All posts tagged: gin

Cocktail of the week no. 23: Satan’s Whiskers

When I came across this cocktail, naturally the first thing I wanted to know was who came up with that name. Is “Satan’s whiskers” a standard phrase, like “the cat’s pyjamas?” I researched and researched, and found a lot of odd Satanic fan fiction out there, but no illumination on the phrase itself. Interestingly, I did find about the 1920s origins of “the cat’s pyjamas,” so called because of the contemporary fashion for wearing pyjamas among the Jazz Age flappers, also known as cats. At this point Wiktionary led me to an anecdote which deserves to be told at every opportunity. New York Times, November 6, 1922:’PAJAMA GIRL AND CATS OUT’: “Sunday afternoon strollers in lower Fifth Avenue were treated to the unusual sight yesterday of a young woman clad in transparent yellow silk pajamas, escorted by four cats, also clad in pajamas, leisurely making her way along the avenue…” The phrase is unlikely to originate with this incident however as the words “Cat’s pajamas” are used by one of the policemen at the scene …

Obscure Liqueur: How to Use Suze

Once upon a time, when I was 13, I desperately wanted a velvet blazer. Preferably in dark purple, but the colour wasn’t the most important thing. Unfortunately for me, the year 2000 was not a high point for velvet blazers – I might have been better off checking in 1977 – and I never got my hands on one. Imagine my delight, then, when I was in the midst of some idle online shopping this week and discovered that velvet blazers are THE THING for autumn. I have my eye on an oversized burgundy number and I couldn’t be happier. My point, in case you hadn’t quite hunted it down, is that things come back around. As it is for velvet blazers, so it goes for obscure European bitter liqueurs. I can only hope that hipster bartenders everywhere are as thrilled as my inner 13-year old. OK, so Suze isn’t that obscure. I’m reasonably sure they’ve kept on drinking it in France all this time. Nonetheless, it’s only recently that it has become widely available …

Sloe Gin And What To Do With It

Sloe gin is one of those drinks I think of as quintessentially English – something you pick up in farm shops in the autumn or that Miss Marple might have made in her spare time. It’s not really gin, exactly, but a fruit liqueur made by macerating sloes in gin. I’m not convinced I’ve ever seen a sloe in real life, but they’re the fruit of the blackthorn tree, and essentially a cousin of plums and damsons. I’m told they’re not particularly pleasant to eat (I think if you’ve ever eaten an unripe damson you get the idea), but with the addition of sugar they can be transformed into jams, pie fillings, and of course this lovely deep red, sweet-tart liqueur. If you’ve got access to a blackthorn tree, you can harvest the sloes right around now, in October and November, and make your own sloe gin pretty easily. For a simple sloe gin recipe, (plus instructions for a similarly seasonal quince syrup and how to combine them), I found this great post on Mother’s Ruin. I sadly do not have …

Cocktail of the week no.22: the Angel Face

I was introduced to this cocktail by a barman at the Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell, and it’s one of the two drinks I’ve had in bars in recent months that I’ve desperately wanted to make for myself at home. The other was at “The Bar with No Name,” AKA 69 Colebrooke Row, and it was called “Silent Neon Flower.” Coincidentally, both of these bars owe their drinks menus to one man, Tony Conigliaro, who opened 69 Colebrooke Row and is the drinks consultant for Zetter Townhouse. I can’t recommend these two bars enough. They both feature incredibly knowledgeable and courteous bar/wait staff, who shimmer up to you like Jeeves but won’t make you feel like an idiot if you ask questions or mispronounce something. Certainly there are vast differences in decor (Zetter Townhouse describes itself as feeling like “the private residence of an eccentric (and fabulous!) Great Aunt,” which I can confirm to be true, whereas 69 Colebrooke Row is all sleek wood with the slight air of a 1930s railway station; nonetheless they share the same …

Meet the Gin Expert: Carl Hawkins, the Gintleman

Since I’m back in my hometown of Birmingham for about six weeks before I move back to the US, I thought I’d better make the most of being here by exploring the local drinks scene, and finding out what it has to offer. Despite being the UK’s second city, Birmingham has an unfortunate reputation for being a bit underwhelming in the cultural department, and has trailed behind other cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, and Bristol in the variety of entertainment and nightlife it can offer. Whenever I mention to another English person that I come from Birmingham, I’m inevitably met with a raised eyebrow and a slight, but unmistakeable air of discomfort. But the city has been hauling itself up over the last decade or so, and for a cocktail enthusiast like me, there’s a lot going on around here – local distilleries, a profusion of new cocktail bars, and some excellent specialist shops. In an effort to better acquaint myself with the local scene and the drinks industry in general, I lined up a few drinks …

Cocktail of the week no.21: the Pink Lady

Ah, look at this cocktail – how pink, how frothy, how girly! You might think that if this were a person it would be Cinderella, radiating sweetness and light and charm, coming down the staircase in a flowing dress, about to step into her carriage with a bright optimism about the delights of the evening to come. Like so: You would of course be wrong. This drink does not pull any punches; it’s not sweet, it’s not  that creamy, it’s definitely not delicate. It’s incredibly dry and tart, and in fact it feels a bit like you’re being slapped in the face by Cinderella, not that she would ever do such a thing. A bit more like this on the pink lady spectrum: Ah, that’s better. So the Pink Lady is another old and venerable cocktail, with gin and grenadine (hence the pinkness) at its heart. It was a common drink during prohibition, when the grenadine would have come in handy to mask the unpleasant harshness of bootleg gin. Ultimately its pink frothiness would come to …

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 …

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 …

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 …