The Selkie’s Tears.

Somewhere, beyond the sea…

The Selkie’s Tears.

Look, we’ve known each other for quite a long time, right? Well, there’s something I need to tell you. It’s something I’ve been in self-denial about for many years and I only now feel able to talk about. I don’t like dry vermouth. Yes, I know you thought I liked every kind of booze and the Tiki Gods know I’ve tried to like dry vermouth but there we are. Phew. In a weird way I feel better now. It was trying to make this drink work that made me realise this terrible flaw in my palate. It seems to demand some dry vermouth to balance the sweetness of The King’s Ginger but, meh, then it tasted like some kind of broken Martini. Luckily I just love Lillet Blanc which, while technically doesn’t have the required bitterness, somehow works perfectly in The Selkie’s Tears. But then this also troubles me as I normally have a pretty good understanding of why a drink works and this time I’m at something of a loss. It just does. Maybe there’s just enough bitterness from the celery bitters and just enough saltiness leaching out of the samphire garnish. Of course I could just be wrong but to me this combination quite wonderful. It’s a fairly subtle affair that I think is letting each of the ingredients express themselves without stepping on each others’ toes. There’s no doubting that it’s very much a whisky drink so if you’re not a Scotch fan you might not want to go here, but if you are give this one a whirl. To be honest, this cocktail is, as yet, untested on any other human – although my Selkie friends seem to love it* – so I’d be more than happy to get some feedback.

The Selkie’s Tears.

1.5oz / 45ml Monkey Shoulder Scotch whisky.

0.75oz / 22ml Lillet Blanc.

0.5oz / 15ml The King’s Ginger (a Scotch based ginger/lemon liqueur).

2 or 3 dashes of Bitter Truth celery bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupé.

Garnish with a sprig of raw samphire.

Toast the Selkie folk who live amongst us but yearn for the sea.

Now I do understand that there are a couple of unusual ingredients here so let’s run through them all:

Monkey Shoulder. An excellent mixing Scotch that is a blend of malt whiskies. It’s affordable, available and gets an “A” in my book.

Lillet Blanc. A French aperitif with a slight lemony edge and a subtle but rounded bitterness. Essential ingredient in the Corpse Reviver #2 and the Vesper. Also tasty on its own with ice and a slice. Once opened keep refrigerated and/or vacuum stoppered.

The King’s Ginger. A 41%ABV Scotch based liqueur with ginger and lemon notes that claims to be ancient but I’m pretty sure isn’t. It’s none the worse for that though. Having said that it’s a bit tricksy to mix with and might best be used to add a bit of oomph to a dull blended whisky on a cold day.

Celery bitters. I used Bitter Truth ones which are quite delicious and are part of their handy traveler’s set which is an essential sampler for the bitters beginner.

Samphire. A salty, crunchy and super-tasty mini-vegetable that grows by the sea. Basically it’s vegan bacon. The fish section of supermarkets or your local fish shop probably stock it. The usual advice is to steam or boil it. Nonsense – it’s best raw. Any leftovers can be chopped up and used to spruce up a salad. Word is that it doesn’t freeze well.

*I think it’s the samphire they like.

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Jet Pilot (+ Test Pilot).

Puncheous pilot.

Jet Pilot.

When it comes to Tiki it’s safe to say that almost all the best drinks were created by three big names; Don the Beachcomber Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, and Donn Beach. They were actually all the same guy but when you’ve dabbled in prohibition era rum smuggling it’s probably wise to have more than one name. Whatever you want to call him – let’s just go with DB – he was the undisputed godfather of Tiki, actually inventing whole new genres in both cocktails and dining. He might have been a great cocktail innovator but he was a far from brilliant businessman and many of his copy-cat competitors did much better than he did – Trader Vic (creator of the Mai Tai) being the most notable. Today we’re going to look at an imitation Beachcomber drink [gasp] which comes from one of Steve Crane’s lavish Tiki restaurants, the Beverly Hills Luau, and dates from the late 50s.

Don’s many competitors were desperate to serve drinks as good as his in their own faux-Polynesian restaurants (there is, after all, no copyright on cocktails) but DB was shrewd and kept his recipes a closely guarded secret. Competitors tried to get around this by stealing his bartenders only to discover that even they didn’t know the complete recipes as Don put key ingredients in plain bottles with enigmatic labels such as Don’s Mix and Spices #2*. The vast majority of their attempts were pale versions of DB’s rich complex “rum rhapsodies” but there is one marked exception that, in my humble opinion, rises above the original. The Jet Pilot is an attempted copy of DB’s 1941 Test Pilot** which was a pretty decent drink but by no means one of his best. The reason the Jet Pilot succeeded while so many other copies failed is that the recipe shows a similar attention to detail that you see in original DB drinks, the considered mix of rums, drops of absinthe and dash of Angostura bitters being typical Beachcomber touches. We don’t know exactly who created the Jet Pilot for the Luau but I’d bet my last bottle of red label Lemon Hart 151 that he was trained by the Beachcomber himself.

The Jet Pilot bears more than a passing similarity to DB’s most famous creation, the Zombie, which we’ll have to address sooner or later. The problem is that you could write a book about the Zombie and all its variations. In fact someone has. My preferred Zombie recipe is a complex one so the Jet Pilot makes a better starting point for the Tiki newcomer. While you could consider it a Zombie Light, do be aware that it still packs quite a punch.

Jet Pilot

1oz /30ml dark Jamaican rum (eg. Myers’s or Coruba).

0.75oz /22ml overproof Demerara rum (Plantation OFTD is probably your best bet here***).

0.75oz /22ml gold rum (take your pick but I like Coruba NPU in this).

0.5oz /15ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz /15ml white grapefruit juice.

0.5oz /15ml cinnamon syrup.

0.5oz /15ml falernum.

6 drops of absinthe.

1 dash of Angostura bitters.

Briefly blend (a few short pulses) with a cupful of crushed ice. If lacking a blender add an ounce of soda water and shake hard with the crushed ice.

Pour unstrained into a DoF glass and garnish with something that looks vaguely like a jet plane.

Toast Steve Crane, whose Luau restaurant pulled off the best imitation Beachcomber recipe ever.

Yes, yes, alright. I know you want the original Beachcomber version too:

Test Pilot

1.5oz/45ml dark Jamaican rum (eg. Myers’s or Coruba).

0.75oz/22ml white Spanish style rum (eg. Havana Club 3, Brugal).

0.5oz/15ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz/15ml Cointreau.

0.5oz/15ml falernum.

6 drops of absinthe.

1 dash of Angostura bitters.

Mix as Jet Pilot.

*Most of his recipes remained secret until the late 1990s when they were painstakingly decrypted by Tiki archaeologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. As I’ve said many times before his book Beachbum Berry Remixed should be your Tiki starting point. The Jet Pilot appears in his follow-up Sippin’ Safari which goes into more detail on the history of Tiki.

**Not all Tiki drinks have tropical names. Those of the 1940s often have aviation related names followed by a space era fad in the 1950-60s.

***Originally Lemon Hart 151 but that can be very difficult to find. Hamilton 151 is a good substitution but is almost as difficult to find. If you’re in the UK Woods 100 navy rum will get you pretty close.

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The Good China.

Me old china.

The Good China.

There’s nothing like a cup of tea served in the good china. And this is nothing like a cup of tea but it is best served in some nice vintage porcelain. Fortunately there’s no need to wait for your granny to pop her clogs before you can make one of these – simply get yourself invited to a hipster’s house and slip a bit of their Royal Stafford into your coat pocket while they’re checking on the progress of their kombucha. Or get some for peanuts at a charity shop or flea-market. Once you’re tooled up in the bone china department you’ll find The Good China to be a nice civilised (and relatively low alcohol) drink for the gentler moments in life where a Navy Grog or Zombie would seem a bit uncouth*. I originally concocted it with a white port base but more recently I’ve become partial to using Lillet Blanc instead. Feel free to go either way or even split the base between the two, which, to be perfectly honest I only just this moment considered. Don’t be put off by the Earl Grey tincture as it really simple to make and elevates your GC to a higher plane.

The Good China.

2oz / 60ml of dry white port, or Lillet Blanc (or even an ounce of each).

0.5oz / 15ml Heering (a cherry brandy).

0.25oz / 7.5ml Fernet Branca.

2 dashes of your home-made Earl Grey tincture (see below).

Stir with ice and double strain into a well chilled bone china cup.

Garnish with a lemon slice which can squeezed into the cup. Or not.

Toast charity (aka thrift) shops – the source of all our best cocktail receptacles.

Earl Grey tincture.

Throw 2oz/60ml of 50% ABV vodka into a clean jar. Add 2 teaspoons of the very best loose leaf Earl Grey tea that you can find**. Leave it for about two hours, stirring a couple of times for good measure. Yes, it will become very strong and bitter. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and bottle***. Congratulations you’ve just made the easiest bitters in the world. Well technically it’s just a tincture – the extraction of a herb in alcohol.

*Well, we can pretend anyway.

**You’ll probably have to buy a bit more than that or they’ll get pretty pissed off with you at the tea shop. Trust me on this.

***Little (50-100ml) brown glass bottles know as “Boston rounds” are ideal, preferably with a dropper or dasher top. You can find them at aromatherapy suppliers and on ebay or Amazon. Get a few – we’re going to be making some bitters soon.

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Ward Eight.

Worth the wait? Ward Eight=W8=Wait. Never mind.

Ward Eight.

Here’s a drink that’s both 19th century (just) and that we have a pretty solid history for. There’s also pretty widespread consensus on the recipe. It’s not too often that all of that happens. The Ward Eight was created in 1898 Boston by Tom Hussion at the Locke-Ober bar to honor politician Martin “The Mahatma” Lomasney a candidate for the state legislature. Ward Eight was a poor part of Boston that was key to his election. The fellow won the election and some time later voted in favour of prohibition thus putting the bar out of business. There’s gratitude for you.

The Ward Eight is almost always encoded as two ounces of bourbon, half an ounce each of lemon and orange juice and a teaspoon of grenadine. But the problem is that, as written, it’s just not that good. Which is puzzling because Esquire magazine listed it in it’s top ten cocktails of 1934 (which was the first year after the end of prohibition and thus a big hairy deal). I’ve been messing with the Ward Eight for a long time, convinced that somehow it must be a good drink. I tinkered with the proportions but it still it seemed a bit lame and incoherent. Then one day it hit me like I was shot with a diamond bullet, right through my forehead  – they weren’t drinking bourbon in turn-of-the-century Boston, they were drinking rye*! Talk about barking up the wrong tree! It turns out I’m not the only one to reach that conclusion and these days you can see a few of the more reputable cocktail websites calling for rye. So, yes, I should have looked around a bit more widely in the first place. Lesson learned. With rye restored to its rightful place and with a little flexibility in the amount of grenadine (we have little idea of how sweet it might have been 120 years ago) to bring it into balance the Ward Eight is finally something worth drinking again. Our two lessons for today are a) always check around a bit for more enlightened recipes and b) never trust a politician.

Ward Eight

2oz / 60ml rye whiskey (Rittenhouse works particularly well).

0.5oz / 15ml orange juice (strictly freshly squeezed).

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lemon juice.

1-2 teaspoons / 5-10ml of grenadine (preferably home-made)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass**.

Garnish with a maraschino (or amarena) cherry or two.

Toast Tom Hussion, creator of the Ward Eight.

*The near extinction of American rye whiskey for much of the past century explains the switch to bourbon in this and other cocktails. Thankfully rye is back in vogue and should be subbed back in where appropriate – which is generally any whiskey cocktail originating in the northern part of the USA in the years before prohibition.

**I know I’ve railed against the V-shaped Martini glass but the Ward Eight is always whispering to me that it wants to be served in just such a receptacle. Given its age and experience who am I to argue? Other such demands are received for the Martini, Aviation, Manhattan and Corpse Reviver #2.

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Mexican Standoff: A mixing reposado showdown.

Tres amigos.

Mexican Standoff.

We’ve talked a little bit about tequila before but this time we’re going to dive a bit deeper in a quest to find the ideal mixing tequila. As we know, tequila comes in two main types mixto which is tequila mixed with a neutral spirit and 100% agave which is, well 100% agave. You could reasonably compare it to the difference between blended Scotch and single malt Scotch. Except that while I’m happy to make cocktails with blended whiskey I’m never mixing with mixto. Glad we cleared that up. Once we’ve nixed the mixto we need to choose between three sub-types of tequila; the unaged blanco/plata, slightly aged reposado and properly aged anejo. My personal preference is the middle grounder, reposado, which smooths out some of the rougher edges of a tequila but doesn’t go so far as to overpower the agave flavours which anejo sometimes can. Sounds like we’re getting somewhere right? But here’s the rub. Tequila is changing. Many previously trusted brands have recently changed to a more industrial technique for extracting the sugars form the agave. This diffuser technique increases yield and hence profit but the flavour of the tequila suffers. A lot. But then it gets even worse. The loss of flavour is often offset by the addition of artificial flavourings. I need to take a break now until my face has returned to a normal colour                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It’d be unfair to name names when so many brands are at it but I noticed a very marked deterioration in my previous “house” reposado to the point that I won’t be buying it ever again. It’s a real shame that the “100% agave” mark that used to be a guarantee of a decent quality tequila can’t be relied upon any more but fortunately help is at hand. Tequila Matchmaker is an excellent website (and app) that shines a light on all this jiggery-pokery and, with the help of some ratings, allows us to make a more informed choice of tequila.

To the showdown.

Recently I’ve been trying to settle on a new standard “house” mixing tequila not least because people tend to look at you a bit funny when you have so many different bottles of tequila on the shelf. My goal was to find a sub-€30, 100% agave reposado tequila that was at least reasonably available*. I decided to compare a few of those with a good quality but more expensive benchmark. The candidates are: Topanito €23. My placeholder mixing repo of late but I’m wondering if I can do better. El Espolon €23. Highly regarded by the agave-heads on Reddit r/tequila. Calle 23 €26. I’ve heard good things about this one on Tequila Matchmaker and elsewhere. Don Julio €33 (not pictured). Our benchmark. A bit of a gold standard in tequila but a bit pricey for an everyday mixer. If any of the others get anywhere close to this they’ll be doing very well.


The bottle looks a bit cheap but, while plain, it’s at least sealed with a decent natural cork. It’s a little darker than the others but for all we know that could just be some added caramel colouring. It tastes a bit “hot” and has an interesting earthy flavour indicative of a lowland tequila. Definitely the outlier of the four in terms of flavour. Interestingly TM shows this to be the most traditionally produced of the four – bonus points! Definitely a very interesting tequila and great value but maybe just a little too quirky for what we’re looking for here.

El Espolon.

I love the squat bottle with its wide hardwood topped natural cork and funky decoration. Just a touch sweeter than the others. Quite smooth and well behaved but somehow just a shade less exciting than the others. Pepper and agave notes are present and pleasant. Again, superb value at this low price.

Calle 23.

I had a minor issue with the synthetic cork being far too loose on this one and I had to replace it with another one to keep a decent seal**. Otherwise it comes in an attractive tall bottle with the agave print on the rear of the bottle giving a nice 3d effect. TM tells us that this is a no additive tequila which is a big plus for me and, indeed, it seemed to have the most natural taste with a nice balance of agave and pepper. Quite similar to the El Espolon but just more together.

Don Julio.

Yes, the benchmark Don Julio is better than the others seeming a little more elegant and refined. But not by much and its edge is barely noticeable when mixed. For mixing I wouldn’t consider it worth the €7-10 premium but for sipping it would still be my choice.


What I found remarkable was how little there was to choose between these. Especially once mixed into a Tommy’s Margarita they all tasted great. I’m going to choose the Calle 23 as my stock repo for now but I’d be happy to recommend any of these for mixing into a Margarita (preferably Tommy’s), Paloma, Repo Man or Tijuana Tonic.

If you’re wondering what I did with the rest, well, I started a reposado infinity bottle of course.

Extra credit.

For those who’d like to nerd out on the details of tequila production (including the evils of the diffuser) I’ll pass you over to the expert hands of

*A bit tricky as the fragmented nature of the tequila market means that different brands are imported into different regions.

**  Which is why one should never throw away a decent cork but keep them for just such eventualities.



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Jack Rose + apple brandy

By any other name…

Jack Rose + apple brandy

The Jack Rose is a positively ancient cocktail that was very popular a century ago but has gradually faded into relative obscurity. More’s the pity as it can be quite delightful when well made. It’s a cocktail that I neglected for a long time due to the unavailability of its base ingredient upon these shores. Applejack (aka Jersey Lightning) is an American apple brandy that turns out to be not even particularly available on its own shores with just one surviving mainstream* brand – Laird’s. However, whilst perusing my copy of David A. Embury’s 1948 classic cocktail manual The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks a solution emerged. Embury is of the opinion (and boy, does he have a lot of those) that calvados is a similar but superior apple brandy. Doh. It was so obvious! Aged French apple brandy in hand I proceeded to mix up the cocktail that I should really have tried a long time ago. And, damn, but isn’t the Jack Rose a delicious and deceptively simple little cocktail. Just apple brandy, lemon juice and grenadine but, make no mistake, quality of ingredients is key here and possibly the reason the Jack Rose fell from grace. Decent quality commercially available grenadine is a thing of the past and, while I can’t say for certain, the same may be at least partially true of applejack. America’s first home-grown spirit was originally made by repeatedly freezing (hard) apple cider and chucking away the ice – a process known as “jacking” – a kind of distillation-free way of making a potent liquor. These days applejack is made by distillation of apple juice and then mixing it with neutral spirit. On the other hand calvados is a traditionally made and aged apple brandy from the Normandy region of France that is available and affordable here in Europe. And if Embury says it’s better than applejack that’s good enough for me. After all he was a lawyer (as well as a the author of the first “modern” cocktail book) so we know we can trust him. Indeed the Jack Rose is one of his hallowed six classic cocktails along with the Daiquiri, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, Manhattan and Martini. Illustrious company. Mr Embury liked his cocktails notoriously dry/tart so we’ll go with his suggestion of balancing them to our own taste. This version hits the spot for me and I think you’ll like it too.

Jack Rose

2oz/60ml apple brandy (applejack or calvados)**

1oz/30ml fresh lemon juice.

0.5oz/15ml grenadine, very preferably home-made.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupe.

Garnish with a lemon twist.

Toast David Embury (1886 – 1960), the greatest ever amateur cocktail-head.

*I say mainstream because there is absolutely certain to be some hipsters making some “small batch”, “artisanal” applejack somewhere.

**in either case preferably reasonably aged.

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Champagne Cocktail + sparkling wine.

Celebrate good times, come on!

The Champagne Cocktail.

While there are many types of sparkling wine the one native to the Champagne region of France has pulled off perhaps the best marketing coup in history by permanently connecting their product with the act of celebration. Such that when you’ve got something to celebrate – like oh, I dunno the 100th cocktail recipe posted on your blog – Champagne is really the only way to to go. So today we’ll be making the classic Champagne Cocktail as first written down in the very first cocktail book The Bar-Tender’s Guide: How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion in 1862. There are a few variations on this drink but we’re going to stick to the original recipe because; Jerry Thomas! While it’s easy to think of the Champagne Cocktail as an embellished glass of bubbles I prefer to see it as a Champagne Old Fashioned: base + sugar + bitters and a lemon twist. The CC is a great option for when you’d like to serve something a bit different at a celebration but don’t want to get bogged down in too much work. Just prep your glasses in the fridge and add the bubbles as you serve. One of the beauties of this wonderful cocktail is that it changes as the sugar gradually dissolves, ending in a sweet grainy last sip that just makes you want to start all over again.


The thing is that a good Champagne is a beautiful and delicate thing. Its flavours are subtle and easily overshadowed by any cocktailisation. And it’s fucking expensive. Unless the occasion requires maximum flashness I suggest that we reserve the good stuff for sipping. But where does that leave us cocktailistas? Well there are a number of options for the creation of frizzante cocktails such as a lesser Champagne, Prosecco or various other sparkling wines. But my choice is Spanish cava. It has a similar production process to Champagne (some others don’t), has similar dryness to its big brother (others can be too sweet), has a robust fizziness and is relatively easy on the wallet. Freixenet Brut is a good starting point as it’s widely available in its distinctive black bottle and also comes in little mini bottles sold in 3 packs. Very handy. Other brands are also fine as cava tends to be pretty consistent (Cordoniu being a house favourite). If cava is expensive where you live then try a local dry sparkling wine. When buying a sparkling wine always be careful to check the label for the words “brut” or “extra dry” – even a semi/demi sec is far too sweet for either sipping or mixing.

Champagne Cocktail

Place a sugarcube on a saucer or napkin and soak it with a couple of dashes of Angostura* bitters.

Drop the cube into a chilled Champagne flute.

Gently fill with chilled dry sparkling wine (see text).

Garnish with a lemon twist (optional).

*While good old Angostura is the traditional bitters used in the Champagne Cocktail I think there is an excellent case for experimentation. I’m particularly partial to the use of orange bitters in my CC.

Toast yourselves dear readers – I would never have made it to 100 recipes without seeing that people were actually reading these ravings!

Speaking of which, having reached this landmark which involved churning out a recipe every week (or up to three in the early days), I might now just be posting as and when I feel like it without any particular schedule. In other words there won’t necessarily be the usual Friday recipe anymore but that doesn’t mean I’m winding things down or anything – in fact I’m hoping to mix things up even more! And another thing; please feel free to ask questions using the comments tool. I’m more than happy to answer any questions or get a bit of a discussion going.

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Tanqueray N° Ten gin.

Class in a glass.

Tanqueray N° Ten.

Gin is different from most other spirits in that it’s essentially a mixing spirit. It’s pretty unthinkable to have just a glass of neat gin – although I’m sure there must be some people who do. So while spirits such as whisky, cognac, tequila, mezcal and rum were adapted to mixing, gin has mixability in its very blood. Which is why gin is the cocktailista’s favourite spirit. Indeed gin had a long golden age in mixology from about 1900 until the usurper vodka sucker-punched it out of mainstream mixology somewhere in the late 1960s. Yes, the Dark Ages were particularly cruel to dear old gin. But those days are happily gone and you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last decade and a half not to have noticed a veritable gin renaissance. The selection of both big brand and “boutique” (or “craft”) gin is nothing short of bewildering so what should the budding home bartender stock? My approach is to have an affordable (but quality) mixing gin for the likes of a Singapore Sling where the gin is a minor component and a high quality gin for drinks where the gin is a key player, such as the Martini. I’ve been a bit mercurial with my choices in both of those categories and I’m looking to settle on something that will be my “house” gin in each. Which brings us to this review. Can Tanqueray N° Ten fit the bill in the high quality category on my cocktail shelf? Let’s find out!

Straight off the bat Tanqueray N° Ten looks the part; while the regular Tanqueray bottle is styled to look vaguely like a cocktail shaker T#10 elevates that aesthetic further to mimic some kind of fancy mid-century crystal shaker. Its fluted sides catch the light beautifully and also provide a pretty reliable grip. The closure looks and feels like a knurled steel cap and, even though it’s just cunningly disguised plastic, it gives a reliable seal and is easy to open and close. I’m a fan. The red wax seal (again plastic but convincing) and black-on-silver label completes the picture. Classy all round. The only thing that bothers me is the name; it feels to me that it should either be Tanqueray N° 10 or Tanqueray Ten, the combination they chose doesn’t sit quite right but that really is a pretty minor complaint. Notably Tanqueray N° Ten is bottled at 47.3% ABV*. In my view a gin bottled at above the typical 40% (or even 38% gawd-help-us) is a sign that the makers have not cut any corners in their quest for a superior spirit. A quick sniff in my sherry copita confirms this at once; this gin smells like it means business. Citrus and juniper (well, duh!) waft up convincingly. The first sip is curiously oily – in a good way – and once it settles it’s clear to me that this is a wonderfully balanced gin. Not too bitter, nor too sweet with juniper and citrus in equal measure, a touch of pepper and the merest hint of brine. I could sip this happily on its own – and remember this is north of 47%. When I compare it to other gins it effortlessly holds its own each time. Clearly a cut above the standard issue Tanqueray – which is a pretty decent gin in its own right – the T#10 strikes me as an extremely versatile gin at its price point. In a head to head with the similarly positioned Beefeater 24 the Tanqueray, at least to my taste, was streets ahead, leaving the B24 tasting somewhat flat by comparison. There are certainly gins with more complexity and left-field flavours but those gins would be niche products that wouldn’t necessarily shine in a wide range of different cocktails. Tanqueray N° Ten does again and again but what I did find was that it – rather strangely – failed to express itself in a Gin & Tonic quite as much as I had expected. But G&Ts are their own thing and we have other gins** that are available for such use anyway so I feel I can forgive it on that point. It does show, however, that no one gin can cover every base. Around these parts Tanqueray N° Ten sells for €25-30 per 700ml but often crops up on sale for under €23 which I think is cracking value for money.

It will come as little surprise than Tanqueray N° Ten finds a permanent place on my shelf and also earns itself a laudable:


* Indeed even regular Tanqueray is bottled at a healthy 43.1%.

**A few favourites being Blackwood’s, Drumshanbo Gunpowder and Plymouth.

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Suffering Bastard.

Cheer up Winston – you’ll feel much better after one of these.

Suffering Bastard.

Once in a while one has too much of a good time and needs a little pick-me-up to restore ones sparkle the next day. Many hangover cures are pretty unpalatable but this one is an excellent drink in its own right. Created by Joe Scialom at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt in 1942 – just as the forces of fascism were approaching across the Western Desert – the Suffering Bastard was designed to be a hangover cure. And let’s face it; if you were about to go head-to-head with Rommel’s Afrika Corps it had better be a damn good one! Joe was too much of a gentleman and originally called the drink The Suffering Bar-Steward but nobody was under any illusions as to what was really meant. Joe went on to have a long globe-trotting cocktail career but his best known recipe got a bit mixed up over the years and the fact that Joe made later versions called the Dying Bastard and Dead Bastard probably didn’t help. In my view the original version is the best so why not start there? If the American war machine ran on Coca-Cola and the Nazi’s were powered by apfelsaft and Fanta* the British Empire was fueled by ginger beer so it should be no surprise that it’s a key ingredient. Indeed the entire recipe seems to be based on what would be readily available at any British style hotel bar. The original recipe calls for Roses Lime Cordial but that makes the drink too sweet and it is much the better for using fresh lime juice instead. What is really unusual about the Suffering Bastard is its use of two completely different base spirits – even if there’s little agreement about which two. These days we’d call that a “split base” (and we’ll be talking about it soon) and Death & Co of New York make claim on it as their idea – or at least their specialty. But we can see that Joe S was doing it 60+ years before them. We should also note that the SB adheres quite closely to the Tiki template and is often considered part of the Tiki canon. Despite the apparent randomness of the ingredients the Suffering Bastard is an extremely invigorating and tasty tonic. But does it work as a hangover cure? Trust me; I’m a bartender.

Suffering Bastard.

1oz / 30ml London dry gin.

1oz / 30ml Cognac or brandy** (I go for Courvoisier VS).

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.

2 dashes of Angostura bitters (and let’s treat that as a minimum).

Shake with ice and pour, unstrained, into a DOF glass.

Add 4oz / 120ml of a good spicy ginger beer and stir in gently.

Garnish with a slice of orange and a mint sprig.

Toast Joe Scialom: international barman of mystery (c.1910-2004?).

*Cracking story BTW – and the reason I call Fanta “Nazi-Cola”.

**Bourbon is often called for but was almost certainly a later substitution. My theory is that bourbon became readily available just as pre-nazi-occupation cognac supplies dried up.

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Dr Frankenstein.

It’s Frankensteen!

Dr Frankenstein.

We’ve been riffing on the the Dr Funk a lot recently but we need to be careful not to change it too much in case we create a monster. Hang on. I think I just had an idea…

What if we took a few limbs from the Dr Funk and Dr Faust then stitched them onto the torso of a whisky sour and then run a couple of million volts through the combo and serve it on the stem. More intense, more powerful, less pink. What would we call such a drink? I’m sure I’ll come up with something before the next deadline.

Dr Frankenstein.

2oz / 60ml bourbon (I’d use a high voltage one such as Wild Turkey 101).

0.75oz / 22ml lemon juice (instead of the usual lime juice).

0.5oz / 15ml grenadine (preferably home-made).

1 tsp / 5ml absinthe.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.

Toast Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)

You could also make this with Scotch instead of bourbon in which case it would be a Dr Jekyll and which would bring us full circle to the Robert Louis Stevenson connection of the Dr Funk. A gin version would be the Dr Watson. While I don’t recommend it (you know how I feel about flavourless spirits) a vodka version would be a Dr Zhivago. You get the drift.


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