A good friend of mine is obsessed with Molly Keane’s novel Good Behaviour, about a decaying aristocratic family in the 30’s. Not only does he talk about it constantly but he is working on a screen adaptation, likes to bathe in the heroine’s favourite bath essence (Rose and Geranium Floris) and lastly, and most importantly, drinks her favourite cocktail – a White Lady.
And I shall never be bored of hearing him talk about this book. It’s a searingly acerbic comedy of manners and well worth reading (strangely, every charity shop in the land seems to stock a copy – test it out) but ultimately it introduced me to my favourite sours cocktail and for that I shall be ever grateful. Particularly on a hot summers night after a long day.
The recipe in the book calls for equal parts gin, Cointreau and lemon and I’m so used to drinking it this way that the more standard recipe from the Savoy Cocktail book of 2 gin, 1 lemon, 1 Cointreau now seems a little… wrong. Whichever method, a White Lady is an easy drink to adapt so long as you keep to the basic ratio.
Below are two of my White Lady derived recipes. They were inspired by another good friend who is a keen gardener and preserver, and is more than generous in keeping me supplied with her delicious offerings. In fact last year she grew David Austen roses just to make me a supply of the rose petal syrup mentioned below. She also made the rhubarb syrup I use in the Pink Lady. You don’t need to tell me, I know. She’s a keeper.
With the first of the forced rhubarb crop appearing in my greengrocer, I wondered if I could make a really decent cocktail with it. I’ve always been disappointed in Rhubarbtini’s that I’ve had in bars (notably Skylon) as being not quite rhubarby enough but this worked for me.
1 rhubarb juice (if you have a juicer make this fresh if not double the syrup quanties but you might need to add some extra lemon juice)
1 rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
1/2 Grand Marnier
flamed orange peel
Shake well and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with flamed orange peel.
(To keep the rhubarb flavour I had to compromise slightly on strength – but I was using Tanquerey which is a very ginny gin. I’m going to try making it with more subtle brands and see if I can keep both the flavour and the alcoholic kick. )
Simmer rhubarb chopped into 2 inch pieces in a pan with a little water. Strain off the juice (I would use the pulp in a fool with Cointreau, cream and orange zest), add sugar and lemon to taste and reduce to a syrupy consistency over a gentle heat with sugar and lemon to taste.
1 rose liqueur (I use the Gabriel Boudier Dijon brand available from Nicholas wine shops)
A few drops of rose petal syrup ( or sugar syrup if unavailable)
Shake ingredients and serve in cocktail glass. Garnish with a few rose petals (fresh or from syrup).