How To Make A Cosmopolitan Cocktail

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The last in my little flurry of classic cocktail posts for a while and just in time for New Years Eve!

Don’t forget to check out my recipes for the Amaretto Sour and Espresso Martini.

This is an all time classic. It is commonly thought of as being a girls drink, possibly because of being featured regularly on ‘Sex and The City’ but also because, properly made, it has a delicate baby-pink colour. It is a cracking drink though, whatever gender you are, so don’t be put off if you are an alpha-guy!

This cocktail originates from the 1980’s and is one of the few decent cocktails from that time that style forgot.

The key thing to have in mind when making this is that it is a blend of citrus flavours. It is NOT about cranberry juice. Yes, there is a tiny dash of cranberry in it but that is just there to provide the pink colour. If you can taste any cranberry in the drink or if it is red rather than pale pink you’ve put too much in.

The three citrus flavours come from lemon flavoured vodka, triple sec (an orange flavoured liqueur) and fresh lime juice. I have specified specific spirits but you can use alternative brands if you like. Note though that the vodka must be lemon flavoured or you are missing the whole point.

This is another twist on the basic ‘sour’ (see my post on the Amaretto Sour) and along with the ‘Bramble’ and ‘Aviation’ cocktails is one of my very favourite sours drinks. The Triple Sec provides the sweetness to offset the sourness from the lime so no need for sugar syrup as in a regular sour. The cranberry is just window dressing.

Here’s what you need:
Double measure (50ml) of Absolut Citron Vodka
Single measure (25ml) of Cointreau
Single measure (25ml) of fresh lime juice
A small splash (half a measure or 15ml) of cranberry juice
Strip of orange peel to garnish.
Optional: a couple of shakes of Orange Bitters
Cocktail Shaker
Ice
Martini glass

Here’s what you do:

Put a fistful of ice in the shaker. Chill the glass(es) at the same time with a few cubes of ice and a small slop of cold water (better still keep a couple of martini glasses in the freezer at all times, as I do!)

Measure out and pour in the spirits and lime juice. Add the orange bitters if you like (they intensify the flavours a little) and the give the whole lot a really good shake.

Empty the glass (or take it from the freezer) and carefully strain the cocktail in to it. Add a good twist of orange peel to garnish and serve.

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How to Make an Amaretto Sour

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Clearly, I’m on a roll with the cocktail posts – two on the same day!

I wanted to get this posted since it is still the holiday season and this is, firstly, a very Christmassy drink. Secondly, it is possibly the easiest cocktail to make ever and, thirdly, it is stupendously good.

The basic ‘sour’ is the foundation of a huge number of classic cocktails; Gin Sour, Whisky Sour, Margarita, Daiquiri etc etc. The list goes on and on. It is a simple and perfect equation – equally balanced sweetness with a citrusy sour kick and a big hit of alcohol.

For most sours, this equation needs three components: the spirit, lemon or lime juice and sugar syrup. I like a balance of 5 parts booze, 3 parts citrus, 2 parts syrup. Certain spirits work best with lemon juice: gin and whisky for example and others, rum and tequila for instance, work best with lime. Once you understand these basic principles you are well on your way to having a good working knowledge of cocktail making since so many drinks are built from these foundations.

This sour makes things even simpler. There are only two ingredients: Amaretto and lemon juice.

How so? Well, the amaretto is already sweet so there is no need to add further sugar to the mix. How easy is that?! You don’t even need to shake this drink – you build it straight into the glass.

Here’s what you do:
Take a rocks glass. Put a small handful of ice cubes in it. Pour in a double measure of Amaretto (I like Disaronno) or a little more if you are feeling cheeky. 50ml
Juice a small lemon (or half a huge one) and pour that in. Around 35ml if you want to be precise.

Swirl it around with a bar spoon for a few seconds to chill it down. If it is a bit sour for your taste add a little splash more of amaretto (because why not?!)

If you are serving this for someone else and want to emphasise your mixologist credentials you might wish to garnish with a good twist of lemon peel.

Be warned – this drink is very moreish!

How to make an Espresso Martini

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OK, so with New Years Eve rapidly approaching I decided it was time to write another cocktail post – the second in my series ‘cocktails that a discerning gentleman should be able to make.’ Obviously as it’s only the second cocktail themed post it hardly constitutes a series just yet but bear with me!

I believe that any guy who aspires to sophistication or even just give a girl the impression that he is a step or two above the regular knuckle-draggers, needs to have a small repertoire of cocktails that he can make competently when the occasion arises. When said girl is sitting expectantly on his sofa, for example.

This little beauty was invented back in the 1980s by British cocktail guru Dick Bradsell. Like a few cocktails, this one has a good story attached.

The tale goes that a certain supermodel went into the Soho Brasserie where DB was working. When he asks her what she would like to drink she replies: “make me something which will wake me up, then fuck me up!” Like all the best stories, there is some dispute about the details, in this case who the model in question was but let’s not let that detain us. This is a kick-ass drink. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Dick Bradsell successfully fulfilled his client’s brief.

Here is what you will need:
Double measure of vodka (50ml)
Single measure of Kahlua or equivalent coffee liqueur (25ml)
A good half measure of sugar syrup (15ml) or a heaped teaspoon of sugar (preferably brown but white will do)
A coffee machine which can produce a single shot of espresso
Cubed ice
A cocktail shaker
A martini or coupe glass.
Coffee beans to garnish (optional)

Here’s what you do:
Put a fistful of ice into your shaker. Measure out and pour in your vodka, Kahlua and sugar syrup. Brew your shot of espresso and tip that straight in – yes, hot from the machine – no need to let it cool.

Shake the hell out of it for not less than 15 seconds. It needs that long to chill it right down and produce the foamy head on the drink. Immediately strain the drink carefully into your waiting glass.

If you’ve done it right the drink will be a rich ebony in colour with a thick, foamy head on it – a bit like a well poured Guinness.

Garnish with three coffee beans. I usually maintain that the garnish of a cocktail is integral to the overall experience of the drink but in this case it looks so great anyway that you could get away without the beans. If you have some – use them though.

How to Mix a Martini

 

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Making a Martini properly is a skill which all gentlemen should possess. In my view, the Martini is the greatest drink ever invented. Only two ingredients – so simple – and yet, so many interpretations and strongly held views. Every mixologist makes it slightly differently and the worst cocktail bores insist that theirs is the only correct way of doing it. Which is, of course, palpable nonsense.

If you are unused to drinking neat spirit, which this more or less is, it will be an acquired taste. Like everything else which is an acquired taste, though, it is well worth acquiring.

What I am going to present here is my way of making a Martini. It’s the way I like it and is, in fact, close to being the standard way of making the drink these days (with the possible exception of shaking versus stirring). If you find you like it done a little differently, all power to you. As long as you just use those two ingredients, it’ll be a Martini. The arguments start when it comes to discussing the relative quantities, preparation and presentation.

So, without further ado, here is my method.

You’ll need some limited equipment: a shaker (or mixing glass depending on your chosen method of chilling the drink) and a strainer.

  1. Chill a Martini glass. Ideally, do it beforehand by putting it in the freezer for at least an hour (I keep a Martini glass in the freezer at all times for this reason). If you haven’t got a pre-chilled one, put some ice and a slop of cold water in it while you’re mixing.
  2. Put a fistful of ice into a cocktail shaker. Pour a double measure (50ml) of gin into it. See below for comments on the choice of gin.
  3. Measure 5ml of dry vermouth (it’s about a teaspoon or half a bottle cap full) and tip that in.
  4. Shake the bejeesus out of it for about 15 seconds. See below for the shaking versus stirring controversy.
  5. Take your chilled Martini glass (having emptied the ice and water from it) and pour the drink through a strainer into the glass.
  6. Cut a small twist of lemon and drop it in. I really mean small as well. A lemon garnish which is too large will spoil the drink.
  7. Raise to your lips, take a small sip and be transported to drink heaven.

The first area of controversy is over the correct ratio of Vermouth to Gin. Back in the 20s, a lot more vermouth was used – often between 25 – 50% Vermouth. That would be what is termed these days as a ‘wet’ Martini. The much smaller quantity favoured today is what is properly termed a ‘dry’ Martini. Note – it’s nothing to do with the fact that dry vermouth is used.

Winston Churchill was a noted Martini drinker and took the view that it was sufficient to simply glance in the direction of an unopened bottle of vermouth. In a similar vein, Noel Coward opined that the correct way to make a Martini is to fill a glass with gin and then wave it in the general direction of Italy (where vermouth comes from). It really is a matter of personal taste. If you find that you prefer a wetter Martini than is usual, don’t let anyone tell you that you are wrong. Follow your own taste.

As far as choice of gin is concerned, use whatever you bloody well please. As a general rule, and bearing in mind that what you are drinking is almost neat gin, it needs to be of reasonable quality. A dry London gin such as Gordons or Beefeater is perfectly fine. Plymouth gin (a variety of gin on its own) is also very acceptable.

The standard advice concerning choice of dry vermouth would be Martini Extra Dry  but, given the small quantities in the drink, I don’t believe that you would notice any significant difference over a decent supermarket own-brand. A bottle of the good stuff is about £9 and the supermarket about £6. I’ll let you decide if the extra £3 is worth it (or worth skimping on).

So shaken or stirred? Well, the object of both is to chill the drink. That’s all. Shaking chills the drink quicker and more efficiently. The main argument against shaking is that it ‘bruises the gin’.  I continue to await evidence to back up this claim. I expect I shall have a long wait. Shaking or stirring does affect the way the drink presents though (although it doesn’t ‘bruise’ the gin..) First, it puts a lot of air into the drink in the form of tiny bubbles which makes the drink appear cloudy at first. This clears over a minute or two. It might be argued that this improves the taste experience. Notice how drinks tasters (wine and so on) slurp in half a mouthful of air along with the drink? It opens up the flavours apparently. There is a slightly different texture to an ‘aerated’ drink as well although, as I’ve mentioned, it is a short-lived phenomenon.  Also, if you don’t strain the drink it will have a thin layer of tiny ice shards floating on the top. No problem – just strain it.

Stirring the drink also lacks the theatre which some people seem to enjoy when a shaker is being wielded but it is quite a relaxing way of making a drink. Like stirring a pan of risotto. If you want to try stirring, do so in a mixing glass (or the shaker bottom) with a handful of ice. You’ll need to stir for quite a while.. not less than 60 seconds. A sheen of condensation on the outside of the mixing glass will indicate that you are getting close.

Some cocktails should certainly be stirred rather than shaken – Negronis and Boulevardiers for instance – so I can be just as pedantic as the next drinks mixer.  As usual, the best advice is to try both ways and see which works best for you.

With the advent of fridge freezers, there is no need to mess about with shaking or stirring at all. I keep a bottle of gin in the freezer just for Martinis. The alcohol prevents it from freezing but it comes out of the bottle pleasingly viscous, and is much colder than you’ll ever get with a shaker.  Harry’s Bar in Venice keep their Martini pre-mixed in the freezer, so all that is required is to pull the bottle out and decant it into a chilled glass.

Lastly, the garnish. Traditionally this is a green cocktail olive on a stick. Personally, I don’t like the saltiness this introduces and prefer a small twist of lemon. Try both and see which you prefer.

Incidentally, if you like the saltiness of an olive you might want to try a Dirty Martini. Make the drink in the usual way but with the addition of a teaspoon of olive brine and garnish with three olives.

Finally, Vodka Martini’s? Well this is where Mr Bond and I part ways on how to mix a Martini. Vodka is flavourless. You are conscious of the alcohol, of course, but there is nothing else of interest for the taste buds. Gin is the only way to go.