Elderflower Soda Tasting – Mixer Companion 14

One of the most British flavours around is Elderflower; I even had a journalist for a Brazilian newspaper contact me recently regarding its use in British soft drinks. For decades, this came in the form of Elderflower Wine, but, over time, Elderflower Cordial became more popular and, once it grew fashionable to mix this with still or sparkling water, companies started bringing out a ready-to-drink carbonated version. The two companies that started this were Bottlegreen and Belvoir, both in the late 1980s.


1) M&S Apple & Elderflower
This is a lovely golden colour and is packaged in a bottle with a champagne cork and cage. There are some apple notes, followed by floral elderflower. Not too sweet, it’s sufficiently tart and dry thanks to the apple, but very fizzy. A nice non-alcoholic alternative to provide when having champagne.
7, 6
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2) Tesco Sparkling Spring Water with a hint of Elderflower & Lemon
Very fizzy. Quite light and not too sweet, this has a slight chemical floral flavour to it, a bit like furniture polish, but not necessarily in a bad way. Moderately refreshing, with a floral finish.
6, 6

Bottlegreen
A bit musky, with a nice nose of elderflower to start, but this fades into more of a watery flavour; there’s still some elderflower there, but it’s a bit disappointing when it comes to the taste and needs more flavour. Also, we thought this was a bit on the gassy side, with a medium-to-high fizz. Bitter finish.
5, 4

Tesco Finest White Grape & Elderflower Spritz
This has a medium level of fizz. The grape notes make it a bit syrupy to start, but then some musky floral from the elderflower appears, accompanied by some tartness. The finish is dry and slightly sour. We thought this was quite fresh, but would be better with some ice to take the edge off of it.
6, 5

ss
The wild card, this variety is still. It’s quite sweet, but there’s a good balance between the apple and elderflower flavours. There is also a note of sweet liquorice towards the end. This is very easy to drink, if a touch sweet; best not to have too big a glass at breakfast.
6, 5

Belvoir
This has a sweet, jammy elderflower nose. To taste, it has a medium level of fizz and is musky, sweet and floral, with a citrus tang at the end. Quite good, we found this to be refreshing and neither too sweet nor too fizzy. Good balance.
8, 7

Marks & Spencer French Sparkling Elderflower Soda
Very highly fizzy and very floral, this isn’t too sweet; it’s more dry then anything. Also, the floral notes seem to be more like rose than elderflower, giving a distinct impression of Turkish Delight. The taste seems short-lived, but, after a short absence, the flavour of fizzy floral sweets (Refreshers, Parma Violets) pops back up again, before disappearing, leaving a clean finish.
7, 7

Waitrose Elderflower
Very pleasant, this was full of floral notes with both tartness and sweetness. It was fresh and very easy to drink. Frankly, this was superb and exceptionally refreshing.
8, 8

The Results

1st
Waitrose Elderflower

2nd
Belvoir

3rd
Marks & Spencer French Sparkling Elderflower Soda

Still Lemonade Tasting

HISTORY

The original lemonade predating the rise of fizzy pop.

Today, this enjoys much greater popularity in the U.S. than in the U.K. and Europe, where it is more common to see Fizzy Lemonade or Cloudy Lemonade, both of which are sparkling. In fact, in the U.K., Still Lemonade seems to be sold just as much as a healthy juice drink as a recreational soft drink.

TASTING

1. Marks & Spencer

This one had real bits of lemon floating in it! I thought it had an authentic texture, being both smooth and tart; the balance of tartness and sweetness was just right. Pretty good.

2. Tropicana

Still, this was slightly refreshing and very bitter. It started off with the flavour of fresh, cloudy apple juice, followed by a strong pang of grapefruit and a bit of lemon. Despite being 100% fruit juice, this managed to not be too sweet and was – understandably – very fruity. I liked it, but didn’t think it was a typical lemonade**.

3.  Snapple Lemonade

Quite crisp but also very very sharp and also pretty sweet, it really lacks an balance and leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Not refreshing either.

4. Minute Maid

Quite nice initially, with lots of lemon flavour, after a few sips, this became cloying and watery, clinging to the teeth. If served with lots and lots of ice, I thought that this was okay (tasting somewhat like a melted ice lolly), but not on its own.

5. Waitrose Still Lemonade

Not bad; this was quite tart, but in a fresh, crisp way. The primary taste was of lemon and the flavour tastes like it hasn’t been interferred with at all. Not too sweet, this was well-balanced and refreshing. I thought it was rather close to homemade lemonade, actually; what you would expect from a classic style.

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6. Luscombe

Very crisp and quite fresh, pleasantly it is neither to sweet nor harshly tart. I gather that the vanilla helps to soften the flavours. This is very easy to drink and I think has wide-appeal. If you really like a tartness in a lemonade that sucks your cheeks in then this isn’t for you. But as a simple delicious way to cool down on a hot day, here you go.

MAKE-YOUR-OWN

Of all of the types of lemonade, this must be the easiest to make; mostly because no carbonation is necessary. Although additional flavour embellishments can work well, Still Lemonade consists of three fundamental ingredients: lemons, water and sugar.

50ml Sugar 100ml Lemon Juice 500ml Water

Combine ingredients, in  a bottle and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate.

Given the importance of the water in this recipe, I suggest giving it some consideration; whilst you might not want to use expensive bottled water, I would advocate filtering your water through a Brita device or some such system before using it. Given that we live in a hard-water area with a high calcium carbonate  content, this is essential for us.

6(a). Homemade – made with tap water

Clean and quite tart, this was fresh and had a long, lemony finish. There was some sweetness to balance out the tartness although ti was quite subdued. I thought that this one was more distinctive and recognisable than the other homemade lemonades, whilst also being more straight-forward.

6(b). Homemade – made with Figi bottled water

This made a much softer lemonade; the edge seemed to be rounded off of the tart lemon flavour, producing a very clean, but less crisp taste. Very, very soft.

6(c). Homemade – made with Highland bottled water

Again, this lemonade was very crisp and clean, but also seemed slightly sweeter and duller than the others. I thought it was refreshing and liked it.

COCKTAILS

1. Lyndnburg Lemonade

[30ml Jack Daniels, 15ml Triple Sec, 100ml Still Lemonade]

Fresh and delicious the tartness of the lemonade contests nicely to the sweetness of the Triple Sec and the sweet oaky elements of the Jack Daniels. Simply superb and very refreshing.

2. London Lemonade

[50ml Dry Gin, 50ml Tonic Water, 50ml Still Lemonade]

3. Lemon-Aid

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* I don’t think that the Tropicana is made in the “classic” style, but I nonetheless think that it’s a good drink and, ultimately, for me, that is what really matters.

** Tropicana has received a bit of flack recently and was even features onthe BBC Watchdog consumer rights programme. Why? Because it contains 67% apple juice, 24% grapefruit juice, and only 9% lemon juice. Whilst I understand the complaints, I can also see how difficult making a 100% fruit juice lemonade with no added sugar would be; it’d be quite a challenge. After all, we wouldn’t just want a bottle of lemon juice!

However, it’s also worthwhile noting that, despite the fact that the Tropicana advertises itself as having no added sugar, it contains only slightly less (albeit natural sugar) than the Waitrose (with sugar); they have 9.5g and 10.3g per 100ml, respectively.

Orange Soda Tasting

HISTORY

Orange Soda, probably the third most popular category of soft drink after cola and those in the lemonade family,  is a well-established category and has some big names attached to it. Three big brands that started off making Orange Soda, Tango, Fanta and Orangina, have now gone on to create a plethora of new flavours and spin-offs. Orange Sodas are typically quite sweet, although Schweppes once made a bitter orange to accompany their bitter lemon.

TASTE

#1 Orange Tango  [ASP, SAC*]
This had a medium fizz with very small bottles. It tasted of orange, with some hints of vanilla and a slight mineral quality. It wasn’t especially clean and got a bit sweet and cloying after a while, but over ice it’s pretty refreshing. Mrs. B said it reminded her of a cross between orange squash and orange sherbet; she quite liked it.
6, 7

#2 Fanta [ASP, SOD SAC*]
A slightly more neon yellow in colour, this also had medium fizz, but the taste of orange was less distinct and less fresh. Rather sweet, it had an unpleasant habit of clinging to your teeth, which is never a good sign. It says “made with real fruit”, but I never would have guessed.
It reminded Mrs. B of orange Calpol and she found it quite cloying and slick.
4 , 4

#3 Fentiman’s Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger
A rather appetising colour, being somewhat reminiscent of freshly squeezed juice. There was a slight maltiness on the nose, as well as in the initial taste. This moved onto a deep, slightly bitter orange flavour, which then moved onto a fresher, fruity finish. After the taste of orange came some fieriness that lasted quite a long time.
This is a different type of soft drink and one for folks who find the usual thoroughfare of fizzy pop too sweet.
8 , 1

#4 Belvoir Organic Orange and Manadrain Pressé
A dark yellow-orange and cloudy drink, this had minimal fizz, but was still quite refreshing. It was a smooth drink with a full, tangy orange flavour and some light, fruity notes and hints of vanilla. The sweetness seemed quite balanced, but, by the time I finished the glass, it had become a bit thick and sickly for my liking.
6 , 6

#5 Sunkist [ACE, SOD SAC*]
With a medium-to-high fizz, this was a tangy orange offering with a little hint of vanilla afterward. It was quite fresh and rather pleasant, but a touch cloying at the end; overall, still pretty good. In contrast, Mrs. B hated it, saying it was too fizzy – here we disagree.
7 , 3

#6 Orangina
Initially, there were fresh and juicy flavours of orange. A medium-to-low level of fizz gave it a light effervescence that dominates the drink, but also gave it a refreshing spritz. Not too sweet and with a really orange tang on the finish, we both thought this was excellent.
9 , 8

#7 Juicology
This was the first of our still mixers. The nose was fruity, with a touch of spice and a hint of violet/rose (or turkish delight) at the end. This was a very smooth product and was very well-balanced; we could tell that some effort has gone into making this. The main flavour was a tangy orange, followed by a light warmth from the ginger and nutty cardamon on the finish. Lovely and succulent.
8 , 6

#8 Capri-Sun
Cool, fruity and refreshing, but there was a slight chalky squeakiness in the texture towards the end. The orange flavour is very similar to that of orange sweets, in particular fruit pastilles.
Mrs. B  liked it found it very refreshing; she found it to have a soft sweetness and an aftertaste of marshmallows.
5 , 5

#9 Still Fanta
Very sweet and rather syrupy, the tangy orange was there, but more subdued than in most others. As an orange soda, this wasn’t great, but for nostalgia reasons I still really like it.
6 , 5

#10 San Peligrino
To start, there was a fresh flavour of orange juice and a medium-to-high level of fizz. Quite tangy and refreshing, this was somewhat reminiscent of orange juice and lemonade.
8, 7

#11 Abbondio 

Medium-high fizz, fresh orange fruit flavour and some creamy hints of vanilla. Rather nice, possibly a touch on the sweet side but it doesn’t really take away from the drink that much.
7, 5
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#12 Luscombe St. Clements
This use Sicilian Oranges and Raw Cane Sugar. Medium fizz with a slight orange sourness, not too sweet and quite fresh a hint of the bitterness you get from Bitter Lemon and int he UK this is the closest I have found to what I think Bitter Orange would taste like. As such it very refreshing a good thirst quencher.
8, 8
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RESULTS

#1 Orangina
#2 Luscombe St. Clements
#3 San Pelligrino

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MAKE-YOUR-OWN

I’m quite a fan of bitter lemon and as I could not, sadly, get hold of any Schweppes Bitter Orange, in the spirit of innovation, I decided to make my own.

On with the recipe:

Juice & zest of 3 large oranges

Pith of 1 orange

1/2 tsp of Chili Powder

1 tsp Cinchona Bark

4 tsp Citric Acid

300ml Granulated Sugar

100ml of Water

Quite pleasant, with fruity orange flavours and a dry, bitter finish. Cooling and very, very refreshing. I still prefer bitter lemon, but this is a close runner-up.

COCKTAILS

1st Step Cocktail
The bourbon and bitters gave it a feel of an Old Fashioned and the Orangina gave it the same aftertaste that the orange twist gives to an Old Fashioned. Complex and refreshing, I think only by using a good qaulity orange soda like Orangina could you pull this off. This is an Old Fashioned for beginners.

Harvey Wallbanger
I used one of the still drinks, Juiceology Manadarin, Cardamom and Ginger, for this drink. It was very clean, with some vanilla and herbal notes, fresh orange and a hint of spice and fire from the juice. There was quite a lot of flavour and I’d advise using quite a clean, crisp vodka to stop too much flavour interfering with the other flavours of the drink.

Bronx Fizz
Packed with flavour: the herbal complexity of the vermouth, the dryness of the gin and one of the vermouths, and the sweetness of the Orangina and the other vermouth, all tied together by the Angostura Bitters. It also had a tangy orange finish. Quite refreshing, I thought it would make a pleasant aperitif.

*ASP = Aspartame, SOD SAC = Sodium Saccharin, SAC = Saccharin, ACE =

Bitter Lemon Tasting, History and Recipe

HISTORY

Original Schweppes Bitter Lemon Label

Original Schweppes Bitter Lemon Label

Bitter Lemon is essentially lemon-flavoured tonic water, although it tends to be more flavourful and sweet than tonic water “with a hint/twist of lemon”. Given its links to tonic, it’s perhaps not surprising that the credit for its creation is claimed by the soft drinks firm, Schweppes.Since 1950, the Research Team at Schweppes had been working on creating a Bitter Orange Soft Drink and by the mid-fifties, Lyons, a rival firm, had brought out a new drink: Tonic Water mixed with Lemon Juice. In response, the team at Schweppes started working on making a Bitter Lemon, too.

On the 1st May 1957, Schweppes Sparkling Bitter Orange and Sparkling Bitter Lemon were released. In the first quarter they sold 500,000 and 250,000 cases respectively. After a television advertising campaign, sales of Bitter Lemon soared far above those of Bitter Orange. In fact, for a time, their sales even outstripped those of their Tonic Water.

By 1959, other companies had released competing products and, as market share, sales of Bitter Lemon dropped and Tonic Water became top dog again. Since then, Bitter Orange has been discontinued, although it is still made for some non-UK markets such as the USA.

John Lennon (second from left) being poured a glass of Schweppes Bitter Lemon

In 20__, Fevertree released a Bitter Lemon and in 2010 they renamed it for the off-trade market as Lemon Tonic, to reflect its soft drink ancestry. Today, most Bitter Lemons still contain quinine.

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TASTING

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Schweppes
The first thing that I noticed about Schweppes Bitter Lemon was the distinctive blue-green hue. This not the original shade of the product; the colour was added at a later date.
The bitter lemon had a high level of fizz; the very first thing that you get is the fizz, followed by some intense bitter citrus notes, some sweetness and a dry, bitter, tonic-water-like finish. It’s similarity to tonic water is quite uncanny. Not too sweet, this was quite acidic.
6, 5

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Britvic (Sac)
This bitter lemon had a medium level of fizz and was a more natural yellow-green. Very tangy, the lemon seemed to contain a relatively high amount of citric acid. There was some bitterness and a cloying sweetness. It was also a bit syrupy and slightly chalky. Really, this was all over the place in terms of flavour profile.
5, 6

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French
This was a cloudy, white liquid with the barest hint of green. With a medium-to-high level of fizz, the flavour was soapy and lemony with a hint of almond, of the kind found in cherry bakewell tarts. The whole flavour was over quickly, but not too bad.
6, 7

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Fevertree
Light and cloudy with a green tint, this had a medium-to-high fizz. This was a more natural-tasting lemon with a fuller, fruity flavour. Whilst initially intensely bitter, this was balanced out by a lemon marmalade sweetness.
8, 4

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Thomas Henry
Green-yellow in colour, this had a medium level of fizz and a good amount of quinine bitterness followed by some zesty, tangy lemon. Clean and not at all cloying, this also had a tiny hint of vanilla. Very balanced and very tasty.
8, 6

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MAKE-YOUR-OWN

Bitter Lemon Recipe

Juice & zest of 4 medium lemons (or 3 large)

Pith of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp of Chili Powder

1 tsp Cinchona Bark

4 tsp Citric Acid

300ml Granulated Sugar*

100ml of Water

Add all the ingredients to a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Leave to cool, strain through a sieve, then coffee filter and bottle.

Mix one part of your newly made Bitter Lemon Syrup to two parts soda water, and serve with ice. For an extra treat, add an ounce of your favourite gin.

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COCKTAILS

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The most popular Sloe Gin cocktail is the “Long Pedlar”, named as such because it was a long drink made using the Hawker’s Pedlar Sloe Gin although, today, it can be used with any brand. A similar drink, the Sloe Pedlar, uses Lemonade.

Fill a tall glass with ice
50ml Sloe Gin
150ml Bitter Lemon

A a pleasant bitter sweet mix, sweet sloe and almond comes from the gin and the bitter lemon is a great contrasting companion. Very refreshing.

Ginger Ale Tasting; History, Cocktails and Make-Your-Own

HISTORY

In the book “Ginger East to West”, Bruce Cost* argues that early brewers would often have used spice, such as ginger, to purify the ferments (beers) as the yeast at the time was unreliable. He also points to a reference to ginger and ale in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
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The first accounts of ginger ale as we know it are from Northern Ireland (around 1850) and bottled ginger ale has been available in the USA from 1861. The ginger ale at this time was rather different to that which we’re used to today; now known as Belfast-style ginger ale, it was heavier, darker, sweeter and more syrupy, with a stronger flavour of ginger.
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This was the prevailing variety of ginger ale until the early 20th Century, when, whilst returning from a trip to France, the founder of Canada Dry decided that he wanted to make the Champagne of Ginger Ale; up until then, he had only made the sweeter, spicier Belfast style. Through his innovation, Dry Ginger Ale was born.
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By the middle of the 20th Century, Dry Ginger Ale gained in popularity, aided by the rise of the cocktail hour and its mixability with spirits. It has to be said that this came at the expense of the Belfast style.
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From David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks:
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“Ginger Ales should also be really dry and pale. The old-time heavy, brown, syrupy ginger ale has no place in drink mixing. The sugar content should be medium and there should be a fairly sharp acid taste.”
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Embury laments the availability of good-quality ginger ale, although he does recommend both Canada Dry’s Ginger Ale and their Soda Water.
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He goes on to urge the readers to not fall for the “calorie-free hooey” when mixing tall drinks and that they shouldn’t “ruin a good drink for the sake of a silly fetish”.
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Ginger Ale vs. Ginger Beer
This chapter focuses on only Ginger Ale, but how does it differ to Ginger Beer?In the modern day, it is a matter of flavour profile:
Ale = lighter flavours, less ginger and dryer/less sweet
Beer = sweeter, heavier and more ginger fire
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I’ve prattled on for long enough; let’s get onto the tasting.

TASTING

The five varieties were tasted blind on their own.

#1 Canada Dry
The original Dry Ginger Ale, this is now owned by Schweppes (much to my grandfather’s chargrin, as he preferred Schweppes’s previous own-brand ginger ale.)**

High fizz sweet with ginger and creamy notes then some citrus. Quite palatable, easy to drink, would mix well. Would be nice with a wedge of lemon.

Canada Dry Ginger Ale is available from most supermarkets for around £1.10 for 1 Litre.

#2 Fevertree
A relatively recent entry to the Ginger Ale Market from the Boutique Mixer Maker Fevertree.

A light musky ginger, with a medium fizz. although initially quite subtle flavour the spicy fire grows and leaves some real warmth. Quite enjoyable.

Fevertree Ginger Ale is available from Waitrose at £1.49 for 500ml.

#3 Thomas Henry
From the German-based firm named after Thomas Henry an historical pioneer in soft drinks.

High fizz, quite clean, slightly sweet with a growing warmth. This would work well as a mixer although it’s hearty flavour makes it quite good on it’s own. It also makes a superb Horse’s Neck.

Thomas Henry is not yet available in the UK – if you are interested in distributing it please Contact Them.

#4 Q Ginger***
A new offering from the folks behind the high-end Q Tonic water. Q Ginger really ginger root and is sweetened with organic agave. Coriander, Cardamon, Rose Oil and Orange Peel are also in the mix.

This had the most intense nose of the selection. It had a medium-high fizz with some ginger and dry at the end. Although initially the warmth is subtle it builds as you continue to drink, after a few sips there is a decent fire. Some citrus lemony elements too.

Q Ginger and Q Tonic are not currenlty available in the UK – if you are interested in distributing it please Contact Them.

#5 Crabbies
Released this year in addition to an array of spin-of products from the success of the company’s Ginger Wine and Alcoholic Ginger Beer.

Very different but also quite sweet, a low fizz and a rich syrupyness like Old Jamaica Ginger Cake, when I found out this was the Crabbie’s version I thought that it was rather like ginger wine. Despite being quite a different flavour it was still quite nice.

I was genuinely surprised, but really pleased at how good all of the ginger ales were with very little to tell between them. My favourite, by a whisker, was:

Thomas Henry

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But what if you fancy the home-made variety?

MAKE YOUR OWN

I decided on two recipes:

#1 Belfast style Ginger Ale
500ml Water
100g Dark Brown Sugar
50g White Sugar
1½ Cups Chopped Ginger Root
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp chilli powder
3 Cloves
Juice and Zest of one Lemon

Add ingredients to a pan and simmer for 20-30 mins, allow to cool, strain, bottle. Keep refrigerated.
To drink mix 1 part syrup to 2-3 parts soda water, or to taste.

Ginger Ale of The Home Made Variety - L:R Dry and Belfast Style

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#2 Dry Ginger Ale
500ml Water
120g White Sugar
1 Cups Chopped Ginger Root
½ tsp citric acid
Juice and Zest of one Lemon plus a tsp of pith.

Add ingredients to a pan and simmer for 30-40 mins, allow to cool, strain, bottle. Keep refrigerated.
To drink mix 1 part syrup to 2-3 parts soda water, or to taste.

Once you discovered and/or made your favourite Ginger Ale, it will make a fine drink on it’s own, but what if you fancied a mixed drink?

COCKTAILS

#1 Gin Buck
[50ml Gin, 100-150ml Ginger Ale, 10ml Lemon Juice or A generous squeeze from a lemon wedge. ]
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#2 Horses Neck
[50ml Brandy, 100-150ml Ginger Ale, Thin twist of lemon peel. ]
Add ingredients with ice to a tumbler.
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#3 Prohibition Cooler
[25ml Apple Juice, 25ml Lemon Juice, 100ml Ginger Ale, Add to a Highball glass with ice]

POSTSCRIPT

I was not sure where to put these other tidbits so they’ll go here.

  •  Ginger Ale is often seen as a cure for upset stomachs, motion and seasickness. I’ve found little scientific evidence but a lot of anecdotal notes. Maybe it’s the power of the placebo but, if it works….
  • In James Bond films Ginger Ale is used to substitute Champagne whilst filming, the resemblance is uncanny. Apple juice is used for Whisky and Bond’s Martinis are nothing but water.

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* Bruce Cost is also the man behind REAL Ginger Ale for our further thoughts click here.

**The Schweppes variety may still be separately available in the USA; I do remember having Blackcurrant flavoured Schweppes Ginger Ale (not Canada Dry) when I was in New York.
*** This was kindly forwarded to be by Aaron of The Gin is In

Cherry Soda (Cherry Coke and Cherryade) Tasting, History and Cocktails

HISTORY

Cherry Soda, unlike most of the other mixers that I’ve featured so far, is less of a category and more of a catch-all-term for anything which is soft (non-alcoholic), fizzy and tastes of cherry.

Often, it seems that Cherry Soda is a spin-off from an already successful product such as a cola (Cherry Coke, Pepsi Wild Chery), lemonade (7-Up Cherry), or whatever Dr. Pepper is.

As such, it doesn’t really have a defined history, although cherry soft drinks seems to have been around since the 19th Century. Given this lack of information, I have created a Cherry Soda timeline, marking major events in its history.

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TASTING

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The drinks’ tastes could be broadly separated into two categories:

1) Cherryade – soda singularly flavoured with cherry; and
2) Cherry Cola – cola (including Dr. P) that has been flavoured with cherry.

CHERRYADE

Barr’s Cherryade
This smelt of sweet cherry jelly, being reminiscent of “pop-shop” cherryade. Magneta in colour and with a medium fizz, we found it to be pleasant; there was a morello cherry flavour that was quite refreshing.

Tango Cherry
This had a distinctive smell of red cherry sweets and a deep red colour. With a medium fizz, it was full of the flavour of juicy cherries with a little bitterness afterwards. Some of our panel found the flavour to be a bit too intense and all disliked the cloying, squeaky-teeth feeling at the end.

Cherry 7UP
Unlike the previous two, this one smelt of dried, sweet almond and dried cherries. I’m always surprised that this is clear. It tasted sweet with a sour note, but was quite fizzy. Overall, this was fruity and well-balanced; an easy favourite of the panel.

Cherry Vimto
This smelt bright, with lots of sweet cherry. It also tasted quite sugary and syrupy, with lots of sweet cherry, but was also rather cloying; after a short while, the flavour just dropped away, leaving a watery finish.

CHERRY COLA

Coca Cola Cherry
This had a strong nose of cherry and vanilla and was very fizzy indeed. Sadly, the taste seemed to be rather minimal; some of the panel were quite familiar with it and noted that the flavour does increase as the drink warms up. The primary taste was of almond and marzipan.

Pepsi Wild Cherry
Released in 1988  this is primarily available in the US.
This had a clean nose of zingy cherry, with a hint of toasted almond. The taste was great – cool and crisp. There was a balanced sweetness with a lasting, tangy cherry flavour, accompanied by a medium-level of fizz. This was well-liked by the panel.

Pepsi Max Cherry
This is a recent addition for the UK market, which was launched in October 2011.
With a balanced nose full of strong notes of cherry bakewell (cherry and almond), this had a medium-to-high fizz.

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Dr Pepper Cherry
Released in 2009, this is primarily available in the US.
Dark chocolate brown in colour, this was very similar to Dr Pepper, but with perhaps a touch more cherry (although this could be at least partially down to suggestion). This has a high level of fizz and is slightly creamy. We found it to be enjoyable to drink, but very close to Regular Dr. Pepper.

Mountain Dew Code Red
Sweet jammy flavours, high fizz, cherry lighter than many and quite similar to cherryade pretty good though some almond/marzipan flavours too. Rather refreshing if not perhaps a bit too fizzy and sweet. That said I really like it. 7/10
Dr Brown’s Original Black Cherry Soda
Rich morelo cherry flavour, with hints of vanilla. Very tasty, nice texture, quite fruity and not too sweet. Maybe a touch hollow at the end but overall, pretty good.

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RESULTS

COCKTAILS

#1 Coppertone
[30ml Hoxton Gin,10ml Lime Juice, 80ml Cherry Cola]
Typically, this uses Malibu Coconut Rum, but as I had none, I thought that I’d use Hoxton Gin, which has quite a strong coconut element.

#2 Deep South Cherryade
[30ml Bourbon, 60ml Cherry 7up, Garnish with a slice of lemon]

#3 Singapore Fizz
[30ml Gin, 5ml Triple Sec, 5ml Benedictine, 20ml Lemon Juice, 60ml Cherryade]

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4

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Ice Tea Tasting with History, Cocktails and Home-made Recipe – Mixer Companion VIII

HISTORY

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Although tea has been drunk for centuries, ice tea or iced tea is thought to have originated in the American South. One of the oldest recorded references to it, an appearance in a South Carolinian cookbook, is from 1795, although the first “modern day” recipe comes from the 1879 book, ‘Housekeeping in Old Virginia’; interestingly, the latter was made with green tea.
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Today, ice tea is available throughout the U.S. and across the world, although it seems to continue to enjoy a great following of folks from the Southern States. In the U.K., the biggest brand is Lipton, although Nestle’s Nest-tea is available in some locations.
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TASTING

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Lipton Lemon
Quite fresh, this had crisp hints of fresh lemon and then black tea. There’s an obvious dryness from the tannins at the end. Not too sweet and, although it could use a bit more flavour, it was nonetheless rather refreshing.
6, 7 (My Score, Mrs. B’s)
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Lipton Peach
Slightly darker than the Lemon variety and with a ripe peach nose. This had a well-rounded, fruity taste; the tea flavours were still there, but weren’t so pronounced. Full flavours, with some dryness at the end, but – overall – refreshing.
8, 9

Pokka Peach
The smell of this one was rather horrid, like stewed tea and slightly overripe fruit; very off-putting.
To taste, this was very different to the Lipton: much sweeter and slightly musky, with some additional floral elements. We found it difficult to taste the tea very much as it was a bit sickly; so much so, that it was difficult to finish the glass.
3, 4

Lipton Mango
This was the darkest of the Lipton teas and was quite fruity, with a strong mango flavour that remind me of mango sorbet. There were some black tea notes, but the tea came across mostly via the tannins at the end. Despite this, it was quite sweet, but easy and pleasant to drink; merely not quite as refreshing as the peach and lemon versions.
7, 8

Pokka Mango
This was another variety with an off-putting smell: hints of rotting cabbage and stale teabags. It was also far, far too sweet, rather cloying, very sickly and, again, the fruit tasted past its best. Finally, there were hints of bitter mint leaves at the end. Not recommended.
4, 2

Lipton Green Tea Lemon
A light yellow-green in colour, this had an intriguing, oyster-like nose with a hint of copper. Clean and crisp, the flavour was distinctly different and made for a nice change. The tea came through well and the lemon gave it a nice lift. A less intense, less sweet variety.
8, 5

Lipton Sparkling Citrus
Initially a tannin and tea muskiness followed by a burst of citrus and a light sweetness. It is fizzy but not too much with gives it quite fresh character and makes it stand out from the crowd. That said toward the end there is something lacking and the flavour seems a bit hollow. 5, 6

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The first batch of ice teas that we tasted were all based on unspecified black or green teas, but what if you use a different sort of blend?
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Carrefour Earl Grey
This was notably dark in colour and, suitably, was full of dark, floral flavours and rich, bitter tannins. The flavours then moved towards floral citrus and bergamot. Altogether, it was rich, succulent and very tasty. We found it to be exceptionally refreshing, with some intriguing hints of chocolate on the finish. Frankly, superb!
8, 8
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Carrefour Darjeeling
This ice tea was very pleasant: not too sweet, nor too bitter. I found it to be reminiscent of home-made varieties. There’s a dryness from the tannins and a touch of citrus. It’s a bit floral, but overall there’s no discernible difference between the Darjeeling and unspecified black tea. Quite fresh and worth trying.
7, 7
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RESULTS

MAKE YOUR OWN

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Ice tea is one of the easiest and cheapest soft drinks to make at home. You also have a lot of control over the sweetness and taste in general of the final product, making it a good one to try. US President Gerald Ford was rather partial to home-made ice tea.
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An easy recipe, basically you’re just making tea and adding sugar and lemon and chilling it.
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Add boiling water to a saucepan.
Add One Teabag / 2 Tsp Loose Tea for every 750ml/26oz of Boiling Water
Allow to steep for 10 minutes.
Remove teabags and add sugar and lemon juice to taste (I tend to use about 1tsp of sugar and 20ml Lemon Juice for every 750ml of Ice Tea)
Allow to cool, bottle and chill.
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COCKTAILS

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Tea Spike
[30ml White Rum, 10ml Dark Creme De Cacao, 80ml Ice Tea]
Quite pleasant, jammy then some dusky chocolate notes. I think the rum compliments the tea well. Rather an unusual drink but very refreshing with a hint of almond on the finish.
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Bengal Tiger
[30ml Cognac, 80ml Ice Tea, 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters]
Rather pleasant but as my Ice Tea is not very sweet I needed to add a dash of sugar syrup to balance the drink. Cool and refreshing it fits in nicely with a lot of the work Cognac producers, such as Courvoisier, are doing to promote the mix-ability of Cognac.
Royal Tea
[30ml Beefeater Gin, 10ml Lemon Juice, 80ml Earl Grey Ice Tea]
Very pleasant, quite orangey which comes from the botanicals of the gin, the bergamot of the earl grey ice tea and the garnish. crisp and very very refreshing, great for a slow summer afternoon. I’m hope Her Majesty would approve.


Southern Kick
[15ml Whiskey, 15ml Southern Comfort, 60ml Ice Tea]

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Soda Water Tasting – Mixer Companion VII

The History

Soda water is carbon dioxide dissolved in water and it was the first carbonated soft drink. Although the water from some natural springs has a light carbonation effect, it wasn’t until the 18th Century that carbonated water was created artificially and bottled for sale.

Artificially carbonated water (or soda water) was invented in 1767 by Natural Philosopher and Clergyman, Joesph Priestley*. It has been suggested that at the time he theorised that it could have been a possible cure for scurvy. He created soda water in his initial experiments by suspending a bowl of water over a beer vat in a Leeds brewery; the carbon dioxide from the fermenting beer dissolved into the water, thereby giving it a fizz. At the time, this was known as “fixed water”.

Priestley never pursued any commercial gain from his discovery, but a jeweller from Geneva, Jacob Schweppe, did.

Schweppe was a self-described “enthusiastic amateur scientist” and spent his spare time recreating experiments that he read about in scientific journals. After recreating the experiments, he decided to continue with them in search of a marketable product. Initially, he gave samples away for free, but by 1783 he was successfully selling them under the Schweppe name.

Today, soda water is created around the world and also known as carbonated water, club soda, fizzy water and seltzer.

The Tasting

Soda water is just soda water, right?

Well, that’s what I thought, until I did a mini tasting of a few varieties and was surprised at how different they were. After that little experiment, I decided that the topic need a closer look.

In addition to tasting the waters on their own, I tasted them in a great soda water cocktail, the Gin Collins. I used Brecon Dry Gin – the only Welsh Gin. Tomorrow, I will feature an article that looks at this spirit in a little more depth.

Schweppes

Made by the company founded by Jacob Schweppe.

Own
This had a high level of fizz and had a slightly chalky, mineral-like quality. Overall, it was quite clean and rather nice.
Gin Collins
Very, very fizzy, this was also slightly musky, with citrus and juniper coming through afterwards. I found this to be quite refreshing, but probably too effervescent for most.

1870

Made by the Silver Spring company, who also make a variety of own-brand supermarket mixers.

Own
On its own, the soda water was aggressively fizzy; almost coarse on the tongue. For some panel members, the powerful fizz made this quite difficult to drink. A very basic mixer that is very effervescent.
Gin Collins
Quite a standard Gin Collins; refreshing, but maybe a bit too fizzy.

Perrier

Perrier have been selling water since 1898. The Perrier spring is located in the Gard district, in the city of Vergèze, which is located in the south of France, between Nîmes and Montpellier. It’s also worth noting that when drinking an Americano in A View To A Kill, James Bond specifies using Perrier, stating that the easiest way to improve a poor drink was by using a good mixer.

Own
Quite different to the soda waters, this had a medium level of fizz and a richer mouth feel. Very fresh and clean. The fizz was very pleasant, reminiscent of Champagne.
Gin Collins
Rather tasty and particularly fresh. Clean, with a decent effervescence that is not overpowering. Top notch.

Fevertree

This is a relatively recent release from the company that started the trend in Premium Mixers, with their lemonade, ginger beer and variety of tonics.

Own
An intriguing, peachy nose and quite intense bubbles made this come across as rather fruity. Fresh and invigorating, this was a definite favourite of the panel.
Gin Collins
Crisp and fresh. This drink had a good balance of fizz, with a few fruity hints from the water. There was also a little touch of chalk, but all-in-all it was really pretty good.

San Peligrino

Own
With a very low level of fizziness, this came across as rather drab and in need of a bit more power. There was also a little bitterness at the end; generally, it was flat and a tad cloying. Some of the panel likened it to dissolvable aspirin.
Gin Collins
Okay and quite fresh, but rather flat; it needed both more fizz and flavour.

*Priestley is  a pretty interesting character and I must seek out a biography of him; in addition to inventing soda water, he discovered/invented the pencil eraser (he called it a rubber) and was a co-discoverer of oxygen.

Lemonade Tasting with Pimms

Today’s mixer companion will feature fizzy Lemonade, also known as Limonade or Lemon Soda. For the purposes of this article, “Lemonade” is defined as a sparkling, sweetened soft drink flavoured with lemon or lemon and lime.
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Although the origins of lemonade go back to the Middle Ages (maybe as far back as ancient Egypt), this more modern interpretation was introduced shortly after the rise of artificially carbonated water, over 150 years ago. R Whites lemonade was first produced in 1845.Fizzy Lemonade is often drunk on its own or with a shot of lime juice, but it’s other main use comes into play when mixing with Fruit Cups. For this reason, each lemonade that we tasted was tried both on its own and also with Fruit Cup; on this occasion, we decided to use Pimm’s, a very popular brand.
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The Tasting

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Schweppes Original
This had a good amount of fizz, but wasn’t overly effervescent. The flavour was clean and rather fresh with some juicy lemon, but it was a little bit cloying at the end with a hollow, artificial sweetness on the finish. Otherwise, rather good.

Schweppes Original contains Aspartame and Sodium Saccharin

With fruit cup, the Schweppes makes quite a sweet drink, but with ice and a citrus fruit garnish, it is a very typical example and nothing out of the ordinary. Thankfully, the fruit cup takes away the hollow artificial sweetness from the finish, replacing it with a very slight woodiness.

R White
This had a really juicy, lemon nose. On the tongue, it had a medium-to-high fizz and a slight, dusty muskiness (which I actually quite like). It wasn’t too lemony, but generally quite inoffensive and pretty refreshing. There was a stronger lemon note at the end.

R White Premium Lemonade contains Aspartame, Saccharin and Acesulfame K

With Pimm’s, this was a little bit more bitter than the Schweppes, making quite a complex and rather flavourful drink. If you don’t like drinks too sweet, this should work for you; it was also quite light and less syrupy.

Barr’s Lemonade
A rather intriguing nose of ice* was followed by a medium-to-low fizz and a drink that was initially quite sweet; the lemon flavour seemed a bit hidden, although there were some creamy vanilla notes. Overall, this tasted of melted lemon ice, which was quite nice and very thirst-quenching, but lacking on the strength of lemon flavour and, overall, was too sweet.

Barr’s Lemonade contians Aspartame and Acesulfame K

With fruit cup, Barr’s was really sweet and syrupy, with some root beer qualities. I found it to be far too sweet for my palette and rather unbalanced.

Waitrose Own Brand
Quite clean and juicy, lemon really comes trough, med-high fizz. Pretty good but a bit cloying at the end.With Fruit Cup, not bad, maybe a touch to sweet but the fruit cup comes through and then the flavour drops off quickly.

7 UP
This had a medium-to-high fizz and relatively strong notes of lemon, lime and a little cream, like some sort of fruit chew sweet. There was also a nice, fresh tartness at the end, although the high level of fizz may make you feel a bit bloated if you drank it too quickly.

With Pimm’s, this was fizzier and more bitter than the others that we tried; there were some citrus and herbal notes, which were quite nice. This seemed to be more of a laid back drink, without any in-your-face sweetness. Very refreshing and rather quaff-able.

Sprite
This had medium levels of both fizz and citrus. It seemed more like a stereotypical “lemonade” than 7 UP, although we found it to be a little lacking on the citrus and overall flavour. Still, this was quite refreshing.

Alongside the fruit cup, this tasted rather anonymous, a bit flat, and maybe a touch too sweet, but, overall, really rather unremarkable.

Fevertree
With a medium level of fizz and a strong, tart lemon flavour, this lemonade had probably the strongest, freshest lemon flavour of all those that we tried. It was quite tasty and less sweet than the others; the taste was similar to soda water mixed with a good slug of fresh lemon juice. Overall, this tasted clean, unadulterated, vibrant and fresh.

With Pimm’s, this was great: with the lemonade being less sweet than the others, you can taste the fruit cup a lot more,

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Cream Soda Tasting, with History, Cocktail and Home-made Recipes

HISTORY

The exact origins of Cream Soda are hard to come by; all but one reference seems to point to it being of American creation. It is also possible that for a long time the terms “ice-cream soda” and “cream soda” were interchangeable.
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I spoke to a chap who’s family have been making cream soda for generations and he said that he thought that the modern bottled version was produced to recreate the ice-cream soda of American ice-cream parlours. He also mentioned that, at times, Cream Soda has been green and been flavoured with lime.
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The oldest reference to Cream Soda that I managed to find was in the recipe given below, from Vol. 10 of the Michigan Farmer, published in January 1852. Although it contains some dairy products, I think that it would be a far cry from today’s varieties.
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TASTING

In our tasting of these, we tried a total of seven; here are our thoughts.
A&W
Like the A&W Root Beer, this is made with aged vanilla, but, unlike the Root Beer, it also contains caffeine.
Colour: Amber Brown (like Root Beer)
Nose: Pure vanilla, although one panelist picked up pink wafer biscuits.
Taste: Not too fizzy and quite smooth. Heavy, with lightly buttery vanilla and a short finish.
Overall score: 21

Barr’s American Cream Soda (ASP)
Colour: Clear, with a hint of straw yellow
Nose: Short, predominantly vanilla
Taste: Medium-high fizz and an unobtrusive flavour of milk bottle sweets with some vanilla. Overall, rather thin in terms of flavour. Cloying and artificial at the end, with a slight soda-water quality.
Overall score: 15

Ben Shaw (SodSac)
Colour: Clear
Nose: Fruity vanilla
Taste: Very sweet, but quite watery; not balanced. The initial flavour of vanilla implodes to a watery nothingness, followed by a cloying feeling. Very disappointing.
Overall score: 12

Morrison’s “The Best” Cream Soda
Made with real Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla.
Colour: Clear, with a faint green/yellow tint
Nose: Vanilla ice-cream with a touch of berries.
Taste: Medium fizz, a touch of citrus (but more akin to citric acid than any particular fruit) and vanilla and then a flavour void. Artificial, with an unpleasant metallic flavour at the end.
Overall score: 9

D&G Cream Soda

This one was described on the front of the can as a “Mixed Flavour Soft Drink” and on the back as having a “Mixed Fruit Flavour”.
Colour: This drink was clear, but had little white specs floating in it. (see picture)
Nose: Very faint; slightly fruity, with a touch of vanilla.
Taste: Awful: a mess of sickly vanilla and artificial fruit flavours.

A real shame, as their Old Jamaica Ginger Beer is superb. The reaction from the panel was so strong that I’ve decided to include some of their quotes:

“Awful and offensive.”
“If you want a nice Cream Soda, don’t buy this.”
“Don’t buy this.”
Overall score: 4

Barr’s Originals (“Cream Soda with a Twist of Raspberry”)
According to the can, this is based on Barr’s original recipe and contains only natural flavours.
Colour:
Nose: Rhubarb & Custard,  jam and cream, jelly & ice-cream
Taste: Tastes like jelly and ice-cream and the jelly & ice-cream flavoured Panda Pop. Nice and jammy and silkily creamy. Good, strong flavour with a good balance. All members of the panel liked this.
Overall score: 27

Mark and Spencer Cream Sodas
Marks & Spencer’s own-brand Cream Soda, which is flavoured with “Vanilla Cream Soda”.
Colour: Clear
Nose: Vanilla ice-cream, with a slight nutty/popcorn element.
Taste: “About right” was the judgement of most of the panel (high praise indeed). Pleasant to drink; strong, but not overpowering. The vanilla was not too sweet and not cloying.
Overall score: 26

COCKTAILS

In addition to trying the sodas on their own, we tried some cocktails where it is used as a mixer.

#1 Cream of the Crop
[25ml Johnnie Walker Black Label, 50ml Cream Soda, Ice and a Lime Wedge]
This was served at the Johnnie Walker Racing Bar at Goodwood Revival. We thought that this was an unusual cocktail that works surprisingly well and it was my favourite of the drinks that they had at the bar.

 The cream soda is immediately evident as a very appropriate choice of mixer, given our vintage setting; the nose was strong, creamy and sweet, like milk bottle sweets. The taste was similarly sweet, with a smooth, creamy texture; the milky creaminess stayed at the top of my mouth. The Black Label came through afterwards, but it was faint and mainly served to add some weight with a slightly heavier, spicy, dark-toffee-like sweetness, highlighted by the orange. This would be good for those with a sweet tooth who don’t think that they could like a whisky cocktail.

Moscow Moo

Moscow Moo

#2 Moscow Moo
[50ml Vodka, 100ml Cream Soda, 25ml Lime Juice]
This is, essentially, a Moscow Mule with the ginger subbed for cream soda. I found this to be rather pleasant: fresh and creamy, with a zingy tartness from the lime that livens the drink up. Mrs. B was very keen, too.

The Kitten Cooler

The Kitten Cooler

#3 Kitten Cooler
Nice and cooling, with extra flavour from the grenadine and the lime juice. Be careful not to overdo the grenadine; just a splash can add some jammy berry flavours that work well with the cream and citrus. This is a good way to spice up a mediocre cream soda.

MAKE YOUR OWN

Finally, I tried two methods of creating home-made Cream Soda. Here are the results.

L:R Vanilla Syrup Method and 1852 Recipe

Vanilla Syrup
This was quite sweet, with a strong vanilla flavour and could maybe do with a bit more depth. I used some vanilla flavouring, but I think a slower-infused syrup using vanilla pods and maybe some small amounts of another spice would be better.

1852 Recipe
The product of this recipe smelt like egg white and rather disgusting, with a similar taste. It’s quite sweet and very hard to drink. A product of its time, I think.