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.

Affinity

img_1741I have been enjoying following a chain of whisky-based drinks, and discovered this one in Richard Godwin’s peerless book, The Spirits. He features this in his The Stirred chapter, listing it as:

A dry aperitif that leaves you plenty to ponder

That sums this drink up really well. I have used some pretty strong-willed vermouths here: Carpano for the Italian, and Lillet for the French. Neither is trampled on by the whisky. The Peychaud’s bitters add a spicy, absinthe-type note which cuts through the other flavours, leaving you plenty, as Richard Godwin says, to ponder. A really good aperitif drink, or like here, a late night cocktail just to enjoy by itself.

Method:

25ml Scotch whisky (Whyte & Mackay here)

25ml French vermouth (Lillet here)

25ml Italian vermouth (Carpano ‘Antica Formula’ here)

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

Stir over ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange zest, twisted over the surface to release the oils.

 

Port in a Storm

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Port in Storm, made with blended whisky

A late night out meant I was in need a nightcap drink on my return home. This drink seemed to fit the bill, being just  a mix of spirits and fortified wine, a little like a whisky Manhattan. It also gave me an excuse to use some more of my Tawny Port and a new bottle of Whyte & Mackay blended scotch. This blend seems to polarise opinion on a few whisky sites; people either like it or really hate it. I find it a little sharp and one-note as a whisky, with a strong alcohol ‘burn’ on the tongue. The flavour is good, if a little weak, so it’s a decent enough blend to mix with.

The drink is simple enough: one measure of whisky, one of port and a few dashes of cognac. At first taste, the drink is a little disappointing: the spicy notes of the tawny port jar with the whisky, and the combined fruit flavours of the port and alcohol of the whisky just don’t sit well together. But after a few minutes on ice, something happens: suddenly everything comes together and the flavours really blend. Perhaps this in one of those drinks that would be good to age together for a few weeks before drinking.

Method:

25ml of whisky (White & Mackay blend here)

25ml of port (Taylor’s 10-year old tawny here)

Dashes of cognac

Dashes of bitters

Store the ingredients together over ice, then strain into an old-fashioned glass over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of orange peel.

 

 

El Chanceler

El Chanceler, made with Blandy's 5-year old Madeira
El Chanceler, made with Blandy’s 5-year old Madeira

Whilst researching the variations on the Manhattan cocktail (see my post, the Manhattan variations, earlier), I noted the scotch-based variant, the Chancellor, which includes a measure of port, preferably tawny. I have an open bottle of Madeira at the moment, which is slightly sweeter, so decided to experiment using the Chancellor as the base of my drink.

My version uses a very mild, single malt scotch, sold by the Co-operative stores here in the UK instead of a blend. And in place of the usual Martini Extra Dry vermouth, I have used Cocchi Americano.

The drink is fantastic, and has a very ‘Christmassy’ taste; I am not sure why, it must be the rich flavour of the Madeira. Either way, it’s a really intriguing variation on the Manhattan & worth adding to the recipe books. In honour of the Portuguese home of the Madeira, I have re-named the drink El Chanceler.

Proportions:

2oz of scotch whisky (I used the Co-op’s single malt scotch)

1oz of Madeira (Blandy’s 5-year old)

1/2oz of dry vermouth (Cocchi Americano)

Dashes of orange bitters (I used Fee’s)

Glass: 3oz Martini glass, chilled

Shake well in a shaker over ice, then strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel

Variations: Diffords guide makes the Chancellor with blended whisky, extra dry vermouth & tawny port.

 

The Manhattan variations

Simple 3oz Manhattan
Simple 3oz Manhattan

It must be clear by now that my favourite drink is the Manhattan. Unlike a Martini, I have never been served a bad Manhattan – dull, perhaps, or not cold enough, but never bad. 

A Manhattan is basically a whisky Martini: the basic combination for the cocktail is a spirit, flavoured with a vermouth in a 2:1 ratio & then added some zip by the dashes of bitters.  If that combination works for gin & whisky, then it must work for other spirits? And of course, it does.

Here in no order of preference, is a list of the cocktails that have used the same ingredient selection, except for the base spirit:

Palmetto – aged rum, vermouth & bitters (also called a ‘Cuban Manhattan’).

Harvard – cognac, Italian vermouth, Angosturas bitters

Chancellor – blended scotch, port, dry vermouth, bitters.

El Chanceler – blended scotch, or a ‘mild’ single malt, madeira, dry vermouth, bitters*

Affinity – blended scotch, sweet & dry vermouths, dashes of bitters

Rob Roy – Scotch whisky, vermouth & bitters.

Fourth regiment – whisky & vermouth in a 1:1 ratio, then dashes of three bitters: celery, orange & Peychaud’s.

Tijuana Manhattan – tequila, vermouth & bitters.

Perfect cocktail – gin, sweet & dry vermouths, bitters

Presidente – white rum, sweet & dry vermouths, dashes of grenadine

* My own recipe: a portuguese version of the Chancellor, using Madeira.

Rob Roy

 

Rob Roy, made to Brad Thomas Parson's recipe in his Bitters book.
Rob Roy, made to Brad Thomas Parson’s recipe in his Bitters book.

Cocktails made with scotch whisky are not that unusual, but the general opinion is that whisky is too flavourful a drink to mix well with others, and should be enjoyed by itself. That might be the case for many single malts, which have such a unique flavour profile that it is hard to see them sitting well with any other flavours in a glass (the exception being such modern drinks as the Penicillin, which features Laphroaig), but blends have been designed to have a consistent, if less characterful flavour. They then lend themselves to mixed drinks better than the unique single malts; part of this comes from the combination of more neutral grain spirits, mixed with some malt whiskies, to produce the blend’s own flavour.

The Rob Roy can be seen as a Manhattan made with whisky, but the smokiness and slightly less sweet nature of scotch produces a quite different drink which stands in its own right. Like the Manhattan, a Rob Roy can be ordered dry (with only dry vermouth), perfect (a mixture of dry and sweet vermouths), though the standard drink is made with sweet only. The result is a rich, smoky cocktail, with a touch of herbal & wine-y flavours from the vermouth. One element that must not be overlooked is the presence of bitters. As per the Manhattan, the usual bottle to reach for would be the Angosturas, but I think that something with a more citrus flavour suits this drink better, and as I was mixing my version from the recipe in Parson’s Bitters book I followed his advice: I made my drink with Peychaud’s bitters, although Fee’s Orange would also be a good choice. Garnish follows the Manhattan route: cherry for the sweet version, lemon peel for the dry/perfect variants; I used a lemon peel in my straight Rob Roy: it seemed to me the lemon flavour cut through the sweetness slightly better.

Proportions:

2ozs of scotch whisky (Grant’s in this version)

1oz of sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso here)

2 dashes of bitters (Peychaud’s here)

Glass: 3oz Martini glass, chilled

Stir in your mixing glass, over ice, until well chilled. Strain into the Martini glass, and garnish with either lemon peel or cherry, to your choice.

History notes: There’s not much debate to the story behind this one: in 1894, the barman at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was asked to create a cocktail to mark the opening of Rob Roy, an operetta written by Smith & De Koven; the barman mixed a Manhattan with scotch whisky, and named it for the hero of the piece. The operetta seems to be lost in past, but the cocktail recipe lives on.

World’s best single malt is Tasmanian

Sullivans Cove single malt whisky
Sullivans Cove single malt whisky

An industry that wasn’t even legal until twenty-two years ago has carried off the top prize for single malts at this year’s World Whisky Awards, where the French Oak Cask-matured Sullivans was described by one of the judges as a ‘match made in heaven, with a smooth buttery feel’. Sullivans Cove distillery is located on the Australian island of Tasmania, about as far away from the spiritual home of whisky as one can imagine.

The Guardian newspaper despatched Vicky Frost to visit a nearby distillery, William McHenry & Sons, described (until someone works out how to distill from Antarctic glacier water) as the ‘southernmost distillery in the world, in a fascinating article, that can be read on the Guardian website. The island is now home to no less than nine distilleries, all benefitting from a change in the law that had, until twenty years ago, made distilling on Tasmania illegal for over 150 years.

However, chances of finding a bottle from the winning barrel must rank as somewhat slim; comments on the Guardian article suggest that only 556 bottles of this batch (HS52) were produced, selling for around £77 ($115) each. The batch has already been shipped, so the only bottles now available will already been on the shelves of the few number of places that stock Sullivans Cove worldwide. Good hunting.

(Update: a quick check on the Whisky Exchange shows that Sullivan’s single malt is out of stock.)