Posts filed under Mixology


I never realised cocktail competitions could go to overtime. I've been involved with a couple of tiebreakers over the years but quadruple overtime was a new one.

I was almost glad I wasn't involved. Our host, 42 Below brand ambassador Metinee Kongsrivilai, had revealed that two out of three places on the team to represent Scotland at the UK qualifier for the 2012 42 Below Cocktail World Cup had already been claimed by Jamie MacDonald, last year's UK representative in the Global World Class final, and Danil Nevsky, recently a world finalist in the Bols Around the World competition and the third spot came down to a choice between Jody Buchan from 99 Bar & Kitchen in Aberdeen  and Megs DeMeulenaere from Edinburgh's Bramble. The final member of Team Scotland would be decided by a pour test: whoever nailed free-poured measures of both 25ml and 50ml would make the cut. That turns out to be difficult to do if both bartenders never free pour ingredients and so, having matched each other for three rounds, Megs grabbed victory on a single 50ml measure.

42 Below Honey

The Cocktail World Cup has a reputation for being one of the more intense of the major global competitions so I guess it's somewhat appropriate that the first UK regional ended in sudden death.

I might not have been involved in the overtime shenanigans but I was happy with the drink I entered. Given that the winning recipes included a drink that changed colour, a slushy served beside its own beach of flavoured sand and a blue curaçao sea and a Piña Colada flavoured with the barrel essence rotovaped from an aged rum, I can see that maybe the following offer was lacking in a little of the madcap x-factor required.

Clockwork Heart

45ml 42 Below Honey
15ml Creme de Peche
10ml green tea syrup
20ml lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange zest.

Green tea syrup

400g caster sugar
200ml hot water
15g loose leaf green tea

Add the sugar to water in a large heatproof measuring jug. Add the tea and let it soak for 30mins. Strain the tea from the mixture and bottle; it should keep for up to 14 days.

Posted on July 6, 2012 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

One day in June

I've made this point before, but if January 25th can be designated No Name Calling Day and the last Wednesday in April marks Administrative Professionals' Day, then it is only right and proper that the second Saturday of June be set aside for World Gin Day. Instituted by Neil Houston (a.k.a. @yetanothergin) in 2009, today is an opportunity to celebrate a spirit that has had its ups and downs. While the popularity of gin today isn't at the level of the early-to-mid 19th Century - when its widespread availability led to what is now known as the Gin Craze and represents one of those rare occasions where the word 'craze' is a massive understatement - it has never been easier to find as wide a selection of really high quality products. Distillers across the world are finding new botanicals and techniques to bring to bear on production and bartenders and drinks enthusiasts are constantly breaking new ground in finding new ways to taste and explore those differing expressions.

My own contribution to this year's festivities works best, I think, with a juniper-forward, citrus heavy gin like Bombay Dry or Sipsmith, but your mileage, as ever, may vary. I also wanted to include a touch of Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit because I know the production and flavour of gin was a definite influence on how that particular spirit was conceived.


Chauffeur-driven Dream

45ml gin
15ml Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit
10ml orgeat
15ml lemon juice
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled 7-8oz cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.


Though it may represent the opportunity to do so, days like World Gin Day aren't about drinking until you fall over. It's more about finding a fresh approach something that you might find very familiar so if you do one thing today, leave off the tonic water and try something new.

Posted on June 10, 2012 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

Labwork 3: Fizzy

Once upon a time, I had a notion to write a semi-regular series of posts about exploring this idea of molecular mixology. It's been a while since I did one. The gap isn't because molecular techniques aren't an interesting area of innovation. Way back, I split approaches to molecular mixology into two fairly broad categories - equipment led, and ingredient led. The thing is, a lot of the time, that equipment or those ingredients can be pricy in terms of both money and time. With that said, I've still managed to find a little of both to try out a couple of things. One of my recent acquisitions is a Perlini cocktail carbonation system. It sounds pretty impressive and, seeing as it cost me £150 (they've gotten a little cheaper since I got one), it really should be.


For your money, you get a suitcase that bears a passing resemblance to those handcuffed to secret agents in movies containing a the mutant child of a bell jar, a T-Virus canister, and a three-piece shaker, and a small black gadget that holds a 16g CO2 charger and looks kind of like a sex toy. There's a one-way valve built into the top of the shaker and the process is simple enough: shake your drink as normal and then feed the carbon dioxide into the shaker. Leave for 30 secs and all of sudden, you have fizzy cocktails.

Carbonating cocktails is undoubtedly fun but while a fizzy daiquiri tastes equal parts of amazing and uncanny, I don't know if it's much more than a novelty and it took a while for me to happen upon a good reason to use the technique. Sloane's Gin had started up a cocktail competition and were asking for entries based on the idea of "twisted traditions" and I chose the Gin & Tonic as the tradition I wanted to play with.

It wasn't a totally random choice: Sloane's Gin is named for Sir Hans Sloane, the first medical practitioner in Britain to be granted a hereditary title, a former president of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society, and doctor to three successive monarchs (Queen Anne, George I and George II) and that fitted in well with gin's origins as medicine. I also remembered that while British colonists were partial to tonic water as their preferred preventative against malaria, French colonists would turn to aperitif wines such as Byrrh and Lillet to get their fix of quinine. The idea came together pretty quickly after that: combine the British - gin - with the French - tonic wine - and use carbonation to present something that's reminiscent of a classic Gin & Tonic but at the same time something new as well.

French Tonic

35ml Sloane's Dry Gin
25ml Lillet Blanc
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup

Combine all ingredients in Perlini shaker; shake with ice; charge with CO2 and reserve for ~30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball and garnish with a twist of orange zest and a twist of lemon zest.

There are a couple of interesting foibles to this recipe; for one, I've generally found that I've had to make drinks a little sweeter than I normally would before carbonating them (hence the 10ml of sugar syrup) and that seems to be down to the carbon dioxide itself. The citrus flavours of Lillet Blanc work really well with the botanicals in Sloane's and provide a nice counterpoint to its dominant vanilla note.

The carbonation is the key part of the drink. It allows me to present something that plays on our expectation of an instantly recognisable drink and that's always an interesting area to play around in. The Perlini system isn't the only way to make drinks fizzy - honestly, it might not be the best way, particularly if you're planning on making them in any great volume but it's turning into a useful tool for me to broaden my horizons.

Posted on April 28, 2012 and filed under Labwork, Mixology, Projects, Recipes.

As debuts go...

A lot of new products hit the market every year; a most recent online edition of CLASS contained 22 reviews of new products and sometimes it feels like you can't turn around without encountering a new gin with some previously unused botanical, or a new single malt expression finished in a succession of different barrels. But if there's one category that hasn't seen explosive growth in recent years, it's aperitif liqueurs. Products are often rediscovered or introduced to new markets, but it's an area that's long been dominated by a handful of brands and that makes the decision to take on the likes of Campari and Aperol an interesting one for a first foray into spirit/liqueur production.

Alex Kammerling is well-known in the UK bar industry thanks to a long stint as Grey Goose's brand ambassador on these shores and his recently re-brandedKamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit represents his first attempt at entering the marketplace. Alex describes it as "a cross between gin, bitters and a liqueur", produced by distilling 45 botanicals (including four different varieties of ginseng root along with juniper berries, echinacea, gingko biloba and goji berry) in grain spirit and mixing that distillate with a herbal infusion containing manuka honey, wormwood and gentian. The light amber colour comes from annato seeds and with responsible service and consumption of alcohol being a thing these days, the liqueur comes in at 33% ABV.

Kamm & Sons is definitely reminiscent of a particular style of slightly sweeter amaro; it has some really interest herbal notes throughout shot through with a hit of citrus and while it is sweet, it's not cloying. There is definitely some bitterness on the palate - which as a general fan of amaro, I fully support - but it doesn't dominate: it can be deployed as a stealthy means of introducing the idea of bitterness as a desirable flavour to those who maybe might otherwise avoid it.

I've found some mileage in using it in place of Campari here and there - using the Negroni formula with Kamm & Sons, Sipsmith Gin, and Lillet Blanc is the basis for awesome - but also in using it as a base ingredient in café style cocktails (some vermouth or similar, a liqueur, something fizzy - lower on the ABV but still super tasty) and as a modifier in fun, refreshing sour style cocktails.

Beyond the rainbow

25ml lemon flavoured vodka (I used Ketel One Citroen)
25ml Kamm & Sons Ginseng Liqueur
10ml triple sec (Cointreau)
20ml lemon juice
1 bsp sugar syrup (2:1)

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled stemmed glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.

I've met Alex a couple of times and he's always blown me away with his attention to detail as a bartender and as an ambassador, so it isn't surprising that he'd come up with something so versatile and inviting. He's on record as saying that one of his favourite aspects of tending bar was creating things and Kamm & Sons is one of his creations that he's proudest of. For me, it's always fun to play with new stuff, particularly if it's in an area that doesn't often see a lot of innovation so it's exciting to see a new independent producer taking on that kind of challenge.

Posted on March 5, 2012 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

Fare thee well, thou first and fairest

Every year, Scots throughout the world set aside January 25th for celebrating the life and work of our national poet, Robert Burns. The man's influence extends far beyond the borders of this little corner of Northern Europe - where would the literary tradition be without "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men", or indeed his influence on the Romantic poets who were to come? - and into some interesting areas.

Now, this being nominally a blog about cocktails and all, would be the point at which I'd direct your attention to the Bobby Burns. It's one of the all-time great Scotch whisky drinks and is more than worthy of carrying the name.

But I'm not going to do that. One of the hallmarks of Burns' poetry is finding the profound, the wonderful in something that might seem otherwise unremarkable. In To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough(1785), one of his most famous works, Burns takes that initial calamity - for the mouse, at least - as the starting point for a train of thought that takes in man's attitude to the world he inhabits and whether all the bells and whistles of civilisation are ultimately worthwhile.

By all means, if you have access to some vermouth and Bénédictine, raise a Bobby Burns to commemorate Burns' 253rd birthday. Me, I'm going to leave off wearing any tartan or listening to bagpipes. I'm going to pour myself some Scotch and see where it takes me.

Posted on January 26, 2012 and filed under Mixology.