Make Mine a Martini – Barroom Book Reviews

There has been an increasing interest in pairing food with wine for many years now and whisk(e)y is starting to get a look-in, too, but what about other spirits such as gin and vodka? What about moving beyond pairing spirits on their own to pairing them in mixed drinks?

FINAL Book - Make Mine A Martini

Kay Plunkett Hogge’s new book, “Make Mine A Martini”, is a cocktail book that starts to look at this. It features “130 cocktails and canapes for fabulous parties”. I’ve picked out a selection of drinks to try and have paired them with some snacks using the suggestions from the book, a recent chat I had with Kay herself (at a Burrough’s Reserve event), and a little of my own inspiration.

Vodka Cocktails

Sea Breeze
[30ml Vodka – 80ml Cranberry Juice]
The creaminess of the vodka comes through well, making the drink reminiscent of tart strawberries and cream. A wedge of lime add zestiness, but with a half-decent vodka you really don’t need it and, with a characterful vodka like Spirit Works, the extra citrus would likely spoil the balance. This is a nice drink to enjoy with cheese and fruit.

Vodka Drinks - Seabreeze, Greyhound, Screwdriver

Vodka Drinks – Seabreeze, Greyhound, Screwdriver

Screwdriver
[30ml Vodka – 80ml White Grapefruit Juice]
A simple, but delicious drink. The trick with this one is to use freshly squeezed orange juice, either using a conventional juicer or a mexican elbow citrus press. It makes a lovely accompaniment to a starter or a salad.

Greyhound
[30ml Vodka – 80ml White Grapefruit Juice]
If you like grapefruit, then this would be a great drink to try; a more zesty and lively version of a Screwdriver. However, this is probably not for those that find grapefruit too bitter. A great accompaniment to nuts or other salty snacks.

Whisk(e)y Cocktails

Whisk(e)y cocktails - The Green Gimlet & Whiskey Sour

Whisk(e)y cocktails – The Green Gimlet & Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour
[50ml Paddy Irish Whiskey, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice, 20ml Sugar Syrup.
Combine ingredients in a glass with ice and gently stir.]
A delightfully smooth Whisky Sour; probably the silkiest and most easy-to-drink I have ever had. If you know any people that decry, “I don’t like whisk(e)y”, I suggest giving them this to try; they’ll be surprised. It’s a simple and sippable drink where the delightful character of the whiskey comes through.

The Green Gimlet
[60ml Chivas Regal Scotch, 30ml Fresh Lime Juice, 10ml Sugar Syrup – 3-4 Basil Leaves.
Add all ingredients to a shaker and gently muddle, shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.]
The flavour of the Scotch comes through but has a gentle subtlety to it, the lemon adds some tart zesty liveliness and some extra depth is add by the crisp leafy notes of the basil. Shaking adds a velvety texture to the drink. A great pre-dinner drink to have with appetizers or canapes.

Gin Cocktails

Fine & Dandy Cocktail

Fine & Dandy Cocktail

Fine & Dandy
[40ml Beefeater Gin, 20ml Cointreau, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice – Dash of Angostura Bitters. Shake ingredients, before straining into a glass.]
I’ve chosen this drink because, when I met Kay, she said that it was one of her current favourites. I have to admit, it wasn’t a drink that I had ever mixed myself. Now, Kay really likes Beefeater Gin and I think that it’s a great choice for this drink. Whilst the gin still has the classic, bold botanical mix, it also leans slightly towards citrus flavours with its use of seville orange and lemon. These notes work particularly well with the lemon juice and luscious orange notes of the Cointreau.

Negroni
[Equal parts – Beefeater Gin, Red Vermouth and Campari]
At the Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve event where I met Kay, I asked what food would be a good accompaniment to a Negroni. Beefeater’s Master Distiller, Desmond Payne, suggested macaroni cheese with salty bacon in it, which I considered a superb idea, and one that I was eager to try once I got home.

FINAL Make Mine a Martini - Beefeater Negroni Mac Cheese

The result was excellent: the bold bitter and herbal flavours complemented the creamy and intense macaroni cheese, and the salty, smoked bacon added a burst of flavour so that the food stood up to the intensity of the cocktail.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

Basil Lemonade
[A mix of fresh lemon juice, water, muddled basil leaves and sugar to taste.]
This is a delightful, light, and refreshing drink, with fine hints of herbal, leafy basil. It makes a lovely accompaniment to most foods, but especially rich pasta sauces.

Lime & Lemongrass Spritzer
[Muddle half a lemongrass stalk into a tall glass, fill glass with ice, and add lime juice and sugar. Top up with soda water.]
A very light drink, well-suited to sipping during hot afternoons whilst enjoying some tiffin or tapas. The light, but complex citrus notes from the lime and lemongrass are both invigorating and thirst-quenching.

FINAL - nonalcoholic - Make Mine A Martini

Levan-thai-ne Iced Coffee
[Muddle 3 cardamom pods, 1/4 star anise, and a shot of ground coffee in a pestle and mortar. Use these spiced coffee grounds in your cafetiere along with boiling water and then leave to cool.]
Thanks to the spice, the flavour of this is very reminiscent of chai coffee. I like this served frappe with a little cream or milk layered over the top. With or without milk, it’s a lovely choice for the end of the meal.

Make Mine A Martini by Kay Plunkett-Hogge, Published by Octopus Books, ISBN: 978-1-84533-881-7 – £14.99

Cocktails with… Beefeater Summer Gin – Blackcurrant, Elderflower and Hibiscus!

Okay, so I’m a little behind the times with this review and a little out of season, but as I’m quite a fan of Beefeater, a London Dry Gin that is actually distilled in London, I thought I’d take the time to write this review up. It’s still available so, if you like the sound of it, maybe you can be lucky enough to pick some up. I am speaking about Beefeater Summer, which takes the classic nine botanicals in Beefeater’s recipe and adds three bonus ones: Blackcurrant , Elderflower and Hibiscus Flower.

Released in May 2010, this has since been followed by Beefeater Winter (October 2010) and Beefeater London Market (June 2011). Whether there will be any more limited editions is anyone’s guess, but I sure hope so!

I remember being quite excited about Beefeater Summer, the start of a limited edition range that I have only ever seen reflected in the Berkshire Mountain Ethereal range of gin. Here are my tasting notes.

#1) Own
Nose: Juniper and some floral muskiness, mixed in with berry notes; I was reminded of elderberries, a hint of strawberry and an additional, dry berry note. Overall, it was quite fresh and light and, well, summery.
Taste: Initially very smooth, with some full, ripe berry flavours that gradually give way to lighter, sweeter floral elements, some vanilla and then the familiar coriander and juniper. There’s quite a sweet finish, almost like Old Tom Gin,with a similar floral intensity.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Lovely; really fresh, fruity and invigorating. The juniper and coriander are a bit lighter here; there are some floral notes, as well as a touch of berry. I thought this was really nice and perfect for a hot, hot day.

#3) Martini
Tasty; quite delicate, but complex, too. This was very, very fresh, zingy and peppy, and would make a really nice pick-me-up with a summer floral factor. I really like this.

#4) Frozen (from the Freezer)
Very smooth, with a silky texture. The juniper comes through, as does some fruity berry notes and citrus; additionally, there was elderberry/flower on the finish. This is quite a light and floral gin, but the more perfumed elements are neatly counteracted by the fruity berry character.

#5) Negroni
A rather fruity Negroni with a little extra energy, courtesy of the lively floral and berry notes. The classic notes of juniper and citrus are still there, which makes you know you’re still drinking a gin Negroni. Overall, the gin works well, with the other ingredients creating a smoother than normal Negroni, whilst keeping the usual bittersweet finish.

#6) Collins
This is summer in a glass! The Collins is naturally a great, sunny season cocktail and so the addition of some floral notes is superb. The blackcurrant works well with tartness of the lemon juice, creating one of the best gin Collins out there.

#7) White Lady
Pretty tasty. The blackcurrant comes through strongly, making this quite a tart White Lady. Nonetheless, it’s still very enjoyable, being crisp and fresh with a touch of zing.

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Cocktails with.. Beefeater London Market Gin


Last Tuesday saw myself, Mr. Hartley and a plethora of other drinks-writers head to Battersea for a sneak peak of the new gin from Beefeater, Beefeater London Market Gin as well as a chance to learn a little bit more about the new cocktail website Gin & Tales. This is the fourth new gin Beefeater in as many years, all a variation on the original; I thought this a good opportunity to look at the story so far.

Beefeater itself has nine botanicals (I shall refer to these as the “Classic 9”). These are:
Juniper, Angelica Root, Angelica Seed, Coriander Seed, Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Orris Root, Liquorice Root and Almond. With each of the “Beefeater Variations”, the master distiller has used these nine botanicals as a base and added three more to create the variant. The details of these additional botanicals can be found below.

Beefeater 24 was released in October 2008 and was created, in some ways, as a replacement for Crown Jewel, a gin which was first released in 1993 and made using the Classic 9 botanicals, plus Grapefruit; designed for the export market, Crown Jewel was bottled at 50.0%. Beefeater 24 was also to be Beefeater’s Premium Product.

Beefeater Summer was released in May 2010 for a limited period and formed part of a pair along with the Beefeater Winter (October 2010). This led to speculation by some of an Autumn variety (perhaps with Pumpkin, Cranberry and Pear?) as well as a Spring Gin (Rhubarb, Mint & Cherry, maybe?). As far as my “sources” tell me, there are no such plans as yet; I don’t think Mr. Payne wants to get stuck into that sort of cycle.

And that brings us to June 2011 and the release of London Market Gin. The gin was designed to reflect the smells and sensations of a London Food Market in summer, a nod to the fact that James Borough used to scour London’s Markets in search of the finest exotic botanicals. The guest botanicals are the sort of thing you could ind in London Food Markets in 2011, Pomegranate, Kafir Lime LEaves and Caradmon*

#1) Own
Very soft and slightly sweet, I get juniper, some citrus (probably a touch more than usual with Beefeater) and a long taste of cardamon towards the end. Medium finish.
My main impressions: soft, sweet and cardamon.

On a re-taste (today, first thing with a clean palate) I still get the cardamon but there is a slight bitter jamminess/berry which may well be the pomegranate.

#2) G&T
Very fresh citrus on nose; on the tongue, juniper comes through, as well as some extra citrus. Seems to be quite a classic style of Gin & Tonic. There was a touch of sweetness at the end, but this was only very subtly different to a classic Beefeater G&T.

#3) G&T+
This is what some call a G&T Stripe: a layer of botanical distillate (3-5ml) is layered on top of a Gin & Tonic, in this case I chose a cardamon distillate. This created a lightly louche slick, or stripe, at the top of the glass. Initially, the smell and flavour is of the floating cardamon distillate, but after that you get the normal flavours of the Gin & Tonic, although the sweet citrus and cardamon notes seem to be highlighted to a greater extent. Rather enjoyable.

#4) Martini
Really nice: the cardamon and lime flavours really linger at the end. I used a 4:1 ratio, which seems to work well; the gin flavour is prominent, but there is still space for the taste of the vermouth. Lovely and a really great finish. My recommended garnish would be either a lemon twist or none at all.

#5) Bramble
Quite pleasant; good citrus, a touch of the cardamon and a very round mouth feel. Pretty good.

#6) Gimlet
With the citrus notes of the gin, you would expect it mix well in a Gimlet and it does, although I preferred to reduce the ratio from 1:1 to 2:1 in favour of the gin. Crisp and biting; perfect for giving you a bit more zing and pep.

In Conclusion

I enjoyed the London Market Gin and, having tried it alongside the Winter and Summer, for me, it was a favourite (but then I quite like cardamon). I thought that the lime-like element of the leaves and also the cardamon come through well, although the pomegranate is much more subtle. My favourite way to drink this would probably be on its own or with some ice cubes, although the G&T+ and the Martini were very good, too.

For pictures of our sneak preview, go to our Facebook Group

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

For more cocktail recipes (including what is perhaps the very first cocktail recipe) check out http://www.ginandtales.com/.

Many thanks to the ladies of Bacchus (especially our exceptional hosts, Cara and Laura), Mr. Dre Masso and Beefeater Gin.

*Already a classic botanical in any a gin.

Cocktails with… Beefeater Winter

It seems that Beefeater have excelled themselves in gin innovation this year by launching not just one, but two seasonal varieties of their gin. Beefeater Winter follows their summer edition and, in addition to Beefeater’s normal botanicals, takes flavour from pine shoots, cinnamon and nutmeg. Given the very festive nature of this gin and Mrs. B’s new fondness for hot cocktails, in a new twist for “Cocktails with…”, one half of the drinks we tried were hot.

The COOLIES

#1 Gin & Tonic
We tried this in an icicle Gin & Tonic, using real icicles from a recent cold snap. I really enjoyed this drink, as I do normally with Beefeater, but it was only at the end that I could tell the two apart: Beefeater Winter has a much spicier nose.

#2 Martini
A good Martini; the extra botanicals in Beefeater Winter complement the vermouth well and, although the drink itself was stirred until ice cold, it seemed more warming than your average Gin & It.

#3 Gimlet
A subtle and smooth Gimlet; the gin balances out the lime cordial and is quiet until the end, when the winter spice comes through, followed by a little juniper bitterness.

#4 White Lady
Beefeater Winter produced a beautifully smooth White Lady, and, as with some of the other cocktails we tried, the difference between normal Beefeater is noticeable at the finish of the cocktail.

#5 Aviation
A crisp Aviation. Although it is quite nice, I preferred most of the other drinks.

#6 Bramble
The Bramble rather overpowers Beefeater Winter, with the Creme de Mure making it too sweet; the ingredients don’t seem to blend well.

Icicle Gin & Tonic (with real Icicles!) made with Beefeater Winter

The HOT Ones

#7 Mistletoe Mist
The cranberry and mint are well matched and the nature of the gin means that the flavour comes through without overpowering the drink. This hot and fruity cocktail is a nice alternative to most hot toddies and nogs, as it’s neither creamy nor based on honey.

#8 Hot Apple Gin
This smelt liked apple sauce and reminds me of home-made stewed apples. The warmth of the gin comes through, with a little spice and some apple freshness; it’s a good alternative to the standard hot gin toddy. Mrs B. says it reminded her of a hot apple pie.

#9 Hot Alexander
A hot version of the Original Gin Alexander, this was a punt, but I was pleased with how it worked out. The standard drink is usually served ice cold and so isn’t so great for the winter, but the hot version has a delicious creaminess and provides a good appreciation of the gin and its wintery notes.

#10 Gin Egg Nog
This was a hot variation of the recipe provided by Beefeater. It tasted a little like cake batter, with a flavour of the gin at the end. The gin works well, as it is not too overpowering, but provides some spice. The drink tastes a bit like custard, but, when you consider the ingredients, that’s not too surprising.

#11 Hot Gin Toddy
I think the garnish of cloves add something to the flavour and complements the Beefeater Winter well. This gin makes a very classic gin toddy.

#12 Bakewell
Tastes like a Christmas Bakewell tart: a little milky, with sweet almond notes, all finished off with a cherry garnish. Some juniper and spice at the end.

#13 Buttered Beefeater
Hot buttered rum, Beefeater style. This was incredibly indulgent and probably should take the place of a pudding. It tastes of caramel and butter, reminding me a tad of raw flapjack mix. Drinking it through a top of layer of whipped cream adds to the sweetness and the coolness of the cream contrasts nicely with the warmth of the drink. I used molasses sugar, which seemed to work better with the flavours of this particular gin.

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

In conclusion, I think this is another great innovation and, although I think it works well in some of the cold drinks, it really shines in the hotties; with a bit of innovation and seasonal flair, you can find some perfect winter warmers to make with this gin.

After this review, it begs one question: in the future will there be other seasonal variants of Beefeater? Perhaps a spring or autumnal gin? Time will tell, but I for one would like to see them!

Available for around £18-£20 for 70cl from The DrinkShop & The Whisky Exchange.

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