Your Very Good Health

3rd December 2010

There’s a certain alchemy to great cocktails, sure, but with a little skill and excellent ingredients in just the right combination, you can turn your Christmas drinks party into something special…

The Perfect Winter Warmer…

The first cocktail book ever written contained recipes for hot punch, hot buttered rums, blazers and toddies by the dozen. You couldn't nip out for a bag of ice, or make it easily at home, so cooling drinks was an expensive and uncommon practice. Setting fire to liquid, however, became phenomenally popular… taverns reopened as upmarket hotel bars, barmen developed their skills and out of the heated punch the much loved toddy was born.

Fiery drinks are back in vogue now, feature on many cocktail menus and are so simple to make at home. Given the current big chill, there has never been a better time to try one. Adding the perfect amount of hot flavoured tea (yes, you read that correctly) can change a drink from being just a mixed concoction that would blow your top to an exciting new compound that tantalises the taste buds.

Quality key ingredients make for a superior flavour, of course. The combination in this recipe of Barceló's aged rum and the Bitter Truth Pimento Dram, mixed with hot tea and that striking fruity sweetness-followed-by-bitterness of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters delivers a contemporary Spiced Toddy with the perfect blend of spice and warmth…

40ml Barceló Gran Anejo Rum
10ml The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram
4-5 dashes The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
10ml Sugar Syrup*
Hot Darjeeling Tea – quantity to taste

Put all ingredients into a tea cup or glass and stir.
Add orange peel and grate nutmeg on top.

*made by dissolving 1 cup sugar in 2 cups water

Sacred Spirits

Lovingly created in a microdistillery – the first and smallest commercial distillery of its kind – at the home of Ian Hart in Highgate, north London, Sacred Gin and Sacred Vodka are made to secret recipes, and distilled with frankincense: ideal for festive cocktails and seasonal gifts for spirit lovers.

Sacred Gin is unique in that all the botanicals, including fresh-cut citrus, are distilled separately in glassware under vacuum at a very low temperature, thus eliminating the harsh and bitter flavours prevalent in gins distilled at higher temperatures. Sacred Vodka is made using the same process and it is this freshness that is key to the distinctive character of both.

The gin is loosely based on a formula that dates back to the late 17th century, and contains a total of 12 different botanicals including juniper, cardamom, nutmeg, and Boswellia Sacra (aka Hougary Frankincense) – hence the name. Sacred Vodka is distilled with cubeb, an Indonesian spice that gives a warm, spicy flavour and, of course, Frankincense…

Oranges Are the Only Fruit

Forget the mulled wine and the punch (so predictable!) – and indulge in an altogether more chic Christmas concoction based around France's café favourite, Orangina, created nearly 75 years ago. It might sound an unlikely cocktail component, but top mixologist Matthew Wilkinson has put it to good use in a new line-up of festive drinks.

Its gentle bubbles and blend of citrus flavours (mostly orange, but also mandarin, lemon and grapefruit) lend themselves to a range of zingy mixes.

Gin Gina:
a long, refreshing drink of gin mixed with Orangina, elderflower liqueur, cloudy apple juice and pink grapefruit juice…

Pour 35ml gin into an ice-filled shaker; add 12.5ml elderflower liqueur; measure in 25ml cloudy apple juice; squeeze 40ml fresh juice from a pink grapefruit and measure into the mix; shake; crush some cubes of ice; transfer the newly crushed ice into a tall (14oz) glass; strain the mix slowly over the crushed ice; pour 50ml Orangina over the top; squeeze a little lemon over the drink for a tangy finish; garnish with a physalis fruit and a slice of lemon

BitterSweet:
a festive combination of Campari, Orangina, egg white, peach schnapps, lemon juice, garnished with nutmeg…

Place 25ml Campari into a cocktail shaker; shake your bottle of 50ml Orangina gently and pour into shaker; add 12.5ml Peach Schnapps to the shaker; take 20ml lemon juice and add to the mix; add the white of an egg, being very careful not to break the yolk; add as much ice to the shaker as you can; shake; fill a tall (12oz) glass to the top with ice; strain the mixture into the glass; add a tiny sprinkling of ground nutmeg; garnish with a thin slice of orange zest

Madame Marmalade:
a unique and tangy combination of vodka and lemon juice, shaken with marmalade and Orangina…

Pour 50ml vodka into an ice-filled shaker; add in two healthy teaspoons of English marmalade; measure in 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice; add 20ml Orangina; shake; strain the contents of the shaker into a chilled martini glass (to remove the bits, use a fine tea strainer or sieve); garnish with thinly sliced orange zest, floated in the centre

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