and filter.
  2. Add a large measure of camomile bourbon, a measure of lemon juice, half a measure of sugar syrup and half a measure of egg white to a shaker.
  3. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake well for twenty seconds.
  4. Strain into the mixing glass and then dry shake (no ice) for a further ten seconds.
  5. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a slice of lemon and a cherry.

Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz by ReeseCLloyd, some rights reserved

The Fizz Family is an extension of another famous cocktail family; the Sours.  For every Sour there is a Fizz, and for every Fizz there is a Sour, it’s just that for some spirits one is usually more successful than the other.  That is why we find the Gin Fizz and not the Gin Sour, and the Whiskey Sour but not the Whiskey Fizz on the list of all time classic mixed drinks.

A Fizz, in its simplest form, is just a Sour with the lengthening addition of soda water.  A creation of the late nineteenth century, when mixed drinks began to emerge from the bittered sling category and include some of the first variants that allowed them to be considered, long, cooling, refreshing drinks.

The Gin Fizz opens itself up to a number of variations, but we start with the basic:

  1. Add two measures of gin, one measure of fresh lemon juice and half a measure of (2:1) sugar syrup to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake well for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled highball glass (without ice) and top with soda water.
  4. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint.

The Ramos Gin Fizz, however, is anything but basic, and also requires you to have some time on your hands.  For a start it includes a number of controversial ingredients (orange flower water?  Heavy cream?) and then it comes with the firm instruction to shake for no less than twelve minutes.  It is not a drink to make if you are concerned about dying of thirst.

Invented in New Orleans in 1888 by barman Henry Ramos it is a silky smooth concoction which, if made to the exact recipe is a perfectly balanced masterpiece finished in ostentatious and labour-intensive style:

  1. Add a large measure of gin, a measure of heavy (double) cream, 1/2 an egg white, 1/2 a measure of lime juice, 1/3 measure of lemon juice, 1/2 measure of (2:1) sugar syrup and a barspoon of orange flower water to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake well for TWELVE MINUTES (Ramos used to hire a phalanx of shaker boys who would line up behind the bar and shake these all night).
  3. Strain into a chilled highball glass (without ice) and garnish with a slice of lemon.

Or, if you want a halfway house and don’t have twelve minutes of shaking to wait, try the Elder-Gin Fizz, a British summer time classic:

  1. Add a measure of gin, a measure of elderflower liqueur, half a measure of (2:1) simple syrup, half a measure of lemon juice and half a measure of egg white to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake well for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain into the mixing glass and then dry shake (without ice) for a further ten seconds.
  4. Strain into a chilled highball glass (without ice) and garnish with a slice of lemon.

 

Crystal Ball

So a new year, a year of Commonwealth Games, an independence referendum and a football world cup.

All significant events in their own right of course, but what are the big drinks trends of 2014 going to be?  For me, 2014 is going to be the year that beer cocktails really take off.  Beer cocktails?  Yes, beer cocktails.  Look at it this way, craft beer has boomed in the last few years, and so have experimental and innovative cocktail bars.  So what’s the next step?  Marry the two.

Elsewhere, I can see tea is going to grow in popularity as a cocktail ingredient this year.  I’ve been using tea as a quick and easy way to promote variety in drinks for a while now.  It is fantastically versatile, can be used as an infusion, in a syrup or as a smoke, and comes in so many flavours.  It has enough variety, small batch producers and organic credentials to appeal to the geekiest of mixologist, so why not?  Tea will be big in 2014.

Pre-bottling & carbonation are also two trends that were on the rise towards the end of 2013 and look set to continue into this year.  The Sodastream is back in a big way, and more bars will be looking at ways to pre-mix and batch bottle their concoctions.  It saves time and it can make for a great serve.  I think we can expect to see a lots more drinks served from crown top bottles, and I’ll wager a fair few of those will open with a pssst.

Elsewhere, the industry press has been talking up sherry for the last few months and all signs point to a long overdue revival in the UK.  Sherry was a massive seller back in the fifteenth century, but fell out of favour due to a significant image problem – little old ladies sipping a small, warm glass of a sickly sweet decades old cream sherry, and much like vermouth, it has never been kept well.  Greater publicity and the growth of ‘wild sherry’ means this is one drink that will definitely be making a comeback in 2014.

Finally, one last prediction for the new year:  2014 will be the year that bars finally start to take ice seriously.  No more handfuls of wet chunks from the same old ice machine.  Now is the time for handcrafted, well loved and properly tended fresh ice.  I know White Lyan has created a splash by foregoing ice altogether, but trust me, where Ryan is streets ahead, the rest of the world is only just learning to treat ice with respect.

Christmas in the Square

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This recipe came to me via @thecocktailgeek. His enthusiasm for it was so palpable: “the best drink I’ve had all year” that not only did it convince me (an averred mulled wine avoider) to purchase a bottle of Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Christmas Mulled Cup and add it to pretty much every drink I made this month, it also drove me back into the arms of a trusty old favourite – the Vieux Carré.

The recipe was also featured last week on @MasterofMalt’s excellent #masterofcocktails series, so I’m a little late to the game with this, but boy is it a good one:

  1. Combine equal parts whiskey, cognac and sweet vermouth, half a measure of Christmas Mulled Cup and a sploosh of Peychaud’s bitters in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well for sixty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass, over ice.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange peel (Christmas tincture optional).