Spirit and Cocktail gifts, all wrapped up

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!


Three ways with cognac


When it comes to cocktails for some reason cognac is not the first spirit that springs to mind. I suppose that’s partly due to the fact that when most people think ‘cognac’ they picture a super expensive liquid, enjoyed by the wealthy few, after a meal in a fine dining restaurant. It’s a fact that cognac is generally more expensive than most other spirits; the price point even of a VS cognac makes it one of the more expensive products in any bars speed rail, but that doesn’t mean that it’s inaccessible to the average cocktail lover.


Historically, cognac has been a popular base for cocktails, and without breaking the bank, offers good entry-level varieties that can be fantastic to play with in drinks. In fact in the mixing room at b&t head quarters we stock fine examples from Martell, Coirvoisier and Hennessey that all offer something different when used in cocktails. Recently I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Cognac as a guest of the Merlet family learning about both their liqueurs and their cognac, the ‘Brothers Blend’ and, after spending an hour watching Tony Conigliaro make cocktails in the sunshine, outside the family home I felt inspired to play around with this versatile and tasty ingredient myself.

Not all liqueurs are created equal!


I’ve written before about the fact that I believe that cocktail recipes are just a guideline that helps you create a tasty drink, but that depending on the exact products you are using, they will most likely need to be adjusted to find the right balance. When it comes to this premise, liqueurs stand out as being one of the most variable of all cocktail ingredients. This is partly down to the rules governing how liqueurs are made but is also strongly influenced by the production methods used to make them.


As a cocktail ingredient, liqueurs add three things to a drink: sweetness, alcohol and flavour and as such need to be given special consideration. Getting the balance right is an art form so to simply say that a drink calls for 15ml of crème de peche or poire is sometimes too basic. Some are sweeter than others; one may have a greater intensity of ripe fruit flavour, whereas another may be sharper with an almost citrus edge. To use liqueurs well you have to have tasted them and have an understanding of their unique attributes.


Alchemists, Princes and Master Blenders

The last few weeks have been pretty full on for b&t and there have been some chances for me to try new products such as the 2010 release of Bushmills 21 year old, as well as to reacquaint myself with some old favourites like Benedictine and Drambuie. So now seems like a good time to talk about what we’ve been drinking!
I have a feeling that we’ll have to do a similar thing with ‘where we’ve been drinking’ too, as there seem to be quite a few new bars popping up at the moment, but I’ll save that for another day. For now here are a few of our favourite spirits from the last month.