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Cocktail hour, part three

For cocktail ideas, we have recently turned to a colourful book called Vintage Cocktails which, in addition to being ring-bound which makes it easier to put on a book-holder, has hit upon the novel idea of keeping the ingredients and instructions as brief as possible, as well as helpfully providing a full colour picture of said cocktail so that us amateur mixers have an idea of what the finished result should look like.

In anticipation of some seasonal cocktails, we’ve prepared in advance to the extent of mixing together a sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water) which is stored in the fridge. We’ve also bought some vermouth with which to make martinis. But what sort? Good question! Gin or vodka, shaken or stirred, dry or dirty? That last one involves adding some of the brine from the olive-jar, and that is Allison’s preference. Stirring rather than shaking is, it turns out, the preferred way of mixing a martini; evidently Ian Fleming was being a bit of a contrarian when he had James Bond ask for them ‘shaken not stirred’ (Bond makes an appearance in Vintage Cocktails too, for the Vesper martini – the one from Casino Royale – is in there, although it’s not the exact recipe that’s given in said novel).

Anyway, it so happens that if you require a dirty martini, the way to go about it is to rinse a small amount of vermouth around the glass before mixing the other ingredients – gin or vodka, plus the olive brine – with ice and then adding them to the glass; strong stuff (although not as strong as some, for Winston Churchill’s idea of a martini was to show a bottle of gin to a bottle of vermouth, and then drink the gin; thus, a Churchill martini is just neat gin served with vermouth being present in the same room). Moving along, the dry martini consists of equal parts vodka (or gin) and vermouth, stirred together. A compromise – the dirty dry martini (with vodka, rather than gin) – has been developed here.

I rather fancied a whisky-based cocktail instead, so I flipped through Vintage Cocktails to see what I could find. A few, such as the Manhattan, the old fashioned and the Rob Roy, involve Angostura bitters which is not (yet) something with which I’ve seen fit to grace our drinks cabinet although it’s probably only a matter of time. A rusty nail – which I have long regarded as my ideal, go-to cocktail – was out too, because we don’t have any Drambuie. Then I happened across whisky sour.

It’s not really something I’ve come across before. Bourbon is the preferred whisky for this, and we don’t have that either (when it comes to the hard stuff, I’m more of a Scotch drinker), but Vintage Cocktails says that you can use rye instead, and as this is an Anglo-Canadian household we do have a bottle of that (and not just any rye whisky, but Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye; nothing but the best, here). And I’d already made some sugar syrup, so why not?

The Vintage Cocktails recipe for whisky sour called for 2 oz whisky, 1 oz sugar syrup and ¾ oz lemon juice, shaken with ice, strained into a tumbler and garnished with an orange slice (I used a lemon one instead, since I had to juice one of those anyway). A slight variation on this can be found in Len Deighton’s Action Cook Book; the man behind The Ipcress File simplifies it, with the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of sugar being added to 2 oz whisky and shaken with ice. What with having already made up some sugar syrup, I stuck with Vintage Cocktails for this one.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the result!

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