I have been experimenting with cooking this weekend. It has mostly been driven a copy of Heston Blumenthal at Home that my wife bought for me, but this particular gem was a concoction of my own devising. The book talks about gelling agents a lot and I am going to try the Whisky Gums (and adapt it to make Gin Gums too), but while I wait for my silicone sweetie moulds to arrive from ebay, I tried my hand at a Gin & Tonic Jelly.
Gin & Tonic Jelly
Serves: one (simply scale the ingredients for greater numbers).
Use a gin with a lot of flavour. The jelly is going to be chilled and there is going to be little effervescence to drive that nose-resident taste.
- 50 ml Tanqueray Gin
- 150 ml Fever-Tree
- 2 sheets of leaf gelatine
Immerse the sheets of gelatine in cold water and allow to soften (about 5 mins).
Take a third of the tonic water (50ml) and heat in a saucepan; do not allow to boil but bring it to around 60ºc (hand-hot). Lift the gelatine from the water and squeeze-out any excess water before dropping into the hot tonic water. Stir until completely dissolved.
Gently pour the rest of the tonic water and gin into the pan. Squeeze in a few drops of lime juice from the lime. Stir gently to mix. It’s important to treat this mixture very gently as the less fizz you lose, the more there will be in the set jelly.
Gently decant into a wine glass or an individual pudding basin.
Cut a slice of lime and drop into the mixture. Refrigerate for at least six hours.
Unless eating from the glass, hold the mould in fairly warm, to hot, water for anywhere between 2 and 30 second (depending on the conductivity of your mould) before unmoulding and serving with wedges of lime.
I used 2.5 sheets of gelatine as I understand that gelatine can be damaged by acids and produce a softer set. However, this produced a very firm jelly, so I reduced the quantities accordingly for the recipe above.
The finished jelly was fantastically clear and looked great with that slice of lime embedded at the bottom. The flavours of the G&T were captured very well and there was a slight effervescence on the tongue as the jelly melted in the mouth.
Ultimately, you can do this with any drink; I can imagine a mojito working very well and I might have to try a negroni, just to see what it’s like.
The Gin & Sin seems to be a cocktail with little standardisation. Unlike the Negroni, which has a fixed and unwavering formula, a consensus on the proportions of the Gin & Sin seems to as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Even the ingredients vary by source.
Anyway, this is what I went with…
Gin & Sin
- 2 oz Gin
- 3/4 oz Orange Juice
- 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz Grenadine
Method: Bang it all in a cocktail-shaker, with ice, and give it a shake. Strain into a martini glass, or over ice to serve.
This is probably more grenadine-heavy than the majority of recipes, but I made a bottle of home-made grenadine some time back and find little use for it, so I thought I would go with the heavier option.
I made this with Martin Miller’s Gin and the resulting drink is intense in flavour and absolutely silky. I used a good deal of Gum Arabic in my grenadine, so it gives a great mouth-feel and Martin Millers is a silky smooth gin. The citrus intensity is balanced by the sweetness of the grenadine and underpinned nicely by subtle hints of pomegranate and rose. The gin gives it just enough back-bone to string it all together – I would like to see what this tastes like with something like Tanqueray.
This is a pretty simple and effective cocktail; well worth trying.
The Intro to Aperol is an interesting one. I was looking for Cocktails that include gin & Aperol and came across this twice before realising that it was actually a cocktail and not pages trying to tell me what Aperol was. It turns out this is actually a cocktail designed by the Pegu Club to give people an idea what Aperol is and tastes like.
Anyway, I had all of the ingredients and it looked interesting, so I thought I would give it a go.
Intro to Aperol
- 2 oz Aperol
- 1 oz gin
- 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Twist of orange peel, for garnish
Add the Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Angostura bitters to a cocktail shaker half-full of ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel (flaming optional).
I actually put slightly more lemon juice (maybe 4/5 oz) and in hindsight, could have used a little less than 1/4 oz of simple syrup. This isn’t that surprising as it is a cocktail for people not used to bitter drinks, so modify the proportions to fit your tastes.
This cocktail strikes a good balance between sweet and bitter. It’s incredibly fruity and gives mountains of citrus with hints of spice and juniper – very refreshing and drinkable. This will be cracking on a summer’s evening.
It is a rare thing (in my experience, at least) to see a cocktail with Aperol as its prime ingredient, and I am very pleased with it. I will definitely be making some more of these.
The Number Four is a cocktail created by the Tanqueray Global Ambassador, Angus Winchester. I stumbled on this one on Pinterest and the thought of cracked black pepper and cardamom floating in gin really floated my boat.
Sources vary as to whether this has black pepper in, and the exact proportions seem to be hard to come by, so I have done my best to piece it together.
Without further ado, I give you…
The Number Four
- 6 Whole Cardamom Pods
- 12 Black Pepper Corns
- 2oz Gin (Tanqueray)
- 1oz Lime Juice
- 1oz Honey Syrup
Crack the cardamom pods and black pepper (I used a pestle and mortar) and add to a cocktail shaker. Add the honey syrup (1:1 honey & water), lemon juice and gin; shake. Pour into a glass over ice.
Lacking a single lime in the house (I know, a bit remiss of me) I used lemon juice.
I thought this was going to be a monster of pepper and cardamom, but it turned-out to be quite subtle. The sweet/sharp balance is good and the gin is not dominated, nor dominant. All in all quite a good, simple drink.
I ended up adding a splash of cardamom bitters to perk mine up a bit, but this is because I was expecting a lot of cardamom and was disappointed when it wasn’t there.
I would be tempted to distil some cardamom and pepper distillate for this drink, as its only down-side is gritty lumps of cracked-spice floating around in it.
I stumbled across the Cheeky Rose in a blog post about wedding libations, of all places (http://helloharbor.blogspot.com/).
It caught my eye because it was the colour of rose quartz. Once my attention was momentarily drawn by the colour, I was intrigued to see rosé wine as an ingredient. It isn’t every day you see wine as a cocktail ingredient and with plenty of rosé in the fridge (the other-half likes it), it should be quite simple to make.
- 2oz gin
- 2oz rosé wine
- 1oz lemon juice
- 1oz honey syrup
- Rosemary sprig
Muddle rosemary leaves in lemon juice and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the gin, wine and some ice and give it a good shake. Pour into a tumbler over ice and garnish with the rosemary.
It’s an odd drink. Initially it was very pleasing, but the more I drank, the less balanced it became. Starting out as a balanced, dry cocktail with a great deal of fruitiness and hints of sweet honey, rosemary and juniper. Half-way though the drink, the different components started dominating each sip; one would be dominated by honey, the next by lemon, then wine, then rosemary. Maybe that’s why the original recipe was half the volume.
Still, an interesting experience.
I have been resisting buying a bottle of creme de violette for quite a while. As I noted in my write-up of arsenic and old lace, I didn’t want to splash out on a bottle of liqueur that I might not like.
The answer? Make a close approximation, on the cheap, in my own kitchen.
There is little on the internet about making creme de violette in the home, so I decided to make it up. There seems to be nobody selling freeze-dried violet petals in the UK (not that Google knows about anyway), so I had to improvise. The traditional ingredients of a liqueur are alcohol, sugar and your flavouring of choice; these latter two can be combined using either crystallised violet petals (typically used for cake and confectionary decoration) or parma violets. The success of either will rely heavily on how much sugar there is to flavour, but who will know until I try?
So, I ordered both from ebay, with a view of chucking them straight into vodka to make my very own, quick-and-dirty, creme de violette.
The first to arrive was the crystallised violet petals; armed with these and a 20cl bottle of vodka, I started making things up. I bought 100g of the crystallised petals, but thought I had better take it easy – better too little than too much, you can always add more. I added 25g of the crystallised violets to the vodka and shook.
Within seconds, I had something that looked like meths (methylated spirits). Within 30 minutes, all of the sugar had dissolved and there were naked petals floating around in an intensely purple liquid. I thought the sugar would have taken up much of the flavour, so I poured the mix through a coffee filter and sampled.
What can I say? I am glad I stopped at 25g. The flavour is distinctly violet and while sweet, isn’t as cloying as I thought it might be. Given that I haven’t watered this down, this is pretty much a 40% ABV liqueur – more like sweet violet vodka. This is going to add a punch to cocktails. I have never tried proper creme de violette neat, so I have no idea how this compares.
So, in less than an hour (including popping out to the shops for the vodka) I had some creme de violette; it was obviously time to mix up a few drinks and kick back for the evening.
First up was the Blue Moon
2 ounces gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz crème de violette
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake (I stirred) and strain into a cocktail glass.
This is an incredible dark-blue colour – the sort of colour the sky goes during the early stages of pre-dawn when the night has only just begun to lighten. The lemon and violet balance very well and, while floral, the drink has a deep and sincere bite. Very drinkable.
Second was the…
1 3/4 oz Gin
1/2 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
Soda (fill glass)
The method was lacking from this one, but it looked like a “chuck it all in a glass over ice” type of drink.
This maintained the rich blue colour but it was very washed out; an intriguing looking drink at least. In hindsight I would have added less soda and more gin, but nevertheless it was a clear, refreshing drink that had the barest hint of alcohol. The elderflower and violet were gentle, delicate accents to the soda water. Pleasing, but don’t waste your best gin on it.
I am not sure about the label “belmont”. There seems to be many sources that list the belmont as gin, raspberry syrup and cream (sounds interesting too). Others use creme de yvette rather than creme de violette.
Third was the…
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Lemon juice
2 dash Crème de Violette
Twist of lemon peel to garnish
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass.
This was a delightful sea-blue colour with hints of green about it. It was a rather sweet and intense drink and may not appeal to many, but it has a rather surprising after-bite that leaves me wanting more. Not one for the seeker of delicate drinks.
2 oz gin
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 teaspoon crème de violette
2 dashes orange bitters
lemon twist as garnish
Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish.
Now this hit the spot. A beautiful pale sea-green, the addition of Lillet Blanc and orange bitters really made this drink come alive. Delicate and complex with a cracking mix of citrus and floral with neither dominating. It is basically a vermouth-heavy martini with a splash of violet.
So, there we have it. For relatively little investment, I had an evening on the creme de violette cocktails. When the homemade hooch runs dry, I might even invest in a production bottle.
I have been looking into making liqueurs and bitters recently. There is a wealth of excellent information online on these topics and one that really caught my eye was Cardamom and Saffron bitters.
I love cardamom; it is a wonderfully bright and powerful flavour, but it is also very palette-cleansing. It is used as a breath-freshener in India and forms a back-bone of indian cookery, both savoury and sweet. The idea of sticking it in a drink has a great appeal.
Saffron is an interesting spicy/floral flavour that works very well in sweet and savoury, as well.
There are several recipes around the ‘interwebs’ with wildy differing quatities. In the end I went with the one with most cardamom. This, I found on Embitter (http://embitter.net/2010/12/i-prefer-to-get-high-on-life-cardamom-saffron-bitters/); so thanks to Embitter for providing.
I really didn’t need a whole litre of bitters so I scaled down the recipe to 250ml (to fit a bottle I had kicking around and to make the maths easy). It looked something like this…
Cardamom & saffron bitters
- 250 ml vodka
- 25 g cardamom pods (green)
- large pinch saffron
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 clove
- Pound the pods in a heavy pestle & mortar to split them, exposing the seeds. If you haven’t got a pestle & mortar, stick them in a plastic bag and beat them with a frying pan.
- Mix the Cardamom, clove and bay leaf with the vodka and leave to soak for three days; agitate each day.
- Strain the solids out and mix the saffron into the liqour; leave to soak for one more day. Strain and bottle.
This should produce a brilliant orange/red liquid. It may be quite cloudy depending on how well you strain it. I used a seive rather than a coffee filter, so mine is quite cloudy.
I also didn’t quite pay enough attention to the method and put my saffron in on day-one. I was using quite poor-quality saffron though, so it didn’t overpower the end result. I also, (due to working away) left it for six days, rather than four.
In spite of all these little errors, the resulting bitters were remarkable. The aroma is overwealmingly cardamom, and very bright and fresh. Tasted neat (a drop on the tip of a finger), it isn’t as bitter as I was expecting and was rather overpowering.
I tried a few drops in a shot of No.3 gin and the cardamom really does well against that huge stack of juniper freshness. The bright clarity of the juniper and cardamom combine to product a fresh flavour assault that is a pleasure to bear and has a tremendous nose to it.
Next up was a G&T (made with Whitley Neill gin). It took more than a few drops, maybe as much as a good-sized dash, but it really lifts the G&T. This cardamom is a good fit with the citrus flavours and marries with the quinine well. The saffron brings a slightly floral note to the whole affair.
I am really impressed with this. It is a cracking addition to a drink and adds a fantastic new dimension to some staple tipples. Expect to see a few cocktail recipes here in the near future using cardamom and saffron bitters. Give it a go and have a play.
I recently had a martini at Graphic that changed my mind about this simple, yet classic, cocktail. So, girding my wallet, I sprang for some vermouth (Lillet Blanc) and a martini glass (more on that in another post) as well as some Seagram’s Extra Dry, which will have to wait for another day.
My DIY martini kit arrived on Friday as planned, just in time for some weekend imbibing and here is what I got up to…
Starting on the sweeter-side of the spectrum, I tried a 3:1 ratio of No.3 gin to Lillet Blanc.
Very clear and smooth martini with the juniper of the No.3 shining through. The citrus of the Lillet Blanc and the twist really complimented the gin and rounded it out nicely.
As with the G&T though, I felt that mixing this gin diminished its outstanding quality somewhat.
No.3 Dry Martini
No.3 is claimed to be the “last word in gin for a dry martini”, so I took it drier by moving down to a 8:1 ratio of No.3 to Lillet Blanc.
This is much truer to the neat gin. The little splash of Lillet Blanc brought just enough citrus and other fruitiness to the mix to really round out the No.3. This was crisp, clear, juniper-heavy and had an incredible clarity of taste. I am not sure I prefer this over the neat gin though – it is that good.
Old Raj Martini
It has been suggested that I try the formerly maligned Old Raj gin in a martini to appreciate all it has to offer. Being slightly harsh and bitter I stuck with the sweeter 3:1 ratio for this one. I threw in a splash of orange bitters as well.
Blimey, what a martini this was. In spite of it being very cold, this was an incredibly warming drink with a nose full of warms spiciness. Really very rounded and comforting. I have found a home for the rest of my Old Raj.
Tanqueray 10 Martini
On Saturday, my wife and I went out to a cocktail bar (Michael Cain’s). We had managed to sent our boy off to a friends’ house for a sleep-over and headed to the bright lights of Exeter for some child-free entertainment. My first drink of the night was a martini; Tanqueray 10 and Noilly Pratt. I didn’t get the ratios as I thought it best to pay more attention to my lovely wife that the bartender.
The resinous, herbaceous aromatic twang of the chamomile was supported very well by the vermouth. A very complex and deep flavour. Well rounded and quite unique.
On Sunday (with a bit of a hangover) I infused some Whitley Neill gin with some Earl Grey tea, as per this recipe, although I only made 100ml and infused for just 20 mins (based on the fact that I like my earl grey weak and black). It ended up a beautiful rich tea colour (odd that) and perfectly clear.
Didn’t have any eggs worthy of the name “fresh” so omitted the egg white and used Gomme instead of simple syrup in an attempt to add some texture (I knew I would find a use for that gum arabic I had kicking around).
The tea adds a slight bitterness to the gin and the finished drink is a very decadent assault of subtle citrus flavours backed with the floral and woody notes that bergamot brings with it. All of this was underpinned by tea (unsurprisingly). All-in-all a very good brew.
So, there we have it; the experimentations of a martini noob. I have a tremendous new respect for the (not so) humble martini. There is such variation to be had and it is almost a category of drink unto itself – not just one cocktail. The weekend’s imbibing wasn’t restricted to martinis either, but the rest of it isn’t particularly relevant to this post; needless to say, Sunday was dominated by after-effects of our Bacchanalian excesses.
Spurred-on by my recent experiences with new gin cocktails at Graphic Bar (and partly by my wife mentioning just how many nearly-finished bottles of gin are on the kitchen side) I have been experimenting with new cocktails. This evening, it is the Salty Dog.
As with many cocktails, the exact quantities seem to vary by source. I did a little searching around and struck a middle-ground. Here it is…
- 5oz pink grapefruit juice
- 2oz gin
- Salt (for rimming – yes, I chuckled at that too)
Method: Whap it all in a glass and stir.
Some people say to sprinkle the salt over the ice before mixing, some say to rim the glass with salt. I did a little of both, and not to be out-done, I used Maldon Sea Salt; I doubt it made much difference over Tesco table salt, but hey, the gin deserves the best.
Given that gin can be a very distinctive spirit, grapefruit a very powerful and zingy flavour, and salt very dominating, this turned out to be a surprisingly gentle drink. The grapefruit seems to tame the gin and the gin takes the zing out of the grapefruit. The salt then adds a different type of zing, which has a very short half-life in the mouth; as with any salt-rimmed glass drink, the initial hit is very salty but this soon fades under the gin-backed grapefruit.
I can imagine this being fantastic on a summer’s evening, sat outside in the fading sun. It was pretty good sat inside with the curtains drawn on the humid and rainy summer’s night.
A few months ago, I saw a recipe for Arsenic and Old Lace over on on Cocktail Virgin. I was intrigued by the Creme de Violette and pastis combination. However, I didn’t really want to spend out on a bottle of each on the off-chance that it turned out to be ming in an glass.
So, during a recent visit to Graphic, I thought I would try it out with the safety-net of professional mixologist and minimal monetary investment.
Instead of going through the pain of asking for a cocktail the barman had never heard of and then jumping through the hoops of listing ingredients, I just loaded up the page from Cocktail Virgin on my phone and handed it over. It showed the following recipe…
Arsenic and Old Lace
- 1 1/2oz gin
- 1/2oz pastis
- 1/2oz creme de violette
- 1/4oz dry vermouth
Method: mix over ice, stir, strain and serve.
There were a few raised eyebrows (especially at the quantity of pastis) and another punter took some interest, but in short-order I was presented with a strangely purply-green drink with a slight haze to it. It reminded me very much of gemstone-quality tourmaline. The gin used was Beefeater 24 again.
The barman had a little taste, declared it okay, and expressed a preference for an Aviation (that was next on my list, but needing to catch the last train of the night, I didn’t get time).
In all fairness, the gin was a little lost, but the balance between the pastis and creme de violette was spot-on. It was like the liquid after-taste of parma violets and aniseed balls long after eating them; very gentle and neither flavour dominating the other.
This was very nice to try, but I probably wouldn’t go out and buy the ingredients just to replicate this at home. If I had the ingredients in though, I would certainly make it occasionally.