How to make a Strawberry Daiquiri

strawberry Daiquiri

Whilst we are basking in the bliss of a long hot summer, very seldom seen in the UK since, well almost never, it seemed to me that it would be good to expand our collection of cocktail recipes with a real summertime ‘Ibiza classic’ – the Strawberry Daiquiri.

Strawberry daiquiri’s have been around for a while in the more traditional form which is, essentially a regular daiquiri (rum, sugar syrup and lime juice bunged into a cocktail shaker with a handful of strawberries, muddled together, shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass.)

This is the version which is much more prevalent nowadays. It comes in the form of an icy crush and could possibly be the most refreshingly delicious summer cocktail ever.

Possibly these are best drunk in the iconic Café del Mar on Ibiza’s famous ‘sunset strip’ whilst watching the sun setting over the Mediterranean sea but if that is not an option for you at this precise moment here is how you can enjoy one in the comfort of your own home (or, preferably, hot and sunny garden!)

The only piece of specialist equipment you need is a smoothie maker.

You’ll need:
Double measure of Golden Rum (50ml) Any will do but my favourite, for all purposes, is Havana Club.
Juice of one lime
Single measure of Strawberry or Red Berry syrup. Monin is generally the standard choice. I also like Teisseire – they have a sugar free range which tastes almost identical and (alcohol aside), turns this into a relatively healthy cocktail! In the UK you can now get Teisseire products in many supermarkets. If you can’t get syrup, a small dessert spoon of strawberry jam is perfectly acceptable
4 or 5 fresh strawberries
Crushed ice.

Here’s what you do:
Pour the rum, lime juice and syrup into the smoothie maker. Remove any leaves and stalks from the berries and add them too.

Add crushed Ice. Here, you’ll have to judge the size of your smoothie jug and the glass which you are serving in. I recommend a Collins glass (a tall, slim hi-ball) with a capacity of around 350ml. You want to add sufficient ice that, once blended, the amount of cocktail fills the glass to the brim, but does not add so much ice that the drink is weak and watery (God forbid!) I generally add a good handful of ice for an initial blitz then a bit more if I judge that it is needed. After you’ve made a few you’ll get a good eye for how much to add.

Blitz it. Once the drink is a pleasing, uniform red with no chunks of ice or fruit left, pour into your waiting glass. Garnish with a strawberry or slice of lime and a straw (preferably non-plastic and biodegradeable).

Put your shades on, put your feet up and enjoy the sunset!

Advertisements

So Sorry!

crybaby

It’s been a while..

Sorry that there has been a wall of radio silence for a few weeks (more like 3 months).

We have a good excuse, honest!

The day job has been quite the demanding monster for me and some other interests that I have apart from updating this fabulous organ have eaten up a good deal of time as well.

Jaimie has been (quite rightly) focussed on the final push for her degree which is now completed. She has been taking some well earned time off visiting relatives and generally sunning herself before joining the rest of us in the ‘wonderful’ world of full time work.

The good news is that we have some great content coming up.

I will be completing my series on the pleasures of watch owning for chaps with some more recommendations for you to try out. For lovers of controversy I have a couple of pieces which I am working on which should fulfil your desire for more ‘tell it like it is’ writing. It’s time to get the gloves off folks.

Jaimie has been working on a series about one of the great challenges for modern man – buying gifts for women. Seriously, how many of us are confident buyers of presents for the women in our lives? It’s a minefield and who better to give us the guidance that may well save our miserable skins than our own spy in the camp.

The sap also appears to be rising in the supernaturally good weather that we have been enjoying in the UK over the last couple of months. Jaimie tells me that whilst lazing around on sun-loungers (in high quality bikinis so I’m told) whilst quaffing her own bodyweight in prosecco she hit upon an idea for a series of articles about the art of seduction from a woman’s perspective. Jaimie’s piece about internet dating told you how to use the plethora of modern online dating resources to land a catch. This will take it to the next level. This is going to be essential reading.

See you shortly guys!

Mark

 

How (And Why) To Get Into Jazz

Trane

In this article, I want to tell you a bit about why I consider jazz to be the greatest music on the planet and, if you are not a fan yet, why you should be. At the bottom of the post you’ll find six album suggestions to help you jump in and discover what you’ve been missing!

People who are not jazz fans often have very polarised views about what jazz is. On the one hand you have those who perceive it as being very cool but somewhat incomprehensible. Sharp suited hipsters in shades – some cool dude blowing on a tenor sax (the coolest instrument ever invented), dark and sexy clubs with intimate booths and cocktail waitresses. That sort of thing.

On the other hand, jazz can be regarded as an anachronistic form of music listened to by people who don’t really like it but who are too up themselves to admit it. Remember ‘The Fast Show’ spoof of a late night jazz TV show? “Nice!” That sketch very cleverly tapped into what most people probably imagine jazz is about. Completely incomprehensible, elitist twaddle. Why the hell would you want to get into that?

I have to declare an interest here – I am a jazz fan and have been for almost all of my adult life, having gotten into it through an earlier love of jazz-funk and the purchase of a saxophone when I was in my early 20s.

With those many years of listening, I have to tell you, The Fast Show sketch was not completely wrong. There is a percentage of jazz (not a large percentage, but it is there, nonetheless) which is hard to listen to and very difficult to get into. The music of certain players like, for instance, Anthony Braxton would never be recommended listening for somebody taking their first tentative steps into exploring this sort of music.

Unfortunately, though,  it tends to be the stuff on the edges of listenability which gets focussed on by jazz detractors. Jazz though is a very broad church and as a genre is very varied. For every 15 minute long free-jazz solo by a combo consisting of bass clarinet, sitar and re-purposed air-raid siren, there are a few dozen beautiful recordings by consummate musicians which will provoke, delight and soothe.

Nobody would suggest that death metal is representative of rock music as a whole and there are plenty who would describe themselves as devoted rock fans who find death metal unlistenable. So it is with jazz.

So why bother getting into jazz? Why not just keep listening to pop or whatever. Well, firstly, you can! Nobody said that you have to give up listening to chart music if that is your bag, I just want to encourage you to widen your horizons and try some new sounds which you might find that you like.

Jazz can be an acquired taste but, like most things in this life which are worthwhile, it is a taste worth acquiring. I liken it to reading a novel. If you pick up a book by James Patterson, for example, you will probably find it a very easy read and an acceptable way of passing a few hours on your sun lounger.

If, instead, you were to pick up a book by, say, Kazuo Ishiguro or Margaret Atwood or Angela Carter, you would probably find that book a bit more challenging. It may require something from you but once you have adjusted to interacting with the authors ideas rather than being a passive sponge, you will find a level of enjoyment and fulfilment which you will not find in the easier book. Superior literature stays with you. It enriches you and your life experience, and there is nothing weird or elitist about that.

Jazz is the much same. Some people point to jazz soloing as being in some way ‘self-indulgent’. You had might as well accuse a painter of being self indulgent for using a very large canvass or a chef of being self indulgent for using an exotic ingredient. In order to explore and communicate musical ideas which go beyond the audience-baiting 8-bar solo, you need room to stretch out. You also need mastery of your instrument and the ability to compose an engaging solo spontaneously. Make no mistake, if you want to hear the highest levels of musicianship, look no further than jazz.

If there is a drawback to getting onto jazz it is that other music can sometimes seem a bit lame and predictable by comparison. Jazz is always about spontaneous reinterpretation and reinvention. Feeling like modern pop is a bit lacking in sincerity? Jazz is the antidote.

So, bearing in mind that jazz can be an acquired taste, how do you go about acquiring it?

Well, I think that the best way is to listen to jazz which incorporates areas or music which you may already be familiar with and, therefore, be comfortable with. Jazz has always borrowed liberally from other sources and absorbed those influences as well as being an influence on other forms of music. Spend a little time listening and you will hear a lot of blues, funk, soul, and rock in jazz music. I’ll bet that if you spend a bit of time with the albums which I suggest below that you will find a lot more that feels familiar than you might expect, but with a fresh twist which will hopefully excite your ears and prompt some further exploration.

These days with streaming services such as ‘Napster’ or the high fidelity service ‘Tidal’ (which I heartily recommend) you can try music out without having to buy CDs or downloads. There are also curated playlists on both services which will introduce you to a lot of different artists and their music and I recommend this as well for broadening your horizons.

In the meantime though, here are some suggestions of albums which I recommend you give a try. There is nothing here which should scare you. All of these selections would go well with a chilled evening in or a lazy Sunday morning. If you like one particularly, use it as a springboard for further exploration, other albums by that artist or suggestions from your chosen streaming service for things you might like as well.

KB
‘Midnight Blue’ – Kenny Burrell
The period from the 50s to early 60s was something of a golden age for jazz. This 1963 cut by guitar master Burrell is on almost every essential list that you can find. It is very ‘late night blues’ with catchy themes and elegant, unfussy improvisation. Oh – and it has the tenor sax legend Stanley Turrentine on it too. Definitely your first port of call.

lee-morgan-sidewinder
‘The Sidewinder’ – Lee Morgan
Another early 60s Album. This is probably the most famous ‘soul jazz’ recording which was wildly popular at the time and is still fantastically listenable. The title track was a hit in the pop charts and the band features some of the best musicians you will ever hear. The featured sax player on this album is Joe Henderson, one of the greatest players to ever pick up a saxophone. If you like his playing on this check out his own stellar debut album ‘Page One‘.

R-5585333-1397273508-4369.jpeg
‘The Look of Love’ – Diana Krall
God, I love Diana Krall. She is the consummate jazz performer, a monster piano player and a voice like smoky single malt whiskey. I could have picked any of her albums for this – I love them all – but this is a great introduction. It is an album of ‘ballads and bossas’ (bossa novas), with an orchestra supporting her own jazz combo. Lush strings, exquisite playing and singing. If you put this on when you have a special friend around for the evening and you don’t score, you really are doing something wrong. If you love this, check out her other albums. ‘Quiet Nights’ is an album of similar material and is just as satisfying as this set.

chet
‘Chet Baker Sings’ – Chet Baker
Another great album for romancing to. Chet Baker is the archetypical drugs-related jazz tragedy. In his youth he was achingly cool – slim, handsome and stylish. He was also an extraordinarily gifted musician, being able to find his way faultlessly through complex chord progressions entirely by ear. His solos, whether sung or with his trumpet’s gentle tone are masterpieces of melodic construction. As with quite a few jazz geniuses Chet had issues which led to drug abuse and an untimely end. At least we are left with the legacy of his incredible music.

go
‘Go!’ – Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon is the quintessential jazz saxophonist. His playing is replete with melody, humour, invention and power; his tone full and warm. This set is widely regarded as his finest collection but check out his Ballads album. It is utterly wonderful.

miles
‘Kind of Blue’ – Miles Davis
This is the one. Probably the greatest jazz album ever. The players are like a roll-call of jazz legends: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb. As the title suggests, the blues is the golden thread running through this album. Miles was experimenting with a concept called ‘modal jazz’ where the focus shifted from the rapidly changing chords which jazz had become known for to a much more static harmony. This fact, along with the moderate tempos, not to mention the dream-like piano playing gives the album a hypnotic quality. Few albums are genuinely indispensable. This is one that is. It has influenced myriad artists which came afterward from jazz, classical, rock and pop. You need this music in your life.

How to make an Espresso Martini

espresso martini

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.