Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas Martini

It's Christmas Day (or at least, it was), which calls for a super special recipe.
Whilst the rest of the world reaches for the Champagne, I reach for the chemistry kit, and set about creating a cocktail fit for a king. Or all three kings, for that matter.
The goal was a fresh, fruity martini, with authentic, natural, and subtle flavouring. To this end, I employed another technique borrowed from the molecular gastronomy cook book: "Sous Vide" cooking. Essentially, this refers to cooking at low temperatures, in a vacuum. For our purposes, this enables infusion of flavours which would normally take weeks (if not months) to be achieved in minutes.
To begin, I finely chopped one gala apple and placed it into a sealable sandwich bag. I then poured in 250ml of Beefeater 24, and worked the bubbles out of the bag before sealing. This was then placed into a second bag to prevent any leakage (in either direction), and immersed in a pan of water which I heated to 60 degrees Celsius, and maintained at that temperature for 20 minutes. The result: a naturally apple flavoured gin, which completely avoids any synthetic flavouring, and takes a fraction of the time you would expect for an effective maceration.
Next, I made an elderflower caviar using calcium lactate, sodium alginate, and a natural elderflower liqueur (from the Chase Distillery). This was done using the typical spherification method, which I covered in a previous video (here).
With both of these steps complete, the preparation was finished.
To make the martini, I started by chilling the glass with ice and soda water (which is standard practice for this type of drink). As I wanted very subtle flavour, I opted to shake the apple infused gin over ice, rather than simply stirring. This would increase the dilution of the gin, taking the edge off the abv (a good idea, since I have removed vermouth from this recipe). With the gin well chilled, I double strained the liquid into the martini glass using a hawthorn and julep strainer, to remove any shards of ice from the cocktail.
The final step was simply to add the elderflower caviar  into the glass using a barspoon, and serve.
Served with pan fried scallops lovingly prepared by Mrs Lowe,  this cocktail was a real hit. Next time around, I shall infuse an entire bottle of Beefeater 24, and simply re-bottle any left over gin for future use.
I particularly enjoy cocktails where a little preparation ahead of time dramatically cuts the time required to make the drink, and so noticeably improves the final product, and this Christmas Martini is a particularly good example of this.

Canela Cafe

Today I'm in Restaurant Alimentum, Cambridge, showing you how to make a lovely winter warmer, the Canela Cafe.
It's essentially a rum based take on the Espresso Martini, which is arguably my favourite digestif. It works all year round, but for that extra festive touch, I've introduced a small pinch of cinnamon, which brings out the delicate spicy touch in the rum.
You'll need:
50ml Los Valientes Rum
10ml Vanilla infused sugar syrup
1 pinch of cinnamon
I espresso shot

Los Valientes Winter Old Fashioned

It's a recurring theme with Los Valientes. Almost without fail, when a bartender is left to play around with this molasses / sugar cane blended rum, they will end up creating a variation on the classic Old Fashioned recipe.
I believe this is due to the rum already being so well integrated, it simply does not require any masking or over dilution.
To illustrate this point, in one of my previous posts, I have shown an Old Fashioned with a ginger foam. When I visited Mark Pope at Alimentum, on Hills Road in Cambridge, he had another angle on this preparation. Mark opted to stick to the classic Old Fashioned recipe, but infuse the rum 24 hours in advance, bringing yet another dimension into the glass.
Taking 250ml of Los Valientes, he added two tea spoons of raisins, two of sultanas, one star anise, half a broken cinammon stick, a tea spoon of orange zest, and 15ml demerara sugar. Mark left this combination to steep for a full 24 hours, subsequently using this as the base for his Old Fashioned.

The result was a fantastic, festive flavoured Old Fashioned. Perfect as a digestif after a rich dessert, or simply to warm you up on these cold winter evenings.
My thanks to Mark Pope, and Alimentum, for hosting us for the afternoon. If you get the chance to check out their fantastic bar and restaurant, you really should. Their website can be found here.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Los Valientes 20 Year Rum

I was going to write a review for this, the favourite of my rum shelf, but decided to take the lazy option. Since Nick Wykes of IPBartenders has already done such a fabulous job of writing a beautiful tasting note already, I'm just going to cut and paste it here!
For what it's worth, I agree with him...

Ron Los Valientes 20 year old


Sometimes it's just a joy to be sitting here doing this, today is one of those days. I have in my maw a healthy slug of Ron Los Valientes 20 year old, charged as I am with telling you about it.

From within the province of Veracruz in eastern Mexico, the Villaneuva family has been producing fine spirits for three generations. Veracruz, and specifically the town of Cordoba, has been famous for it's sugar cane for 500 years and it's both the juice and molasses from this local cane that goes into the small batch production of the Los Valientes range.

The slow fermented juice from the Veracruz cane is double distilled in pot-stills, with only the corazon taken from the second distillation, this is then blended with column distilled, fast fermented, molasses from the same crop. The 70:30 juice to molasses ratio should tell you something of the delights that await.

The 20 year old, numbered and signed by the cellar master, is a deep copper red number with soft, distinct legs that seem to ooze down the glass where other spirits simply adhere to the laws of gravity.

A nose of sweet, mellow pungency, rich in oily phenols, hints at dried fruits, treacle, chocolate and nutmeg. The extended barrel ageing on the Caribbean coast is reminisced with a strong liquorice backbone and nutty char.

If the nose is a valiant one, a brave fighter of 1910, then the palate is a different animal altogether. The 43% abv is immediately evident as an intensely unctuous and spirited spicy clove and bitter almond flavour dominates a medium sweet body. It's a sharp bite that drives a complex character and the Greek is a big fan of adding a splash of spring water to placate the eugenol driven spice. Uprising quelled there are beautiful dark chocolate and hazelnut notes to savour.

The surprisingly restrained and refined palate is thanks to a counter-intuitive approach to ageing whereby much larger, 180 gallon, white oak barrels are used to avoid exaggerating the ageing influence and afford the finished spirit a more sophisticated, lighter, dare I say ethereal quality than many Caribbean aged counterparts.

There's a strong kick, as you might expect, from Los Valientes, but it's balanced and well structured, perhaps a result of the charcoal, cotton and compacted cellulose filtration and almost certainly courtesy of the exclusive selection of the beating Mexican heart of the cane juice distillate.

With a 10, 15 and 20 year old in the range (a 25 year old has been hinted at) there may be more evolution than revolution going on in Veracruz these days but Los Valientes rums are enough to make you want to fire off a Springfield and grow a moustache. I may be some time....

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

How to make the perfect... Hot Toddy

It's December in England. And everywhere else for that matter. But here, especially, this means cold, dark,  soggy evenings.
Try this recipe as a winter-warmer, a traditional 'cure-all' for those seasonal sniffles, or as a delicious digestif.
Start with two bar spoons of honey in a traditional whisky glass.
Add in four drops of bitters, then dilute with 75ml of boiled water. Throw in two slices of lemon, and allow to steep as the liquid cools for two to three minutes.
Next, add in 50ml of bourbon (sweeter than scotch - I always use Makers Mark). Inhale deeply as the whiskey hits the hot solution and your olfactory nerve will think it's Christmas.
If necessary, add more honey to sweeten to your taste.
Now put your feet up, and enjoy. After all, you've been ever so good this year...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

New / Old Fashioned Video

Here's a short video of another drink I put together on this blog last month.
The write up of the cocktail is here, and the video follows below.