Category Archives: vanilla vodka

Gin Palace



Ah, to live in a palace made of gin, afloat on giant ice cubes in a sea of tonic water, where cocktails were coloured by the tears of rainbow-hued unicorns …

Ah, to stop with such nonsense and make yourself a drink …

The term ‘gin palace’ harks back to 1820s England. Before then, gin shops were just that; small places that sold gin to either take away or drink standing up within the establishment. Legislation changed, and the gin shops had to also be able to sell ale or wine, which meant they had to get bigger. Meanwhile, fashionable new shops with lavish fit-outs and gas lamps were becoming popular; they had gorgeous displays and were manned by staff behind numerous counters. It wasn’t long before the gin shops followed suit, with ornate decor and counters for their staff to stand behind. In the late 1820s they were known as gin palaces, and although apparently none of the original palaces are still around, they have left a lasting legacy; their old-fashioned counters are the modern-day bars you see in pubs and cocktail lounges.

Melbourne’s Gin Palace opened in 1997 (well before gin became trendy again), and has been serving up gin and good times in equal measure ever since. It’s a lavish yet somewhat grungy laneway bar, the kind of comfortable, welcoming place where you might drop in for just one drink and emerge several hours (or days) later. It’s exactly the kind of gin palace you could imagine living in, though they don’t have rainbow-hued unicorns (yet).

Apart from their names, what the cocktail and the bar have in common is that they’re a sophisticated yet easily approachable way to kick off a big night – or end one. The cocktail is sweetly reminiscent of berries and ice cream, but the gin stops it from being overly cloying. You can make this using quaffing gin and sparkling wine, but if you really want to capture that palatial feeling, go all out and use your fanciest gin and Champagne, dahling. Mwah!


15ml gin

15ml blackberry liqueur or cassis (which is blackcurrant liqueur, and still delicious)

10ml vanilla liqueur (or good-quality vanilla vodka, such as Absolut Vanilia)

Champagne or sparkling wine

Blueberries to garnish, if desired


Champagne flute, chilled


Pour the gin and liqueurs (or their substitutes) into a chilled Champagne flute, then top up slowly with the bubbly. Garnish with the blueberries, if you like, or sip as is.


The Gin Palace cocktail recipe comes from Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).


Pretty in Pink


This cocktail is so easy it’s almost embarrassing. And, since its main ingredient is watermelon, it’s embarrassingly healthy, too.


A good chunk of watermelon, roughly chopped and seeds removed, chilled

30ml flavoured vodka – your choice of vanilla-, raspberry- or strawberry-infused

Mint leaf, for garnish


Your fanciest coupe, chilled


Blitz the watermelon in a blender until it’s all slushy. Fine-strain into the glass. You don’t want any ‘bits’ in this drink. Add the vodka, stir gently, garnish and serve.


A sweet end to a glorious summer’s day.


52 Cocktails, who recommend keeping a huge jug of watermelon juice in the fridge so you can top up whenever you need to – just add vodka!


Grand Pagoda


Confession time: I fell in love with foamy cocktails at Potato Head Beach Club in Bali a few years ago and, despite them being oh-so-last-decade now, I still love them. A good one is like dessert in a glass, a textural wonderland of creamy, cloud-like topping leading to a sometimes sweet, sometimes tart, always refreshing cocktail below. A good foam-topped cocktail is a cheat’s way of getting two cocktails for the price of one, since you get two different experiences (and sometimes flavours) as you drink your way through the layers. A good one is heaven.

A bad one is hell.

A lot of foams are made from egg white, so, at their worst, a bad foam-topped cocktail is basically a mess of raw meringue topping that stinks of egg and goes droopy and gloopy before you’ve even got to the cocktail hiding in shame below. At their worst at home, a bad foam-topped cocktail is all of that AND it’s hard to clean the foam that’s gone all over the kitchen as you’ve accidentally pressed the lever on the foaminator too hard and it’s sprayed further than a pack of alley cats on heat. Which is what happened the first time I used my foaminator (aka whipped-cream charger) to make cocktail foam (thank you, 52 Cocktails CTO for the thoughtful gift. Sorry about the mess. Honestly, I think egg-white stalactites are the latest trend in home interiors…). Seriously, they look easy to use, as per Jamie Boudreau’s how-to video (although he could make apologising for meringue-inating the house look easy), but if you’ve never used one before I suggest you practise outside until you’ve got the hang of it. Preferably in someone else’s garden.

Alternatively, you could just cheat, and make a cocktail that uses pineapple juice, since shaking pineapple juice produces a pretty decent foam. This is due to something involving molecules and science, the upshot being that pineapple juice foam is admittedly not as strong as a foam made in a foaminator but is still strong enough to be called a foam, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

The Grand Pagoda is a good example of a cheat’s foam-topped cocktail, and the science-lovers among you (come on, with that hugely helpful scientific explanation in that last paragraph I just know you’re still reading) might like to conduct the same experiment I did, to see just how foamy the juice can get depending on what it’s shaken with (yep, Saturday nights are a real blast at my place).

First up, I made a Grand Pagoda, which looked like this:


It was made using the original recipe, which is below. The foam was pretty good and the drink beneath was a nice muted ruby colour. Overall, the taste was good, too – quite sharp, dry-ish and minerally despite the drink looking sweet.

Next up, I made what I’ve since dubbed a Grand Pagoda Party. I wanted to make enough drinks for four people but of course that much liquid would not fit in a shaker. So I shook all the ingredients except pineapple juice together and poured them into glasses, then shook the pineapple juice and poured it over the top. The result (pictured at the very top of this long, nonsensical ramble) was actually better. The foam was stronger, the colours were brighter and you could just differentiate between the flavour of the foam and the flavour of what lay beneath. I still wasn’t 100% sold on the drink, though. I think it was the taste of the sake coming through that I didn’t really like; it stood out too much, demanding attention instead of blending nicely with the other ingredients.

And so, onto experiment no.3:


What would happen, I wondered, if I used vanilla vodka instead of sake? The result was a sweet, dessert-like drink in which all the flavours played well together. It instantly reminded me of lollies (perhaps it was just the colour, but I thought of Redskins – Australia has terribly racist food) and thus I named it the Candy Pagoda. I think it’s the best one of the bunch – you could say the others just foam it in.


45ml sake

15ml creme de cassis

7ml lime juice

75ml pineapple juice

The above ingredients will make a Grand Pagoda.

If you’re making a Grand Pagoda Party, multiply the above ingredients by however many guests you have.

If you’d prefer to try a Candy Pagoda, use 45ml vanilla vodka instead of the sake.


Tumbler, cocktail or coupe – whatever takes your fancy!


For a Grand Pagoda or a Candy Pagoda, combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake hard and strain into your preferred glass.

For a Grand Pagoda Party, multiply the ingredients by however many guests you have*. Combine all the ingredients except the pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake hard and strain into your preferred glass(es). Rinse the shaker and refill it with ice. Add the pineapple juice and shake hard. Strain over the top of the ruby-red liquid that’s already in each glass. You should end up with a vibrant red cocktail topped with a good head of foam.

*Within reason, of course. I multiplied by 4; that much fluid fits neatly into a cocktail shaker. If your party is 300-people strong, you might want to consider making a bathtub of punch instead.

Note: the original recipe calls for a garnish of dried coconut shavings and a maraschino cherry. Whichever method/recipe you use, the pineapple juice should create a thick foam so that you can sprinkle the coconut on top. I decided not to bother, but I bet it would look pretty!


Way easier than using a foaminator.


The original recipe appears in Asian Cocktails – Creative Drinks Inspired by the East by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle, 2009).

Tagged , , ,

Mandarin Dream


I don’t know if mandarins dream but I bet that if they do, they dream of being mixed with luscious vanilla and heady cinnamon to create this aromatic cocktail.

It’s sweet and citrusy and, if you use top-quality cinnamon, its scent will blow you away. We used A-grade cinnamon from Gewurzhaus, a spice specialty shop that manages to evoke a Moroccan souk or Turkish bazaar despite its Germanic name and position in the middle of Melbourne.

Speaking of Melbourne, this drink suits all the seasons you might experience in a typical day here. Melbourne is famous for having four seasons in one day (indeed, sometimes in one hour), and the Mandarin Dream is light enough for summer but complex enough to brighten up a grey day, too. It’s based on the recipe for Dale’s Orangesicle, which is in The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter, 2002). The original recipe calls for orange vodka; I used Absolut Mandarin instead, because that’s what I had on hand. Sorry, Dale!


3/4 oz Absolut Mandarin

3/4 oz Absolut Vanilla

3/4 oz Cointreau

1 1/2 oz fresh orange juice

pinch of top-quality cinnamon, to garnish


Dale uses a highball, but we used a tumbler. The tumbler’s broader surface area allows the cinnamon to spread more evenly.


Add all the ingredients except the cinnamon to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Strain into a tumbler that’s half-full of ice. Dust lightly with cinnamon.


The hardest part is not snorting the cinnamon while sipping the drink!


This one’s by 52 Cocktails, with thanks to Dale DeGroff for the original recipe.

Tagged , , ,

Strawberries and Dream


You know that phrase “dance like no one’s watching”? Sometimes I make cocktails like no one’s watching. No consultation of the ever-growing collection of cocktail books. No sniffing a handful of open bottles to try to decide what will combine well together. And no fancy shake-n-strain techniques; I just chuck a few random ingredients into the blender and hope for the best. Shocking, I know, but true.

Sometimes, it works really well.
Sometimes, it’s like a superfood smoothie; you know it contains things that are good for you, ie alcohol, but it looks and tastes disgusting.

The Strawberries and Dream falls into the first category. It’s a bit like really, really good strawberry ice cream (the kind made with real strawberries, not that fake pink stripe you get in a tub of Neapolitan). 52 Cocktails’ CTO says it’s sophisticated, not overly sweet, and “should be served on a yacht, not from a Mr Whippy van.”

I couldn’t get an accurate photo of it – the colour is somewhere in between the above and below photos – so when you make it, send me a snapshot of yours, please. You can trick it up to impress your friends (see Method, below) or just make it like no one’s watching.


30ml Chambord
45ml vanilla vodka (we used Absolut Vanilia)
30ml coconut cream
3/4 cup strawberries, hulled and halved
Lime and some caster sugar for rimming the glass

If no one’s watching you, use a regular rocks glass. You could even drink straight from the blender jug while wearing pajamas if you want to.

If someone’s watching you, a fancy or frivolous works well for this.

If no one’s watching you:
Pour some caster sugar onto a plate. Rub the lime around the rim of the glass and dunk it in the sugar.
Chuck everything in the blender with a handful of ice and blend until it looks like a superfood smoothie.
Carefully pour the blended mixture into the glass (avoiding the sugar-coated rim, of course) and drink like no one’s watching you.

If someone’s watching you:
How the hell did this person watching you get into your kitchen?! Go and check if the front door’s locked. OK, so it turns out they were invited? Then let’s give em a show.
Slice a lime into three rounds and place them, flat side up, on a plate.
Pour some caster sugar onto another plate.
Turn a glass upside down and place the rim onto the lime slices. Give it a few twists, then place it in the sugar and give it a twist to help the sugar adhere. Do it with a confident flourish!
Next, make it look as hard as possible to create this masterpiece. Things taste better if it looks like you made an effort, even if all you’re doing is basically making an alcoholic smoothie. Use tongs to place the ice cubes one by one into the blender; slowly measure the liquid ingredients; be very choosy about which strawberries you deign to use. You get the idea.
Double strain the blended mixture into the glass and serve.

The hardest part is making this look hard to make.

Proudly created by 52 Cocktails.

Tagged , , , ,

Indus Colada


Potato Head Beach Club in Bali make a dreamy, creamy, heavenly cocktail called the Indus Nesos. It’s so good that I can remember the first time I drank it – and that was several years ago. Given that most nights spent in bars end with some kind of memory loss, that’s a hell of a drink.
The 52 Cocktails crew visited the bar recently and foolishly didn’t order one, so this week I thought I’d try making one at home. Then all I’d need is a huge C-shaped structure built out of colourful old window shutters surrounding a vast lawn and swimming pool overlooking the ocean and it would be just like drinking at Potato Head. Easy. Oh, and I’d also need the recipe, and some sunny weather, and a crowd of good-looking people swanning about wouldn’t hurt, either…
Luckily, the menu is on their website and helpfully describes the drink as containing vanilla vodka, vanilla-infused arak (the local rice liquor), apricot brandy, coconut cream and lychee puree, blended and served long. It’s practically a recipe, I thought rather arrogantly as I read it, so, despite not having any arak in the house, it shouldn’t be too hard to re-create. I’ll just double the vanilla vodka content or add some brandy or something. That’ll do.
What was I saying before about drinking and memory loss? I forget. But I know that a list of ingredients does not a recipe make, and – oh yeah, I remember now – I know that I went out to buy some lychees and forgot to get them, so I had to improvise. Long story short, I used pineapple juice instead of lychee puree and ended up with something that tasted like a cross between an Indus Nesos and a pina colada – not a bad thing at all, though next time I will try making it with the correct ingredients to see if it’s closer to the drink I remember. It’s not very strong but it is a super thick, rich drink – serve it with a spoon so you can scoop the foam up off the top. And if you’re ever in Bali, go to Potato Head and order the real thing so you can compare them!

Serves 4 if you use tumblers, or 2 if you use Collins glasses. I find the coconut cream so rich that I only want a small amount, so I prefer to divide the mix among 4 tumblers.

60ml vanilla vodka (I used Absolut, but if you have a house-infused one, go for it)
45ml apricot brandy (I used a homemade one)
90ml coconut cream
30ml Solerno (a delicious blood orange liqueur; if you can’t get it, use Cointreau)
30ml sugar syrup
5 drops Fee Bros peach bitters
250 ml pineapple juice

Tumbler or Collins

Chuck everything in a blender with a handful of ice cubes and blend away. Pour into whichever glasses you’re using and sip while pretending you’re somewhere tropical.

It’s a lot harder than ordering an Indus Nesos at the bar, but at least you don’t have to pay the airfare.

This one’s brought to you by the forgetful folk at 52 Cocktails. Who are you again?!

Tagged , , , ,