I don’t know about you, but this year the span from Christmas to New Year had a lot of potential for hangovers. For once though I was prepared for the silly season as I had decided that my first update of 2013 would be on the subject of everyone’s favourite morning after cure. The Bloody Mary is one of those rare ubiquitous cocktails, found on menus the world over, and known to every bartender in one form or another. But why is it such a popular drink, and how has it come to be such a well-loved cocktail?
I personally see the Bloody Mary as the ‘last man standing’ in a very old tradition of morning drinks. I’ve written before about Corpse Revivers, and it’s well documented that many cocktails started as ‘bracers, eye openers, revivers or pick-me-ups’ and yet these days the Bloody Mary is really the last remaining drink that it’s socially acceptable to be seen drinking before noon. That alone is enough to give it a fond place in most people’s heart, that and the fact that it is seen as the drink that helps you on your way to recovering from your hangover.
It’s undeniable that we’re in a new 'golden age' of cocktails; you can tell that this is true by the fact that cocktails are making it into mainstream culture. Want proof? Look no further than programmes such as Madmen and Boardwalk Empire. Want proof a bit closer to home? Well take a look at Tesco’s ‘Real Food’ website and you’ll notice a new cocktail section that’s gone live recently. Now maybe like me when you hear the word ‘cocktail’ you don’t immediately think of a national supermarket chain, but sure enough Tesco have caught on to the cocktail craze. So when they contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to come up with a Christmas cocktail or two from a box of random ingredients, I pushed aside fears of being sent a box of unusable ingredients and said yes.
A week later a large red box arrived and I eagerly unwrapped it, filled with equal parts excitement, trepidation, and of course hope at what the contents might be. Now before I tell you what was in the box (the photo to the left might give it away!), I should make it clear that I have enough self-awareness to know that I’m a bit of a spirit snob, I like my bourbons premium, my rum well aged and my tequila 100% agave. But I’m also a realist, so I knew I wasn’t going to be greeted by a bottle of El Dorado 15yo and a crystal mixing glass, but I was quietly hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
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!
If you’ve been to and English fete and flower show you probably spent some time in the ‘home produce’ marquee – the location where you’ll find the finest home-made jams, pork pies, bread, chocolates, wines and spirits that the village has to offer. Well the recent launch of a small batch sloe gin and damson vodka by artisanal spirit producer Sipsmith, was a little like that; a celebration of all that’s good about making your own food and drink. Those attending received a warm village welcome to the ‘garage’ that’s home to Prudence, Sipsmith’s beautiful hand-made copper still (and the first in London for almost 200 years).
The evening had a festive feel to it: tinkling glasses, sparkling lights and the aroma of home-cooked food, easily blended with the merriment of writers and clients who clearly loved being immersed in the hand-crafted ambience of Sipsmith. To enhance the festivities and emphasise the ethos of Sipsmith, guests had been encouraged to make a food item using sloe berries and damsons plums and, in true village fete tradition, their efforts were duly tasted and judged for ‘best in show’. The aromas of home cooked pie, pungent cheese and the finest small batch spirits wafted down the narrow row of houses in this Hammersmith back street.
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!