In which the Company explores the margins of the cocktail traditional, and undertakes an expedition through the informational black market into the depths of the bartender's prosthetic memory.
Mixology Monday is four years old, and as four year olds go, it's been well-behaved and mostly hygenic. This week, the world of drinkblogging descends on McSologogy with tales of pain in the ass drinks... 859,000. Remember that.
Eight hundred and fifty-nine thousand. Big number. Sure, there are bigger ones, but 859,000 is the sort of number that seems really, really big while still seeming within in the realms of realistic possibility.
859,000 is, coincidentally, the number of results you get if you put "how to make a mojito" into Google.
The mojito is currently the most popular cocktail in Britain. In one year, we sold over 2,600 in three bars. No other 'classic cocktail' (one that we haven't created) broke 600. It's a storied drink with a rich heritage and connections to piracy's golden age and generally convoluted and remarkable history of rum.
It's an utter pain.
First, there's crushed ice which is all well and good if you happen to have some mechanical means of crushing ice. If not, the mojito is an easy and effective way to develop RSI. Second, there's the length of time it takes to make one. It's not up to Ramos Gin Fizz timings, but if you're making batches of six, seven, eight, you want something with a 10 second prep time, not a minute-and-a-half. Third, there's the question of mint which has its own foibles when it comes to prep and storage. And if you run out, no-one's interested in a daiquiri. Fourth - and this is where that 859,000 comes in - everyone's an expert. Remember that mojito you ordered one time in that bar in Cuba? It was the best ever - the drink that your bartender's getting cramp crushing ice for probably won't come close.
Think about it - the mojito should be the bartender's ideal of a pain in the ass but it isn't. Why? Because it tastes really good.
Take a highball glass, and add a handful of mint leaves. Add some sugar - however you like it (syrup, brown, white, whatever. It's really not that important) - and lime juice - about 15ml should do. Add some crushed ice and a large measure of your choice of rum and mix thoroughly with a barspoon. Fill with crushed ice and top with soda/sparkling water. Garnish with a mint spring.
In which the Company marks the true beginning of the mixological year in true British fashion.
Every month, the online drinkblogging community gets together for a couple of drinks and a bit of a chat, maybe some of those little nibbles if we're really lucky. The resulting flurry of posts goes by the name of Mixology Monday and the theme for this month's party - hosted by Cocktailians - is vermouth. Vermouth represents one of the key innovations in the development of the cocktail. The process of fortifying and aromatizing wine may prefigure the invention of the cocktail, but its incorporation into the new tradition of mixed drinks emerging in the saloons of 1800s America gave rise to classics that are still popular today - a practiced bon viveur needs no introduction to the Manhattan or the Martini. But as the decades have flowed slowly past, vermouth has fallen from grace under the disdainful gaze of such iconic drinkers as Winston Churchill and for one simple fact.
Old people drink vermouth.
In the UK, 90% of vermouth* - particularly dry vermouth (a certain Italian brand of extra dry vermouth if you want to be absolutely specific) - is served long with lemonade over ice to middle-aged women who only go out three times a year: Christmas, New Year and their birthday. This serve has the unfortunate effect of making vermouth seem old and fussy and not fun, which is something of a tragedy because there's so much complexity and variety within the category.
* This statistic is based purely on anecdotal evidence and is probably entirely untrue.
Of course, if you're reading this then there's a good chance that you're already a fan of the virtues of vermouth - at least in its dry and sweet forms. There is also, however, the forgotten child of the family: white, or bianco. It tends to sit somewhere between the two, exhibiting many of the lighter flavours of extra dry variants combined with the sweetness of a rosso.
For all its qualities, vermouth still lacks the cachet that other liquors carry. It's rarely seen as the main ingredient in a cocktail or as a respectable drink in its own right. Spirits and liqueurs often go through peaks and troughs of popularity, but vermouth seems to have been in a hole for an awful long time. Opportunities - like this month's MxMo - to start the long climb up are always welcome.
50ml Cinzano Bianco
15ml St. Germain
10ml La Fée Parisienne Absinthe
15ml lemon juice
1 dash Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1 whole egg
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake briefly. Add ice and shake. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Express a lemon zest over the top and discard.