WHETHER you’re stirring, shaking, layering or muddling, with the soaring popularity of cocktails and the trend for complex infusions, there’s plenty of fun to be had by experimenting with these visual treats at home.
In my little black book of cocktails, good quality vodka and gin are paramount to any bar, along with Angostura bitters and some basic implements such as a Boston shaker, a strainer, a long bar spoon and a jigger for measuring alcohol.
Ice is the most important ingredient to any recipe, and you can never have too many ice cubes. Not only does it chill the glass, but it opens up the flavours in spirits and they should always be served ice cold.
Beyond the timeless classics, here are some interesting cocktails to build as the nights draw in. And try not to skimp on stemware... cocktails should taste as good as they look.
A Manhattan with a twist, this vintage cocktail hails from New York’s Manhattan Club and, traditionally speaking, rye whisky makes the finest Manhattan.
But then, of course, that’s before you’ve started experimenting with a white spirit such as Belvedere Unfiltered Polish Vodka (£38.95, 70cl, www.thewhiskyexchange.com). Full, smooth and textured, the rich flavour married with sweet vermouth and delicate lavender creates a bittersweet seduction.
60m Belvedere Unfiltered, 10ml sweet vermouth, dash lavender bitters
Half fill a mixing glass with ice. Add the Belvedere, sweet vermouth and bitters. Stir well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Bison grass imparts a honeyed sweetness to vodka, and Polish rye vodkas such as Zubrowka (£19.39, 70cl, www.thedrinkshop.com) have been blending it to great effect for many years. Extremely fragrant with soft vanilla scents and a freshness on the finish, the natural herbaceousness of Zubrowka complements the citrus flavours of prosecco.
30ml Zubrowka, 20ml peach puree, 15ml ginger & chilli syrup, 60ml prosecco
Pour the Zubrowka, peach puree and ginger & chilli syrup into a chilled champagne flute, then slowly top up with prosecco. Garnish with physalis orange fruit.
Flavoured syrups are easy to make by mixing one part boiling water with one part sugar, blending with the flavour agent and straining. For this recipe, boil 1ltr of water, 2kg of white sugar, ginger and chilli and simmer for around an hour.
Damson plums make delicious jellies and jams, and London-based artisan distiller Sipsmith has gone one step further and infused its barley-based vodka with damson’s rich, plummy sweetness.
BOMBAY SAPPHIRE GOLDEN WONDERLAND (serves 4-6)
200ml Bombay Sapphire, 50ml Tuaca liqueur, 200ml ginger beer, 200ml cranberry juice, 1 lime cut into wedges
Fill a large jug with cubed ice, then squeeze in the lime wedges. Pour in the Bombay Sapphire, Tuaca and cranberry juice and give it a stir. Top off with ginger beer and stir gently in an uplifting motion for a final time. Garnish with a large mint sprig. Pour into small tumbler glasses filled with ice and a mint sprig.