John the Revelator + coffee infused bourbon.

Who’s that writing?

John the Revelator.

I’ve recently become very fond of the combination of Suze and Amaro Montenegro. The marriage of the gentian bitterness of the Suze and the sweetness of the Montenegro play a great supporting role to quite a few base spirits – which I’m slowly working through to identify particularly good candidates. One that was really a revelation was some coffee infused bourbon that I’d made as an experiment and hadn’t yet found a home for. Time out while we make some of that:

Coffee infused bourbon.

I was very pleased with the way my tea infused rum turned out and a logical progression was to turn to coffee. Could we pull off a similar trick with that? Coffee is, of course, bitter, so a spirit with a little natural sweetness was the logical choice. And we’d already done rum so bourbon was going to be the way to go. The good news is that this is even easier. Put 300ml (10oz) of bourbon whisky in a clean jar. Fill a 2oz (60ml) jigger with whole dark roasted coffee beans and chuck them in the jar too. Wait 3 hours, shaking or stirring a few times if possible. Strain. Done. See told ya it was easy. Now what was I writing?

John the Revelator.

So 2 parts of our coffee bourbon and a part each of Suze and Montenegro is getting pretty close to something good. If I have a weakness it’s firing a couple of dashes of orange bitters at everything I see but, as usual, it seems to tie the whole room the other ingredients together. Stir with ice yada, yada, yada – you know what to do by now. The name? Well what was playing on the stereo?


John the Revelator*.

1.5oz / 45ml coffee infused bourbon (see text).

0.75oz / 22ml Suze.

0.75 / 22ml Amaro Montenegro.

2 dashes of orange bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a chunk (or ball) of clear ice. Can also be served “up”. Garnish with an orange twist.

Toast Blind Willie Johnson or any of the thousands of others who sang about this cocktail.


*He wrote the book of the seven seals.

 

 

 

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Spanish Dancer.

Do your dance, do your dance, do your dance quick.

Spanish Dancer.

The Spanish Dancer is a subtle Daiquiri variation designed to be a minimum effort cocktail to make while on holiday. When you’re kicking back catching some rays outside your Spanish villa the last thing you want to be doing is going to all that effort to make some simple syrup so I cast a net [ouch!] a bit wider and snagged a bottle of the super sweet Spanish Licor 43. It’s one of the sweeter liqueurs so you can use it at the same ratio as 1:1 syrup and as an added bonus you get a kick of vanilla and some other spices to add a little complexity. However Cuarenta y Tres, as it’s also known, is tricksy stuff and doesn’t mix well with just any spirit but if used with a light touch (and preferably a dash of Angostura) it mixes quite nicely with any dry Spanish style rum. Which is quite handy as when you’re on vacation your choice of rums can be limiting but wherever you roam a bottle of such a nice dry gold rum should be readily available with the likes of Havana Club, Brugal, Abuelo, Matusalem, Bacardi 8, Don Q and Flor De Cana all being suitable candidates. Look, the Spanish Dancer certainly isn’t the best drink I’ve ever come up with but it’s one of the easiest, which is the whole point. It also batches up easily, doesn’t need a garnish, it’s great in hot weather, it isn’t too fussy about glassware and it’s relatively forgiving of small errors. Word up!


Spanish Dancer.

2oz / 60ml Spanish style gold rum.

0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 15ml Licor 43 (aka Cuarenta y Tres).

1 dash of Angostura bitters (optional, but recommended).

Shake with ice and strained into a chilled champagne coupé – or a chilled wine glass, small tumbler etc. Can also be served on the rocks or even with a splash of soda.

Toast Carmen Amaya (1918 – 1963).


 

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Mojito.

Mr Mojo Risin’

Mojito.

I owe the mighty Mojito an eternal debt of gratitude. For (around these parts at least) it was the Mojito craze of the 1990s that kick-started the cocktail revival. Indeed the Mojito was my introduction to the world of “proper” cocktails at Amsterdam’s Cafe Cuba*. I’m not sure they were technically the best Mojitos ever but they made me realise there were more things to drink than just beer and whisky. And here we are.

You can consider the Mojito to be simply a lengthened minted Daiquiri but that doesn’t really to it justice as if you look at the Mojito just the right way it might just be the oldest cocktail ever. One version of events has Sir Francis Drake accidentally inventing it in the Caribbean in 1586 to prevent his crew from getting scurvy. The problem was that rum didn’t even exist yet so while the Navy were waiting for it to be invented they made do with aguardiente (a kind of proto-rum) and called it the El Draque – which was Franky’s nickname. It worked and, sailors being sailors, the fire-water got the credit rather than the lime juice. The true Mojito evolved on Cuba in the following centuries and acquired its name which is thought be of African (because: slavery) origin meaning a little spell – think “mojo”. Quintisentially Cuban the Mojito was a favourite – along with the Daiquiri and, indeed, all other forms of booze – of Ernest Hemmingway and to this day might be the single most accessible cocktail for the un-initiated.

However.

There’s a lot that can go wrong with a Mojito and very often it does. An incomplete list would be: inferior rum, too little rum, non-fresh lime juice, use of 7Up/Sprite as a shortcut, use of mint syrup or other bypassing of fresh mint, over-muddled/mangled mint and too much soda. And sometimes all of the above. The one that really gets my goat is the pulverising of the mint; it clogs up your straw, sticks to your teeth and loses its fresh taste and it’s just so un-necessary. Mint doesn’t need to be battered to death to release its precious oil – it does so quite willingly. Simply place 6-8 large mint leaves in your palm and clap your hands firmly a couple of times. Job’s a good ‘un. Hang on. I’m getting ahead of myself. First fill a Collins glass about 2/3 with crushed ice and set aside to chill. In your shaker add two ounces of white rum (IMHO if it’s anything other than Havana Club 3 Años** you’re doing it wrong), one ounce of fresh lime juice and an ounce of 1:1 simple syrup (preferably demerara). Shake and strain into the prepared glass. Now you can give the mint a clap and gently stir it in with a bar spoon. Add some soda but don’t drown it – 3 or 4 ounces at most – stir again and add a sprig of mint and a straw to finish. This way your mint should be fairly intact and floating in a nice layer of crushed ice in the upper part of your glass allowing you to sip unimpeded from the bottom of the glass. Heavenly.


Mojito.

2oz / 60ml Havana Club 3 Años white rum.

1oz / 30 ml fresh lime juice.

1oz / 30 ml simple syrup (or a bit under if you prefer it tart).

3-4oz / 90-120ml soda water.

6 – 8 fresh mint leaves and a sprig of mint.

Method: see text.

Optional, but possibly controversial, upgrades are to:

a) upgrade your rum to Havana Club Añejo Especial or Reserva.

b) add a dash or two of Angostura bitters

Toast Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 – 1596).


A word on mint.

Every cocktailista should have a spearmint mint plant growing at all times. Even if you only have small apartment, a little pot of mint will grow quite happily in on a sunny windowsill. The stuff grows like crazy needing just a small cup of water every morning to keep it lively (coffee for me, water for you Mr Minty). If your mint starts to get thin, dry, pale and spindly it’s done, just get a new one. Still not convinced? Well some of the very best cocktails need fresh mint as an ingredient or a garnish: Mojito, Queens Park Swizzle, Mai Tai, Zombie, Mint Julep, Southside. Exactly. You need mint. Do it. I’ll be checking on you at random.

*Still there and still churning out Mojitos at Nieuwmarkt 3, Amsterdam.

**The real stuff not some pale imitation made by Bacardi.

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Shot With a Diamond.

A shot in the dark.

Shot With a Diamond.

Sometimes you have a concept for a drink. Sometimes that concept stubbornly refuses to turn into anything anyone would actually want to drink. This is the story of such a drink. This is the story of the Shot With a Diamond. I’m telling this story in the hope that it contains some minuscule iota of hope for the frustrated cocktail architect.

The initial concept behind the Shot With a Diamond was to create a drink that was absolutely, positively, 100%, crystal clear. No tiny hint of colour would mar its perfect glacial transparency. Yet it would be perfectly balanced, packed with flavour and it would defy any expectations that might be based upon its simple appearance. For two or three years I’ve been working on this drink trying combinations of the (exasperatingly few) clear cocktail ingredients. Every sign of promise came to an eventual dead end. All was failure. I became a broken man.

But.

Sometimes you just have to put a concept on the back burner and wait patiently for its time to come. I’d had the idea of using citric acid for sourness but it always ended up tasting too “bright” and “chemical” – close but never quite natural enough. But then whilst perusing Dave Arnold’s science-based cocktail manual Liquid Intelligence the solution was suddenly staring me in the face. Arnold says that a 2:1 combination of citric and malic acid comes close to the profile of lime juice but that he would never use it as a direct substitute. I, on the other hand, was willing to try anything to make my imagined drink a reality. Now if this sounds waaaay too like chemistry don’t worry; citric and malic acid are natural extracts of lemons and apples respectively. Better still they made from the by-products of the processing of those fruits and are therefore pretty environmentally friendly. You can buy them in powdered or crystalline form cheaply and easily – home-brew, wine-making and spice suppliers being good sources. One teaspoon of citric acid crystals, half a teaspoon of malic acid powder, 150ml of cold water and a teaspoon later and it was: sour component – check. I’d realised early on that the need for maximum flavour and clarity was going to make this a mezcal based drink but as we’ve discussed before mezcal can be a bit overpowering. This time I used gin to tone it down and add other subtle flavours. I’ve used a personal favourite, Blackwoods, but other citrusy dry gins would be equally suitable. A white 1:1 sugar syrup provides the balance to the sourness of the acids and I added a couple of squirts of absinthe because when you’re already colouring outside the lines so why not go all the way? Yes, well spotted; at its core the Shot With a Diamond is just a sour, but it’s a stirred sour which sets it quite apart from the rest of the genre. It also differentiates itself in that, while most sours are somewhat simple in flavour, the combination of gin, mezcal and absinthe, each with their own unique flavour elements, make the SWaD a far more complex creature. When all those elements finally came together and I took the first tentative sip I suddenly became a little dizzy and had to steady myself and, just like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, I felt “like I was shot, shot with a diamond, a diamond bullet, right through my forehead“.  Mission accomplished. It only seemed appropriate to finish the drink off with a “diamond” of clear ice. I do realise this is exactly the kind of cocktail I’ve been known to rant against but I hope you’d forgive my hypocrisy just this one time.


Shot With a Diamond.

Spray a mist of absinthe (or swirl a few drops) in a perfectly clean and clear glass containing a single piece of perfectly clear ice, diamond shaped if possible.

In a chilled mixing glass full of ice stir well:

1oz / 30ml of good quality unaged “joven” mezcal (I used Atenco)*.

1oz / 30ml of dry gin (I used Blackwood’s)*.

0.75oz / 22ml citric/malic acid (see text).

0.5oz / 15ml simple syrup (1:1 made with white sugar).

Strain over the prepared glass.

Toast Marlon Brando and Loop.


*It’s a good idea to tinker with the proportions of these two until you find a balance you like which will depend on the particular gin and mezcal you have chosen. For example, if the mezcal flavour is overpowering the gin too much, cut the mezcal a little and boost the gin by the same amount (0.75oz mezcal / 1.25oz gin).

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Clear ice balls (and other shapes).

The icicle works.

Clear Ice Balls.

A while back we looked at a way to make clear ice and, while it works extremely well, it does have a couple of drawbacks. Not everyone can spare a whole shelf in their freezer for 24+ hours without seriously pissing off their family/flatmates. Some effort is required to shape the huge block into manageable sizes which tend to be a bit irregular (although I think that’s part of the beauty of them). And finally, the optimal shape for chilling a drink without diluting it is a sphere as it has the minimum surface area to volume ratio. Thus I have been directing my efforts to find a method of making appropriately sized clear ice balls with the minimum of equipment, expense and hassle for some time now. A variation of the directional freezing approach was always going to be the solution yet achieving that on a smaller scale is no mean feat. Various methods and devices I tried have failed for reasons too many and varied to discuss (although examples are; too cloudy, too small and too egg-shaped) but at last I have achieved my elusive goal. Or should that be “grail”. The method that follows uses a minimum of freezer space and churns out one perfectly clear and spherical ball every 24 hours with almost zero effort. It’s clearly not going to be much use for a busy bar but for home use it is truly the testes of the canine. If you too would like balls of diamond-pure ice proceed as follows:

Balls up! Freezer ready.

Buy a silicone ice ball mould of the desired size. If you wish to duplicate my technique exactly use one that makes 6cm balls and is physically about 7.5cm in diameter. Ebay or Amazon are good sources. Yes, if you really want you can get one in the shape of the Death Star, or a diamond or whatever will fit snugly. Part 2 of your kit is a squat double-walled vacuum flask. The Thermos Funtainer™ (with a slightly smaller ball mould) is often used for this method but I found this Proof (you can’t make this shit up!) branded one at Target for about $15 that was the perfect design being slightly wider at the top end (see picture below). When shopping for such a container take your ice ball mould with you to ensure a good fit. You want the mould to fit snugly into the container without dropping to the bottom or poking out too much at the top. And make sure that it’s not too tall for your freezer. Once you acquired both parts of your kit simply fill the container with water (tap, filtered or bottled – whichever you would normally drink*) right to the brim. Put it in your sink or a bowl as there will be some spillage. Now fill the assembled ice mould to the brim and tap a few times to remove any bubbles. Put your finger over the fill hole and place it upside down in the container allowing it to displace some water. Once the fill hole is under water you can remove your finger. Push down gently to seal and, if the seal is good, tip out the excess water. Simply place in your freezer for about 24 hours (depending on your freezer). You don’t need the whole container to freeze solid just the contents of the mould. Next day remove from the freezer and gently lever off the bottom half of the ice mould – which is now, of course, on top. If you have any difficulty it’ll do no harm to run some hot water over the mould to loosen it. Place your perfect sphere of clear ice into a clean freezer bag (or a fresh drink) and repeat – after removing the remaining ice and mould half with warm water. If your ice shape has a little stem from the fill hole simply chip it off with a kitchen knife. Try not to hold the ice with your fingers as the warmth can make it crack – I handle it by keeping it in a (still cold) mould half. After a few cycles you’ll have a small supply in your freezer and you can simply replace them as they are used. Simples. Use your beautiful clear ice ball in any cocktail where a large ice block is called for (such as a Negroni, Old Fashioned or Moral Turpitude) or as a way of chilling your favourite sipping spirit with minimal dilution.

Balls out! Note the shape of the inside of the container.

Oh, and clear ice balls are much easier to make – at least with this method – than they are to photograph as they mist up a bit at room temperature and show all sorts of reflections. The full clarity is only revealed when they’re floating in an ice cold stirred drink. Slight surface imperfections will also disappear once in a drink. If you’re wondering exactly what you’re supposed to do with a clear ice diamond – tune in next week for the next exciting episode of Proofcocktails.nl


Note: There are various pre-made solutions that claim to make clear ice balls but they are expensive, usually bulky and don’t seem to work for everyone – they certainly didn’t for me.

*There is a theory that water that has been boiled recently has less air in it and makes clearer ice. Despite some initial scepticism I’ve tried it and I think there really might be something to it. Although the improvement in clarity is marginal it can make the difference between almost clear ice and truly clear ice and it doesn’t take much extra effort.

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Saturn.

It runs rings around other cocktails.

Saturn.

Tiki means rum, right? Wrong. Ish. Tiki almost always means rum. The Saturn is a rare gin based Tiki drink that is really quite fabulous. I would have told you about it before but it needs three slightly quirky ingredients but, if you’ve been a good student, you’ll know all about, and how to make, orgeat, falernum and passion fruit syrup. Supposedly the winner of a cocktail of the year competition at the tail-end of Tiki in 1967 the Saturn is the work of J. “Popo” Galsini and one of a number of space-race themed Tiki cocktails (it was almost called the X-15). While the recipe has been kicking around for years in Beachbum Berry Remixed there seems to be a renewed interest in this one with it popping up in many bars and all over the internet. I’m not quite sure why as many of us Tiki-heads have been making them for ages. Maybe we’re at the start of a Tiki revival revival. If so, bring it on!

The Saturn is a very handy drink to have in your back pocket (no, not literally) for those who want a rum-free and relatively low alcohol drink but don’t want to miss out on all that Tiki fun. I’ve also discovered that the Saturn works rather well served “up” although some tinkering with the recipe is required. In fact tinkering is always required with the Saturn because the sweet/sour balance is heavily dependent on the sweetness of the three syrups, especially if they are home-made. Use the recipes below as starting points and adjust the lemon juice to match. Most of the online recipes call for a mere half ounce of lemon juice but I find this a bit light. Yes, drinks served with a lot of crushed ice – like this one – can handle a bit more sugar than those served strained but 2:1 sweet to sour is pushing the envelope of that rule. As always, we’re looking for this drink to be balanced. Not only in sweet to sour but also on the flavours each of those syrups bring. Your taste buds will tell you when you have it right. The original recipe calls for the Saturn to be blended until smooth but I’m no fan of slushy cocktails and always make mine the usual Tiki way with just a few short pulses of the blender. In any case, the Saturn is a drink that’s well worth the effort and an excellent choice to batch up for a Tiki cocktail party.


Saturn.

1.5oz / 45ml gin of choice.

0.75oz / 22.5ml fresh lemon juice.

0.5oz / 15ml passion fruit syrup.

0.25oz / 7.5ml falernum.

0.25oz / 7.5ml orgeat.

Pulse blend with crushed ice and pour unstrained into a Tiki glass.

OR

Shake with cubed ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé. In this case cut back a little on each of the syrups (or boost the gin and lemon juice by a quarter of an ounce each).

Toast “Popo”.


Saturn rising.

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Dark ‘n Stormy + Trump & Stormy.

Trump & Stormy – not to be confused with the Dark ‘n Stormy.

Dark ‘n Stormy™ + Trump & Stormy.

While you can’t copyright a cocktail recipe it hasn’t stopped a few companies trademarking cocktail recipes. The most interesting example of this is Gosling Brothers Ltd’s aggressive pursuit of anyone who dares to make a Dark ‘n Stormy™ – or anything a person might reasonably confuse with such – with anything other than Gosling’s Black Seal dark rum, ice and ginger beer (note that lime juice is not in their recipe). A number of cease and desist lawsuits have been slapped on everyone from rival rum manufacturers to cocktail bloggers. I find Gosling’s legal efforts particularly egregious for a number of reasons: a) I can see, to some extent, why Bacardi trademarked the Bacardi Cocktail (which is just a Daiquiri with grenadine) because if you order it as such it’s reasonable to expect the rum in it to be Bacardi. This is clearly not so with a Dark ‘n Stormy as the name contains no mention of the brand of rum used. b) Going after big companies like Pernod Ricard is one thing but harassing salt-of-the-earth cocktail blogger types is pretty despicable. c) In my personal opinion Gosling’s dark rum is not particularly nice rum and the standard (lime free) Dark ‘n Stormy™ is, frankly, a bit shit.

Gosling’s are not the only ones at this game as Pusser’s Rum have pulled a similar stunt with the Painkiller. It’s a rum business. While, thankfully still quite rare, such legal shenanigans are not conducive to the general well-being of the drinks industry are, in my opinion, also likely to be counter-productive to the companies involved. I, for one, tend to avoid buying or recommending their products.

The takeaway here is feel free to use any rum you like in your rum and ginger beer drink – just be sure to call it something else and Gosling’s will leave you alone. And put some lime juice in in so that it isn’t sickly sweet. I have a cracking and completely unrelated recipe that everyone seems to love and that I’m categorically not calling a Dark ‘n Stormy™ because I really don’t want to get sued. It’s big on flavour but low-ish on alcohol and uses the weirdly delicious Cruzan Blackstrap rum†. Make it with anything else and my lawyers will be on top of you like a President on a porn star…


Trump & Stormy.

1.5oz Cruzan Blackstrap rum.

0.75oz fresh lime juice.

Stir into an ice filled Collins glass.

Top up with good spicy ginger beer*

Toast Inu Ā Kena – the excellent rum and cocktail blog who fell victim to Goslings’ bully boys.


*There are plenty of options these days. Old Jamaica is great and widely available. Please note that ginger ale, which is similar but milder, doesn’t have the necessary punchiness for this.

†Unfortunately not available in Europe at the moment. Although I’ve not tried it yet Blackwell’s rum is said to be a decent substitute – yes, I was only joking about “my lawyers”. Failing that use the darkest, spiciest rum you can find.

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Monkey Shoulder.

A little monkey business.

Monkey Shoulder – a mixin’ malt for the masses?

As a quick primer on Scottish whisky (usually refered to as “Scotch”) for those who need it – the rest of you can skip on to the next paragraph – there are two main types; Single malt whisky is the real deal made in a time honoured fashion from malted barley which is fermented in wooden vats before being distilled in copper pot stills and then aged for many years in used oak barrels. “Single” meaning that it is made in one distillery – although the contents of different barrels are usually mixed – and “malt” meaning the whisky is only made from malted barley, unlike American and Canadian whiskies which use a mixture of cereals. Blended Scotch is a combination of single malt whisky, often from different distilleries, which is then mixed with what is called “grain whisky” which is an unaged column still distillate (think “vodka” here). At the risk of over-simplification single malt is usually sipped and blended scotch is usually with something fizzy. But where does that leave us cocktailistas?

Single malt whisky is a bit pricey to be mixing with but often we require something with a bit more character and class than a blended Scotch. I often recommend using mid-price spirits for mixing but in the case of Scotch the mid-range is a bit of a desert between the cheaper blends and the more expensive single malts. Apart from a few boosted blends such as Johnnie Walker Black Label and some young single malts such as Finlaggan* there’s just not much there. Enter a slightly unusual whisky called Monkey Shoulder which, around these parts, comes in at around €25 for a 700ml bottle and is, as it happens, none of the above. Monkey Shoulder is a blend of three single malt whiskies – so no “vodka” in there at all – from the William Grant & Sons owned distilleries, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. The first two are very well known single malt producers in their own right and the latter a distiller which mostly produces malt whisky for making blends. All are Speyside distilleries which produce unpeated whisky of a light and approachable style. This is a sort of hybrid whisky that is known as a vatted malt or a blended malt and is labelled as the latter. We’ve got some pretty good providence here so let’s see if this cheeky monkey fits our needs.

Monkey Shoulder comes in a surprisingly classy package for such a reasonably priced product. The simple squat bottle has three brassy monkeys sunk into the glass on the bottle’s shoulder and a nice wide natural cork with a wooden top which also has the monkey logo routed into it. I’ve seen worse corks on bottles three time the price of this one. A look on the bottom of the bottle shows, OK you’ve guessed already, more monkeys. With three more on the label that makes a total of 12 monkeys – I suspect someone is attempting a secret joke here. The labeling is refreshingly non-traditional but still rather elegant and includes some text explaining that the whisky’s name is derived from a repetitive strain injury formerly suffered by whisky distillers. The only thing I don’t like about the presentation is the rather meaningless “batch 27” statement that smacks of trying to add small batch cachet to a mainstream product. At the price we shouldn’t be surprised that there is no age statement and that it is bottled at 40% abv. I would expect that it’s also chill filtered and has some added colouring. Indeed I don’t see how Monkey Shoulder’s pleasant light copper hue would be achieved otherwise given that this must be a fairly young whisky. Sniffing the spirit reveals a nice floral sweetness with a hint of damp hay bale (oh, shit – I said I wouldn’t do this). Once sipped it’s honey, honey, honey, then a dry woody finish. The two main notes cancel each other out enough to prevent the overall profile from being too sweet. Despite it’s minimum legal alcohol content it doesn’t come over too watery and retains a slightly oily mouth-feel. Given how smooth it is I’m wondering if it’s had a little longer in the barrel than I expected. It’s simple to be sure, but really pretty damn decent for the price. Now remember, this is for mixing so we don’t need a lot of complexity that would be overpowered by other ingredients. We’re looking for a base flavour that can express itself in a cocktail and in that sense Monkey Shoulder fits the bill pretty well. It’s probably a bit sweet and one-dimensional for real malt-heads but it’ll fit our purposes perfectly well. Testing in a few cocktails such as a Penicillin and a Rob Roy totally confirms those expectations.

For mixing Monkey Shoulder scores a straight:

A

And becomes my mixing Scotch of choice, with the quality/price ratio being a significant factor. As a sipping malt this would only be a B- due to the lack of complexity.


*Finlaggan is my go-to smoky Islay mixing whisky.

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Jean & Tony.

The Jeanies out of the bottle now.

Jean & Tony.

It’s a tough life being a bartender*. Among many other frustrations you have to put up with the absolute inability of some people to order a drink properly. Case study: One busy night I had a large group of middle-aged Spanish† tourists looking somewhat confused at the corner of my bar. Eventually one separated from the herd, approached the bar and announced triumphantly “wan Jean en Tony”. I correctly deduced that he wanted a gin & tonic so made him such and politely told him the price. He held a finger in the air turned to his crew, turned back and said “en wan Jean en Tony”. This continued for some time, punctuated only by the odd “wan we ski coca” and my increasingly annoyed requests for a total number of Jean & Tony’s and We Ski Coca’s. Then they spent about ten minutes assembling the correct payment (yes, individually). Look; I can make seven gin & tonics and four whisky & cola’s in no time at all but, ordered like this, it takes an eternity followed by another eternity clearing the backlog that the first one caused. Fifteen years later I literally still have nightmares reliving that order. And I’ve never been able to pronounce “gin and tonic” correctly since. Let’s see if we can at least salvage something from the source of my PTSD.

Gin is a wonderful spirit but it sadly never gets much of a chance to fully express itself. I’ve been playing with the idea of a sort of super-concentrated gin and tonic for a while now and I was about to infuse some gin with tonic botanicals (mostly cinchona bark) when I spotted a bottle of Bitter TruthTonic Bitters; well that would save a lot of fuss! Combined with a little sweetness and a hint of lemon that would give us the absolute essence of a gin & tonic without all that pesky wetness. There’s nothing for your gin to hide behind in this recipe so make it a good gin; something with a bit of character and finesse. Something like the magnificently bonkers Drumshanbo Irish gunpowder gin. Does it work? Does the Pope wear a funny hat?


Jean & Tony.

2oz / 60ml of a good quality dry gin (I used Drumshanbo gunpowder gin).

1 teaspoon (5ml) simple syrup (1:1).

4 good dashes of Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé or Nick & Nora glass (pictured) containing a coiled strip of lemon peel. For extra lemonicity strain the drink over the lemon peel.

Toast bartenders. And please make their lives easier by ordering intelligently.


*Which is why I don’t do it anymore.

†Don’t get me wrong; I love Spain and all things Spanish. They are a wonderfully warm people with a great attitude to food and drink. And the whole gin and tonic revival started there. They are sometimes clueless at ordering in a bar though.

‡These guys make some very fine bitters and other products. Why their orange bitters suck so much is a complete mystery to me.

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Planter’s Punch.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Planter’s Punch.

The Planter’s Punch is completely different from any of the other recipes you’ll find on these pages. While it certainly sounds like a specific drink it is, in reality, more of a whole group of drinks founded on a single formula. Or should I say founded on a folk rhyme? But lets’s back up a bit first. The Planter’s Punch comes from Jamaica with a “planter” meaning a plantation owner and “punch” being a largely British (but originally Sanskrit) word for a diluted mixed drink often comprised of lemon juice, alcohol (probably arrack), sugar and tea – in other words an ancient cocktail prototype. But we’ll get to those another time. The Planter’s Punch is a very old rum version of the punch that is impossible to put a date on but probably goes back to the 18th century.

The rhyme that tells us how to assemble the Planter’s Punch goes like this: One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak. This is generally taken to mean ounces (or parts if upscaling) of lime juice, sugar syrup, rum and water (or perhaps juice or even ice) respectively. The problem that has troubled cocktailiens over the years is that this formula contains twice as much sweet as sour and leads to an unbalanced, overly sweet drink and as a result some liberties have been taken with the rhyme. Sometimes the first two items are transposed but that causes the rhyme to collapse – and there are many other unsatisfactory versions around as well. My theory is that the original version was bang-on but just misunderstood. I think what was meant was; one glug of lime juice, two spoons of sugar, three glugs of rum and four glugs of water. I mean seriously folks do we really think rural Jamaicans of old were dicking around with jiggers and simple syrup? We may as well believe they had waxed mustaches and artisanal leather aprons. The spoons would been roughly tablespoon size – giving us about an ounce of sugar – and if we takes the glugs as an ounce each, hey presto, a perfectly balanced drink. So, converted back to ounces, we’re at a 1:1:3:4 formula. Now, as you have no doubt noticed, that’s a lot of rum*. But Jamaicans know their rum so I’m not going to argue. With the formula down we can make a super simple literal version of “one ounce of fresh lime juice, one ounce of 1:1 sugar syrup, three ounces of Jamaican rum (such as Myers’s) and four ounces of soda water, all mixed in an iced Collins glass”. And pretty damn decent that is too. But where Planter’s Punch starts to get more interesting is when we play around within the given formula. Grenadine as some or all of the sweet is common, as is orange or pineapple juice for the weak. The classic Tiki technicians, Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic played around with this formula aplenty and as well as their various Planter’s Punch versions a considerable number of their other Tiki drinks have a striking similarity to it too. Unfortunately Dark Age (c.1970-2000) bartenders messed with the formula too and as a result there are plenty of pretty dire Planter’s Punch recipes kicking around – mostly heavy on the juice and (fake) grenadine but pretty light on the rum. We, of course, will be sticking to the original formula. For the sour we could go for lemon or grapefruit juice but lime would be the classic choice. The sweet options are endless but grenadine, falernum, ginger syrup, cinnamon syrup, passion fruit syrup, pineapple syrup or honey mix are all excellent contenders. The rum, ah, the rum. Well look, it just has to be Jamaican as we’re pretty spoiled for choice with the likes of Wray & Nephew Overproof, Myers’s, Appleton and plenty of others. The weak we should at least move from plain to sparkling water but as long as we’re careful we can use some of the more neutral (in sweet/sour terms) fruit juices such as orange or pineapple or even go for some coconut water or cold tea. That creates an almost infinite number of variations, so knock yourselves out. And remember there is no “correct” or “original” version of the Planter’s Punch so you have carte blanche to get creative here. I’ll hit you up with a powerful but tasty example to get you started.


Proof Planter’s Punch.

1oz/30ml fresh lime juice

0.5oz/15ml home-made grenadine.

0.5oz/15ml ginger syrup.

1oz /30ml Coruba NPU (or another “funky”) gold Jamaican rum.

1oz/30ml Wray & Nephew Overproof white Jamaican rum.

1oz/30ml Myers’s dark Jamaican rum.

2oz/60ml coconut water (unsweetened, unflavoured).

2oz/60ml soda water.

Stir with plenty of ice in a large Collins glass or Tiki mug.

Toast the poor souls who toiled in the sugar fields for little or no reward to give the world the sugar and rum it so desperately demanded. As for the slave owning planter’s themselves? Fuck ’em.


*Two ounces of rum would work perfectly well.

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