Take your medicine!

If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone say that they’re going to have a drink ‘just for medicinal purposes’ I’d use the money to buy myself a drink! While I wouldn’t dream of claiming that drinking is beneficial for your health, the saying almost certainly comes from the fact that alcohol and medicine have been linked for centuries.
Early remedies were often infused in an alcohol solution to make them potable, and in fact the process of distillation began as a way of concentrating the healing properties of herbs and plants. Even as recently as the 1930’s Whiskey was prescribed by doctors to people suffering from a variety of ailments including the common cold.

We wish you a cocktail christmas!

Well the silly season is in full swing and this is likely to be the last update from b&t for 2010. It has been a hell of a year to be honest and 2011 is already looking like a corker too, what with trips to Copenhagen and New York in the pipeline, testing beginning on our full website and a list of topics to blog about as long as my arm (and at 6’6” I have pretty long arms!). So now we are nearing the end of 2010 I guess it’s time to shake a cocktail or two and reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead.
I always know it’s Christmas time when I start getting inundated with emails from brands and PR companies telling me about their amazing holiday drinks recipes and asking me to feature them on my blog. Each one seems slightly more cliché than the last. How many hot drinks featuring apple juice/cider, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and stirred with a cinnamon stick, could any one person possibly want to drink? It seems like every spirit brand has come up with ‘this years must have’ Christmas drink, but maybe they all went shopping for ingredients at the same supermarket! Consequently precisely none of them have made it onto bitters&twisted.

For your eyes only

I was looking back through some drink recipes the other day and I noticed a pattern. It seems like over the years I have tended to use the same ingredients repeatedly. I noticed that I went through a phase of using Jager in cocktails, after that I was using noilly amber a lot, then I moved on to Lillet Blanc and recently it has been merlet’s crème de poire. I seem to get caught up on what a certain ingredient bring to a drink and find myself adding it to all sorts of creations almost without realising it.
I guess it makes sense really. I wander into a bar and the bartender says ‘have you tried the new such-and-such from so-and-so?’ I have a taste and think ‘wow that would really work in a ….’. Next thing you know I have bought a bottle and it is worked into my drinks repertoire until the next new thing comes along.
When I thought about it a bit more I realised that I even associate certain ingredients with certain bartenders. Some are obvious connections. Jager will always make me think of Gregor and I can’t see Galliano in a drink without thinking of Ago from The Connaught bar. Some are less obvious though, Noilly Ambre for example makes me think of Pete Jeary who first introduced me to it and still swears by it as his secret weapon when making cocktails.
A quick phone around to a few bartender friends confirmed my suspicions; we all have our secret go to ingredients. It confirmed another thing too… some bartenders will put the damnedest things together in the name of using their secret ingredients, but somehow they usually pull it off!
This phenomenon certainly deserved further investigation (any excuse for a night out!) so I called in on Victor from LAB and he listed a few things that he is using a lot at the moment including Wray and Nephew and pimento dram. When he told me that he had a great drink up his sleeves using yellow chartreuse and cardamom bitters I decided to dodge the overproof rum bullet and try that instead.