Month: March 2016

Cocktail of the week no.13: the French 75

I have a birthday looming menacingly on the horizon, and I’d been waiting for this occasion to make a rather celebratory cocktail, the French 75. Not so much a cocktail for sipping on the couch on a weekday evening while watching Murder She Wrote (my normal MO), this champagne and gin concoction called for a slightly more special occasion. (Although now that I’ve realised how great they are, they might be making an appearance on sofa nights anyway.) This drink seems to have been popularised by Harry McElhone at his New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s, and apparently owes its name to a particularly effective 75mm artillery gun used by the French in World War I. Drinking a couple of these had a similar effect to getting shelled by one of the above, apparently (thank you Gin Foundry!). It really took off in the 40s after being ordered in Casablanca. It’s definitely worthy of its name, with a deceptively light, fruity taste but a kick like the hind leg of a horse (something I …

An evening at Nightjar, London

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to visit Nightjar in Hoxton, which I’d heard a great deal about, and, spoiler alert, it was fantastic. Totally bizarre drinks, utterly bonkers presentation, but a great atmosphere and tons of fun. Nightjar is a 2 minute walk from Old Street tube station, behind an unassuming door marked only by a picture of a nightjar bird. In contrast to our Cahoots experience, getting in with our reservation was a smooth experience, and we were waved down into a small, dark, elegant space with a lovely Art Deco-with-a-hint-of-Victoriana look. No standing is allowed at Nightjar, which makes for a very relaxed experience. From what I knew about Nightjar, and from the slightly annoying online-only booking process, I was worried it would be pretentious, but nothing could be further from the truth once you get in. The waiters who brought our drinks were hilarious, very happy to explain everything at length, and gently pointed out with the arrival of each new (increasingly weird) drink what was edible in the …

Cocktail of the week no.12: the Cosmopolitan

Yes, I know. But it’s really a great cocktail! I’m sure Sex and the City ruined this as a serious cocktail (or is it the fact that it’s pink and has vodka as the base spirit?), but I like Sex and the City, I’m not averse to pink drinks, and frankly, I quite enjoy combining the two. (Cosmo + bathtub + SITC on iPad = excellent Saturday night. Too much information?). A good Cosmo is just pale pink with a hint of cranberry juice – the fresh lime should really be dominant. It’s a pretty strong drink, nowhere near as sweet and delicate as it looks. The cranberry juice just sweetens it up enough to be palatable, and you really need a smooth vodka for this one. Ingredients: 1 1/2 oz vodka 1/2 oz Cointreau 1/2 oz cranberry juice 1/2 oz fresh lime juice Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange.

Cocktail of the week no.11: the Sidecar

Winter is finally on its way out in London, or at least it’s now alternating between bone-chilling cold and warm sunshine. I think the season of cognac and whisky cocktails is on the wane, and I’m looking forward to Negronis and daiquiris and all manner of summery drinks. Maybe I’m a bit too strict with my seasons here, but I can’t help associating those spirits with hunkering down and warming up. I’m so looking forward to the point where I’ll want to cool down instead. But before spring really hits, here’s a lovely Sidecar to celebrate the last of winter citrus and the fiery burn of brandy. I love this cocktail – it’s the perfect smoothing out of two intense flavours together, the Cointreau forming a bridge between them. Such a lovely way to say goodbye to the cold weather – something I sincerely hope I’m about to do! Ingredients: 2 oz cognac 1 oz Cointreau 1 oz lemon juice Optionally, rub a wedge of lemon around the rim of your cocktail glass and press …

To the trains! Cahoots, London

I’m pretty fortunate to live in London at the moment, a city positively dripping with cocktail bars. Nine of the world’s 50 best bars are here in the city, and there’s an abundance of classic and new-style cocktail bars to choose from besides. Recently I’ve been making a concerted effort to get round as many as possible, as I might move away from London later in the year. Cahoots is a relatively new bar, which opened in early 2015 with a 1940s disused tube station theme. The idea is ‘the Blitz may be going on outside but we’re having an underground party down here,’ which is slightly questionable in theory but really fun once you get down there. It’s from the team who run Bunga Bunga, a (highly) tongue-in-cheek Italian restaurant and bar in Battersea, Maggie’s, the 1980s themed club in Chelsea, and the Mr Fogg’s Victoriana themed cocktail bars. If there’s a thread running through all of this, it’s dedication to a theme. These are high-concept venues, and that was definitely the case with Cahoots. You …

Cocktail of the week no.10: the Last Word

I’ve been dying to make this cocktail for ages, having had a great riff on it recently in a bar. It’s such a surprising mixture of flavours and a brilliant example of a drink that has had a real renaissance lately. It sounds like the oddest mixture of ingredients – gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse, and lime juice in equal parts, but it somehow works fantastically well.  This is a cocktail which was only recently rediscovered (in 2005!) after long being out of favour.I don’t know how it fell out of favour in the first place, because it’s absolutely gorgeous. Somehow all these very powerful ingredients all manage to bring something out of each other that you wouldn’t get from each one alone. The strong, floral maraschino combines with the herby Chartreuse and the lime juice to make a flavour that suggests a powdery, perfumed apple. It’s such a weird combination of fresh, zippy flavours with flowery aromatics. I only bought a miniature Chartreuse for this, because I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, …