Tag Archives: cocktail

Stilettos – Don’t get too excited ladies, I’m not talking about shoes!

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Looking rather classy, this potent but flavoursome cocktail is a female favourite…

Recipes online generally stick to two or three base recipes and tend to vary the ratios of their ingredients. The two base recipes, again, are the same except that 1 uses Lime Juice, and the other uses Lemon juice:

 

Recipe 1:

1.5 measures Bourbon

1.5 measures Amaretto

1 measure fresh lime juice

1 lime wedge, for garnish

Recipe 2:

1 measure Amaretto

2 measures Bourbon

1 measure Lemon Juice

Lemon twist to garnish

Now usually when you have citrus and bourbon, you would opt for lemon juice (as in recipe 2), and the amaretto in such a high amount would be far too sweet. However the tartness of the lime juice helps cut through the amaretto’s sweetness and works perfectly to marry the two alcohols together…

For a longer version you can top up either recipe with Ginger beer (not ginger ale – it just doesn’t work as well).

However the version I spent my early cocktail and university life drinking was completely different:

Stiletto, My way:

1.5 measure amaretto

¾ measure crème de banane

1 measure Pineapple juice

1 measure Orange juice.

Now my version is both infinitely smoother and a tad sweeter.

Now the first recipe made for a great cocktail, a tad too strong and I did need the ginger beer, but nice none the less. The second recipe is made ‘long’ already so it should go down quite well. If you need to tweak it to your own tastes then please do so. I find that to add a little depth in flavour, adding a dry curacao (or triple sec – but not Cointreau) works wonders.

Other recipes, not quite so well-known include the following (sources are credited where appropriate)

Recipe from http://partywithleah.blogspot.co.uk

1 measure Grand Marnier

1 measure cognac

Top up with champagne

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Spiral of orange zest, for garnish

Recipe from http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

1.25 measures Hendrick’s Gin

1 measure sugar syrup

0.5 measure fresh lime juice

5 fresh blackberries

Top up Ginger Ale

2 blackberries for garnish

 These two recipes were taken from their sources as they have the same name as the other recipes in this post. Whilst being made up of different ingredients their quality is as good as the original and of course my recipe. If you try them out let me know what you think, it would be interesting to see which Stiletto is the favourite…

The Cuba Libre – A classic cocktail for the new era.

 “The Cuba Libre requires Bacardi rum and Coca Colatm with ice and a wedge of fresh lime. Why? Because that’s how an original Cuba Libre has always been made – at least since 1900, when American soldiers on Neptuno Street, Havana, first persuaded a barman to mix his precious Bacardi rum with their tasty new beverage called Coca Cola” – Bacardi’s description of the Cuba Libre on their website. (http://www.bacardi.com/uk/Cocktails/BACARDI-Cuba-Libre)

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Old Havana Skyline, taken by Wikimedia Commons/Flickr user Gabriel Rodríguez.

The Cuba Libre has all the mysterious history you need from a classic cocktail and then some. Now I’m not saying it’s because of this that it’s actually considered a ‘classic cocktail’ but you have to admit the uncanny similarities to some of the other classics (Mojito, Martini, Margarita etc…).

The one thing that the Cuba Libre has in its favour though is its base spirit: Rum. Rum, as any well-to-do person will tell you, has a mysterious history all to its own. It just so happens that the Caribbean (that’s the collection of islands that includes Cuba would you know) is arguably the best place for premium quality rums anywhere in the world. Whether it’s the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Trinidad or even the ‘Rum King’ Island known as Barbados, the rum used in Cuba Libre’s has traditionally been of the best quality full stop (little wonder it’s become a classic then eh?).

The Recipe:

So traditionally it was made using Coca Cola, a Premium quality Cuban Anejo Rum and a wedge of Lime to freshen the drink up a little. However recently (mainly due to the lack of any Cuban rum in my repertoire) I have been trying out different brands and styles of rum both to find my favourite, and also because it is a simple recipe to stick to and easy to tweak without destroying the original idea…

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As you can see it keeps to the simple and balanced nature of the classic cocktail, but also packs a great taste (just try it if you don’t believe me)…

Of course there are many variations, more variations than the time I have to write them down for you, and some include different types/brands of rum. From the classic white(light) rums  to the semi-aged golden and Aged ‘Dark’ rums of the Caribbean and even the spiced rums (Captain Morgan’s, Kraken etc.) which have become more and more popular over recent years here in the UK…

The last time I got paid (just after Christmas) I went out and stocked up on some quality rums that my local Sainsbury’s had on offer at the time (and I also got a bottle of Makers Mark, but that’s a story for another time)… The Rums purchased/received as presents were;

–          Brugal Ron Anejo Rum £20-25 (I got it on offer for £16.99)

A Golden (semi-aged/aged) rum from the Dominican Republic; considered to be of a very high quality.

–          Kraken Black Spiced Rum £18-23 (depending on store)

Imported from the USA, Kraken comes in a glorious pirate themed bottle and denotes a giant squid (hence the ‘Kraken’) on the label. It’s a high quality black spiced rum and it tastes magical, which is probably why it has gathered quite the cult following. This was a very well received present from my sister for Christmas.

–          Bacardi Oakheart  £18-19 (£12 – offer price when I got it)

My soul reason for buying this bottle of rum was the price. It was a mere £12 at the time (worked out around £10.80 after my discount) and I just could not pass that up (considering its usual RRP is around £18-19!!!)…

Also I was a little wary because whilst Bacardi is a quality product, I feared they had created something that might not work (needless to say I was very, very wrong!).

Anyway, back to the recipes;

                So I tried a Cuba Libre using a 2-1 (Rum-Lime) ratio and topped up with a cola (Pepsi as it’s my favourite but feel free to change that to your favourite). Needless to say you do get 3 very different tasting drinks.

The Brugal Anejo Cuba Libre is as close as a Classic Cuba Libre these recipes got, purely in the way of geographical accuracy (Dominican Rep. is as close to the Havana Club style Anejo I have) and I imagine it’s similar in tastes to a classic Cuba Libre too. Whilst not the best when mixed with Pepsi, if you use Coca Cola like the classic recipe requests, it becomes sublime. And as a classic Cuba Libre (if you don’t have any Cuban rum) then this is the recipe I suggest you use!

The Bacardi Oakheart Cuba Libre was a standout favourite among my friends and family, with its smooth taste blending with the lime and Pepsi better (in their opinion anyway) than the Brugal Ron Anejo. The Bacardi was obviously made for cocktail mixing; such is the way with their other rum products.

The Kraken Black Spiced Cuba Libre, after a few tries, was my personal standout recipe. Purely for the thick, almost syrupy taste it brings to the drink. The Lime juice, when freshly squeezed, cuts through the nasty aftertaste of the alcohol (that horrible kick you get that can spoil a drink) allowing you to pile in 2 measures without thought, and the Pepsi brought out the Spiced notes perfectly and made sure they were there in the background, but not too overpowering.

In my opinion the Kraken Rum brought something extra to the Pepsi recipes that the others simply did not have: a thick almost syrupy, spice texture that when cut with the fresh lime juice created this sensation of pure bliss; that something a little bit special.

Now don’t mistake my gushing for naivety. I know that the classic Cuban rum recipe will always be the classic Cuba Libre, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but what I am saying is that If you want something a little special and a bit of a taste-treat in the disguise of a Cuba Libre; then Kraken Black Spiced Rum is your poison of choice. Trust me you will not regret it.

Footnotes:

–          Always use freshly squeezed lime juice. Lime cordial is never a replacement at the best of times, and especially not here. It is too sweet and doesn’t help balance out the rum. Don’t expect the taste to be that good if you do use it. Having said that, if you have no choice try to use a little less rum so you don’t overpower the drink.

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Always use fresh lime juice where possible. It is far superior to any lime cordial in every way.

–          These rums were used purely because they were accessible at the time I tried them. So whilst I am raving about the Kraken Rum here, it is very likely you will disagree. Please don’t hate me for ignoring your favourite rum; that is not the intention. It was simply MY favourite of the 3!

Recipes:

Brugal Ron Anejo Cuba Libre (Coke)

2 measures Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice*

Top up Coca Cola

Brugal Ron Anejo Cuba Libre (Pepsi)

2 measures Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice

Top up Pepsi

Bacardi Oakheart Cuba Libre

2 measures Bacardi Oakheart

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice*

Top up Pepsi

Kraken Black Spiced Cuba Libre

2 measures Kraken Black Spiced Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime Juice*

Top up Pepsi

*this is equivalent to around 1 small lime being around 25ml

Now as a slight addition to this post, one I did not intend I might add, will be in relation to the fact that whilst in the process of writing this post; I was again paid.

This payday I invested in a rather well-known brand of Cuban Rum, mainly to test out the theory of ‘Cuban rum for a Cuba Libre is better’ and also because I love it. That’s right ladies and gents; Havana Club 3yo white rum.

Now normally I would keep this sort of information to myself, but seeing as it was mainly to try a proper Cuba Libre Recipe out, I thought it best to add. The recipe I used was a 2:1 ratio (the same as the above recipes) only I added the lime juice to the glass first (following Havana Club guidelines).

And can I just say, from the above recipes, Brugal & Coca Cola was my favourite (not including the Kraken & Pepsi recipe), but this Havana Libre I made up, was on another level… It is very strange, but the flavour of the Havana Club comes through the cola perfectly, so you taste the rums flavour, but without the painful bite of the alcohol (thank the lime juice for that).

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Havana Nights: Cuba is the birthplace of the Cuba Libre and Cuban Rum should always be your first stop…

So I suppose to summarise I just have to leave you with this bit of advice: Cocktail recipes can be fluid. You make them to your own tastes. And sometimes you may want a spiced rum, sometimes you want a white. But if you ever have a Cuba Libre, try it first with the Havana Club 3yo, create a Cuba Libre the way it was intended and then, if you want to, experiment with other rums. You’ll find that this classic recipe is just that: a classic. You may find you prefer a spiced version, or even the taste of black rum. But no matter what you try you cannot beat the Cuban Anejo rum recipe. It’s just one of those things… Like gravity or the short life of a turkey; it’s inevitable.

Licor 43 (Cuarenta Y Tres): The Jewel of Southern Spain…

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Licor 43: Cuarenta Y Tres… Why all the fuss?

My first encounter with this seductive liqueur was about 6 years ago, purely by chance too! I ordered Cointreau, and instead, out came this rather yellowy-gold nectary glass containing what I now know to be called: Licor 43. Alongside which was a small glass bottle of Pepsi, ready for me to serve… Now I was a bit confused, but considering I had just paid for it, I certainly made the most of it. Now as you can imagine I had no clue as to what it was I was drinking, all I knew was that it tasted bloody amazing.

Here in this focus I want to get across to every one of my readers 2 things;

1)     That this little known liqueur is looked over by many individuals, and rarely comes out to play.

And:

2)     That this liqueur can help create some of the (arguably) best cocktails in the world. Simple, yet eloquent cocktails that make you wonder why you never tried it before.

So please, read, and enjoy (and as usual feel free to share your opinions/feelings/thoughts and anything else you want to share about this topic at the bottom of the post)…

The first website I went to gather information was the official Licor 43 website: www.licor43.com and there I was greeted with the customary age input you get with all the alcohol sites, but this is where the similarities with other alcohol (spirit especially) websites; After it loads, you’re met with this fantastically vibrant and contemporary home page draped in black and gold. It really is a great welcome by the liqueur company and you’re sure to remember it well into the future. But even this eye catching design, they feel, isn’t enough: that’s right you’re met with this wonderfully melodic piece of music that, for lack of a better, word is perfect for the website & the liqueur.

Once you take a few seconds to steady yourself, you can begin to explore the relatively simple but effective pages of the site. I started with the cocktails, for obvious reasons (they taste great by the way) but for all intents and purposes I shall discuss the history first.

The History of Licor 43

As with every liqueur company their histories are almost always somewhat exaggerated, like a game of Chinese whispers that got out of hand; it starts with ‘my auntie gave me the recipe’ and ends with ‘my auntie gave me the recipe, but did so whilst saving my family from a hoard of giants and dragons’… Needless to say you should always take these with a pinch of salt…

Licor 43’s history is not as ‘flowered up’ on their official website, and started off with humble beginnings. Created by a group of entrepreneurs; two brothers (Diego & Angel) and a couple by the name of (Mrs) Josefina Zamora Conesa & her husband Emilo Restoy Godoy Licor 43 started off small and became well known locally.

Working hard together, and pioneering advertisement techniques in southern Spain at the time (including TV, radio and even vehicle ads), they turned a small liqueur company into the single most successful Spanish liqueur ever created. It became the highest sold/consumed liqueur in Spain before hitting the European and world markets (sold in a total of 55 worldwide markets, present day).

The Taste Of The Real Southern Spanish Gold:

‘O Tono Con Todo’ meaning “The Tone With All” – Licor 43 is Spain’s biggest International Success.

Licor 43, or “Cuarenta Y Tres” as it is known locally (and to almost anyone who can pronounce the words), is a golden-yellow liquid made with 43 individual ingredients. The flavours you get when drinking it, consist primarily of vanilla and citrus but there are also subtle notes of spice and an almost aged-rum like quality, but overall the liqueur is very sweet. This however does not detract from its mixability or overall taste/flavours.

As the website suggests, it’s made to the highest quality and cannot be imitated, and has a smooth finish that not only allows it to become a possible drink for all palates but it makes it easy to mix into almost any other liquid, should it be other spirits (for cocktails), coffee, cola’s or even milk!

Whilst it is an easy liqueur to mix, you should never just presume that it works the same as a vanilla liqueur. However, as long as you take into account the subtle spice flavours as well as the citrus, you will be able to create more complex flavours in your cocktails.

Other Funny Little Things:

So I speak to people about this liqueur all the time… And every time I’m met with a blank stare and simply asked: “What’s this Licor 43 then?” along with “never heard of it” … Now this always gets to me because I have a well held love for this liqueur and have done since I first tried it about out 6 years ago. I feel the biggest problem with this, and the reason hardly any one knows about it in the UK is that it’s not sold in many bars or supermarkets, which is a big problem for myself. This is the problem with almost any product you want, or want to share with people; you are limited to what the supermarkets or other vendors are willing to sell.

The shame here is, in my opinion (as a bit of a cocktail snob), that i would replace Galliano (a vanilla liqueur) with Licor 43 in almost 99% of the relevant cocktails – purely because, in my opinion, it tastes better as well as helping to develop more complex layers of flavour in a drink. From simple concoctions such as the Harvey Wallbanger to the more complicated maidens kiss, Licor 43 adds that extra layer and again, in my opinion, adds something special to any drink it’s in.

Licor 43 is the most famous Spanish liqueur, revered by bartenders across the world...
Licor 43 is the most famous Spanish liqueur, revered by bartenders across the world…

So what about the liqueurs aesthetics I hear you shout!? – Don’t worry if you didn’t, I’m going to tell you my thoughts anyway!

So as you can see from the picture above it is a golden-yellow liquid and its stored in what is, in my opinion, a simple yet stylish bottle. It does have one of those annoying pouring regulator plastic things in the neck of the bottle but sometimes (although definitely not all the time!), especially with thicker/denser liqueurs like this, it can be of help. Taste wise, its mainly vanilla and citrus you get, but if you try it again and again, you’ll eventually come across the spices in the drink as well. This is a well-balanced liqueur that, as shown by its sales history in Spain alone, is probably one of the best in the world. It’s unique in both its flavours and their balance, not to mention great in a simple Pepsi mix, or even complicated cocktails.

You can buy miniatures from this website: (usually around £2-£2.50) … http://www.thedrinkshop.com/products/nlpdetail.php?prodid=5748

Now this is the link for the miniature(s) of the drink, but there is a link on that page for the full 70cl bottles (around £18/£19) and they can be purchased there. If you want to give it a try, grab a couple of miniatures and get mixing, pick one of the following cocktails and let loose. Eventually you’ll find something you like and I promise you won’t regret it!

Licor 43 Cocktails: Mix Up Something Special…

Key Lime Pie Martini

–       1 measure Licor 43

–       1 measure Key Lime Juice

–       2 measures Cream

–       2 measures Vanilla Vodka

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously for about 1-2 minutes. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Enjoy.

The vanilla from the vodka and the citrus from the lime juice help extract both the vanilla and citrus flacours from the licor 43, This frees up the spices/other flavours the licor 43 contains to be tasted in the drink.

Hedonism 43

–       1.5 measures Licor 43

–       4 measures Pineapple juice

Licor 43 is perfect for this sort of summary drink. The smoothness of Licor 43 is really apparent in mixes with juice like this… Try using the same amount of Orange Juice instead of pineapple for a completely different, but still fantastic, tasting cocktail!

Vanilla Dreamiscle

–       1.25 measures Licor 43

–       2.5 measures Orange Juice

–       1 tbsp brandy

–       1 tbsp milk

Shake all the ingredients well, and serve over ice in a chilled glass.

Perfectly smooth, this drink oozes class. The vanilla and citrus flavours in the Licor 43 blend well with the brandy and orange juice, and adding the milk just adds a little creaminess to this drink to make it perfectly smooth.

Licor 43 is so smooth, it can be mixed with almost anything, from Soda's to milk and every thing in between (even Coffee!)
Licor 43 is so smooth, it can be mixed with almost anything, from Soda’s to milk and every thing in between (even Coffee!)

43 Pina Colada

–       4 measures Pineapple Juice

–       3 measures Licor 43

–       1 measure coconut cream

–       ½ measure Malibu/coconut liqueur. (Optional)

Shake all ingredients well over ice. Pour (no straining) into a chilled glass and drink through straws.

43 Caipirinha

–       2 measures Licor 43

–       2 measures Light (white) Rum

–       ½ teaspoon White granular sugar

–       ¼ Lemon, sliced

In a cocktail shaker muddle the lemon with the sugar until most of the sugar dissolves

Then add the Licor 43, Rum and crushed ice and shake.

Pour, without straining, into a chilled glass and add a splash of soda water.

Now this drink is a bit naughty, as it takes out the one ingredient that makes it a Caipirinha; The Cachaca (a spirit distilled from sugar can in South America)… However in an attempt to make it at least resemble the original drink it does include white rum (a North American equivalent to a sugar cane based spirit).

This drink is included because it tastes great (trust me I’ve had a few of them in my time), but also to make a point.

Cocktails like this are all about experimenting with what you have on hand. In South America they made this drink’s Father (Classic Caipirinha) into a classic. Now all over the world you can order a Caipirinha and enjoy its refreshingly crisp taste. However, this specific ‘offspring cocktail’, as shown above adds something a little special that the original doesn’t have: a more complex flavour…

As you can see from the recipe, its preparation is remarkably similar to that of a Mojito (minus the mint) and in this case, it’s shaken only due to the high density of Licor 43.

My advice to you when making this brilliant cocktail is to not be afraid to meddle with the amount of sugar used. For some, the licor 43’s sweetness will be enough but for others not so. Try different amounts of sugar, or even different sugars (in my opinion a Mojito tastes better with demerara sugar not white and the same goes here) but in the end you need to find your own flavours and the best way is to try things out…

Pro Tip: for a smoother drink, try using caster/superfine sugar instead of the granulated kind.

The Gold Standard

–       2 measures Gold Tequila

–       1 measure Licor 43

–       ½ measure Curacao Orange Liqueur (Triple sec also works well here)

–       ½ measure Sweet & Sour Mix

–       ½ measure (Freshly Squeezed) Orange Juice.

Using Curacao Liqueur is obviously the best move for this drink, but in the case of you not finding any orange curacao (the Blue curacao is most readily available but will ruin the aesthetics of the drink) use Triple Sec liqueur instead (it’s made by the same method only its slightly stronger and clear).

43 & Tonic

–       4 Measures Licor 43

–       2 measures fresh Lemon juice

–       Top up Tonic Water

Build the ingredients over ice, add the tonic water and stir well to mix. For some added bitterness add 2 dashes of angostura before the tonic, for some added sweetness add a ½ teaspoon of sugar syrup at the same point. Enjoy.

From shots to Tall iced teas, Licor 43 is extremely versatile, why not try it out?
From shoots – long iced teas, Licor 43 is extremely versatile, why not try it out?

So to close, i just want to say one thing: Some of you have probably heard of Licor 43 before, and most of you won’t have… Either way i hope reading this has opened your mind to both it’s quality as a standalone liqueur, and at the very least given you some cocktails you’d like to go away and try.

Just please go out and give it a try, you won’t regret it, I promise you that much!

A Tale of Cointreau Part 3: Why not try these for your own personal enjoyment?

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Cointreau is used the world over in some of the most successful cocktails ever created. And even when it’s not the main ingredient (such as a Margarita – where triple sec can be used in its place) it brings something special to that drink, that only Cointreau can. My aim here in this part of the focus is to show how Cointreau can be mixed with virtually all of the main alcohol ‘genres’ (whisky, brandy, vodka, rum, gin etc) and how well it can be implemented in your own experiments.

So what about some cocktail recipes for you to try out with that lovely brown square bottle you’re sure to go out and purchase this Christmas?…

Well here are a few of the classics (which just happen to be some of my favourite drinks)

Margaritamargarita

  • 20ml Cointreau
  • 35ml Tequila
  • 15ml Lime Juice

Cosmopolitanrecette-e17408-cosmopolitan-cocktail

  • 40ml Vodka
  • 20ml Cointreau
  • 20ml Cranberry Juice
  • 10ml Lime Juice

Singapore Slingsingapore sling

  • 30ml Gin
  • 15ml cherry brandy
  • 120ml pineapple juice
  • 15ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 7.5ml Cointreau
  • 7.5ml Benedictine
  • 10ml Grenadine
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with Slice of pineapple & a maraschino cherry

Kamikaze220px-Kamikaze

  • 1 part Vodka
  • 1 Part Cointreau
  • 1 Part Freshly squeezed Lime Juice
  • Lime wedge to garnish & serve over ice.

White Ladywhite lady

  • 20ml Cointreau
  • 20ml Lemon juice
  • 40ml gin

Daiquiristrawberry daiquiri

  • 15ml Cointreau
  • 15ml Fresh lime juice
  • 45ml Mount Gay Rum
  • 10ml Sugar syrup

Pegu Club Cocktail pegu club cocktail

  • 3 parts Gin
  • 2 parts Cointreau
  • 1 part Fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Lime Wedge to garnish

So as you can see, Cointreau is extremely versatile and can be mixed with virtually any type of alcohol and due to its citrus fruit heritage it mixes extremely well with any citrus juice (especially lime juice it seems).

Whether it’s mixed with pineapple juice in some Caribbean tropical cocktail or some Mexican classic (Margarita) or even some Christmas Pimms cup, Cointreau is extremely useful to have in your collection and can give you something Triple Sec could only ever dream of: unsurpassed flavour.  (likewise for Agave Sec – but that’s a matter for another time).

Merry Christmas everyone, and please remember to drink responsibly. And feel free to leave me any comments should any of you try Cointreau out in your own concoctions.

A Tale of Cointreau Part 2: You don’t sell Cointreau? Who the hell do you think you are!

cointreau1

So what is Triple Sec? … Triple sec is a liqueur alcohol made from bitter orange peels and can be bought from almost every supermarket and most corner shops too. But here’s the thing, whilst Cointreau is technically a triple sec (in the very loosest of terms), it is, by all accounts, something so much more.

A lot of people (uneducated people) will tell you that there is no real difference. They are wrong. Cointreau is much more than just another triple sec (it’s a brandy based liqueur for a start). Its history alone is enough to sure up that statement. For over 150 years Remy Cointreau (the owning company of Cointreau) has made Cointreau in the same traditional way it always has. Now whilst you’ll probably never find out what exactly goes into the bottle you buy (due to protection of the ingredients – most alcohols from the big brands are protected in this way). What you will be able to find out is that Cointreau uses both Sweet and Bitter orange peels (standard triple sec only uses bitter peel), and adds sugar to get it to the texture and taste you know and love.

Now apart from its obvious cocktail connotations, Cointreau has solidly become a bit of a Christmas favourite, at least it has over here in the UK. It has all of the citrus flavour you’d expect from a Yule-tide beverage, but the sweetness helps mix it with the dryer more traditional spirits (such as sherry and port).

The Christmas Spirit (excuse the pun) has been greeted with open arms, and we all know the supermarkets like to battle it out for the best offers but the important bit is about what they sell.

With a list of spirits including various vodkas, whisky’s, and liqueurs (such as cherry brandy, amaretto and of course the favourites such as Benedictine, Drambuie & Glayva), the people of the UK are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas’ spirit offers. But one drink that should always be on your list is, of course, Cointreau. Not some £10 (cheap) bottle of triple sec, but a bottle of Cointreau (its usually about £12-14 per 50Cl at this time of year).

If you take one thing away from this blog today it should be to at least give Cointreau a try. I personally guarantee that the flavours you get from the drinks you have will be better for it. Cointreau is one of those liqueurs that just give you that extra something and for this reason it should be one of the main spirits you have on your Christmas list.

So to summarise… Cointreau has something that other triple sec liqueurs have (quite literally as the ingredients are secret!). It’s because of this that it has become not only one of the UK’s favourite liqueurs, but it is a favourite from all over the world.

The balance of the sweet and bitter peel works well together and is a lot easier on the mouth when you drink it neat. Some liqueurs can be a bit overpowering and that can take away the flavour. However the sweetness within the Cointreau helps balance the flavours better, making it easier to taste the citrus peels and their bitter-sweet balance.

As a side note, I would like to add that another ‘triple sec’ product worth a mention would be Agave Sec. This is an orange liqueur like Cointreau but its flavoured with Agave syrup (the same plant used to create that Mexican wonder: Tequila. It is similar to Cointreau in that it becomes opalescent when added to water (or over ice in a cocktail for example). This for both Cointreau and Agave Sec is a mark of real quality as it shows the levels of oils and volatiles from the orange peels/agave syrup is quite high in amount.

A Tale of Cointreau: Part 1: Why make it personal?

Cointreau – “A supremely high quality triple sec” – this is a simple statement of fact. Albeit a very linear fact!

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If you are reading this thinking: ‘yeah Cointreau is just a triple sec isn’t it?’ then firstly slap yourself, and make sure you take notes. Cointreau is NOT ‘just another triple sec’ by any stretch of the imagination. Triple sec is a liqueur flavoured with orange rind (and sometimes other ingredients but for the sake of this post we’ll stick to oranges), ‘but so is Cointreau isn’t it?’ I hear you say… No is my answer. Cointreau is not ‘just a triple sec’, it’s the original triple sec, the first and most original orange liqueur. Sure in the loosest of tongues it can be put under the heading ‘triple sec’ (I’m guilty of doing so myself on occasion) but for all intents and purposes, it is much, much, more than just a triple sec, it’s a way of life. A taste of France, of fresh oranges both sweet and bitter, as well as a few secret ingredients that make the taste even better (I find that mystery in a recipe always improves flavour – must be a psychological thing).

Now Cointreau is the focus of this post for one main reason: It’s special to me. It is, to me, that sense of origin & quality, a starting point on my passionate road for all things spiritual (in a cocktail sense).

I was formerly introduced to Cointreau on a night out when I was just 18 and working for my local supermarket in Chatham (Kent, England). At the time a Russian roulette game of ‘try something new today’ was my method of exploring alcohol. I was young, impressionable and had more money to burn than I’ll ever see again. Armed with that and a young naivety that my supermarkets then motto ‘Try Something New Today’ should be my personal motto of choice when out drinking (or eating) I set out on an adventure, to be different, to not force foul tasting larger/beer/draught ales/wine on my taste buds (they’re foul because I tried and detested all of them in turn). I discovered things I liked, and things I hated. But most importantly, I discovered my first true love: Cointreau.

Now granted the first time I drank it was in a ‘Cointreau, Lime & Lemonade’ concoction that I now know to be sacrilege (they used lime cordial – I mean come on!) but all the same, the minute I got the taste of the orange liquid on my tongue, I knew, I knew this was the spirit for me. So I bought a bottle of it the next time I finished work (I bought 2 bottles to be totally honest) and set out to make and try as many variations of beverages I could find on either the net, or in books or just literally in my mind. Some were ok, others awful. But whatever the drink, I always got the bitter-sweet symphony of orange flavour that Cointreau supplies, even if it tasted like liquid fertilizer (and sometimes they weren’t far off). Every time without fail that same citrus fresh taste was there, almost as a reminder for me to keep trying; Telling me to carry on experimenting and find the ‘cocktail’ for me. Now of course I tried cocktails wherever I could, and commemorated this dialogue to memory: ‘Anything with Cointreau in it that isn’t a margarita’ – a downside to the ‘Try Something New Today’ era of my life, I cannot stand tequila at all (there is always a casualty of such behaviour – tequila was such a casualty).

Eventually I found some cocktails I liked, back then my taste buds where still developing and it was hard to pin down my exact preferences, and as with most people I gained a regular. If the place I went to didn’t serve it, I reverted back to; “A Cointreau, Lime and Lemonade then please!” and whilst it wasn’t perfect, I found it satisfied the need for that bitter-sweet taste.

The Songwriters Shindig south of the border

‘Tequila and lime… may or may not be involved…’

So for the second instalment I thought I feed back to you the Mexican themed party I attended for my friend Jack. He asked me to help him create some special themed cocktails for a party he had arranged for some of his university buddies. Now I am not a stranger to parties, nor to catering cocktails for them (I refer you to my first post). But this one is different. It’s the first one I had to cater for that was not directly for my group of friends. I knew of a couple of the attendees but only through passive meetings.

Now the cocktails for this party were all Mexican in theme (sticking with the theme for the party overall), using the various flavours and alcohols Mexico is famous for (I.e. Coffee, tequila, chilli & lime to name a few). From the fruity ‘Twisted Lemon Mojito’ to the quite painful ‘El Agua del Diablo’, the drinks for this event were perfectly themed.

List of cocktails on the menu: (a * denotes those taken from cocktail books – the others are my own recipe)

–          Twisted Lemon Mojito

–          Classic Tequila Slammer

–          Monterrey Martini

–          El Agua del Diablo

–          Good Morning Paloma

–          Tijuana Slinger*

–          Mexican Mule

–          Navajo Trail*

–          El Dorado Fountain

–          Mariachi Music Maker

–          Mexican Fizz*

–          Yellow Bird*

Whilst not all of these were served (Its hard to serve a set menu at a student party it seems– who’d have thought it?), some other ‘off menu’ recipes were made as well as a few improvised creations, for example a lot of people wanted standard mojitos (Which is fine with me as I love making them, and feel I can make a far superior version than most bars will serve you)..

Refreshing, Crisp, It's the sonoran Iced Tea.
A refreshing take on an iced tea, but jazzed up with a bit of classic Mexicana…

The choices leading towards the recipes chosen for the menu were made to represent the spicier more raw side of Mexico’s culture (tequila and chilli etc…), but as the party continued, it was obvious that a disdain for anything pure Mexican was in the air (a disdain for the stronger, shorter tequila based drinks) and centred more on ‘longer’ cocktails, making use of the vast amounts of mixers available. This was not really a bad thing, as it allowed for more experimentation and for the attendees to get involved with the making process much easier.

Here, give it a try, and remember, take your time!

Thanks to this experimentation, and the demand for a longer drink, I was able to create one particular cocktail I’m quite proud of. It’s been dubbed the ‘Sonoran Iced Tea’ – although does not contain many of the ingredients you’d find in a classic iced teas – another blog dedicated to this cocktail. The recipe can be found above.

I attended the event for 3 hours, and during that time I created some great cocktails, but more importantly I showed others how to make them, although It’s not even worth taking a poll to see that the mojito was the most favoured drink at the event (everyone wanted a Mojito!).

Once you show people how to mix a cocktail, they can appreciate it more as they enjoy it. The best thing to remember is to explain it as you make it, especially if they want to know. For example; in the mojito’s case, explain why you need certain amounts of sugar/mint/soda etc… They can then experiment to their own tastes and also know what flavours to mix and what ones to keep away from.

Whilst this was my secondary aim, it was an important one, as I wanted to see how easily people can take to a simple cocktail recipe, and how willing they are to adapt it to their own tastes.

As I always say, cocktails are all about experimentation. No cocktail would ever have been invented had it not been for experimentation. The sea breeze would not have occurred if someone had not tried to mix different fruit juices to different spirits.

Anyway, message here is that experimentation is integral to any Mixologist, you just need that little bit of passion and a little curiosity. Either way you need to realise quickly what works and what doesn’t. If you can do that, and do it well, you stand a good chance of creating something special.

So that’s the feedback and feelings resulting from my 2nd ever event! Hopefully you all found it interesting; I shall be doing some smaller easy reading blogs about cocktail recipes I like. Including the new star on the block from this party the ‘Sonoran Iced-Tea’ until then…