New Amsterdam.

Mooier dan Parijs.

New Amsterdam.

The tweaking of rock solid classic cocktails is a great low effort way to have some creative fun. The Manhattan is an excellent base for such experimentation with its simple formula of whisky, Italian vermouth and bitters. While the variation I present here uses some superb Dutch ingredients that may well be completely unavailable to you poor bastards the point is that you can use a similar thought process to inject your own (possibly local) favourite spirits, bitters and vermouths into the basic Manhattan formula which, as you should know off the top of your head by now, is 2 parts rye whiskey to 1 part (or just under) of Italian vermouth and a couple of dashes of aromatic bitters, all stirred and served “up” with a cherry. But you knew that didn’t you? Excellent. My New Amsterdam uses some rye jenever* (/genever, let’s call the whole thing off), the evergreen Punt e Mes and a couple o’ dashes of the best bitters in the world. I added a bit of orange to the garnish because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want. Now if at this juncture you’re thinking this sounds pretty familiar you’d be quite right as the New Amsterdam is not a million miles from a few drinks we’ve enjoyed together in the past including the Martinez and the 1015. If you’re interested in the ingredients I’ve picked here you might want to hit up those links for a bit more detail. Variations on classics like the Manhattan really don’t need to wander too far from the originals to become their own thing but in my opinion (and, boy, do I have a lot of those) a change in base spirit is a minimum requirement if you’re going to give your version a new name. In this case I’ve used the name of the original Dutch colony on the island of Manhattan before the English muscled in and decided New York was more appropriate.

New Amsterdam.

2oz / 60ml Rye jenever (a.k.a. rogge genever).

0.75oz / 22ml Punt e Mes Italian (a.k.a. sweet) vermouth.

2 dashes of Van Wees (a.k.a De Ooievaar) angostura bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange peel.

Toast Old Amsterdammer Johnny Jordaan for no particular reason.


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Amaretto Sour + dry shaking.

Sour me up daddyo!

Amaretto Sour + dry shaking.

A reader recently approached me and asked why I hadn’t written about any sweet cocktails. Errr, because I don’t like them? I’m not in this gig for the money, but solely to force my views on cocktails upon the drinking world. But your fans might like sweet cocktails quoth he. Hmmm. He has a point. Maybe I can square this circle by writing about the 70s sweet mess that was the Amaretto Sour (it wasn’t very sour) that was spectacularly fixed in 2012 by Jeffrey Morganthaler and is increasingly popular these days. Populist enough for ya? Excellent. First up a word about Jeffrey M. If I have a favourite startender it is perhaps he. Irreverent attitude, sense of humour, doesn’t take himself too seriously, deeeeeep understanding of how cocktails work. Yep, all my boxes ticked there. Jeff’s The Bar Book is, in my view, an essential read for all budding cocktailistas. I’ve even made the pilgrimage to his Portland (OR) bar and restaurant Clyde Common although unfortunately he wasn’t home at the time. OK, enough fawning – to the point!

Originally the Amaretto Sour was just a big measure of super-sweet amaretto* (duh), a little lemon juice and some sugar syrup (or worse still some sour mix instead of the last two). If you were lucky you might get a foamy topping or some fruit. Nasty business. While the modern cocktail movement simply throws such recipes into the dustbin of Dark Ages (c.1970 – 2000) cocktail history Morganthaler’s brain doesn’t really work that way and against all logic he saved the unsaveable. It’s a case of re-balancing the Amaretto sour to actually be a sour and giving it a bit more backbone (because amaretto is only about 28%). His trick was to add a little cask strength bourbon – the stronger the better. That’s going to depend what you can get your hands on. I used some Wild Turkey Rare Breed (58.4% ABV) and it was pretty damn fine but I think the minimum requirement here is Wild Turkey 101 (50.5%) which is affordable, excellent and widely available. If you’re in the US you’ll have more choices. If you only have weaker bourbon (40-46%) available you should up it to a full ounce. To fully resour the drink we’ll need a foamy head and we can use either egg white of aquafaba. And this is an excellent opportunity to talk about shaking technique for such endevours.

(Reverse?) Dry Shaking.

Until fairly recently the preferred method of maximising the creamy head on a sour cocktail was the “dry shake” in which the ingredients are shaken without ice to cause the egg whites to foam up and then ice is added and shaken again as normal. It works pretty well. More recently some bartenders have been raving about the “reverse dry shake”. WTF? Do we stand with our back to the guest or what? Nope. The reverse dry shake involves reversing the procedure. Shake your drink the usual way (ie. with ice) but then remove the ice (strain the liquid into a glass, chuck the ice, return booze to shaker) and shake again with all holy fury. This should result in an even more fabulous creamy head. I say “should” because the whole topic is clouded in controversy. Some bartenders swear by the reverse dry shake. Others by the original dry shake. Some forgo both and just shake hard with ice (often using larger cubes). Nobody said this was going to be easy. Me? For now I’m content with the basic dry shake as I think it has a silkier texture but I encourage you to try it both (or all three) ways and draw your own conclusions. In the interests of full disclosure the drink in the picture was reverse dry shaken.

Amaretto Sour (Morganthaler variation).

1.5oz / 45ml Amaretto (disaronno or another brand).

0.75oz / 22ml bourbon 50%+ABV (see text).

1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice

0.5oz / 15ml egg white (or aquafaba in which case 0.75oz)

1 teaspoon simple syrup (I prefer it without so let’s call it optional).

Dry shake (or reverse dry shake) into chilled large coupé and garnish with lemon peel and a maraschino cherry**.

Toast Jeffrey Morganthaler for making sure we don’t take cocktails too seriously.

*Being an almond flavoured sweet liqueur of which Disaronno is by far the most well known although there are other brands.

**Jeffrey serves it on ice but I feel you can go either way.

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2017 – what a year!


It’s been three years this week since I started this blog so I thought I’d celebrate with my own variation of the Champagne Cocktail which we talked about a wee while ago. Basically I realised that I liked my Champagne Cocktail with orange bitters instead of Angostura and then proceeded to just slightly change every other ingredient too. So we have maple syrup instead of sugar, an orange horse’s neck instead of lemon and brut (dry) cava instead of Champagne. Now, while we’re on the subject I have a little tip for you on picking your bubbles. Mostly sparkling wines don’t have a year on the label which allows the producer a certain flexibility as they can mix the wines from different harvests to maintain a consistent flavour. However, if they have had a particularly good year they can’t help themselves but bottle it separately with a certain pride. Hence a production year on your cava or Champagne (or perhaps other types of bubbles) should be considered a good sign. For obvious reasons I couldn’t resist a 2017 for my anniversary Cavalier and rather tasty is was too!

The Cavalier is simplicity in itself to prepare and therefore very suitable for serving to a small gathering. Chill your glasses in the fridge for a couple of hours first – I know I really don’t need to tell you guys this anymore but there might be some newbies here. In each glass place one teaspoon of maple syrup and three dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s being a good choice). When it’s time to serve insert an orange horse’s neck into each glass and top up (gently) with your chilled cava. To insure mixing gently insert a mixing spoon down to the bottom of the glass and twist for a couple of slow rotations to get the maple and bitters flowing.


1 teaspoon (5ml) of maple syrup (the real stuff not some fake shizzle).

3 dashes of orange bitters (ideally Regan’s)

150-200ml of brut cava (Spanish sparkling wine).

Orange horse’s neck (long, thin strip of peel).

Mix as described above.

Toast cocktail bloggers – salt of the Earth 😉

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Hayman’s Royal Dock – gin review.

…in the Navy.

Hayman’s Royal Dock navy strength gin.

Last time around we were talking about the Pink Gin which is a drink that (once fixed) demands a punchy gin to stand up to the powerful force of all those dashes of Angostura bitters. Yes, it’s time to look at navy strength gin. Hayman’s is a smallish London distiller who have been supplying a navy strength gin to the British Royal Navy since 1863, according to themselves. Is this going to be the gin we put in our Pink Gin, Gimlet or NeGrogni? Let’s find out! But before we do perhaps I should explain exactly what “navy strength” means.

Navy Strength.

We need to wind the clock back a couple of hundred years when the Royal Navy decided to replace the daily ration of a gallon(!) of beer per seaman with rum because it kept potable for longer and saved (a lot) of space. And because they’d captured Jamaica*. Other alcoholic beverages were also issued (mostly wine and brandy) but by the middle of the 19th century things had pretty much settled on rum for the seamen and gin for the officers. Now if you get into a bit of barney with some pirates or someone else’s navy and feel the need to fire some large chunks of iron at them the last thing you want is your crew spilling their copious rum ration on the gunpowder. However science says that if your booze is at least 57% alcohol your powder will still go bang instead of fizz. Problem solved. Thus seamen got half a imperial pint (284ml) of 57% rum per day. Every day. Meanwhile in the wardroom the gin the officers preferred was the same strength. In 1866 the Royal Navy reduced the strength to 54.5% (booo!) so either of those numbers are valid as a definition of navy strength today. The last Royal Navy rum ration was issued at 6 bells on 31st July 1970 (a day now known as Black Tot Day) and replaced by a can of lager (hisss!). History does not record whether the officers got to keep their gin**.

Hayman’s Royal Dock.

Our navy gin comes in a clear square bottle with embossed lettering, a synthetic cork seal and a simple vaguely antique looking paper label. It looks and feels just right for this kind of product. I also thought the blue and gold foil with an anchor motif was a particularly nice touch. Hayman have gone for the 57% ABV interpretation of navy strength as do most distillers. So far, so good. Sniffed Royal Dock is surprisingly mild and neutral and to be honest I was expecting, and indeed hoping for, more of a slap in the chops. Sipped it’s much the same story; while there is initially a nice oily texture and a little heat (though less than expected at this proof) the flavours are not magnified as I had expected. In terms of style the Navy Dock falls between the juniper-forward and citrus-forward types of gin. I could be critical and call it unexciting or I could be generous and call it balanced. The label only mentions juniper, coriander and citrus as botanicals and indeed it seems to be something of an equal balance of these three. If it really is a 150 year old recipe that might explain the somewhat simplistic profile. I’m initially left a bit deflated as I had high hopes for my first real navy gin. So it’s not really a gin for sipping neat? Well, no surprise – what gin is? The reviews I write here are based on a spirit’s mixing qualities and when mixed with Hayman’s naval offering does something quite surprising. It seems to punch its way through the other ingredients where most other gins are subdued in the mix. Despite my early impressions this is a gin that delivers exactly what I wanted from it. It gives my Gimlet a stiff upper lip, my Pink Gin a bit of backbone and gives my NeGrogni some extra legitimacy. It also makes a great Negroni and a nice punchy Gin & Tonic which makes me want to push its uses outside of the realm of naval and faux-naval cocktails. My timbers have never been so shivered. In these parts Hayman’s Royal Dock is a pretty reasonable €25-28 which is significantly less than the few other navy strength gins so we can add value for money to the equation along with the excellent mixability, pedigree and authenticity. Loyal shipmates, I’ve no choice but to award Hayman’s Royal Dock navy gin an:



*God knows how if they were all drinking a gallon of beer per day.

**I bet they did!


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Pink Gin.

Gin ahoy!

Pink Gin.

Everyone knows that sailors like rum but in the British Navy the officers preferred gin – largely to differentiate themselves from the “lower ranks”. The two gin delivery systems of choice were the Gimlet and the Pink Gin. Both are simple cocktails with a practical basis; the lime in the former to protect from scurvy and the the Angostura bitters in the Pink Gin to protect the stomach from the rigours of naval “cuisine”*. Now the Pink Gin is pretty secure in the title of “the simplest cocktail in cocktaildom” as it’s just a healthy dose of gin fortified with a healthy dose of Angostura bitters, stirred with ice and strained. So far, so good. The problem is that Angostura bitters are bitter (duh) and gin is bitter (mostly) and as a result the Pink Gin could be somewhat generously described as “bracing” and as such doesn’t get a lot of love. But I love gin. And I love Angostura. And I have a solution. Just a scant teaspoon of simple syrup is enough to restore the balance – and as we know balance is everything – and provide us with a most quaffable beverage. Ah, yes, there’s no fooling you is there? Indeed, this makes our slightly sweetened Pink Gin simply a Gin Old Fashioned, but hey, surely there can be no harm in that right? With our PG now balanced, the various flavours from the botanicals in both the gin and Angostura are freed to bounce around our palate. Huzzah! Now if we’re going to do this right I feel we should use some navy strength gin which weighs in at a hefty 57% ABV. Rum and gin in the Royal Navy were historically around this strength for a number of reasons of which we shall come to in my next article. But for now let’s just say that you should use navy strength gin if you have any but otherwise your favourite gin will do just fine. If using a sweeter gin such as Plymouth (and bonus points if you do for it hath the appropriate providence) or Old Tom gin you should cut back a little on the syrup. I’m also partial to the tiniest of splashes of chilled soda water in my Pink Gin to open up the flavours. If you want to “enjoy” the original version just skip the syrup…

Pink Gin (proofed).

3oz/90ml of gin (if navy strength use 2oz/60ml).

3 (or more) dashes of Angostura bitters.

1 scant teaspoon (about 4 ml) of simple (1:1) syrup.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupe.

Toast Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert (1796–1870) inventor of Angostura bitters.

*Although the officers mostly had the better of that, at least in the early part of any voyage.

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Old Cuban.

De Alto Cedro voy para Marcané…

Old Cuban.

Just recently we were looking at the Gin Gin Mule by Audrey Saunders so it seems like the right time to examine her other famous creation – the Old Cuban. It’s a kind of French 75/Mojito lovechild that’s somewhat counter-intuitively served in a stem glass without ice and yet works surprisingly well. Quite where Audrey found a supply of aged Cuban rum back in 2001 New York is something of a mystery since it was embargoed at that time*. While Bacardi 8 is often called for in this recipe be aware that’s really just because Americans have no access to the right juice. For the rest of the world it’s Havana Club 7 all the way – yes, in the strange world of cocktails 7>8. Conversely while Champagne is the correct topping I think it’s a bit of a waste mixing with the real stuff and usually work with a decent dry (brut) cava instead. Your choice.

The Old Cuban is a little tricky to balance, requiring care not to let the Angostura take over: I love my Ango but quickly discovered that this is not the place to get too enthusiastic with it. Double straining is essential in this case as mint fragments ruin the look and mouth-feel of the Old Cuban. Make sure you can taste the mint but not see it. It is usually served with a mint leaf or sprig garnish but I’m not convinced that it’s really necessary if you managed to get enough mint oils in at the muddling stage. I gave it the benefit of the doubt for the picture but I wouldn’t complain if it was served without. Speaking of the picture I’m gonna replug a book for those of you interested in the history of the cocktail revival. Audrey Saunders and Pegu Club play a significant part in A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson [ISBN 978-1-60774-754-3]. While it’s certainly a bit meta it does do an excellent job of explaining how we got from the Dark Ages (c.1970 – 2000) to cocktail Nirvana (c.2005 – ∞). It’s the perfect gift for a manic cocktail nerd – which is where my copy came from…

Old Cuban

1.5oz / 45ml aged Cuban rum (such as Havana Club 7).

0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.

0.75oz simple syrup (1:1)**

6 mint leaves.

2 careful dashes of Angostura bitters.

2oz / 60ml chilled Champagne or cava (brut).

Muddle the first four ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and bitters. Shake and double strain into a largish*** chilled cocktail glass. Top up with chilled bubbles.

Toast old Cubans.

*And still more-or-less is. You won’t normally be deprived of any Cuban rum you bring into the USA but none of the real stuff is imported. The “Havana Club” you might find in the US is a fairly insipid affair made by Bacardi that exists purely for them to perpetuate their spurious copyright claims. It’s a long story that I won’t bore you with this time around.

**Originally 1oz / 30ml but I found that a little sweet. Adjust to your taste.

*** The Old Cuban is a bit big for standard sized coupés so you will need a more capacious one. I find the kind of glass (pictured) which was popular for starters and desserts in the 1970s and 80s to be ideal. Since they’re seriously out of fashion for culinary use, nice ones can be found in charity shops for next to nothing. Otherwise a wine glass would be fine.

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Gin Gin Mule

Conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy.

Gin Gin Mule

How many times have you heard a guest say,”I don’t like gin/rum/whisky”? These pre-existing dislikes are often based on bad experiences long ago with iffy examples of those spirits and should be seen as something of a challenge. These people are just dying to be converted, even if they don’t know it yet. Therefore we should have a few “conversion” drinks up our sleevies for such occasions and the Gin Gin Mule is the perfect example.

The Gin Gin Mule was created by Audrey Saunders in the early naughties in New York. But Audrey wasn’t just in the business of converting gin haters she was at the forefront of bringing cocktails out of the nascent cocktail revival and unto the masses. Until Audrey Saunders happened the new cocktail movement was very much an underground affair confined to a handful of tiny speakeasy bars and elitist lounges but in 2005 Audrey’s full scale Pegu Club bar in SoHo (not Rangoon) dragged it out into the light, held it up by the toes and shook it around for everyone to see. And the rest is history. Saunders ran a slick operation and only hired the most talented staff and as a consequence there are remarkably few modern big name American cocktail bars and bartenders that don’t have some connection back to the early days of the Pegu. Anyhows – enough ramble – there be gin-haters to convert! Once more unto the breach, dear friends…

The Gin Gin Mule is basically a mash up of the Moscow Mule (a bullshit schlocktail that won’t be seeing the light of day on these pages) and the Glory that is the Mojito. With gin. The recipe below is the original version which Audrey created using a home-made ginger beer (we might come to that in future) but if using a commercial ginger beer (which tend to be quite sweet) I’d suggest slicing the sugar syrup down to a scant 0.75oz as a starting point but, as always we should be tweaking the balance to suit the ingredients.  While the GG Mule doesn’t sound terribly sophisticated (and I have some concerns about the name*) it’s the way that the gin interacts with the other ingredients that is the real genius. When the ginger/mint/botanical balance is right you’ll have those gin haters eating out of the palm of your hand.

Gin Gin Mule

1.75oz / 52ml Tanqueray gin (or similar).

0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.

1oz / 30 ml simple (1:1) syrup – but see above text!

6 mint leaves.

1oz / 30 ml ginger beer (not ginger ale).

Gently muddle the mint, lime juice and syrup in the bottom of your shaker. Try not to break up the mint leaves. Add ice, gin and the ounce of ginger beer. Shake gently so as not to break up the mint leaves**. Pour unstrained into an iced Collins glass. Top up with a little more ginger beer (optional) and garnish with a mint sprig. Apply to gin haters and observe conversion thereof.

Toast Audrey Saunders.

*Gin for gin, Gin for ginger, yet Mule already tells us about the ginger beer. Too much redundancy IMHO.

**Really, try not to break up the mint leaves too much.

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Seedlip Spice 94 – alcohol free “gin” review.

Seedlip Spice 94

Hola cocktailistas! A few weeks back we considered a brace of alcohol free “gins” (you probably want to read that first or much of the following will make little sense) but it was clear to me that no such reviewage could carry much gravitas without perusal of the market leader in this small but growing category. Therefore, as (vaguely) promised, let’s get things up to date with one of Seedlip’s three offerings. Three? Yep, as we all know everything in cocktailville comes in threes and the peeps at Seedlip, paying much attention to such convention, have thusly concocted their alcohol free spirits (let’s stop messing around and call them gins even if they legally aren’t) in triplicate. I’ve chosen Spice 94 Aromatic for this review but there’s also a Grove 42 Citus and a Garden 108 Herbal in the range. I’ve not yet been able to ascertain what the numbers indicate but, frankly, who cares?

Seedlip Spice comes in a fairly plain yet attractive clear cylindrical bottle and is well sealed with a substantial, well fitting metal cap. The label, besides the “plantimal” – which I find vaguely creepy but I suspect is no big deal to anyone else – provides much information. I like much information. While Fluère and Siegfried Wonderleaf had miniscule calorie counts, Seedlip has absolutely zero calories. And zero everything else too, most significantly alcohol. Seedlip are open about their use of preservatives (potassium sorbate and citric acid: neither of which are very scary) but at least that gives us a decent shelf-life of 6 months after opening. Fluère and Wonderleaf are preservative-free but don’t keep nearly as long. You pays your money, you makes your choice but, personally, I’m happy enough with the extended shelf-life. One thing that puzzles me though is that Seedlip claim to be the first ever alcohol-free distilled spirit but also say that it’s based on a recipe in a book from 1651. Errr, I don’t think you can have that both ways guys. But enough faffing around – let’s have a sniff and taste.

The predictably clear and tearless Seedlip has a pleasant aroma of clove and/or  allspice with a hint of citrus and those flavours certainly come through quite firmly when sipped – although in common with other alcohol-free spirits it comes over a little “thin”. But tasting these gins neat is a bit unfair as they are just not designed to be consumed au natural. Mixed with a good tonic it is quite easy to forget you’re drinking alcohol free and I particularly enjoyed it with some elderflower tonic which seemed to mesh with it better than it does with some other gins.

2oz Seedlip Spice 94, ice, lemon twist and about 200ml of Fever Tree elderflower tonic.

But, hey, this is a cocktail hangout so we’d better shake it into a Bee’s Knees just like we did with the other ones, right? With the Spice 94 the Bee’s Knees was a breeze. The spice flavours were strong enough to cut through the lemon and honey but it was more restrained than with the Wonderleaf – right in the Goldilocks zone. I expect it would do well in many other gin cocktails as well but you’d probably want to stick to those without other alcoholic content such as the Gimlet, Southside and the Business (the twin sister to the Bee’s Knees).

The comparison of Spice 94 with (my memory of) Fluère and Siegfried Wonderleaf is most interesting. The Seedlip sits between the two with a good balance of spice and citrus. The clove/allspice flavours place it closer to Wonderleaf but it’s more complex and less forceful than the latter which I felt was something of a blunt instrument. So far, so good, but we inevitably come to Seedlip’s slight downside – it’s not cheap. I paid €24.50 for my 700ml bottle (with 500ml of Fever Tree tonic bundled) in the Netherlands* but back in its native Britain, £26 is more than you’d pay for plenty of good gins and they have to fork out in the region of £8-10 per bottle in alcohol duty. Still, the other two aren’t that much cheaper and you do get that extra longevity. All of which makes Seedlip Spice 94 my alcohol-free gin of choice so far.

While I’m still lacking quite enough data to grade these products I’m going to give tentative marks as follows.



Siegfried Wonderleaf:


Seedlip Spice 94 Aromatic:



*We’re not allowed to call ourselves Holland any more – but at least we still get cheaper booze than many countries.

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10 Bottles / 10 Cocktails.

Round up the usual suspects…

10 Bottles / 10 Cocktails.

This cocktail malarky is all well and good, but how are you supposed to get started on your journey to mixin’ Nirvana? Excellent question dear reader. With ten green bottles*. Some pundits recommend one or other “12 bottle bar” but here at Proof we’ve gone two bottles better to keep things simple for our new recruits. It’s a nice round number (although there’s always some show-off who tries to go one better) and I’ll show you a similar number of crowd pleasing classic cocktails you can make with them. The 10 bottles are designed to be an affordable starting point to grow from but they also represent 10 bottles that the cocktailista should always have in stock. You’ll find the reasoning and some alternatives with each one and, further down, 10 cocktails which we’ve already visited that you should, after some time, be able to make from memory. Yes, they lean heavily on the sour family but getting those sours cracked is the key to developing good cocktail understanding and skills. No, there’s no Scotch (comes later) or vodka (go right now to the headmaster’s office and tell him what you just said to me!) but we’ve still managed to cram a lot of diversity into these few bottles. Shall we do this? Blindin’:

10 Bottles

1. Wild Turkey 101. A bourbon whisky of 50.5% ABV that is a superb mixer and is relatively affordable and widely available. It’s one of few bourbons that can do double duty in drinks that call for rye whisky due to its dry spicy nature and some rye content. If you find the “kickin’ chicken” a bit too characterful I suggest Buffalo Trace or Four Roses small batch as excellent alternatives. An alternative alternative would be a good rye such as Rittenhouse.

2. Pierre Ferrand dry curacao. One of many orange liqueurs PF is, in my opinion, simply the tastiest and most versatile. Triple sec, curaçaos (non-blue!), Cointreau and Grand Marnier are all viable substitutes but have differing levels of sweetness and potency so tread with care.

3. Campari. This King of the amari (Italian bitter liqueurs) is vital for making  Negroni’s and much more. There is no substitute but luckily you can find this anywhere. While it might taste a bit bracing the first time you try it, do persist – it’s a grower.

4. Havana Club 3 Años is simply the best choice for a white rum. The essential ingredient of a proper Daiquiri or Mojito it’s indispensable, affordable and widely available. Unless you live in the USA in which case you’re shit outa luck (don’t be tricked by the fake stuff they sell stateside but go for Plantation 3 Stars or El Dorado 3 instead).

5.  Plantation Original Dark is a very versatile dark rum that punches well above its moderate price. Makes a nice rum Old Fashioned and so much more.

6. Calle 23 reposado tequila. A reasonably priced yet high quality, 100% agave, slightly aged tequila that makes a superb Margarita. Equally good alternatives are reposados from Espolon, Olmeca Altos and Don Julio.

7. Tanqueray export gin. A rock solid mixing gin that also makes a nice G&T. Not as fancy as some but better than many more expensive gins. Alternatives include Bombay Sapphire and Broker’s.

8. Punt e Mes is a sweet (aka Italian) vermouth but with a twist. It’s a bittered sweet vermouth that will make your Manhattans and Negronis shine and, in my opinion, is the tastiest and most adaptable mid-price example. If you eschew bitter flavours try Dolin instead.

9. Courvoisier VS cognac. A smooth and flavourful mixing cognac that won’t break the bank, Courvoisier is my go-to brandy but you could sub VS offerings from Hennessy, Remy Martin, Martell or Chateau Montifaud. If you have to drop your 10 bottles to 9 this is the one to let go but then you won’t be able to make the delicious Sidecar.

10. Angostura bitters. To round things off you will, of course, need a bottle of bitters and there’s only one place to start – the ultra-classic non-negotiable Lord-o-the-bitters Angostura.

Extras: OK so you do need a few other things but you can get them all from your nearest supermarket. Limes, lemons, mint, honey (runny, in a squeezy bottle) and sugar (fine, for making syrup.)

Show me the sours baby!

10 Cocktails

Once in possession of the above you have everything you need to make an excellent range of classic cocktails. Below are 10 crowd pleasers and some variants thereof. All have been previously discussed upon these pages so just click on the links for the recipes.

1. Negroni. The greatest cocktail ever invented. Variants include the Boulevardier (use the Wild Turkey 101 instead of rye).

2. Daiquiri. The other greatest cocktail ever invented (it was a tie) and the entry point to the almost endless sour family. Learn to make this one perfectly and from memory and you will be halfway to cocktail greatness.

3. Whiskey Sour. There are some variations to this one but start by making it like the Daiquiri and work on the foamy-topped version later. The Gold Rush is an interesting variation.

4. Gimlet. Simply a gin Daiquiri but it opens the door to the Southside, the Pegu Club, the Bee’s Knees and many, many more.

5. Margarita. Massively popular but very often badly made – nail this simple drink and become a party legend. Further improved versions are Tommy’s Margarita and my own Repo Man (although you’ll need to add some orange bitters for that).

6. Old Fashioned. More of a family of drinks, cut your teeth on a bourbon or rum O.F first.

7. Mojito. This evergreen summer cooler is very popular but takes some skill to get right. My favourite variation is the kick-ass Queen’s Park Swizzle.

8. Manhattan. Gateway into the wonderful world of stirred aromatic cocktails, the Manhattan is the essential template that you should learn to perfect.

9. Tom Collins. The Collins family are the basis for all long drinks/coolers and, while simple, will always put a smile on your guest’s face. Guaranteed!

10. Sidecar. Just when you thought, “He’s not going to use the brandy!” we come, last but certainly not least, to this classic brandy sour that is tricky to balance but ever so rewarding when you do.

With these simple drinks under your belt you’ll be well enough equipped to run a small cocktail party and spread your wings out to face the larger cocktail world. Keep these ten bottles in stock at all times and simply add others as and when needed to make other recipes that catch your eye. Bon voyage!

*OK, OK, so only a couple of them are green – have you never heard of artistic licence FFS?


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Meep, meep.


A wee while ago we made some coffee infused bourbon and it’s such a wonderful thing that it would be a shame not to use it in some more recipes. And in our last exciting episode we talked a bit about the horse’s neck garnish. Might be nice to find another use for that too, right? Enter the Roadrunner. Based on the most superbo Boulevardier –  itself a Negroni variation – my very own Roadrunner uses our bean boosted bourbon and a long curl of thinly sliced orange peel for a extra kick of flavour. I like to serve the ‘runner on the stem simply to be a bit contrarian (horse’s necks being more often found in a long glass and Negroni relatives in a tumbler) but you could serve it in an double Old Fashioned glass with a big cube if that seems a bit racy for you. If you were a fan of the star anise infused Campari from our Red Star a few weeks back I’ve added an option of using a little of that too but be careful to get the balance right so that the anise doesn’t overpower the spice of the coffee. Very much a drink for lovers of cocktails with a bitter spicy edge, the Roadrunner could be toned down a touch by using a less bitter vermouth such as Dolin. While I didn’t have any to hand, I’ve reason to suspect that Carpano Antica might be another option (hey, coffee and vanilla anyone!) but I wouldn’t want to confuse you with too many alternatives. That’s all folks!



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

0.75oz / 22ml Campari*

0.75oz / 22ml Italian vermouth**

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé containing an orange horse’s neck cut directly over the glass.

Toast Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.

*You can use a little of your StarPari if you like. I’d go 0.5oz regular and 0.25oz anise infused.

**I use Punt e Mes but that might be too bitter for some. See text for alternatives.

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