The Belmont is a truly odd little recipe – three ingredients: gin, grenadine & cream. I can’t think of many recipes that combine gin and cream, but the Belmont just goes straight for it, via the grenadine. The result, as described by my friend & fellow cocktail explorer, Craig Riley, is a ‘grown-up Baileys’. He’s right – the gin and cream should clash horribly, but the grenadine just seems to act like a silky buffer between the two, making them harmonious rather than jarring, and letting the drink become a smooth mouthful. The secret is a good grenadine – I used the Jack Rudy small-batch syrup, which has a good balance of sweet and sharp, along with a deep ruby colour. This gives the resulting drink has an attractive pale pink colour as well, another unusual trait. Not a cocktail you would want many of, but as something, smooth, refreshing & very unusual, worth a glass at least.
2 measures gin
1 measure grenadine
1 tsp. cream
Shake everything with plenty of ice, then strain into a cold coupe.
No garnish or bitters for this one, so it breaks a lot of the cocktail rules. But then it uses cream, so it’s already way off track, anyway.
Another recipe that can be made with Old Tom or dry gin – again, I am using a lighter London style in Hendricks. The mystery of this drink is why the ‘and’ in the title; the answer is in the ingredients: gin *and* brandy *and* vermouth. This sounds like a drink invented by someone ho couldn’t quite work out what to drink, so just kept adding ingredients.
But in reality it is pretty well-balanced. The gin and brandy work well together; I can’t imagine a bourbon equivalent marrying so well, it really has to be brandy. Richard Godwin describes it as having a ‘Fred Astaire sort of sweep’. I can see what he means – it seems to waltz around the tongue, rather than march over your mouth. I slipped away from the recipe by using a lime twist, rather than lemon. Why? Because I wanted to see if it worked, and the subtle citrus note seemed to be more elegant, even if the colour didn’t really work. It’s your glass: you choose.
25ml Italian vermouth
10ml orange liqueur (I used Cointreau, Grand Marnier is more traditional)
Dash of Orange bitters.
Stir well over ice & strain into cold glass. Garnish with a zest twist (see above).
Like whisky, sherry is an underused cocktail ingredient. But like its Scottish counterpart, it has to be used with a certain care – its dry, subtle flavours can add a mysterious quality, but the dryness can add a mouth-puckering quality if overused.
The Tuxedo is an old recipe indeed, dating back to the end of the C19th, and with sherry as an ingredient, is most likely from an English bartender (although some stories claim it for the Tuxedo Club, which didn’t come into existence until four or five years after this drink was first seen in print).
The recipe really calls for a very traditional version of gin, Old Tom, which is richer and sweeter than London dry styles. But this recipe seems to make no distinction, so I made it with a lighter London style, Hendricks. The maraschino adds a very subtle, almost ineffable, sweetness & lifts the drink completely – it would be very different without it, even though the quantity is tiny (half a teaspoon or so). Likewise with the absinthe – miss it out, and you miss a large range of the flavour, and the aniseed notes really pair well with the sherry.
This is a lovely, gentle drink, like a richer Martini with many more layers of flavour. Probably not one you want to drink more than one of, but as an aperitif, it’s hard to beat. I took this recipe from Richard Godwin’s book, The Spirits. As he says, ‘where are you going with this?’ The answer is in the drink.
25ml dry gin (Hendricks here
25ml Fino sherry
25ml French vermouth (Noilly Prat is highly suitable)
Dashes of absinthe
Dashes of orange bitters
Stir slowly over the largest ice cubes you have (the drink needs to be properly cold, but not diluted) & strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon zest
Very 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.
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.
This 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.
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.
So, 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.
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)
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.
More news recently of sad losses to our cultural life in the UK. A few weeks ago, Dick Bradsell passed away. He was a cocktail superstar in this country, the man who among many other drink-related innovations, created the espresso martini for a model who wanted a drink ‘to pick her up, then f*ck her up’ whilst tending bar at the Soho Brasserie. Dick obliged with the perfect mash-up of alcohol and caffeine that delivered on her request. And for anyone who visited any of his bars – like the now sadly defunct Detroit in Seven Dials – his cocktail DNA ran deep in every drink served. As with the death of Sasha Petraske last year, our drinking world is a poorer place without him.
The other departed hero of mine is the designer, Sir Ken Adam, who created some of the most remarkable sets for films in a long and very enviable career – particularly his long-running collaboration with the producers of the James Bond films – for whom he designed memorable lairs for super-villains, like the volcano base in You Only Live Twice.
I thought it was appropriate to raise a glass to both men – a cocktail seems a suitable salute to Bradsell, and I am sure that Sir Ken, who spent his time working on films that features one of our best-known cocktail drinkers, wouldn’t object to being acknowledged by a well-filled martini glass. The most suitable drink I found is the well-named Obituary, whose recipe I located in Richard Godwin’s excellent book, The Spirits. This is a properly ‘wet’ martini, where the vermouth plays an equal role to the gin, but what really perks this up is the lurking presence of peppery, aniseedy absinthe. It’s clear, clean drink, livened up by the single cherry. I don’t know the providence of the drink, or how it got its name, but the martini seems a suitable toast to two significant men. Salut!
Rinse a martini glass with a few drops of absinthe, or as I did here, absinthe bitters, and leave to cool in a freezer while you prepare the rest of the drink.
35ml of gin (Hendricks here)
35ml of French vermouth (in a nod to James Bond’s Vesper, I used Kina Lillet)
Stir the alcohols in a mixing glass, filled with ice. A few drops of orange bitters can be used at this point to tie the two together.
Strain the cooled mixture into the chilled glass, still wet with absinthe. Twist some lemon zest over the surface to mist the drink with lemon, then discard. Garnish with a single cherry. Drink while saluting absent friends.