Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Quick, Quick, Sloe

Cocktail recipes are everywhere, including supermarkets (keen to make a buck by selling you posh licquor). I picked up a leaflet from our local Waitrose and found a sloe gin cocktail called Blackthorn ripe for adaptation.

When seeking inspiration, I often walk the dogs in our nearby spinney, which this year has been abundant with hedgerow gems, none more so than sloe berries. So, this autumn, I made a batch of my own sloe gin. (Recipe for this to follow.)

So, here’s my version, using my own brew. Admittedly, my gin was a bit pale, but the flavour is great. I suspect I used slightly unripe berries in my eagerness.


1 measure sloe gin
2 measure martini rosso
dash of Angostura bitters
twist of lemon

Mix over ice and serve.

Try it with cranberry bitters for a festive twist. Confession - I reused the glog-infused lemon peel for the garnish. Soz.

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 13 December 2013

Legendary liqueurs

So many cocktails require a mix of lemon juice and a dash of Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec.

These orange liqueurs used to be a Christmas treat for the ‘ladies’ in the household. (My grandmother particularly liked Grand Marnier. A neighbour of hers always used to call it Grand Mariner and the name’s stuck.)

But they’re costly to bung in a cocktail. Even the poorer cousin, Triple Sec, is well over a tenner for a small bottle.

I’m currently working on The Golden Bell, book two of the Legends of the Liria series. It’s set in a Morenija, an Mediterranean-style city by the sea, famous for its citronelles, mystic orange trees that grow in every square.

So, when it comes to making a cocktail to celebrate its completion, I began to rummage for some unfussy orange liqueur recipes. To my delight, I found a fabulous website by a chap called Gunther dedicated to all manner of home-made liqueurs, and adapted one of the recipes. It’s simplicity itself, once you’ve mastered the knack of removing the pith from orange peel.

I’ve tried potato peelers, vegetable knives, even scissors for God’s sake. However, the best weapon for me is a grapefruit knife. I slice off the peel fairly roughly, lie it flat in strips and whisk off the pesky bitter white pith in no time at all.

Here’s the recipe for what might turn out to be a halfway decent Triple Sec. (Is that a Double Sec?) It’s a work in progress, so I’ll report back. It won’t be colourless, I suspect. Perhaps a pale, orange. We’ll see.

Six juicy oranges (to yield 480ml juice)
600ml alcohol (cheap schnapps is fine)
420g white sugar

Peel the zest from a couple of the oranges and squeeze the juice from all the oranges into a measuring cup and add water, if necessary, to bring juice to 480ml. Pour the juice, sugar and zest into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten more minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pour the cooled juice mixture and vodka into a Kilner jar, stir to combine and seal. Let steep three to four months before straining off the orange peel and sediment.

Thoughts. I might try brown sugar next time. Brandy instead of schnapps might result in a Grand Marnier-esque potion. I’ll report back.

I feel another trip to Ikea coming on. I need to stock up on Kilner jars.

By Pamela Kelt

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Easy freezy - Xmas ice

A couple of years ago, my daughter did some shifts at a local cocktail establishment, The Kenilworth.

It’s quite a place – 17th-century cottages knocked through into several bars, now done out in a jazz theme – with literally hundreds of cocktails on offer. They make their own fruit syrups, maraschino cherries and so forth.

A particular feature was the giant ice ball maker. Fantastically expensive, this gadget produces satsuma-sized ice spheres for spirits. The industrial-strength kit costs hundreds of pounds. I just wanted a stocking filler for my husband to go in his favourite tipple, Southern Comfort.

I scoured the web, and found some great silicon moulds on ebay and Amazon that start at around £2.50. They’re a simple two-part mould that you fill, stop up and pop in the freezer.

But then, as ever, I got distracted. You should see variety of ice trays out there - just using Amazon and ebay, with search term ice tray and then whatever  you like.

Starting big, what about the Death Star ice-ball maker? Prices from around a tenner. That’s not all. You can create frozen Storm Troopers, Boba Fetts, X-wing fighters, R2D2s, a Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader and even Han Solo in carbonite. What are these people on?

I rather like the Doctor Who tray, with Tardis and Dalek shapes. Great for kids of all ages. On a similar note, there’s space invaders, Lego bricks and pirate skulls. I want them all. 

What a great marketing idea, any authors out there. Ice trays on your book's theme. I could a ship (Ice Trekker), or a set of six for Legends of Liria (Cloud Pearl, Golden Bell, Desert Star, Salamander Ring, Lantern and Falcon). Or even an orchid-shaped one for The Lost Orchid! Somebody stop me.

Moving on. Maritime themes are prevalent – shapes including fish, sharks and a rather jolly quartet of octopuses. Or is that octopice? 

More elegant are the selection of diamond shapes, from mixed sets to stonking great faceted blocks (from around £3 and up). Sports are also catered for, the most common being golf balls. Personally, I think these are dull. But that’s just me.

However, the ultimate in bad taste and ingenuity gets my vote. For those with a dark sense of humour, it’s a Titanic-making ice set, complete with icebergs.

I found one on Amazon for £1.99 including postage. Click. Bargain.

By Pamela Kelt

PS If you're in a festive mood, search for snowflakes, Christmas trees and Santas. However, someone's missed a marketing opportunity. Could I find one with a decent moose to purchase in the UK? Not a one.