Tag Archives: vodka

Suzy Wong

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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.

INGREDIENTS

45ml citrus vodka (I used Absolut Mandarin)

5ml lime juice

5ml sugar syrup

45ml watermelon juice, strained

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

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.

RECIPE BY

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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Mandarin Dream

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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!

INGREDIENTS

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

GLASS

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

METHOD

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.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

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

RECIPE BY

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

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In Watermelon Sugar

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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…

INGREDIENTS

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

GLASS

Highball

METHOD

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.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

So much easier to make than it is to name!

RECIPE BY

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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Aussie Aussie Aussie!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

FOAM

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).

COCKTAIL

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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