Sweet martini accompaniments

Normally I would only ever serve savoury snacks to accompany a martini, but there have been a small number of exceptions. I don’t have a sweet tooth but some of you might, so this is for you.

I made some umami tuna steaks for a friend for dinner (thank you Laura Santtini for the recipe). We had a martini as an apéritif before the meal but then wanted another one after we had eaten as well… I guess as a digestif.

After the umami flavour of dinner, my friend asked for something sweet to follow. I rarely eat dessert but I had one or two sweet items to hand – although they were perhaps a little unconventional, not just as a pudding, but also as a martini accompaniment.

I served maraschino cherries.

And some cherry sherbet. Which looks a little bit like cocaine.

But let’s be honest, if you’re drinking martinis, who needs drugs?

On another occasion I dipped some maraschino cherries in some Tobermory dark chocolate which went nicely as a digestif accompaniment.


I do NOT approve of this but some of my friends do… 


Cape gooseberries make a nice, subtle citrus accompaniment. I would actually consider serving them alongside savoury martini snacks.

Lychees can work. 

Lots of lychees can also work.

Especially if served as part of a lychee martini.

This sweet popcorn went quite nicely with an after-dinner espresso martini.

Here is a late-night martini I served with some chocolate-covered almonds.

Here is some homemade Scottish tablet, referred to by some of my friends in England as “sugar heroin”. It’s not particularly healthy but it tastes amazing and is a nice pick-me-up after a meal.

Even someone like me likes the odd bit of chocolate in the evening, especially during the winter months. Here is a small selection of rough pieces served on a cold, rainy night in Scotland. 

Finally, how can you beat this Italian classic? The affogato (which means ‘drowned’) combines ice cream drenched in an espresso, in this case served perfectly in a martini glass.

Thank you Italy for taking us, once again, to the next level.


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.

A Martini made with Absinthe

“Oh god… is my face melting?”


I didn’t invent this one. Some other crazy person did.

What’s more, it’s evidently been ordered and drunk often enough to have earned itself a name: the Mystic Martini.

Absinthe is typically 45-74% ABV and therefore highly potent.

Invented in Switzerland, its alleged psychoactive properties led to its prohibition in many countries for decades, before decriminalisation led to a comeback in the 1990s.

Flavoured with botanicals including sweet fennel and wormwood, the drink is anise-flavoured and usually green or colourless. It turns milky/cloudy when mixed with water.

The drink was traditionally served via ‘the French method’ whereby a slotted spoon holding a sugar cube was placed over a glass containing a measure of absinthe. Cold water was then poured over the sugar cube, running into the absinthe, turning it cloudy and bringing out its complex flavours.


Social folklore and urban legend, now largely disproved, claimed that the effects of absinthe on the drinker were different to that of other types of alcohol, such as hallucinations and temporary insanity.

The ‘absinthe fairy’ is also associated with a wide variety of artists, writers and other cultural figures, earning the drink a reputation for bohemian creativity – as well as danger.

So back to the cocktail. The Mystic Martini is basically a classic martini with approximately one teaspoon of absinthe added to the mix.

Some bartenders rinse the glass with the absinthe before pouring the martini, others stir the absinthe into the martini after it has been prepared. I prefer the latter method, so you can watch the absinthe swirl into the already hypnotic drink. To evoke ‘the French method’ you could serve a classic martini with a measure of absinthe separately in a silver spoon, so the drinker can add it themselves and watch it ooze into the mixture.

Traditionally you are supposed to garnish this martini with a single green olive (largely for appearance purposes) but I actually think a wrinkled black olive goes better with the anise flavouring. I made the above drink with lemon peel which doesn’t compliment the anise flavour quite so well. If you really want to appreciate the complex botanicals of the absinthe you might also want to prepare this drink using vodka instead of gin – sacre bleu!

Personally anise is not my favourite flavour so this isn’t a drink I will be revisiting, but if it’s your thing, give it a go. Just make sure you’ve got life insurance first. 

The Espresso Martini

Make me something that wakes me up and then f#*€s me up.”  

 I’ve wanted to make this one for a long time but given its chemical stimulant potency I found myself putting it off until a suitable situation arose.

The origin of most cocktails is blurry (a testament to their effectiveness) but it is believed that the espresso martini was created in a bar in London when a model entered the premises and asked the bartender to make her a drink in the manner quoted at the top of this post. Class in a glass? Perhaps not. But the drink has quickly earned its place in the cocktail hall of fame, which is quite a feat considering how relatively young the drink is in comparison to some of its competitors.

Very simple, an espresso martini combines coffee liqueur, vodka and fresh espresso, all chilled and served in an appropriate glass.


As a liqueur I used Kahlúa. Created in the mountains of Veracruz, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, the drink combines arabica beans with sugar cane to create a rich, sweet liqueur. There are several other coffee liqueurs out there but this I would say is the standard. The etymology of the word Kahlúa comes from the indigenous Nahuatl language, meaning ‘the house of the Acolhua people’. The Hispanisisation of the word can be found in the name San Juan de Ulùa, known in my family as being the location of a very difficult naval conflict between the Spanish navy and a fleet commanded by one of my ancestors. Symbolic indeed. The magnitude of the maritime battle was matched only by the hangover I experienced upon drinking too many of these drinks. Let that be a lesson to you all.

Kahlúa also contains rum. You might like to add a dash of dark rum to an espresso martini to give it even more of a kick and flavour. I would recommend a darker rum for this.

The family favourite is Wood’s Rum – not least because of its naval associations.

For me, the basic trick of the espresso martini is to balance the sweetness of the liqueur with the savoury coffee and neutral-but-strong vodka. Too much liqueur and you overpower the coffee and find yourself with a sickly-sweet drink. Not enough liqueur and the drink becomes overpowering to the palate.

I normally like my martinis stirred and not shaken but with this drink you need to shake it like a Polaroid picture – well enough to produce a healthy froth. I also recommend that you keep the vodka and the martini glass in the freezer so that it’s all nice and cold.


There – a nice and frosty martini glass. I’ve seen these served in coupe glasses as well which works nicely too. 

When to drink them

The alcohol-caffeine combination of an espresso martini would not make a good aperitif and certainly wouldn’t be suitable as a night cap. I would therefore recommend it after a meal, but ahead of a late night.


The opportunity for me to drink one recently presented itself whilst I took part in our local Highland Games. The day sees traditional pipe band music, dancing and fitness competitions, such as tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, kilt races and other fun pursuits, not to mention a healthy amount of alcohol consumption. What else would you expect when a horde of Hebrideans get together – some travelling from other islands, the mainland and even abroad to catch up with family and friends for the annual event.

Anyway I volunteered to help behind the bar (it’s obviously my spiritual home) during the daytime. After a day of serving booze but not drinking any, followed by a quick meal at home, it was time for me to prepare for the night of festivities ahead. There is usually much drinking and merriment in local pubs, followed by a traditional ceilidh dance in the town hall so I was going to need some stamina, or at the very least, stamina’s distant relatives: booze and caffeine.


Using my Mum’s trusty coffee machine I made myself an espresso.


Taking a vintage silver-plated cocktail shaker, I added about 4 ice cubes and poured over the coffee. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker you can do this with a large jar. It works almost as well.

  • Add 20ml coffee liqueur (or to taste – more for a sweeter drink, less for a stronger, more bitter punch-in-the-face type imbibement.
  • Add 120ml chilled vodka.

Shake it all up very vigorously. The harder you shake, the thicker the foam (la crema) you will get on top of the drink. A nice, firm foam is more attractive to look at, adds a textural smoothness to the drink and is perfect for a nice garnish or coffee beans.

Pour the drink into the glass. If you used a jar to shake it up, try to hold back the ice cubes.

If you don’t have a good foam it will look a bit like this. The texture isn’t so nice and it doesn’t look anywhere near as attractive.

It should look thick, rich and creamy on top, with a dark dangerous looking underside. Garnish with some coffee beans.


I took them out from the top of mum’s machine. I like to use three pointing out from the middle of the glass, with the seam of the bean facing upwards.

And serve!

But be warned, normally there is a two martini rule. For this drink, however, I would recommend that you only have one on a night out. Anymore and you will be drunk and wide awake until dawn. Although perhaps that’s your goal. In which case go right ahead, but you have been warned!


The Lorena-san Michelada

This is my Japanese variation of a classic Mexican drink – the Michelada. I have named my version after my friend from Mexico City who introduced me to the concept. It’s not a martini but hey – I can’t drink martinis ALL the time! Plus, summer is coming and this is a great summer drink.

It’s very similar to a standard Mexican Michelada, which is essentially beer, lime juice and some additional savoury and/or spicy sauces served in a salt-rimmed glass. The drink is comparable to a Bloody Mary and very good for a hangover or alcoholic rehydration on a hot day. However, the mixture for the glass rim in my version is heavily influenced by Japanese ingredients. If you can’t get hold of them, I recommend you try a more standard recipe with beer, Worcestershire sauce, lime and salt at the very least, so you can experience this wonderful drink. The ingredient combination might sound unusual, alien and even unpalatable to some of you but trust me, I’ve had lots of experience.

You might ask me why I would combine a Mexican recipe with a Japanese tang. Well, it’s mainly because I tried this and it worked. Otherwise though, Japan and Mexico have more in common than might meet the eye. Obviously both countries feature heavily in the Kill Bill franchise. Both countries also have extensive experience of earthquakes. If there’s ever a rumble and a shake of the earth your Mexican and Japanese friends will be the first to jump under a table – fact! However, most importantly for the sake of this blog, the cultures of both countries hold flavours and cuisine in extremely high regard.

Both Japan and Mexico are blessed with climatic diversity, which in turn has led to very distinct regional variations in things like agricultural produce and other forms of naturally available food. This in turn has led to the evolution of a rich assortment of cuisine specialities.

In the case of Mexico I think that the highly sophisticated cuisines do not receive enough international acclaim. I love Japanese food and I am very glad that it has received a lot of global recognition, evidenced not least by the multitude of Michelin stars awarded to Tokyo.

Mexican cuisine however, does not seem to have had the same international recognition. It appears to have been hijacked by numerous profit-making rip-off versions, selling a business model rather than genuine Mexican food. Of course, there are exceptions, particularly in the United States (and there are a handful in London) but it is far easier to find an authentic Japanese restaurant than it is to find an authentic Mexican one. I hope that in the future Mexican cuisine will be given the acclaim it deserves.

But I digress… here is my recipe.

Run a tall beer glass under a tap and place it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes (preferably longer).

Grind a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of furikake (a salty-umami Japanese seasoning), a pinch of caster sugar, a pinch of chilli powder and a pinch of sesame seeds with a pestle and mortar. 

Slice a lime or yuzu fruit. Rub one half over the rim of the glass. 

Rim the glass with the ground mixture. Save any leftover mixture for later. You will need the lime/yuzu as well.

Add the following to the glass:

The juice of 2 limes or yuzu fruit

A dash of hot sauce (I used Sriracha)

A dash of soy sauce

A dash of Worcestireshire sauce

And last but not least… A light beer!

You can add an ice cube or two to cool it down, or even better, use frozen lime or lemon slices.


Serve with the leftover salt/chilli/sesame/furikake mixture in a side dish. Lick your finger and dab it in to taste, as you would with some salt with a tequila.

Serve with a wedge or two of lime/yuzu as well.

And it will go with a wide range of izakaya-style snacks too.



Y muchas gracias Lorena-san!

A martini for Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday)

Today was a good day.

For a start, it was the first day I left the office this year and it was still daylight for my walk home.

However, more importantly…

Today is Pancake Day! My favourite saint’s day of all.

Valentine’s Day is a horrible endurance of emotional intensity and commercially enforced feelings of low self-worth if you’re single.

St Patrick’s Day might have been a favourite but (a) I normally don’t remember celebrating it and (b) it was meant to be my birthday but I was late (probably sipping on an amniotic fluid martini…).

Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras is for indulging in all those wordly things you want to abstain from or cut down on during Lent, so that’s things like carbs, fat and alcohol. It’s a day I always enjoyed as a child, and unlike other faux-Christian traditions such as Christmas, I continue to enjoy it greatly as an adult.

Except now I can imbibe in an alcoholic beverage at the same time.

So which one would I recommend? A Lemon Drop Martini with Foam would work nicely, especially if you like your pancakes like I do (with sugar and lemon juice).

For a perfect pre-abstinence extravaganza I followed this recipe from the Telegraph.

And after a bit of mixing and frying, the results were as follows (and it’s a pretty easy recipe to follow):

I managed to make about 6 pancakes.

You can serve it with lemon juice and sugar like my childhood, or with maple syrup perhaps, or a thin spread of cold, salty butter.

Perhaps you could also serve it with a lemon drop martini or two. You might as well if you’re going to be cutting out all this frivolity for Lent. Here’s the recipe again if you want to try it

Another selection of recent martinis

Here are some I made earlier…

A frosty classic.
A lemon drop martini with foam.

An earl grey martini LINK with foam.

A spicy Sriracha martini LINK

A dirty Mr. Gibson (combining this with this)

A tribute to the God of dirty martinis.

A frosty classic with mixed nuts.

A Gibson with olives and sliced pickled gherkins.

Here’s a classic martini I made for my grandmother at Christmas.

A dirty martini by the fireside.