Author: virginiaemily

Cocktail of the week no.19: the Tuxedo

In 1885, in a rural patch of New York state called Tuxedo, just north of the border with New Jersey, a man named Pierre Lorillard decided to found a country club. He named it after the region, which had retained its Indian name; Etymonline and the Tuxedo Club’s own excellent history page agree that ‘Tuxedo’ probably derives from the Algonquian ‘p’tuck-sepo,’ or ‘crooked river.’ The club was a success, attracting the New York glitterati for its country pursuits and society dances, and in the year of its opening, 1886, the name went down in history for its association with a new, informal style of evening wear – the tail-less dinner jacket. Supposedly this rather avant-garde garment was brought back to New York by one James Brown Potter, who saw the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) wearing one on a visit to Sandringham; the ‘notoriously unchaste’ prince recommended his tailor to Potter while simultaneously trying to seduce his wife. The Wall Street Journal has the full story here, as well as one or two other versions. This …

Getting To Know Amari: Amaro Averna & the Black Manhattan

If you’ve looked at the menu in a cocktail bar in the last decade or so, or indeed looked at any cocktail posts on Instagram – something I spend far too much time doing – you will have noticed a profusion of impenetrable names on the ingredients list like ‘Cynar’, ‘Averna’, ‘Fernet Branca’, ‘Ramazzotti’, which have certainly caused me, in the past, to reach unobtrusively for my phone and Google what the hell they are. All these, along with many others, belong to the group of liqueurs known as ‘amari.’ Amaro in Italian just means ‘bitter’, and many, if not most of these liqueurs are indeed Italian, commonly drunk after dinner as a digestif. They are made by macerating herbs, spices, and roots in a neutral spirit or wine, and adding caramel or sugar syrup to sweeten it. Common flavourings include gentian, cinchona (the same tree used to make quinine), anise, cinnamon, along with many others. The most famous (and currently the most widely used), are the luridly coloured Campari, and its sweeter cousin Aperol. On an amari …

Cocktail of the week no.18: the Ward Eight

For my weekly cocktail today (and I use the word ‘weekly’ in its loosest sense, of course, since I haven’t done one of these in several weeks), I present to you the Ward Eight, a fitting drink for election season. The Ward Eight, essentially a variation on a whiskey sour, is said to have been invented in 1898 at the Locke-Ober restaurant in Boston, to honour an election victory by Martin Lomasney – the boss of the city’s Ward Eight. In all honesty, however, I wasn’t thinking about trivial things like elections when I decided to make this; I had considerably more important things on my mind, like the fact that I’d been meaning to make grenadine for ages and hadn’t yet got around to it. This bright red syrup is used to add a pinky-orange tint and a sweet-tart taste to cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise, Singapore Sling, and Planter’s Punch, as well as shorter drinks like the Pink Lady and this, the Ward Eight. In theory, the red colour in grenadine comes from pomegranates (grenade …

Put A Plum In It: Stone Fruit Cocktails for the End of Summer

England seems to have taken the beginning of September rather seriously, and it has been raining and grey since the 1st. It’s not fun to let the summer go, but in an effort to be thankful for small mercies, I am appreciating the little gift of being still in the season of peaches and nectarines, apricots and plums. I find I’m always taken by surprise by these fruits, as they come just when autumn is more on your mind, but they’re essentially blowsy, sunshiney fruits (except for plums – I definitely find plums autumnal). So I made time in my busy schedule of looking out of the window at the rain and frowning this weekend to come up with some drinks which capture a bit of stone-fruity sunshine. Some more successfully than others. I will say at the outset that it can be a bit tricky to get the flavours of fresh, non-citrus fruit into a drink. They tend to get overtaken by the spirits or the liqueurs, and then the sugar and any citrus you chuck in, so it’s …

Cocktail of the week no. 17: the Daiquiri

Yesterday, August 16, was National (or International, I’m not quite sure) Rum Day! Thank goodness for my Instagram feed and the many many cocktail enthusiasts I follow for alerting me to this important fact. And what better way to celebrate than with arguably the definitive rum cocktail, the daiquiri. Invented (or at least first recorded) by an American engineer living in Cuba at the turn of the 20th century, the daiquiri seems like one of those cocktails that should always have existed. It’s just rum, lime, and sugar, gloriously simple. There are other notable classic cocktails which stick to the same basic formula – the French Caribbean Ti’ Punch with rhum agricole and cane syrup, the Brazilian Caipirinha with cachaça. Fittingly for a drink invented by an American in Cuba, its most famous association is with Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Havana for nearly twenty years. A prodigious drinker with ecumenical tastes, his capacity for downing daiquiris, double daiquiris, and Hemingway daiquiris, became notorious at his favourite bar, El Floridita. That last personalised version of the drink, …

Curry and Cocktails!

The last time I had cocktails with my friend Karmjit, we were at the Four Sisters in Islington (drinking these) and both feeling slightly the worse for wear from separate overindulgences the night before. We ended up, somewhat shamefaced (#sorrynotsorry) at the local McDonalds, and resolved to make up for this unfortunate food/drink pairing with something more respectable. Fortunately, Karmjit is an utterly stellar cook, with her own (enviably expert) blog on Indian cooking, Chilli & Chai. I first tasted her cooking in a dingy shared kitchen at university – I remember gobbling it down as if I hadn’t eaten for weeks (it is possible I was existing on ramen and toast at the time), and she’s only got more amazing over the last decade. For her latest dinner party, Karmjit roped me in to make the cocktails. I decided I’d make one with gin, one with whiskey, and went on a hunt around the internet for inspiration. First stop, the Dishoom cocktail menu, which hooked me straight off with its “Edwina’s Affair” – gin, rose, cardamom, and mint. A seven year …

Cocktail of the Week no.16: Negroni(s)

So it’s Negroni week this week, as organised by Imbibe Magazine for the last three years – you may notice bars around you pushing their Negronis and variations thereof between June 6-12. It’s all in a good cause – the bars will be donating some of the proceeds to charity, and I’ll be following suit and donating to one of the featured charities, Refugee Canteen, which helps migrants in Germany learn culinary skills and get started in the hospitality business. I came fairly lately to the Negroni bandwagon (somewhere I read it referred to as a ‘secret hipster handshake’), not being a natural fan of its extreme bitterness, but once I did, I was hooked. The more I drink cocktails, the less I can tolerate the saccharine sweetness that seems to characterise so many modern offerings, and the Negroni is certainly an antidote to that. Add in the fact that it’s practically easier to make than a G&T (three ingredients, equal ratios), and it’s become a drink I will happily knock back on the regular (usually while …

Cocktail of the week no. 15: the Corpse Reviver no.2

The first time I came across the Corpse Reviver group of cocktails was reading P. G. Wodehouse, who on several occasions has Jeeves restoring Bertie from a hungover state with one of his ’tissue-restorers.’ Here’s one passage from The Code of the Woosters. “I loosed it down the hatch, and after undergoing the passing discomfort, unavoidable when you drink Jeeves’s patent morning revivers, of having the top of the skull fly up to the ceiling and the eyes shoot out of their sockets and rebound from the opposite wall like racquet balls, felt better.“ I have never been quite hardcore enough to indulge in hair of the dog cures, except once at university during a particularly hideous morning when half a Corona did considerably ease the pain. I really can’t imagine facing one of these in the morning, although I suppose, as Bertie’s experience testifies, you don’t do it for pleasure under those circumstances. As an evening snifter though, these are ideal, although something of the eyeballs shooting out of the head effect does remain – this …

Cocktail of the week no.14: the Aviation

Have I mentioned before how much I like crème de violette? Oh, yep, I think I have. And sour cocktails? That too. So I’ve been meaning to make this cocktail for quite some time, and after a long, long break from cocktails of the week (not that I wasn’t drinking them, believe), I finally got around to it. The Aviation is a pre-Prohibition cocktail that vanished from the scene for much of the twentieth century, only to be revived in the last decade. The absence of crème de violette (l’horreur) in America is largely to blame for its disappearance, and even now the ingredient is often listed as optional in recipes. But how could anyone voluntarily omit this AMAZING NECTAR? I’m actively looking for ways to use it that don’t involve just necking it from the bottle. This is a strong drink, containing as it does quite a lot of gin and not a huge amount of anything else. Ratios differ on the maraschino and lemon, and I went with slightly more lemon because… sour, I like …

Artesian: Best Bar in the World?

Well, this has been rather a long time coming. After a holiday from work and then a horrifying plunge back into work, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from the cocktails. Time to catch up with a bar visit from waaaay back at the end of March. For a special occasion (ahem, major birthday), my friends and I took a trip to Artesian, the no.1 bar in the world according to this reputable authority. We were all dressed up and ever so slightly tipsy on French 75s when we arrived at the Langham Hotel, just north of Oxford Circus, where Artesian is located. It was a Saturday night and we were worried about queuing, (no reservations but it was pleasantly busy rather than heaving and we got right to a table by the window. The bar itself has a Chinoiserie theme, with an absolutely gorgeous back bar which I did not manage to get a photo of, and the drinks are Surrealism-themed, each with a hashtag to call their own. The presentation is… unique, …