Now, I know that last week I promised to bring you a report on the Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival, and to give you my definitive opinion on combinations of beer and chocolate, but I’m afraid Brenda hasn’t been able to send me the photos from the event yet, so rather than make you do without, I’m just postponing it for a bit. Instead, here’s part one of an entirely new feature on simple alcoholic drinks. Enjoy.
Until recently I harboured a strong preference for keeping my alcohol and soft drinks separate – unless I was making a full blown cocktail. I like the flavour of my strong liquors, and I hadn’t previously seen the merit in adulterating them with soft drinks. Similarly, if I was simply thirsty, a soft drink would do on its own.
However, sometimes you might want a long, refreshing alcoholic drink or you might have a bottle of something that isn’t nice enough to drink on its own. Or you might be feeling lazy, and not have the patience to fanny about making a cocktail – sometimes cocktails are like having to cook every time you want a drink. Drinking shouldn’t be like cooking - though it doesn’t hurt if it is an accompaniment to cooking.
The solution is a drink comprised of two ingredients that you can just throw together without too much care or accuracy. I’ve been experimenting a little in this field recently, and I’d like to tell you about some simple combinations. Some of these are standard drinks that I’ve heard of before, and some are ones that (as far as I know) I’ve invented. Give them a try and let me know what you think. If you’ve pioneered any simple drinks of your own, I’d love to hear about them.
Grapefruit juice and brandy – I’ve been making this with 103 Brandy de Jerez. Brenda brought it back from Ibiza a good few years ago, and it’s been sitting atop our kitchen cupboard ever since. Occasionally it has made it into my hip flask for nights out (I think I took a little to Malaysia, actually) but despite liking brandy, I’ve always found the aftertaste of this one a little too bitter.
I decided to pair it up with grapefruit juice because I’m often left with more than half a carton after I’ve had a cocktail night. There aren’t as many cocktails made with grapefruit juice as you might think, and it isn’t the most drinkable juice around – though it is essential for the excellent Havana Zombie (according to some recipes, but not to others). For whatever reason, this marriage works a treat. The brandy takes the sour edge off of the grapefruit juice very nicely. Quantities aren’t that important. I tend to fill a glass with the juice (over ice), but leave enough room for a couple of measures of brandy.
Whisky Mac (whisky and ginger wine) – I actually got this recipe from a bottle of Church’s Green Ginger Wine that was left at my house after a party. It says ‘original recipe’ on the bottle, implying that it’s traditional, but it also says ‘bottled for Aldi stores’ so what ‘original recipe’ means, I don’t know. Anything can be an original recipe, can’t it?
I’d never had any thoughts of drinking it until someone mentioned you could drink it with whisky. When I got the bottle down from the cupboard, I found the recipe right there – you just add a splash of the ginger wine to your whisky. I’ve decided I’m not actually that keen on this one, but I’m including it anyway in case you might be. I had to throw most of a glass of this away recently as I realised if I was only going to have one drink that evening, I didn’t want to waste it on this one.
Licor 43 and coke – I’ve spoken of this one before – most notably in the Spanish booze tourism feature - and it’s actually one of my favourite simple mixes. Licor 43 is a little too sweet for my palate, but it adds a nice twist to cola.
Amaretto and coke – a nice drink in the mould of the Licor 43 and coke that I already mentioned. The almond tones provide a nice backdrop for the cola. Or perhaps it’s the coke that provides a nice backdrop for the amaretto. On the strength of this, I’m surprised coke haven’t already invented the almond coke. Pictured is the bottle of Armila that I’ve been using.
Vodka and Tonic – clearly a very famous drink, but not one I could say I’d tried until recently. I decided to invest in a cheap bottle of Indian Tonic Water from Tesco just for the purpose of trying it with Gin and with Vodka. I’m happy to report that it’s delicious. I prefer it with vodka at the moment, and have mostly been using the Russian Standard that I put in my hip flask a couple of weeks ago, and took out with me, but never actually drank. It’s very sharp and refreshing, and you can taste the vodka even if you only use one measure with a lot of tonic. Try it over ice.
So that concludes part 1. I’ll be back at some undetermined point in the future to give you some more simple drinks, so come back regularly. All right, cool.