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Friday, 28 September 2012

The name's Bond ... aye, bail bond.

AS the new Bond movie looms large, it seems you can’t turn your head without encountering some mention of the great man. So, pre-release of Skyfall, I may as well get my hand in. Or chips. 
     All nicely referenced, of course, in Casino Royale, the first of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels as well as Daniel Craig’s first go at taking on the movie role. Casino Royale is, for my purposes, pretty good, too, on cocktails. As a French beauty in the Hermitage Bar was heard to say to her tweedy companion, “Moi, j’adore le Dry … fait avec du Gordon’s, bien entendu.” 
     Of course? Well, possibly mademoiselle had yet to come across le Bombay Sapphire, but we’ll let it pass. Later, while having a refreshment with a CIA spook, Bond instructs the barman to concoct “three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet (a French dry, white vermouth). Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” 
     Not so much a refreshment as a knockout punch, and the first mention of Bond requiring his Martinis “shaken, not stirred”.

     As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I prefer the simple classic of gin (mostly), a passing acquaintance with Noilly Prat, well shaken with several ice cubes and poured into a Martini glass with three pimento-stuffed olives on a stick. (See above). Not too much to ask, is it? After a hard day down the vermouth mines. 
     Neither of the two movie versions of Casino Royale had Sean Connery in them. In fact, the novel refers to the man Fleming would have liked to be the star when Bond is described as looking like Hoagy Carmichael. Very fetching he is, too.

     Recently, in the interests of research, we were forced to attend an exhibition at the Barbican celebrating 50 years of Bond style. Thankfully, at the end they had wisely set up a special 007 Martini Bar where a person might catch his breath. 
     Included on the bill of fare was a Vesper Cocktail, with a nod to Vesper Lynd, the beautiful double agent in Casino Royale. Ingredients: gin, lillet blanc and vermouth with a dash of ground black pepper added. The latter component sounds quite sexy and, if I ever finish this, I’m going to make myself one. It is Friday, after all.

     Certainly, Miss Moneypenny and her young spies in my photograph above, enjoyed the aperitifs they chose at the 007 bar. Meanwhile, if Mr Bond were musical, this is what he might have sounded like ... and the waiter might do a neat job in serving cocktails, too!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Alternative Olympics

With the Games upon us, it's just possible that those of us who see a life past Stratford will be in need of a celebratory cocktail, one Olympian in its fortification and stout in its resilience – and when I say stout, I don't mean the Irish stuff. What I have to offer is something quasi-commemorative. Or should that be queasy? (See report from the HSE down the page.)
First of all it needs to be pink...

... to match the official colour of the 2012 Olympics logo. For that we add a good measure of cranberry juice. If it's measures you're after, you can call it a dash – as in 100 metres dash which is likely to be won by the Bolt from the Blue.

Other vital ingredients:
* A good slug of bitters. This will sound a chime with those desperate for it to be all over.
*A fair few beta blockers ground into powder and spooned in. This ingredient, discovered by Scottish pharmacologist Dr James Black and which won him the Nobel Prize in 1988, will help correct any anxiety by officials and Mitt Romney alike. Though no one wants to be like Mitt Romney.

* 1 kg of sour grapes. This is for Ed Milliband who failed to make the political capital he'd hoped for in the light of the G4S lack of security scandal. 
*1 heaped tbsp of powdered zinc. This is an age-old antidote for jitters in the tummy for others still concerned about a lack of proper security. (See above).
* Oh, and a pint of gin. This is a corrective for those of a nervous disposition as they contemplate weeks of torture on the airwaves.

I'm calling it ... Hammered. Well, we will be.

Having tasted the prototype of this substantial cocktail, I write this blog from my hospital suite at Guy's, where, I am assured by the lovely nurses and surly consultants, that if I wish a top-up it will have to be administered via a drip.

Note from Elf and Safety: do not try this at home. 
"We elves know what we're talking about," said an elf spokesperson. "The Tolkienians among you will recall how we almost ruined the cocktail party for Gandalf and co."

"Almost, but not quite" rejoined Mr Tolkien. "So stuff that in yer pipe and smoke it." 
Meanwhile, do have a listen to this ... for the benefit of two charming young gentlemen of my acquaintance who, despite months of trying, only managed to get tickets for that brilliant spectator sport, the weightlifting.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

They say he killed a man...

THE cocktail generation of the Roaring 20s gained a certain piquant currency with The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald’s scathing satire of the rich and their hangers-on in Long Island and New York City.

Three quarters of the way through the novel, during a “broiling” afternoon, the group – Tom Buchanan, wife Daisy, her chum Jordan and narrator Nick Carraway – attempt to cool down by drinking Gin Rickeys with plenty of ice.
When that doesn’t work they make their way, at Daisy’s suggestion, to the city as a diversion from the heat.
Tom has brought a bottle of whiskey and the group end up in a plush hotel suite, tempers, mostly that of Tom, beginning to fray as the love affair between Jay Gatsby and Daisy becomes all too obvious.
More cocktails are called for to bring the temperature down a little. A waiter is summoned to bring glasses, mint and crushed ice.
This time the gang are about to have Mint Juleps, courtesy of Tom's bourbon.
As his heated interrogation of Gatsby’s credentials as a gentleman – an “Oxford man” in particular – begin to grate and embarrass the others, Daisy attempts futilely to intervene.
All this goes to show that despite the – for the most part – delightful benefits of  having cocktails with chums, the exercise doesn’t always work, not least when “Mr Nobody from Nowhere make(s) love to your wife”.
The difficulties thrown up by sultry days, extra marital affairs, sulking toffs and the class system are rarely solved by a revivifying cocktail, no matter how much ice is inserted to temper the mix.
That said, the two delicacies aforementioned, if sipped among friendly company, might elevate such an alliance to a highly sophisticated level. Right, old sport?

Gin Rickey
(This, to some throats, might taste not unlike a Gimlet, made famous by another American novelist Raymond Chandler, it being the drink of choice of his gumshoe, Philip Marlowe. The picture above I took of a Gimlet I made recently but if anyone served you a Gin Rickey, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference – in taste... the Rickey is served in a tall glass filled with ice. So, ya boo and sucks, etc).

2oz gin (Bombay Sapphire is the one I like, but they don’t pay me. Yet…)
½oz fresh lime juice
Soda water or Perrier
Wedge of lime
Place a few ice cubes in a highball glass
Add gin and lime wedge.
Sip graciously through a straw or if you’re Tom Buchanan, gulp.

Mint Julep
(I’ve had this in one or two decent cocktail spots in London, not least the top floor of Waterstone’s bookstore in Piccadilly, and it’s often served in a rather fetching stainless steel tumbler, the metal of which, if placed in the freezer beforehand, keeps the cocktail very chilly indeed. Just the job to calm tempers.)

2oz bourbon
A few mint leaves
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
Place the non alcoholic ingredients in the glass then fill up with shaved or crushed ice
Pour in the booze
Top with more ice and decorate with sprig of mint.
Serve with a straw.

Leonardo di Caprio and Carey Mulligan will soon hit the big screens as Gatsby and Daisy in an extravagant remake of the legendary 1974 classic with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. 
Minus her sash, of course.
The latter refers to the flop she made about the Irish Troubles – The Sash Mia Farrow Wore.

Meanwhile, feast your lugs on this...

Saturday, 24 March 2012


In the interests of continued financial prudence – to which I referred in an earlier post – I’ve utilised some elements in my latest creation which might not as a rule find themselves in a chic cocktail.
Yet needs must.
                                                         Keen for my next cocktail...
                                           a prudent chap. Remember him?

A few weeks ago, I had made a bile o’ jam, as they say in Aberdeen – the rhubarb and ginger variety.
As a result, I had half a jar left of stem ginger pieces still covered in their thick, gooey juice.
Also wilting away at the back of the cocktail cabinet was half a bottle of Liqueur de Framboises, a strawberry concoction hunted down in Fortnum’s for an earlier creation, and still exceedingly potable, given its 21% alcohol volume.
So get to work then, mister, I ordered myself. The guests will be here any minute.
It’s more common for the dear better half to do the ordering but she’s making herself even more beautiful at the moment.
The name I’ve given it – Ginger Pop – will appeal to those of un certain age but don’t let the kiddies get anywhere near it, whatever you do.

Serves four
2 fl oz good vodka taken straight from the freezer
1 fl oz Grand Marnier
1 fl oz juice from jar of stem ginger
Good dash of orange bitters
Juice of half a lime
12 black seeded grapes
4 tiny chunks of stem ginger
Chocolate sauce
Caster sugar.

Place four or five ice cubes in a cocktail shaker
Add the remainder of the ingredients
Shake vigorously
Remove Martini glasses from the fridge where they’ve been chilling
Smear a smudge of chocolate sauce on the base of each glass and attach a grape to each. (This is an idea I got from Nightjar, the fab cocktail bar I wrote about last time.) The thick consistency of the sauce will ensure the grape adheres to it. (I used a yum variety: Chocolate & Orange Fudge Sauce from Fudge Kitchen, a wondrously thick extravagance which you can – not without a certain degree of guilt – eat straight from the jar with a spoon.)
Run a wedge of lime around the edge of each glass then dip it into a saucer of caster sugar
With each of four cocktail sticks pierce a grape followed by a stem ginger fragment then another grape
Pour the liquid into the glasses
Place a fruit-laden cocktail stick into each

As is customary, you’d wait until the magical Cocktail Hour of 6pm to serve these (even if I do say so myself) delights. But the clocks spring forward later tonight so we’re going to neck ’em at five o’clock.
Radical, what?!
All things ginger have a deep resonance in certain parts of the country, not least the west of Scotland. You may know someone such as the following... If so, don’t advertise it.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Maybe it's a big horse...

The London Evening Standard – a free paper owned by a Russian oligarch – boasts that it has its ear to the ground regarding cultural life in the city. 
Yet it has only just discovered (15/03/12) that Londoners – I use the term loosely – love cocktails. 
Where have their staffers been all this while? At fires? Riots? Covering Parliament?
The report in question, too, misses out on possibly the best spot in town.

Nightjar – named after a nocturnal bird with short legs (see above in daylight for a change) – is squeezed between two greasy spoons on the edge of Shoreditch, where the bells once chimed to the tune of "When I am rich". 
When indeed? 
Yet there are plenty of well-off punters around in this neck of the wood, situated within thieving distance of the City.

And inside, it's dark. Really dark. As my picture above shows. 
The bar, unobtrusive until then, opens its double wooden doors at 6pm, aspiring to the ambience of a Chicago 'speak' in the prohibition era. 
All that's missing is for the doorkeep to whisper "Leave your piece at the desk".
Mind you, if you asked that of a thirsty Glaswegian, you might be surprised to discover the punter divesting himself of a jam sandwich instead of a gat.
The cocktails at Nightjar are a wonder, costing about £10 each – and are in abundance. We had – as the pic shows – a White Lady and a Cosmo Roast. Because the lady loves a Cosmopolitan. (God knows what she sees in me.)
My selection wasn't like any White Lady I had ever encountered or even tasted before, but that merely confirmed my opinion that for every cocktail, there are umpteen recipes.
The place sells bar snacks too: decent tapas-style stuff for about £3 a pop. 
We had salmon balls, gorgeous warm bread and olives and feta-stuffed zucchini rolls.
Dulce et decorum est that a salmon should lay down his balls for a hedonist.
From 8pm a small band play selections from the hot jazz days. You know the kind of thing...

I was recommended to visit by a friend who had travelled all the way from Glasgow for one night only just to try it out. He and his companion spent several hours and much mazooma there.
Possibly not to be recommended. The place being so dark, you might end up tumbling into the lap of an oligarch's female companion.
Then you'd be required to give the billionaire and his broad-shouldered телохранители the Possil stare.
That might do it. Might

Monday, 27 February 2012


Well, the doctors are constantly on about it, despite some of them drinking like fish. 
Funny expression fish actually drink the water they swim in? As WC Fields once said – possibly more than once – when explaining why he preferred his whisky without water: "Fish *!+^ in it."
I can't actually write what he said...this is far too upright a forum. And Bill Fields was, as most people will know, infrequently upright.

But to get back to the point – doctors and their ilk are always on at the rest of us to lead a healthy lifestyle. So, in the interests of prolonging healthy life, I've concocted a little something that will put years on you.
No, that's not right...take years off you, I mean.
It's a well-balanced cocktail that has resonances in World War II, during which the wealthy and well connected – some of them spies – carried on in the old fashioned way in London's top hotels as if the only thing that had changed was the lack of a decent butler.
Not for us the Old Fashioned...
Not for us the sumptuous, gin-heavy Gibson or Dry Martini.
Not in this blog episode at any rate.
No, what we're after here is using up the ingredients lying around in the (cocktail) cupboard...waste not want not...a bit of make do and mend in the way of our antecedents – not the idle rich sort.
If you discount the alcohol in it, the drink in question might be regarded as a real tonic, a pick-me-up...something you could munch a couple of before you go to work. Assuming you require to be compos mentis at work, that is. But who wants a job like that?
In my case, I had a few things lying about, items that were beginning – as a very tidy person – to get on my nerves. Items such as a small bottle of apricot brandy, untouched and unanticipated; the dregs of a bottle of triple sec and some five-day old fruit.
There are those who would just have chucked the liquid down the sink and the fruit in the bin, yet being a recycling-minded cove, I put my mind to the test.
What to call it though..? I'll keep thinking as I write. 

Meanwhile – and you'll appreciate the essence of the possibility of an early spring here – the working title:

2 fl oz apricot brandy
1 fl oz triple sec
1/2 fl oz Rose's lime juice 
Juice of three clementines
Juice of half lemon
Good dash of orange bitters

Place four ice cubes in shaker
Add remainder of ingredients
Shake vigorously
Pour into cocktail glasses adorned with slice of fresh lemon
Serves four.

Speaking of the war and the inclusion of clementines reminds me of Winston Churchill and his beloved wife, Clementine, or "Dear Clemmie", as he called her by way of an endearment.
We could call this cocktail, therefore, Dear Clemmie, in memoriam of distant times when things were great for some, crap for the bulk.

Take a peek at the following and you'll be desperate certainly for a wee snifter...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Puttin' on the poor mouth

Off to Paris in a fortnight and had hoped to renew our acquaintance with the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz. 
But the horror, the horror... the old place is being renovated and won't be open when we get there. 
Our charming hostess, Chantal, whose mother once had a drink with Hemingway at the very spot many years ago, will have somewhere else to treat us, I'm sure. I will report on that accordingly.
Mais pour maintenant...

The above publication, not long off the presses chaudes of the Ritz a la Place Vendome, alludes to the fab cocktails that can be savoured there. 
To quote: "It is said that the Hemingway bar makes the best Dry Martini in the world." 
Given that the head barman Colin Field was once voted best barman in the world by Forbes Magazine, that might seem a reasonable assertion. 
Yet it is, as are so many other claims about cocktail recipes, somewhat precious.
What makes a good dry martini after all is pretty damn simple:

  • it must be as cold as a mother-in-law's stare
  • secure the best gin available
  • include two or three olives on a stick...
  • and oh, I almost forgot – a passing acquaintance with vermouth is occasionally called for.
And you could replace the olives with les petits oignons and call it a Gibson.
Whatever! as the young ones say when they can't think of anything else to say.
Maybe it's just as well we're not going to the Ritz – we're far too poor. At 26 euros for a glass of the house champagne, we might need to remortgage the maison if we fancied a night out there.

The following is what they used to say in the old days...

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Chile for some.

The folks in Chile obviously enjoy their cocktails on the cold side. I just read that a guy with a big truck has been nabbed after chipping five tonnes of ice from a glacier in Patagonia to sell as ice cubes for cocktails. 

"Designer" ice cubes, at that, according to the report.

What the hell is a designer ice cube? Is it still a cube? Is it like a Rubik cube or did someone just cross the Rubicon with this little escapade?

I hope they threw the buce at the thief. Did you spot the anagram there? Or did you just think I'm a bad speller?

You may think the following track is about Chile but you'd be wrong. Jimi Hendrix can't spell either.

On another track...we're going to a hot cocktail spot in London very soon. According to a chum who's been, they serve the most amazing concoctions and there's no shortage of them.
Watch this space.

Another pleasant stop-off for the weary traveller is in Paris. More on that later, too.

Meanwhile, if you fancy a nice cocktail in Bonnie Scotland, do try Oran Mor at the corner of Great Western Road and Byres Road. Those in the picture are a classic champagne cocktail and two mojitos.

Yum, as they say in the West End.