Christmas Champagne Cocktail

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(c) 2010 Sarah Mennie.  All rights reserved.  

If you’re like us here at House of Bourbon HQ, right now you’re spending Advent Sunday sat by the fire, basking in the glow of your Christmas tree, listening to some Christmas music and wrapping presents or Christmas shopping (depending on your level of organisation).

If so, you need just the right drink to celebrate having Christmas totally under control, and nothing says celebration quite like the Champagne Cocktail – especially given this festive twist.  That’s right, this is the first of our Advent Sunday drinks making use of the mince pie cognac we made earlier this week:

  1. Sploosh a dash of bitters on a sugar cube and drop into a chilled champagne flute.
  2. Add 10ml of mince pie cognac and then fill the glass with chilled champagne.

Serve and smile. What do you mean it’s just us?

(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!)

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.

 

Autumnal Old Fashioned

Photo courtesy of santheo. Some rights reserved (Flickr, CC)

Just a short seasonal post to mark the end of British Summer Time. As the evenings draw in and we begin the inexorable march towards Christmas it’s always useful to have a mellow spiced drink on hand to warm your toes after a long day of present shopping.

We start with a simple variation of the classic Old Fashioned:

  1. Add equal parts bourbon and applejack, a barspoon of honey and three dashes of your most autumnal bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into an old fashioned glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

On an exceptionally cold evening, or when the spirit of adventure takes you, this drink is also very good served warm and (in larger quantities). Combine the whiskey, applejack, honey and bitters with some winter spices (perhaps star anise, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, or cardamom) and orange and lemon wheels in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Lower the heat and simmer gently for twenty minutes. Ladle into a mug and serve steaming hot.

Martinez

 

Photo courtesy of Sam Simpson

Where to begin with the Martinez – a drink about which so much has been written, so much conjectured and so little understood?

Of course many know the Martinez as the direct ancestor of the Martini (not least because of the name), but it is also cited as a sort of missing link – the crucial step between the brusque rye whiskey and cognac drinks of the mid/late 1800s and the fresher, lighter gin drinks of the early 20th century.

How much of a role as ancestor the drink can claim is uncertain – it appears to only be about five years older than its more famous relation.  But given that the Martinez was introduced in print (by O.H. Byron in The Modern Bartenders’ Guide (1884) as “same as a Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whiskey” it can clearly claim to have helped drinking society to cross from dark spirit based drinks to light.

In truth, not much is known about the history of the Martinez, or the initial form it takes.  In particular, Byron’s recipe was somewhat unhelpful as his book lists two recipes for the Manhattan and fails to specify which one the Martinez is based on.

As well as this, other bartenders from the 1800s have a claim to inventing the drink – Jerry Thomas may have been one (although the drink did not appear until the 1887 edition of his Bartender’s Guide), and some have traced the drink to Martinez. California and one Julio Richelieu who was said to have created it for a passing goldminer in 1874.

By now, your view of the Martinez may be a little clouded.  It will only become more so.  In fact it’s fair to say that today’s Martinez is more of a category of drink than a single recipe.  Ingredient by ingredient the mystery grows.  Should it be based on Genever instead of gin?  Possibly, although the first printed record calls for gin.  But which gin?  Old Tom (a sweeter variety than the now ubiquitous Dry London) was certainly popular in the late 1800s, but does a drink which combines sweet vermouth and a sweet liqueur need any more sugar?  Probably to the palate of a late-Victorian drinker.

Next, the vermouth.  Byron listed both a sweet and dry Manhattan in his 1884 guide and there is no clue as to whether his Martinez used sweet or dry vermouth.  Most recipes now call for sweet on the basis that during the late 19th century this was more common than dry, so where a recipe fails to specify it is safest to assume sweet vermouth is intended.

Finally, the ratios.  As with the Martini, tastes have changed over time, and it is fair to say that most modern bartenders have turned the original two parts sweet vermouth to one part gin recipe precisely on its head.  Of course as the drink evolves towards the modern Martini, the recipe was forced to get drier, so there is no shame in calling for a more modern version.  Personally, I make mine as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of gin, a measure of sweet vermouth, a barspoon of Maraschino and three dashes of bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir for sixty seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass/coupe.
  3. Garnish with either a twist of lemon or a cherry.

Sophisticated, a little bit dry and a little bit sweet too, and probably still true to some halfway-house recipe that paved the way for the classic Martini.  History in a glass.