Paul Bradley

Dark spirits are for life, not just for Christmas!


I read an interesting article the other day on the Los Angeles Times website, about how clear spirits are the trend in Southern California at the moment. The article talks about ‘light drinks for sunny days, meant to refresh’ and goes on to say that ‘clear spirits often get the job done better than the dark stuff’. While I totally agree with much of what the article says, especially about treating these clear spirits with a delicate touch to stop them from being overpowered by other ingredients, it also got me thinking about how we often unfairly compartmentalise spirits to be for a certain occasion or time of year. So below are a few thoughts I have about not forgetting ‘the dark stuff’ when it comes to summer drinking.

I should start by saying that I love white Rum, Gin, blanco Tequila, and am even slowly growing fonder of Vodka. But having said that I’m often drawn to the complexities of dark spirits as a base for cocktails as well as for sipping neat. When the sun is shining I’ll admit that a Daiquiri, Margarita or Caipirinha are great thirst quenchers, or that a refreshing Collins can be hard to beat. But likewise there are some pretty amazing dark spirit drinks that fulfil the same role for me. A Mai Tai, Mint Julep or even a Whiskey Sour are pretty remarkable summertime cocktails.

some things are just better homemade

We posted a blog about homemade syrups a while back and had a few people contact us looking for recipes that any bartender could use to get started. You know the sorts of syrups that are essential to certain drinks but that the commercial ones available leave a bit to be desired. So as we are always keen to please, we contacted a few friends who make their own to get their best recipes.
We started with a couple of syrups essential to tiki drinks (but also called for in many classic cocktail books). Orgeat and grenadine are two syrups that can transform a drink, but after a syrups tasting I did for Imbibe magazine last year, I was left thinking that the shop bought ones were pretty poor. Paul bases his recipes on a 50/50 sugar syrup (controversial, but having tasted the results who are we to argue?) which he makes in bulk, taking equal parts sugar and water and boiling them gently for about 20 minutes with crème de tartar (1/4 teaspoon will do 6 litres)
So here are a couple of recipes that Paul Bradley gave us that really hit the mark:

Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner!

I was really surprised at the response to our competition to win a bottle of El Dorado 12yo and 2 tickets for RumFest. Actually scrap that, with a really good bottle of rum on the line and forty quids worth of tickets I guess there was a reasonable incentive to send us a recipe. I was really happy to have so many excuses to drink autumnal rum cocktails! Admittedly the B&T drinks cabinet is now running a little low on El Dorado rums but it was all in a good cause.


After much sipping, and comparing of notes we finally managed to narrow the entrants down to just 10 that we thought were worthy of being added to the Bitters & Twisted drinks database, and the creators of those drinks had their names thrown into a hat so that a winner could be drawn at random… and the winner is…. You’ll have to read on to find out I’m afraid.


The whole point of this competition was that the weather here in the UK has definitely taken a turn for the colder and the leaves are changing colour as we speak. While I am a big fan of sunshine I am also a big fan of all those autumn flavours especially when you throw them at a good bottle of rum and see what sticks! I am pleased to say I have a few new autumn drinks that I will be turning to over the next couple of months, and one that might just see me the whole way through winter. Sadly Rob Poulter didn’t win the competition, but his autumn drink definitely deserves a mention here especially as it helped propel him to Theme’s Bartender of the year recently: