Saturday, 19 June 2010


Summer would be nothing without a glass of
Pimm's. The glass above, imbibed recently at an authentic Westcountry wedding, reminded me once again how integral this gin-based drink is to the English identity, along with colonialism, cricket, etc.


One part Pimm's

Three parts chilled lemonade
Mint, cucumber, orange and strawberry to garnish.

Fill a jug or glass with ice, add the ingredients and give a good stir.

The proportions here I took from the people at Pimm's, although I'm sure these things, like the fruit garnishings, can be applied flexibly, particularly at picnics. The Pimm's in question was their No.1 Cup (the main one, 25% abv), and the taste both spicy and almost tea-like, while retaining a remarkable ability to refresh. I must try out their Winter Cup too, once the cold descends inevitably in a few weeks' time.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Oreo Milkshake

33-35 Wellington Street
London WC2E 7BN

Byron is a growing chain of burger bars that make really good burgers. Fortunately, for this blog, they make a decent drink too. The Oreo milkshake, ice cold and sludge-thick, speaks for itself. The glassful pictured above was around half the total serving (the rest waiting patiently in the metal beaker behind). Try one.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Morning Glory Fizz

The Fizz is a genre of cocktail that sparkles - with vitality as well as CO2. Having been roused by the original Gin Fizz, and enchanted by the Ramos Gin Fizz, my Fizz family genealogy project continues apace. The Morning Glory Fizz leapt at me from the pages of David Wondrich's Imbibe! for two reasons. One, obviously, was my fondness for whisky, which thus far I've tried mixing in cocktails only thrice (herehere and here). The second was my recent purchase of a bottle of blended Scotch known as Bailie Nicol Jarvie, which I've heard highly recommended as a base for cocktails.

Morning Glory Fizz

60ml (2oz) Scotch whisky
1/2 tsp Absinthe
1 egg white
15ml (0.5oz) lemon juice
7.5ml (0.25oz) lime juice
0.75 tsp fine sugar
Soda water

Pour lemon and lime juice and sugar into a cocktail shaker and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and plenty of ice and shake well. Strain into a glass tumbler and top with soda water.

I must admit the instruction to 'top' a cocktail with something, like soda water, annoys me slightly (only slightly). What's the point in measuring out precise pours of every other ingredient - something I wholly believe in for consistency's sake - when the amount of mixer added at the end can vary so dramatically depending on the size of the glass, potentially changing the character of the drink? Nevertheless, I did what I was told here, and topped my tumbler.

The Morning Glory Fizz tasted faintly like a whisky sour, but not quite. At first, I feared the soda had diluted things too much. But when I forced myself to stop obsessing about tasting the whisky, allowing it instead to submerge into the whole, I started to quite enjoy its gentle caress. This was far more delicate, and refreshing, than a whisky sour, and I enjoyed the subtlety of the absinthe.
As Wondrich explains, any drink that goes by the name Morning Glory is a hangover-helper. I can't say I've been brave enough yet to put that to the test, but I can think of far
worse antidotes to a bad head.

Friday, 11 June 2010

WS#3: Islands

Three is the magic number, and for Whisky Squad #3 we went island hopping, trying some fine specimens from destinations far flung. We excluded Islay this time, since its eight distilleries could - and will - fill whole evenings on their own. The whiskies we did choose were tasted blind, as usual, and I'm indebted to the Whisky Squaddies, including Whisky Guy Darren, for their contributions to the following notes...

A Master of Malt bottling from the isle of Arran (54.7% abv).
Aroma of Werther's Original, honey, orange, burnt sugar. Taste of bread and butter pudding, sweet fudge.
We heard that the site of the Arran distillery was specially chosen by scientists charged with locating the best conditions for whisky making, which seem to include a warm climate. Such is the speed of maturation on Arran that whiskyperts have supposedly mistaken 5-year-olds for Scotches 35 years their senior.

Tobermory 15
Number two of the evening, a non-chill filtered whisky from the Isle of Mull (46.3% abv), was the controversial choice, since it didn't go down too well with the gathered throng, although Darren suggested it would make a fine aperitif with some olives.Aromas included socks, solvent and "Camembert left in a hot car". The taste was "bad Christmas", with sauerkraut and raw spirit notes.

Highland Park 18

A 55.8% single cask whisky from Orkney bottled by Signatory.
Aromas of sherry, fruit and - apparently - ham, with a tiny peat injection. The thick, oily mouthfeel was also smooth, providing a long, deep, throbbing finish (not sure what I mean by that).

Talisker 18
Isle of Skye (45.8%).
Adjectives: smoke, honey, waffles, dark chocolate. Better with a few drops of water.

I see my notes become more succinct by the fourth dram. If you want to read a more expert account, try this one. Overall, the Squad preferred the Highland Park - garnering five votes to the Arran's three and the Talisker's two (and the Tobemory's zero). Personally, I most enjoyed the Arran (right), which I considered more delicious and interesting than the Park. All in all, though, these islands were well worth the trip.

WHISKY WISDOM 1: It can pay to let a whisky sit in the glass for a few minutes before drinking, to let things "open up", says Darren. It's been suggested that the number of minutes one might allow a Scotch to breathe should correspond to its age (ie. leave a 10-year-old for 10 minutes, etc). Perhaps.

WW2: Younger whiskies, in taste terms, resemble children jumping about after consuming e-numbers. Older whiskies recall, at first, an old man telling a boring story, before they open up into a grander tale.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Town Mill Cobb

*Guest post by Brett*

As I begin to dip my toe into the vast ocean of Real British Beer, it's daunting how much there is to learn. But learn I will, and with "microbrewery" the apparent buzzword of 2010, what better place to start than with Cobb bitter, from the Town Mill Brewery in Lyme Regis.

Thus far, Cobb (3.9% vol) is the sole offering from one of the UK's newest breweries. Having only been installed in one of Lyme Regis's historic Mill House buildings in March this year, Town Mill has made a promising start, and locally, demand is currently outstripping supply.

Whilst a fraction hoppy for my own preference, Cobb is a pleasant and generally well balanced bitter which is neither too fragrant nor too overbearing. And given the fact the brewery is still in its infancy, I've a feeling that Cobb could be tweaked over time to produce a slightly fuller flavour. However, it was in this instance the perfect accompaniment to a lunch which consisted entirely of bread and cheese - just the way the farmers do it.

Watch out for Town Mill's forthcoming Black Ven porter.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Amsterdam Vespa

This drink was my favourite of a good bunch, created and handed out by Drinksfusion - a "food and drink design company" - at a freebie event at the Cobden Club organised by review site Qype.
I failed to find out exactly how it was made, with the right proportions, but managed to snap a photo of the drinks menu, at least, which is how I came by the following rough guide:

Amsterdam Vespa

Ketel One vodka
Roggenaer Genever aged rye spirit
Lilette aperitif 
A touch of absinthe

Shake ingredients with ice and serve straight up with a lemon twist.

Drinksfusion's care for its craft was evidenced by a conversation I had with one of its number, who enthusiastically and at some length extolled the relative merits of different varieties of lime. One of their specialties is clever pairings of booze and canapes, which is how I ended up holding a 'seared tuna bite' in one hand and a 'watermelon shot' in the other (read more about the food here). I'm told such expertise can be obtained for private parties, as well as the usual corporate gigs, for a certain fee.

I'm really intrigued by genever, otherwise known as Holland gin, having read about its use in many a cocktail from the olden days. From what I gather, it's sweeter and stronger than the 'new-style' dry gin on which us British types were raised. In the Vespa, it worked a treat, providing a more substantial mouthfeel, before the green fairy fluttered its wings at the finish. If anyone's still scared of absinthe, by the way, may I suggest they try it - like here - in 'touches'. I'm beginning to believe this spirit is more rewarding in a supporting role than as a lead.

Friday, 4 June 2010

New Tequila Drink

I've been playing around with tequila for some time now in the hopes of turning up a neat recipe for a long, refreshing agave cocktail. I've enjoyed a Tequila Sunrise or two, but ultimately prefer to drink my orange juice for breakfast, sans booze. Similarly, I liked the El Diablo's mix of tequila and ginger, but was less keen on the Creme de Cassis, which made things too sweet for my taste. In the end, the drink I settled on has much in common with the Diablo, only spicier and bitter-er, and generally more grown up.

New Tequila Drink

45ml (1.5oz) reposado tequila
15ml (0.5oz) lime
90ml (3oz) ginger beer
One dash Angostura bitters

Pour ingredients into a highball glass with ice and stir. Drop in a segment of lime.

The NTD, as I will never refer to it again, is a useful way to drink tequila when you're looking for something more demanding than a vodka tonic but a little less concentrated than a margarita. Hope it helps.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Ale Archive

Some beers I've enjoyed recently...

Penumbra Organic Stout (4.8% abv) (pictured above)
A West Yorkshire beer from health food specialist Suma, best known for chick peas. The colour is the blackest black, the aroma roasted malt, the mouthfeel surprisingly thin, with gentle carbonation and flavours of chocolate and coffee. Overall, a decent drop, and relatively quaffable for a stout. But if you were looking for something with a little Ka-pow! I'd need to refer you to Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil or the Dark Star Imperial Stout.

Rossendale Ale
A dark gold Pennine brew with a strangely smoky nose, a creamy head and an interesting mix of flavours - wheat, burnt/dry, with mild hops. Tasted a bit watery after a couple of pints, but good for one.

Betty Stoggs (4%) (below left)
An old Cornish favourite from Skinner's brewery in Truro. Tastes better than it sounds, this one.

Monkey Magic (3.4%) (above right)
From Stafford's Slater's brewery comes this strangely lovely pint that resembles sweetish iced coffee. Shaded dark red, with roasted malty flavours, and a thin/light consistency.

Organic Honeydew
From Fuller's brewery - and made with real organic honey. I'm a little annoyed I waited this long to try such a beguiling beer, but with the summer threatening to appear soon I'm planning to make up for lost Honeydews. It's lagerish, but more of a lager/ale hybrid - bubbles are present, certainly, but the carbonation is less than a lager's and the taste more complex. The honey aroma is massive, with the flavours providing light cereal and malt with a little sweetness. Someone said "honey roasted nuts". Not sure about that, but this is a nectar of distinction, no question.