Although I love inventing cocktails and seeing people enjoy what I’ve created, I hate public speaking and generally being the focus of attention. So I had mixed feelings last year when, as the main event at our Christmas party, I was challenged to a ‘shake off’ with the other founders of the The London Cocktail Society. On balance, I’d have more happily downed a bottle of Master of Malts’ 100,000 Scovilles – Naga Chilli Vodka. In one.
Hosted by L.T.D. at The Social, it turned out less torturous than I’d anticipated. What with the fear-and-tequila-induced adrenalin rush and sense of achievement/relief when it was all over, I realised it was true what they say about being good to step out of your comfort zone. I even had a little fun, especially when Emma came out wearing a monkey-suit and throwing foam banana sweets into the audience.
The challenge involved each of us making three drinks that we’d typically have at home (150 samples in total), supervised by an industry mentor. I was lucky enough to be teamed with Dre Masso, Emma with Sarah Mitchell of London Cocktail Club and Mark with Andrea Montague of Callooh Callay. Recipes for my three drinks are posted below.
Pomegranate and chilli Margarita
40 ml tequila
20 ml chilli syrup
20 ml lime/lemon juice
4 bar spoons pomegranate seeds
dash orange bitters
Add the seeds to a mixing glass and muddle. Add the tequila, chilli syrup, lime/lemon juice and bitters. Shake hard. Strain into a martini glass and squeeze a little orange peel over the glass.
Hot Plum Punch
100 ml cognac
300 ml water
4-5 tsps Korean Plum tea extract
2 chopped plums
4 heaped tsps Demerara sugar
juice and rind of one lemon
4 star anise
Put the sugar and lemon in a saucepan and leave for about an hour. Add water, plums, tea extract and star anise. Simmer until the anise has infused a gentle flavour. Add a couple of dashes plum bitters. Flame cognac briefly then add tea. Serve in a tea-cup with a star anise garnish.
(NB You can buy Korean Plum tea extract online or Londoners can go to the Korean supermarket under Centre Point).
50 ml gin
25 ml saffron spiced cordial
Few dashes of Mozart chocolate bitters
Stir the gin and cordial in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled and slightly diluted. Strain into a sherry glass and the bitters.
To make the cordial add sugar in water in equal quantities to a saucepan (about 250 ml water). Add 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 allspice berries, 4 cloves, 4 green cardamom pods, few blades of mace, pinch of saffron and a vanilla pod. Simmer on a gentle heat until the ingredients are well infused and the syrup slightly reduced. Cool before use – keep in refrigerator for up to a week.