If you’re a fan of the mixed drink, you may know that the first written definition of a cocktail comes from a newspaper article published in 1806, which describes a ‘cock-tail’ as “…an invigorating drink, comprised of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” For those familiar with the ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktail, this goes some way to explaining how the drink got its name.
The name cocktail, naturally, is shrouded in mystery; there are many theories, some even pretty plausible. My preferred story is that mixed-breed horses were often marked by having their tails cut short, thus known as cock-tails. It’s as good an answer as any.
I was a bartender before I joined the wine trade, so spirits and cocktails hold a very special place in my heart. Gin, in particular, has long been a great love of mine. The first is a recipe of my own creation (with which I won a competition for the Gin in question), the second is a variation on a recipe by a former co-conspirator of mine, Jamie MacDonald, which was the tie-breaking drink to win him a trip to Mexico. I had won through an earlier round with a rum drink – which you can read about here.
A Saucy Proposition
50ml Broker’s Gin
Two barspoons Redcurrant Jelly
3 Dashes Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Method: Shake over cubed ice and double strain into a chilled antique wine or large sherry glass. Garnish with a sprig of Rosemary and zest with a lemon peel (discard after). Add one dash Xocolatl Mole Bitters on top to finish.
In case you wondered, Xocolatl Mole means Chocolate Sauce. The concept for the drink came from cooking a sauce for some venison medallions – I’d used red wine, redcurrants and juniper with a tiny bit of 100% cacao to give it a twist. Roughly translated into cocktail form, you get the above. The Rosemary garnish isn’t just for show – it has a piney aroma not dissimilar to Juniper, which compliments the gin.
It comes with a poem, featuring a bastardised version of that famous* Flanders & Swann song ‘The Gnu’. I’m sure they would have approved:
A year ago, last Thursday, I was strolling through the glens,
When I met a ghille who thought he knew the lot.
He was laying down the law about the stalking of the Stag,
And how many, that past year, he had shot.
So I asked him, “What’s the best way to serve?”
He answered, “Oh, cooked well through.”
And I might have gone on thinking that was true.
If the animal in question had not put that man to shame, and said:
“Och no! Rare, in a red wine jus.”
The Modern Cocktail
50ml Pickering’s Gin
20ml Chardonnay (Lightly Oaked, Fruit-driven – such as this)
10ml Sugar Syrup
2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters
Method: Stirred over ice with the peel of a lime, served straight up with a grapefruit twist. Or lemon, if you prefer.
As for Jamie’s inspiration, it harks right back to that old 1806 definition. Spirit, sugar, water (in this case from the ice) and bitters. Replacing Vermouth with a light and fruity white wine, it updates a classic recipe for something quite simply delicious. His original recipe called for Tanqueray, however I much prefer the effortlessly floral, piney and herbacious character of Pickering’s.
If you have any cocktail recipes you’d like to share, leave them in the comments below!