Tuesday 15 November 2011

Update form the Lab #9 - Armadillo Liqueur

A few weeks back, I made a Terry's Chocolate Orange Liqueur, which was inspired by the fact that one once existed. After she had tried some, Miss Sally suggested that a Dime* (Daim) Bar based chocolate cream liqueur would be another good one to try. Dime being my favourite chocolate bar**, I thought this was an excellent idea.

Dime was a little tricky to come by today; I had to go five different shops before I found some. Even once I had done so, I realised that, as there is not a lot of chocolate in a Dime Bar, the crunchy caramel inside would quickly burn if I tried to melt it on its own. Luckily, Waitrose sell some Milka Swiss Chocolate with real Dime (Daim) Bar pieces in it, which has a much higher chocolate to Dime crunch ratio.

Here's the recipe:

Dime Bar Liqueur

Half a 100g bar of Milka Swiss Dime Bar Chocolate (£0.98 for 100g in Waitrose)
One Dime (Daim) Bar
60ml Semi-skimmed Milk
60ml Double Cream
60-100ml Vodka

Melt the Milka Chocolate in a Bain Marie with a splash of milk.
Whilst waiting for it to melt, crush a Dime Bar to pieces with a pestle and mortar until you get Dime Bar dust.
Whilst continuing to stir the mix,
add the semi-skimmed milk,
then the double cream,
then the Dime Bar dust.
Keep stirring until you have a smooth mixture.
Remove the mixture from the Bain Marie and add the vodka.
Allow to cool, bottle and keep in the fridge.

How does it taste?
The key to any of these liqueurs is to try and get the end product to taste like the chocolate bar that you are emulating. This one has a mixture of milk chocolate and hard caramel on the nose, just like a freshly snapped Dime Bar. The taste is like liquid Dime Bar in a glass: smooth, creamy chocolate, slightly salty caramel and buttery burnt sugar. The alcohol also adds a very slight warmth at the end.

What's next? Probably a Caramac Liqueur but suggestions are welcome.

* In continental Europe, Daim Bars have always been known as such; however, up until a few years ago in the UK, they were known as Dime Bars.
** My ultimate was the Champagne Crunchie (discontinued about 10 years ago), although I also quite like Twix and Kitkats (when riding a train).

Friday 11 November 2011

Unleash the bitterness inside you

Following on from my review of part of the range of “single varietal” bitters from Master of Malt, you may like to know that the London Cocktail Society are having a tutored tasting of this range on Wednesday 23rd November at Shaker & Co., 119 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EE. Looks as if you’ll be able to taste the terrifying Naga Chilli (the world’s hottest chilli, I believe), smoked Chipotle and Sour Cherry bitters, among others. After that, those present will divide into small groups to have a go at blending their own bitters using the separate varietals. There will be a blind tasting and the winning formula will go into production as London Cocktail Society Bitters! Because of demand there will be two sittings for the blending, at 7pm and 7.45pm, followed by the judging at 8pm.

Places are strictly limited. If you fancy coming along see www.londoncocktailsociety.co.uk for more details.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Cocktails for Bonfire Night

Right from when I noticed, earlier in the year, that Guy Fawkes night (5th November) fell on a Saturday I had the idea of doing a themed Candlelight Club party, somehow creating cocktails with smoky, fiery flavours.

A few ingredients immediately leapt to mind. First was Chase’s Oak-Smoked Vodka, which is produced in limited editions (now on its second batch) by allowing oak smoke to infuse into the spirit for about a week in a specially designed smoke chamber. It’s an extraordinary taste—and not to everyone’s liking, as my partner observed when he wrinkled his nose and said it smelled like bacon. (I didn’t tell him that bacon vodka is a well-established concept.) But it’s also quite a subtle flavour. I tried various vodka cocktails, such as one called a Hot Tub which combines vodka with pineapple juice and prosecco, but the results weren’t very nice. It works fine in a Bloody Mary, but that’s quite a feisty cocktail for a delicate vodka (and many people are convinced it’s really a breakfast drink). So I decided it perhaps needed showcasing in a simpler recipe and ended up with a Collins/Fizz arrangement and hit on the idea of adding a bit of fruit body from sloe gin, a seasonal and rather English beverage.

Heart of Oak
2 shots Chase oak-smoked vodka
1 shot sloe gin (I used Hayman’s)
½ shot lemon juice
½ shot sugar syrup
soda water
Shake first four ingredients and strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with soda water.

The smoke is not at all puckering or cloying: it’s a subtle background dry waft, almost meaty, indeed like smoked duck or bacon. The sloes are again calm, dry and rather ethereal compared to, say, the blackberries in cassis (see below), with a hint of spice. With the pencil-lead juniper from the base gin this ends up a little like smoked game with a sloe and juniper jus. The lack of cloyingness to the fruit makes this a lean, refreshing number; just the thing to follow a country ramble in the late autumn afternoon—with a suggestion of dinner to come!

In the spring I was introduced to a ballsy product called Fireball, made from Canadian whisky blended with a cinnamon liqueur. Despite its name it’s not really hot, but has a vague pepperiness to its cinnamon spice. But for the name alone I thought it was worth including. One of the brand’s signature serves is a cocktail called Dub Dub’s Apple Pie, cleverly combing the cinnamon of the whisky with apple, a classic pairing. But Fireball is a pretty in-your-face flavour, with a medicinal quality that reminds me of surgical spirit (or rootbeer, depending on your drinking history), so I replaced half of the Fireball with calvados to calm it down a bit while emphasising the apple:

Hot Apple Pie
1 shot Fireball cinnamon whisky
1 shot calvados
1½ shots apple juice
1 shot lemon juice
10ml egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake all ingredients vigorously and strain into a Martini or coupé glass.

Even in this reduced quantity, the sweetness of the Fireball offsets the lemon juice pretty well, though some might want to add a bit of syrup. It is a lot like baked apple with cinnamon!

There is a well-established simple cocktail called a Smoky Martini which adds a small amount of whisky (most likely a smoky Islay malt or a blend with a high smoked malt content) to a normal Martini (often omitting the vermouth). In a party environment I tend to steer clear of cocktails that are basically all spirit, so I combined this idea with the Abbey/Bronx direction of lengthening it with a small amount of orange juice, plus a sweet-sour mix of sugar syrup and lime juice to give it body.

1½ shots gin
½ shot Islay malt whisky
1 shot orange juice
½ shot sugar syrup
¾ shot lime juice
Shake all ingredients and strain into a Martini or coupé glass.

The flavour of this cocktail will obviously depend on your choice of whisky. With Bowmore it is fairly subtle but with Laphroaig it’s more up-front in its smoky, peaty, iodine character. But even using Laphroaig it makes a drink that Mrs H.—who basically doesn’t like whisky—declared to be very tasty.

Everyone seems to be using tea in cockails at the moment, so inevitably the idea of smoked lapsang souchong tea came up. There is a cocktail called a Smoky Old Bastard (on the grounds that it is a bastardisation of an Old Fashioned) that combines Bourbon, lapsang and maple syrup. I had some maple syrup knocking around so I gave it a try. I found it a trifle thin so I experimented with fruiting it up a bit using apricot (which I always think goes rather nicely with bourbon) and plum bitters.

Bonfire of the Vani-Teas
2 shots bourbon
2 shots cold lapsang souchong tea
1 shot crème d’abricot
½ shot lemon juice
¼ shot maple syrup (or regular syrup)
2 dashes plum bitters
Shake all ingredients and strain into a rocks-filled glass

The apricot liqueur adds sweetness so you don’t need much syrup—in fact you probably don’t much notice the fact that it is maple syrup, so I’m sure simple syrup would do just as well. The tannins in the tea dry it out, so it’s quite a refreshing drink, not hefty.

Finally, I wanted to include ginger, and ended up adapting a recipe from the 1940s called El Diablo. This is tequila-based, but I wanted something that better evoked the pagan horrors lurking in the English hedgerow, so I used gin instead, along with the ginger beer, lime and crème de cassis of the original, plus some of Monin’s extraordinary gingerbread syrup, mainly because it seemed seasonal.

The Horned One
2 shots gin
¾ shot crème de cassis
1 shot lime juice
1 tsp (5ml) gingerbread syrup
Ginger beer
Shake first four ingredients and strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with ginger beer.

The gingerbread syrup can be very overwhelming and, even with just a teaspoon, it and the blackcurrant are the dominant flavours—and they go together very well. (I see that Gabriel Boudier makes a blackcurrant and gingerbread liqueur, so I am clearly not the only person who thinks this.) To be honest you aren’t much aware of the gin and it would probably work well with white rum too.

I had just acquired some of Master of Malt’s chipotle (smoked chilli) bitters and was intrigued to try adding some, to turn up the heat of the ginger (some ginger beer has chilli in it), while again adding some smokiness, but Mrs H. persuaded me that it might be nice to have at least one cocktail that was neither hot nor smoky, so I let it lie. For now. Mwah, hah, hah hah…

All that Glitters Is Gold

I was sitting in a local Tavern with my folks and Mrs. B when I noticed dear old Mumsie's drink seemed to be shimmering. Upon closer inspection it seemed to have glitter floating in it. Thinking that I may have found a new source of Goldfinger's favourite metal I was quickly corrected that it was actually J2o Glitter Berry the soft drinks latest limited edition, a mix of cherry, grape, spice and glitter.

It appears that this not only available in the local drinking dens but also in hypermarkets too, as Mumsie seemed to have a stock of them at home. I acquired two bottles to test for the good fellows (readers) of the IAE.

Metal is not uncommon in alcoholic drinks, Goldschläger (Swiss/Italian cinnamon schnapps) is a well known brand* and there was once a Silverschläger; no doubt local varieties of these products still exist on the continent.** For a tenuous link one could point to the alcoholic Sanatogen Wine with Extra Iron.

So what makes it glitter? A quick call to Britvic Consumer Careline revealed it to be "edible food-grade glitter"*** also known as E171 and E172.****

The Glitter, clearly visible after the bottle had been resting on its side.

But how does it taste?

Very smooth, with long cherry notes, jammy and fruity, quite intense but not too sweet. Some nutmeg and cinnamon too and a hint of vanilla. A slick texture but very nice with it. A long finish and, no you can't taste/feel the glitter.


It wouldn't be the IAE without a cocktail so here we go.

The Henry Ruschmann

50ml Laird's Apple Jack (made in New Jersey)
100ml J2o Glitter Berry
Ice and a Dash of Bitters

It is quite amusing to have a sparkling drink and also quite festive. The sweet apple warmth goes well with the intense jammy cherry notes of the drink, add a dash of Caralicious caramel vodka and it would be like a cherry and apple pie. Easy to drink and pretty tasty. If you are averse to sweet drinks I suggest adding a splash of lemon juice.

*The gold is in there as it was originally thought to have medicinal benefits. The idea that the metal makes little cuts in the inside of your throat so that alcohol can be quickly absorbed is the stuff-and-nonsense of a tanked-up know-all teeny bopper.
** For the high-rollers you could have Platinumschläger or even Diamondschläger, with tiny crushed up diamond in it. Until then you'll have to be happy with Precious Vodka. 
*** Some tortology for you there.
**** Also known, respectively,  as titanium dioxide and iron oxides/hydroxide—both  of which are illegal as food additives in Germany.
***** Named after the New Jersey engineer who invented glitter

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Spirited Cries - Tasting 'Owler Pear Spirit

This weekend I found myself in the heart of the New Forest at a strange cross between a cider festival and steam rally; I watch a ceremony of Wassail and was serenaded by the jangled tones of The Plonker, the local agricultural orchestra. In between picking out bit of straw from scrumpy I tried an interesting product that was a little out of place #1 it was distilled #2 it was from Gloucestershire*.

'Owler Pear Spirit is made by Charles Martell, the man behind Stinking Bishop Cheese** and is made at Hunts Court Farm Distillery in Dymock Gloucestershire. It is an unaged pear spirit / eaux-de-vie and is bottled at 40%ABV.

It's not cheap, £50 for 70cl***

The Taste
nose: dry, full, hint of vanilla pear and apple
taste: really, really smooth. Full pear flavour but not too sweet and with a pleasant dryness. Hints of vanilla and almond. Like the nose dry, and then warmth at the end. As eau de vies go it's pretty good.

* Not 'Ampshire or even Daw-sett.
** This is a Glouchester cheese made from the milk of Gloucester cattle, which in 1972 consisted of only 68 Gloucester breed heifers. It has a distinctive odour which comes from the process with which the cheese is washed during its ripening; it is immersed in perry every four weeks while it matures.
***  This is what first caught my eye, I wondered how they could justify charging so much.