Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin

A trip to my favourite, London, specialist drinks' supplier, is sadly, all too rare an occasion these days. However, it was with a sense of mild jubilation that Mr TG and I escorted our little princes back to school after seemingly, endless, summer holidays and having dabbed the tears from our eyes, quickly recovered when we realised that after seven, long weeks, we were free to do whatever we wanted; at least until 3.30pm. Hurrah!

We boarded the train to London and made a whistle stop tour of Borough Market, popping in to Neals Yard to purchase a frankly, huge amount of stinky cheese. Then, clutching our fragrant parcel of whiffy Stilton, headed over to Leadenhall Market where the lovely Diosa from Amathus Drinks had some new gins for us to try.

It was hard to leave with just one, as both brands we sampled were delicious in very different ways, but in the end I promised myself I would save one for another trip and based my final decision on looks - terribly shallow, I know, but I'm sure you'll agree that it certainly is a bonny bottle. Of course, looks aren't everything, but luckily, there's far more to this gin, than just a pretty face...

Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin is quite unique; as well as a long list of locally sourced botanicals, including a hefty dose of lavender (always a good thing), quince and lemon thyme, the gin is given a final infusion of Reisling using handpicked grapes from the Zilliken Estate in the Saar region which straddles the borders of France, Germany and Luxemburg.

The gin owes its moniker to Ferdinand Geltz, a Royal Prussian, District Forester of yesteryear, but owes its unique taste to Master Distiller, Andreas Vallendar; the former lends an air of gravitas to the gin, but it is the latter who has really worked the magic; bringing together over thirty botanicals, most of which are picked by hand from the surrounding area, making this a truly artisanal beverage.

On first tasting, I was struck by just how dominant the Resiling infusion was, giving it a distinctly 'winey' flavour, but on second sip, the lavender took centre stage. The overall impression was floral, very dry and quite unlike any gin I've tasted before - I was hooked.

My immediate thought was that the Reisling infusion made it taste like an incredibly intense Martini and so, that seemed like a jolly good place to start.

Ferdinand's Martini

2oz Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin
1oz Dolin dry vermouth

Whether you shake or stir, is a matter of personal taste, but in this instance, in order to preserve as much of the gin flavour as possible, I decided to stir.

Add the gin and vermouth to the bottom of a shaker, with a handful of ice and stir approximately 20 times.

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The classic Gin and Tonic is my go to drink and is a great way to enjoy a good gin, providing you don't drown it in bad tonic. Fever Tree is one of the best and the naturally light version uses less sugar, without substituting it for artificial sweeteners.

Ferdinand's Gin and Tonic

2oz Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin
Fever Tree naturally light tonic
wedge of lime

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how to make a gin and tonic, but just incase...

Add the gin to a chilled glass, half filled with ice and top up with a little tonic. Don't add too much as you can always add more if it's not to your taste, but you can't take it away if you add too much.

Add a wedge of lime - the acidity of lime actually makes a gin and tonic taste sweeter...

The Negroni is one of my favourite, simple, gin cocktails. It combines Campari with a sweet vermouth, both of which blend with Gin to create an intensely bittersweet, herbal drink, whose flavour is subtly altered by whichever gin you use. It's a great drink and works well with Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin, although the Campari does tend to overpower the mix, somewhat.

Ferdinand's Negroni

1oz Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin
1oz Martini Rosso
1oz Campari

Add all of the ingredients to a chilled glass and stir with a swizzle stick, to mix.

I was surprised to discover how much I enjoyed the Ferdinand's Martini, as I am not really a Martini drinker - I tend to prefer cocktails that slip down a little more easily, generally aided by something sweet and sour - but I think I may just have found the best Martini gin, ever. As a result, I am inclined to save it solely for this purpose, although I might be tempted to try a few cocktails of my own at a later date, so watch this space.

To the best of my knowledge, Amathus Drinks are the sole importers for Ferdinand's Dry Saar Gin so if you fancy giving it a try (and I highly recommend that you do), you can order it online or pop in to one of their London outlets (full details are on the website) where you may just find you leave with far more than you intended....

Friday, 15 August 2014

Summer Pastels

Obviously, the number one priority when choosing your cocktail should be taste, but there's a lot to be said for looks as well, particularly if you are creating a cocktail for an event such as a wedding where the colour scheme is all important. Colour plays a large role in my business of creating Bespoke Cocktails as often, I am making a drink to represent a brand or a special occasion. So this week, for no other reason than I think they are as pretty as they are delicious, I've put together some martini-style drinks in pastel shades that might just be the perfect match for you.

The Just Peachy cocktail is fragrant with peach, hints of raspberry and spicy undertones. It's sweet enough to to slip down all too easily, but if you like your liquor hard, you can always double up on the gin. Remember, with a martini-style drink, there's no non-alcoholic element to water it down so the dilution comes, solely from shaking it over ice. Likewise, the drink is always best, enjoyed cold, hence the need for a stemmed glass to drink it from - this will prevent the heat of your hand, warming the contents of the glass and keep it icy cold from start to finish.

Just Peachy

1 oz Whitely Neil Gin
1 oz extra dry vermouth
1 oz martini rosato
1/2 oz Cartron Crème de Pêche de Vigne

Add everything to a shaker with ice and shake hard for about 20 secs.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

The Elderflower and Violet Cocktail is a floral treat with just enough sharp lemon to cut through the sweetness. The pale violet colour is a joy to behold and the flavour is a must for those who like their cocktails flowery.

Elderflower and Violet Cocktail

2 oz dry vermouth
dash of lemon juice

Add everything to a shaker with ice and shake hard for about 20 secs.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

The Flamooga is a Bespoke Cocktail I created for a customer recently that I hope they won't mind me sharing. It's a delicate shade of flamingo pink and a sophisticated blend of Gin Mare, Chase Elderflower Liqueur, a dash of Campari and ruby grapefruit. The herbal botanicals of Gin Mare (rosemary, thyme, basil and olive) and the citrus zing of ruby grapefruit are balanced with a little bittersweet from the Campari and fragrant floral of elderflower - something to reach all the tastebuds. It's not too sweet and works really well, shaken and served straight up, as shown here, or topped up with a little champagne and served in a champagne glass.


1 1/2 oz Gin Mare
tsp Campari
2 oz freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit 

Add everything to a shaker with ice and shake hard for about 20 secs.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Fabri Manus

The cocktail I'd like to share with you this week, is a Bespoke Cocktail named the Fabrimanus.

Fabri Manus is derived from the Latin translation of 'The Artisan's Hands' and is the name of the bespoke, cabinet making firm, run by husband and wife team, Michael and Caroline Usher. Michael is the Artisan whose hands create the bespoke joinery and cabinet making commissions and Caroline takes the helm of the business side, allowing him to focus on creating high quality pieces for their diverse portfolio of clients. This September marks the ten year anniversary of the company's instigation and is a milestone achievement for them both, brought about by talent, hard work and exacting standards of quality and workmanship.

I was approached by Caroline to create a Bespoke Cocktail to mark the occasion, that they could both enjoy, but that primarily focussed on Michael's love of cider with a nod to Caroline's appreciation of gin, in particular, William's Chase. We also discussed how we could include some of the produce they grow at home and I was immediately drawn to the herb, tangerine sage and fresh blackberries. The final stipulation was that it should be quite sweet, so a spoonful of sugar wouldn't go amiss...

In the end, I decided to make a homemade Blackberry Liqueur that seemed to be in keeping with Fabri Manus ethos and was something that Caroline could quite easily make and store to use in the Bespoke Cocktail as well as others. The tangerine sage, when muddled in the drink, added an extra fruity, earthy dimension that was further enhanced with a dash of Angostura Orange Bitters. I opted for the Williams Chase Elegant Gin as it is quite a light, fruity gin with a slight apple nose that was perfect for combining with cider. In fact, Williams Chase Elegant Gin, unlike most, is actually distilled from apples rather than grain and in the early stages of the process, is a flat cider. And finally, but all importantly, the cider. I toyed with the idea of using an artisan brand, but truth be told, my client is partial to Strongbow and it is a perfectly quaffable, light and fruity drink, so that is what I went with.

I created a base cocktail using all of the above ingredients that could be shaken and served short and sweet, like a martini, in a stemmed, cocktail glass or served over ice and topped up with extra cider to make a long, refreshing, summer cooler.


1 oz Williams Chase Elegant Gin
1 oz Blackberry Liqueur
3-4 leaves tangerine sage
dash of Angostura Orange Bitters
2 oz Strongbow Cider
fresh blackberry to garnish

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle (gently squish) the tangerine sage with the gin and blackberry liqueur.
Add the cider and stir for about 20secs to remove the fizz (this will ensure there are no explosions when it comes to shaking the drink).
Add a couple of dashes of bitters and a handful of ice.
Shake hard until the outside of the shaker frosts over and strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass.
Garnish with a fresh blackberry on a cocktail stick.

Fabrimanus Cooler

1 oz Williams Chase Elegant Gin
2 fresh blackberries
1 oz Blackberry Liqueur
3-4 leaves tangerine sage
dash of Angostura Orange Bitters
 Strongbow Cider to top up

In the bottom of a tall sturdy glass, muddle (gently squish) the sage, blackberry, gin and liqueur.
Add a dash of bitters, plenty of ice and top up with fizzy cider.
Stir carefully to mix.

Should you decide to try this one at home, be sure to raise your glasses to Michael and Caroline Usher, without whom this cocktail would not have been created.

Friday, 1 August 2014

T.L.C Cocktail

This cocktail was created as gift to mark the 30 year, Pearl Wedding Anniversary of a couple who work hard all year on the farm and in the local community and enjoy an annual cruise to far flung lands as a reward. From the brief I was given, I wanted to create something that would combine quintessentially British flavours with something a little more  cosmopolitan, that was both fruity and sweet.

The name of the cocktail refers to the couple's initials, but serendipitously also stands for 'tender loving care', without which, a marriage is unlikely to last 30 years. The bottles were hand painted in a lace design with a pearl outline and the number 30 entwined into the pattern to represent their 30 years of marriage to one another.

And so, to the cocktail...

The recipe calls for fresh raspberry purée which is easily made by squishing the raspberries through a sieve with the back of a spoon - collect the purée in a dish and discard the pips. About 4 large raspberries should be enough to make a tablespoon of purée.

The dash of lemon juice should be fresh, not the bottled type, but is literally, just a tiny squeeze, less than half a teaspoon. Although seemingly minuscule, that little dash just adds a freshness and depth to the alcohol.

Should you wish to make their signature cocktail for yourself, you will need to invest in a bottle of Martin Miller Gin (highly recommended with Fever Tree Tonic for an exceptional G&T), Cartron Crème de Pêche de Vigne and Giffards Crème de Framboises (both delicious when added to fizz in the style of a Kir Royale) and a sweet vermouth such as Martini Rosso which is an essential ingredient for many cocktails, including my current fave, the Negroni.

TLC Cocktail

3/4 oz Martin Miller Gin
1/4 oz Crème de Framboises
1/2 oz Crème de Pêche de Vigne
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 tbsp raspberry purée
dash of fresh lemon juice
raspberry to garnish

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice (cubed, not crushed) and shake hard until the outside of the shaker becomes frosted (about 20 secs).

Strain the contents into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a raspberry or two on a cocktail stick.

If you find the drink a little intense, served this way, why not try it served over ice or topped up with champagne - delicious!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Blackberry Liqueur

Crème de Mure, or Blackberry Liqueur, is a delicious cocktail ingredient, bursting with fresh berry flavour and essential for making that modern-day classic, gin cocktail, the Bramble. It is however, less ubiquitous than that other berry liqueur, Crème de Cassis, and tends to be found in more specialist liquor stores. As a result, Crème de Cassis is often used in substitution, which is rather like substituting a raspberry with a strawberry - both are tasty, but they are very different.

There are some great brands out there, including Cartron and Briottet, but if you like getting creative in the kitchen, why not try this simple recipe and make your own. You can use frozen blackberries, but do ensure that they are fully defrosted beforehand. Always try to use the best fruit that you can, to ensure the high quality of your liqueur - you get back what you put in. The lemon zest is optional, but it does help to enhance the flavour of the berries, although it is very important that all the white pith is removed as it becomes bitter when steeped in alcohol.

Aside from the listed ingredients below, you will need a large, clean, airtight jar, a sieve, a muslin cheesecloth or coffee filter paper.

Crème de Mure

2 cups blackberries
3cm strip of lemon zest (pith removed)
1 1/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup simple syrup (2 parts sugar to one part water)

To begin with, make the simple syrup by heating half a cup of water in a pan.
When the water begins to boil, add one cup of sugar and reduce heat to a simmer.
Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is crystal clear.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Add the fruit and zest to sealable container such as a large, clean jar, along with the alcohol.
Muddle (squish) the fruit and alcohol, then replace the lid and shake.
Store at room temperature but out of direct sunlight, for a minimum of 3 days.

Strain the contents of the jar through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract all the juice.
Filter the remaining liquid through a muslin cheesecloth or coffee filter paper.
Repeat the filtering process again and then add half a cup of simple syrup and stir.

Pour the liqueur into an airtight jar or bottle and shake to combine.
Allow to rest for at least a day before using.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Rose and Cardamom

Fun With Marshmallows (Part 2)

After the success of cocktail making with Earl Grey marshmallows, those lovely people at Eat Toast Dunk Me were kind enough to send me another, intriguing flavour to try. This time it was a box full of middle eastern promise - delicious Rose and Cardamom. All the flavour of turkish delight but without the stickiness and light as air.

Having explored the potential of infusing alcohol with this superior confectionary in my last post, Fun With Marshmallows, I decided that this time, I would take my inspiration from the delicately exotic and fragrant flavours and mix up some rose and cardamom cocktails. The marshmallows make a fun accompaniment and can really enhance the aroma when used as a garnish or just have them as an indulgent snack, alongside.

This first cocktail takes the classic Gin Rickey (gin, soda and lime) and turns it into a fragrant summer cooler, perfect for balmy nights and hot, sunny afternoons.

Rose and Cardamom Gin Rickey

2 oz Martin Miller Gin
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 cardamom pods
tbsp rosewater

Muddle (squish) the cardamom pods with gin, lime, simple syrup and rosewater in the bottom of a heavy bottomed glass.
Add plenty of ice, top up with soda and stir to mix.
Serve with a rosewater and cardamom marshmallow.

This next cocktail is adapted from one that I found whilst trawling the virtual bars of the internet. I couldn't attest to its origins but whoever thought it up - well done - it's jolly nice. I have used rosewater and simple syrup rather than rose syrup as it's unnecessary to invest in or make your own when the composite parts are those two ingredients anyway. The ruby grapefruit gives a wonderful pale pink tinge and the Peychauds bitters add a depth that is hard to explain, but try one with and one without and you'll see for yourself...

Cardamom Rose Cocktail

1 oz freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit juice
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 tbsp rosewater
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
1 cardamom pod

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle (squish) the cardamom pod with the gin.
Add all of the other ingredients with a handful of ice and shake hard for about 10 seconds.
Strain into a chilled glass with ice.
Serve with a couple of cubes of Eat Toast Dunk Me rose and cardamom marshmallow.

Last but not least is a cocktail in the 'martini' style, featuring Hendricks Gin and Martini Rosato, a rosé vermouth that is sweeter than it's dry counterpart, with flavours of raspberry, lemon, cinnamon and cloves.

Rose Cardamom Martini

2 tsp simple syrup
1tsp lemon juice
2 tsp rosewater
1 cardamom pod

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle the gin and cardamom.
Add the remaining ingredients and shake hard until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pop in a rose and cardamom marshmallow.

Thank you to Eat Toast Dunk Me for this week's inspiration and if you'd like to find out other delicious ways to enjoy their marshmallows, then pop along to their website and be inspired by the plethora of delicious and inventive flavours.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Fun With Marshmallows

These days, my time for mixing cocktails has become very scarce as I am pretty much a permanent fixture at the studio table, painting glass from dawn 'til dusk. This is good news, of course, as my work as a glass artist is my business as well as my passion, but I do miss being able to devote a lot of time to the business of mixology, which is an art in itself. That isn't to say that I have given up drinking cocktails - not at all, but the planning, the preparation and the photography of creating new cocktails and then blogging about them, is a full time occupation in itself and sadly, I just can't fit it all in...

However, in serendipitous fashion, just as I completed a large batch of orders, I was sent a packet of rather intriguing, Earl Grey Marshmallows by my lovely friend and leader of the Secret Tea Society, Claire Worral. The amusingly named, EAT TOAST DUNK ME natural, gourmet marshmallows are made by Copper and Cane Ltd and are a cut far above your average mallow, using organic ingredients and stocked in both artisan and prestigious establishments, including Selfridges. The Secret Tea Society was testing their tea-dunking capabilities (apparently) and thought I might like to experiment with them in my capacity as the Society's official cocktail expert (or 'in house drunk'), particularly as I absolutely love Earl Grey tea and these superior mallows are made with best organically produced bergamot.

The main challenge in creating a cocktail, involving these, frankly irresistible marshmallows was to not scoff the lot before I'd done anything with them! However, I managed to restrain myself after I had sampled one or two (just to get a measure of them, you understand) and put my metaphorical, thinking cap on. I think if it were a real thinking cap for creating cocktails, it would have to be something rather fabulous, probably involving feathers and possibly beading, but I digress...

My first thought was to dissolve the mallows in alcohol which would imbue it with the delicious flavour of bergamot and sweeten it too. The only hitch is that this is rather time consuming and they will take a day or two to fully dissolve, so my advice would be to make up a small batch of it as it will store well; adding one marshmallow for every 2oz of alcohol, to a clean glass receptacle with a lid and giving it a bit of a swirl, twice a day. I, on the other hand, just popped a marshmallow in a cocktail glass with 2 oz of Hendricks Gin and stared at it, plaintively, willing it to dissolve. Finally, after 48 hours and some very stern looks, the ebullient marshmallow finally succumbed to the gin and I was left with a lightly sweetened and delicately fragranced spirit that combined the flavours of rose and bergamot without one overpowering the other. As a bonus, the natural food colouring in the marshmallow left a faint pink tinge to the drink that was rather pretty and should you decide to make a decent amount of the stuff, I highly recommend making a Gin and Tonic with it, using a superior tonic, such as Fever Tree Naturally Light Tonic Water and adding a strawberry, halved and hulled and a wedge of fresh lime.

If you are feeling a little more adventurous, then this next cocktail will not disappoint. It combines the fragrant flavours of rose and bergamot with strawberry, lime and a little triple sec for a zesty and fresh cocktail, served in the Martini style. I have named it The Secret Martini in honour of the Secret Tea Society and it's unseen but essential addition of the EAT TOAST DUNK ME marshmallow.

The Secret Martini

2oz Hendricks Gin, infused with 1 Earl Grey Marshmallow
2 fresh strawberries, halved and hulled
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz triple sec liqueur

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and muddle the strawberry until it has partially broken down.
Pop in a handful of ice and shake hard until the outside of the shaker frosts over.
Double strain the contents into a chilled martini glass

Having established that the bergamot in the marshmallows paired well with the Rose infused flavour of Hendricks, I thought it would be equally harmonious when added to Pinkster Gin, adding another dimension to their lightly raspberry infused gin with lavender notes. This time however, I decided to short cut the dissolving process by making an iced tea cocktail and popping the mallow into the tea whilst it was still hot and then allowing it cool - genius! The tea in question was no ordinary blend, but the Kent and Sussex Tea Co. 'Rose Congou', a superior loose leaf black tea mixed with beautiful, scented rose petals and another gift from the Secret Tea Society as part of my annual membership pack. It really is a lovely tea that makes a wonderfully fragrant infusion without any hint of bitterness.

To make this next cocktail, you will need a high quality, loose leaf, rose infused tea - Rose Congou is ideal.
Allow the tea to infuse for between 3-5 minutes and then pour 100ml into a clean receptacle.
Pop in 2 Earl Grey marshmallows and stir until dissolved.
Allow to cool.
Now you are ready to begin...

Love Potion Iced Tea

2oz Pinkster Gin
3.5oz (100ml) Chilled, Rose Congou tea, sweetened with Earl Grey marshmallows (see above)
1/2oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add everything to the bottom of a shaker with ice and stir to chill.
Strain into an ice filled glass and add a wheel of freshly cut lemon.

This final cocktail requires a little more patience again, whilst you wait for the marshmallows to break down, but the surprisingly delicious combination of bergamot, tequila, ginger and lime is well worth the wait.

As before, allow the marshmallows to dissolve in the tequila at a ratio of 1 mallow to every ounce of tequila (you will need 2oz for this next drink)

Sugar and Spice

2oz silver tequila infused with 2 Earl Grey marshmallows (as above)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Fever Tree naturally light ginger beer to top up

Pour the mallow infused tequila and lime juice into an ice filled hi ball or large tumbler.
Top up with ginger beer and stir with a swizzle stick.
Garnish with a lemon wheel.

So thrilled was I with the cocktail possibilities, not to mention the out and out deliciousness of this divine confectionary, that I will be trying out their Rosewater and Cardamom mallows next! Stay posted for 'Fun With Marshmallows Part 2'....