Mamuśka Polish bar and restaurant, E&C, London

  
This isn’t strictly a post about martinis but I am making a special mention of this tasty bar/restaurant Mamuśka, not least because of the way they treat their spirits (which is well, by the way).

  
The ultimately satisfying carb-fest ‘placki ziemniaczane’ (pancakes made out of potato) will put you into a sumptuous ‘food coma’.

For years Mamuśka restaurant has been a regular visiting spot for Elephant and Castle residents, as well as many from the Polish community throughout London. With the impending destruction of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre they have now moved premises all the way across Elephant and Castle roundabout to occupy the space previously filled by “My Big Fat Greek Restaurant” (where did they go by the way?). We wish them well. The new venue is bigger with additional outside seating.

  
There’s a fun atmosphere with some really friendly staff on hand to assist. The menu is also clearly designed to welcome non-Polish people to experience this rich culture and warming cuisine. Mamuśka (which means “Mum” by the way) also aims to provide lovingly prepared home cooking to the many Poles living far from home.

The simple, wholesome and extraordinarily comforting fare in an unpretentious cafeteria-type setting is perfect for either a quick meal or a relaxing evening with food and drinks.

Do note, however, that if you ever eat here with a hangover you WILL fall into a deep food coma afterwards. It’s cheap and deliciously filling.

  
However, I feel a particular need to mention Mamuśka on my blog because of the way they serve their vodka (they also serve a nice array of beers).

They keep the vodka and the glasses in be freezer. I sounds simple but there is a long list of London cocktail bars who do not do this. Temperature and simplicity are two key aspects when preparing a martini so if Mamuśka ever decided to add them to their menu I know they would do them well. Perhaps they could call them Mamuśka’s ruin.

Martinis or not, this is a favourite spot of mine. I would recommend dropping in for a relaxed, friendly and tasty visit with some excellent drinks to accompany your pierogi, śledź and other tasty bites. Your mother would approve.

Martinis ad infinitum

So many martinis…

  
Here’s one at home with a sprig of lavender.

  
In the garden during a hot summer sunset.

 
Dawn breaks over London. Yes, this happened at dawn. Whoops.

  
A more strategic martini, here with the Lewis Chessmen in the background.

  
Martinis, wine, olives and walnuts on a tree stump in the garden on a summer’s evening.

 
A late midsummer martini with thyme.

  
Martini and dog.

  
A martini garnished with rosemary. For a rosemary-infused martini see here.

  
A slightly dirty martini.

  
Another slightly dirty martini, this time served in the garden. Perfect for Glyndebourne.

  
And finally, a serene sunset… What a perfect end to a day.

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!

  

A selection of other people’s martinis

With world martini day approaching (19 June) I thought I would collate a selection of martinis made by other people.

  
Here is a very elegant martini served in beautiful cut-glass, picture courtesy of Aquavit_1017 on Instagram.

  
A vodka martini with Tito’s vodka by Mr. Cradle.

The following are by the highly creative chef The Juan And Only Chef Sweaty

 

Above is his classic martini with lime.

 
Here is a kiwi-drop martini.

  

Here is one of his pomegranite martinis (I think this one would be very popular in the Middle East by the way).

  

And here is a home-grown guava martini. Where do you have to live so that guavas grow in your garden? Clearly not Britain (unless someone can prove me wrong?).

 
Here is a very evocative classic martini in beautiful lighting from martini_whisperer

 

And here are two silky-looking espresso martinis from texasraisedgypsies

If anyone else has any martini pictures they would like me to share please just tag me in the photo on Instagram.

The Beet Up Vesper Martini at the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town 4/5

Behold, the oddest blog title I have ever produced! But you will see what I’m talking about in the bar review below. 

 

I award the above-mentioned cocktail bar 4/5 for its variation on the classic Vesper Martini. Given the strict criteria of my Martini Ratings I could only offer full points upon trying a proper classic martini but if I offer my review in word form rather than numbers I would say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the drink at this bar.

I went with a friend to the Breakfast Club near Spittalfields Market / Liverpool Street Station in London. I have wanted to try out the semi-hipster burger bar for ages but the queues on a weekend morning have normally been devastatingly long. This time, it was a Tuesday night. The service was fast, the burgers were tasty and the atmosphere was fun.

However, we had heard the rumours that a secret cocktail bar existed somewhere on the premises. To gain access you must utter a special code. After a little bit of intelligence gathering (Google and Foursquare) we deduced that we had to say “can I please see the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town?” in order to gain access. 

We uttered the words and the waitress said that one her colleagues would be right with us.

  

A few moments later, to our surprise, the fridge standing next to the bar opened up and a man stepped out of it. He asked us to join him, so we followed him back into the fridge, through a secret door into a hidden stairway, which led down to a dark, secluded bar with a surprisingly large number of drinkers and a very interesting cocktail menu. 

Obviously I ordered their martini variation on sight. 

It consisted of Tanqueray gin infused with beetroot (I am a fan of savoury infused spirits), as well as vodka, Cointreau, Lillet blanc and a red current garnish. It was a far cry from my normal classic martini but I liked it nonetheless.

Nice and cold, beautifully presented, tasty, with good, friendly service and with a lot of effort put into the venue I award the bar/diner with 4/5.  

From an objective martini-fascist perspective I would award 5/5 if they offered a classic martini with the gin and glasses kept in the freezer, a strip of lemon peel and maybe a small bowl of olives. However, you can do that at home! 
 Otherwise, come out to play, try out the food upstairs and the range of cocktails downstairs… but no heavy petting!

A hot drink for a cold

Two days later and I’m still sick, at home, restless but lethargic at the same time. So here is a post about a hot drink I made to try and alleviate some of my cold symptoms.

You will need:
-Lemon
-Ginger
-Garlic
-Hot water
-Turmeric (optional)
-Chilli flakes (optional)
-Whisky or brandy or rum (optional)

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Take a piece of ginger around the size of your thumb. Use a spoon to scrape off the skin.

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Use a Japanese grater (one of my favourite kitchen utensils) and grate the peeled ginger to release all the juice. Squeeze out then discard the fibrous pulp.

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Pour the fiery ginger juice into a cup.

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Juice a lemon and add the juice to the mug.

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Peel then coarsely cut a single clove of garlic. Add the pieces to the cup.

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Add 1-2 teaspoons of honey.

Then, depending on your preferences you can add one or more or none or all of the following:

-1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder
-A pinch of chilli flakes
-A dash of whisky, brandy or rum

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It looks fairly alarming.

Top up with hot water, just off the boil, and stir to dissolve the honey and let the flavours diffuse into the drink.

Sip it slowly and be sure to eat/swallow the garlic. Yes it may give you very strong breath but if you’re feeling sick you should be in quarantine anyway.

Sliced gherkins and Eastern Europe

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I’ve mentioned before that I like Eastern European (particularly Polish) bars that serve traditional vodka (kept in the freezer) served with good accompanying nibbles. Sliced pickled gherkins are a very simple but traditional example. They’re quick, crunchy and healthier than crisps or Bombay mix or any of the other things I like to eat with a martini.

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They are very easy to do at home, so I always have a large jar in the fridge in case of unexpected guests – the same reason I always keep my gin, vodka and martini glasses in the freezer.

However, you can also spot this sort of fare at some of my favourite Eastern European bars and eateries in London:

Mamuśka – cheap, authentic Polish comfort food in Elephant and Castle shopping centre. Mamuśka means ‘mummy’ in Polish (the mother kind, not the ancient Egyptian variety). As they say on their website: we don’t want to replace Polish mothers, we just want to take care of their kids while they are away from home. So sweet. And it’s worth scurrying through the occasionally alarming interior of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre to visit.

Bar Polskie – an unusual but relaxed and very good night out, with a fantastic vodka selection and good accompanying bites, hidden down an interesting alleyway in Holborn. My personal favourite is the Dębova (oak) vodka but they have dozens of interesting flavours that you will definitely never be able to get through in one sitting.

Baltic – a beautiful Eastern European restaurant with fantastic blini, wonderful food, gorgeous lighting, passionate, highly professional staff and a good vodka selection. Located near Southwark tube station.

Na zdrowie!