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.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Akvavit: gin's caraway cousin

I briefly visited Denmark earlier this year, so I took the opportunity to bring back some examples of akvavit, the national spirit over there. Akvavit is similar to gin in that it is a distilled spirit flavoured with botanticals, although after infusion the spirit does not normally seem to be redistilled. It is also frequently barrel-aged (although this is now beginning to become trendy with gin too); even the clear examples may have been aged in old barrels that do not impart much colour. It seems that the origins of the drink lie, as with gin, in the believed medicinal properties of the botanicals, and the name comes from Latin aqua vitae, “water of life”—the same as eau de vie and indeed the Gaelic uisge beatha, from which we get “whisky”.

Isidore Henius. Doesn't exactly
look like a party animal, I admit
The defining botanicals in akvavit are caraway and dill, although cardamom, cumin, anise, fennel and lemon and orange peel are also used. One of the products made by Danish akvavit giant Aalborg (owned by Pernod Ricard) even has amber in it. The base spirit is typically made from grain (Aalborg say they use corn) or potatoes. While Norwegians are more inclined to age theirs and savour it at room temperature, Danes are more likely to drink shots of it very cold with food—it is a perfect match for marinated herring.* In fact the Aalborg site seems obsessed with drinking it with lunch (not sure how good an idea this is, given the typical ABV of 42–45%, particularly if you’re going back to work at the sawmill afterwards) and makes various food pairing suggestions with their extensive range of spirits.

The akvavit you’re most likely to encounter is Aalborg’s Taffel Akvavit, apparently the most popular spirit in Denmark. Invented by Isidore Henius in 1846, it is considered a benchmark companion to herring. It has a pronounced, though not overpowering, caraway aroma, along with citrus and maybe a hint of cloves. It’s remarkably smooth on the tongue given its 45% ABV, even sweetish, though I’m assuming this sensation comes from the botanicals (aniseed can give this impression) rather than added sugar. Henius himself was actually a Pole but he settled in Denmark and overhauled the industry through an understanding of modern rectification techniques, producing his Taffel Akvavit as a quality bread-and-butter product that quickly dominated the market. I took the precaution of investing in some marinated herring for this tasting, and I can confirm that the two go together very well, a classic combo of sweet, sour and aromatic spice. These are cold, heady, Nordic flavours. From the freezer it loses some of the wallowy sweetness and becomes sharper, actually making it a slightly better foil for food.

Harald Jensen, clearly the sensitive,
creative one: just look at the hair
Harald Jensen is, like Henius, considered one of the three akvavit godfathers (the third is Anthon Brøndum, whose name lives on in Brøndum Snaps, another Aalborg product); originally wanting to be an artist until his stern father forced him to take over the family distillery instead, Jensen became known for his creative use of botanicals, such as aniseed, ginger, allspice and bitter orange. His Akvavit, now made by Aalborg, inevitably, contains all these ingredients but is broadly similar to the Taffel, though it strikes me as less soft and sweet, a bit fiercer and with some darker, woodier, more bitter notes, maybe with hints of berry fruit, compared to the brighter, simpler flavours of the Taffel. It doesn’t go quite so well with herring. From the freezer notes of orange and dill seem a bit more prominent and, as with the Taffel, it seems to be a better accompaniment to food at this temperature.

Aalborg’s Jubilaeums Akvavit was produced to celebrate the centenary of the firm’s Taffel product in 1946. It is a yellow colour from ageing in American white oak and has a soft nose of coriander, orange and vanilla (presumably from the oak). There is also dill in there too. I find it rather lovely, and I think it would appeal to many a gin drinker because of the pronounced coriander flavour, though it is not a hugely complex drink. It stands up pretty well to herring. I also tried this one frozen, although Aalborg don't prescribe this serve; it actually seems to keep its character more than the last two, although again I feel that it goes better with food (or at least with marinated herring) at a low temperature.

The four-month journey on which every Linie barrel must go
Linie Aquavit (that’s how it’s spelled on the bottle) is also fairly common but is very peculiar in its manufacture (and it is also not made by Aalborg, for once). It is Norwegian in origin and is made from potato-based spirit, flavoured with caraway, aniseed, dill and coriander. This is then aged in barrels previously used for oloroso sherry. But the weirdest is yet to come: the barrels are then taken on a long sea voyage. It is believed that the constant motion of the ship enhances the interaction between the spirit and the wood, but the barrels are always carried on deck, as the exposure to salty sea air and climatic extremes of Nordic storms and baking equatorial heat are also considered important. (Experiments have been conducted to try and synthesise the movement in static warehouses using machinery but apparently it just wasn’t the same.) The name “Linie” refers to the equator. All Linie Akvavit goes on a four-month journey visiting 35 countries and crossing the equator twice. At any time more than a thousand casks of this spirit are out on the seas somewhere. The technique was discovered in 1807 when a captain took a cargo of akvavit to Indonesia hoping to sell it; the Indonesians proved unreceptive to the drink so he had to take it back home again, and it was then that the effect of the voyage on the spirit was discovered.

Linie has a soft but burnished aroma, seemingly with dill as prominent as caraway (although there doesn’t seem to be any dill in it), plus vanilla and orange notes too, and a smooth, sweet caraway flavour with a subtle wood element and a chocolately aftertaste. Being Norwegian, it is recommended to be drunk at room temperature or only slightly chilled, not frozen as the Danes tend to drink it. They also suggest drinking it as a chaser after beer. I found it very agreeable, sweet enough to be approachable but not cloying. It goes OK with marinated herring but not as well as Aalborg Taffel: there is something about the wood that seems to clash slightly.

There is not much of Hven island
I bought some of my samples in the booze section of Magasin du Nord, a famous department store in Copenhagen, simply asking the assistant to recommend something. He selected the Jensen as “something that ordinary Danes drink” and, at the other, artisanal end of the scale, the Aqua Vitae from Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn, handmade on an island between Sweden and Denmark. This organic spirit is pot distilled in what is only the third pot-still distillery ever built in Sweden, where they make a whole gamut of products including vodka, gin, rum, three different akvavits and single malt whisky in a range of styles. They use no additives and do not carbon- or chill-filter. They are also keen on barrel-ageing—even their vodka and gin spends some time in wood before a final distillation. The akvavit is made from organic wheat alcohol in which herbs, spices and fruits (orange, lemon and St John’s wort are the only ones they name, along with local honey) are macerated for 24 hours and then redistilled. It is aged in American white oak both before and after redistillation.

The range of Hven spirits, all in the trademark 50cl flasks
The spirit is a deep golden colour and comes in a conical 50cl flask with a wooden stopper and a wax seal. The distillery also make a Summer Schnapps and a Winter Schnapps, both with botanical flavorings, and the standard aquae vitae is distinguished from these by being caraway-based; but I must admit I don’t really get much caraway from it myself. It is strikingly different from the other samples tasted here, with a nose predominantly of orange, woody vanilla, fig, chocolate and Christmas spices. It is strong on the tongue but oily smooth, and loaded with mellow wood, chocolate, coffee and subtle aniseed. It’s a classy bit of barrel ageing, redolent of old brandy or rum, with an evolving aftertaste of prunes, cloves and other unexpected flavours. Rather wasted with marinated herring, though it doesn’t clash—the fish brings out the orange and clove flavours, for some reason.

If you’re one of those people who just doesn’t like aniseed then you probably don’t like caraway and you’re not going to like akvavit. But this small handful of examples, from three different countries, goes to show what a varied product it is. As with gin, the use of botanical flavourings gives you scope to take the taste in all kinds of directions, and the common use of wood ageing gives even more scope. I like the simple Aalborg Taffel—which does indeed go splendidly with herring—but the mellow complexity of the Linie and, in particular, the Hven makes for a spirit to be savoured on its own. And if you’re a gin drinker, check out the twinkling, coriander-laced Jubilaeums. Akvavit isn’t cheap in this country, with the basic Taffel selling for about £20 and the Jubilaeums and Linie for £26 (the other two don’t seem to be sold here at all, though you can tour the Hven distillery if you find yourself on the island), but I’d recommend giving it a try.

* The Aalborg site draws a distinction between “marinated herring” and “pickled herring” (which is better with Brøndum Snaps, they reckon), as well as a couple of other kinds of cured herring. The stuff I’m eating is labeled as “marinated” and is quite sweet, flavoured with dill, onions, etc. I’m guessing that by “pickled” they mean a more tart cure.

Monday 15 October 2012

Oval Vodka

Many people will claim that all vodka tastes the same to them, which explains why so many brands essentially look to marketing and packaging to differentiate themselves. The process of making vodka doesn’t give you too much to play with either, although brands will take what opportunities they can to brag about the number of distillations, the filtration method (with an assumption that platinum filtration must surely be better than gold or silver filtration, right?) and the purity of the water they use to dilute. (I gather that modern alcohols are actually so pure that carbon filtration, which may use things like platinum as a catalyst, is actually mainly there to impart flavour, because our conception of what vodka should taste like developed during the era when filtration was necessary to fish out unpleasant or dangerous impurities.*)

Now along comes Oval vodka, a wheat-based product made in Austria that claims to use a whole new process, known as “structuring”. All booze is a mixture of water and alcohol and this technique—which they assure us is entirely “natural”—is said to “bond” water and alcohol molecules together, to produce a smoother taste and reduce the diuretic effect: in short you’ll have less of a hangover. From the website: “The idea of structuring alcohol-water solutions is based on a simple but important fact: the tongue reacts more positively to substances naturally present in the human body—in this case, water—than to foreign substances—in this case, alcohol.” The process of structuring, invented by Russian scientist Valery Sorokin, somehow arranges the vodka so that each alcohol molecule is completely surrounded by water molecules, so that your tongue detects it “as a natural saliva-like substance”. This research took Professor Sorokin some ten years. The, perhaps surprising, decision to locate the distillery making this revolutionary stuff in Austria, rather than Russia, is apparently to do with the purity of the local water** and the logistical benefits of being in the middle of Europe in a place with a decent infrastructure. (Oval aren’t giving too much away about the structuring process itself; I’ve tried searching for Professor Sorokin online but he keeps a pretty low profile, as all references to him are in the context Oval vodka, nor are Oval revealing of exactly which institution he is a “professor”, but they do say he made his discoveries in 2000 in Moscow.)

Given the desire to make the product as smooth as possible it’s interesting that the basic expression is bottled at a higher-than-average 42% (and looking online there seems to be a 56% version too, though that may only be available on the Continent). Even more intriguing is Oval Lite, bottled at just 24%. You might think it would be easier just to add a bit of water yourself—but of course you wouldn’t be able to do it in a “structured” way. The preferred way to drink Oval is neat at room temperature, which shows how confident they are in its essential character.

This stuff retails for a hefty £40+, so unsurprisingly it is packaged in a fancy bottle, essentially tetrahedral in shape, with each facet being an oval. (The tetrahedron is apparently a reference to the molecular shape of the structuring, I was told at the Boutique Bar Show by Danny Hoskins of Smart Drinks UK.) The metal cap is edgily asymmetrical and is weighty in the hand. On the website you will see a version of the bottle covered in rhinestones or Swarovski crystals, resembling Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull. There’s no explanation as to what this is, but it gives you an idea of the sort of self-consciously high-end, conspicuously-consuming consumer that are hoping to attract.

So what does structured vodka taste like? In order to get a handle on its particular character, I lined up some other products to compare it with, my benchmark everyday vodkas Russian Standard and Green Mark, plus Absolut, Bootlegger (a bit pointless, perhaps, as it is not available in this country, but I happened to have it on the shelf) and Adnams Longshore.

Oval has a soft toffee/caramel nose (though not nearly as pronounced as in the Longshore) with a little fruit and a clean medicinal note; quite balanced. It has an unctuous mouthfeel, though is not as dramatically smooth as I was expecting: there is also a spike of pencil-lead and coffee and an aftertaste of blueberries. And you’re definitely aware that you are drinking alcohol—there is plenty of fire from that 42% ABV. And there is a sweetness, as vodkas go, and a little of what I can only describe as a sort of “cellulose” character, like the taste of paper, that I found to be characteristic of Bootlegger too, and which I might have assumed was something to do with corn (of which Bootlegger is made), but clearly isn’t.

By comparison Russian Standard is big and bouncy with an expansive vegetable nose with notes of sour apples and a peppery, tongue-tingling palate; Green Mark actually seems smoother to me than Oval, with a dry, poised flavour that balances fruit and mineral notes. Longshore goes further down the route of characterfulness, with that arresting caramel nose carried on to the palate with hints of spice such as caraway. Absolut comes out of it badly, tasting flat, sour and very rough.

At the bar show Danny mentioned a perceived sweetness to Oval, and he’s right. After the Longshore, Oval’s toffee aroma seemed comparatively subdued, but it was strikingly sweeter on the tongue. Compared to the reserved character of Green Mark, Oval has a more forward berry fruit flavour.

I try swirling the vodkas with ice, more for a little dilution than cooling. Russian Standard’s veggy notes bloom, Green Mark becomes spicy and shows its dry stiffness. Oval, on the other hand, suddenly releases some citrus aromas and interesting fruit flavours. I then make vodka Gimlets with these three (2½ parts vodka, ¾ part Rose’s Lime Cordial): Russian Standard doesn’t come out of this too well, with its vegetable notes clashing with the sweet citrus. Oval shows more blueberry on the nose and I’m struck again by the sweetness and the papery element too. It’s all a bit too sweet for me; for my palate Green Mark makes the best Gimlet here, a perfect balance of fruit, dry minerality and the sweetness of the cordial.

In a Cosmopolitan (Dale De Groff proportions: 1½ vodka, 1 cranberry juice, ½ triple sec, ¼ lime juice) Oval again seems too sweet to me, unbalancing the drink in a confectionary direction—though some may like that. The same thing happens when you serve it with tonic.

Finally I try a vodka Martini, mixing four parts vodka with one part dry white vermouth. Here I would say that Oval comes into its own, because even at these (relatively wet, to some people) proportions this is a dry cocktail, and the sweetness of the vodka actually makes it quite an approachable drink, especially for those who tend to find the Dry Martini a bit too dry. By comparison Green Mark and Russian Standard make leaner, sterner Martinis.

I’m not really too keen to try and establish whether Oval is less likely to give you a hangover: to do this I would have to quaff a great deal of it in one sitting, and then quaff an identical quantity of another vodka the next night, and compare how I felt the next day in each case. But I’m afraid my remaining liver and brain cells are too precious for this sort of hardcore experimentation.

I haven’t yet been able to try Oval 56 or Oval 24 (Oval Lite in this country), but I would say that Oval 42 is nice enough, with a pleasant nose but a palate that is a bit too sweet for me. It will probably prove popular in nightclubs, where the bottle will look cool and hip denizens can comfortably sip it neat while convincing themselves that, because it’s Oval, they won’t have a hangover when they go to work the next morning…

* This information comes from Technofilter, who actually develop and manufacture vodka filtration systems.
** Mind you, when brands brag out their uniquely “pure” water source, it’s worth bearing in mind that Technofilter also point out that these days it is pretty easy to purify water to any degree you wish.

Friday 12 October 2012

Premixes for preteens?

The premixes in their shaker-shaped bottles
Following DBS’s review on this blog of the pre-mixed cocktails from the Authentic Cocktail Company, I was contacted by the chaps behind another range, Coppa, made in the Netherlands by Toorank BV. While DBS has an unnatural obsession with seeking out premixes, I tend to be wary as I have had few happy experiences in this arena. But it certainly can work: the ready-mixed cocktails from Master of Malt’s Handmade Cocktail Company are not only sterling examples of the premix genre, but represent some of the best examples of these cocktails full stop.

But the Handmade Cocktail Co. range uses classics that contain only spirit, bitters, vermouth and sugar, and are consequently pretty alcoholic—the weakest is the Negroni at 25.5%. At this level they appear to be essentially self-preserving. (In fact part of the thinking is to see what happens when mixed cocktails are allowed to age.) It also means they are pretty pricey, retailing for over £30 per 70cl bottle.

The Coppa range includes ten cocktails,* and the samples sent me were the Cosmopolitan, the Mojito and the Strawberry Daiquiri. (Strawberry? Yes, apparently so.) They come in 70cl bottles, coloured silver and shaped like cocktail shakers, which retail for £8.95. All are 10% ABV.

The marketing bumf suggests that they are aimed at people who want real cocktails but without the fuss and expense of buying all the ingredients. “Developed by professional bartenders using only quality spirits,** Coppa Cocktails taste and look as good as those made at the swankiest bars,” it says here. But they also emphasise the affordability of their product, and I think that everything about them suggests they are not aimed at the same market as the Handmade range. “Coppa is a fun product aimed at a mainstream audience who enjoy cocktails but aren’t what you would call drinks enthusiasts,” explains Pritesh Moody from the UK distributors. “The target audience is the same as that buying ready-made cocktails and premix drinks from Bacardi, Smirnoff, etc, hence the easy-going ABV and corresponding price point.” So, as one can probably guess, it’s aimed at he Bacardi Breezer crowd.

OK, that explains the lack of alcohol. But Pritesh is unable to help me with how the potions are preserved. Let’s have a look at what is actually in the bottles. I have an opportunity to open them in company, with Mrs H., my sister Rachel, my brother-in-law Paul and a friend Alan, who is something of a foodie but is no snob. In fact he likes some quite unexpected things. The instructions suggest serving with ice and we didn’t have a great deal, which may make a difference.

The Cosmos with what little ice we could muster
Vodka, triple sec, cranberry and lime juice. It has a confectionary whiff like boiled sweets and tastes similar, though with a slight bitter aftertaste. It seems reasonably well balanced, but there does seem something a bit synthetic about it. I guess the problem is how you preserve the fruit juice—the label says that, after opening it, you need only keep it somewhere dark and cool: there’s no suggestion it will ever actually go off. So whatever preservative is involved is probably what gives it that strange taste. Having said that, Mrs H. declared that she rather liked it, even though she doesn’t like bitter things (and agreed that there was a bitter aftertaste).
Alan: I quite like it: it’s like the kind of thing you get in a dodgy nightclub and quite like, until you realize it’s only 10% and it isn’t going to get you pissed.
Mrs H: Not as jammy as I was afraid it was going to be.
Paul: The bitterness goes away after a while. Not unpleasant, but needs a lot more vodka in it.
Rachel: Lacks kick; it tastes like fruit juice with a cloying element. The sort of thing a teenager might like.

Alan’s right—a brief trawl through online recipes shows that on average a Cosmo should really be a good 25% ABV, so this is an unconventional one.

Rum, mint, lime juice, sugar. This apparently won Best in Class at the IWSC competition in 2010. Take the cap off and there is a fairly convincing mint smell, quite spearminty, with a hint of caramel. It initially seems more convincing than the Cosmo (a couple of us couldn’t actually finish their glasses of that one), but too sweet and still that bitter aftertaste. That mintiness gets a bit overpowering, like drinking mouthwash—it’s not quite what mint in a cocktail should taste like. As someone pointed out, it is minty like mint sauce, which is a bit disconcerting.
Rachel: Too sweet
Paul: Generally a mojito is a vehicle for the rum—you can taste it and get its specific character, but here you can’t taste rum at all.

It’s true that a mojito is quite fiddly to make, what with all the muddling, so you can see a product like this appealing to someone without the time to make it and who does not want to have to keep all the ingredients in (fresh mint won’t last long in the fridge). I also wonder if the market is (young) people who like the idea of cocktail sophistication but don’t have the confidence to try making their own (and probably wouldn’t get served trying to buy spirits). Again the confectionary taste and low ABV don’t really have much in common with a real mojito.

Strawberry Daiquiri
Apparently “adulterating” the traditional rum, lime and sugar of a Daiquiri with strawberry liqueur and fresh strawberries, this one also won a silver medal, at ISWC 2012. It has a thick consistency and vivid red colour, and smells of strawberry ice cream, rather than strawberries. Very sweet, with a concentrated synthetic strawberry taste. They do suggest it be served long with crushed ice, and it does taste like a concentrate—as Paul says, a Slushpuppy concentrate. For me this is the worst of the lot, I’m afraid. It’s an odd choice for a cocktail—hardly a classic. I assume that their decisions were based on trying to use certain artificial fruit flavours, even though the suggestion is that fresh strawberries went into it. Rachel pronounced it too sweet, but Alan revealed that he rather liked this one. (Mind you he is someone who sometimes eats jam for breakfast, straight from the jar with a spoon, and declared on this occasion that his latest discovery was jelly Haribo wrapped in slices of processed cheese.)

With lots of ice and some extra spirit, the first two might be workable, but then if you’re going to buy vodka or rum to spike it anyway, why not just make the cocktail? Of if that really is too much bother, just drink the vodka or rum—if you know where to look you can buy something four times as strong for the same money. Now that’s got to be a bargain, eh, kids?

* Mojito, Cosmopolitan, Long Island Ice Tea, Caipirinha, Sea Breeze, Piña Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri, Margarita, Sex on the Beach and Mai Tai.
** Apparently they use “double gold winning Akademicka Vodka”.