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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 casual outfit, which was easier to wear than the traditional tails, caused quite a scandal when it appeared. Etymonline (a gift of a website where you can look up the etymology of any word you like – I am eternally grateful to one of my sixth-form Latin students for recommending it to me) also presents us with the following delightful quotation from a contemporary clothing magazine:

There was a hue and cry raised against the Tuxedo coat upon its first appearance because it was erroneously considered and widely written of as intended to displace the swallow tail. When the true import of the tailless dress coat came to be realized it was accepted promptly by swelldom, and now is widely recognized as one of the staple adjuncts of the jeunesse dorée. [“Clothier and Furnisher,” August, 1889]

Yes, I’m sure we’re all grateful that swelldom realised the true import of the tailless dress coat. Also, please can we resurrect the word ‘swelldom?’

Anyway, I digress severely from the topic at hand, this delightful cocktail, the Tuxedo, which is essentially a jazzed up Martini. The relation of the cocktail to the club is unclear – Difford’s mentions that this recipe, featuring gin, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and absinthe, was adapted from Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual, which came out in 1882, before the club was founded. To complicate matters, you will also find another version of the Tuxedo floating around, which makes a more straightforward Martini variation by susbstituting the vermouth for fino sherry, with no maraschino and absinthe. Punch claims (citing cocktail historian David Wondrich) that this was the first Tuxedo to appear. In support of this, I have often seen the vermouth-maraschino-absinthe version referred to as the Tuxedo no.2, distinguishing it from the original. I’m left with no clear idea about what’s going on, so I’m making an executive decision in favour of the Tuxedo no.2 (mostly because I am very fond of maraschino).

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Tuxedo [no.2]

1 oz Old Tom gin
1 oz dry vermouth
1/2 barspoon of maraschino liqueur
1/4 barspoon of absinthe
3 dashes orange bitters

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Alternatively, since the absinthe tends to dominate, you can do an absinthe rinse in the cocktail glass and then discard before pouring in the rest of the ingredients. Garnish with a twist of lemon and/or a maraschino cherry.

As you’d expect from the use of the Old Tom and the maraschino, this tastes like a somewhat sweeter, more complex Martini, with the maraschino lending an intriguing almondy depth to the drink. The absinthe does rise above the other ingredients to a certain extent, so I think next time I would go for the rinse rather than adding it into the mix. For reference, I’ll also give the recipe for the original Tuxedo with sherry:

Tuxedo

2 oz dry gin
1 oz fino sherry
1 dash orange bitters

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

This is a much closer Martini cousin, just somewhat nuttier and ever so slightly sweeter. I prefer the Tuxedo no.2, but let me know which one you like!

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 scale of 1-10, where 1 is ‘drinkable by anyone’ and 10 is ‘consumed only by hipsters and bartenders,’ Aperol is probably 1. Something like Fernet Branca, which has a highly bitter and minty taste reminiscent of a mouthwash, would be 10. Averna here would be hovering around 3.

These amari that I’ve mentioned are all Italian, and indeed amari as a class of liqueurs is most prominently associated with Italy, but there are plenty of other bitter cousins out there, including the Czech Becherovka, the French Suze, and the notorious German Jägermeister, which I have grimaced over many a time in sticky-floored bars, but which is undergoing a fascinating renaissance at the moment. (At least here in the UK, I can’t move for adverts featuring be-flannel-shirted Kinfolk escapees building (sorry, crafting) a giant stag out of wood in a field and then burning it down. Is this a metaphor for the act of drinking? Who knows.) I’m eager to get to making cocktails at home from all of these, but for now, let’s start with Averna.

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Averna is generally considered to be a ‘beginner’s’ amaro, as it initially presents as quite sweet, with flavours of chocolate and caramel that turn into a more bitter, licorice-y aftertaste. It’s actually less bitter on the intake than Campari, for example. Supposedly the recipe, a well-guarded secret, was handed to Salvatore Averna in the 1850s by the Capuchin monks of an abbey near his home, Caltanissetta, in Sicily, who drank it as an elixir. What better origin story could there be for a drink? Of course it’s well known that monks make the best liqueurs (cf. Benedictine, Chartreuse).

Averna is lovely as a digestif, sipped neat or on the rocks. I found some tiny tiny sherry glasses in my parents’ Aladdin’s Cave of a glass cupboard, which just about fit an ice cube and make me feel impossibly civilised as I sip from one after dinner. My mother has indulged in a drop from time to time as well (only a drop, as she seems to be under the impression that she will be immediately drunk if she has more, and finds this concept horrifying), and highly recommends it. She did spend a year abroad in Italy as a student, and I suspect she may have had another life in Florence sipping amari with charming Italians every evening, but she refuses to tell me about it.

Averna is also used widely as ingredient in cocktails, increasingly so now that the popularity of amari is on the rise. One easy way to use amari is as a substitute for vermouth, particularly sweet vermouth, as the categories of vermouth (fortified wines to which spices and bitter flavours are added) and amari overlap frequently in flavours and methods used to make them. I’ll be using it in a few more upcoming posts about autumnal cocktails, as it marries well with fruity flavours – I’m particularly excited to try it with figs. But let’s start with a simple cocktail, invented only in 2008 in San Francisco (by bartender Todd Smith – thank you Imbibe), which replaces the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan with Averna. This is called a Black Manhattan (who could resist such a name?), and it’s rich, strong, and bittersweet – perfect for an early autumn evening.

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Black Manhattan:

2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Amaro Averna
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, and stir to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

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 is French for pomegranate), but the kind of eye-poppingly red grenadine you can buy in the shops now is generally made from corn syrup and food colouring, with some berry extracts if you’re lucky, and as such it has become a rather disreputable ingredient. Fortunately, as numerous corners of the internet attest, actual pomegranate-y grenadine is super easy to make at home.

There are a few competing ideas about how best to make grenadine and what should go into it, but at base, it is just a simple syrup involving pomegranate juice and sugar, which you can make either by heating the juice with the sugar to combine them, or shaking them until your arm falls off if you wish to avoid the slightly richer cooked taste.  This discussion from Jeffrey Morgenthaler was most helpful to me, and I essentially followed his recommendation to heat it gently, rather than boil (this helps preserve a fresh taste) and to add pomegranate molasses for extra flavour. Orange-blossom water is also generally recommended, but I omitted this.

Grenadine syrup:

1 cup pomegranate juice (you could juice actual pomegranates for this, as Morgenthaler does, but I used Pom Wonderful, which is 100% juice)
1 cup sugar
1 oz pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp orange blossom water (I treated this as optional)

Gently heat the sugar and pomegranate juice in a saucepan – don’t bring it to the boil. Stir in pomegranate molasses when the juice is already hot. Leave to cool and store in a jar in the fridge. Morgenthaler recommends adding an ounce or so of vodka if you intend to use it over a long period.

I was a bit anxious about homemade grenadine not being red enough, as I’ve seen some complaints about unattractive grey or brown cocktails (l’horreur), but mine worked fine in the Ward Eight. It does, however, look uncomfortably like I’m keeping a jar of my blood in the fridge, which, when combined with my recent binge-watching of the Vampire Diaries, has raised one or two eyebrows around the house.

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And now for the cocktail itself. As I say, it’s basically a variation of a whiskey sour, with the addition of orange juice and grenadine. As you’d expect for drink that’s over a century old, the recipe is quite hard to pin down, with varying quantities of orange and lemon juice, some recommending a splash of soda water, and some going for Angostura bitters. I liked the idea of the bitters, so I followed this recipe from The Kitchn’s excellent “9-bottle bar” series, which is where I first read about the Ward Eight a couple of years ago. I love the fruitiness of this drink, it’s a bit sweeter and gentler than a whiskey sour, but still quite spirit-forward. It definitely benefits from the bitters, which add an edge to cut into the sweetness. And if you need any more convincing, my mother, who is not a cocktail drinker, pronounced it ‘quite nice.’

Recipe:

2 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz orange juice
1/4 oz grenadine
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with…. whatever, it seems? Orange peel, orange slice, maraschino cherry, some combination thereof. Or a small paper Massachusetts flag, which seems to have been the original decoration – I didn’t have one of those on hand.

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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 important to use as ripe a fruit as possible. There are then a number of ways to actually get the fruit into the drink: you could muddle it, you could liquefy it, you could make a syrup out of it. I tried these three, and of them I definitely put my faith the syrup method, since it distils the flavour down to an essence which is much more likely to hold its own in a barrage of other ingredients.

But let’s start with a little muddling.

Call the Plummer:

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So this is essentially a smash – seasonal fruit muddled plus spirit, ice and some dilution, and it’s a pretty freewheeling, unfussy kind of drink. Whiskey seemed like an obvious pairing with plums, possibly because I associate plums with autumn and whiskey also with cold weather, but also because plums have a slightly darker, tangier flavour (I *may* be making this up) than other stone fruits. Ginger as a herbal element ties the whiskey and plums together, adding spice, and I chucked in some plum bitters because I have them and thought they might bring a bit of complexity (I’m not totally convinced they succeeded). This was indeed a somewhat autumnal, but still fresh and zippy drink, and my only issue was that I don’t think my plums were quite ripe enough (does that sound rude to anyone else?), so I didn’t get quite enough of the flavour. So try and use a plum that’s almost falling apart with ripeness.

Recipe:
2 oz whiskey – I used rye but bourbon might work even better
1 very ripe plum
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Splash of ginger beer
Plum bitters (optional)

Vigorously muddle the plum in the bottom of a shaker with the lemon juice. Add ice and the bourbon, and the plum bitters if using. Shake. Strain into a rocks glass with ice, and top up with ginger beer. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

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Take A Little Peach Of My Heart:

Before I start, it is imperative that I remind everyone about this song, which is 90% of what I think of when I think about peaches:

ANYWAY, for my foray into peaches, I wanted something fresh and light and sweet and summery. Peaches are sweeter and more delicately flavoured than plums, and it seemed the best way to preserve their fragrance would be by making them into a sugar syrup. In the spirit of elegance and delicacy, I inclined in the direction of gin and fizz, and thence towards one of my favourite cocktails, the French 75. This simple mix of gin, lemon, simple syrup and champagne could easily be modified by replacing the simple syrup with peach syrup, and reducing the citrus a little to make room. The gin would stop it from becoming overly sweet, and I also decided to add cardamom, a popular pairing with peaches, to the syrup to lend a bit of depth and spice. This was by a long shot my favourite of the three – all of the flavours were fully there and married beautifully, and it was sweet and moreish but not without complexity. It’s certainly worth the mild faff of making the syrup, which also has a lovely pink colour from the peach skins to recommend it.

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Recipe:

Peach-cardamom syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 ripe peaches, skins on, sliced
6 cardamom pods, slightly crushed

Put the sugar, water, cardamom pods, and peaches together in a saucepan, and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Once it has boiled, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so. Leave to cool and then remove the fruit and cardamom, or strain through a sieve into a glass jar or bottle. Store in the fridge.

Cocktail:
1 oz London dry gin
3/4 oz peach cardamom syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
Prosecco or champagne to top up

Shake the gin, syrup, and lemon juice over ice in a shaker. Pour into a champagne flute or wine glass and top up with prosecco. Garnish with a twist of lemon or a suitable flower (mine was phlox from the garden, randomly chosen but apparently this variety is edible!).

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Apri-caught in the Middle:

It is not easy to think of an apricot pun – if anyone has a good one, do let me know. For my final trick, I wanted to make a purée, which I duly did, out of apricots, sugar, and a little water, and whizzed it up in a mini food processor. It’s pretty difficult to use something thick like purée in a short drink, although I’m sure greater minds than I could manage it, so I opted for a long one. Apricots, I think, could go with any spirit, but I fancied rum to really wallow in the summer spirit while I still could. Rum, lime, and mint make an infallible combination, and one which the jammy flavour of apricots could round out nicely. For reasons I’m not entirely clear on, I decided to lengthen the drink with iced tea – possibly still in summer mode – but I thought it needed a little more than soda water to tie it all together. As with the syrup, the making of the purée is essential here – use very ripe apricots and cook them down with sugar to preserve as much flavour as possible. It doesn’t hurt to slightly burn the fruit in the sugar (I say this with authority but of course I found it out unintentionally), which adds a nice toasty, caramelised note, but is naturally a massive pain to clean up. This turned out to be a really rich but very refreshing drink, although you may want to play around with the purée recipe to maximise the apricot – I’m not sure I’ve got it quite right yet.

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Recipe:

Apricot purée:
4 very ripe apricots
1/4 cup sugar
Water

Pit the fruit and place in a small saucepan in about an inch of water. Add sugar and slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently and mashing the fruit as it softens, for about 30 mins, until the fruit is dissolving. Place into a blender or food processor and whizz until smooth, adding in a little water if necessary.

Cocktail:

2 oz white rum
1/2 oz fresh lime
2 tbsp apricot purée
1/2 cup chilled black tea
6 mint leaves

Muddle the mint with the apricot purée in the bottom of a shaker. Add ice, lime juice, and rum, and shake vigorously (the purée can be difficult to integrate with the other ingredients). Strain into a chilled large wine glass or collins glass with more ice, and top up with tea. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

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And that’s it! Happy September everyone, get the fruit while you can!

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, made with the addition of grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur, still bears his name today.

There are plenty of variations on the daiquiri out there; in particular the frozen daiquiri, made by blending the ingredients with crushed ice, seems to have become more popular and well-known than the original. A fresh strawberry daiquiri in the summer is indeed a thing of beauty, but probably best to steer clear of anything violently coloured or with the word ‘tropical’ in the title.

Ratios, as ever, vary, and as ever I am sticking to what Serious Eats tells me. It’s quite common to make this with simple syrup, but dissolving sugar in the lime juice as you shake seems to eliminate the viscosity that syrup can bring.

Ingredients and Method:

2 oz white rum (I used Havana Club)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar

Add the lime juice and the sugar to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake to dissolve the sugar. Add the rum and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish (optionally) with a lime wheel.

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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 old post from Design Sponge brought me this cardamom rose cocktail, which is what I’ve replicated below. Bonus points for managing to coordinate with another recipe of Karmjit’s – cardamom and rose water cookies!

For whiskey, something infused with tea (Dishoom has an entire section devoted to this concept) was appealing, but I’ve had trouble getting the flavours of tea to register in cocktails before. This Chai Whiskey Sour from F&B Department solved the problem by giving me the idea for a chai syrup, which would ramp up the flavour to withstand the rye I wanted to use.

Both of these drinks involved making a syrup, which is always fun, although I am now left with a lot of chai syrup and a lot of rose syrup and no idea what to do with them. Any ideas, please do comment!

Design Sponge’s Cardamom Rose cocktail:

1.5 oz of gin (ideally Hendricks, since it is rosy and cucumbery, but there had been a run on Hendricks in North London when I needed to make this (!) so Beefeater had to stand in)
.75 oz of rose syrup
.25 oz of fresh lemon juice
.75 oz of fresh grapefruit juice (ruby red gives it the pink colouring)
2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Splash of soda water
1 cardamom pod

Muddle the cardamom pod at the bottom of your cocktail shaker.Add ice to the shaker, then the rest of the ingredients. Shake shake shake. Strain into a glass with more ice, top off with a splash of soda water, and garnish with lemon and/or rose petals. Candied rose petals would be idea, but I am NOT good with fiddly things like that.

F&B Department’s Chai Whiskey Sour:

2 oz  whiskey (I used rye)

1 oz lemon juice
.75 oz Chai Syrup (recipe in original post)
1 egg white

Add all ingredients to a shaker without ice and shake for 10 seconds or so, then add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick and star anise.

Both of these are gorgeous drinks – the rose cardamom fizz is so light and delicate, while the chai whiskey sour is rich and intense, but either one makes a perfect pre-curry aperitif.

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Last but not least, of course, the food, which I was sadly unable to spend an hour photographing in my own house in daylight because I was starving and needed to EAT IT. I did restrain myself long enough to take a quick photo before I waded in, so hopefully this gives you the idea.

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Pictured is Karmjit’s Indian spiced chicken (bottom left) and a prawn curry (top right) which has yet to be posted, plus rice and daal. DELICIOUS, I wish she’d cook for me all the time, I’d happily make the drinks!

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 making dinner, in an increasingly tipsy state, on a balmy evening).

Another great thing about Negroni Week is that there are so many variations on the classic drink – I’ve already looked at one, the Boulevardier, which swaps out the gin for whisky, creating a warmer, more wintry animal. Here I’m also going to take a look at a recent creation, the Cheeky Negroni, and later in the week I’ll have the elegant Negroni Sbagliato and the Americano (which seems to have been the precursor to the Negroni itself).

But first, here’s the classic – bitter, strong, and ideally drunk in a small Italian cafe.

Ingredients:

1 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari

Mix all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice. Grimace slightly as you drink (don’t pretend this never happens!).

 

The Cheeky Negroni is a recent invention which I came across on Serious Eats, a sweeter, more delicate drink which substitutes the sweet vermouth for Lillet Blanc, and the Campari for its lighter, orangier [not a word] cousin Aperol. The recipe calls for Hendricks gin, for its floral, cucumbery [also not a word] qualities, but since I didn’t have any, I substituted Martin Miller’s, which I find to be similar, though more understated. If you’re not a fan of the bitter Negroni, this is a fabulous stand-in: it is sweet, but the Aperol keeps some hint of the bitter kick at the back of all that fragrant gin and Lillet.

Ingredients:

1 oz gin (Hendricks)
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz Aperol

Mix over ice and garnish with a slice of grapefruit peel.

Saluti!

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 is a substantial drink. The gin, Cointreau, and Lillet are all relatively fragrant, but the absinthe provides a kick in the teeth at the end. I imagine making this with Cocchi Americano, which should be a better substitute for the Kina Lillet originally specified in the recipe, would up the bitterness quotient quite a bit, but I’ll take any excuse to use Lillet Blanc and I didn’t mind it being a bit more delicate.

Ingredients:

1 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano if you’re going for historical accuracy)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
Dash of absinthe (go easy)

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon or orange peel. Prepare to retrieve eyeballs from across the room.

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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 sour. Some recipes call for a lemon twist garnish rather than a cherry, but I finally got my hands on a jar of Luxardo cherries and I’m putting them in everything.

Ingredients:

2 oz gin (Aviation is often recommended but I used Martin Miller’s which is just gorgeous)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz crème de violette (I used more, no question)

Shake all ingredients over ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry, a twist of lemon, or, if you have such a delightful thing, a candied violet.

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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, and each one comes in a completely unexpected arrangement. I started off with a ‘Suspended in Time’ (#feelingpretty), with Star of Bombay gin, lime, niaouli, palmarosa, and yarrow – not going to lie, had to look the last three up, and could in no way pick them out of a line-up even after looking them up. In all honesty, the drink itself did not blow me away – it was gin, and lime, and some sweet things, but the presentation was quite something. It was brought to me with a giant plastic ring, from which was suspended a sort of macramé bag, with the drink hanging inside, in a glass orb. It was weirdly elegant, and I felt quite impressive drinking it.

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Perhaps slightly less elegant, but no less impressive, was my friend’s ‘Anti Hero” (#feelinglikearockstar) with Don Julio reposado tequila, muscat, gentian, verjus, smoke, and blood orange, which for some inexplicable reason was served in a kind of meccano elephant-cum-AT-AT (apparently the elephant represents war). This was a showstopper, and everyone wanted to know what it was. My sense was that most of the people at Artesian were there for a special occasion, and everyone was completely fascinated by their (and everyone else’s) drinks. Difficult to  blame them when you’re holding a model elephant to your lips.

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Things went on in this vein. My second drink was a ‘Join the Colony’ (#feelingexcited), with Absolut Elyx, wheat, almond, juniper, and bergamot – it came in a giant ant and some… cereal to add to the drink. It did, I admit, kind of taste like milk after the cereal has been in it for a while…

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In conclusion, I was a little meh on the drinks, but the atmosphere was gorgeous for a birthday. I would say that if you’re looking for insane presentation, Nightjar has the edge – I feel like the commit more fully to the insanity. But for the combination of lovely looking drinks and highly fancy surroundings, you can’t beat it. Drinks are £18 each, so possibly best to stick to that special occasion.