How to make an Old Fashioned Cocktail

This is a slight departure from my normal work, but I’ve got a cold and was craving something less potent and more sweet and fruity than a martini.

  
Enter the Old Fashioned cocktail. 

Apparently emerging in the early 1800s (it might even have evolved towards the late 1700s), this drink is a lot older than a Martini.

It also has a reputation for being a bit of a “fog-cutter” – that is, the sort of drink you choose when you’ve got a hangover, something sweet to try and ease the pain and help you get back on your feet again. The Breakfast Martini can serve a similar purpose.

Such hangover tactics are completely contrary to modern medical advice, but by Jove, if people have been swearing by the technique for over 200 years then who am I to argue?

Recipes for an Old Fashioned today can involve ingredients such as soda water, maraschino cherries and slices of orange but I wanted to create something much more intense, and err… old fashioned.

I like to taste alcohol when I drink alcohol, you see.

I first drank an Old Fashioned in the office after a long, intense day. I think we were in the midst of monitoring the onset of the Arab Spring, a time when Middle Eastern governments tended to collapse on a Friday, leaving us working late into the evening while the rest of London descended unto the pub.

 

 I was told the cocktail was making a comeback because of its portrayal in the US series ‘Mad Men’. My industry might not have encouraged the same sort of working hours drinking habits of Don Draper but booze was a fairly vital commodity once we had finished our work at the end of the day.

Given the supply of various ingredients we routinely kept in our drawers our office was the perfect place for our first tipple. A quick mix and we could relax, chat about work and enjoy a short period of shared workplace quietude before we too joined the masses in the pubs.

The recipe we used in the office involved honey, but my recipe uses demarara sugar.

You will need:

  • Bourbon or Rye
  • Sugar (brown if possible)
  • Bitters (I used Angosturra)
  • An orange (just for the peel)
  • Two glasses (one for prep, one for serving)
  • Ice (I used spherical ice – as it melts slowly and looks good in the right glass)
  • A teaspoon
  • A little bit of water

  

  • Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the prep glass.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of water.

  

  • Stir well to dissolve (this can take a minute or two).

  

  • If you mix these quite often you might want to make yourself some sugar syrup in advance which means you don’t need to go about dissolving sugar each time you pour a deink.
  • Add 250ml water to a kettle and bring to the boil.
  • Let it cool slightly then add it to a pouring bowl with 300g Demerara sugar.
  • Stir until it dissolves, allow to cool, then pour into a bottle or other container to store until needed.

  

  • Back to the mixing: add 2-3 dashes of bitters to the dissolved sugar (or equivalent of syrup) and stir.
  • Add 60ml bourbon or rye and stir a bit more.

  

  • Peel a strip of orange rind. 

  

  • Twist it over the serving glass to spray in the natural oil. Squeeze it, crush it slightly and rub it all round the inside of the glass to transfer as much of the oil as possible, then discard the piece (I actually just ate it outright, mainly for the vitamin C).
  • Peel a second strip of orange rind, twist it over the glass to release a bit more oil but try not to damage it.

  

  • Trim the strip of peel and put aside.

  

  • Add the ice to the serving glass.

   

  • Pour over the mixture from the other glass and swirl it around.
  • If you like bitters you can add in another dash now and watch it permeate through the drink.
  • Use the trimmed orange peel to stir, then drop it into the drink as well.

  

  • Serve in a nice setting with good company.

I picked the garden with the whippet puppies but indoor settings are more common; somewhere with dim lighting, leather furniture and perhaps some cigars would definitely work.

Because of its sweetness I don’t think this drink goes especially well with nibbles.

It could, however, be served both before or after a meal.

Indeed the drink’s versatility means that it could be served at a variety of times in a range of environments and settings.

Here, for example, is a perfect setting: a bar cabaret performance by the talented Cat Loud and Finn Anderson.

  

It also works well during more intense and strategic pursuits.

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The Foxlow in Balham 4/5

  

My friend invited me out to lunch at the Foxlow Restaurant just around the corner from Balham tube station in south London.
 

The decor has a 1970s Scandinavian feel to it, with lots of wood and chunky fixtures that say practicality as well as style. The staff were also helpful, friendly and knowledgable. 

  

The food menu is unpretentious comfort food – but of very high quality. The chicken sandwich was generous, tasty, comforting and a real treat of contrasting textures. All the meat and fish is carefully chosen from high value and sustainable sources by the way.

  

I don’t normally drink martinis at lunch but when I saw the unusual option at the top of their cocktail menu I had to try it. I was told it involved a honey and Manzanilla olive brine mixture instead of vermouth. If in doubt, I almost always prefer a traditional classic but this sounded like a very individual, striking yet simple variation that I had never seen before so it would have been rude not to order one.

  
I was not disappointed. The oily circle of honey oozed playfully around the surface of the drink until the end while the sweet and briny flavours swirled pleasingly over the stoicism of the dry gin.

If I could recommend any changes I would suggest, as I often do, keeping the gin and glasses in the freezer so that the drink was even colder. I also prefer to drink martinis from a V-shaped martini glass rather than a coupe glass, but these are minor points.

The drink was good value for money for London and I particularly salute the creativity of someone who can take a tried and tested classic, innovate it with a subtle but unique alteration and create something new and pleasing, yet also reassuringly rooted in the classic martini recipe  style.

  
The drink was not served with nibbles (perhaps it could be served with complimentary Manzanilla olives for martini greatness) but the nibbles on offer in the food menu were creative and highly tasty.

We ordered the anchovy, onion and goats cheese served on rounds of crisp bread. They were absolutely delicious, with strong salty and umami punch, finished off with the pungency of the onion.
  
They were a fantastic accompaniment to the martini, although given their strong flavour I would recommend only eating them with someone you are comfortable enough to share anchovy-onion breath with afterwards. If you’re on a date you’d better buy two plates to share – your breaths will hopefully cancel one another’s out if you end  up kissing later – and if you have one or two martinis let’s be honest, there will probably be a fairly good chance of it.

Drink for Victory! Canapés made from leftover food

Yes, I hate waste, and so should you.


Winston Churchill would hopefully approve of these snacks to accompany a martini, and so would the war office.


It’s basically a dead easy way to turn leftovers into a tasty snack.


You will need some Bamboo skewers


And some cold leftovers, maybe from a roast dinner you made the day before. Essentially you can use pretty much anything that can be safely reheated. Potatoes are ideal. I’ve also used some mushrooms in this instance.

Slice up the goods into bite-sized pieces.

Remember that in many East Asian cuisines, particularly Japanese, a lot of attention goes into preparing food that is already bite-sized, so that the diner can eat one-handed and/or using chopsticks without having to cut things up on their own plate.

This is particularly useful for martini drinking because you will need your other hand free to hold on to your glass.

When you’re ready, thread the pieces onto the skewers.


Add some sort of glaze or flavouring.


Here I used an ancient soy glaze, also referred to in culinary circles as marmite. You can purchase it in specialist food shops such as Asda, Lidl. Vegemite or Bovril can also be used.

In fact, you could pretty much use anything here. Plum sauce, barbecue sauce, honey with salt and pepper, Umami Paste etc etc

Put the skewers in a pan and roast them on a high heat for about 20 minutes, or until fully heated and hopefully crunchy.


Serve with a martini and make Churchill proud! You’ve also done that little bit extra for sustainability.

In addition, I even tried making a tapas-inspired equivalent. The above consists of some of the skewers plus some other bits and pieces I found in the fridge, re-hashed into something new.

I took cold leftover chicken, mixed it with yogurt, mustard, lemon zest, a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper and spread it over bread. I even… oh my god this sounds horrendous… spread leftover cold vegetarian lasagne over bread. I then toasted both of these things and Lo! they were not terrible. I served it with a potato and lettuce salad and the whole thing actually fed three people as a full dinner and nobody died or complained. One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet but Mum said they were nice.

So there you go. Enjoy Winston!

A martini using gin infused with coriander/cilantro



I have previously mentioned that Coriander (cilantro) is the Marmite of the herb world (you either love it or hate it). I have also previously mentioned that I love it. So I infused some gin with it.

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Coriander is already one of the flavours infused into many gin varieties, although juniper is (or should be) the dominant flavour. Being a traditionalist I would normally want to preserve the juniper flavour as the key ingredient but I was curious to try out something new and wanted to satisfy my own love for the coriander flavour. It has a fresh, grassy, almost citrusy taste and pairs well with lemon and lime. Critics often describe the flavour as soapy, so be careful who you serve this to. Otherwise I think it’s delicious.

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To infuse the gin take a handful of coriander leaf per 100ml gin you want to infuse. Wash it, pat it dry then coarsely chop it.

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Add it to a clean jar, top up with gin, seal the lid, give it a vigorous shake, then leave it for around two days. Shake it once or twice each day.

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The gin should turn a nice green hue.

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Strain it and discard the coriander leaves.

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Then decant it into a glass container or two and keep in the fridge to store, and freezer if you want to use it in a martini.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the drink as a normal martini but with coriander gin instead of normal gin. Garnish with some coriander if you have any to hand (or a piece of lemon peel which compliments the zesty coriander flavour) and serve with some nibbles.

When I was testing out the coriander gin first I felt a craving for avocado so I decided to make some very simple guacamole.

I mashed 2 avocados with a square inch of onion, chopped, a handful of chopped fresh coriander, a squeeze of tomato purée, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon or lime (whatever you have to hand) and served it with tortilla chips. This is a very basic guacamole recipe I just threw together with what I had to hand (it was a Friday night and I was exhausted). There are almost bound to be better recipes out there. My cousin in Scotland makes a good one!

The coriander martini also goes well with peanuts.



And seafood.

Here I served a plate of pre-cooked prawns with tiny drizzles of honey, sesame oil, lemon juice, mirin and rice wine vinegar, with further tiny sprinkles of grated lemon zest, chilli flakes and chopped coriander. I wanted to compliment the delicate prawns not anhialate them with a bazooka of sharp flavours.

All in all, I liked the coriander martini more than I was expecting. I also found that it went very well with certain nibbles. I would recommend it for dinner parties but you’ve got to be careful because some of your guests might be of the “I hate coriander” persuasion. 

The Lemon and Lime Drop Martini

Have you ever had a lemon drop martini? It’s the inspiration for this drink. I just altered the recipe slightly.

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You will need:

Gin or vodka (vodka is probably better)
Sweet vermouth
Lemons and limes (one each for the number of drinks you want to make)
Honey
Sprite (yes, sprite)

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I’m on holiday in the Mediterranean; a time for relaxation and spending quality time with friends.

A very important part of this holiday time is drink o’clock. Whatever you’ve spent your day doing, be it history, culture, hiking, watersports or simply lying by the pool, I crave the ceremonial time at sunset when everyone showers off the sea salt, chlorine or sweat and puts on their evening wear, in preparation for a drink followed by dinner. It’s my favourite part of the day.

My friend wanted to try an alternative to a martini so I started wracking my brain. She likes lemons and limes so I thought back to time spent in New York, a time when I first encountered the Lemon Drop Martini. This is basically a strong vodka drink with the addition of lemon juice and sugar.

I didn’t have all the ingredients available to make a classic lemon drop martini so I started to think something up. I could have trekked around the local shops for the right stuff but I’m on holiday! I also wanted to put to use the lovely limes we had to hand.

We didn’t have any sugar, which is an important lemon drop ingredient, but we did have some Greek honey, so I came up with a plan which I hoped had some real local spin to it.

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Low hanging fruit

Juice a lemon and a lime for every martini you want to make.

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For every drink add 2.5 teaspoons of honey to a cup, then add the same amount of hot water to melt it.

Stir the honey mixture until the honey has dissolved, then add the lemon and lime juice. Stir them and chill, either in the fridge for a few hours or the freezer if you’re pushed for time.

When drink o’clock happens, add a dash of sweet vermouth to a chilled martini glass.

Top up half way with the honey lime and lemon juice.

Add a measure or two of gin/vodka.

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Top up with sprite to add some effervescence.

Garnish with lemon and/or lime peel, then serve it before it warms up.

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Yiamas!