Tag Archives: cocktails

Blackthorn

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Ages ago I was given a neat little dark-blue tome called The Architecture of the Cocktail, which I snobbishly dismissed as a little more than a gimmick; the book’s illustrations are designed to look like blueprints, lending it a serious, mathematical vibe; there’s no warm, inviting photos; and at first glance it looks like one of those smugly superior books that’s mighty clever but irritating to follow.

I shelved it and thought I would never use it.

How wrong I was.

This has become one of my favourite cocktail books for precisely the reasons I initially disliked it. The recipes are easy to follow; the lack of photos means it hasn’t dated badly (the Savoy Cocktail Book doesn’t have photos, either); and the concise preamble to each cocktail is a joy to read.

In other words, it’s small, but it packs a punch. Just like the Blackthorn.

The Blackthorn takes the absinthe rinse of a Sazerac, marries it with the balanced, simple nature of a Manhattan, and then plays havoc with genetics, swapping the Manhattan’s rye whiskey for Irish and its sweet vermouth for dry. I don’t know if that makes it a lovechild or a bastard cousin of the aforementioned classic cocktails, but I figure it gives me a bit of leeway with it – at least, that’s my excuse for switching Irish whiskey for Scotch, and using the wrong glassware to boot.

No matter if you follow the original recipe or my off-plan one, if you like Sazeracs and Manhattans, you will love this strong, slightly bitter, anise-laced drink.

INGREDIENTS

2 dashes absinthe (I figured this meant half a teaspoon, but I’m sure some people would use less)

45ml Irish whiskey (I used Scotch and it still tasted good, but I’m keen to try it with Irish next time)

30ml dry vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

lemon peel, to garnish

GLASS

Cocktail glass, chilled (I used a chilled tumbler)

METHOD

Pour the absinthe into the glass and swirl it about gently so the absinthe coats the glass. Tip out any excess.

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the whiskey, vermouth and Angostura and stir well to combine. Strain into the glass. Gently peel a long piece of lemon peel (avoiding the pith) over the glass and drop it in to garnish.

RECIPE BY

I butchered this recipe, and it still worked. So here’s cheers to the original recipe, which appears in The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto (Harper Collins, 2013).

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Solerno Sunday

Weekends are made for lazy drinking, so when 52 Cocktails’ CTO (Cocktail Tasting Officer) challenged me to make something with an unfamiliar ingredient, I chose Solerno and simply Googled a recipe. Solerno is a blood orange liqueur made by the same clever people who produce Hendricks gin. It’s a light, summery drop that marries well with prosecco or soda, which is pretty much the only way I’ve ever drunk it, so it was perfect for this challenge. I picked two easy recipes from the Solerno website; here are the results.

SOLERNO SIDECAR

This one’s pictured above left.

INGREDIENTS

25ml Solerno

25ml Brandy or Cognac (I used Brandy)

20ml lemon juice

2 dashes orange bitters

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Shake all ingredients together with ice, then strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

TASTES LIKE

If you’ve ever had a classic Sidecar  you’ll be familiar with its smooth seductiveness, its zingy citrus tones, its ‘Oh come on, let’s have one more-ness’. Sadly, that is not so with the Solerno Sidecar. Although clearly based on the classic, this one tastes like there’s something a bit wrong with the recipe. Maybe it’s because we used brandy, not Cognac, although the recipe did say it was fine to do so. The flavours tasted slightly muddied; not muddy as in dirty, per se, but muddied as in confused. That clear-cut tone that makes a classic Sidecar a classic was missing. And the CTO detected a pithy note, which could be from the bitters, not the Solerno, but which stood out like a sore thumb. Either way, it made for a cocktail that you’d drink but not re-order if you were at a bar. But don’t lose heart! There’s a Solerno Sour just around the corner.

SOLERNO SOUR

See, I told you so. This one’s pictured above right.

INGREDIENTS

50ml Solerno

25ml lemon juice

10ml sugar syrup

1 dash Angostura bitters

2 dashes orange bitters

GLASS

Tumbler/Old fashioned

METHOD

Shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a glass that’s half-full of ice.

TASTES LIKE

This one’s loads better than the Solerno Sidecar, though I’m still not sure it shows off the Solerno to its full advantage. As you’d expect, it’s orange-y and sour-sweet, but with a slightly dark, pithy undertone that I didn’t object to. It’d be interesting to try this one without the orange bitters (to see what, exactly, is causing that flavour); maybe, when I’m not feeling quite so lazy, I will.

THE VERDICT

Maybe Solerno is not all that suited to mixed drinks; from the above experiences it seems it does not play well with others. Still, the Solerno website has heaps of recipes and I’m curious to see if any of them become firm favourites. But it’s no big deal if they don’t – for lazy weekend drinking there’s nothing wrong with sipping good old Solerno and soda!

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Mezcal Margarita

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According to bucketloads of experts, it’s hard to achieve anything in life unless you have a goal. This is probably why, every time a workplace performance review comes around, I am asked to set myself some ‘measurable and achievable’ goals. Apparently, ‘don’t get fired’ is not a good enough goal, despite how hard it can be to achieve, and ‘world domination’ is not achievable, so this year I have set myself a goal of trying to get better acquainted with tequila. It is both measurable and achievable so I’m not sure why my boss was so cross when I submitted it to her but at least I did not get fired (thereby achieving one of my previous goals. If I keep this up I might achieve world domination).

Often sold in comical, sombrero-wearing bottles, tequila has finally shrugged off its ‘one tequila, two tequila, three tequila floor’ reputation and is now where gin was a few years ago: deservedly enjoying a revival. (Thankfully, that revival has also led to it being sold in much better packaging, such as these beautiful bottles by Milagro.) I admit I’m late to the tequila trend but that’s largely because up until now I’ve been busy drinking gin instead. I also admit I know very little about tequila and even less about mezcal (you can read about the differences between them here), and what I’ve learned so far amounts to this:

  1. Tequila and mezcal are both made from agave plants. By law, tequila can be made only from a specific type of agave: blue agave. Mezcal, however, can be made from any agave. Therefore, all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.
  2. Tequila tends to be lighter than mezcal, which can be as smoky as a Scotch and kinda heavy on the palate. Which means, according to the bartenders at the Everleigh, that if you want to experiment with mezcal-based cocktails you might be better off using half mezcal and half tequila so the end result is not so overpowering. (This is what the Everleigh crew did when I asked, vaguely, for ‘Something with mezcal in it’ during my last visit – which was, of course, strictly for research purposes. How else do you expect me to achieve my goal?!)
  3. Any goal is more easily achieved with a visit to the Everleigh, aka my spiritual home, especially if that goal is to drink fabulous cocktails, such as the one below, which was inspired by their advice of mixing tequila and mezcal together.

MEZCAL MARGARITA

INGREDIENTS

Caster sugar and a wedge of lime, to rim the glass

25ml tequila

25ml mezcal

15ml mandarin vodka/triple sec/Cointreau

15ml freshly squeezed lime juice

30ml freshly squeezed orange juice

10ml sugar syrup

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Rub the wedge of lime around the rim of a cocktail glass, then dip it in a plate of caster sugar. Pop the glass into the freezer to chill.

Shake all other ingredients together in a shaker that’s half-full of ice. (Mandarin vodka or triple sec will add a nice high note of citrus to the drink, making it good for summer; Cointrea has a bit more depth and makes for a more interesting drink – and perhaps a bit better suited to cold weather.)

Strain into the glass and enjoy! Or don’t. That depends on whether your goal in life is to enjoy things or not…

TASTES LIKE

A much more mature margarita than the kind you used to get at Mexican family restaurants (shudder). The mezcal’s smokiness comes through nicely, but the citrus balances it out. It’s bright and refreshing, but definitely one to sip and savour, not quaff (unless drunkenness is your goal).

RECIPE BY

This recipe is loosely based on a Blood Orange Margarita recipe that appears in Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).

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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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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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El Diablo

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Devilishly easy to make and even easier to drink, El Diablo is a drink I put off making for a long time because (a) I bought some blackcurrant liqueur (Cassis) and then couldn’t remember which recipe I’d bought it for, so it sat forlornly in the fridge where it got mocked for being ‘adult Ribena’, and (b)I’m an idiot (see (a) for proof of this).

Then, while having lunch at Mamasita (a Mexican joint in Melbourne that, at the height of its fame, you had to queue for hours to get into), I tried this magical yet unlikely combination of blackcurrant liqueur, tequila and ginger beer and immediately knew I had to replicate it at home.

Mamasita’s looks way better than mine – they present theirs with half a spent lime shell filled with Cassis for you to add to the drink as you wish – but I think mine tastes just as good, and it’s less fiddly to serve. Lots of recipes call for a 2:1 ratio of tequila to Cassis (eg 60ml tequila and 30ml Cassis), but I found that was too blackcurrant-y, so I’ve adjusted the recipe a bit, going for a 3:1 ratio instead.

INGREDIENTS

45ml blanco tequila (we used Espolón)

15ml Cassis

lime wedge

ginger beer (we used Bundaberg)

GLASS

rocks

METHOD

Half-fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the tequila and cassis; squeeze the lime juice directly into the glass and drop the rind in, too. Top with ginger beer, stir gently and serve.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Easier than selling your soul to Satan. Not that we’d know from experience, of course…
RECIPE BY

52 Cocktails adapted this one from a bunch of other recipes. You can adjust the tequila-to-Cassis ratio as you see fit, add more lime or serve it in a long glass with more ginger beer to make it suit your own satanic purposes!

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The Bronx

Bronx 3THE BRONX

According to an ad campaign for boxing and sportswear brand Everlast, ‘Nothing soft comes out of the Bronx’. Logically this means there are no marshmallow makers or pillow factories in the Bronx, and that Everlast’s tracksuits are made of something really hard, such as iron, which sounds mighty uncomfortable but would at least stay wrinkle-free. It also means the Bronx’s namesake drink should be a bracing, in-your-face kind of deal, and given that it’s basically an adulterated martini you’d think it would at least taste super strong.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t. Sorry, Everlast, but the Bronx cocktail is mellow and refreshing, with orange juice providing a slight sweetness and vermouth adding a little earthy bitterness. The balance of ingredients make this drink a real knockout; you’ll want to go round for round on this one.
INGREDIENTS
45ml gin (I used Tanqueray)
30ml freshly squeezed orange juice (if you want a pulp-free drink, strain it through a wire tea strainer before using)
5ml sweet vermouth (I used Cinzano Rosso, which oddly enough doesn’t have the word ‘vermouth’ anywhere on the label)
5ml dry vermouth (I used Noilly Prat, which reasssuringly does have ‘vermouth’ on its label, in tiny letters on the back)
Orange peel, as garnish
GLASS
Coupe
METHOD
Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and stir slowly with a bar spoon for about 30 seconds/until the mixture is chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Using a vegetable peeler or knife, remove a strip of orange peel (avoiding the white pith) to use as a garnish. Twist this over the drink, so the essential oils will be released into it, then add the peel to the drink. (If you look closely you can actually see the oils dispersing when you add the peel to the drink. It’s a bit like conducting a really lame primary school science experiment, only a lot tastier.)
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
Can you squeeze an orange? Then you can make this drink. If you cannot squeeze an orange then I pity you, and store-bought juice will do.
RECIPE BY
This classic recipe appears in The Architecture of the Cocktail (Amy Zavatto, Harper Collins, 2013).
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The Godfather

Godfather

You’d think a cocktail involving only two ingredients would be straightforward but the Godfather has me more confused than an illiterate person trying to alphabetise a packet of M&Ms. According to several recipes I’ve read, a Godfather is simply Scotch whisky and Amaretto, poured over ice in an old-fashioned glass and stirred gently. Easy, yes? Yes. Which is why I tried it when I wanted a whisky-based cocktail that didn’t involve too much effort.

One recipe’s intro warned me that it was ‘supremely powerful’ and ‘demanded respect’ but what I tasted was rather lacklustre. I could barely taste the Amaretto (it was present only as a faint aftertaste) and the whisky tasted watered-down. Which led me to realise the intro was probably referring to the movie The Godfather, not the drink. I’ve never seen The Godfather but I understand it involves some Italians, some violence and a horse’s head. I guess the link with the drink is the Amaretto, an Italian liqueur, because as far as I can tell the drink is 100% horse-free – no foal play involved.

Apparently the Scots did not invent whisky – you can thank the Irish for that – and yet you can order a Scotch on the rocks but not an Irish on the rocks, which seems rather unfair.

Amaretto tastes of almonds despite being made from apricot pits.

And so The Godfather ends up being a drink that tastes of a whisky you can ask for using its generic regional name despite it not being the original version, with a little hint of an apricot-pit liqueur that tastes like marzipan. Confused yet? And to make things worse, it’s not even that good. If this is what they were drinking in The Godfather I’m not surprised they ended up shooting everyone on sight.

Maybe if I’d used a different/smokier whisky it would have been more impressive (I used Johnnie Walker because I don’t feel guilty using it in mixed drink, especially when I’m just experimenting). Maybe if I’d shaken the drink over ice and strained it into a glass, it wouldn’t taste so watered down. Maybe if I added lime…

So I added some lime juice, bunged the whole lot into a shaker and gave it good hard shake before straining it back into the glass. The result was a cross between wedding cake icing and toilet puck (too much lime?). Oh well, at least I’d learnt a few things: (a) shaking up this mixture ‘wakes up’ the Amaretto and brings its flavour forward, and (b) never f*ck with the Godfather.

GODFATHER 

INGREDIENTS

45ml Scotch whisky

15ml Amaretto

GLASS

Old-fashioned

METHOD

Half-fill the glass with ice. Add the whisky and Amaretto and stir gently.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Much easier than waking up with a horse’s head in the bed.

RECIPE BY

This version appears in Shaken: 250 Very Sexy Cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004). Other versions use equal parts Amaretto and whisky.

VARIATIONS

1) If you’d like to test my theory that shaking this drink makes the Amaretto more noticeable:

Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the whisky and Amaretto, shake and strain into a chilled tumbler.

2) If you want to know what a cross between toilet puck and marzipan tastes like (who doesn’t?):

Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the whisky, Amaretto and 15ml lime juice, shake and strain into a chilled tumbler.

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Pillar of the Community

Orange fizz 1

Once a upon a time, after too many cocktails (is there such a thing?) the night before, 52 Cocktails’ CEO (Cocktail Experimentation Officer) was nursing her poor sore head and wishing she had a hair of the dog to go with all the hairs of the cats she kept finding around the house.

Hmm, no, that’s not right.

She wanted a hair of the dog that bit her, even though she couldn’t recall actually biting a dog the night before because she was too hungover. Who goes around biting dogs, anyway?

That doesn’t sound right either.

What she actually wanted was a Buck’s Fizz, that classic brunch drink that can start a hangover or cure (well, alleviate) one. She brightened almost immediately at the thought. ‘Just pour Champagne and orange juice into a Champagne glass,’ she thought to herself, ‘and you’re done.’

Imagine her horror, then, when she discovered the Champagne cellar was dry.

Imagine her horror at discovering the Champagne cellar was actually a laundry with a few boxes of wine in it, and you’ve got inspiration for a new version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Anyway.

Once she’d got over her horror, she concocted something that was vaguely inspired by a Gin Fizz and could pass as something similar to a Buck’s Fizz if you’d never had one before, in that it contained orange juice and something fizzy. She chose to use Four Pillars gin as it’s made with oranges and she figured that would marry well with the orange juice. It worked: 52 Cocktails’ CTO (Chief Tasting Officer) called it ‘perfumed and ambrosial’ and said it was ‘floral, and reminds me of orange blossom water.’

PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY

You’ll look like a pillar of the community with this drink in your hand, as its light, floral scent disguises the fact it contains a shot of gin.

INGREDIENTS

30ml Four Pillars gin

30ml orange juice

20ml sugar syrup

soda, to top up

GLASS

Champagne flute

METHOD

Add all ingredients except soda to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake until icy cold, strain into a Champagne flute and top with soda.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Much easier than putting up with a hangover.

RECIPE BY

52 Cocktails

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Cadenhead’s Charlie Chaplin

Cadenhead Charlie Chaplin

Last week, 52 Cocktails banged on about Cadenhead’s Sloe Gin. A while before that, we featured the Charlie Chaplin. And today, because we’re feeling really lazy, we’ve mashed the two together to create…ta da!…

CADENHEAD’S CHARLIE CHAPLIN

This is a modern variation on the classic Charlie Chaplin cocktail, which quite possibly makes it a whole new drink that deserves a much more imaginative title. Let us know if you think of one…we can’t be arsed.

INGREDIENTS

45ml Cadenhead’s sloe gin

15ml apricot brandy

15ml sugar syrup

10ml lime juice

GLASS

Cocktail glass

METHOD

Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake while thinking up a new name for this drink. Strain into the glass, pop the new name into the comments section below, and drink.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Thinking up a name for this cocktail is way, way harder than actually making it.

RECIPE BY

52 Cocktails

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