Monday, 19 December 2011

A cocktail for Christmas

Only a few days left till Christmas now, but still time for me to wish a hearty “God rest you!” to all you merry gentlemen and gentlewomen and to share a few tots of Christmas spirit.

I’m pleased to say that our seasonal cocktails went down a treat at the Candlelight Club this weekend, so I thought I’d share the recipes. However, I then realised that all but one of them involved ingredients you probably won’t have to hand—the Mince Flip uses mincemeat vodka (kindly made for us by DBS himself), the Cherry Christmas uses a rosemary tincture (made by infusing rosemary in vodka for about 24 hours), the Figgy Pudding uses fig liqueur and the Chestnuts on an Open Fire uses chestnut syrup. And of the course the Gold, Frankincense and Byrrh uses Byrrh and Goldschläger, not to mention Frankincense bitters!

But the sixth cocktail only uses ingredients you can easily find in the supermarket. It’s a sort of cross between the Dark n’ Stormy mixture of rum and ginger beer and that cheesy classic the Snowball. Mrs H. has become quite addicted to them.

Ginger Snap
1½ shots rum
1 shot advocaat
1 shot ginger wine (optional)
Ginger beer to top

Either shake everything but the ginger beer with ice and pour into an ice-filled highball, or just build it in the glass with ice if you don’t have shaker to hand. Then top up with ginger beer. Advocaat is made from brandy and eggs and is a bit like alcoholic custard, lending a rich, puddingy quality to this drink, which makes it dangerously moreish! The ginger wine isn’t essential but adds a bit more gingery pep.

If you’re after inspiration for more easy-to-make Christmas cocktails, Tesco have launched a slick-looking Christmas Cocktail Finder app on their Tesco Real Food website. You can search for recipes based on the ingredients you have to hand, or by details such as sweetness, glass type or even whether it is shaken, stirred or blended (presumably handy for when you really fancy a cocktail but simply haven’t the energy to deploy a shaker).

Despite all these variables, the database currently has only 69 recipes on it, but that’s still plenty to keep you going and almost certainly includes combinations that will be new to you. And while something like Simon Difford’s similar searchable database has, by contrast, thousands of recipes, the emphasis with the Tesco version is that all recipes require only ingredients you can easily get hold of in a supermarket. Such as Tesco, for example. As a spin-off from the website’s recipe finder, it also tells you the nutritional content of each drink (though not the number of alcohol units, oddly). I’ve just found another advocaat recipe here, the Kentucky Cheesecake (203 calories), which combines advocaat with bourbon, amaretto, lemon juice and maple syrup: I’m going to have to go and try that one. (That’s the thing about advocaat, by the way—once it’s open you’re supposed to keep it in the fridge and consume within six months. But you’re not really going to be wanting to drink it in the summer, so the only solution is just to keep drinking it now…)

Now, for the record, here are those other recipes:

Mince Flip
2 shots mincemeat vodka
1 shot cream
1 shot sweetish sherry, such as Harvey’s Bristol Cream

Shake everything with ice and pour into a Martini glass, then dust with nutmeg. The vodka is made simply by steeping mincemeat in vodka, though I couldn’t tell you exactly how David does it. Trade secret, I suspect!

Cherry Christmas
1½ shots gin
¾ shot cherry brandy
½ shot sugar syrup
¼ shot rosemary tincture
Dash of cherry bitters
Cranberry juice

Shake everything but the cranberry and pour into an ice-filled highball, then top with cranberry and stir briefly. This drink is all about the unexpected combination of cherry and rosemary. The precise amount of tincture you need will depend on how strong you have made it, so go easy to start with. We used Fee Brothers cherry bitters, which made quite a difference to the cherryishness of the drinks, as will the cherry brandy you use. Cherry Marnier has bright confectionary cherry flavour, whereas Cherry Heering is actually rather dark and savoury.

Chestnuts on an Open Fire
2 shots gin
1 shot apple juice
½ shot Laphroaig single malt whisky
½ shot chestnut syrup
½ shot lemon juice

Shake everything together and strain into a martini or coupe glass. I’ve lost track of the number of people (all ladies, now I think about it) who declare that they don’t like whisky but love this drink. It’s a relative of the Smoky Martini but lengthened and sweetened. You don’t have to use Laphroaig but it probably has the most smoky flavour so you don’t need much to make the point. The combination of spicy gin, fruit from the apple juice, chestnutty sweetness and smoky iodine from the whisky is fascinating. We used Monin chestnut syrup.

Figgy Pudding
2 shots bourbon
½ shot crème de figues
½ shot ruby port
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Orange peel garnish

Shake everything with ice and strain into a Martini glass. Squeeze a strip of orange peel over the top and drop it in. A variation of the Manhattan, the bourbon here sweetened and fattened by the puddingy flavours of figs and port with some Christmassy orange zing to finish. We used Briottet crème de figues, though there may be other fig liqueurs out there.

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