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!
So Cinco De Mayo is here! It might be nearly over here in the UK but over in the USA it’s just about time to prep your drinks and start upon your drinking night…
My addition this year is a simple yet often overlooked tweak to make your lovely cocktail a little more… punchy.
Recently I was out for a meal at Chiquito’s (a Mexican/Southern American themed chain restaurant here in the UK) and my tipple of choice whenever visiting this particular branch is their exceptional Dark N’ Stormy. They use Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, and of course Goslings ginger ale – What you have to use to create a Dark n’ Stormy, and call it so.
Well I finished my first one and, sporting my Mexican sports jacket (I purchased it during the 2014 world cup – it’s a delightful shade of green) I asked the waitress if she would mind asking the bartender to make me a Dark N’ Stormy, but with a tweak… She told me they can if they have the means, so I asked for a Dark N’ Stormy but for Tequila instead of rum, I said I wasn’t too fussed on what tequila, just whatever the bartender thought would work best.
Now I don’t know what tequila the bartender used, nor did I remember to ask on my way out (a mistake on my part – although I’d had a few and was with friends). All I know is that it tasted fantastic, and worked wonderfully! So whilst I do not know what tequila was used (I’ve left that to your own tastes) I have included a recipe I know to be pretty accurate to what I had:
Cinco De Mayo Special: Mexican Storm
50ml Tequila (your favourite)
150ml Ginger Ale/Beer
15ml Fresh Lime Juice
Pour the ginger ale/beer into a half filled tall glass.
Squeeze in the lime juice and top up with the large slug of tequila.
Garnish with a slice of lime and serve with a couple of straws.
This cocktail is so simple it’s a wonder it isn’t used more often in the world of cocktails. Supplementing tequila for rum in this case means your drink packs a little more of a kick, as well as making it instantly Mexican themed…
So next time you order a Dark N’ Stormy, switch out the rum for a nice quality Tequila, preferably your favourite, and you may never go back. I know I’m sold!
So I needed to top up on the ‘extras’ for my cocktails (the sugar syrup, fresh fruit, fruit sodas and other weird and wonderful things) and the best way to do that? Shopping trip! Now some of the things can be expensive (like Hibiscus flowers – 11 of them in syrup can cost anywhere from £9-£20 depending on where you find them), whilst others can be cheap and cheerful.
Take the fresh fruit I got today; 4 Oranges or a punnet of strawberries £2 each or 2 packs for £3, so obviously I saved there by getting one of each. Agave Nectar was relatively cheap for what it is at £2.50 and even the Espresso Coffee Beans were on offer at £2… So really I save quite a bit today. I fact almost everything I bought on this trip happened to be on offer. Even the Pomegranate juice was on an introductory offer (a bit weird as they’ve had it for over a week, I should know I put it on the shelf!).
Still it means I was able to get some good bits, and I even found some Molasses at a health food shop (the same health food shop that told me they’d never heard of the stuff 2 weeks ago – pays to have a look for yourself it seems)…
So how does all this tie in with my cocktail recipes?
Well overall I’m almost set up for my massive Mojito session in a couple of weeks. My next post, as I’ve already shown you a preview of it in my last post, on here will contain a small library’s worth of mojito recipes. But a few weeks after that I’ll post a series of mini-reviews on how some of them (and others) tasted, how well they worked etc… They will be made using various fruits and sugar syrups (mainly infused syrups like lavender, hibiscus, jasmine, apple and kiwi, to name but a few).
Expect this about 2 weeks after Easter. But until then I thought it would be nice to show you that you can get some really great ingredients for less than you may have thought (over here in the UK at least anyway). Granted some things can cost a bit, some of you may think £2.50 for 200ml of Agave Nectar is expensive but when you liken it to the prices of honey…
1) Spend as much time thinking about the non-alcoholic ingredients you’ll be using as you do about the actual alcohol – it is these ingredients that usually deepen the flavours in the drink and also make a lot of them nice to drink (After all a Mojito without soda water, mint and sugar syrup is, well, just rum.
2) Spend out on hard to find ingredients, if you have the money set aside for a selection of ingredients, don’t be afraid to spend out on some of the rarer ingredients. Whilst you don’t want to spend more than £5 per 70cl of Grenadine (if you’re not making it yourself) you should be prepared to spend out a bit more for fresh fruit, especially with the weather how it is (You’ll find fruits like strawberries relatively unaffected in price, but their quality will not be at their best – this cannot be helped without going straight to the farms, however fruits like blueberries and more exotic fruits like mangoes, guava and even farmhouse classics like Rhubarb can be difficult to get cheaply at all).
3) Enjoy the ingredients well. Obviously don’t overuse them, but don’t be afraid to try new things out. Have you purchased a new, flavoured sugar syrup? Then try it in any recipe with sugar syrup in, Hibiscus Mojito? Yes please. Jasmine & Lemon Gin Fizz? Right on! – Experiments drive the world. Give it a go and don’t be afraid to dabble.
4) Things don’t always work how you want. Do not let that deter you, for every 1 drink you make and love, you’ll create on average 20 drinks you hate. Fact. Science. Science Fact.
I hope this has helped some of you, and please do not feel afraid to ask for help, pop me a message if you have an ingredient you want some advice with, or leave a comment. The aim of the game: Try Something New.
The best thing about some cocktails, in my opinion at least, is that they can have their ingredients substituted by certain other ingredients (just look at the classic Caipirinha and Caipiroska cocktails). We all have our favourite cocktails, and for some, we all have our favourite ways of preparing them. For example, I like a little extra lime in my Cuba Libre’s, I just love the taste.
This is the same with the Moscow Mule; at least in principle…
The classic recipe, of 1 part vodka to 4 parts ginger beer, with a splash of lime is one many people will look at and think ‘that’s extremely easy’. And it is. Whilst one of the easiest cocktails to both remember and make; the Moscow Mule is also one of the best tasting. The lime juice, when fresh cuts right through the ‘paint stripper’ taste you get from a lot of the poorer quality vodkas, whilst complementing the higher quality ones (not to mention its crisp, refreshing taste). The ginger beer/ale (which ever you prefer – I myself prefer the more flavoursome ginger ale).
Classic Moscow Mule Recipe
120ml Ginger Beer/Ale
5ml Freshly squeezed Lime Juice
Top tip: The higher the quality of the vodka, the better this drink will taste. I find Green Mark is the perfect balance when it comes to ‘quality vs. price’. Ginger Ale is the more flavoursome of the two ginger carbonated mixers. The beer is a flavoured soda, whereas the ale is actually made from Ginger directly.
The best thing about this cocktail is, as previously stated, its versatility when the ingredients are changed out. For a more Caribbean flavour you can substitute half of the vodka for spiced rum, or even add in a splash of gin to give it a more English feel. It’s all about your tastes.
A couple of ideas to get you all started would be:
Citrus: Changing up the citrus flavour in this drink means you can replace the distinct limey flavour with a more bitter lemon flavour, and in some cases even grapefruit and orange flavours. Granted you have to be careful not to increase the fruit juice content too much, so as not to unbalance the drink, but get it right and you have a slight twist on a classic.
A rather good recipe, as well as some others I’ve picked up along the way can be found here in the following section:
Moscow Mule, Valencian Twist
120ml Ginger Beer
45ml Green Mark Vodka
5ml Freshly Squeezed Orange juice
2-5 dashes angostura orange bitters (to taste)
Top Tip: Garnish with an orange twist, and if your skill is up to it, flame the zest of the twist too.
A Great Moscow Mule Pitcher
100ml Lime Juice
750ml Ginger Beer
Top Tip: Serve over ice and throw in some Lime wheels to make the jug/pitcher look a little colourful.
A slightly bitter version
3 dashes Angostura bitters
50ml green mark vodka
25ml fresh lime juice
Top up Ginger beer
Top tip: when adding the bitters, make sure it mixes well with the vodka and lime before topping up. Otherwise this drink does not balance well. 3 dashes is the average for this drink, but depending on your taste you can have as little as 1 dash, or as many as 5 before this drink is unbalanced; add the bitters to your own tastes.
The Interurban Kentucky Mule
45ml Kentucky Bourbon
5ml freshly squeezed lime juice
Top up ginger beer
Top Tip: Kentucky bourbon is the only American whisky you should be using in this variation, but if you cannot get a hold of one, then Canadian will suffice. Jack Daniels is just not on the same level.
This version is a Portland (as in Portland, USA) favourite. They folks there swear by these and the bourbon is cleverly disguised within the first sip.
Mezcal Mule/Mexican Mule
45ml Mezcal/Gold Tequila
15ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
Top up with Ginger Beer
The Mezcal Mule (obviously using Mezcal not Tequila) is a house cocktail from the ‘Central’ Bar in Southwest Portland. The Mexican Mule however has a more ‘full on’ Mexican vibe to it.
Either way you’ll enjoy these refreshing cocktails, especially If you love tequila/mescal.
Did you know? – All Tequila’s are a type of Mezcal but not all Mezcal is a type of Tequila.
For 3 other Portland moscow mule variations check out this site:
Margate is a wonderfully quaint little seaside town on the eastern tip of Kent (a county in the UK – for all you non-UK readers) but for those of you who are not acquainted with this sometimes lovely little town here are a few photos, in the form of a Google search…
Once you’ve seen some of those pictures, imagine this:
Walking along the Margate sea-front, box of cocktail equipment in hand, leftover tequila, white rum and even a bottle of Prosecco (which remained un-opened in the end) all included, I meander along the path, to be pleasantly surprised by my friend Dan (no relation) who was waiting for me after picking up a small mountain of ice for the Soiree. We both walked back to his house and as we walked in we were both met with a chorus of ‘Woos’ and ‘Dan!’ all from one of the other co-hosts excited to see the cocktail prep could begin. Now I would like to make it clear that at this point, it was around 5-5.30pm and the Soiree did not really get going until around 7-8pm.
Before I can do any prep work, I’m shown around the house. First up the main room; where I would be set up. This room also included interactive music, determined by the people in the room at the time (allowing for more personalisation of the evening for the guests – a great idea that really worked well). Then I was taken into the two-tier ‘rave’ cellar and considering it was just 2 brick built rooms the last time I saw it, the neon lights, fairy lights and luminous paint (along with the slightly later addition of strobes and lasers) made this the very club-vibe up beat part of the event.
This two level club-like look really worked and considering the 40+ people attending, was also necessary!
Onwards to the cocktails now:
I started prepping the cocktails and the ingredients needed from around 6pm. This included washing anything I hadn’t done at home, laying out my equipment (knives, strainers, shakers, jiggers etc.) and then of course the softening & cutting of the limes. The alcohol was kept in a make shift bar, an emptied bookcase worked surprisingly well, combined with a large unused table provided me with a sturdy work surface. With people not turning up (generally) until around 7-8pm I offered to make a few test cocktails for the hosts and the music suppliers.
Cocktails tried included the dark n stormy, sex on the beach and (because of a lack of gin/lemon juice) I also served up a tweaked version of the Long Island Iced-Tea (see below [cocktail no.9] for the recipe). This helped me ease into a sense of security and when people started actually turning up I was in my element. For all intents and purposes I had my own bar for the night. Working cleanly and efficiently (and under a great deal of pressure from almost all of the guests at one point) the cocktails started flying of the shelf (quite literally).
I had written the recipes down in one of my handy little notebooks and this allowed people to read what cocktails were available. This not only freed me up to concentrate on the cocktail making process, but also allowed the guests to have a good look at the ingredients and the name of the cocktails, helping them understand what was in each one. This was a little Idea I thought I’d try that also seemed to ease up some time for me to concentrate on the cocktails.
These cocktails, as you can see, are a combination of classic and contemporary recipes with a little variance in the themes. The mojitos are light and refreshing, whereas the white Russian is a creamier coffee flavoured cocktail. Whilst the Hawaiian Bay Breeze and Sex on the beach are similar in their ingredients, the simple addition/replacement of the ingredients drastically transforms the flavours…
Overall I feel this collection best suited the night and the guests that attended where full of compliments of every recipe. In hindsight the only changes would probably have been the removal of both the Tequila Sunrise and Hawaiian Bay Breeze. These would be changed purely because of a) the tequila sunrise didn’t work with the small opaque plastic cups and b) the Hawaiian bay breeze was too similar to the sex on the beach for the guests to order. Looking at the recipes available with the ingredients purchased the best move may have been to use some more Mexican themed cocktails (tequila and pineapple juice based recipes may have been a good call) to balance the collection out a little.
That put to one side, the overall feedback was good and everyone kept complimenting me on my cocktails, which is a fantastic confidence boost – as I knew pretty much nobody there, and the people I did know had not really seen me in action.
The event as a whole didn’t just benefit me from a networking point of view in that my confidence with serving quality cocktails is improving all the time. The cocktails served were not only great tasting, but well made, and that is great feedback to have.
As a further more personal note, having cocktails at an event like this, in the way it was done at this event, supplies your guests with a focal point outside of the norm. This can become a conversation topic as well as a general form of interactive entertainment.
Now onto the real bread and butter of this post: The Cocktails…
As previously stated the cocktails are a combination of all different flavours. These are not necessarily themed but do share a general Caribbean trend (light fruity juice mixed drinks)
Dark ‘n’ Stormy
1 measure Dark Rum (I used White Rum)
5 measures Jamaican Ginger Beer
I used Sainsbury’s white rum for this cocktail as dark rum is generally hard to find at a reasonable price these days. The only thing the dark rum will give you over the white rum is a larger depth of flavour, but if you use a higher quality rum (let’s use Havana Club 3yo for example) then the flavour depth is automatically quite deep, negating the need for dark rum specifically.
Top Tip: when on a low budget always try to accommodate the supermarket brands, you’ll find that the quality is just as good as some of the more ‘famous’ brands especially when mixing in cocktails…
1 measure Vodka
1 measure Galliano
4 measures Fresh Smooth Orange Juice
This cocktail is a classic version of a classic recipe. It was not tweaked in any way and I think this is by far the best way to serve it. If you do not like the vanilla then you can cut it out, but then it becomes a simple Screwdriver. Either way enjoy this cocktail over ice.
Top Tip: this drink is better built in the glass over ice than shaken. You want to create a layered feel to the flavours and shaking the ingredients works against this…
60ml White Rum
15ml Sugar Syrup
8-10 fresh mint leaves
1 ½ lime in ¼’s
Top up Soda water/Lemonade
Build the ingredients in the glass you serve it in. Start with the lime and sugar syrup and muddle well, then add the mint and gently muddle. Add the crushed ice and the rum. Top up with lemonade and garnish with a mint sprig.
This cocktail is a classic recipe ONLY when the soda water is used. However my recipe calls for lemonade purely because I have not found a soda water mojito that I like. And I am more comfortable making this slightly sweeter version. This drink is meant to be refreshing so you must use fresh mint leaves. This cocktail just does not work with dried mint at all.
Top Tip: Just before you put the mint leaves in the drink, place them in the palm of one hand, and clap your hands 1-2 times. This releases the oils from the leaves without making the drink bitter.
Sex on the Beach
1 measure Vodka
1 measure Peach Schnapps
2 measure Cranberry Juice
2 measures fresh smooth Orange Juice.
Another built drink. This drink is all about depth in flavour and the best way to do this is to loosely layer the ingredients as you make the drink (over ice of course).
Top Tip: if your guests are planning on drinking this cocktail quickly (or if it’s served in small amounts) then stir gently before serving so they get all the appropriate flavours.
Hawaiian Bay Breeze
1 measure Vodka
1.5 measures Cranberry juice
1.5 measures Pineapple juice
This cocktail can be served either built or shaken. Either way the pineapple adds some Caribbean flavour to an already fruity cocktail. The cranberry and pineapple work perfectly to create an almost punch like feel to this drink.
Top tip: if shaking, double strain the cocktail as you pour it into the glass, taking out the unnecessary foam (from shaking the pineapple).
1 measure Silver Tequila
4 measures Fresh smooth Orange juice
½ measure Grenadine Syrup
This drink is as simple as it sounds. Build it over ice with the grenadine being dropped from about 1cm above the glass. The grenadine syrup will sink to the bottom and gradually work its way up the cocktail as you drink it. The idea being that the more you drink it, the stronger/sweeter it gets.
Top tip: if you want a bit more culture in your tequila sunrise try using a quality Gold Tequila to add some depth. Jose Cuervo Reposado Gold Tequila is a good shout, but any quality gold tequila will do.
1 measure vodka
1 measure coffee liqueur
2 measures Single Cream
This cocktail is a tricky cocktail to make. It may look like it is going wrong but just persist and as long as the cream doesn’t curdle it will be perfect…
Build it over ice and stir before serving…
Top tip: I used my preferred coffee liqueur on this, and the best thing about using coffee liqueur with cream is that you really can be flexible. Try it with Kahlua, but Tia Maria and Soiree coffee liqueur work just as well.
The Sonoran Iced-Tea
1 measure Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
1 measure Disaronno Amaretto
½ measure Silver Tequila
Garnish: ½ measure freshly squeezed lime juice
Top up with cranberry juice.
I have both built and shaken this drink, for the best blend I find shaking makes it lighter and negates the need for ice in the glass, whereas building it requires crushed ice. But please find the best way that suits your taste.
At this event I served the lime juice as a garnish (adding just after pouring into the glass/cup). Shaking the rest of the ingredients negates the need for ice and also saves time as you can serve it straight away.
Top tip: you can add the lime juice to the drink and shake or pour it in at the end; I just prefer the crisp lime flavour at the beginning. Please feel free to experiment and find the way that best suits you.
Bonus cocktail recipe:
My forced-tweaked version of the Long Island Iced-Tea
1 measure vodka
1 measure rum
1 measure silver tequila
1.5 measures fresh lime juice
2 measures sugar syrup
Dash of amaretto
Top up with Coca Cola (original not diet)
This drink was born out of a lack of gin, triple sec and lemon juice. It was not one of my planned cocktails but I was challenged by one of the guests to make up what I could with what I had, using the L.I.I.T. as a base. It was rather sweet and as far as I’m concerned it worked. The guest was happy and it spread like wildfire throughout the event, becoming better than most of the cocktails on the menu.
The Anejo Highball is not so much a celebrated classic as it is a modified masterpiece. The original recipe comes from “insert creators name here” and has become a house cocktail in their bar. The thing is, this cocktail is better shared than kept for that bar (sorry “name”)… The recipe is a combination of a wonderfully aged ‘Anejo’ Rum, fresh lime juice and ginger beer (with a few dashes of angostura bitters)… And it is as flavoursome as it is simple to make.
For purely experimental reasons I tried this drink, firstly with freshly squeezed lime juice (DIY – it’s really not that hard to do yourself) and secondly with Roses Lime Cordial… Needless to say, Lime cordial is 100% a bad choice. The job of the lime in this drink is to cut through the rum and help layer out the flavours. By using lime cordial you take away the limes capability and end up with an overly sweet unbalanced mixture.
The layers this drink supplies are held together by the lime (without question) but the potency comes purely from the Anejo rum. I used a brand called ‘Brugal’, from the Dominican Republic and of high quality, this rum was a recent addition to my collection and has been a relatively new addition to my local Sainsbury’s (supermarket not convenience) spirit selection (among many others that will feature in this and future blogs).
The thing to remember about cocktails is that they delicately balanced. Too much of any one of the ingredients and the drink be transforms into something nobody wants to consume.
With this in mind, a few things to remember about the Anejo highball are as follows:
– Lime Juice – Use freshly squeezed (see above for details)
– Ginger beer – use because it is lighter and smoother than ginger ale and works better with the rum.
– Angostura Bitters: the drink calls for 2 dashes but if like me you like a little more bitter in your drink up the does to around 3 / 4 dashes.
– Triple Sec – using Cointreau is a possibility if you don’t have triple sec available, but the where possible use a standard triple sec or ‘dry’ curacao (No coloured versions please – leave your blue curacao in the cupboard for Woo Woo’s and grease lightning’s).
– Anejo Rum – Always, without fail, use Anejo Rum – It’s in the name after all!
Overall this drink caters for those of you who prefer a cocktail on the more bitter edge of the taste experience (also you kind of need to like ginger beer – replacing it with other sodas generally does not work).