Saturday, 13 December 2014

Cocktail of the month: Christmas cocktails

I'm not going to lie to you. There is some effort involved this month. But once you've put in a bit of work making a versatile syrup, it's all easy. I have three (yes three!) cocktails for you based on the same syrup. You will be flouncing around looking fabulous and drinking cocktails in no time.

The syrup that ties this cocktails together is made from pomegranate and fresh orange juice. I decided it was a step too far to juice pomegranates myself so I bought pomegranate juice with no added sugar from the health food shop. The exact instructions are in the recipe below. Once reduced, the pomegranate syrup is the most fantastic deep purple colour and has an intriguing sweet but bitter, slightly spiced fragrance.

The first cocktail is based on my classic sour recipe. I hope you've memorized the formula by now. 4 parts alcohol: 2 parts sour: 1 part sweet. I spiced up the gin I'm using here by adding a cinnamon stick, a vanilla pod, a star anise and a cardamom pod to the gin bottle and leaving it to infuse for a week or two. The spices are still in there, infusing away until Christmas. The recipe below serves one but simply multiply the proportions and make in a jug if you have lots of cocktail drinking guests.

The second is a fizz based cocktail, extremely simple and perfect for when visitors call in. It's not too alcoholic either so you could have a good few of these without getting too messy.

The last cocktail is non-alcoholic. Perfect for children or anyone who has to drive. In fact it is also excellent when recovering from a Christmas hangover. It is extremely refreshing due to that slightly bitter tang from the pomegranate combined with the sweetness and the fresh citrus. It is actually quite addictive. This could also be made in a large jug ready to pour out.

In addition to the recipes given below you can find other Christmas cocktail recipes on my older blog: a Christmas pudding vodka cocktail, a Christmas apple punch and a spicy rosehip, rhubarb combination.

pomegranate and orange simple syrup

pomegranate juice (no added sugar) 500mL
freshly squeezed orange juice 500mL
sugar 500g
zest of one orange 

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then simmer until reduced by approximately half the volume. Allow to cool and then strain through a muslin (or clean J-cloth) lined sieve into a jug. Decant into a sterilized bottle and store in the fridge if not using immediately. I put mine in a conical flask for show because I have one and I'm a big chemistry nerd.

spiced pomegranate sour (serves one)
spiced Christmas gin (see above) 60mL
freshly squeezed lime juice 30mL
pomegranate and orange simple syrup  15mL
3-4 drops cranberry bitters (if you have them)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large glass or cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a prepared cocktail glass. Garnish with lime zest.

pomegranate fizz (serves one)

pomegranate and orange simple syrup  20mL
pomegranate seeds and orange twist to garnish

Add the syrup to a champagne flute. Carefully top up with your choice of sparkling wine. Add pomegranate seeds and a piece of orange zest to garnish.

pomegranate refresher (serves one)

pomegranate and orange simple syrup  40mL
juice of 1/2 a lime
sparkling water
pomegranate seeds and orange slices to garnish

Add the syrup and the fresh lime juice to a large glass. Fill the glass 3/4 full with ice. Add the pomegranate seeds and orange slices before filling with sparkling water. 

You can hear me talking about these Christmas cocktail on the Flavour programme (Cambridge 105) at 12 noon today (Saturday 13th December).

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas presents: eat, drink, read

Advent calendars containing chocolate, non-charity Christmas cards, fake Christmas trees. I have a long list of "Things I Don't Approve Of" and many of these are Christmas related. Top of the list are useless and unwanted presents. It can be next to impossible to know what your loved ones would like without asking them outright. A present that can be read, eaten or drunk is the most likely to be useful.
I'm a book obsessive and I believe a present involving books is somehow more morally upright than any other (I have very funny notions, see non-approval list above). Books can and do change lives.

A subscription to Books Ireland is a must for book lovers in Ireland (and abroad). Buy it for yourself or as a gift subscription. Published every two months, every time it arrives on the mat during the year it will remind the lucky recipient what a wonderfully thoughtful person you are. Bonus! I'm a subscriber and occasional contributor (don't let that put you off) and I still get very excited when it arrives. It's great for keeping up to date with all the books being published in Ireland including children's books and reading it informs my book buying every time. 
I wrote a piece for Books Ireland on Irish food and drink books and can recommend the following new books that have come out this year:

Slรกinte by Kristin Jensen and Caroline Hennessy
A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen (new edition)
The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen (new edition)
Gubeen by Giana Ferguson

We are still working our way through the blackcurrant jam mountain of 2013 (not to mention the green tomato chutney lake of 2011) so several people this year will be receiving homemade goodies. Whether it's Christmas puddings, biscuits, jams or chutneys they always go down very well.

I think you all know that I am a big fan of drinking. More importantly I'm very keen on drinking nice things out of nice glasses. It's easy to go and buy a bottle of champagne or a bottle of a spirit as a present but much better is the drink related present that keeps on giving: bitters! They add so much to a cocktail and last forever. While Angostura Bitters are a classic and widely available consider giving a bottle of a less well known bitters. I would highly recommend the following:
Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
Any of the range from Dr Adam Elmegirab

Cambridge Wine Merchants on Cherry Hinton Road often have Rhubarb Bitters. In Dublin the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dawson St have a great range and I LOVE the website for all alcohol related purchases.

If you have time, consider looking through charity shops and antique shops for cocktail glasses. This is where I get most of my stash. If you don't have the time for the search (and it is getting a bit late now) John Lewis have a delightful and affordable own brand range including these bad boys.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Cocktail of the month: sloe warmer

I was struggling with the loss of summer last month. A few Autumn acclimatisation cocktails later and I am back with the seasonal programme. I am out a lot enjoying the scarf and gloves weather (I'm really going for walks so I can listen to the Serial podcast).

When I get back after a late afternoon ramble a warming cocktail seems like just the ticket. This weekend I hope to get organised enough to make it in advance and bring it out with me in a flask.

This is a really easy cocktail. A light sugar syrup infused with spices forms the base and is topped up with sloe gin. You can make a little or a lot of the base depending on how many people are coming out to enjoy the Autumn weather with you.

sloe warmer

2 parts water (I used 2 cups)
1 part sugar (I used 1 cup)
1 part apple juice (I used 1 cup)
spices: cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom pods, juniper berries
squeeze of lemon
sloe gin or vodka

Heat the water, the sugar and the apple juice with the spices in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for at least an hour. Your house is going to smell fantastic at this stage. Strain out the spices, return to the pan and add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Ensure the mixture is nice and hot. Warm a cup or heat proof glass with boiling water. Half fill the glass with the light syrup and then top up with sloe gin. Garnish with lemon slices and spices.

You can hear me talking about this Autumnal cocktail on the Flavour programme (Cambridge 105) at 12 noon today.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cocktail of the month: Autumn acclimatisation

I find the change in the seasons the most difficult. Once I get into the swing of Autumn I adore it: scarves, tights, hats, soup, bonfires, leaves, harvest hymns. I love it all. But while I'm adjusting, I find it tricky. I made it hard on myself this year by grabbing a few days in sunny Spain at the start of October which just delayed the inevitable. This change of season manifests itself as extreme tiredness, crankiness and an overwhelming urge to hibernate. I prescribed myself an Autumnal cocktail in an attempt to get over it. It had to be sloe based. It serves as a reminder to get out into the hedgerows and pick the last of the sloes.
Autumn acclimatisation

50mL medium apple juice (I like the juice from Watergull Orchards)
30mL sloe gin or vodka
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker or pint glass. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary. Pour into a lowball glass filled with ice. Top with slices of apple and sloes if you have them (I freeze some every year when I collect them for garnish purposes).

Hear me talking about this lovely Autumnal cocktail on the Flavour programme (Cambridge 105) at 12 noon today.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Wake up with Wintercomfort brunch

Wintercomfort is a fantastic Cambridge organisation who support men and women who are homeless or vulnerably housed by offering them vital welfare service and opportunities for learning and development. To mark World Homeless Day this Friday 10th October and to raise funds for their vital services, Wintercomfort are encouraging the people of Cambridge to get together for brunch or breakfast. All the details including recipe ideas can be found on their website here.

I held a brunch event for friends this Saturday in advance of the big day. Somehow I squeezed 10 guests into my dining room. Between the cocktails and the Irish black pudding I think we managed to send them home satisfied. Special mention has to go to The Husband for outstanding pudding frying and washing up skills. Running around like a lunatic din't give me much time to take photos, but here are a couple of particularly rubbish ones to give you an idea:

My main thanks are reserved for my lovely guests who took a chance on brunch Chez Aoife, donated their hard earned cash and also contributed to the Toiletries Amnesty, a genius idea from Karen at It's not too late! Get busy organising an event or come along to the breakfast organised at The Centre at St Pauls on Friday.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Cocktail of the month: cigarettes and alcohol

On a quiet day recently the strains of a song from my teenage life reached out across the years. "......'cause all I need are cigarettes and alcohol". Oasis; boy had it been a long time since we were acquainted. But, as is the way, I just couldn't get the damn song out of my head. I slowly realised it was in fact a cocktail vision. A challenge from the universe.

The alcohol component I  have covered, it's got to be bourbon. But cigarettes, in a cocktail? How was I going to pull that one off? I toyed with infusing my bourbon with tobacco but even my adventurous spirit draws the line at experimenting with ingredients likely to poison my drinkers. I turned instead to an ingredient I have had my eye on for a while, Jade Perique Tobacco Liqueur. This liqueur is flavoured with Louisiana Perique tobacco, apparently one of the rarest tobaccos in the world. It's delicious: smooth, woody and herbal. I didn't want to over complicate a cocktail called cigarettes and alcohol so I based my recipe on an old-fashioned.

cigarettes and alcohol (serves one)

30mL bourbon
30mL Jade Perique Tobacco Liqueur
10mL simple syrup (I used my Christmas spice syrup for additional spice notes)
3-4 dashes of orange bitters (you could use angostura instead)
large piece of orange zest
cherry and orange wheel to serve 

Combine the bourbon, tobacco liqueur, simple syrup, bitters and orange zest in a large glass or cocktail shaker. Add ice and stir well. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice and garnish with a cherry and an orange wheel.

You can here me talking about this cocktail on the Flavour, Cambridge 105 podcast here.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Simple cocktail: flat peaches, elderflower and lime

I had just polished off a cocktail I call "cigarettes and alcohol" recipe coming soon). I felt it was time to redress the balance a little. 

I was inspired by a bag of overripe flat peaches, given to me free by a lovely Cambridge market trader at the end of the day. I pureed the peaches, added a dash of agave nectar (the health freak's choice of sweetener) along with lime zest and lime juice. Delicious just by itself, I had to stop myself eating it there and then. Loosened by a glug of elderflower gin (approx 30mL), it still looks healthy even if it does have a little kick. Served over ice and garnished with slices of peach and lime it is extremely pretty and would work equally well with rum, gin, vodka or even (whisper it) as a non-alcoholic drink.

You can here me talking about this cocktail on the Flavour, Cambridge 105 podcast here.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Friday nights and plum vodka cocktails

Friday nights have always been my favourite part of the weekend. When we were young we would stock up on 7up, chocolate and Ripples crisps (they were very fancy at the time) and snuggle in with my parents to watch a film. As I got older and went out and about with my friends I used to love coming home to find my parents listening to music, drinking wine and talking through their week. I'd often join them for a glass and the lowdown on the week. It's a tradition I like to continue. If you pass by our house on a Friday evening you are likely to hear my cries of "make it cosy in here" and "put some music I'll like on". Really, The Husband has a lot to put up with. To make up for my demands I do normally make him a decent cocktail to kickstart the evening.

Last night, we had some simple plum vodka and cava concoctions. I started the plum vodka infusing just a couple of weeks ago but I wasn't able to wait any longer before trying it out. I have three different infusions on the go. Two different varieties of plum and one infusing with the stones as well. The plum vodka stockpile came about after I bagged a bargain on early plums at the Cambridge Sunday market. I was greedy and ended up with more than we could eat. It had to be vodka. Well, it could have been gin but we had drunk all of that so it had to be vodka.

I simply cut up the plums into quarters and added them to a clean kilner jar along with the stones if I was using them and a couple of tablespoons of sugar. I topped up the whole lot with vodka and let it sit for a couple of weeks. When I couldn't wait any longer I strained it through a muslin lined sieve and bottled in a sterilised bottle. I am amazed by the colour; a deep, ruby red. The batch with the stones has a subtle almond flavour which I think gives it a lovely complexity. I actually added a couple of extra tablespoons of sugar and stirred to dissolve at this stage. The additional sugar brought out the plum flavour nicely. 

It had been a long week so no fancy cocktails were on the menu. About twenty minutes before The Husband got home I stuck my last bottle of bin-end cava from The Wine Society in the freezer. Plum vodka, cava and some white currants rescued from the back of the fridge. Cocktail sorted and Friday evening well and truly begun.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Cocktail of the month: gooseberry margarita

I'm seventeen years old and Sarah and I are doing our best to get through a bottle of cheap tequilla in one night, armed only with table salt and some disappointingly dry limes. Those first experiences with tequila will certainly not be filed in the classy section of my cocktail memoirs. 

Oh but the youthful abandon, the joy, the hope for the future. The alcohol snob I fear I have become would secretly trade the vintage glasses, the bitters collection and the library of cocktail books to spend one night in a sweaty, youthful, worry-free and crap tequila-fueled fervour.

But then I pull myself together and get right back to the alcohol snobbery. The tequila we drank was horrific. I wish I had known then that the only tequila to drink should be clearly labelled 100% agave. If it doesn't say that on the label it will contain 51% agave and then rest will be made up with added sugars. Now, I'm not going to claim that tequila is some kind of health food but surely it makes sense to begin with the best ingredients we can. I'm a big fan of the Aqua Riva brand: fantastic taste, understated but pleasing labeling and available at a great price. 

I do love tequila and I was reminded of this at a fabulous brunch "supper club" I went to hosted by the lovely Ivana and Jenna. A Bloody Maria was served up alongside the brunch and as the warm tequila glow began to spread through me I knew I was going to have revisit tequila myself. I couldn't hold my head up if I didn't make it somewhat local and seasonal. Luckily for my cocktail cred the universe intervened and sent me a box of gooseberries in my veg box.

So it had to be a gooseberry margarita. Let's revisit how to make a standard margarita first. It's really not hard.

margarita (serves one)
45mL 100% agave tequila
30mL triple sec
15mL freshly squeezed lime juice
salt for the rim

First prepare your glass. Run a spent lime wedge around the rim and then rotate the wet lip through a dish of salt to create your salt rim. Fill the glass with ice. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice, shake or stir for about 30 seconds. Strain into your prepared glass. Drink and feel tequila happy.

If you have some gooseberries and fancy something a bit more exotic then I highly recommend this variation. First cook down your gooseberries with a little sugar and a tiny bit of water. Once your gooseberries have disintegrated, push them through a fine sieve to create a smooth puree. The resulting cocktail doesn't look pretty but it tastes fabulous.

gooseberry margarita (serves one)

45mL 100% agave tequila
30mL gooseberry puree
10mL triple sec
15mL freshly squeezed lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice, shake or stir for about 30 seconds. Strain into a glass full of ice. Drink and feel tequila happy.

Hear me talk more about this on Flavour tomorrow (Saturday 12th July) at 12pm.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Cocktail(s) of the month: limoncello adventures

It's cocktail of the month time on Flavour. In case you don't have this exciting date marked in your diary, the programme is on air on Saturday the 14th at 12pm. It is full of food news and features in addition to my cocktail ramblings.

For this month's cocktail (well actually two cocktails but we'll get to that in a minute) I've been playing around with limoncello. Now, if you are like me you'll probably be thinking "Limoncello? That disgusting sweet stuff I get free in dodgy restaurants and only drink because I desperately need more alcohol to attempt to cope my life choices?" Yes that stuff. I had a sneaky suspicion it might not be so awful when it was homemade and that it might just make a very handy cocktail ingredient. I had to try it out.

The limoncello itself was easy to make (the recipe is below), it's a great place to start infusing spirits. Of course you could always buy some, that is perfectly OK with me. But if you're looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon that doesn't involve lying in bed watching The Good Wife and mainlining chocolate then you can't really go wrong with making limoncello.

So today I have two very simple cocktail recipes for you using the limoncello. The first is another cocktail that is perfect for drinking in the sun. It's refreshing and full of flavour but light enough in alcohol that you can drink plenty of it. It turns out that basil and limoncello is a life-affirming combination (it really is that good). The second cocktail is perfect for a party. Mixing limoncello, lemon juice and sparkling wine, it's reminiscent of a French 75 but without that drink's sharp edges.

limoncello and basil cooler (serves one)

30mL limoncello (for recipe see below)
15mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
approx 10 fresh basil leaves
sparkling water
lemon slices to garnish

Muddle the basil leaves and the lemon juice in a tall glass with a large spoon or a pestle. Add the limocello, stir and then fill the glass with ice. Top up with sparkling water. Garnish with a couple of lemon slices. I recommend a straw for drinking this one.

cheat's sweet French 75 (serves one)

30mL limoncello (for recipe see below)
30mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
sparkling wine (I used cheap cava and it was grand)
lemon twist to garnish

Add the limoncello and the lemon juice to a champagne flute or coupe, top up with sparkling wine. Garnish with a piece of lemon zest or lemon twist.


4 lemons
500mL vodka
approximately 500mL simple syrup (plain or infused. I used lemon balm infused syrup as I had some in the fridge and I was too lazy to make some plain stuff. It worked beautifully.)

Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, remove the zest from the lemons and place them into a glass Kilner jar. If you can, try to avoid the bitter white pith. Top up the jar with your vodka and seal. Leave it to infuse for about a week. After a week of infusing, strain out the lemon zest and add the simple syrup. I would add it slowly and taste as you go (try not to get too pissed). You might like it more or less sweet than me. It's up to you. Once you are happy with the level of sweetness, pour into a sterilized bottle. It should keep for a year or two. I store mine in the fridge so it's ready for use.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Notes on domestic bliss

Apparently The Husband loves granola. I'm not sure where this love affair started but he was going through it at such a rate that I feared for our solvency. As we had been talking about cleaning out the kitchen cupboards for about six months it seemed like a good time to attempt making granola with what we had at hand. 

After a mooch through my cook books, a quick Google and a stock take of the aforementioned kitchen cupboards I was ready to go. I came up with the following formula and it worked a treat. It leaves room for variation dependent on what you have available and of course your personal preference. Apart form a near miss with an open pack of ground turmeric it was really easy to do and once packaged up in a Kilner jar I was left feeling like a premier league domestic goddess. The Husband was impressed.

This is my basic formula which can be customised as you choose:
3 cups of grains
2 cups mixed nuts, seeds, coconut
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup sweet stuff (honey, agave nectar, maple syrup)
1/2 cup oil (coconut oil, vegetable oil, olive oil)
1 tsp salt

Aoife's granola

2 cups porridge oats
1/2 cup rye flakes
1/2 cup barley flakes 
11/2 cups mixture of pecans, whole almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
~1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt

1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup sunflower oil

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 170C. Mix all the dry ingredients (apart from the dried fruit) together in a big bowl. Mix together agave nectar and sunflower oil in a separate bowl and add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well (I used my hands) to ensure all the ingredients are well coated. Spread mixture on to a baking tray (I used my grill pan lined with parchment paper) and bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring and turning regularly, until golden brown. Allow to cool and add the raisins. Store in an airtight container and enjoy.

The Husband likes a big mound of granola with a little yoghurt. I'm more partial to yoghurt topped with granola, fruit and a little blackcurrant syrup. Either way breakfasting on homemade granola is an easy way to propagate domestic bliss.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Eat Cambridge: rhubarb sour

The recent Eat Cambridge festival has left me rich in new food and drink ideas. I'm looking forward to next year's events already although I might have to go a bit easier next year (the three courses of beef at the Pint Shop may have been a step too far).

The main event in The Corn Exchange was great fun. So many fabulous local producers and suppliers. I managed to get my first Pint Shop scotch egg, it was definitely worth waiting for.

I was delighted to have been asked to give a talk on cocktails and I took the chance to sit in on all the talks in the afternoon session I was speaking in. Tim Hayward gave a passionate speech on food trends and I really enjoyed Bev Sedley's talk on sustainable food which gave me a lot to think about. The audience at the Chocolat, Chocolat talk almost revolted when no samples were forthcoming so I was quite relieved I had brought cocktail samples with me.

In fact I had been up early making a big batch of my rhubarb sour cocktail. The things I do for you, Cambridge. I only juice lemons before breakfast for very special people. I wanted to use the talk to describe my fail safe cocktail formula which often gets me out of a tight spot and allows me feel creative and inspired when I'm actually knackered and zombie-like. If you missed my talk (you better have a good excuse) then I suppose I can let you in on the secret:

4 parts alcohol: 2 parts sour: 1 part sweet

That's it. A good example of a classic cocktail that follows this formula is a whiskey sour. There is also a variation:

  2 parts sweet alcohol: 1 part sour

A great classic cocktail which follows this formula is the amaretto sour.

What I love about the formula is that it enables me to use my homemade spirits and simple syrups without having to think too much about creating a brand new cocktail each time. With minimum tasting and tweaking I can produce an extremely tasty cocktail. Some of my most popular combinations are sloe gin, rosehip syrup and lemon juice; blackberry vodka, lemon verbena syrup and lemon juice; blackcurrant vodka, star anise syrup and lemon juice. And then of course, my darling rhubarb: rhubarb vodka (or gin), lemon verbena (or lemon balm) syrup and lemon juice. This is the cocktail that the lucky folk of Eat Cambridge got to taste and they seemed to enjoy it.

I've given away my secret but I hope it inspires you to make a cocktail. It's really not difficult, don't let anyone tell you it is.

rhubarb sour (serves one)

rhubarb vodka or gin 60mL
freshly squeezed lemon juice 30mL
lemon verbena (or lemon balm) infused simple syrup 15mL
3-4 drops rhubarb bitters

Combine all of the ingredients in a large glass or cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a prepared cocktail glass.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Cocktail of the month: sherry cooler

I'm a little bit late getting this post up. Eat Cambridge was so delightful and so busy I haven't had a moment to get my Flavour ramblings down on the page. I'm going to be tying those pieces much more closely to the blog from now on so expect to see more "Cocktail of the Month" blog posts as they come up on Flavour. Don't forget to tune in or subscribe to the podcast, it's lots of fun to chat directly to you.

This month I had a great chat with Alan Alder about sherry and how it might be possible to use it in a light summer cocktail. I do love a good sherry, particularly the light crisp Finos and Manzanillas. At first I thought it might be sacrilege to mix sherry with anything as vulgar as water but with a little bit of research I discovered that sherry has formed the basis of many punches and cobblers throughout cocktail history. Another newsflash for me was that sherry in combination with 7up/sprite (a Rebujito) is an extremely popular drink in Spain. All things considered it was time to try my own version.

When I first started experimenting with this drink, elderflower was just beginning to show its pretty face in the hedgerows near me. By now it should be in full bloom. It really is the perfect time to make some elderflower cordial or perhaps some elderflower liqueur. Or you could just be lazy, like I was this time, and buy some; I won't judge. Either way you need some for this drink.

I was quite surprised just how delicious this drink was when I tried it. The delicious flavour of the sherry comes through but it's well balanced by the lemon and elderflower. It's light and refreshing, the perfect drink for a sunny day in the garden. I'd highly recommend scaling the proportions and making a big jug.

sherry cooler (serves one)

100mL fino sherry
25mL eldeflower cordial
30mL freshly squeezed lemon juice

sparkling water
mint, lemon balm leaves or elderflower blossom to garnish

Combine the sherry, cordial and lemon juice in your glass of choice. Taste at this point and add more lemon juice or cordial as needed. Add plenty of ice and top up with sparkling water. Add any pretty garnishes you have handy.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Easter in New York

Part One: Williamsburg

I think I'm getting a bit obsessed with America. This trip to New York was our fourth trip in five years. After tramping all over California, it was time to go see the relations. Not really such a bad deal when they live in Brooklyn, New York. 

We had such a good time I came back feeling like we had concentrated a month's worth of fabulous company, great food, fantastic sights and wonderful drinks into five days. I'm starting with my favourites from Williamsburg as this was where we stayed and we spent a good bit of time mooching around the neighbourhood.


Now, I'm no stranger to baked goods so I know what I like. Everything here was incredible. I'm glad I don't live next to this place. I would not be able to contain myself. Highlight has got to be the biscuits, like a scone but more buttery (no picture, I ate it too fast).

I got a LOT of reaction when I posted the picture below on twitter. Brioche french toast with candied bacon. Not much more to be said really. I just wish I had more time to go back and try the Eggs Rothko (egg cooked in brioche with cheese on top) which sounded similarly artery clogging and delicious.

Peter Pan Bakery (really in Greenpoint but pretty close to Williamsburg)
The best donuts I've ever had. Light and airy and incredibly addictive. This place is old school. As well as the donuts we sat at the counter with the old timers, drank coffee and ate a flagel stuffed with egg, cheese and tomato. A real highlight of the trip.

Dinner and drinks:

We came here first to have a cocktail in the sunshine in their hidden garden (tipped off by someone in the know). We brought The Relations back to try it out for dinner. Tasty comfort food, delightfully friendly service and a very cosy dining room (I'm a big fan of cosy) made it an all round winner.


Almost overpowering chocolate smells and chocolate production in action right in front of you. A great place to pop in and pick up some goodies.

We were only in the country a couple of hours and we were already tucking into this delicious stuff. I was pretty tired at this point but I think the red one was raspberry peppercorn or something like that. Whatever it was, it was absolutely delicious (not unlike Cambridge's own Jack's Gelato). 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Eat Cambridge 2014

There are so many delights to look forward to at this year's Eat Cambridge festival. Personally, I'm thrilled I've managed to score a spot at Ozzy's Food Photography workshop at Alimentum on Sunday 11th May. I also couldn't resist the Steak and Honour plus Jack's Gelato feast at Fitzbillies on Friday 9th May so that's been booked for a few weeks now. Combined with the Street Food Market on Saturday 10th May, next weekend is looking pretty piggy. The best kind of weekend really.

Of course I have my cocktail talk at the main event to get ready for. I've spent this weekend filtering and bottling some delicious infusions that have been maturing in my cellar (or dining room cupboard if you want to get technical). I'm part of a wonderful line up so it's definitely worth stopping by. What can you expect if you take the plunge and come to hear me speak? Well there will be samples. I can hardly talk about cocktails and not give you a taste. I'm going to describe my scientific (think foolproof formula) for making wonderful cocktails, how I try to get the best out of our local ingredients (drinking Cambridge as I like to call it), coping with cocktail emergencies and the best places to get a cocktail in Cambridge (other than at my house). And if that's not enough, did I mention the samples?

See you on the 17th May at the Guildhall.