Satan’s Whiskers (curled)

img_3650Very apt for Halloween, or Samhain (depending on your outlook and religion) is this recipe, taken from Imbibe‘s website. They list two versions of this drink – one with Grand Marnier for the orange component (straight whiskers), the other with triple sec (the curled version), the latter being one I have made here.

The combination of gin and orange is not a new one (this recipe is really just a variation on the Bronx cocktail), but here is quite refreshing & makes for a light and drinkable mixture. The vermouths add a richness to the flavour turning the whole thing into a Bronx with an added citrus kick. I am not sure where the satanic angle comes from, as this drink really isn’t evil in any way at all; perhaps the name comes from the hangover a few of these might engender.

Method

1/2 oz. gin (Gordon’s here)

1/2 oz. triple sec

1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (antica formula)

1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Lillet blanc)

1/2 oz. orange juice (fresh is best)

dashes of orange bitters

Stir well over ice, then strain into a chilled coupe & garnish with orange zest.

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The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, visited 21st April

img_2075An early-evening book launch in London meant I was still in town at 9.30 in the evening – a bit early to be giving up on the day and go home, so I decided to visit a nearby bar for something to complete the evening.

I was ten minutes away from The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, and being in possession of the special set of words that should allow entry, thought I would head over to see how the bar was on a Thursday evening.

The bar is on Artillery Lane in London, but in respect to it’s speakeasy vibe, I’ll only say that you need to look for a café with a large ‘fridge to find your way in.

Downstairs, the room is all wood and low lighting. The bar sits in one corner of the room, and is well tended by a pair of barman, occupied well enough on this evening but still found time to chat with me as they passed. I drank their Blood & Slander, which was their long version of the traditional Blood & Sand, then moved onto a Manhattan, made perfect. The room was busy and the tables full, but sitting at the bar meant I felt pleasantly at the centre of a confident and happy space, run by people who know and like what they’re doing. My Manhattan was precisely mixed, neatly served, and just the right side of bitter that a rye Manhattan should be. The design is low key and pretty dark, but if you are looking at the room, then something’s not right with either your drink or your companion. Definitely a place to find just to recreate that Prohibition-era hidden drinking place adventure.

 

Punch Room, visited 31st March

img_1978On Wednesday, I went to see the exhibition on John Dee, the Elizabethan scientist, sorceror & spy at the Royal College of Physicians, custodian of many of his books and artefacts.

I went, not only because of an interest in Dee, but because I accompanied my friend, Lloyd Shepherd, who has written a historical novel that includes Dee – or more particularly his library – as a key element in his C19th story. Lloyd had seen some other of Dee’s books up close as part of his research for the novel (being published later this month, and I recommend you read it), but here was a rare chance to see some of the rarer books in the Royal College’s collection.

The exhibition was great, but to end the afternoon properly, we needed something suitably traditional drink to toast the upcoming novel. A bowl of punch*, that most English of alcoholic mixtures, seemed most appropriate (Lloyd’s novel refers to the East India Company, where we get our love of punch from), so we visited the Punch Room at the London Edition hotel. This is a small bar, hidden at the rear of the hotel lobby, and in keeping with the current trend for speakeasies, completely anonymous from the outside. The hotel suggests a strict reservations-only policy, but when we were there it seemed to me that hotel residents are (quite fairly) treated more relaxedly. The benefit of the system means that one visits a busy, but not crammed bar. There are two rooms – one with a fabulous stand-alone serving bar where all the mixing takes place, the other an even quieter, smaller space with comfortable armchairs. The design is apparently to suggest a  gentlemen’s wood-panelled club room, though here the materials used are quite light and modern and the chairs low, but this means the space is warm and inviting, not dark and oppressive.

We drank the Arrak punch (arrak, lemon juice, chai tea, honey essence), which packed a… kick (avoiding the obvious joke), after starting with a glass of their complementary house punch. Both were really lovely: warming, sharp & refreshing.

The good thing about a punch is the sharing nature of the drink – it’s fun to ladle out the mix into your glasses – and the higher juice content against a lower alcohol perecntage means these are longer drinks, to be sipped slowly while talking, making them ideal for a conversational sort of an evening.

 

  • According to Wikipedia:

The drink was brought to England from India by sailors and employees of the British East India Company in the early seventeenth century. From there it was introduced into other European countries. When served communally, the drink is expected to be of a lower alcohol content than a typical cocktail

 

 

Income Tax

img_0790This seems very apt, given our PM, David Cameron’s  recent entanglements with questions of off-shore funds and inheritance. The drink itself is a variation on the Bronx cocktail – a solid mixture of gin, vermouth & fresh orange juice – with the addition of some dashes of Angostura bitters. How it got its name is open to question – some suggest the addition of bitters represents the attitude to taxation. My own take is that, like taxation, this mixture: gin, vermouth, some citrus & bitters is fairly universal. Either way, this is a very drinkable cocktail – it’s very refreshing, like the Ward 8 I tried last week, not heavy and the sort of cocktail you could imagine having more than one of.

Method:

40ml gin (I used solid, dependable Gordon’s)

20ml Italian vermouth (Carpano Antico)

20ml French vermouth (Lillet)

10ml fresh orange juice

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake well over plenty of ice, then strain well into a Martini glass. Twist orange zest over the surface to express the oils onto the drink and serve.

 

 

Ward 8

img_2020

The Ward 8 belongs to a fairly small set of cocktail recipes, apparently inspired by political events. The story with this one is that it commemorates the winning of a seat in the Massachusetts legislature by one Martin Lomasney – with the eighth electoral ward being the one to return him the winning margin – at the end of the C19th.

I imagine the election was held in warmer months, as the drink is essentially a sophisticated whiskey sour, made with rye and a mixture of orange and lemon juices, so it’s a cool & refreshing drink, with a gentle alcohol burn from the rye. A small amount of grenadine lends an attractive colour, and acts as the sweetening agent. It’s a little too sour unless you have very sweet orange juice, but I wouldn’t be inclined to add too much grenadine to compensate; it’s slightly too cloying a sweetness & the whole drink could end up tasting like orange boiled sweets without care.

Method

40ml rye whiskey

20ml lemon juice

20ml orange juice

1/2tsp grenadine

Shake well over plenty of ice & double strain (for the orange & lemon pulp) into a martini glass. Garnish with a single maraschino cherry.

75 – Harry McElhone style

img_1990So, here’s an oddity. Traditionally, the French 75 is a champagne cocktail, made with some simple syrup, gin & champagne, most likely invented by Harry McElhone at his American Bar in Paris in the 1920s. It’s a good drink in itself and very popular.

But today, Mixellany tweeted a recipe culled from the pages of Harry’s own book, the ABC of Mixing Cocktails, for his original ’75 cocktail’, and bizarrely enough, there’s no sign of champagne in this recipe at all. Instead, we have an entirely calvados and gin-based drink, enlivened with a dash of absinthe and some grenadine syrup. But even then, Harry describes the name as being taken from a light field gun, used by the French army in the First World War, traditionally the inspiration for this drink.

The champagne-based recipe then turns up in the Savoy cocktail book, published around five years later. So which one is the correct 75? The answer is probably both, a little like the Derby cocktail I have described in the past; the cocktail was named after a popular horse race, and many bartenders have developed their own drink inspired by the race. The champagne and calvados variants probably developed separately, but at around the same time. The mystery is how the champagne version got attributed to McElhone, when his own book describes the other. Either way, this is a good drink – calvados is an unusual ingredient, being richer and fruitier than cognac or armagnac; the presence of the absinthe adds an unusual aniseed note, and the grenadine gives it a sweetness and elegant pink colour. The flavour is something I’d describe as ‘old-fashioned’, having a combination of fruit and spice, but it’s an intriguing drink overall.

Method:

2/3rds calvados (I used a Somerset cider brandy)

1/3rd gin (I used Hendricks here, as it’s lighter, more cucumber notes suited the flavours more)

dashes of absinthe (I used absinthe bitters)

1tsp grenadine

Shake well over ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass. McElhone makes no mention of garnish or bitters, and with the combination of ingredients given, neither are needed.

Blood & Sand

img_1951A visit to the lovely 69 Colebrooke Row recently meant that I came home with a copy of Tony Conigliaro’s book of the same name (which is odd, as officially, the bar itself has no name, only an address). The photography in the book is gorgeous, featuring not only the drinks that have made the bar’s name (see above), but some of the staff and clientele. If reading it doesn’t make you want to visit, nothing will.

One of the drinks features is the Blood & Sand, a drink which follows in the (fairly) long line of whisky-based cocktails invented for show premieres (see the Rob Roy, earlier). In this case, the drink was invented for the premiere of Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 bullfighting story, Blood & Sand. The colour palette of the ingredients suggest why they might have been chosen, but the barman had clearly thought the mixture through, & although none of them are Spanish to suit the film’s setting, the drink is a refreshing mixture of tart and sweet. I’d heard of variations using grapefruit juice to point up the tartness, so I switched the plain orange juice in my version to blood orange, which seems very apt for the recipe.

This is a very drinkable cocktail, and one that would be good to give to someone who has previously said they don’t like whisky; it might just convert them.

Method:

40ml of whisky (I used a blend, so the flavour was mild)

20ml of blood orange juice

20ml of sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso here)

20ml of cherry brandy

Shake well over ice, then strain into a chilled coupette. Note, the 69 Colebrooke Row recipe eschews bitters or any garnish. I have followed suit here, thinking the presence of orange zest might be a little too powerful here.