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.

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.

Camomile Manhattan

Having taken delivery of more loose leaf tea from the jolly good fellows at Jeeves and Jericho, I spent my Friday afternoon infusing some bourbon.

This time my order from Oxford’s finest tea-mongers consisted of:

  • 65g of Earl of Grey (for Earl Grey Old Fashioneds)
  • 75g of Dales Brew (for drinking with my Yorkshire buddies)
  • 20g Camomile Blossom
  • 20g Mojito Mint

Perhaps counter-intuitively given the name, my first infusion was four teaspoons of Mojito Mint in 200ml of Jim Beam White Label for one hour to create a Peppermint Bourbon for use in Mint Juleps.

At the same time, I opted for the same ratio of Camomile to Jim Beam to create 200ml of a versatile Camomile Bourbon for use in exotic Manhattans and Whiskey Sours.

The Camomile Manhattan I tried last night was a resounding success:

  1. Add a large measure of Camomile Bourbon, a measure of sweet vermouth and a measure of triple sec to a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice.
  2. Add two splooshes of orange bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Next up, once I get my hand on some decent Sherry, is La Valencia – stay tuned.