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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A Martini on the Rocks

Die-hard martini fans, look away now…

  

This sounds like a very glamorous, American thing to order at a bar: “I’ll take a martini on the rocks“. 

Conversely, it is a very uncommon thing to say in the United Kingdom.

Us Brits tend not to say “on the rocks” for fear of sounding affected. With the exception of obvious drinks such as spirits and mixers (which normally come with ice as standard), we will otherwise simply ask for a drink then ask the bar tender to put ice in it. Our eloquence may know no bounds in our literature, but when it comes to alcohol we tend to prefer clear concision and direct instruction; no bullshit – and certainly no risk of ballsing up the drinks order with potentially confusing idioms.

If I asked for “a martini on the rocks” I would also be very concerned that I might receive a glass of straight vermouth topped up with ice cubes. This has definitely happened in the past, and while not necessarily unpleasant for many people, it would likely disappoint a gin-fiend waiting for their martini fix (you know who you are – and we’re all friends here).

This kind of vermouth calamity can sometimes happen simply when you order a martini without any mention of it being on the rocks – continental Europe take note! Presumably the bar tender merely thought you were referring to the Martini brand of vermouth, rather than the life-altering, semi-spiritual cocktail that we have all come to love.

  

But back to this martini variation – the one with ice cubes.

The two main points that separate a martini on the rocks from a classic martini are obvious but fundamental: temperature and texture. Yes it’s just ice we’re adding, but it changes everything.

I have frequently discussed the importance of temperature when making a martini.

If the gin or vodka has been stored in the freezer it shouldn’t be necessary to add ice to the drink at any stage of its production. I don’t shake or stir my martinis with ice if the alcohol has been sufficiently chilled already. This makes it very easy to rustle up a couple of them at very short notice and they taste – in my humble opinion – the best.

The other crucial aspect of a martini is texture. A martini made with gin from the freezer has an almost irreplaceable texture – like cold, almost crystallised oil.

A normal martini stirred with ice is lighter, not usually as cold, but still smooth.

A martini shaken with ice – perhaps the most famous variation – is also lighter, fresher even, sometimes with tiny flecks of ice that gradually melt as you sip. However, I don’t think it’s as magically intoxicating (in a literary sense as well as a chemical one) as a martini made with freezer-gin.

One surprise is that a martini on the rocks made by pouring room temperature vermouth and gin into a glass then topping it up with ice does not taste as whole-heartedly appalling as it might sound to a die-hard martini fan. It was somewhat refreshing, if an ultimate disappointment when compared to the real-deal.

It’s therefore preferable to use vermouth from the fridge and gin from the freezer if possible – but it’s not essential.

Otherwise I would recommend that you use the same vermouth-to-gin ratio that you’re used to (guidance here).

I would also recommend adding a generous slice of lemon, rather than a lemon twist or an olive. The latter two are too astringent or savoury for this drink.

If you’re in a bit of a pickle, you don’t even need a proper V-shaped martini glass for this variation (although they are always better).

However, with the ice cubes and lemon bobbing around in the glass this version cannot rival a smooth, tranquil, classic martini. 

  

I would recommend it only in times of emergency, when you haven’t had the chance to chill your gin in advance. Under such circumstances, it could prove a life-saving variation on the classic drink, especially at the end of the day in a hot country. Here’s looking at you, Brazil, Australia, India, the Mediterranean and others.

Otherwise, why not just have a gin and tonic? You read more about those here.

A Spicy Umami Michelada

A London variation on the classic Mexican drink.

  

As I’ve said before, I don’t always drink martinis. I also like beer and lager, to name but a few alternatives. I recently wrote about the Mexican drink Micheladas and here I’ve come up with another variation.

In its most simple terms, a Michelada contains beer/lager, the juice of a lime, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a salt rim around the glass. Hot sauce, soy sauce and tequila are also frequently added.

I recently bought one or two Laura Santtini ingredients and thought they would make a good addition for this variation on the recipe. You will need:

  

  • A lime
  • A beer
  • Salt (preferably a good quality sea salt)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Tabasco sauce

And the following enhancements:

  • Taste 5 Umami paste
  • Taste 5 Umami Rush condiment

I often rub the umami paste into meat, fish and vegetables before cooking them. However, if you don’t have any to hand, use tomato purée as a substitute and add a little more soy sauce.

The condiment is like a salty umami-citrus pepper. You can use normal salt instead but the condiment adds a zesty, umami buzz to the drink.

  • Run a tall glass under a tap and leave it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes (but preferably several hours)
  • Sprinkle salt and the Umami Rush condiment on a plate
  • Remove the glass from the freezer, cut the lime and rub half of it around the rim of the glass

  

  • Rim the glass in the salt and Umami Rush mixture to create a reddish crust
  • Juice the lime and add it to a jug
  • Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of soy sauce.
  • Add a few drops of Tabasco sauce (to taste)
  • Add a smudge of Taste 5 Umami paste
  • Add some of the beer and stir the mixture
  • Pour the mixture into the rimmed glass then top up with more beer
  • Add ice and stir gently before serving. Try not to get the salt rim wet during this process.
  • Instead of ice I use lime segments that I store in the freezer (these are good for gin and tonics as well)

It’s perfect for a hot day. It’s also good for a… err… hangover.

Soooo… ¡Salud!

  

The Tramshed, Shoreditch: 4/5



Overall a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed this restaurant.

The martini I had was also very good, although I would prefer it a little colder (keep everything in the freezer) and with more lemon (squeeze the peel into the glass when pouring). Otherwise it was beautifully served.



While I’ve seen this on the Internet, it was the first time I had actually drink a martini where my “top-up” came in a small bottle in ice on the side. I have been skeptical of this before because while it means the gin will be cold for your second pouring, the glass will have warmed up. I prefer to serve my second martini with a fresh, frozen glass. Nonetheless this, to me, is an effective and efficient means of serving such a drink in a busy restaurant. Furthermore the gin was definitely nice and cold when I poured the second batch. The use of Noccelara olives also wins points.



I loved the old fashioned food, served with raucous panache. It was definitely comfort grub, with roast chicken, chips, steak and Yorkshire pudding, dramatically served as above; herb-encrusted with utensils inserted coquettishly into animal orifices.



The meat was good quality and nicely prepared.



The generously-sized Yorkshire pudding was one of the tastiest forms of carbohydrate I’ve ever eaten in the UK.



After the martini we drank some nice Lebanese wine (Massaya, from the Beqaa Valley).



And… prepare yourself for some innuendo… we also tried the “cock shots” and “shot of bull” which were basically vodka flavoured with chicken stock or beef consommé. We loved the beef one in particular. It had hearty and warming flavour, with the umami of a consommé rendering the drink almost like a miniature Bloody Mary with a kick of horseradish. The shots definitely weren’t a gimmick. I would strongly recommend trying them before eating.



Set in an actual former tram shed, the tiled walls and industrial layout added to the ‘rough and ready’ feel of the venue. The trendy staff, attractive diners and selection of art works (such as the Damian Hirst cow and chicken – above) also came together to produce a brash, fun, modern take on something very traditional. This combination of old and new is something that London continues to get right. Bravo!

Swedish akvavit

It’s Christmas time and last night I decided to have a non-martini drink. I’ve previously mentioned my liking for akvavit for midsommar, but I also like it during the winter (to keep warm).
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I put some miniature bottles of akvavit (from Ikea) in the freezer for a day, then served them in heavy glasses and a single spherical ice cube. I like all the different infusions, as it adds a bit of variety to my normal gin diet.

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Skål och god jul!

Spherical ice

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I treated myself to some spherical ice moulds. Despite them having the appearance of something extravagant, they were actually quite cheap.

I bought them online from Tovolo/Amazon for about £9 and they were delivered within a couple of days. On arrival I eagerly filled them with water and put them in the freezer.

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The finished effect is quite dramatic. The ice also takes a long time to melt, so it cools your drink without diluting it.

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Although note that you will need a glass at least 7cm wide. A heavy whisky tumbler would be ideal.

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The only glass I had to hand that was big enough was a martini glass. Nonetheless, it was quite fun to use.

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Hmm. Who does this remind me of?

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Oh yes. David Bowie with his crystal balls (and overly tight trousers) in the 1980s film Labyrinth.