Category Archives: vodka

Suzy Wong


It’s the end of a languid, sticky day in sultry Shanghai; the barest of breezes lures you to the balcony of an art deco bar. There, leaning on the railing to watch the sunset, is a gorgeous woman in a skin-tight, hot pink cheong sam, her hair set in gentle waves that frame her face as she brings a cocktail to her lips…

At least, that’s how I imagine the real Suzy Wong, if there ever was one*. And that’s certainly how the drink makes you feel: as if you’ve been transported back in time to the heady heydays of the 1920s, when you’d luxuriate in the sensual elegance of a sophisticated cocktail and the equally sophisticated company of an incredibly tempting woman.

This is a drink that’s as beautiful to look at as it is to taste; full-flavoured yet delicate, with just the right balance of sweet and tart, it’s a refreshing, fruit-forward classic that you just can’t get enough of.

Prepare to be seduced by Suzy Wong.


45ml citrus vodka (I used Absolut Mandarin)

5ml lime juice

5ml sugar syrup

45ml watermelon juice, strained




Half-fill a mixing glass with ice. Pour all ingredients in and stir until both the drink and you are feeling nicely chilled. Strain into the glass and let the night begin.


This one’s in Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).

*In The World of Suzie Wong, the 1957 novel by Richard Mason that I assume inspired this drink, our heroine is actually a hooker. Ah well. Close enough.


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Vesper Martini


If you’re looking for an elegant way to kickstart your night, try a Vesper Martini. It’s the drink ordered by James Bond in Casino Royale, and it’s a gamble with a great payoff: it tastes like a lighthearted martini but it’s got enough vrrroom to fuel a whole night out.


50ml gin (I used Tanqueray)

15ml vodka

10ml Lillet Blanc

lemon twist, to garnish


Coupe, chilled


Half-fill a mixing glass with ice, then add the liquids and stir* well until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the lemon twist.

*Yes, yes, Bond asks for his to be shaken, not stirred, but martini purists insist he is wrong and I am inclined to agree – a martini should be stirred. For more about this, check out Martini by Frank Moorhouse – part essay, part love letter to what is probably the world’s most famous – and famously debated over – cocktail.


This version appears in one of my very favourite cocktail books, Ten Cocktails: the art of convivial drinking by Alice Lascelles (Saltyard Books, 2015). It’s a delicious read about – you guessed it – ten cocktails; the stories behind them, the author’s personal experiences with them, the history of the spirits they contain, and all manner of interesting trivia. Recipes are also included (spoiler alert: despite the title, there are more than ten recipes). If you like thinking about what you’re drinking, this is the book for you.

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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!


42 Flying Mules, or, This is Gonna Hurt

42 flying mules

If you ever encounter 42 flying mules you will quite possibly get hurt, what with the kicking of legs and the beating of wings and the fact that you’ve probably taken a mind-altering substance that makes you hallucinate such things in the first place.

If you ever encounter a cocktail that bears the same name you will most definitely get hurt; the chilli in it is real ring-of-fire stuff, from the lip burn as you drink it to the, er, other kind. It’s based on a Moscow Mule (an easy-drinking blend of lime, vodka and ginger beer), but it’s so hot it’s like there’s no ice in the glass. Where a Moscow Mule is a great way to cool down in summer, this is a good way to warm up in winter.

There are two ways to make this drink; the first is as per the recipe, which results in a more refined, slightly less spicy drink – the original 42 Flying Mules. The second is the way I make it, which results in a drink with bits of chilli and mint floating in it and a lot of kick (hence the alternative name – the This is Gonna Hurt). I suppose you could use less chilli, or at least a milder a chilli, but where’s the fun in that?!


1/2 lime

6 mint leaves

1/2 large (finger-length) Thai chilli, sliced

30ml sake

30ml vodka

10ml lemon juice

ginger beer

mint sprig, to garnish (optional)


The original recipe calls for a highball glass. This will hold quite a bit of ginger beer, which will help to dilute the heat from the chilli. I used a tumbler so that the flavours would not be so diluted. (Plus, this follows a long-standing 52 Cocktails tradition to make Moscow Mules in a tumbler, using twice as much vodka and half as much ginger beer as you’re supposed to use, which results in a drink that’s delightfully named a Russian Headfuck.)


Chop the lime into quarters. Muddle lime, mint and chilli in a shaker. Add the sake, vodka and lemon juice, plus a good handful of ice. Shake it hard. Strain into a highball glass, top with ginger beer and garnish with a mint sprig.


Juice the lime. Muddle lime juice, mint and chilli in a tumbler. Half-fill the tumbler with ice. Add the sake, vodka, lemon juice and ginger beer and stir gently.


Making this drink – using either method – is easy. Drinking it can be a bit of a challenge!


The Cocktail – 200 Fabulous Drinks by Jane Rocca (Hardie Grant Books, 2005) includes this hot little number.


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The Interchange



‘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…


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




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.


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


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

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In Watermelon Sugar


I wasn’t really sure what to call this cocktail, invented one day when I was desperate for some fruit but also really needed a drink. ‘Watermelon Wonder’ seemed obvious enough as it contains watermelon juice and was made after I’d spent some time wondering what the hell I was going to do with a 5kg watermelon a house guest had kindly given me. But ‘Watermelon Wonder’ sounds like it belongs at a juice bar (or on a menu written by someone with no imagination) and really, this tastes much better than ‘Watermelon Wonder’ sounds.

Lots of bartenders reckon part of the fun of inventing cocktails is naming them, which is possibly why Melbourne vodka bar After the Tears has a cocktail called ‘Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.’ I’ve always liked that name and recently discovered it’s a quote from Monty Python, which made me wonder if I could just use a quote to name this refreshing watermelon drink.

And so I went with the most obvious choice – no, not ‘nice melons,’ which I’m sure is a quote from a trashy teen movie, but In Watermelon Sugar, named after the excellent 1968 novella by Richard Brautigan, which features the creepily prescient name iDEATH. Which, now I think of it, would also make a great cocktail name…


About 1/2 highball glass watermelon juice (you can make this by whizzing chunks of watermelon in a blender)

30ml mandarin vodka

90ml pineapple juice

mint and pineapple piece, to garnish




Chill all ingredients (if you store your watermelon and your pineapple juice in the fridge, they will already be cold enough to use.) Pour liquids into glass, stir to combine, then garnish.


So much easier to make than it is to name!


This one’s by 52 Cocktails, as is the next one. What? There’s another one? Yes, that is your reward for reading this far. Well done you. OK, so the next one is a great way to use up any leftover watermelon chunks. Half-fill a blender with cold watermelon chunks. Add a good slosh of Chambord and some Absolut Vanilla vodka. (Sorry folks, I didn’t measure this one so I can’t be any more accurate than that.) Blend everything together, pour into a highball glass and then demand everyone leave the house so you don’t have to share the resulting light, fluffy, sorbet-like, heavenly concoction that’s best eaten with a spoon and the knowledge that it’s 100% yours.



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Memories of Summer


Memories of Summer is so named because it tastes likes it was invented back in the good old days, when all kids had to play with were a couple of plastic dinosaurs and a vodka bottle. As the green dino is saying, it tastes of cinnamon, cherry blossoms and creamy soda; as the orange dino is thinking quietly to itself, if you can hear plastic dinosaurs talking you’ve had one drink too many.

Part of the appeal of this cocktail is that it can be made short and strong, or topped up with soda for a longer, more refreshing drink. Either way, it’ll help make your memories of summer good ones.



30ml peach vodka (we used house-made, yellow-peach-infused vodka; if you don’t have any, then Absolut Apeach will do fine)

15ml St Germain elderflower liqueur

15ml sugar syrup

10ml lime juice

5 drops Bittercube Cherry-Bark Vanilla bitters

soda, to top up (optional)


Tumblers are fine, though a short version of this drink would look better in a martini glass


Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except the soda. Shake like you’ve just run through the sprinkler on a stinking hot day. Strain into the glass; top with soda if you want a long drink.


The hardest part is making the peach vodka, as you have to let the fruit infuse for at least a month before using it. Can’t be arsed? Use store-bought, and perhaps garnish the glass with some peach slices so it at least looks like you made an effort.


Memories of Summer was proudly created by 52 Cocktails. The team would like to order a round at a bar just to see what happens, eg:

‘I’d like two Memories of Summer, please.’

‘Oh? Ah…well, we used to go to the beach…and sometimes we’d have barbecues…’



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Aussie Aussie Aussie!


A minty take on a classic lemon, lime and bitters, complete with a Big Pineapple and kitsch koala. Could it get more Aussie than this?

According to the good folks at Angostura, Australia is one of the world’s largest consumers of Angostura Bitters. This is partly because, although Australians have a well-earned reputation as big drinkers, the non-alcoholic lemon, lime & bitters is the go-to drink Down Under for designated drivers or those on a sobriety kick. (It’s possibly also partly because, until recently, you couldn’t easily buy any other types of bitters here). Apparently this refreshing drink is so Australian that if you order it another country, the bartender will just give you a blank look. And so it seemed like the perfect drink to serve at a party held in honour of an American friend who’d just received her Australian citizenship.

There was just one problem: it was non-alcoholic.

And, as a freshly minted Aussie, my friend was not.

And besides, Australian tradition dictates that you MUST drink at a party. Not drinking is unpatriotic – I’m sure that was in her citizenship oath. So I set out to put an alcoholic twist on the classic Aussie non-alcoholic drink – how very Australian.


Lemon, lime and bitters is a classic Aussie combo. Here’s my take on it – with mint added to the mix, and the glass rimmed in Angostura sugar. 

First and foremost I wanted to play up our nation’s love of lemon, lime and bitters. I also wanted to create something with visual appeal. And so I created Angostura sugar by adding enough Angostura bitters to white sugar so that the sugar turned pink, then used it to rim a glass. Then I added a patriotic “green and gold” theme to the mix, muddling 10 mint leaves and half a lime (for the green component) along with lemon juice (gold) and sugar syrup, chucking in 60ml of white rum and topping the lot with soda.
Oddly enough it was reminiscent of a Moscow Mule, and probably would have been great with ginger beer instead of soda. (If you’ve never had one, a Moscow Mule is really easy to make: pour 45 ml vodka and 15 ml lime juice into a highball glass that’s half-full of ice and top up with ginger beer. It’s the drink credited with making vodka popular in the United States and is possibly called a Moscow Mule because it gives the drinker a bit of a kick. The 52 Cocktails house version uses half as much ginger beer and double the vodka, and is fondly known as a Russian Headfuck.)

But this minty, citrusy creation wasn’t what I was after and it certainly wasn’t very Angostura-heavy; it wasn’t a riff on a lemon, lime and bitters at all. So I went back to basics, making a lemon, lime and bitters in an Angostura-sugar-rimmed glass and adding a shot of vodka (because nothing’s more Aussie than trying to get your unsuspecting friends drunk with some alcohol that they can’t even taste).


Lemon, lime and bitters in an Angostura-sugar-rimmed glass. Simple and refreshing.

Here’s how to make one:

First, run the rim of an old-fashioned glass over some lemon slices, then dip it in  Angostura sugar. Add a couple of big ice cubes, 20ml lime juice, 20ml lemon juice, 20ml sugar syrup, 4 dashes Angostura bitters (or more to taste) and 30-60ml vodka depending on how strong you want your drink. Give it a stir and top with soda. Yum.

It’s refreshing, easy to drink and easy to make; perfect for a hot Australian day.

Except that it was winter.

And so it was time to pull out the big guns – or at least, my Whip It! Cream Whipper.


Ooh yeah baby. When a problem comes along, you must whip it.

Apparently these things are great for making whipped cream and desserts and mousse and things, but in 52 Cocktails Land it’s used for one thing and one thing only: making foams for cocktails. Yep, it was time to make lemon, lime and bitters foam, the easiest way I could think of to take the drink from summer to winter and from refreshing to elegant while possibly also getting egg whites to drip from my ceiling (as sometimes happens when I squirt the Whip It’s lever thingy too enthusiastically).


First, I rimmed the glass. I like to place three slices of citrus (in this instance I used lemon) on a flat surface, place the rim of the glass on top and rotate it a few times.

IMG_3671Next, I made the Angostura sugar by adding enough bitters to white sugar to turn the sugar pink. (I initially used sugar cubes doused in bitters and mashed them up with a muddler, then added more white sugar and kept mixing it all up until I had the consistency I wanted: chunky enough to look good, but with enough fine sugar to really stick to the glass and carry the flavour.)
IMG_3672 Then I rotated the glass in the sugar a few times…IMG_3674 Et voila, an Angostura-sugar-rimmed glass.

Next I made the drink.


Add one egg white, 15ml lemon juice, 15ml lime juice, 30ml sugar syrup and 4 dashes Angostura bitters to a cream whipper. Give it a shake and chill for an hour or longer (following the manufacturer’s instructions).


Add 20ml lemon juice, 20ml lime juice, 30ml sugar syrup, 4-6 dashes Angostura bitters and 50ml vodka to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it hard and strain into the glass, then add enough soda to half-fill the glass.

Top with the foam, following the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the cream whipper to dispense foam without getting it all over your kitchen.

IMG_3678Sprinkle with more Angostura sugar and there you have it – a sophisticated, alcoholic take on a classic non-alcoholic Australian drink.

We really DO do things upside-down here!

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