One of the infusion types I mentioned in my introduction post was that of sugar syrup infusing.
Every bartender will tell you that sugar syrup is an essential part of their arsenal and that a well-prepared syrup has the potential to raise a cocktail above the realms of normality.
Below you will find the recipes for 4 very different sugar syrup infusions, including a special spicy concoction that is perfect for those heat lovers out there!
Disclaimer: although usually I’d offer up a complimentary cocktail recipe for each of these syrups, to make the post less cluttered I’ve simply stated the spirit(s) they pair with the best!
#1 Rhubarb Simple Syrup
400 grams fresh Rhubarb
100 grams sugar
Add ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat. Stirring consistently.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Turn heat down to low and simmer.
The rhubarb will begin to soften around 5/6 minutes in (this is normal so don’t panic!)
Allow mixture to thicken a little (around 2-5 minutes) and then remove from heat.
Strain* mixture into a sterile container and allow to cool.
Seal and keep refrigerated.
*when straining gently press the fruit pieces to gain a little more juice (flavour) but be careful not to press to hard as it will make your syrup go cloudy!
This is the most versatile of the 4 recipes and works brilliantly with vodka or gin. It is particularly good in a bramble (in place of the blackberry liqueur!) and also pairs well with light mixers or those non-drinkers out there! – Homemade Rhubarb Lemonade anyone?
#2 Honey & Rosemary Sugar Syrup
2-3 Rosemary Sprigs
Mix the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil – on a medium heat.
Once boiling reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 2 minutes.
Turn off heat after 2 minutes and leave to cool (covered).
Strain out rosemary ad store in a sterile container.
Once this item is cooled seal it and keep it refrigerated. It should keep for up to 4 weeks (although if it looks spoiled at any point please don’t risk it – bin it and make some more!)
This particular syrup is a little more to taste and less sweet than the blueberry syrup but that just means it’s that perfect herbal addition to your favourite Whisky/Bourbon cocktail. It also mixes well with more savoury vodka and gin cocktails and does make a mean G&T.
#3 Cucumber & Mint Simple Syrup
100 grams Sugar
½ Cucumber (Diced)
10 leaves fresh Mint
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
When the sugar has dissolved turn the heat off and allow to cool.
Once cooled add in the cucumber and mint. Leave in for at least 1hr but for a more concentrated flavour leave it in for longer (Keep refrigerated at all times).
Strain away the cucumber and mint and store accordingly.
This syrup has an odd aftertaste but is still a great tasting mix regardless. It mixes well with Gin and Vodka (as you’d expect) but also makes a great twist on the classic mojito – blending well with White rum.
#4 Spicy Jalapeno Simple Syrup
100 grams sugar
1 Jalapeno (sliced lengthways)
Simmer the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Take of the heat once the sugar has dissolved and cover to cool.
Once cooled add the Jalapeno slices and leave for at least 1hr*.
After the infusion time has passed, sieve out the jalapeno and store in a sealed container in the fridge.
*as with the cucumber and mint recipe, the longer the jalapeno is in the syrup the more concentrated the flavour profile (and heat). You might want to try creating several different concentrations of this mixture and making a note of which is which – this way you can cater for different palates…
Whilst this mixture blends well with vodka (and surprisingly gin) it is best kept for the most obvious choice: Tequila. Try adding a little bit of this to your next shot of quality tequila. Try with Habanero’s or Cazadores Tequila should you have either in your possession…
So there you go! 4 rather brilliant, and yet rather different simple syrup recipes. They’re all a perfect with their own particular spirit(s) but all have room for a little versatility.
I hope you enjoy them, and if any are not quite to your tastes, feel free to tweak them. That’s the best way to improve them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these recipes if you try them, especially any cocktails you find them to particularly effective in…
So a little while back (Think back to Cinco De Mayo) I posted a 3 course cocktail ‘Cinco De Mayo’ special… After writing about the 3 drink courses, I added a little section about some great tequila you could buy in the UK for under £40 a bottle. Ever since I wrote that post, the tequila section has been on my mind non-stop.
So, in an attempt to rid myself of the constant thought of Tequila (I know, I know), i have decided to post the Tequila section in it’s own post (in the aim of supplying some more products as and when I find them)…
So without further adieu here are the best 5 Tequila’s you can buy for less than £40 a bottle (70/75cl bottles)…
The Fervent Shaker Tequila Sampling Selection:
A collection of 5 of the finest tequila’s available on the UK market…
Tequila no.1: Cazadores Reposado
A 100% Blue Agave ‘rested’ tequila, with a very deep aroma; it is rather pricey but worth the cost.
Fun fact: “The fermentation process takes 2-3 times longer than most producers because no sugars or yeast is added.”
This is the only Silver tequila on my list and it is arguably one of the best silver tequila’s ever made. With a delicate and smooth flavour and an aroma that includes agave, floral notes and a slight fruitiness; this tequila sure does pack a punch. Perfect with a slice of orange and a splash of cinnamon!
Fun Fact: “This is the world’s only super-premium, 100% Blue Agave silver Tequila.”
This is arguable the best tequila on this list, and is aged for a minimum of 5 years in oak barrels. Sporting a rich golden colour and giving off hints of caramel, chocolate and agave this tequila is not out of its depth weighing in among the elite!
Fun Fact: “This Tequila is certified Organic, giving it that little bit of extra ‘good karma’ for the seasoned tequila drinker…”
These tequilas are what I consider some of the best ‘under £40’ tequila’s available! Whilst they are expensive and to buy every bottle on this list would set you back near on £200, they are fantastic and split the difference between you and your friends and they become reasonably priced. Try all of them with a selection of citrus fruits, soft fruits (like peaches and apples), cinnamon, pineapple and (if you’re one for danger) try a variety of chilli peppers too! All these additions help bring out the tequila’s flavours and help you enjoy them more!
If you find that even these are a little out of your prices range, why not just pop along to your local supermarket/spirit wholesalers and just grab a bottle or two of anything you like the look of? When sampling remember: Use citrus or soft fruits as well as cinnamon/chilli depending on your tastes, as this helps bring out the flavours of the tequila. Also remember that Anejo or Reposado (rested/aged) – basically any ‘gold’ – tequila’s will pack more flavour than silver, but silver tequila’s do tend to mix better and are generally smoother…
As a final note, i’d like to add this comment from a followe (and great blogger) of mine:
Thanks for the follow Shaker
A few years ago ( I ‘ve worked in the hospitality industry for 30 years) my client was a Lebanese man marrying a Mexican woman. They met in Mexico where he was an Agave grower. He showed me a little tequila tip. Take a bottle of Cuervo and poor a little into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together then smell your palm. All you’ll smell is alcohol. Now do the same with a bottle of cazadores -all you’ll smell is agave. He swore by this test – any Tequila leaving agave rather than alcohol smell is good.” – Notes To Ponder
Well sometimes I like a change. A change is good right?
This post is all about the ‘outing’ for my 26th birthday. I’ve always wanted to go to Chiquitos and try their cocktails, and as I rarely get to treat myself to a meal out; I felt it was the right time for a Mexican.
First let’s talk about the food, it’s unusual for me to discuss food on this blog I know, but for the sake of this post please allow it…
“Southern Fried Chicken breast and BBQ Pulled Pork”
…with skin on fries, onion rings and coleslaw.
This one of many choices from their Tex-Mex menu, it wasn’t too spicy but had just enough kick to let you know it had something about it. Pretty much everyone in our group had pulled pork of some variation on their plate so we definitely worked them hard on this dish.
It was a great tasting meal. One which, when compared to other similar restaurants (such as Frankie & Benny’s) was far superior in every way. The member of staff we had was friendly and happy to help however he could, as well as suggesting the best way for us to order so as to save a little more money. So to summarise: Fantastic food, fantastic service and overall a fantastic day out.
So now let us move on to important section: the cocktails…
The first thing I do in places like this, is pick up the drinks menu and flip straight to the cocktail section. No, not because I’m set to get hammered, but I in fact like to have a brows and see what cocktails they have from a professional point of view. You can really tell a lot about the companies stance on cocktails from their menu: If it’s just classic cocktails like the Margarita and sea breeze then you know they don’t really care as much as they should (you’ll also find their beer/wine selection is rather large too). However if they have some themed cocktails and even a nice selection of the relevant themed spirit (in this case it’s a Mexican restaurant so Tequila would be the spirit of choice) then you know they have thought a lot about what they can offer and what cocktails are within the theme. Unsurprisingly I prefer the latter when I check out a restaurant.
If I go to an General American (U.S.A.) themed bar, id assume bourbon/vodka drinks would be the specific spirit, likewise I went to an Italian restaurant I’d like to see some Amaretto, Limoncello, Grappa & other aperitif’s on the menu. It’s a simple case of fitting the specific spirits to the theme, something a lot of restaurants do not tend to do (I find Frankie & Benny’s are guilty of this among others).
Chiquito’s have a very extensive collection of ‘themed’ and ‘neutral’ cocktails, as well as having different sections for vodka, rum and, of course, several pages dedicated to tequila (including the very nice touch of offering a cheeseboard style selection of their ‘premium’ tequilas).
Even with all the choice on offer (around 14 pages give or take), from great sounding cocktails like: “The June Bug” and the refreshingly sounding “Key West Cooler”. Yet it was surprisingly easy to pick the first cocktail the “Dark ‘N Stormy”.
Now in my true ‘Rum bandit’ form, I went straight to the Rum section of the menu. This was met with what can only be called ‘fate’. At the top of the list, was a pretty looking recipe going by the name of “Dark ‘N Stormy”.
Now I’ve been making these at my home with real (freshly squeezed) lime juice, fiery ginger beer and a whole host of sugar syrups/cordials for flavour tweaks (my favourite recipe is below)…
My Favoured Home-Made Dark ‘N Stormy Recipe
2 measure Kraken Black Spiced Rum
1 measure Elderflower cordial
½ measure lime juice
Top up Sainsbury’s Fiery Ginger beer
Build this drink in the order given, over ice in a tall Collins glass. Top up with the ginger beer and stir before serving with 2 straws and a lime wedge for garnish.
So naturally I felt impelled to try this first. I see from the menu that they make it with proper Bermudan Rum, Goslings Black Seal Rum – no less, and mixed in with Goslings Ginger Beer.
Now that’s all well and good (COCKTAIL SNOB ALERT), but the picture shows it also having a lime wedge floated on top (in an attractive jam jar glass as well) but there is NO mention of the Falernum that should ideally be involved (although in almost all cases simple sugar syrup would be used – although they make no mention of this either)…
Note: Sugar Syrup/Falernum (slightly alcoholic Bermudan sugar syrup), are in fact optional ingredients and as such did not affect the review at the end of this post…
As far as I could see their typical recipe is as follows:
Chiquito’s Dark ‘N Stormy
1 measure Goslings Black Seal Rum
Top up Goslings Ginger Beer
Wedge of lime to garnish.
Now this recipe is basic, at best. Taking into consideration the prices and the fact that the drinks come secondary to the food; the drink is pretty good. Simple and effective, it’s not going to win awards, but what they lack in detail they make up for by serving it in the pretty jam jar glasses.
Although technically speaking the above recipe is the classic Dark ‘N Stormy recipe, the drink I was given contained no lime, in fact the first one had a lemon slice instead. Whilst it may only look like a superficial mistake, the taste the lemon (or worse yet a lack of lime) gave to the drink skewed the flavour slightly. It is a shame as they are one of the very few places licensed to sell Goslings in the UK. The only thing I will say in their defence is that it was first thing on Easter Sunday that we had this meal. And as such, I shall return next week to see if the lime improves the flavour from the drink I had (in which case I shall publish a re-review of the cocktail).
Next up: Mai Tai.
Now this cocktail is rather famous as rum based exotic cocktails go. Bought for me by my friends (after several ‘this is the one I will have next’ comments) this drink was slightly longer and fruitier than expected. Also it’s worth noting that there was a flavour I could not quite put my finger on, and it kind of ruined the drink if I’m honest. All in all it came down to the drink having too many flavours and nothing to tie them altogether (like some fresh lime juice for example).
Compare these two very different recipes:
Classic Mai Tai recipe:
1 measure White Rum
1 measure Golden Rum
1 measure Dark Rum
½ measure Lime Juice
½ measure Orgeat Syrup
½ measure Orange Curacao
Top Tip: this is the most universally accepted ‘Trader Vic’ style Mai Tai.
Chiquito’s Mai Tai recipe:
Note: I couldn’t gauge the amount of each ingredient used in the Chiquito recipe, although I assume it was similar measurements to the classic (with some fruit juice to lengthen the drink).
The thing with the Mai Tai is that back during the day, the recipe was kept secret. This mean recipes had to be made by taste, and well, let’s just say sometimes you’ll get Pineapple juice, but most of the time (rightly so) you wouldn’t.
The problem I have here is that the drink was slightly too sweet, and there was nothing holding all the flavours together. If you work for Chiquito’s then take note: take out the pineapple juice and maybe try something like cranberry juice, although it would be further from a Mai Tai, it would taste ten times better (especially when you add in the lime juice). I suppose the thing with ‘tiki’ style drinks like these is that tropical juices have the ability of lengthening the drink, without taking away from its exotic taste, which is obviously what they’ve gone for.
I believe that is what Chiquito’s have done with their version, made it both economically viable as well as easier on the alcohol so it is more popular among those not use to it (people who will try it when eating there – as opposed to off the street drinkers).
Next up: the Alabama Slammer
This cocktail is vodka based but still slightly fruity. I thought this to be a pretty good end to the trials, as it was rather exotic but also had a slightly deep south feel.
Chiquitos Alabama Slammer recipe:
Note: Again I couldn’t gauge how much of each ingredient was used, but I’d imagine it was 2 Vodka, 1 SoCo, ½ Amaretto, 2 OJ and ½ Grenadine… although that’s just an educated guess…
Now for the hard part… Let me explain: As with most cocktails, especially ones not commonly known, the difference in recipes can be endless. Most of these recipes use the same ingredients, but in different amounts, whilst some use completely different ingredients altogether…
The most consistent recipe I could find actually included Sloe Gin:
A classic Alabama Slammer cocktail recipe could be:
1 measure Southern Comfort
1 measure Vodka
1 measure Amaretto
1 measure Sloe Gin
2 measures Orange Juice
Top Tip: the vodka and SoCo measures in this drink are interchangeable. If you prefer more SoCo then balance the alcohol more to your tastes, just make sure it still works out to the same measure amounts, i.e. 1.5 measures SoCo – ½ measure vodka).
Note: For any of you out there thinking “that sure looks a little like a Long Island Iced-Tea” you’re kind of right as some people do in fact call it the Long Island Iced Tea of the south…
Chiquito’s Mexican Bar & Grill; a summary of the day…
So Chiquito’s is a well-known bar/restaurant chain over here in the UK, arguably not as popular as Frankie & Benny’s (although they are both owned by the same parent company!). My personal preference (along with most of my friends’) is Chiquito’s. This is not just because of their superior menus (both food and drink menus are much more thought out) and food quality, but also the quality of their staff. The members of staff in Chiquito’s always seem like they enjoy working there, which I always find is better for morale in any business (and its customers). You also get a sense of knowledge from most of their staff.
In regards to the food served this time around, there was not a complaint to be found. The cocktails were good quality for the establishment in which they were served. Let’s face it; you don’t go to restaurants like this and expect the best cocktails in the world, but you still expect quality. And they were good enough for the quality you’d expect.
Whilst not necessarily all the classic recipes, they have added their own flavours and given them a tex-mex vibe. This makes the drinks a little longer, and arguably easier to drink with the meals, but they make up for this by having a large variety of cocktails using different spirits.
The Tequila: How Mexican do you want to go?
Tequila is by all accounts the most common spirit associated with Mexico. And as a Mexican themed restaurant, you’d assume that chiquito’s would have some variety in the tequila they serve. This is something they have not overlooked. When walking into the bar area and looking across the copious amount of bottles on display you’ll notice the big names; Jack Daniels, Eristoff Vodka, Goslings Black Seal Rum. But look closer and you’ll also see a rather extensive collection of Tequila’s. These brands are listed here (please forgive me for any missed, I didn’t have time to write all of them out):
Jose Cuervo Especial,
Jose Cuervo Clasico,
Gran Centenario Reposado,
Patron XO Café,
Tequila’s ranging from the brand leading ‘Jose Cuervo’ to the Ultra-Premium brand ‘Patron’ as well as a taster selection: choose 4 of their tequila’s to try with various complimenting flavours (citrus fruits & cinnamon).
Now for the cocktail reviews: This is a new feature and I’ve tried to be critical, but in a fair manner.
Dark ‘N Stormy
1 measure Goslings Black Seal Rum
Top up Goslings Ginger Beer
Wedge of lime to garnish.
These scores were given from a critical point of view. Although personally the Dark ‘N Stormy was my personal favourite, it was, overall, the bottom rated of the three. The Alabama Slammer benefitted from a nice garnish (the stemmed cherry added a little class to an otherwise dull drink).
The differences between the Alabama Slammer and Mai Tai were minimal, except for a slightly different taste (which you’d expect seeing as one is a rum based cocktail, the other a vodka one) but not enough to tell the drinks apart. This would not be a big issue if it were not for the fact that the drinks looked exactly the same! Minus the cherry of course!