Monthly Archives: November 2011

Christmas cocktails at Dirty Martini

It’s the 1st of December tomorrow and I am now annoyingly excited for Christmas. I have already munched my way through too many mince pies and I cannot wait to open the first door of my advent calendar in the morning!

In keeping with the festive theme, this month I’ll be letting you know all about what to drink to get yourself into the ‘spirit’ of Christmas (pardon the pun), anything from soft drinks to enjoy if you’re the designated driver, to tried-and-tested wine and turkey recommendations.

Just a stone’s throw away from my work, in the centre of Covent Garden, the mixologists at Dirty Martini have created some decadent cocktails to kickstart the countdown to Christmas.

Here are some of the creations Luke and I had the pleasure of sampling last night, all of which will be available at the Covent Garden branch from Friday.

Unfortunately, since Luke isn’t usually a fan of the sweet/ alcohol combination, I had to help him finish his!

Trifle Martini
Absolut Raspberry Vodka, Baileys, Chambord

Gingerbread Martini
Buffalo Trace, Butterscotch Schnapps, Stone’s Original Ginger Wine, pressed apple juice

Black Forest Martini
Absolut Vodka, Chambord, Crème de Fraise, cream

Candy Cane Martini
Absolut Vanilla, Peppermint Schnapps, club soda, candy cane garnish

Snowball Martini
Bacardi white rum, Butterscotch Schnapps, Amaretto, Kalua, Baileys

Of the five above, my favourite was the gingerbread martini – warming ginger with cinnamon and apple slices to garnish, it went down a treat. The candy cane martini was minty and crisp, and without the cream-based liqueurs, a little lighter on the waistline! I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get a candy cane, but the substitute (a stick of dark chocolate) worked well alongside the peppermint, and the waitress assured me that by Friday they will have all the necessary ingredients. Luke enjoyed the trifle martini, comparing it to raspberry ice cream, and the snowball martini was truly indulgent – rich and creamy, this would be perfect as an after dinner alternative to dessert. We didn’t try the black forest martini so you’ll have to let me know what that one is like.


(candy cane and gingerbread martinis)

    (snowball and trifle martinis)

    These Christmas cocktails will be available at the Covent Garden branch of Dirty Martini from Friday – head down after work between 5pm and 8pm to make the most of Happy Hour!

    Make sure you don’t miss the giant reindeer on the way…

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When in Rome…

A long weekend away to Dublin saw me break with tradition, exchanging wine for two somewhat different and polarising drinks; Guinness and Jameson whiskey* (not together of course!)

Guinness
I can imagine many of you visibly wincing, but don’t be put off by the idea of Guinness – rich and creamy in texture with a nutty flavour, the first taste is delicious! That is followed by a distinctive bitter, and slightly metallic (but not unpleasant) aftertaste.

With that in mind, a trip to Dublin can’t pass without a stop off at the Guinness storehouse. It’s here that you can learn all about the rich history of the humble porter, from the coopers responsible back in the day for making and mending the barrels, to the ingredients and processes that go into the production of the drink. You’ll even learn why you must wait so long for the barman to pour your pint of Guinness once you have ordered it. Here, the ‘master brewer’ explains how to pour the perfect pint.

The gravity bar at the top of the Guinness storehouse, with stunning views over the city, is the perfect place to enjoy a pint of the black stuff.

Jameson Irish whiskey
Given that we walked the length and breadth of Dublin in the five days we were there (take sturdy shoes if you plan on visiting), it was inevitable that we would stumble upon the Old Jameson distillery. No longer a functioning distillery, it now serves as a museum where you can sign up to guided tours taking you through all the processes of whiskey production. You can also enjoy a drink at the bar at the end of it – who knew Jameson and ginger ale tasted so good?

Eight of us even got an exclusive tasting at the end of the tour, comparing a Scotch whisky, an American whiskey and Jameson Irish whiskey (brief tasting notes below).


(I’m now a qualified whiskey taster, don’t you know)

12 year old Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky
Earthy with a taste like burning cigarettes, I did not enjoy this one.

Jack Daniels Tennessee
Harsher and sweeter on the palate, this just reminds me of my younger years when JD and coke was all the rage. Needless to say, I’m not a fan!

5 year old Jameson Irish whiskey
Much smoother with some vanilla undertones, this whiskey is incredibly versatile – great with a variety of mixers to make an alternative cocktail.

Fear not, I haven’t turned into a whiskey drinker. While wine still wins hands down for me, these two drinks, known for dividing opinion, are definitely worth a try (especially in their homeland!)

*For the Scots and British, ‘whisky’ is spelt without the ‘e’, whereas the Irish (and Americans) adopt the ‘whiskey’ spelling. For consistency reasons (and because this post centres around Dublin tipples), I’ve stuck with the Irish spelling, except where reference to ‘Scotch whisky’ is made.

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Who cooked?!

On Saturday night, for the first time in 4 and a half years, Luke cooked for me! Well, when I say he cooked for me, what I mean is; I prepared EVERYTHING and he pan fried the duck and put it in the oven. Still, the thought was there and he did pay for all the ingredients in Waitrose so I can’t complain.

To accompany our meal, as I’m a little bit obsessed with Côtes du Rhône at the moment, we bought a bottle of the rich and intensely fruity Arc du Rhône Villages. In my opinion, Côtes du Rhône is grossly underrated and given that this particular bottle has ‘Villages’ status (it’s got one up on the average CDR in wine region status), for the reduced price of £5.99, you can’t really go wrong!

We both felt the wine went excellently with our starter of baked camembert followed by duck in redcurrant and red wine sauce. The sweet, sticky sauce accompanied the berry flavours of the wine beautifully.

If you fancy trying this combination for yourself, these recipes (courtesy of BBC Good Food) are tried and tested…

Baked camembert

Ingredients – serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main meal
1 x Camembert in box
1tbsp vermouth (Martini) or dry white wine
1tsp chilli flakes
2 sprigs thyme
Crusty white bread
Celery

1. Remove the cheese from the box, unwrap and place back into the box
2. Slash a cross across the top of the cheese and tuck the thyme into the slits
3. Pour over the wine and sprinkle the chilli flakes on top
4. Bake at 180-200°c for 20 minutes until the cheese is nice and gooey
5. Serve with toasted bread and celery sticks for dipping

Duck breast in redcurrant and red wine sauce

Ingredients – serves 2
2 duck breasts
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1tbsp redcurrant jelly (the original recipe states 3tbsp but it made the sauce a bit too sweet for our taste)
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
Pinch fresh thyme
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 glass red wine
30g butter
Vegetables for roasting

1. Slash the skin of the duck and flash fry in a hot pan – don’t pour the fat away, tip it over your vegetables (parsnips go well with the sweet redcurrant sauce) before putting in the oven. They’ll be delicious and crispy!
2. Place the duck into the oven at 180-200°c for 15 minutes (10 if you like your duck very rare, 20 will destroy it). You may need to pour off the fat a couple of times as it cooks
3. Meanwhile fry the shallots, garlic, tomatoes and thyme
4. Add the balsamic vinegar, wine, butter and jelly
5. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce the mixture to a sticky sauce
6. Remove the duck from the oven, leave to rest for a few minutes, then slice diagonally
7. Pour the sauce over the duck and serve with roasted root vegetables and peas

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La Châsse Côtes du Rhône Réserve

There’s not too much to say about this French classic other than ‘buy, buy, buy!’

An absolute bargain from Tesco, priced at just £5, yesterday we enjoyed this wine alongside our Sunday roast lamb.

A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, this Côtes du Rhône is spicy and delicious. Laced with sweet vanilla and cherry fruit flavours, it would go down a treat at any dinner table.

I’ll certainly be stocking up in time for Christmas!

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