Thursday 25 October 2012

Halloween cocktails

I don’t normally go in for visually gimmicky cocktails (in fact I’m even fairly suspicious of garnishes unless, like, say, a lemon peel twist, they clearly add something to the smell and taste). But somehow Halloween seems a bit of an exception: so for the Candlelight Club Ball this weekend I have included a couple of drinks that use creepy layering effects.

The Black Widow: I'm sure there was an ice lolly like this when I was a kid
I suspect people have been floating vodka for years but I admit it had never occurred to me. The Black Widow is adapted from something I found online, created, I assume, for Blavod, a vodka coloured a blueish black using catechu, a herb found in southern Asia and central and east Africa, which it is claimed also makes the vodka smoother; essentially it looks like squid ink but tastes like vodka. The Black Widow is basically a vodka and cranberry juice but I’ve added some Angostura to give it a bit more character (and these bitters have a gingery element that feels seasonal), plus some grenadine,* which you can also layer by dropping it in and letting it sink, like in a Tequila Sunrise. Mind you, against the cranberry juice the grenadine layer doesn’t really show up much. The Blavod layer is remarkably easy to achieve: even if you just pour it in from the bottle the layer forms, though if you use a speed pourer and pour over the back of a spoon you get a neater effect. When it comes actually to drinking the thing, I personally find it is better to mix it all up, though it then turns a pinky grey colour.

Black Widow
2 shots Blavod black vodka
½ shot grenadine*
Dash Angostura Bitters
Cranberry juice
Fill a highball with ice, add a dash of Angostura and fill with cranberry juice to within about an inch of the top. Add the grenadine, which will sink to the bottom. Then float the vodka on the top—it will form an eerie black layer.

The Vampire Kiss is also adapted from an idea I found online; there are several cocktails out there using the name, but this one was originally created by or for Finlandia vodka. However, I took it a step further by making a rose vodka, simply by adding a decent rose petal extract (about two tsp) to a bottle of vodka. (Be warned: some essences, such as the first one I tried, are actually oil-based, which would be fine for making cakes, etc. But the ABV of a typical vodka is not enough to dissolve oil, which requires about 70%.)

If you can keep your vodka cold then this cocktail does not require any shaking: just build in a glass and when you add the Chambord or other crème de framboise it will form a subtle and rather pretty layer. I would have liked to use a candy crucifix as a garnish, but no one seems to make them!

The Vampire Kiss
Vampire Kiss
1½ shots rose vodka
½ shot crème de framboise
Sparkling wine or Champagne top
Garnish: maraschino cherry
Keep the vodka in the freezer/fridge, or on ice, and add 1½ shots to a coupe glass. Top with wine, then add the crème de framboise, which will sink slightly forming a subtle layered effect. Garnish with a cherry.

The other cocktails we’ll be serving are a bit more conventional, but appropriate, I hope. The Apple Bob is a twist on the Dry Martini (and is in fact virtually identical to the Poteeni I came up with for St Patrick’s Day, but using gin instead of poteen), with an autumnal apple flavour. (I can’t explain why the elderflower is in there—somehow the blossomy taste gives the cocktail the extra layer it needs.)

Apple Bob
2 shots gin
1 shot dry vermouth
1 shot apple juice
½ shot Monin Green Apple Syrup
½ shot elderflower cordial
Garnish: apple slice or apple peel spiral
Shake everything together and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a bit of apple if so desired.

The Jack-o’-Lantern was born of a desire to have something that looked orange and tasted somehow like pumpkin. There are recipes out there that use spiced pumpkin purée (which you can even buy ready-made in a can), as you would find in pumpkin pie, but when I tried using this it produced something that looked like pond sludge. I actually quite liked the savoury note from the pumpkin itself, but in the end I plumped for using the spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg) to flavour a syrup instead. The syrup is brownish, which, along with the rum, gives the colour, though if you use an orange curaçao (rather than a clear one) it helps; ginger ale also gives a better colour, though I think it tastes nicer with ginger beer.

2 shots golden or dark rum
½ shot curaçao or triple sec
½ shot pumpkin spice syrup
¼ shot lemon juice
Ginger beer top
Garnish: Orange wedge
Shake everything with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a wedge of orange.

Finally, I wanted to include at least one vintage cocktail, and fortunately its name allowed me to justify the Corpse Reviver No.2. If you look in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) it specifies Kina Lillet, a fortified wine with quinine in it which would have added bitterness. This was discontinued some time ago; there seems to be some debate about what it tasted like though there are a number of products that arguably go some way towards recreating it, such as Kina Martini and Cocchi Americano (Lillet themselves insist that their modern Lillet Blanc is virtually the same except that it is actually less sweet than Kina Lillet). Ted Haigh specifies Lillet Blanc and I have always used that, though in fact for me the resulting cocktail is too sweet and orangey (Lillet being a fortified and sweetened wine flavoured with oranges), so I have always increased the gin and reduced the Cointreau. However, I noticed recently that Simon Difford specifies dry vermouth instead. Having tried it this way I am completely converted, and I find it balances perfectly using the original blend of equal parts of all the main ingredients.

Corpse Reviver No.2
Dash/rinse of absinthe
1 shot gin
1 shot Cointreau
1 shot Noilly Prat
1 shot lemon juice
Garnish: maraschino cherry
Rinse the glass with a dash of absinthe. Shake remaining ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.

* I always find commercial grenadines rather synthetic tasting, and even a small amount can ruin a cocktail. So I’ve recently taken to making a simple version just by blending equal parts by volume of granulated sugar and POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. Bung it all in a saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar dissolves then allow to cool.

1 comment:

  1. If you're interested in Halloween drinks that are delicious but also tasteful and sophisticated (mostly meaning they're not overly sweet and don't employ flavoured spirits and too many liqueurs), definitely check out the series I'm doing on my blog!
    Corpse Reviver #2 is always a favourite of mine!