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!


The devil is in the detail, part 2


As promised in last week’s blog, I’m back with part two of my look at the rules and regulations of spirit production. Once again this isn’t a short or light update, there’s a lot of information here that hopefully will go a long way to explaining how each spirit category must be made and what some of the differences are between one type of spirit and another. I've chosen to leave out liqueurs as I've written about those rules very recently.


This time we’ll be looking at vodka, tequila and mescal, and several types of brandy. So if you’ve ever wondered what makes cognac different from other brandies, or why rums from different countries taste so unique, then stir yourself a manhattan, put on your reading glasses and let’s have another look at the rules and regs!


The devil is in the detail


When I wrote recently about liqueurs and the different rules governing how they’re made, I had a lot of people telling me how useful it was to see those guidelines spelled out. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding spirits and their differing rules, so I thought I’d have a go at putting down on paper the regulations for most of the major spirit categories. When we talked about this over a rum or two at b&t HQ, it seemed like a great idea, but then I started the research…


The problem I ran into right away was that every country seems to have their own set of regulations defining each type of spirit, which means to arrive at one definitive list of rules is nearly impossible. However, after a little research I’ve managed to compile some guidelines for each spirit category, and have written more straightforward interpretations for some of the confusing legal definitions that make up the ‘rules’. So if you’ve ever wondered what makes some gins ‘London Dry’ or have queried the difference between bourbon and scotch, here’s my attempt at unraveling some of those mysteries that make up the defining rules of spirit production. You might want to fix yourself a cocktail as this is one of the longer blogs I've written… and this is just part one!


It’s a guideline not a recipe!

In my day job I spend a lot of time educating bartenders about bourbon, and this week during a tasting session I was asked to discuss how to adapt some classic recipes to suit different bourbons. All too often we are presented with ‘the recipe’ for making a certain drink, but just saying 20ml of vermouth or 50 ml of gin doesn’t always lead to creating a well balanced drink. The moment you change one ingredient the balance of the drink changes.
When it comes to making cocktails, everywhere you turn you are presented with recipes be it in blogs such as this or in cocktail books or magazines, but maybe we should be talking about guidelines not recipes. It probably seems like common sense to good bartenders that you would always just balance your drink depending on what ingredients you are using, but to the less experienced bartender or cocktail enthusiast it is easy to get caught in the trap of following a recipe blindly.

Can a Spirit be Too Good for a Cocktail?

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to a tasting event hosted by Remy Martin cognac. Cocktails were provided featuring their VSOP cognac but the star of the show was their Coeur de Cognac, which was available to taste neat or with an ice cube. When I questioned why Coeur de Cognac wasn’t being showcased in the cocktails as well I received a familiar reply, ‘it’s too refined to be mixed in a cocktail, it should be enjoyed as it is’.
It’s not unusual for a producer to take great pride in the premium products that they have created, or to turn their noses up at the idea that you want to adulterate them by putting them in a cocktail, but when is a spirit too good to be used in a mixed drink? I think there are two schools of thought on that subject.

blogging about blogging

There are times when I wonder what on earth made me think that it would be a good idea to start the bitters&twisted blog. I guess I kind of assumed that writing a blog would be pretty easy… you know, bash out a few hundred words every now and then and snap a couple of pictures, click post and you’re done!
How wrong I was! Actually writing a drinks blog is time consuming, frustrating and at times feels like hard work. First you have to come up with ideas, then you have to research them, maybe come up with a couple of cocktails, set up the camera and lights and that’s before you’ve even written a word. That being said it is also incredibly rewarding.

Tales of the Cocktail

Just a quick note to say that Bitters & Twisted is very excited to announce that we will be at Tales of the Cocktail in July, camera in hand and dictaphone at the ready!