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.