This site has now moved

Hey there, thanks for your interest in House of Bourbon. We’ve now moved to a new home at Fox & Beagle.

You can find all of our posts there, along with details of our recent dipsological projects and details of our new consultancy, content and bespoke drinks, menu and event services.

Hope to see you over at Fox & Beagle soon.

Mince Pie Sazerac

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The final Advent Sunday cocktail is a sazerac with a twist – the dried fruit flavour of our Mince Pie Cognac and sweet sherry:

  1. Fill an old fashioned glass with crushed ice, add 10ml of absinthe and stir.  Set aside.
  2. Crush a sugar cube and four dashes of Peychaud’s bitters in a mixing glass until dissolved.
  3. Add 50ml Mince Pie Cognac, 15ml sweet sherry, and cubed ice and stir for thirty seconds.
  4. Discard the ice and absinthe from the old fashioned glass and strain the finished drink into the glass.
  5. Finish with a spritz of absinthe.

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?

Mince Pie Cognac

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Photo courtesy of Sarah, some rights reserved

 

Last year I put the decision between Christmas pudding or mince pie bourbon to a Twitter vote and Christmas Pudding Bourbon came out on top.  It was tasty, super sweet and full of festive flavour.

This year then, it is the turn of the humble mince pie to be boozified.  I’ve decided to infuse it into Cognac instead of bourbon and over the next four weeks I will use this to showcase four Christmas cocktail recipes.

As I suggested last year, the mince pie infusion is much easier to make, but in an attempt to help create a clearer, more easily filtered infusion, I have decided to follow a sous vide recipe.

  1. Add 500ml of good quality Cognac and 200g of store-bought mincemeat to a ziplock bag.  Expel all of the air and seal.
  2. Heat the sealed bag at 45°c for one hour (see my Sous Vide Syrup recipe for my home sous vide technique).
  3. Once the hour is up, place the sealed bag in the freezer overnight.
  4. Next morning strain and filter the mix and bottle.  Yum!

La Tour Eiffel

Photo courtesy of marcia.taylor, some rights reserved.

Today is Bastille Day, the annual French commemoration of the day that the gleeful decapitations of the upper classes began in 1789. As a result it may seem a little disingenuous to celebrate this uprising with a somewhat bourgeoise cocktail of brandy and absinthe, and of course the tower itself wasn’t created until some hundred years after the revolution, but it’s a great recipe with a French name, so bear with me.

1. Rinse a chilled champagne flute with absinthe and tilt until the inside is coated. Add a few ice cubes and set aside.
2. Add two and a half measures of XO cognac, half a measure of Cointreau and half a measure of Suze to a mixing glass.
3. Fill the mixing glass with ice and stir well.
4. Discard the ice and excess absinthe and strain the drink into flute. Garnish with a twist 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 Manhattan

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Avid readers (hello mum!) will recall that last week we started infusing the guts of a Christmas pudding in some bourbon.  One week on and the infusion was ready to be strained, filtered and decanted into a bottle:

  1. Sieve the fruit from the bourbon and press down on the fruit to express as much liquid as possible.
  2. Filter the syrupy liquid through coffee filter papers and store in a clean bottle.

This has a longer shelf life than its taste will require.  In other words you will finish it before it spoils!  My first pour with the finished bourbon was a Christmas Manhattan (I think I might have overdone it!):

  1. Combine two measures of Christmas pudding bourbon, one measure of sweet vermouth, half a measure of Christmas Mulled Cup and two dashes of Teapot bitters in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well for sixty seconds.
  3. Double strain into a chilled coupe.
  4. Finish with a spritz of Christmas tincture.

Christmas Pudding Bourbon

Photo courtesy of dannyasmith (Flickr), some rights reserved.

My aunt makes the best Christmas Pudding.  No, no arguments, it’s true.  So when I was trying to decide on a festive infusion and I threw the decision out to a Twitter vote between Christmas pudding and mince pies I was really hoping the pudding would win.  Granted a mince pie infusion would have been slightly easier (add mincemeat to bourbon and wait) but you can eat mince pies for pretty much an entire month or more, Christmas pudding is really only a once a year, or twice if you’re lucky, treat.

So once the decision was made – democratically – the next question was how to combine a Christmas pudding with a bottle of bourbon.  One option – following the 69 Colebrooke Row panettone bellini model – was to take a blender to a pudding and dissolve it as much as possible.  That required a whole pudding, so instead of starting at the end and deconstructing I opted to start with the ingredients and flavours of a Christmas pudding and build up.  To make 350ml (half a bottle of bourbon):

  1. Add 125g dark brown sugar, 50g mixed peel, 125g sultanas and 75g raisins to a mixing bowl.
  2. Grate the zest of half an orange into the bowl and add the juice.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of almond essence, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice.
  4. Finally add a cinnamon stick, the scraped contents of a whole vanilla bean and 350ml bourbon.
  5. Stir well and cover the bowl. Leave in a cool place for about a week, stirring once a day.

At this stage, the brown sludge looks distinctly unappetising, but smells incredible: orange, vanilla and bourbon – perfect winter flavours.

After a week, strain the mixture through a fine sieve – mash it right down to get all the juices out (and retain the fruit as an accompaniment to vanilla ice cream) then filter through a coffee filter paper.  Store the infused bourbon in a clean bottle and it will keep for six months or so.

And serve..? You’ll have to wait til next week for that…

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.

Sous Vide Syrup

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Always on the look out for a new homemade project, and perhaps inspired by the episodes of MasterChef Australia that my flatmate is so fond of, I decided to embark on my first sous-vide project: a simple fruit infused syrup.

Sous-vide (literally ‘under vacuum’) refers to a method of sealing food in an airtight bag and cooking it in a water bath. The overall process allows the food to cook evenly, with the bag ensuring that as much flavour as possible is kept in. The water bath makes it easier to regulate the temperature – keeping it constant and at a precise temperature for a long period of time.

Sous-vide cooking has been used in high-end restaurants since the 1960s, and celebrity chefs and TV cookery programmes have raised its profile in recent years. Behind the scenes, a number of bars have also discovered that the process works better than simple maceration insofar as it allows the liquid to fully adsorb the whole flavour of the fruit, avoiding the bitter or musty flavours that can be created as the fruit is broken down.

A starter sous-vide machine will retail for around £250, but fortunately there is a quick and easy way to reproduce the effect with reasonable results in your own kitchen.

Making the Syrup

I decided to make 250ml of raspberry syrup as a first attempt. First I bought a box of medium sandwich bags – these were probably a bit larger than necessary for the quantities that I will be making, but the added size does make it easier to add and remove the ingredients without spillage, and at least I’ll be all set up if I decide to go into industrial production in the future!

To make the raspberry syrup I put 170g of fresh raspberries, 190g of white sugar and 240ml of cold water into a bag. I sealed the bag, and squeezed out the air to create a vacuum.

I then moved to the hob to construct a basic bain-marie by placing a small saucepan of water inside a large saucepan of water. When constructing this it helps to use pans that nest together evenly (I didn’t!) and to remember Archimedes’ principle (I didn’t!). The aim is to have the smaller pan about half submerged in water in the larger pan.

Heat the water until the top pan has reached a steady temperature of 57°C. This will require a fairly accurate thermometer and I found that mine didn’t enjoy long exposure to the high temperatures. Once the water has reached the required temperature, place the bag of ingredients into the smaller pan and cook for 30 minutes. Try to maintain the steady temperature throughout the cooking time. This may be easier said than done, but I managed to stay within a range of a few degrees.

Once the cooking time has elapsed remove the bag from the pan and allow it to cool briefly. During this cooling time, prepare an ice bath by filling a container with cold water and a handful of ice cubes. Place the bag (still sealed) in the ice bath for approximately ten minutes.

Meanwhile sterilise a jar or bottle and once the syrup has cooled, fine strain it into the container, and add about 10ml of vodka to extend its shelf-life.

The syrup should be kept refrigerated and will keep for 2-3 weeks.