Writing Portfolio


Cocktail hour (part one)

I don’t go in for cocktails very often, and when I do I usually opt for a whisky-based one like a rusty nail, but my current preferences are gin-based.

We have recently come into ownership of a bottle of Cointreau, which in turn prompted us to wonder what cocktails we could make to use it up. This, by the way, has happened before in our flat, where we sometimes end up owning fairly random liqueurs which we then have to use up by figuring out what cocktails they go in. Shortly after moving into our flat we had to Google crème de cacao in order to find something to put it in, which we then served to guests at a house-party. It’s a hard life.

As for Cointreau, I found an answer by way of the works of one of my favourite writers, the late Patrick Leigh Fermor. By happy coincidence, Tom Sawford, the man whose website is a great online source of all things related to the great man who everyone (even those of us who never had the pleasure of meeting him) simply calls Paddy, was thinking recently of what fans could have to drink while reading Artemis Cooper’s biography. Paddy could drink most men under the table even after his ninetieth birthday and his natural curiosity about so many things extended to alcohol, so there would be much to choose from based on references to drinks in his books.

Tom’s choice presented itself when he travelled to Cluj in Transylvania to meet with Nick Hunt while the latter was quite literally following in Paddy’s footsteps by walking across Europe from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (as Paddy, ever the philhellene, always called it). Obviously they had to toast Paddy’s memory, but where should Tom and Nick go for that drink? And, more crucially, what should they drink? They decided to consult Between the Woods and the Water to see what Paddy had done when he was in Cluj. Here’s what he had experienced in 1934:

“An hotel at the end of the main square, called the New York – a great meeting place in the winter season – drew my companions like a magnet. István said the barman had invented an amazing cocktail – only surpassed by the one called ‘Flying’ in the Vier Jahreszeiten bar in Munich – which would be criminal to miss. He stalked in, waved the all-clear from the top of some steps, and we settled in a strategic corner while the demon-barman went mad with his shaker.”

The cocktail that Paddy and his friends enjoyed in Cluj remains unknown as he did not actually mention what it was (and the New York Hotel, now the InterContinental, was closed when Tom and Nick visited so they couldn’t go inside to find out). However, Tom was able to contact the Vier Jahreszeiten, which still exists, and obtain the recipe for the flying – two parts gin, one part Cointreau and one part lemon juice (in fact, a white lady) topped with champagne – which he duly posted on his blog.

The happy result of this here in East Finchley over the past couple of weeks has been several very satisfied dinner-guests who were greeted with a flying cocktail on entry.

Further research has shown that one of what David A. Embury defined as the six basic cocktail recipes – the sidecar, to be precise – contains Cointreau too, this time mixed with Cognac or Armagnac. So we’re not short of ideas.

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