21 classics with glamour!
Cocktails have become extremely popular over the past few years, but they are not a 1980s’ invention. The cocktail as we know it today certainly existed in both the U.S.A. and Britain in the early nineteenth century, but the ‘cult’ of the cocktail dates from the 1920s.
In America, Prohibition banned the production and distribution of strong liquor. No doubt the need to disguise the awful taste of ‘boot-leg’ spirits which resulted accounted for the enormous variety of drinks enlivened by liqueurs, syrups and fruit juices. By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1993, the fashion for weird and wonderful concoctions was established on both sides of the Atlantic.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the cocktail fashion was mainly confined to America. But today it has happily returned to Britain and hundreds of cocktails bars have sprung up all over Britain.
With the exception of few classics – such as the Dry Martini – the recipes in this blog should not be treated with undue reverence. Try them: if you like them as they are, fine; if they’re too dry or sweet, adapt them to suit your taste. Be adventurous – and try inventing some of your own!
Fans of James Bond will remember that he always insisted his Dry Martini was shaken, not stirred. Since this holds true for most cocktails, the most basic piece of equipment is a cocktail shaker. It can be any size, shape or material but, for convenience, it should have a built-in strainer. This prevents the ice, whose purpose is only to chill the cocktail, from falling into the glass with the drink. Always shake the shaker vigorously with both hands: this is how you bring the cocktail to life.
Fresh ice must be used for each mixing. Always use large ice cubes for shaking, or serving drinks. Never use small cubes as these dilute the drink too much. Some recipes call for the cocktails to be stirred rather than shaken. This can be done in a tall glass jug or shaker, using the long-handled spoon. The ice must be strained off before serving.
Teaspoons and tablespoons are needed to measure sugar, cream and certain liquid ingredients. These spoons should be kept in a glass of water when not in use so that they are rinsed between mixes. Nothing spoils the enjoyment of a cocktail more than the slightest hint of something contrary used in the preparation of a different drink.
Certain recipes call for the cocktail to be blended in an electric blender or food processor. If you have a machine with a facility for crushing ice, this presents no problem, but the blades of most machines can be blunted by large ice cubes; therefore you should put only crushed ice into the blending goblet.
When the sun is shining, the living is easy, and everyone is busy working up a thirst, a Sumner cocktail refreshes better than anything else. It’s time to relax and recall the last vacation I took with a…
Juice of 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 measures dark rum
Shake the ingredients well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Decorate with a cocktail cherry.
I 1/2 measures tequila
1/2 measure Cointreau
I measure lemon or lime juice
Moisten the inner and outer edge of the cocktail glass with a slice of lemon or lime and dip in fine salt.
Shake the ingredients well with ice and strain into the glass.
3 Pina Colada
3 measures of dark rum
3 tablespoons coconut milk
4 Melon Martini
5 Long Island Iced Tea
6 Mint Julep
7 Mai Tai
9 Bahama Mama
10 Bella Taormina
12 Bloody Mary
I measure vodka
2 measures tomato juice
1/3 measure lemon juice
I dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Shake the ingredients well with ice and strain into a wine glass. Garnish with celery leaves.
14 Cuba Libra
2 measures dark rum
juice of 1/2 lime
Coca-Cola to top up
Half-fill a tall tumbler with ice cubes.
Add the rum and lime juice and stir well.
Top up with Coca-cola and decorate with lime slices.
16 Moma’s Punch
18 Salty Dog
Written in 1754 by the agents for the Association of Port Wine Shippers, these words are a justifiable description of the great after-dinner wine known as Port Wine today.
Port, the subject of this short study, is a fortified wine produced exclusively in the Demarcated Region of the Douro Valley in Portugal, where both natural and human elements combined, created one of the most important and unique viticulture in the world.
Port is named after the city it is exported from; however the vineyards themselves are located some 100 kilometres inland on the rugged flanks of the middle and upper Douro valley.
The unique viniculture landscape developed about two million years ago on the schist hillsides along the Douro River Valley, producing an exceptional wine.
21 Port Flip
Standard spoon measurements are used in all recipes
I tablespoon = one 15 ml spoon
I teaspoon = one 5 ml spoon
All spoon measures are level.
A standard measure is called a ‘jigger’. It is equivalent to 45 ml/1/2 fl oz 3 tablespoons.
For all recipes, quantities are given in both metric and imperial measures. Follow either set but not a mixture of both, because they are not interchangeable.
Gin was originally produced in Holland in the sixteenth century from a destination of juniper berries and used as a medicine. In the eighteenth century, it acquired a reputation as a rather vulgar drink, but today it is once more considered respectable.
Gin is the most widely used for all spirits for cocktails; it is the basis for all Martini cocktails and the popular Tom Collins. Beside dry gin, there are others – subtly flavoured with fruit. Sloe gin is the best known of these; it is made from the fruit of the wild blackthorn.
Contrary to popular belief, the Scots did not invent whisky. The Irish, whose name for it means ‘water of life’, took it with them, along with the Gaelic language, the kilt and the pipes, when they colonised what later became known as Scotland. Perhaps this is why Irish whiskey is considered more mellow than most blends of Scotch. Canadian whiskey and the American bourbon are both corn-based; Scotch comes from malted cereals.
A selection of different whiskies is ideal, but not essential. Scotch can be used in place of bourbon, Canadian or Irish whiskey in cocktails calling for these spirits, although the taste will not be quite the same.
There are almost as many brandies on the market as there are cocktails. Sone, such as the finest Cognacs and Armagnacs, is too fine and too expensive for use in cocktails. For the novice cocktail mixer, the wisest course is to select a tree star Cognac.
The fruit brandies, such as Calvados (apple), Kirsh (cherry), apricot and peach, are not really brandies but liqueurs; however, they often blend well with brandy in a cocktail.
Both the Poles and the Russians claim the glory of inventing vodka. For our purposes, vodkas produced in either of these countries, being expensive imports, are wasted in mixing cocktails. They are best drunk neat, accompanied by caviar or salted fish. Vodka produced in this country, with a milder and less distinctive taste, is more suitable for mixing with other ingredients. Incidentally, the Bloody Mary, as well as being a fine drink for the evening, is a great pick-me-up first thing in the morning. The Harvey Wallbanger is perhaps the most popular vodka-based cocktail.
Rum will be forever associated with the West Indies, its true home, and the Royal Navy, its second home. Rum comes in various colours and strengths – and the strong versions are pretty powerful. White rum, which is colourless, was originally known as Cuban rum but, since Castro, it is no longer imported from Cuba.
Rum is an excellent base for cocktails because its flavour blends particularly well with fruit juices and other spirits. It is the base for one of the great cocktails, the Daiquiri.
Tequila is a Mexican spirit, distilled from pulque which, in turn, is distilled from the sap of the maguey plant, a vegetable similar to a cactus. Tequila is a refined form of mescal, taken by the Indians of Mexico as part of their religious ceremonies.
All recipes for tequila cocktails are modern, as this spirit has only recently acquired a respectable reputation in society, being pioneered chiefly in Southern California. Salt is used in the Margarita since tequila is traditionally drunk as a neat spirit with just salt and lemon juice on the tongue.
Some prefer Champagne at breakfast time, in or out of cocktails; the classic Champagne cocktail – Buck’s Fizz is traditionally enjoyed at this hour. Others feel that the effervescence of this wine, which epitomizes the lively spirit of the 1920s, is more suitable at night. The important thing to remember is that it is not necessary to spend a lot of money on Champagne for cocktails – inexpensive Champagne, or even sparkling white wine, is just as good.
Never put Champagne in an electric blender or food processor – you may end up with your cocktail on the walls!