Japanese cocktail

IMG_5628This simple mixture of cognac, almonds and lime sounded like an interesting recipe from Harry MacElhone, but it involved making the orgeat syrup first, as my attempts to find a ready-made product suggested they were all a bit disappointing. That may seem like overkill, but I at least have an ingredient now to use in various Tiki-style recipes, as the recipe produces around 250ml of the sweet, almond-flavoured syrup which will last a month or so in the refrigerator.

The story goes that MacElhone invented this drink in honour of a Japanese delegation visiting Paris in the 1920s while he was running his eponymous bar there. The ingredients themselves don’t suggest Japan to me, as my visits to the country have not indicated that there is overwhelming demand for almond or lime flavours; the cognac might have been a nod to the French location of the drink’s birthplace.

I am not quite sure what to make of the finished drink: the combination of cognac and almond syrup is silky enough, but the lime juice is slightly too strong to my taste. Thinking on other lime-based drinks (such as the Margarita), I cannot see why it should jar here, but it does – perhaps its is the cognac-and-lime mix that seems a little harsh. Either way, the drink was not as smooth as I was expecting, and despite the sweetness of the orgeat syrup, the lime has a really attack on the back of the throat. The next time I make one of these, I plan to use a properly Japanese substitute : yuzu juice. This has the required citrus tones, but slightly less attack. I think this will balance the drink better.

Ingredients:

2 ozs cognac

1/2 oz orgeat syrup

1/2 oz lime juice

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake the ingredients well with plenty of ice (probably a good time to practice your Japanese shaking technique), then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime zest.

 

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Corpse Reviver #1 (Curious Bartender mix)

img_4162Every barman has a corpse reviver recipe: the drink they slide across the bar to the jaded customer without a word, just the unspoken understanding of what the client needs right now, right then. The recipes date back to the mid-C19th, served to young bucks who had over-indulged the night before, and now revived (if you will) for a modern generation of hungover clients.

The #2 mix is allegedly more popular these days, but this #1 mix relies of a swift punch to the kidneys with darker alcohols: brandy (or cognac) and calvados, that wonderful French apple brandy. I have mixed together the standard alcohol kick with Tristran Stephenson’s #1.1 beta recipe, found in his excellent Curious Bartender book, that uses an English apple brandy.

The drink is one you should drink swiftly. ‘While it is still smiling at you’, as they say.

Method:

30ml brandy or cognac

30ml calvados (I used Somerset apple brandy here)

30ml Italian vermouth (I used Vermut)

Stir well over ice, then strain into a cold coupe. No garnish is required – you don’t want to delay serving this drink to a customer in distress.

And in a slight, but I think important variant, I dropped a few spots of clove bitters (my recipe) into the centre of the drink. They settle to the bottom, adding a sudden & unexpected dimension as you drain the glass, and one that certainly opens the eyes. Stephenson says ‘add them if you want to break the rules’. I do & so I did.

 

 

Ampersand (dry)

img_4098Another recipe that can be made with Old Tom or dry gin – again, I am using a lighter London style in Hendricks. The mystery of this drink is why the ‘and’ in the title; the answer is in the ingredients: gin *and* brandy *and* vermouth. This sounds like a drink invented by someone ho couldn’t quite work out what to drink, so just kept adding ingredients.

But in reality it is pretty well-balanced. The gin and brandy work well together; I can’t imagine a bourbon equivalent marrying so well, it really has to be brandy. Richard Godwin describes it as having a ‘Fred Astaire sort of sweep’. I can see what he means – it seems to waltz around the tongue, rather than march over your mouth. I slipped away from the recipe by using a lime twist, rather than lemon. Why? Because I wanted to see if it worked, and the subtle citrus note seemed to be more elegant, even if the colour didn’t really work. It’s your glass: you choose.

Method:

25ml gin

25ml brandy

25ml Italian vermouth

10ml orange liqueur (I used Cointreau, Grand Marnier is more traditional)

Dash of Orange bitters.

 

Stir well over ice & strain into cold glass. Garnish with a zest twist (see above).

 

Tuxedo (dry)

img_4073Like whisky, sherry is an underused cocktail ingredient. But like its Scottish counterpart, it has to be used with a certain care – its dry, subtle flavours can add a mysterious quality, but the dryness can add a mouth-puckering quality if overused.

The Tuxedo is an old recipe indeed, dating back to the end of the C19th, and with sherry as an ingredient, is most likely from an English bartender (although some stories claim it for the Tuxedo Club, which didn’t come into existence until four or five years after this drink was first seen in print).

The recipe really calls for a very traditional version of gin, Old Tom, which is richer and sweeter than London dry styles. But this recipe seems to make no distinction, so I made it with a lighter London style, Hendricks. The maraschino adds a very subtle, almost ineffable, sweetness & lifts the drink completely – it would be very different without it, even though the quantity is tiny (half a teaspoon or so). Likewise with the absinthe – miss it out, and you miss a large range of the flavour, and the aniseed notes really pair well with the sherry.

This is a lovely, gentle drink, like a richer Martini with many more layers of flavour. Probably not one you want to drink more than one of, but as an aperitif, it’s hard to beat. I took this recipe from Richard Godwin’s book, The Spirits. As he says, ‘where are you going with this?’ The answer is in the drink.

Method:

25ml dry gin (Hendricks here

25ml Fino sherry

25ml French vermouth (Noilly Prat is highly suitable)

2.5ml maraschino

Dashes of absinthe

Dashes of orange bitters

 

Stir slowly over the largest ice cubes you have (the drink needs to be properly cold, but not diluted) & strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon zest

 

 

 

 

Voodoo

img_4016My Baron Samedi hat was in use at New Year at a masked party & although sadly we didn’t have a rum-based cocktail at the time, I thought I’d properly honour the spirit of the Baron with his favourite spirit, and mix up a voodoo-themed cocktail this weekend.

The recipe comes from Difford’s Guide. and he describes it having been invented by the sculptor and bartender, Alex Kammerling in 2002.

I like the drink – the base is a rum Manhattan variant, made fresh by the addition of fresh lime and apple juices. This turns it into a longer drink, but with plenty of alcoholic heft. The Baron would approve. My only change is to add some bitters to give it a little more zip – and with a nod to the voodoo theming, I have used Peychaud’s bitters (Peychaud was born in Haiti, before settling in New Orleans). These seem to complement the apple and lime perfectly, but ginger would probably work just as well.

Method:

2 shots dark rum (I used Havana Club 7 Años, Diffords suggest Bacardi Carta Ocho)

3/4 shot Martini Rosso

2 1/2 shots of fresh apple juice

1/2 shot of lime juice

1/4 shot sugar syrup

Option – dashes of bitters to suit

Garnish by sprinkling cinnamon through a flame onto the drink.

Shake well over ice, then strain into a Collins (Diffords method) or Old Fashioned glass (my preference), filled with ice.

Pharmacy 2 at the Newport Street Gallery

img_3948
Twisted martini with an extra serving of Black Cow

Yesterday, we took a trip to Damien Hirst’s fantastic Newport Street Gallery. After enjoying the Gavin Turk exhibition across half-a-dozen galleries, we had lunch in the top floor restaurant, Pharmacy 2. The space is not huge, so booking ahead is recommended, but food, by Mark Hix, is absolutely worth the effort. The surroundings are very similar to the original Pharmacy, but the new space is dominated by an almost full-length bar, backed by an impressive bar display & a long molecule display (I’ll leave it to pharmacists to tell me what drug has been modelled). Tables are close together, but the feeling is one of intimacy, rather than crowding, due to the lightness and colour of the space.

One of the key features of the restaurant is the impressive cocktail list – from the popular Hix Fix to more unusual numbers such as the Dragon (cider brandy, Tanqueray gin & apricot brandy). As a big fan of Black Cow vodka, I settled on a simple vodka martini with a twist to go with lunch. The drink was beautifully made and presented in a small coupette, and served with a side of an additional small bottle of Black Cow on ice, to top up my drink – an unexpected touch which was really excellent. The drink was just perfect – very dry, and stirred to the correct combination of temperature and dilution.

The restaurant serves food all day, but after ten turns into a bar with music and a smaller menu to accompany the drinks. Well worth making a trip to Vauxhall for.

Harvard

fullsizerender-6The dependable Manhattan has spawned many variations; the recipe is really simple, so it is very easy to substitute any of the ingredients to create something quite different: the Harvard is a variant where the rye or bourbon is replaced with cognac. Quite how a mix of French brandy with an Italian vermouth has come to represent on of America’s most blue-blooded, ivy-clad Universities is anyone’s guess, but my stab is a few alumni propping up a college bar one evening, deciding that they really needed a cocktail named after their alma mater*. The result is worthy, but not exactly groundshaking: cognac adds a fruitier dimension to the bourbon/rye original, which works well with the vermouth, but without the tension that the spikier spirits have. It’s a soothing drink, one to be lingered over on a cold evening, but I still prefer the original.

Method:

50ml. cognac

20ml. Carpana Antico vermouth

dashes of Angosturas bitter

Stir well over ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cherry.

* I am sure every college should have some sort of drink named after it; if my old Uni had a drink, then the UCL would most likely be a mix of tequila, whisky & Newcastle Brown Ale, garnished with a roll-up.