Well it’s that time of year again, the weather’s turned cold, the shops are packed full off people battling to spend their money as fast as possible and every bar has mulled wine or hot spiced cider bubbling away. Yep the run up to Christmas is in full swing, like it or not. So I thought rather than simply trot out a few recipes for hot cocktails or recommend where you should go for your office party, I’d instead work up a list of booze related presents to suit every relative or friend. So below is the official b&t cocktail and spirit Christmas list.
The great thing about giving spirits or cocktail related goodies for Christmas is that you’re likely to be able to share in the enjoyment of the gifts. I know they say that the pleasure is in the giving rather than the receiving, but as far as I’m concerned the pleasure is also in the sipping. So below you’ll find some of my favourite tipples, bits of cocktail equipment and booze related paraphernalia that should help you to have a very merry Christmas indeed!
I have just returned from my annual Christmas and New Year escape. You see unlike many people I don’t particularly enjoy the ‘festive’ season so I normally grab a group of like-minded individuals and head for the hills. As well as being a keen imbiber I also enjoy mountain biking, so a trip to deepest darkest Wales for a week of playing in the mud and snow up the side of a mountain always cheers me up, while others sit watching TV re-runs and eating Turkey.
This year was no exception, but where as I usually accept a week of drinking beer in place of Manhattans, this year I decided no compromise would be allowed. Here’s my simple philosophy… ‘there is no excuse not to drink cocktails’. No matter where you are or what you are doing, cocktails enhance the occasion, so why compromise?
So with that in mind I set about planning which bottles should go to Wales, with the obvious dilemma of taking enough variety for 8 days drinking, whilst still being able to fit everything else into the car! I would have loved to have been able to take the entire 'drinking room' collection with me, but practicality forced me to dig deep and cull my packing to no more than a couple of boxes, covering spirits, syrups, bitters, tools and fruit. A real challenge!
I also decided that I should provide a cocktail list for my fellow mountain bikers, offering a broad range of drinks to suit their varied tastes. This made life both easier and harder; at least I could narrow down the list of ingredients to cover a small selection of drinks… but it also meant I had to bring enough ingredients to cover the whole range of drinks, not just the drinks I like best… so much for a bottle of rum, a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of Antica Formula vermouth!
Well we made it through RumFest (just!) which was once again a great show. I have to say I really love the fact that it is the one event here in London that has some real life to it. I think that everyone there was shocked at how great the turnout was and how many people both in the trade and consumers are really passionate about rum!
But enough about rum, I have a few other things on my mind at the moment so if you will indulge me once again, I am going to talk a bit about bourbon, a bit about homemade ingredients, a bit about autumn and winter flavours (again) and a bit about garnishes.
I’m going to start with garnishes because I feel the need for a short sharp rant. Talking to American bartenders and friends in Canada there seems to be a dislike of garnishes by consumers over the other side of the pond. To my mind though a relevant garnish can take a good cocktail and elevate it into a drinking experience.
I hope you have been making the best of the recent burst of good weather we have had? At B&T HQ in rural Hampshire we have been doing our best to step away from the computers and get out in the back garden with friends. Obviously that means barbecues and cocktails and for us it meant going that one step further and hosting a tiki party. We pushed the boat out on this one, but actually it is pretty easy to do. Invite a load of mates, tell them to wear grass skirts or hawaiian shirts, get some rum and fresh fruit in, fire up the bbq and pray for good weather.
Now as we're not the sort of people to do things by halves we did all the above as well as setting about building a bar for the patio, a roasting pit for cooking a whole pig and bringing out the fire pit for later in the evening. With 50 of our closest friends heading over and the weather forecast looking good it seemed the right moment to bring out the punch bowl and the pitchers and to start preparing big batches of drinks.
As you will know if you have been following our recent travels we have been pretty busy what with Tales of the Cocktail and our American Whiskey trip, but we thought it was about time we combined some of what we learnt in New Orleans with some of the new ingredients we have picked up along the way and come up with a few drinks.
We met the guys from Boiron at Tales and they have been kind enough to let us have some samples to play with. They produce a fantastic range of fruit purees that are ideal for all your cocktail making needs. Their range consists of 48 flavours all of which are made from pure fruit and other than adding sugar (only when seasonal variations in fruit demand it) they are additive, preservative and colouring free, so in other words using them is like adding fresh fruit to your drinks only better.