Category Archives: orange bitters

The Abbey: a tale of two gins

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‘But why do you need more than 20 kinds of gin?’ said no one, ever.

Actually, that’s not true. A few non-gin-drinkers (yes, they do exist, and yes, I do occasionally deign to talk to them) have asked me this exact question when they’ve glimpsed my rather meagre collection of the good stuff, to which my usual response is to either launch into a long-winded explanation about all the different kinds of gin or offer them a gin flight so they can taste those differences for themselves. After all, it’s a bit like asking why you need different types of wine, or beer, or underpants: it’s essential. But now I’ve discovered the Abbey, the days of those discussions and flights may be over. Here is a cocktail that tastes completely different depending on which gin you use. (Yes, yes, I’m sure there are many such cocktails, but this is the first one I’ve made using two ostensibly ‘dry’ gins in which the flavours end up being worlds apart…try it for yourself, you’ll be amazed.)

The Abbey is originally from The Savoy Cocktail Book, which was published in 1930. Gin was big back then, but not even the legends behind the bar at The Savoy could have predicted just how many regional varieties of dry gins would have existed nearly a century later, when the 52 Cocktails crew decided to try making the drink using two vastly different dry gins. Fittingly, one of the gins (Tanqueray) is a London Dry Gin, in honour of the Savoy’s location; the other is Australian, just like 52 Cocktails. Specifically, it’s McHenry’s, a Tasmanian drop that pitches itself as a ‘classic dry gin’. Drunk neat, the Tanqueray has more of a floral nature than the McHenry’s, which (perhaps oddly enough) seems drier and earthier than the London Dry. But in a cocktail? Wow. What a difference. Here, the McHenry’s comes into its own, enlivening the already floral notes of the drink to new heights, while the Tanqueray makes it taste almost medicinal. And this, dear friends, is why it’s essential to have many kinds of gin (and whiskey, and tequila, etc) on hand; because sometimes a cocktail that seems a bit ‘meh’ may end up being wonderful if you just switch the brand or style of spirit. So keep experimenting – that’s the spirit!

THE ABBEY

INGREDIENTS

45ml dry gin

22ml Lillet Blonde

22ml freshly squeezed orange juice

1 dash orange bitters (be careful with the bitters – any more than a dash will overpower the drink)

GLASS

Cocktail glass or coupe

METHOD

Add all ingredients to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake, hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with orange peel if desired.

TASTES LIKE

Well, that depends on which type of gin you use – and, although we haven’t actually tried this out, we dare say it depends on which type of orange juice and orange bitters you use, too. Done right, this is the kind of orange-based drink you’d like to have with brunch – light, refreshing, and innocuous. Done wrong, it’s a heavy-handed version of a screwdriver – drinkable, but not as enjoyable.

RECIPE BY

Although this recipe first appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book, this version comes from The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto (Harper Collins, 2013).

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The Interchange

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‘You’ve just been poisoned’ might well be the best tagline I’ve ever seen on a cocktail bar’s website, and it belongs to Bangkok’s Sugar Ray. I stumbled across it after reading about the bar in Lonely Planet’s Bangkok guidebook, which describes it as the kind of funky, hidden place that makes Old Fashioneds with aged rum, cardamom syrup and orange (you can read the full review here). Naturally this got me thinking two things:

1) I really, REALLY want to go to that bar (and a bunch of other Bangkok hotspots too!), and

2) Could I create something similar?

And so the experimenting began. Ages ago I made some cardamom-infused vodka by crushing 3 cardamom pods and leaving them in about half a cup of vodka for a few days before straining them out. I had some Angostura Orange Bitters. I figured those two ingredients would provide the necessary flavours even if they weren’t in syrup form. I didn’t have any aged rum but I did have some good old Johnnie Walker Red, which is the whisky I always use in Old Fashioneds because it’s relatively cheap and so am I, and so all I had to do was add the cardamom vodka and orange bitters to my normal Old Fashioned recipe and I’d be onto a surefire hit, right?

Here is the bit where, ordinarily, something goes horrifically wrong. Something spontaneously combusts, or my eyebrows catch on fire, or – worse still – I end up with something completely undrinkable. I am used to this. Hell, I was prepared for it. So I was almost disappointed when…nothing happened. And my taste testers agreed I’d made something sophisticated ‘that you’d get in a real bar’.

I tried again, this time using rye whisky, and got an even better result: the kind of cocktail that would be at home in a gentleman’s club, smooth, deep and full of intriguing flavours that border on the exotic.

All that was left to do was think of a name. Even that was easy; I’d used rye and whisky interchangeably, and thus The Interchange was born. As far as creating my own cocktails goes, I’d say this is one of the most successful – indeed, no one got poisoned…

INGREDIENTS

60ml rye or regular whisky

15ml sugar syrup

10-15ml cardamom vodka (you can use more or less to taste)

3-6 dashes orange bitters

GLASS

Old-fashioned

METHOD

Quarter-fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. Add half the whisky and stir until the glass is frosty. Add a few more ice cubes and the remaining ingredients and stir  until the glass is frosty again.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

So easy you’ll think something’s gone terribly, terribly wrong.

RECIPE BY

This one’s by the 52 Cocktails crew, with thanks to Sugar Ray and Lonely Planet for the inspiration.

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Madison Avenue

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At the height of Mad Men fever, the words Madison Avenue conjured up images of a sultry Don Draper sipping whiskey for breakfast (what a champ) or a polished, poised Joan saying, ‘Excuse me?’ through ever-so-slightly-pursed lips whenever she’d been wronged. Chances are she’d have liked a drink in those moments, too – something as sophisticated as her, perhaps, such as this Madison Avenue cocktail.

It’s a clean, crisp drink with a good balance of sweet, tart and sassiness, suitable as a pick-me-up after a long day in an alcohol-free office (the horror!) or as a classy start to a summer drinks party.

INGREDIENTS

45ml white rum

20ml Cointreau

15ml fresh lime juice

dash of orange bitters

3-5 mint leaves

additional mint sprig (to garnish)

lime wheel (to garnish)
GLASS

Rocks glass
METHOD

Add all the ingredients except the garnishes to a shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake like you’re furious with rage at the inequality of the workplace but you can’t show it ’cause it’s the ’60s and you might lose your job. Strain into a rocks glass that’s half-filled with ice, garnish with the mint sprig and lime wheel and hope like hell the boss doesn’t catch you drinking at work again.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Much, much easier than being a woman in the ’60s.
RECIPE BY
Madison Avenue is in New York (and, according to Google, it is also in Dandenong, though we’d wager that one’s not quite as glamorous). The Madison Avenue cocktail recipe is in The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

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Millionaire’s Moscato

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Simple, elegant and sophisticated, the classic Champagne cocktail is a cinch to make: add a few drops of Angostura bitters to a sugar cube, pop it into a Champagne flute, add 30ml brandy and top with Champagne. Easy, right? But, this being 52 Cocktails, we just had to adulterate the recipe, partly out of curiosity and partly because we’re tight-arsed and there is no way we’re going to use actual Champagne in a cocktail unless someone else is paying. And so, here you can see what look like a pair of classic Champagne cocktails (though you’d be forgiven for thinking the one on the right is a Berocca in a glass of apple juice), but they’re actually a couple of Millionaire’s Moscatos. Here’s how to make em.

MILLIONAIRE’S MOSCATO 1

This is the one on the right hand side of the picture. It’s got a slightly medicinal taste and would be most at home in a 1950’s style cigar-smoke-filled men’s club.

MILLIONAIRE’S MOSCATO 2

Obviously this is the one on the left side of the picture. It’s sweet and fruity and easy to drink. It’s a great way to kick off a party. Speaking of which, it’s New Year’s Eve – happy 2016, and thanks for reading these posts throughout the year. May your new year bring you happiness, cocktails aplenty and a new liver. Now, where was I? Oh yes. The method for making these two cocktails is the same, it’s only the ingredients that differ. Try them both and have a very happy New Year indeed.

INGREDIENTS – MILLIONAIRE’S MOSCATO 1

Sugar cube

Angostura Bitters – original

30ml brandy

Chilled Moscato (go ahead and use Champagne if you’d rather…and send a case our way, too!)

INGREDIENTS – MILLIONAIRE’S MOSCATO 2

Sugar cube

Angostura Orange Bitters

30ml apricot brandy

Chilled Moscato

GLASS

Champagne flute

METHOD

Add about 10 drops of bitters to the sugar cube. Drop it into the glass. Add the brandy and top up with Moscato.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

As easy as toasting your fellow cocktail drinkers on NYE – cheers!

RECIPES BY

We can’t really take credit for the bastardised recipe that is the Millionaire’s Moscato 1 – but we’ll happily claim we invented the Millionaire’s Moscato 2.

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New 1920 Cocktail

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I’ve often thought it would be great to travel back to the 1920s. All those glamorous cocktail parties! Flapper dresses! Racy new dances! Men in dapper suits! Sneaking into speakeasies past midnight! It’d be absolutely copacetic!

At least, that’s what history’s rose-tinted glasses would have you believe. And yet the 1920s were also when Prohibition kicked in and the Wall Street crash led to the Great Depression.

Maybe it’s best to revisit the past via a cocktail book instead; it’s cheaper, and doesn’t rely on having a time machine, for a start. Plus, it gives me a great excuse to show off one of my best-ever op shop finds: a copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book, bought for $2 in near-mint condition and now very much a prized possession. I’ve read so much about this book in other cocktail books, and now that I have a copy (and did I mention it was only $2?) I can see why. It’s beautifully illustrated, many of the recipes are classics that bars are still serving today (though I do wonder about some of the measurements, as some recipes call for ‘a glass of gin’), and the writing is refreshing and lively, just as a good cocktail should be. In short, if you ever see a copy, BUY IT – especially if it’s only $2 – and let it transport you to another era.

NEW 1920 COCKTAIL

Presumably this cocktail, which is basically a riff on a Manhattan with rye and orange bitters, was created in the 1920s; there’s no preamble to the recipe in The Savoy Cocktail Book. And yet, here in Australia, orange bitters have only become widely available in the past few years, as far as I know. Interesting, thinking a recipe that was served at the Savoy Hotel in London in the 1920s could only be easily made in Australia post-2000. What the hell else has the land Down Under been missing out on for all these years?! It’s enough to drive me to drink! Luckily, the New 1920 Cocktail is at hand…

The Savoy Cocktail Book lists the recipe as follows:

1 dash orange bitters

1/4 French vermouth

1/4 Italian Vermouth

1/2 Canadian Club whisky

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

52 Cocktails interpreted this as:

INGREDIENTS

1 dash orange bitters (we used Angostura orange bitters)

15ml Noilly Prat

15ml Cinzano Rosso

30ml Wild Turkey Rye whisky (as we didn’t have any Canadian Club, and they’re both rye-based so we figured it’d be OK)

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake it, hard. As The Savoy Cocktail Book‘s author Harry Craddock says in the foreword, ‘Shake the shaker as hard as you can: don’t just rock it: you are trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!’

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Now that Angostura Orange Bitters are stocked at most Dan Murphy’s stores, this one’s a doozy.

RECIPE BY

This recipe is from The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock (first published 1930 by Constable & Co; this edition published 1987 by Spring Books)

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