Earl Grey Daiquiri

Photo courtesy of StuartWebster, some rights reserved

The Daiquiri is a sub-category of the sours group of cocktails, and is constructed from the simple combination of rum, lime juice (or lemon, once upon a time) and sugar.

Invented in Santiago, Cuba; the Daiquiri owes much of its reputation to Ernest Hemingway.  Upon moving to Cuba in 1932 to escape the horrors of Prohibition, Hemingway fell in love with Daiquiri Number Three as served in Constantino Ribalaigua’s El Floridita, the bar now known as the self-appointed ‘cradle of the Daiquiri’.

However, Hemingway’s favourite version was far removed from the traditional white rum, lemon and sugar concoction that was first served back in the 1890s. For a start, Hemingway was diabetic and therefore wary of drinks made with added sugar. Secondly, the addition of grapefruit juice will appeal only to those who prefer a super sour flavour profile. In my mind grapefruit juice is solely reminiscent of those bleary-eyed mornings in a continental hotel where you end up sucking your cheeks in after opting for the wrong jug at the breakfast buffet.

However, Hemingway’s endorsement and the mass exodus of wealthy Americans to Cuba during the dark days following the Volstead Act were enough to create a buzz around the concept of the Daiquiri.  Following on from the rich tradition of El Floridita #1 through #3, we now live in a world where Daiquiri possibilities are so endless that “drive-through Daiquiri joints are ubiquitous” in Louisiana.

The Daiquiri has proved to be a versatile canvas for the cocktail boomers of recent years. But while Difford’s #9 contains just over one hundred Daiquiri variants from Acapulco, Ace of Clubs and Aged Honey through to the Vanilla, Very Rusty and Whoop It Up varieties, the Savoy Cocktail Book contains just the one and I think it’s fair to say that a number of the current crop were born in the dark days of sparklers, blue curaçao and umbrellas (see the frozen puréed fruit varieties in particular).

At its heart, the Daiquiri is best made as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of white rum, the juice of half a lime and a barspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Of course some flavoured Daiquiris can be acceptable and even quite pleasant. Consider using aged rum for a richer taste, or branch out to the other end of the spectrum and make a Hemingway Daiquiri to punish your taste buds:

  1. Add an extra large measure of rum, one measure each of pink grapefruit juice, maraschino and fresh lime juice, and an optional half a measure of simple syrup, to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime

However, I was making Earl Grey syrup the other weekend, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to experiment.

The Earl Grey Daiquiri, therefore:

  1. Add a large measure of rum, four bar spoons of Earl Grey Syrup and the juice of half a lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a wedge of lime (perched on the edge of the glass).

Much better.

Mint Julep

Photo courtesy of tsand, some rights reserved.

A standard and special edition of a classic bourbon drink to mark US National Bourbon Day (14 June), although let’s not forget Bourbon Heritage Month is still to come (September)!

The Mint Julep is a drink that is now synonymous with Bourbon-country, in particular Kentucky, and an estimated 120,000 are sold over the Kentucky Derby weekend alone.

The ‘Julep’ of the name refers to a sweet syrup drink, and is a corruption of the Arabic ‘julab’ for ‘rosewater’.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a julep was any sweet fruity drink, commonly based with rum, brandy or whiskey.  Now, the only julep-class drink with any global reputation is the mint julep, but there are some signs of revival in the form of rum and berry-based julep drinks as well.

The popularisation of the Mint Julep is often attributed to English Royal Navy officer and later novelist Captain Frederick Marryat, who eulogised thus in his 1839 Diary in America:

“I must descant a little upon the mint julep, as it is, with the thermometer at 100, one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that was ever invented, and may be drunk with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70… As the ice melts, you drink. I once overheard two ladies in the room next to me, and one of them said, ‘Well, if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a ‘mint julep!’ – a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and taste. They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”

Today, the Mint Julep is best made with fresh spearmint leaves and pre-chilled shaker and glass.  The traditional julep cup is made of pewter to help it to retain its coldness.  Very important when the thermometer is at  100, or even 70 – less so when (as at present) it is barely touching 50 in mid-June Edinburgh.

Two words of caution before the recipe: it is important to discard the stem of the mint, as this will produce a bitter residue when muddled, and ensure that you are only bruising the mint leaves and not pummelling them to a bitter slush at the bottom of your cup.

Ready? Ok:

  1. Add five mint leaves and a barspoon of simple syrup to your julep cup (if you don’t have $1,000 julep cup to hand a highball glass is a suitable alternative).
  2. Muddle well, but be sure to only bruise and not crush the leaves.
  3. Add a large measure of whiskey.  Bourbon is traditional given the drink’s association with Kentucky, and Early Times Kentucky whiskey is the choice at the Kentucky Derby.
  4. Fill the glass with crushed ice.
  5. Stir and garnish with a pristine mint sprig or three.

For an even mintier alternative, consider peppermint bourbon, or for an added booze and sugar hit, float half a measure of golden rum on top of the built drink.

Right Hand / Left Hand

I picked up a bottle of the ever-so exotically named Xocolatl Mole Bitters today, a cacao and cinnamon based cocktail bitter which is a staple of a number of Central American influenced cocktails.

Xocolatl Mole is named for the Aztec word xocolātl (meaning “bitter water”) which became known in the English-speaking world as chocolate; and mole (or mōlli), a traditional form of Mexican sauce.  As you would expect, therefore, the bitters have a strong flavour of spiced chocolate with prominent cinnamon and chili notes.

A sploosh or two of Xocolatl Mole is a key ingredient in a number of recipes; the most famous of which is the Right Hand, a rum-based Negroni or Boulevardier variant, which is given distinctive chocolate notes by the bitters.

The Right Hand appears to be a recent invention and is credited to Michael McIlroy, bartender at New York’s twin bars Milk and Honey and Little Branch, as recently as 2007.

  1. Add a large measure of aged rum to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Add a measure of sweet vermouth, Campari and two splooshes of Xocolatl Mole bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.

The most popular variant of the Right Hand is the Left Hand, which is made with bourbon in place of rum, and a lemon or orange variant of either can be made by including a sploosh or two of the respective bitters and a twist of peel.