Sunday, 6 April 2014

Up in Smoke

A recent visit to Asia de Cuba in London for their fusion tea experience with the Secret Tea Society served to remind me how much I enjoy the wonderful, rich, smokey flavour of Lapsang Souchong tea, particularly when it's as fine as the Jing Tea lapsang that is served there. The aroma is quite savoury, like smoked meat or fish, but the taste is incredibly smooth and fresh. The mouth is left feeling smokey yet clean. It's an oddly compelling sensation and one I wanted to explore further.

Smokey cocktails have been popping up in trendy bars, worldwide; some using liquid smoke to not only impart some smokey flavour but to create an incredibly dramatic look and some, using ingredients that have been smoked in advance. Smoked ice cubes have been tantalising the tastebuds of cocktalians, along with smoked lemons, chillis and herbs. All very clever and very interesting, but not necessarily something that can be easily replicated at home.

This is where the smokey flavour of a high quality Lapsang Souchong tea comes in - not only can the cold tea be used as a cocktail ingredient, but it is incredibly easy to make an intensely flavoured syrup from the tea, that can be used to sweeten and enhance your drinks.

Lapsang Souchong Syrup

The trick is to make the tea far stronger than you would normally as you want maximum flavour for a minimal amount of syrup. I used 1 tsp of good quality Lapsang teas to each ounce of liquid and let it steep for no more than 3 minutes to avoid it becoming bitter.

3 tsp Lapsang Souchong leaves
3oz boiled water
6oz caster sugar

Make the tea as directed above, then strain and discard the leaves.
Stir in the sugar while the tea is still very hot and continue to stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
Allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

Another, 'must try' ingredient if you want to get the full smoke experience, is Chase Smoked Vodka. It's made from their top notch, smooth and creamy tasting potato vodka and has won numerous awards. From personal experience, I can attest that it makes an amazing Smoked Espresso Martini and Smoked Mary (like a Bloody Mary) which you must try, should you treat yourself to a bottle. This week I decided to pair its clean, smoked flavour with the herbal sweetness of a rosemary syrup, contrasted against the sharp citrus of freshly squeezed lemon in a martini style drink. It's a nice combination even with regular vodka, but the smoke really adds another dimension - a perfect aperitif for those summer barbecues...

Smoked Rosemary Sour

2oz Chase Smoked Vodka
1oz lemon juice
3/4oz rosemary syrup
sprig of rosemary to garnish

Add all the liquid to a shaker with ice and shake hard until the shaker frosts over.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish.

This next cocktail uses Lapsang Souchong tea to compliment the many tasting notes of Jura Superstition single malt. It's lightly peated with hints of honey and pine, so has a great deal in common with Jing Tea's Lapsang. To balance out the drink I added a touch of heather honey and some freshly squeezed clementine juice which bring a delicate, fragrant sweetness and just enough citrus to keep it fresh. The final touch was a dash or two of Angostura orange bitters which adds a subtle, but discernible note of aromatic spice.

Bonnie Lassie 

1oz cold lapsang souchong tea
1oz freshly squeezed clementine juice
1 tsp Tiptree Heather Honey
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Clementine wheel to garnish

Add everything but the garnish to a shaker with ice and shake hard to mix.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish.

This next drink uses the quite remarkable Gin Mare which has an incredibly distinctive taste unlike any other gin. Of course there is juniper and citrus, but the rosemary and thyme really stand out, blending with olive to create an unusual and unique spirit that evokes the mediterranean in every sip. In fact, the flavour is so wonderfully overwhelming that the addition of Lapsang Souchong syrup (see above) just added a subtle, smokey aftertaste as though it were being sipped whilst sat around a campfire on the beach.

Smoked Mare

2oz Gin Mare
1oz lemon juice
3/4oz Lapsang Syrup
dash of soda

Add the gin, syrup and lemon to the bottom of a shaker with ice and stir to combine until the outside of the shaker frosts over.
Strain into an ice filled glass, add a dash of soda and stir gently to combine.

Finally, and possibly my favourite of the lot, was this Smokey Bourbon Bramble; sweet, sour, smokey and quaffable - a great one to scale up and serve in pitchers on a sunny afternoon (a girl can dream...)

Smokey Bourbon Bramble

2oz Buffalo Chase Bourbon
3/4oz Creme de Cassis
1oz cold lapsing souchong tea
1/2oz lemon juice
6 fresh blackberries

Press the blackberries through a fine sieve to remove the pips and collect the juice.
Add the juice, along with all the other ingredients to the bottom of a shaker with ice and shake hard.
Strain into an ice filled glass and garnish with a whole blackberry.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Martin Miller Gin

This week, we have been mostly drinking Martin Miller Gin which is always a pleasure. I have written about this marvellous spirit in previous posts - Peacock Cocktails and Taste of London 2013, but felt that after having focused on some excellent gins with a twist, such as Pinkster (raspberry) and Bloom (chamomile), it was time to get back to basics and revisit a spirit with a more traditional list of botanicals. That said, there is plenty to distinguish this gin from the pack, not least of all, the fact that the grain spirit at it's heart, is blended to strength with incredibly pure and soft, Icelandic water. As water constitutes over 50% of the liquid volume, this, frankly crazy sounding idea, starts to make sense. Much like Björk, the Icelandic chanteuse who made London her home, the slightly bonkers Anglo-Icelandic collaboration creates something positively exquisite.

Sadly, the founder, Martin Miller, died at the beginning of this year at the age of 67. His death was a sad loss to all, but his legacy continues and his ethos is upheld by the company he founded in 1997. Martin Miller Gin is already a worldwide brand and will continue to go from strength to strength despite the gin sector becoming an increasingly competitive arena. Martin Miller remains the gin of choice for bartenders across the globe by sticking to it's core values and creating a traditional, but exceptional gin with a strong citrus aroma and flavour that gives way to juniper notes and a clean, soft finish thanks to that pure Icelandic water.

So, what to create with my Martin Miller Gin that I haven't already covered in previous posts? Well, I decided to take my inspiration, in part, from the Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930 and enjoying a bit of a renaissance as tastes shift from elaborate concoctions to the simpler, boozy beverages of yesteryear. Personally, I am partial to a cocktail that reads like a recipe from a Nigella cookbook, but am also beginning to appreciate the simplicity of the Savoy style when a cocktail was undeniably hooch laden rather than disguised as an alcoholic smoothy.

The Frankenjack cocktail was first published in 1927 book, 'Here's How!', a publication from which many recipes were directly taken for use in the illustrious Savoy Cocktail Book, which is where I found it. The unusual monicker comes from an amalgamation of two names, Frank and Jack, who were apparently the proprietors of an infamous New York speakeasy. It takes the classic martini as its foundation, comprising gin and dry vermouth in equal measure, but is made sweet and fruity by the addition of a little apricot brandy and Cointreau orange liqueur. Although the two liqueurs are added in equal quantities, the apricot brandy is definitely the dominant flavour.

Apricot brandy, rather than tickling the tastebuds with a purely fruit flavour, tends to hit the tongue like an apricot sledgehammer. Because the liqueur is made using the whole fruit, the strong flavour of the kernel pervades the brandy. Apricot kernels have an incredibly intense flavour and are at the heart of Amaretto liqueur and amaretti biscotti which gives some idea of the taste. However, the dry vermouth helps to temper the flavour and if you are a fan of Amaretto, then the flavour will probably taste quite subtle to you. For my personal taste, I would prefer the cocktail made with a few dashes of lemon juice to balance the sweetness, but it is pleasant and a fairly effortless crowd pleaser.

The recipe as stated in the Savoy Cocktail book lists the quantities in 'parts' rather than giving precise measures. I have kept to those ratios, but have put suitable amounts to them to make one cocktail.


1oz Martin Miller Gin
1oz dry vermouth
1/2oz apricot brandy
1/2oz Cointreau

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake hard until the outside frosts over.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and serve.

A further trawl through the hallowed pages of the Savoy Cocktail book unearthed this classic that dates back to at least 1930. The Journalist cocktail which is essentially a Perfect Martini (one with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth), is given a little more depth with addition of a dash of this and that. It's amazing what a difference such small additions can make, but this drink really does have a flavour all of it's own. For anyone who enjoys a classic Martini or Martinez, this will hit the spot. It's unashamedly boozy and will appeal to the hard drinking, hard working hacks it earned its name from as well as traditionalists and hipsters alike.


2oz Martin Miller Gin
1oz sweet vermouth
1oz dry vermouth
2 dashes lemon juice
2 dashes curaçao
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake hard to mix the drink.

Last but not least is a little creation of my own that was inspired by the competition on the Martin Miller website. The brief was to create a Martin Miller Gin cocktail that uses at least one locally sourced ingredient from the region where it is being served and as a denizen of Essex, I chose Tiptree jam and Maldon sea salt - two things my kitchen couldn't be without.

Maldon sea salt is renowned for its exceptional flavour and has particularly close associations as the children are learning how to sail on the estuary at Maldon. I have personally ingested more Maldon sea salt than I care to, by virtue of being an atrocious sailor and now leave it to Mr TG and the boys. However, I am more then happy, however, to use Maldon sea salt in my cooking and have used a pinch or two when making a Puro Margarita. Strange as it may seem, it actually helps to balance sweet and bitter flavours, just as it does in cooking and needn't be reserved just for margaritas.

My other ingredient - Tiptree Little Scarlet strawberry jam, is a conserve with a serious pedigree. Little Scarlet is an old fashioned variety of strawberry that has changed little in 200 years. It is extremely small and intensely flavoured, but needs to be consumed immediately, making it unsuitable for mass production. However, it continues to be grown on Tiptree farms in Essex where it is harvested and immediately made into this flavoursome jam and as if that wasn't enough, it is even the favourite conserve of archetypal suave spy, James Bond. Not only does he drink vodka martinis and vintage champagne, but according to 'From Russia With Love', his daily breakfast consists of a boiled egg and two slices of toast with a choice of marmalade, honey or Little Scarlet strawberry jam - I kid you not...

The most famous cocktail to date that contains a conserve, is the Breakfast Martini by Salvatore Calabrese (The Maestro), which uses marmalade to great effect and is a favourite of Mr TG. Similarly, I went for a martini style drink, partly because it seemed more Bond-esque and mostly because the Martin Miller Gin would be the main event. To prevent the drink from becoming too sweet, like Calabrese, I added lemon juice, but brought in another level of flavour with the addition of  bittersweet Campari. Added to that, a pinch of Maldon sea salt and I had a drink that hit every tastebud and yet blended seamlessly together. Bloody marvellous, if I say so myself...

Little Scarlet

2oz Martin Miller Gin
3/4oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Campari
1 rounded teaspoon Tiptree Little Scarlet
pinch of Maldon sea salt

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and whisk with a Hawthorn whisk or dry shake (without ice) to ensure the jam is properly mixed (tip - do not use the conserve straight from the fridge as it causes it to set too hard)

Add a handful of ice, shake hard and strain into a chilled martini glass.

The ultimate garnish would be a couple of Little Scarlet strawberries, but as that is practically an impossibility, a tasty variety, sliced and placed on the rim will suffice.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Think Pink

It's that time of year again when many of us will be thinking of what to buy our lovely mums for Mother's Day and if my children are reading this - ask daddy to get mummy a nice bottle of gin please...

There are a myriad of wonderful gins to choose from out there and I am doing my level best to work through them all with the able assistance of recent gin convert and father of my children, Mr TG. This week we have been mostly drinking Pinkster, a small batch, British gin with  a delicate, pink colour and slightly sweet and fragrant flavour that is partially derived from raspberries (hence the pink colour) and I suspect, lavender, although I don't know for sure as the makers are tantalisingly vague.  

This kind of vagary is not uncommon in the gin world, however. In order to qualify as 'gin', the main botanical must be juniper, but that does leave room for all manner of experimentation and whilst many artisanal brands list their botanicals with pride, it's likely that those ingredients are not the whole story. It's a competitive business these days and who can blame  distillers for holding a little something back...

So, back to Pinkster - drunk neat, it is sweetish and floral with a fruity sharpness that is more berry than citrus. The makers recommend serving it with a good tonic, a sprig of mint and a fresh raspberry, which makes an exceptionally pretty and delicious G&T. If your dearest mama is partial to a drop of gin then a bottle of this would make a marvellous Mother's Day gift or if you can't bear to be parted from it, having purchased a bottle, then why not rustle up a few cocktails instead?

This week I have been making some 'pink' variations of a few of my favourite cocktail classics as well as creating this sweet citrus, easily quaffable drink that is bound to please even the most awkward of mothers on Mothering Sunday.

Belles of St Clements

1oz Triple Sec
1/2oz lemon juice
1 small egg white
1/2 tsp grenadine
1oz cava or champagne
Orange wheel to garnish

Add all of the ingredients apart from the fizz, to the bottom of a cocktail shaker and whisk until frothy - you can 'dry' shake the ingredients without ice, to the same effect, but please be aware that this can cause a build of pressure in the shaker and the lid can pop off!

Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass and then float the fizz on top.

Garnish with a slice of orange - I have used a miniature orange, but an orange slice will be just fine.

This next cocktail is an update of the eternally popular and simple to make, Negroni, using Pinkster Gin and Chase Elderflower liqueur. In a classic Negroni, the bitterness of the Campari is tempered by the sweetness of sweet vermouth, but with the 'Pinkroni', I've countered the bitterness with elderflower liqueur which makes it slightly sweeter and more floral.


1oz Campari

Add all of the ingredients to a tumbler or rocks glass with a few large ice cubes and stir to mix and chill the liquid. This has quite an intense flavour, but will dilute as the ice melts. I personally like to stir mine for 30 secs to get to an optimal dilution, but do experiment until you find your perfect mix.

This next cocktail, the Martinez, is thought to be a precursor to the Martini (gin and dry vermouth) that mixes sweet vermouth with gin, but what really brings the drink to life, is the addition of a little maraschino liqueur and bitters. For me, the Martinez is a far more palatable drink than the Martini which is too dry for my liking and this Pink Martinez is a lovely alternative that uses Martini Rosato, the rosé alternative to Martini Rosso sweet vermouth. Martini Rosato combines flavours of pomegranate, raspberry, cinnamon and lemon giving it a sweet and spicy finish and a perfect companion to Pinkster.

Pink Martinez

2 dashes orange bitters
3 raspberries to garnish

Add all of the ingredients apart from the garnish to the bottom of a shaker with a handful of ice.
Stir the mix for about 20 secs to cool the liquid and create the perfect viscosity.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with 3 raspberries strung on a cocktail stick and dropped into the glass.

This last cocktail is a great alternative to Pimms as it's easy to put together and can be served by the glass or easily scaled up to serve in a pitcher. Rather than lemonade, it uses Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic which enhances the floral notes of lavender from the Pinkster Gin and the fragrant peach in Cartron's creme de peche de vigne.

Pinkster No.1

1 part Pinkster Gin
3 parts Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of raspberries
A few lemon slices

Fill the bottom of a large pitcher with ice and add the mint and fruit.
Pour in the alcohol and tonic and stir to mix.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Harry Brompton's London Ice Tea

The power of twitter is a force to be reckoned with, that has brought me followers and customers from across the globe and sparked connections with wonderful people from all walks of life, some of which I can now count as friends. One such connection is the very lovely @GreyFoxBlog who has long been a champion of British design and manufacture and who was instrumental in introducing me (once again through the medium of twitter) to the chaps at Harry Brompton's London Ice Tea. They appropriately met at the Best of Britannia 2013, a celebration of all that is great about British design, manufacture and produce, where friends, Philip Harding and Ian ODonohue, along with his father Martin, were keen to extoll the virtues of their premium, bottled, alcoholic ice tea. Whilst selflessly quaffing their delicious ice tea in the name of supporting British produce, Grey Fox recalled his dipsomaniac, tea loving, cocktail creating, glass painting, blogging friend (does that make me a 'renaissance woman'?) and decided we would be a perfect fit. How right he was...

Harry Brompton's is an incredibly well balanced drink that has all the rich flavour of black tea with citrus notes and a crisp astringency that stops short of woodiness and is tempered with the light effervescence of tiny bubbles that prickle the tongue in a tantalising manner. There is alcohol in there - I know because it says 4%abv on the bottle, but that little spike of grain spirit does nothing to mar the flavour making it not only highly quaffable, but a great mixer and cocktail ingredient.

In order to give a well balanced review, Mr TG and I thought it was important to try Harry Brompton's in it's natural form before diving headlong into the cocktails and can confirm that is incredibly refreshing served over ice with a wedge of lime (as seen at the top of the page) and can even be enjoyed straight from the chilled bottle with a citrus slice wedged in the neck - perfect for you young folks, out and about on the town.

My love of tea and cocktails and the combining of the two thereof, is well documented in this blog, so it was never going to be too much of a stretch to come up with some tasty beverages. Using Harry Brompton's meant I could create cocktails with tea without the prior infusion of spirits and reduced the need for additional sweeteners as it is already lightly sweetened.

To begin with, I decided to combine a great London gin with a great London tea in this delicately floral and crisp cocktail. Berkley Square Gin counts among it's botanicals; kaffir lime and lavender, both of which enhance the citrus and apple notes of the ice tea. To further reinforce those flavours, I added a little lavender syrup and some freshly squeezed lime.

Lavender in London

2 oz Berkley Square Gin
2 tsp lavender syrup
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Harry Brompton's Ice Tea
twist of lime zest to garnish

Add the gin, syrup and lime juice to a shaker with ice and shake briefly to combine and chill the ingredients.
Strain the liquid into an ice filled, chilled tumbler and top with Harry Brompton's Ice Tea.
Garnish with a twist of lime zest.

Next up is a fragrant, peachy delight that combines Sipsmith (another London stalwart) Barley Vodka , Cartron Creme de Peche de Vigne (from Bourgogne, slightly south of London, but available from Amathus Drinks) and Harry Brompton's London Ice Tea.

Brompton Peach Tea

1 oz Sipsmith Barley Vodka
1 oz Cartron Creme e Peche de Vigne
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Harry Brompton's Ice Tea
sprig of fresh mint to garnish

Add the vodka, creme de peche and lemon juice to a tumbler with ice and stir to combine and chill the ingredients - the outside of the glass should become frosted.
Add enough ice to fill the glass and top up with ice tea.
Gently slap the mint between the palms of your hands to release the essential oils and garnish the drink.

This next drink has a bit of a Moroccan influence, combining the flavours of rose, mint and lemon. Hendricks Gin is infused with rose and cucumber, making it the ideal spirit for this cocktail and the floral flavour is further enhanced with the addition of a little rosewater.

Harry in the Kasbah

2 oz Hendricks Gin
6 - 8 mint leaves
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp rosewater
Harry Brompton Ice Tea

Muddle (gently squish) the mint with the gin and lemon in the bottom of a shaker.
Add ice and shake until the outside of the shake frosts over.
Strain into an ice filled tumbler or tea glass.
Add the rosewater and ice tea.
Stir to combine and garnish with mint.

This last cocktail is further proof that chilli infused Campari is an absolute must for every cocktail cabinet. The bittersweet combination of Campari and Triple Sec, combined with a chilli kick make this a tea with a twist.

Harry Brompton and the Goblet of Fire

1 oz chilli infused Campari
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Harry Brompton's Ice Tea
twist of lemon zest to garnish

Add the Campari, triple sec and lemon to a shaker with ice.
Shake to chill and strain into an ice filled tumbler.
Carefully top with ice tea to maintain the layers.
Garnish with a thick twist of lemon zest.

So, I hear you ask, 'where do I get myself some of this fabulous ice tea?'. Well, I am reliably informed that Waitrose will soon be stocking it and it is currently available in bars and restaurants across the UK. However, I highly recommend you visit their website to keep up to date with developments and to be in with a chance of winning yourself a crate of the stuff - click here to enter the competition

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Green Tea Cocktails

The inspiration for this post came about after a bit of chatter on twitter (try saying that after a few cocktails) with my friend, style blogger, Grey Fox. I was bemoaning the fact that after a week of abstinence, I was feeling quite ill and he suggested I drink more green tea. Well, I decided to take his advice on board as I am rather partial to a drop of green tea and I must say that after I had sampled this lot, I felt much better....

Green tea is much lauded for it's health benefits and there is some scientific evidence to back up many of these claims. As a result, its uses are myriad and diverse; from its inclusion in dietary products, to face creams, exponents believe its anti-oxidative and metabolic boosting properties are the secret to a youthful glow and a healthy heart. This is in part, due to its high levels of flavonoids, which can be found in greater quantities in green tea, than in many fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are thought to help protect against heart disease and some cancers, so it certainly can't do any harm to include a cup or two of green tea in your diet, although levels of these health boosting phytochemicals do vary significantly depending on which teas you drink.

The origins of green tea are to be found China, where it has been enjoyed for over 4000 years and has been the subject of Chinese literature and medicine from as far back as 600 AD. It is the product of Camellia Sinensis, the tea plant, which, in it's various forms, produces all types of tea depending on the amount of oxidisation they have undergone. Black tea, which is the type we most commonly drink in the West, has undergone a much greater amount of oxidisation, whereas green tea is picked early, thus retaining more of the health benefits. This also means it is higher in tannins and must be brewed carefully to avoid it tasting overly bitter and woody. Boiling water, poured straight on to the leaves, can 'burn' them, causing the tannins to be excessively released. Therefore, it is advisable to allow the water to cool or catch it before the boiling point, to keep the tea a little sweeter. Most green tea leaves will also benefit from another brewing, becoming sweeter with consecutive infusions. So there you have it - healthy and economical. What's not to love...

Which brings me to the subject of Green Tea Cocktails (I get there eventually). No doubt the alcohol will mitigate all of the health benefits, but that aside, you can create some really delicious and interesting flavours by infusing spirits with tea or by using cold tea as a mixer. Indeed, this is a well worn path for me as I have created and sampled numerous Tea Cocktails in the past;

The delicate rose tea infused Hendricks gin in the Secret Tea Society Cocktail
The earl grey infused gin in the Earl Grey Martini
The summer punch tea infused Pinkster Gin in the Pinkster Summer Punch Mar(tea)ni
The addition of chamomile tea to Bloom Gin in the Chamomile Lawn

I highly recommend you try them all at some point. Just click on the titles to visit the post that features the recipe.

It won't have escaped your notice, I'm sure, that all of these cocktails are gin based. There are two reasons for this: one - I just like gin, a lot, and two - the fragrant nature of gin generally combines well with tea and often, if you look at the botanicals that are used in a particular brand, you will be able to make a pretty failsafe combination with a tea that has a similar flavour palate.

But enough revelling in cocktail victories past, and on to our latest crop of tea-based delights....

To begin, and just to prove that I can see past gin on occasion, I've created a cocktail that uses green tea infused vodka. To make this yourself, use a fairly decent vodka to keep the flavour smooth, but there's no need to invest in anything too flashy. For each cocktail you will need 2oz of vodka and 1 tsp of green tea. Flavour will vary according to which tea you use, but that's part of the fun. I used Chun Mee green tea, which amusingly, translates as 'precious eyebrows' (unless Wikipedia is just having a laugh at my expense). Add 1 tsp of green tea leaves to the 2oz vodka and leave to infuse for no more than 1 hour or the flavour will become woody, due to those pesky tannins. Strain the infusion and discard the leaves. Now you are ready to begin.

Rosemary Green

2oz green tea infused vodka
1oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
3/4oz fresh lime juice
fresh rosemary(about 12 needles)
dash of sparkling water
sprig of rosemary to garnish

Add the vodka and rosemary to the bottom of a shaker and gently muddle (squish) to release the oils from the herb.
Add the lime and elderflower liqueur with a handful of ice and shake until the outside of the shaker has frosted.
Strain the contents into a tall glass filled with ice and add a dash of sparkling water to top up.
Stir with a swizzle to mix the drink and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Tip - to enhance the scent of the rosemary garnish, slap it gently between your palms beforehand

 Next up is yet another variation on a classic Mojito, but in place of the sparkling water, I'm using green tea. If you are a fan of the Mojito, I expect you will like this drink, but it's different enough from the original to not seem like a pointless substitution. The addition of green tea gives it a little more bite and a little less sugar, keeps it suitably grown up.

Green Tea Mojito

2oz Clements Martinique Rhum Agricole
3/4oz fresh lime juice
8-12 mint leaves
1/2oz simple syrup
2oz chilled green tea
sprig of mint to garnish

Muddle (squish) the mint with the lime juice, in the bottom of your shaker, but don't press too hard or you'll bruise the leaves and end up with the taste of leaf rather than mint.
Add the rum and simple syrup with a handful of ice and shake it all for about 20 secs.
Strain the cocktail into a chilled, ice filled tumbler and top up with the green tea.
Give a stir with a swizzle stick and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, slapping it gently in your palms to release the minty aroma.

This next cocktail is served in the martini style, shaken over ice. The combination of jasmine and elderflower really is quite beautiful and the little kick of green tea keeps it from being too floral. As before, you need to infuse 2oz of spirits with 1 tsp of tea for no more than hour. Jasmine tea can come in many forms, but the one I used combined jasmine flowers with green tea. I would give you the name, but it was all in Chinese as I bought it in an Oriental Minimart. I can however, tell you that the gin was Aldi's own, Oliver Cromwell, London Dry Gin which, for the money is perfectly acceptable, especially for this purpose.

Jasmine Flower

2oz jasmine tea infused gin
3/4oz fresh lemon juice
sprig of mint to garnish

Add the jasmine infused vodka, elderflower and lemon to a shaker with ice and shake hard.
Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.
As before, gently slap the mint to release the aroma, before applying as garnish.

Last but not least, is a cocktail made with Whittards Chai Tea which is actually a black tea, but combined so beautifully with the gin, I couldn't leave it out. As with the other infusions, use 1 tsp of tea leaves to 2oz gin and infuse for an hour at the most, before straining and discarding the leaves. 

Orange Chai(tea)ni

2oz chai tea infused gin
1/2oz triple sec
3/4oz freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2oz fresh lemon juice
strip of orange zest to garnish

Add everything apart from the garnish to a shaker, with ice.
Shake until the outside of the shaker is frosted and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Twist the zest over the cocktail, spraying it with a fine mist of orange oil, and garnish.

Friday, 10 January 2014


The weeks that follow the Festive period are generally fraught with guilt and wavering resolution after a month long bacchanalian booze fest. Buttons don't seem to fasten properly, elastic seems to cut into body parts, turning limbs into link sausages and the last time you awoke feeling vaguely human is a dim distant memory. So it's no surprise then, that for most of us, January has become a month of avoidance, restraint and low level misery. Whilst there is a definite need to let the body recover, there will come a time when you want to start to drink again without entirely undoing all that good work you've put in. So, as you sip on your hot water with a side order of self-sacrifice, why not undo a button or two of your hair shirt and start planning your 'retox' diet....

Cocktails can of course be very fattening; often they are laden with sugar to make them taste like pop which in turn makes them easy to quaff at an alarming rate. However, if you make them yourself, you can control exactly what goes in the glass. Many recipes will call for an ounce of sugar syrup which can equate to over 150 calories before you've even added the alcohol. All of these recipes use only a teaspoon or two of syrup, but will still taste great and you'll be less inclined to chug them down like a  Sunny D crazed teenager. Each cocktail contains around 180 calories which is less than a large (250 ml) glass of wine.

First up is a far less sugary version of the Mojito; a cocktail of rum, mint and lime whose origins are Cuban, but whose popularity has spread worldwide. This version uses a little runny honey to sweeten the taste, but far less than the equivalent sugar in a traditional Mojito. As a result, the other flavours really come to the fore, so be sure to use a good quality white rum and the freshest of ingredients.

Mojito Flaco

2 oz white rum
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
6-8 mint leaves
2 tsp runny honey
sparkling water to top up
sprig of mint to garnish

Add the mint leaves, honey and lime to the bottom of a shaker and muddle (squish). Don't overdo the muddling as the mint will end up tasting vegetal rather than deliciously minty if the leaves become too bruised.
Pour in the rum,  a handful of ice and give it a good shake (with the lid on of course).
Put plenty of ice into a chilled glass and strain the cocktail into it - be sure to check the strainer isn't clogged with mint or you won't be able to get all the cocktail out.
Top up with a little sparkling water and give it a little stir to mix.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
(Tip - if you gently slap the mint between your palms, it will release a fabulously minty aroma that will enhance the drinking experience)

This next drink uses Berkley Square Gin which is distilled in the traditional, London style and then infused with a bouquet garni of botanicals, including lavender, sage kaffir lime and basil. The Lavender Martini Spritz uses a little lavender syrup and fresh lime juice to enhance those wonderful flavours and just a little dash of sparkling water to diffuse the intensity.

Lavender Martini Spritz

2 oz Berkley Square Gin
2 tsp lavender syrup (click here for recipe)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
dash of sparking water
lime wheel to garnish

Add the gin, syrup and lime juice to shake with ice and shake hard until the outside frosts over.
Open the shaker and add a dash of sparkling water.
Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a wheel of lime.

Finally, to celebrate the end of detox and the start of retox, a champagne cocktail that is fresh, light and fabulous. Of course, in the spirit of restraint, you can use a brut cava instead of champagne...

Apple Mint

1 oz vodka
2 oz apple juice
4 mint leaves
1 tsp sugar
champagne or cava to top up
sprig of mint to garnish

Add the sugar to the apple juice in the bottom of a shaker and stir until dissolved.
Add the vodka, mint leaves and muddle gently before popping in a handful of ice and giving it a shake.
Double strain the cocktail to remove the bits of mint and pour into a chilled champagne flute. Carefully top up with fizz and add a sprig of mint to garnish.

(Tip - fruit juice and fizz can react quite vigorously so add the champagne or cava incrementally, waiting for the bubbles to subside before adding more.)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Pop goes Christmas

There doesn't need to be much of an excuse to crack open the fizz in the TG household, but I know that I won't be alone in popping a cork or two this Christmas. For many, Christmas morning will start with a Bucks Fizz, which is fairly innocuous as Champagne cocktails go, being comprised in half from freshly squeezed orange, but all the same, a step too far far me. Much as I love a tipple, breakfast, (even on Christmas morning), is too early for Mr TG and I who will be sticking to a nice pot of tea until midday, when the bacchanalia begins in earnest. Whilst I've had little to do with the festive preparations this year, having been too busy, painting glass, I have found time to road test a few, new Champagne Cocktails that might just take your fancy this Christmas, although I suggest that unless you want to wake up, face down in a plate of turkey, you join me in holding off until midday…

This first cocktail is a nice alternative to the classic Buck's Fizz and has a gorgeously, festive hue that makes it perfect for a Christmas Day tipple.

Melba Fizz

1 oz Gin (Pinkster would be perfect)
1 oz Catron Creme de Pêche de Vigne
6 fresh raspberries
Champagne or Cava

Muddle (squish) the raspberries in the bottom of your cocktail shaker, along with the Creme de Pêche de Vigne.
Add the gin, a little ice and give it a quick shake just to cool the liquid.
Double strain the cocktail into a chilled glass and then transfer to a chilled champagne flute. This will avoid spilling the cocktail down the side of the glass if your champagne flutes are narrow at the top.
Carefully top up with fizz, avoiding overspill and then briefly stir with a swizzle stick to mix the drink.

This next cocktail is a very delicate shade of green with an equally delicate flavour. The trick is not to overdo the Blue Curaçao, thus lending the drink a hint of orange and a beautiful sea green shade.


1 oz Gin
1/2 oz Blue Curaçao
1 tsp fresh lime juice
Champagne or Cava
Twist of lime zest to garnish

Add the Gin, Blue Curaçao and lime to a large mixing glass, with ice and stir briefly to mix the liquids.
Strain the mixture into a chilled champagne flute and top with fizz.
Twist the strip of lime zest over the cocktail to release the citrus aroma and garnish the drink.

Now tequila may not be a drink you immediately associate with Christmas or with Champagne for that matter, but dispel those preconceptions and open your mind and your tastebuds to this delicious concoction that combines these two elements in a surprisingly light and pleasant quaff.


1 oz tequila resposado
1 oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
6 grapes (skins removed)
Champagne or Cava to top up
2 slices of grape to garnish

The easiest way to remove the grapes from their skins is to cut them in half and then hold the halved grape between your forefinger and thumb and pinch them together. The grape should just pop out. If not you can remove any little bits of skin by double straining the drink at the end.

Muddle (squish) the grapes with the tequila in the bottom of a shaker.
Add the Chase Elderflower Liqueur, a little ice and shake briefly to chill the liquids.
Double strain the cocktail into a chilled champagne flute and pop in the sliced grape.
Top up with chilled Champagne or Cava.

This final cocktail uses just a taste of Creme de Violette to give a floral note without straying into parma violet territory. The combination of Absolut Raspberri vodka and fresh raspberries keep the flavour fresh and light and a couple of dashes of simple syrup are all this needs to sweeten it.

Raspberri Royale

1 oz Absolut Raspberri
1 tsp Creme de Violette
2 tsp simple syrup
4 raspberries
1 raspberry for garnish

Muddle (squish) the raspberries with the vodka and add everything else except the garnish in the bottom of the shaker.
Add a handful of ice and shake  to cool the liquids.
Double strain the cocktail into a chilled champagne glass and pop a raspberry in the bottom of the flute.
Top up very slowly with Champagne or Cava to avoid the cocktail fizzing over.
Gently stir with a swizzle stick.

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and remember; a Champagne cocktail is not just for Christmas….