Archive for the ‘Apéritifs & Digestifs’ Category

With it being national Margarita Day, usually it would be normal for a few blogs to be posted on the more popular drink sites on the Internet. Recipes and twists abound, maybe with a few photos, and maybe even an anecdote or two about people’s favourite story about how the drink actually came about would all be commonplace.

Unfortunately at A Pint of Green Chartreuse, however, such a notion could not be further from the truth.

While it’s important to acknowledge the popularity of the Margarita – not to do so would be foolish – it’s just one of those drinks that if I tried to care for it less than I do, it would start to verge on ‘hatred’ territory, which I wouldn’t actually mind admitting to.

It’s not even the people who order them; I’ve served all sorts of folk who have ordered them, and they’re pretty easy to knock up together on a busy Saturday night (bar the salt rim, which for me, is one of the most unfathomable parts of a drink I will ever come across). Even Margarita twists are OK; I mean, hell, I’ll drink a Tommy’s Margarita any day of the week, though that’s assuming that someone else is paying.

Tequila as a spirit as awesome, but on it’s own, as a shooter or in a mixed drink, and I’m all about cocktail that are fresh and clean, usually because they’re the best way to introduce people to cocktails, especially those with a sensitive palate. Nonetheless, that mixture of triple sec, tequila and citrus is something my brain fails to recognise as genius

So does that mean that other cocktails with the same DNA are also liquid contraptions that I despise? Afraid so.

The Sidecar is, in my opinion only, a generally crap cocktail, while a White Lady, as close as the drink is to my heart, is maybe just a little overrated, and one of the hardest drinks to balance I’ve ever come across (and there’s only four ingredients if you include the egg white). If anything, the White Lady is the best out a bad bunch, which is by no means a good thing, although my favourite recipe for the drink comes from Jim Meehan’s PDT cocktail book (similarly, his version of the Margarita uses the same ideology when preparing the drink for the modern pallet).

But White Lady’s aside, and in the good form and dry humour of a disgruntled Englishman, I’m going to give you a recipe on how I think they should be made, assuming you want to waste your time in the first place in trying to assemble them for either yourself, your guests or your friends.

Margarita (Recipe taken from Jim Meehan’s PDT Cocktail Book, 2012)

  • 50ml White Tequila
  • 20ml Tripe Sec
  • 20ml Lime Juice
  • 7.5ml Agave Syrup

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake, and double strain into a cocktail/margarita glass – of that you’re that much of a ponce – with a salted rim. Drink apathetically.

It’s at this point that I would usually sign off and tell you to enjoy your Margaritas on this awesome national Margarita Day. But in this case, I’ll just simply sign off.

Slante.

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When my good colleague and Head Bartender Erik stood behind the unfinished American Bar last week, the impromptu gathering that had formed were about to witness something very special.

The American Bar was finally getting the renovation it needed, with the builders fitting new work stations behind the bar, as well as a new bar top, and had left a small section of the front of the bar uncovered. Seeing the opportunity, one of my managers sourced a couple of camera phones and several members of staff to witness Erik deliver a speech about the legacy of Harry Craddock and his famous action of burying  shakers full of cocktails into the walls of the hotel.

Within a few minutes, Erik had made a Norman Conquest – one of his signature drinks, and a drink not unlike the Vieux Carré – had poured it into a Savoy-sloganed hip flask, and placed it inside the bar, along with a dated and signed copy of the current menu. The bar was then sealed up the next day.

A flask filled with 'Norman Conquest' one of Erik's signature drinks, and a signed copy of The American Bar menu.

A flask filled with ‘Norman Conquest’ one of Erik’s signature drinks, and a signed copy of The American Bar menu.

History had been made for the first time since the pre-World War Two era of Craddock, though the magic of the event was emphasized by the impromptu gathering; only a few members of staff were there to witness the whole event, which was recorded on video phones in a place that resembled a building site. No members from the press or on-trade were present, and there has been no official PR with regards to the event.

As we all mused what a great start to the year the even was, both with the event and the renovation of The American Bar, it got me thinking of another influential bar that is also also going through a similar state of refurbishment.

In the next couple of weeks in New York, Attaboy will open its doors to the public after taking over the space vacated by Milk & Honey, who have relocated north to Midtown. Sam Ross and Micky McIlroy will head up the bar like they had done over the previous years, only this time without the ‘reservation only’ policy, and with an increased capacity.

Personal opinion it may be, the now ‘old-school’ Milk & Honey was not only important to the neo-speakeasy trend; it also played a fundamental part in the resurrection of both classic and classically-styled drinks in the naughties, in the same way  The American Bar at The Savoy was influential in giving an identity to the American cocktail in Britain and Europe (and, just for the record, anyone who hasn’t checked out the’Bartenders Choice’ cocktail app should so immediately; drinks from Milk & Honey over the last 10 years, as well as numerous drinks from The Savoy Cocktail Book and other old famed drink bibles are modernized and updated).

Though why is the renovation of The American Bar and the opening of an already established premises by two established bartenders such a big deal at the beginning of 2013?

Well for me, a few reasons; two of the most important venues within the history of the drink making profession are having a much-needed facelift in an industry that could see classic drink making return to the fold, alongside the ‘back-to-basics’ rule of bartending.

Is it a coincidence that these two bars are being refurbished at the same time? Absolutely. Though what isn’t a coincidence is that  an increasing amount of thought is being given to the most basic of bartending principles; the ergonomics of the bar set-up, which have an effect on speed of service and the quality and consistency of drinks, are important factors that now more than ever need to  be considered when setting up bars from scratch, as well as working behind them night after night.

Last year saw some great movements within the drink scene; this Cream Gin from the guys behind The Worship Street Whistling Shop helped push the boundaries within the world of an already established spirit, and bottled cocktails became more popular, as much for speed of service as for flavour development. Set against the backdrop of society where consumers are supposedly drinking less but drinking better, it’s understandable to see why the international mixed drink scene is in good shape and heading in the right direction. But in such financially sensitive times, it would be refreshing, if not expected, for 2013 to be the year that simple, down-to-earth drinks make a welcome return to the cocktail scene.


Nowadays, customers want to feel that they’re getting value for their money, whether it be at a cocktail bar in Soho or a five-star venue in Mayfair. People are still flocking to bars during the week and on weekends, but what they perceive to be value for money has changed since the recession. And it’s not just about the liquid in the glass; sure, a pretty garnish and a coupette straight from the freezer make us feel as though that the money we pay for a drink is shown by the love that goes into it.

But, just as importantly, the return of the bartender as a host, as well as the time it takes for a cocktail or a round of drinks to be put in front of them, are both important contributions to the whole package of the customers perception of feeling valued and that the amount of money spent justifies a drinking experience that starts as soon as they step foot on a licensed premises.

Despite the great strides that drink making have made over the last 20 years, especially within the realms of a wider category of products and the arrange of new flavors that have become available, the recession might well be the best to happen to the classically styled cocktail and the way the bartender responds to the fulfillment of a customers expectations.

It’s important that we don’t lose touch with evolutionary elements that have helped propel bartending into a respectable career that has seen it gain an increasing amount of press coverage over the last couple of years. But for the scene to stay fresh and to help newcomers on the path to sophisticated and educated drinking that’s approachable and unpretentious, it’s important that the basics of bartending are always adhered too, and that solid, honest-to-goodness drinks and snappy service are within every bartenders repertoire, regardless of which venue they work at or what kind of style of bartending they chose to follow.

The flask of Norman Conquest will stay within that space in the bar for years to come, maybe decades. Let’s hope that bartenders going into the industry now, and that those who intend to stay in the trade for the foreseeable future, realise the value of the fundamental skills of what makes a bartender good at his or her game, and that they continue to be followed, both once the recession has eased and when that flask is finally opened.

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Throughout the last 150 years or so of documented drink making, there are some cocktails that are synonymous with either the bar in which they were born within or from the person that gave birth to them.

Fred’s Club doesn’t go down as the most memorable bar in Soho in the last 30 years, but Dick Bradsell’s creations there, namely The Bramble and the Espresso Martini will always be synonymous with the man, even if we forget the venue.

The Penicillin, for example, will forever be tied to Sam Ross and his time at Milk & Honey, while the Singapore Sling will always be remembered for being created at Raffles hotel in the early part of the 20th Century, even if the drinks creator tongue-twisting name Ngiam Tong Boon is a name that we sometimes fail to commit to memory.

But when Harry Craddock released The Savoy Cocktail book back in the 1930s, little did he know how much the book and its recipes would resonate throughout the ages.

Loads of drinks.

The book is an important piece of cocktail history in terms of bridging together drinks both sides of Atlantic in a period that stretches more than 40 years.

There’s no doubt that the book is a well-constructed manuscript of accepted plagiarism; not only were the recipes featured a reflection of modern drink trends at the time, but they also had some new drinks, too. The Corpse Reviver No.2 is probably the most high-profile drink to make it’s way from weird obscurity to modern day forgotten classic, while the Blood & Sand makes it’s first English-print debut after being named following the film release of the same name eight years previously.

But apart from giving us a glimpse into drink trends of the early 1900s, it does something else; it ties together some of the most popular drinks of the era, penned by one of the most famous bartenders of the 20th century, with a reputation that is firmly rooted in both the history and the premises of The American Bar at The Savoy.

Other cocktail books that are from the era, such as Hugo Enslin’s Recipe for Mixed Drinks, which was one of the main books that Harry Craddock took inspiration from, or Stanley Clisby Arthur’s Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’em, are just as important recipe wise but are based more on specific drinks and unique ingredients or individual recipes from a specific city.

The reputations of some drinks, such as the White Lady, were made at The American Bar, even if the drink wasn’t created there. Other drinks, such as Ada Coleman’s Hanky Panky, will always be synonymous The American Bar and The Savoy Cocktail book, even if the drink was before Harry’s time.

Modern drink trends and contemporary cocktails, especially from the US and York in specific, have shown us how being influenced by old formulae can still lead to new styles of drinks and different flavour combinations. But it’s still great to dive into a cocktail book over 80 years old to catch a glimpse of drinks from that time, even if not all of them are applicable to today’s pallets.

And the best thing about The American Bar in the modern era? They’ve just given a bartending position to a heavily tattooed, slightly rough and most definitely northern accented guy.

For different reasons, though in the same way the previous two blogs were, this is dedicated to the people I’ve worked with over the last two years at Bramble, especially Paul Graham and Terri Brotherstone, and in particular Mike Aikman and Jason Scott, all of whom are responsible for helping become the bartender and the man I am today.

Before I sign off, however, I’ll leave you with a recipe for the Hanky Panky, and a video of my new colleague Erik Lorincz(!) preparing one that’s made been chillin’ hard in a barrel for a few weeks.

At The Savoy, we prepare ours with Bombay Sapphire and Punt E Mes, though my preferences leans towards a more flavourful gin and a less bitter vermouth, especially as I see this as a soft gateway to spirit-driven drinks.

Hanky Panky  

  • 37.5 ml Gin
  • 37.5 ml Sweet Vermouth
  • 7.5 ml Fernet Branca

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, and stir, thinking how awesome it would be to have been served by a female bartender in the early 1900s. Then strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist. Serve.

NB – Use a good gin, and, depending on your preferences, go a little heavier on the gin side. This was the original recipe, and, unusually, I’m quite a fan of this equal part ratio. The drink should be soft yet slightly rich, with the botanicals of the gin, vermouth and Fernet mingling together nicely. The finish should be warm and inoffensively bitter.

Ada Coleman, possibly or possibly not making a Hanky Panky.

Slante!

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The video above is an entry to the Auchentoshan Swtich, a competition in which 20 finalists will go through to London to battle it out for a two-week trip to New York. The prize is not just a holiday though; the lucky winner will spend time working in Apotheke, a New York bar renowned for its foray into molecular mixology and 21st century bartending.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, one lucky winner from the final in Las Vegas will be heading over to London to work with Tony Coniglario at 69 Colebrooke row. Hence that ‘switch’ thing in the name.

To have a chance of getting to the final, participants must create an Old Fashioned and a lemonade from scratch, and take no longer than eight minutes to complete both. Outside of that, it’s pretty much open to interpretation.

For a slightly unique spin on things I decided to take a little inspiration from New York a la Penicillin-style (courtesy of Sam Ross, Milk & Honey). As for the old-fashioned, I stayed in touch with the concept of the sherry finishes – one of the main selling points behind Auchentoshan Three Wood – by using some limited edition Spanish bitters from Adam Elmegirab, and by creating a sugar syrup with Spanish brandy as a the base.

There are some big names that have already put their hat in the ring, mainly in the form of Alex Kratena from the Artisian Bar at the Langham Hotel, Matthew Dakers from Worship Street Whistling Shop and Zdenek Kastanek of Quo Vadis fame. Good luck to everyone involved, and hopefully see you in the final.

Penicillin Lemonade

  • 100ml Still water
  • 50ml Lemon Juice
  • 20ml Ginger Syrup*
  • Dash of honey

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a highball, and top with soda. Garnish with a lemon spiral and serve.

*Ginger Syrup

  • 50 grams de-skinned ginger
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 ¼ cups of sugar

Add water and ginger to a blendable vessel. Blend, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Strain through a Muslin cloth and bottle.


Lowland Siesta

  • 60ml Auchentoshan Three Wood
  • 12.5ml Spanish brandy syrup**
  • Generous dash of Spanish Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir – but not for too long – and strain into a chilled glass with a single, large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel and serve.

**Spanish Brandy Syrup

  • 1 cup of good quality Spanish Brandy
  • 1 ¼ cup of sugar

Add all ingredients to a glass and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t heat, don’t put in a pan – just stir.

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The video above – a clip taken from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – is one of the finest movies ever to go the big screen. Like, ever. The only problem is, what Colonel Oats actually asked Bill and Ted to do is not get down and do press ups, but actually get behind the bar and serve him up Bramble’s newest drink, the barrel and bottle-aged Affinity cocktail. Guess they decided to keep the unedited version…

On top of that, because of few technical issues, this post marks the 20th in the history of this blog. And the heavily tattooed one could be be prouder than posting a subject such as this.

The barrels. And the bottled Affinity. And beyond!

Occupying the top three tables next to the bar, with the music off and the lighting low, industry professionals gathered in Bramble a few weeks back to celebrate the launch of the bars eagerly-anticipated barrel-aged Affinity cocktail, in conjunction with Glenmorangie Single Malt whisky.

A 20-strong group of drink writers, imbibers and industry professionals turned up to see Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation for the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg brands, and Bramble bartender Tom Walker give a speech with regards to the process and inspiration behind the barrel-aged process and the unique serve which accompanies the drink.

The Affinity cocktail, a scotch and vermouth based drink that came around within the first decades of the 20th century, is served in a unique 100ml bottle, a concept that harks back to the mid 1800s when the Mid-West capitalized upon the craze of the Chinese-inspired ‘snake oil’ medicine. Chinese immigrants working on the Transcontinental railroad in North America would give a remedy to help the aching joints of other workers, though it wasn’t long until western, and specifically American, medicine salesmen exploited the idea. Before long, travelling ‘doctors’ became part of the mid-west black market culture, selling all sorts of placebos and panaceas that were marketed as remedies that had little or no effect. Ingredients were often secret or unproven, and by the time customers found that the liquid cure to be worthless, the salesman would be long gone into the sunset and a few dollars to the good.

Coupled with the idea of ageing a pre-mixed drink, itself a concept that was being used in the 1860s (the same decade that the rail road was built), the bottle comes with a uniquely designed label – coupled with some good-ol’ tongue and cheek humour – with the process from filling the barrels, filling the bottles and sealing top with wax all done by hand.

The launch saw the tasting of the first batch to come from the American New Oak barrel (medium toast), with three further bottlings to be released from two other New American Oak barrels (each with a light and heavy toast and) a New French Oak (medium toast) in the near future.

Taking into consideration that the barrels will have been used for the first time, coupled with the fact that different measurements have been used for each barrel, each bottling will labelled as a ‘vintage’. And as much as Bramble and Glenmorangie are keen to market and sell a consistent product that everyone loves, both parties – including the subservient and loyal enthusiasts here at Cellar 4, as well as Dr. Bill Lumsden himself – are just as excited with experimenting with the factors available to see what kind of flavour profiles the end result will yield.

With regards to the releases, the bottlings will rotate on average to two different batches available at any one time (the current medium and heavy char are available), though this is dependent on cask use, ingredient ratios, ageing time and the char and wood used.

The drink retails for £9, although those who wish to take the bottle and contents away can do so for the price £7 before 10pm.

Special thanks go to the Bramble team – Pauli, Terri and Naill – owners Mike Aikman and Jason Scott, along with Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, Dan Bartley for the awesome design of the labels (and the bottom two photos), and local Edinburgh LVMH ambassador Sean Olivier (for the top photo and everything else). This blog and these drinks are dedicated to you.

The unique Affinity 'serve'.

Barrel-aged Affinity; American Oak Medium Char (Batch 1)

  • 37.5ml Glenmorangie 10 Year-old
  • 25ml Byhrr
  • 25ml Noilly Prat
  • Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients en-mass to the barrel. Age for four to seven weeks – depending on the ingredients, overall ABV and, most importantly, the condition and fill of the barrel in question – taste-testing regularly. Once ready, bottle and seal with wax by hand. Serve the bottle straight from the fridge on a napkin with a cocktail glass sprayed with orange bitters, garnished with a cherry and a swath of lemon peel.

The Affinity bottle.

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George liked this stuff too.

Ah, at last. The final instalment of the George Washington week, almost two months after I started the damn thing.

After getting a little giddy and excited with regards to the concept of coming up with three different drinks to celebrate the event in American history that was George Washington – one on rum (that was a little cheated), one on rye and one on applejack – an awesome bout of wisdom tooth pain on opposite sides of my mouth that were separated by only a day dominated most of the month of March, coupled with moving house. Meaning that for the first time since this log started, there was a month without an entry.

Still, never mind.

The idea behind this drink is linked to Applejack, yet another spirit that George had close to his heart. Applejack itself goes back to the late 1600s, when those hardent drinkers of the early days of American colonialism would ferment cider and then leave it outside in freezing whether conditions to concentrate the booze from the water. Enter William Laird, a Scotsman who brought with him the art of distilling after settling in Monmouth County. In 1698 he started producing an apple brandy instead of that horrid hard cider freeze separation stuff they called ‘jersey lightening’, and aged his stuff in oak casks.

Applejack’s role in the liquid history of the USA is well documented too; William’s great-grandson Robert Laird served in the revolutionary army under George Washington, while the Laird distillery itself became the first in American history to be granted a commercial license in 1780. Add to the fact that George Washington himself was given a recipe for ‘cyder spirits’ before 1760, and the rest is pretty much history (no pun intended).

While the modern day applejack is a little further away from the stuff kicking about 300 years ago – today’s version is a blend of  three to four year-old apple brandies (35%) and neutral grain spirit (65%) – Laird’s also produce a bottled-in-bond apple brandy, a seven-and-a-half-year apple randy, and an even rarer and expensive 12 year old brandy, the latter of which is considered to belong within the same realms of fine cognac or a single malt whisky. For mixing purposes, the bottled-in-bond stuff is definitely what you’re after.

However, that’s enough about applejack. Here’s a drink.

American Trilogy

  • 30ml Rye whisky (Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond preferably)
  • 30ml Apple brandy (Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond if preferably)
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • 2 – 3 dashes of orange bitters
  • Dash of soda/water (optional)

Add sugar, bitters and water to a rocks glass. Muddle sugar cube until dissolved. Add other ingredients, and add ice. Stir until all the flavours have married. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.

Photography by Dan Bartley

The drink is a twist on the Old Fashioned, and its maker Micky McIlroy of New York’s Milk & Honey states that each of the three ingredients were common ingredients used in American cocktail making in the mid-1800s through to early the 1900s. And, even though I’ve never had the pleasure of being served the drink by McIlroy, fellow Bramble colleague and Elvis-lookalike Paul Graham has, and made me one the other night when I was pretty spangled.

When both Rittenhouse Bonded and Laird’s Bonded are used, the drink is a hefty, spicey powerhouse of a drink. Definitely one to put hairs on your chest, the drink becomes a softer and more approachable when used with normal Applejack and Rittenhouse 80 proof. As for the bitters, Regan’s No. 6 are made for this drink. And I know which version I prefer.

Before I sign this post off, find out here and here where my attention as been diverted to over the last two months and why there has been no post on here for a while. Something pretty exciting will be coming to the Bramble cocktail menu very soon.

Finally, just a thanks to Paul Graham specifically for bring this drink to my attention. Cheers.

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Some of you may have realised, especially with the last post, that certain ‘subjects’ or ‘themes’ can come about at such an unexpected or odd moment, particularly when it comes to entries on this blog and drinks made in general. This will probably be a running theme as long as this site remains, simply because that when my mind is still racing at 3am after finishing work, I’m more likely to post an entry than during the day, or even on a day off.

Still, I’ll admit that the ‘El Presidente’ in my last post was cheating a little. Here’s my chance to do something cocktail orientated with rye (George Washington had a rye distillery at his Mount Vernon home, which was very successful indeed thank you very much), and I publish a drink not really associated to him in anyway shape or form. Coupled with no photos – bare with me here – and you’ll see why the next few posts may be a little more Washington-orientated.

So check out this one.

Suburban

  • 45ml Rye whisky
  • 15ml Dark Jamaican Rum
  • 15ml Port
  • 1 Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 1 Dash of orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of a lemon peel over the surface of the drink and drop into the drink.

George Washington's Inauguration. One day, there will be pictures of cocktails on here, instead of images stolen from google.

At his inauguration, Washington requested a barrel of the finest Barbados rum. OK, so Barabados rum isn’t used here, but you get my point. It’s a little closer to the theme of the whole thing.

The Suburban came to me via the pages of David Wonderich’s ‘Esquire’ book/magazine column. The name potentially originates in the late 1880s, where Wonderich speculates that James R. Keene kept horses, some of which ran at the Suburban Handicap, an event at the Sheapshead Bay track in Brooklyn

The drink itself, however, first appears to come to print in The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, and is definitely a drink for grown-ups. So, if you get tired of your rum Manhattan, but still want a stirred, straight-up drink that marries at least two spirits – one of which is rye – and you want to go for a drink that’s doused with underestimation yet still drenched in a cool suaveness, ask your barkeep if he can knock you up a Suburban. Heavy, dense, complex and layered, Wonderich nails it when he states how it’s best suited for the autumn (and even winter) months. But don’t let that stop you ordering one in summer or after a meal, or on George Washington’s birthday. Or a combination of two or all of these things. Heavy, mature and deep – almost like a good woman – with a rum-heavy nose. The only thing that would improve this drink is a citrus garnish (the original called for sans garnish). Lemon is best here, especailly with rye, in terms of brightening the whole thing up.

Cheers.

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