This coming weekend, if you didn’t already know, is Halloween! And just in time here are some spooky cocktails that are on most cocktail menus all year round. Although you may not have tried them before!
The problem with Halloween, with any seasonal event really, is that it’s easy to buy into novelty drinks that taste super-sweet and contain ingredients don’t actually do anything for the drink they’re in, except maybe mask the taste of too much alcohol…
So for this post I’ve tried to keep away from novelties and go for 5 cocktails you will be able to order in any good cocktail bar at almost any time of year, but by the same token they’re cocktails you may not have tried at all…
So let’s begin with arguably the most themed of the lot…
1 ½ measures Reposado Tequila
½ measure Crème de Cassis
½ measure Fresh Lime Juice
2 or 3 measures ginger beer/ale
Combine the tequila, lime juice, and cassis liqueur and shake well, for around 10-15 seconds (or until the tin ices over).
Fine (or double) strain into a collins glass filled with cubed iced.
Top up with the ginger beer/ale (whichever you prefer) and garnish with a wedge of lime.
Serve with a straw.
The Last Word
1 measure Gin
1 measure Green Chartreuse
1 measure Maraschino Liqueur
1 measure Fresh Lime Juice
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, over ice, and shake well.
Strain into a well-chilled martini glass and garnish with a lime twist.
Blood & Sand
1 measure Scotch Whiskey
1 measure Sweet Vermouth
1 measure Cherry Heering
1 measure Orange Juice
Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well for about 10-15 seconds.
Strain into a well-chilled cocktail coupe glass and garnish with an orange peel.
Guinness (Stout Beer)
There are two ways to make this drink, neither are right nor wrong. It’s personal preference:
Pour the beer into the chosen glass and then gently layer the champagne on top.
Pour the champagne into the chosen glass and then gently layer the beer on top.
Simple no? Well this cocktail is sublime in its simplicity and is a cocktail everyone should try at least once. You may not like it if you don’t like the beer (like me) but, also like me, you may be surprised at how smooth and drinkable this cocktail actually is!
Place sugar, mint and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker and muddle well.
Add the chartreuse to the shaker and add ice.
Shake well and strain into a small rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
Garnish with a sprig of mint and, if you’re feeling it, a sprig of sage…
These cocktails are not only my tip for great drinks this Halloween, but they’re perfect if you’re looking to try something new the next time you head to that swanky cocktail bar, or spend the weekend at a nice hotel (they all have great bars nowadays right?), and they’re also perfect if you plan on a Christmas themed party with a difference…
But don’t think I’ve forgotten all of you that are looking for something a bit novel – the next of my Halloween themed posts is just for you: 6 Spooky Cocktail Shooters!
Have fun and please, as always, drink responsibly – no one enjoys a night in A&E!
Here’s a little secret: Sangria is a perfect centrepiece for parties. Ok, so it wasn’tsuper-secret – most of you already knew that! But do you know the best way to get the most out of your sangria recipes? No? Well, here is my guide to perfect sangrias every time…
Europe And Its Great But Terrible Sangria Obsession
To be faithful to my story telling roots (or, if you want to put it more bluntly, my rambling nature), I thought I’d start with a bit of history: about the origins of Sangria and, most importantly, about why wine takes centre stage in this universal favourite.
What are the origins of Sangria? Well done for those of you who answered ‘Spain’, but even more points for those of you who said Spain and identified the timeframe of 1700-1800’s. We know this historical period more commonly as the Middle Ages (think Game of Thrones, albeit a little less rose tinted – if that’s possible!). Sangria was created mainly out of necessity! Until the mid-late 19th century, safe drinking water was not as readily available as it is today; therefore, the people of the time looked for safer means of drinking.
Based upon the idea that alcohol kills off the harmful bacteria/nasty stuff that causes diseases like Cholera and Diptheria, alcohol naturally and literally became the only safe way to drink any water. In addition to the health benefits of this plan, it was obvious that certain concoctions would be socially shared (quite merrily, I might add).
As these potent mixtures gained popularity, they also accumulated added ingredients, and thus the first ‘Sangria’ recipes came to be. As milk was considered strictly for babies, and as water was more likely to kill you than keep you alive, this wine mixture was consumed en masse, and even given to young children – talk about an interesting childhood.
Traditionally, the typical Sangria consisted of several ingredients: wine, some type of brandy and fruit. This mixture – in one form or another – became popular across Europe for hundreds of years, and has eventually been refined into the modern Sangria we know and love so much. Introduced into the USA back in 1964’s World Fair in New York, Sangria really put Spain (and red wine, especially) on the map across the Americas.
To this day, traditional Sangria is still made using red wine, brandy and fruit, although sugar and fruit juices are generally both used as well.
But where do you begin with the preparation of your Sangria? What ingredients do you need to rustle up a crowd pleasing wonder? Well, before I share with you my easy-to-follow recipes, why don’t you quickly review this check list to get a basic Idea of the ingredients you’ll need:
Wine or non-alcoholic substitute.
Try using different fruit juices. Base fruit juices such as orange, apple, peach and grape are great possibilities.
Sugar: preferably unrefined brown/muscovado – it’s richer in flavour and is not as bad for you as the refined white cane sugar. Honey/Agave Nectar are also great substitutes.
Spirits: rum, vodka, gin, tequila and liqueurs – choose those that work best with the wine you’ve picked. For instance, try using tequila in a spicy style wine, and rum for a sweet one.
Once you have your plethora of ingredients, you can move on to the step by step guide below (here’s some free advice: for that added ‘special something’, try using locally grown seasonal ingredients; they will add much more flavour and you can direct your friends on where to acquire them).
How to Mix Sangria
One giant leap
Start by mixing the wine, chosen spirit, juice and sugar together and then cover and chill for approximately 1-2 hours.
I find that taking your sweet time will result in a better tasting end product. Stir in the sugar until it is fully dissolved, and mix in your juices and spirits thoroughly.
Did you know? – Whilst traditional Sangria primarily uses red wine and brandy, you can use pretty much any type of wine and any spirit you like. Why not try rum and sparkling white wine (Prosecco/Cava/Champagne) or vodka and still white wine?
Sugar and spice and everything nice
Now comes the best bit: adding your preferred flavours.
First, quickly stir your sugar/juice mixture then introduce your ready-prepared mix of fruits and/or vegetables and spices. You can use any fruit you like, so experiment and have some fun. Once the fruit has been added, cover and return to the fridge for another 2-4 hours
The mid-season finale
Like any decent process, you need to check your progress half way through, so this step it designed to allow you to do just that. Remove the Sangria from the fridge, stir it extremely well to make sure the Sangria ingredients are combining well, and then cover and put back in the fridge for one final time (again for around 2-4 hours).
Did you know? – The best tasting Sangria can sometimes involve leaving the mixture in a fridge overnight to allow the fruit to settle into the alcohol, creating deeper, more meaningful flavours in the mixture.
As cold as ice
By now you should have a large bowl/container/pitcher full of a very fruity and alcohol-laced chilled liquid. But it doesn’t stop there. You need to stir thoroughly before serving and have your carbonated mixer on hand (if you’re using one – you don’t have to!). If serving straight away, then ice isn’t necessary. But have a bag or two ready in case it’s a particularly hot day (or you plan on leaving it out all evening).
Service with a smile
To serve, half fill a glass with ice, then top up with your chosen sparkling mixer!
Prosecco/champagne or lemonade make great mixers, but feel free to try any sparkling mixer you want. I find orange soda works particularly well.
This 5 step guide is genuinely all you need to produce party-popping Sangria mixes every time. You can make non-alcoholic Sangria using the same ingredients as detailed above. Whether alcoholic or not, your Sangria will be the envy of all your friends and before you know it, they’ll all be after your recipe.
Since it’s taken you nearly an entire day to create this masterpiece on your table, respect it and take every opportunity to enjoy every scent and sip. Did I mention it’ll keep, in a sealed container, for up to 24-48 hours depending on the fruit/juice used?
And, as I don my Etiquette hat for a small moment; A good host always remembers to be responsible when serving/consuming alcohol, and will check thoroughly that no one is allergic to the fruits/vegetables being used.
One Last Thought
I love to take the slower, more traveled path when creating a great cocktail. I’ll go out and buy ingredients to make my own infused syrups rather than buying pre-prepared, lower quality products. This process scales elegantly in mixtures such as Sangria. Of course you can create a decent version in a couple of hours; but to really blow your guests away, use fresh juice, locally sourced ingredients, maybe something a little less known, and of course take your time preparing it. You should always treat Sangria like a joint of meat in a marinade – allow plenty of time for the flavour to develop.
Stay tuned for next time – I’ll have something a little seasonal once more, in the form of a very well known and historically charged topic: London Dry Gin.
So where do I start? This is my last post of the year of 2013. And I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me over the past 24 months. This blog was set up through my love of cocktails and a need to write about them.
I love cocktails and I need you all to know it!
So from the 57 Bloggers , 190 Tweeters & 133 Facebookers out there down to each and every individual person who has ever read/commented on one of my posts: A very humble thank you.
When I first started this blog I never imagined to have got as far with it as I am. 13 months after I started I’m sitting here having reached over 3000 views in one month (December 2013 – 3110+) and am sitting on just under 18,000 total views. Just WOW!
My spare time is dwindling as i work on my 2 cocktails books and also a side project (Sci-Fi – novel) but i will still aim to hit you with about 4-6 posts per month (more so when I have more time!).
I’ll be hoping to take this blog into new areas of alcoholism and of course cocktails will feature as heavily as they have done. Hopefully I’ll even have a prize draw for all you UK readers at some point (as well as looking at going “.com” at some point).
Thank you again and may you all enjoy a fantastic 2014!
Here, listed below, are some of the best cocktails you should be trying out this Christmas and New Year… Using French Champagne, Italian Prosecco and of course good old English Sparkling Wine these cocktails aim to add a bit of colour (and class) to your drinking experiences this festive period.
1. Kitsch Revolt
1 measure absolut vodka
½ measure strawberry puree
Top up Laurent Perrier Champagne Brut Method:
Combine the strawberry puree and vodka in a chilled champagne glass and then top up with well chilled champagne. Fervent Shaker Top Tip: this recipe is unusually suited for mass mixing. Combining the vodka and strawberry puree together and pouring and sharing between the required glasses really speeds things up.
Champagne: The best price you’ll find at the moment is at sainbury’s where you can save a whole £10 and nab a 75cl for only £26.99.
2. La Siene Fizz
1 measure Brandy
½ measure fraises de bois
½ measure fresh lemon juice
Dash of orange bitters
2 strawberries (hulled)
Sugar syrup (to taste)
Top up Marca Oro Prosecco
½ measure Grand Marnier
– Muddle the strawberries and sugar syrup together in a cocktail shaker and then add all the other ingredients (except the champagne and Grand Marnier) and shake well.
– Strain into a tall, ice filled Collins glass. Top up with champagne, float in the Grand Marnier and garnish with a strawberry on the glass’ rim.
Champagne: Available at Sainsbury’s for a very tempting £8.49 (75cl). A good choice for a budget sparkling wine and perfect with the fruit flavours in this cocktail.
3. Kir Royale
2 teaspoons crème de cassis
Top up Lanson Black Label Champagne Brut
Drop in the cassis and then top up with chilled champagne. Fervent Shaker Top Tip: for added sweetness, especially if you’re using a dry sparkling wine, try using a sugar cube to soak up the cassis and place that in the glass. The drink will become sweeter the more you drink. Top up as desired…
Champagne: On offer at Sainsbury’s, this champagne is £10 cheaper than normally, and for a limited time (no really, after Christmas I have a feeling they’ll be removing the offer rather quickly) it is only £23.99.
4. Riviera Fizz
1 ½ measures sloe gin
½ measure fresh lemon juice
½ measure sugar syrup
Top up Etienne Dumont Brut (Non-Vintage) Champagne
– In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup and shake well.
– Strain into a champagne flute and top up with the chilled champagne.
Champagne: This champagne, one of the bigger brands, is on offer at Sainsburys (check online to see if it’s available near you) at a very reasonable £13.49.
1 measure Campari
1 ¼ measures Sweet Vermouth
Chilled Antoine De Clevecy Champagne Method:
Combine the ingredients in a champagne glass and top up with chilled champagne. Champagne: Sainsbury’s currently have this champagne on a good offer. Saving £9.99; you can grab a bottle at a fantastic £12.
6. Cranberry Cooler (by sainsburys)
Recipe (serves 6): (build and serve)
150ml Grand Marnier
330ml Orange Juice (smooth)
600ml Cranberry Juice
Combine in a large jug and mix well with a selection of fresh (appropriate) fruit. Spread among 6 ice-filled highball glasses and serve straight away. Fervent Shaker Top Tip: This drink’s recipe reads very much like a summer punch, except the flavours your end up with are very much winter-orientated.
7. Apple & Berry Bucks Fizz (by sainsburys)
Recipe (Serves 12):
360ml Apple & Raspberry Juice
Sainsbury’s TTD Vintage Cava
Fresh Mint Sprigs
– Add 30ml of the Apple & Raspberry Juice into a champagne glass and then squeeze half an orange worth of juice in as well.
– Top up with the Vintage Cava and then garnish with the mint sprigs. Fervent Shaker Top Tip: When preparing fresh mint the best way to release the oils without damaging the leaf is to follow this simple to remember routine:
Place the mint leaves in the palm of your left hand.
Then with one swift and forceful motion clap your hands together. This releases the oils and allows for applying the oils to the rim of the glass and also creates a fantastic fresh mint smell when you put your nose to the glass.
Champagne: This sparkling wine is a real bargain this time of year, especially seeing as, at full price, it is already a discount product. You can expect to spend around £7.49 right now (£9.99 usually).
– Drop a cherry into a champagne flute and then add 15ml of the Kirsch.
– Top up with the Prosecco.
Champagne: I’ve made no secret about this product being one of my favourite sparkling wines. Having used it several times for events and cocktails at home, it is perfect for both fruit flavours (such as a classic bellini) or straighter drinks such as this one. Prices can range depending on the time of year, but generally it costs around £9.99. It is available at this moment 25% off – £7.49.
9. Black Velvet (Tesco)
880ml (1 ½ pints) Guinness
Top up Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Grande Reserve Champagne Method:
Half fill the champagne glass with the Guinness and then top up with chilled champagne. Fervent Shaker Top Tip: This cocktail is specifically built for particular taste, especially seeing as it uses Guinness. It’s a very eclectic tasting cocktail but the aesthetics of the drink is something a little different (and different is good).
Champagne: Now this champagne is one I’ve yet to try (I have a bottle unopened in my cabinet) but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Better still it is on offer at Sainsbury’s and if you’re quick enough you’ll be able to nab a free specifically designed Ice bucket. Price (if you’re quick): £14.99!!!
10. Raspberry Champagne
25ml Raspberry Puree
Top up Champagne Method:
Layer the liqueur then the puree and finally top up with the chilled champagne.
Champagne: Sainsbury’s TTD Champagne is a bit of a jewel when it comes to cheaper champagnes. Supermarket wine/champagne buyers are extremely clued up when it comes to what’s good and what’s not. So you should definitely try this whilst it’s still on offer: £20.99.
Look out for Part 2 coming your way very soon… Oh and a very Merry Christmas to you all! CHEERS!
Now for the disclaimer: Let me apologise for one thing: Sainsbury’s. They seem to be the easiest supermarket whose online grocery website allows you to look at individual products in detail (as you’ll notice from the links in this post) as well as stocking the best sparkling wines (champagne or no) available. And so they are mentioned exclusively when it comes to pricing of the champagne/sparkling wine. I would like to point out that this post has not been sponsored, nor influenced by Sainsbury’s in any official capacity whatsoever.
A brief introduction to Champagne and where to buy it…
It’s not all about Champagne…
The first thing you need to know about champagne is that the word ‘Champagne’ is geographically patented and can only be used for a sparkling wine if it is made within the Champagne region of France. However the process used to make champagne is not exclusively used by the French (a common misconception).
This process itself is not an uncommon practice with products that sell well, think about Cognac and Cornish Pasties, and protects the so called quality of the product. Now that’s not to say that all champagnes are great because, trust me, there are not! But what it does mean is that a premium can be charged by companies for calling a product champagne. And without going into the economics of champagne making; they probably need it a lot more than the domestic companies…
What Champagne should you use in a cocktail anyway?
There are hundreds of different sparkling wines out there, as many as there are grape varieties in fact, but there is more to the world of cocktails than just champagne.
There was once a time when only the best champagne was used for cocktails, that was until other countries tried their hand at this so called ‘secret’ method of making sparkling wine. Sure they could never recreate the same processes the French used (for obvious legal reasons) but therein lied the secret to success: Their products were different, but in a good way. they do say after all that variety is the spice of life.
So then different countries had different products: Italy had Prosecco ( a slightly sweeter but essentially the same as the French) and as of the last couple of decades us English folk also started producing our Sparkling Wine. Prosecco is becoming more acclaimed and in some cases as highly regarded as the best champagnes.
Whilst English Sparkling Wine is in its infancy, it is pretty darn good, and winning awards all over the shop. Sure i’m English, and biased, but English Sparkling Wine is genuinely good (for the most part).
Of course you shouldn’t take my word for it, why not try it out for yourself? Or even get out there and try a tasting course or two?
Check out the links at the bottom for more information…
So where can you buy Champagne/Prosecco/Sparkling Wine?
As already stated they are all pretty much made the same way, meaning that if you can source one, chances are you can find all different kinds. The best/easiest places to start, here in the UK at least, are the supermarkets; places like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons, M&S & Majestic wines.
Then when you know what you’re looking for you can head online to speciality companies and even try out websites like TheWhiskyExchange and TheDrinkShop.
Shake all the ingredients together over cubed ice. Shake well until the shaker has iced.
Pour into a large Collins glass and top with champagne/sparkling wine.
This cocktail should taste like that classic German dessert: Apple Strudel. Sweet and fruity with the Champagne adding a bubbly and light feel to the heavy sugary taste.
This drink is improved significantly with a rimmed glass. Try using a Cinnamon & Sugar mix and dusting the glasses rim. This should add a little heat to the drink as well as adding a traditional Christmas twist to the drink…
Tequila is something I’ve never been able to get my taste buds use to, and that’s probably because all I’ve ever been exposed to is Jose Cuervo and Sauza. Whilst both brands do produce high grade 100% agave tequila, supermarkets sell just sell the cheaper ‘impure’ products (they are cheaper and show better sales – trust me it’s how they think – which is a shame I know).
Recently however there has been somewhat of a boom in the tequila industry, with more and more focus on ‘craft’ and aged ‘pure’ 100% Agave tequilas (especially across the USA). Here in the UK there are plenty of good quality tequila’s available, if you know where to look. Sainsbury’s for one stock a couple of 100% agave brands; El Jimador (Blanco & Reposado) and, along with Waitrose, Aqua Riva (Reposado). Both brands can say they are 100% agave and therefore better for you than those products that are not so.
Fervent Shaker Funny Fact: Due to the purer filtration processes 100% agave tequilas will not result in as bad a hangover as those tequilas that are ‘blended’ (basically any tequila that doesn’t say 100% agave on it). This is because some chemicals (the ones that cause severe hangover symptoms) are reintroduced when the ‘blended’ products are mixed. This does not happen with 100% agave tequila’s as once the chemicals are removed, that’s it, and they’re gone for good. Huzzah.
So moving onto this evening’s cocktail: The Catalina Margarita…
(42ml) 1 ½ measures Tequila
(28ml) 1 measure Blue Curacao
(28ml) 1 measure Peach Schnapps
(112ml) 4 measures Sour Mix*
1) Combine all the ingredients over ice in a shaker and shake until frosted.
2) Serve straight (preferable in a chilled Margarita cocktail glass).
3) Garnish with a lime twist.
Now a famous use of Catalina was the Catalina Wine Mixer…
The Catalina wine mixer is a fictitious event in the film Step Brothers. The film is hilarious, starring Will Ferrell as one of the brothers and he is the host of the wine mixer at the end… This cocktail as far as I can see, whilst not actually based on this reference, would have suited such an event perfectly. Sure it’s not a wine based cocktail, but Margaritas are literally perfect for any event. Keeping the recipe close to the original as possible (although this version is a lot longer than a classic margarita) this cocktail will wash away any shyness you feel at any event. It will help you forget your insecurities at any event you feel you don’t quite belong at. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a decision I will leave to you…
This slightly tweaked version I’ve created has taken its inspiration from the event. Who cares if it isn’t real, it’s the fucking Catalina wine mixer!
Catalina (Wine Mixer) Margarita:
(42ml) 1 ½ measures Tequila
(28ml) 1 measure Blue Curacao
(28ml) 1 measure Peach Schnapps
(56ml) 2 measures Sour Mix*
Top up Sparkling Wine
1) As the classic calls for shaking, this one does to; just don’t shake up the wine…
2) Pour into a chilled margarita cocktail glass.
3) Top with the Sparkling wine.
4) Garnish with a lime twist and candied Lemon peel.
This cocktail is a little lighter than the original recipe to make it a faster sipper. This version of the drink can be a little richer in flavour, if you pick a good quality of sparkling wine, but equally lesser so for the same reason…
Fervent Shaker Top Tips: For a really grand version of this drink try using Champagne instead of just any old sparkling wine. Also try using Grapefruit juice as well as Sour mix. If you prefer a still drink, replace the sparkling ingredient with grapefruit juice. You can equally substitute the win for grapefruit soda if you do like your drink carbonated…
*Sour mix is a mixture of lemon juice, lime juice and sugar syrup. See my Jericho Breeze post for the recipe…
Hopefully you like this slightly different take on a great cocktail. And of course another cocktail you can drink whilst watching a film, look at you all sophisticated and that…
Enjoy the drink, and should you want to find the original in its original place try my book of the moment: 365 cocktails, written by Brian Lucas.
So last time I wrote about a cocktail bar, it was a top notch bar up on the London Bridge promenade. This time it’s a newly opened bar down on the south east Kent coast; Rickus (near the old town in Margate)…
Now I don’t like to show bias, but in all honesty I’m fully behind this venture, owned, run & staffed by Lituanians (or so my sources tell me) this bar/restaurant, along with the new hotel right next door, has become the most recent addition to the Thanet coast rejuvenation project (albeit unofficially).
But onto the whole point of this post: THE COCKTAILS!
Now by the time I had the funds for a decent outing (you cannot just have one cocktail afterall!) the bar had been open for a few weeks and I’d had plenty of ‘word of mouth’ reviews:
“great cocktails, the ones with baileys in are amazing!” – My friend & co-worker Steph.
“we went last week and the cocktails are amazing value for money – the food was good too!” – My friend and co-worker Josh
So those were just a couple of the times they bragged on about this bar, and boy did they brag. So in typical Cocktail snobbery I set off for a taste test of my very own. Armed with the two above people (and Steph’s Daughter) I was determined to try a varied selection. I was looking for their methods, the choice of spirits, the spirits they used in the cocktails and of course the cocktails themselves. Shortly you’ll see I’ve given them a rating for both the cocktails and the service. The cocktails I tried were;
– The Sea Devil,
A fruity, but crisp, tequila based concoction which also used cranberry juice. The first cocktail of the evening; my thought process was to try something a little different and a little out of my comfort zone (I rarely drink tequila after all). This drink was made quickly, but properly and tasted great. There was just enough juice to cover the tequila’s unpleasant flavours (it was Sierra’s Blanco Tequila and we all know the kick I’m on about) but not so much that it was too watered down.
– Peach Bellini (x2)
As the name suggests, this was a cocktail modelled on the classic bellini recipe, using peach liqueur as well as peach puree, giving the drink a little extra intensity. By far the most impressive on the menu, this cocktail cost £6 and boy do you get a lot for your money. Most places will offer you a champagne flute with peach puree and topped up to, about, the ¾ mark (if you’re lucky) with champagne. Rickus, however, supply a large (it was massive) wine shaped goblet and sure it’s not champagne they use, but the sparkling wine used was fantastic with the sweet peachy taste of both the liqueur and puree. Garnished with a physalis berry (which was slightly over-ripe and sour – they should be a little less sour and sweeter to taste – but that’s the snob in me coming out) and in the girls’ case a handful of strawberries this drink was by far their best offering.
– Pina Colada
The last cocktail of the night was a classic, sure, but one many places can ruin very easily (which is ridiculous as it is an easy cocktail to make). I’m afraid to say that the use of a blender was lacking (which is a big shame as that’s half the point of making a pina colada) but that aside the drink was shaken enough to mix in the ingredients (well enough to be drinkable anyway!).
As for the reviews, I will now say a little about the service, followed by the cocktails and overall impressions…
Waiting time: Overall the waiting time for our cocktails was more than sufficient, they were not too quick as to rush the preparation; equally they did not take too long (and ruin the dilution of the drink). They served the cocktails well and always the drinks were of a good quality. 10/10
Attention to detail: all the recipes they had to make were done from memory and were constantly cleaning and talking to each other. I got the impression it was an organised environment and they were wuick to help each other out (passing ingredients etc…). 9/10
Customer relations: Listened and understood our orders well, and were always happy to help. They were very fair and served us all in order (they kept track of their next customer well and I do not remember them making a mistake). At one point they did run out of limes, but were extremely pleasant and told customers this, stating a short wait was necessary. 10/10
Cocktail knowledge: They created all the cocktails we ordered from memory (if they were reading a menu the other side of the bar they hid it well) and supplied fast relatively efficient drinks (although some recipes could be improved). 8/10
The ingredients used where, for the most part, correct to the classic recipes. However in some cases they have changed them and tweaked certain other recipes (like using peach liqueur as well as peach juice in their Bellini or coconut syrup instead of milk in their Pina colada). Whilst some of their cocktails do suffer (see the Pina Colada review below) others prosper extensively (see the Bellini review below).
Quality of drinks:
Overall the cocktails at Rickus were surprising. Not being disrespectful but from a glance at the menu you just wouldn’t expect the quality to be as high as they were. Using syrups galore and tweaking recipes where required some of the cocktails do suffer (as said above) but the interesting point to make is that their bellini is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. The best thing I can suggest is for you to go there and try the cocktails for yourself…
This section is all about the cocktails, and what I thought of them. An overall score will include these and where possible will look at the ingredients in the drink, the visual end product, the techniques used in the production and of course the taste…
Sea Devil: 8/10
Pina colada: 6/10
The menu is a bunch of well printed (but unprotected) paper held together by the clamp on the clipboard they sit on. It’s a shame as they have not created a nice little unique menu. The menu is the first thing customers will really look at in a bar
The Décor is something special: The medieval looking maps on the wall of both eastern Europe and the UK/Thanet are unique to say the least. The Décor is warm and welcoming, but if you fancy a cocktail outside their perfectly positioned balcony can offer stunning views of the sunset over the sandy Margate beach.
Overall the cocktails are good, although some suffer from the lack of the proper techniques. However they do serve one of the best Bellini’s I’ve ever had and their choice of alcohol behind the bar is quite good considering its dainty size.
The service was fantastic; the bartenders are friendly, helpful and more than happy when you order off the menu. Their knowledge was good, making the cocktails ordered without the need for prompts and to top it off, they improvised well when some of the garnishes ran out, keeping up the professional look of the cocktails being served. Very impressed with the overall service and would definitely go back on this point alone.
Rickus Cocktail Bar & Restaurant is a very welcome change of scenery to the excess of pubs and ‘gastro-pubs’ that keep popping up. The cocktails are extremely good value for money as well as a great atmosphere. Go with some good friends and it will be one of the better nights you could have. Friendly staff, great atmosphere, great value for money and when you leave the first thing you want to do is plan your next return-visit. A great addition to an otherwise bland seafront, Margate (as well as the Thanet area in general) could benefit from more ventures like this.
Verdict: Must see, try the Bellini’s, they’re something a bit special!
So you’re on your way to a party/event at your friend’s house, you’ve been looking forward to this for your entire week. It’s their 21st birthday and you know they have a cocktail party planned. But you hope they don’t expect you to drink champagne. You hate champagne.
As you walk in you are offered a flute glass full of a colourful bubbly liquid… Oh crap. You hate champagne you hear yourself say, but there is something different. You take a leap of faith and try the drink. You’re hit first off with the horrible champagne flavour you’re more than accustomed with but then something different, something floral, is it apple? No, Elderflower, and the distinct taste of raspberry. The light pink hue should have given it away, but you thought it was that novelty pink champagne. Then you notice everyone’s drinks… Greens, blues, reds and more pinks like yours.
“I hate champagne…” you hear yourself say “…But I love this”…
Before we continue… I would like to make it very clear that Champagne is a sparkling wine with a geographical protection (like stilton cheese, and those Cornish pasties) and this means that the word ‘Champagne’ is only aloud to be used by companies making sparkling wine within the ‘Champagne’ region of France and other companies that do not stick to this region are, by law, not allowed to advertise their product as a champagne. There are some fantastic products out there that are not allowed to ‘honour’ of being called champagne, but in my opinion are far better in quality. No matter your feelings on sparkling wine, find a product you like and try some of the recipes out.
I have a friend I work with who will do almost anything for his favourite branded bottle of champagne, even more so when they are on offer (you know who you are!). In a complete contrast I stand in opposition; preferring a supermarket brands Prosecco, Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference (TTD) Prosecco Conegliano to be precise.
In my experience, the protection ’champagne’ has allows companies to charge ridiculous prices for their rather bog-standard product (with the exception of some of the more well-known brands). Reverse-wise some of the best Italian Prosecco and other worldwide sparkling wines are just as good as some of the lower scale champagnes. So for the remainder of this blog, whenever I use the word champagne I do not just mean champagne, I mean sparkling wine in general.
Champagne cocktails are as much about enjoyment as they are about flavour and appearance. No one wants to drink foul tasting cocktails, and I know a lot of people that do not appreciate champagne enough to disagree with the post’s opening scenario… However there is more to champagne than serving the bottle’s contents in a glass and forcing everyone to drink it. Champagne although not primarily made for it, is a fantastic cocktail mixer. It has a better depth of flavour than lemonade and is generally a better choice than the foul soda/tonic waters flooding the supermarket shelves.
This brings us onto the cocktails themselves and there are many varied, famous cocktails. Almost all of which hold some sort of colourful back-story as to how they were invented, however for the premise of this blog I am far from interested in the stories. I’m more interested in the cocktails and their recipes. Now discarding the recipes with what I like to call ‘dangerous’ ingredients (ingredients people generally shy away from when making cocktails at home; such as egg whites), the recipes to be discussed here are generally fruity, floral drinks with a very easy-to-consume nature about them.
We’ll start with the classics like the Kir Royale and the mimosa. Then go onwards to the lesser known and more complicated cocktails; such as the Clicquot Rico and Shanghai Fizz.
The main thing to remember with these cocktails is that they can be expensive to test at home (champagne is very expensive and even some of the cheaper cava’s can cost around £10 per 75cl bottle) so you may want to try a few out and about at first to get an idea of what flavours you prefer, then you can cut the cost a little.
“A smart drinker is a happy drinker”
1) Whilst no ice is used in champagne cocktails, you should chill the champagne in the bottle thoroughly prior to use.
2) Unless otherwise stated these drinks are built (poured in one by one) in the serving glass.
3) Whilst using cheaper alternatives to Champagne (Prosecco, Cava etc…) is perfectly reasonable, where necessary, champagne brands that are in the original recipe for the cocktail will be named (i.e. the Veuve Clicquot in the Clicquot Rico). Feel free to still use the cheaper alternative if you want/need to.
2 measures Orange Juice
1 measure Champagne
This drink is the one cocktail everyone thinks of when you mention Champagne cocktails. The Mimosa is thought of as a bit of a light cocktail – purely because of the lack of any serious amount of alcohol. This is not really a bad thing as it makes it perfect for those fancy soirees where you want to keep guests sober for the majority of the night. However the downside is that whilst it is simple, it can become rather boring rather quickly (not to mention people who have an Orange Juice allergy – it does exist and is more common than you might believe).
You may be part of the majority of people that believe a Bucks Fizz is the correct name for the above recipe but, sorry to say, you would be very wrong. If you lower your gaze all shall be explained:
2 measures Orange Juice
¼ measure Plymouth Gin
1 small dash Cherry Brandy
Top Up Champagne
Now this is the true bucks fizz. Rumour has it this was made back in the 1920’s for a captain ‘Buck’ and named after him. Of course nobody knows for sure, but little stories like this always add something special to a drink. The Bucks fizz as you can see is similar to the Mimosa and this is why the confusion becomes popular. Whilst Supermarkets sell bottles of ‘Bucks Fizz’ you’re actually drinking a Mimosa (that’s a little quiz fact for you right there).
20ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
35ml London Dry Gin
15ml Lychee Syrup
1tbsp Sugar syrup
Top up Rose Champagne
Shake the first 4 ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top up with chilled rose champagne, then garnish with a white orchid petal (this is a bit uppity but it really shows some class, however a white rose petal will do just fine).
1tbsp Vanilla Sugar
1 passion fruit, you just need the seeds.
Top up Champagne.
This cocktail adds a little tropical flavour to your otherwise classic champagne cocktail. It’s surprising what a little passion fruit and a splash of vanilla sugar…
Top Tip: It’s best to use the shallower cocktail glasses as opposed to the traditional flutes purely because it’s easier to keep the puree mixed in with the champagne in the shallow ones.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
This is the original champagne cocktail, and is by far the most ‘old-fashioned’…
1 white sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (or bitters in a flavour of your choice)
Top up with champagne.
Dab the sugar cube with the bitters and drop into the flute. Then add the cognac and then add the champagne just before serving. Fill completely.
This cocktail is a fantastic example of the classic cocktail culture, the different levels and depths of flavour help make this drink what it is. This is a cocktail you should all try. Even if you don’t like it you can say you tried one.
Kir & Kir Royale
25ml Crème de Cassis
1 sugar cube
Top up with sparkling wine (for a Kir)
Top up with Champagne (for a Kir Royale)
Pour the Cassis into the flute, drop the sugar cube in, and once it has soaked up some of the cassis (once it goes purple) add the sparkling wine/champagne.
This drink gets sweeter as you drink it and is rather popular among party goers…
Here’s a little fact for you: The Kir and Kir Royale are pretty much the same drink. The only discernible difference between them is that the Royale uses Champagne and the Kir uses sparkling wine. Obviously the Royale was used to impress guests of over pretentious party hosts, allowing them to let everyone know they had enough money for quality champagne and not just any old sparkling wine. Whilst back in the early days of sparkling wine production champagne was most certainly the best quality, these days certain sparkling wines are just as good as, if not better than, some top champagne brands…
1tbsp crème de cassis
2tsp Elderflower cordial
25ml Golden grapefruit juice
Top up with Champagne
This cocktail is a little more complicated but the flavours more than make up for it. You shake the 4 ingredients in a shaker over a little ice and strain into a flute glass. Top that up with champagne and you have a very floral fruity, but tart champagne cocktail.
Top tip: Try switching up the elderflower cordial for St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, and the cassis for blackcurrant cordial (Ribena is a good shout) for various, subtle flavour changes.
The last 4 cocktail recipes are more hybrids of other cocktails mixed with champagne… not all work but some, some are fantastic. These are the latter…
The Mimosa Wallbanger
50ml Orange Juice
12.5ml Vanilla Liqueur
Top up with Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Prosecco Conegliano
One of my own recipes, this cocktail is a perfect blend between a Mimosa and a Harvey Wallbanger. It adds a small amount of extra class to an already suave drink. The added fizz makes it a little more refreshing and tad-lighter on the palate…
Peach & Gin Champagne Fizz
12.5ml Peach Schnapps
Top up with champagne
Whilst no the most exotic and original of names, this cocktail blends stronger alcohol with the champagne to give it a little kick, but adds the fruity peach flavour to help make it taste a little bit fantastic.
Ginger Champagne Cooler
3 Strips of pickled ginger (use fresh ginger if unavailable)
2 tbsp. Vodka
Top up with well-chilled quality champagne.
This cocktail spices things up a bit and adds a little fire into your drink. Not for the faint of heart, this drink will catch you unawares and punish you if you’re not careful. Drink it responsibly and you’ll love it.
Perfect for a cold autumn night (or a fancy summer shindig).
15ml Peach Schnapps (i.e. Archers/Teichenne)
15ml Blue Curacao
Top up with a quality sparkling wine.
This cocktail combines both the classy Bellini with that cult favourite liqueur: Blue Curacao. This drink becomes a citrusy, fruity bright blue cocktail. Serve with ice cold sparkling wine…
25ml White Rum
50ml Pineapple Juice
Top up with Veuve Clicquot Champagne
This cocktail may seem a little old fashioned, but that’s the beauty of it. When combined with ice cold champagne, the otherwise dull rum and pineapple comes alive. It has a warming feel thanks to the rum, and a slightly exotic feel thanks to the pineapple, add in the champagne and you have pure class.
Top tip: Veuve Clicquot is rather expensive (£30+ in most supermarkets, even when on offer). Another option for those on a budget is a light and refreshing Prosecco (Try Sainsbury’s TTD Prosecco Conegliano – it works quite well).
Next time on the Fervent Shaker Blog:
“So why are supermarkets tapping into the cocktail market?”
“Is there any need for this tapping up of liqueurs by the big supermarkets or are they just out for profit?”
“Do supermarkets indirectly aid the rising popularity in cocktails across the UK?”
“What role do supermarkets play in the current state of the UK ‘cocktail scene’? And what part will they play in years to come?”
All these questions and more, coming in the near future with my blog post:
“Supermarkets & Cocktails: A bitter truth or sweet dream?”
I’ll be looking at the growing part supermarkets are playing in the cocktail culture of the UK. As well as trying to shed some light on how flexible their choices are when it comes to the products they sell… Between now and then keep an eye out for cocktail recipes; I’ll be posting individual recipes as I find/try them. Keep mixing folks!