Muddling Through: The Manhattan

DSC_0036_e

Good evening and welcome to my first proper post in ‘Muddling Through’, a beginners guide to cocktails, written by a beginner.

As my introduction said, I’m going to be focussing on classic cocktails (at least for now) and few are more widely known than the Manhattan. This also seemed a rather apt choice as it’s one of Ems’ all time favourite cocktails.

Invented in The Manhattan Club, New York as early as the 1870′s (though it seems no one can say for sure) the drink has changed very little since then. As with the Martini the only real change seems to be a gradual decline in the amount of Vermouth added! That said, with these kinds of drinks there are a great many variations and the Manhattan in particular is popular with bartenders who enjoy injecting a little of their own style into their drinks. For simplicity though I’m going to stick with the most basic. Don’t however let my use of the word ‘basic’ fool you in any way! The Manhattan is a very sophisticated cocktail and when done well is a truly great drink!

DSC_0026

The Manhattan

Ingredients

  • 2 Measures Rye/Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 Dash Bitters

Depending on how sweet you like your drinks you can simply increase or decrease the amount of Vermouth added (I’d suggest increments of 1/4 measures).

Method

  1. Combine the Whisky, Vermouth and Bitters in a mixing glass/cocktail mixer half filled with ice.
  2. Stir together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Yep, that’s it! So if you read my introductory post you should see why I told you to treat yourself to the good stuff! With drinks like this you’ve not got much to cover the taste of poor quality alcohol, so best not to risk it!

Rye is the more traditional Whisky for use in the Manhattan, but as I’ve found American Whisky sparsely stocked in UK supermarkets to say the least (there is so much more to life than Jack Daniels and Jim Beam!) you’re unlikely to find a Rye outside of the Internet, or if you’re lucky a very well stocked off-licence! In which case you will be more than fine with a good Bourbon.

As for Vermouth, if you can find yourself a bottle of Vermouth Rosso you can add an extra level of depth to your Manhattan by adding up to half a measure. Again depending on how much Vermouth you want to add in total and how sweet you want it, you’ll either add it or replace some of your sweet Vermouth with it.

Finally feel free to experiment with different Bitters if you can get hold of any. Orange is good, and I’d also recommend Cherry….lots of Manahattan recipes include burnt peel or a cocktail cherry.

For anyone interested, here’s how I’m currently making my Manhattan at home:

  • 1 Measure Pikesville Straight Rye Whisky
  • 1 Measure Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Cinzano Vermouth
  • 1/4 Measure Vermouth Rosso
  • 5 Drops Cherry Bitters

In all honesty I’m making it this way as I’m not in love with the Pikesville (it’s also my first Rye), so once that’s gone I plan to try another Rye and if I like it may end up making my Manhattans with just that. You never know, which is why it’s good to experiment to find what you like as the flavours and sweetness in a drink like this differ from person to person!

However you end up making your Manhattan, I hope you enjoy it and let me know about your experiences!

Until next time!

Adam

About these ads

Vienna: Drinks

Whilst we were preparing for our trip to Vienna last year, it quickly became apparent that one thing we could greatly look forward to was some exceptionally good coffee. Adam and I are constantly frustrated by our country’s rubbish attempts at cafe culture (you know, the over-crowded chain cafes, noisy with crying babies and fake coffee-making noises, and the over-frothy burnt milk that is supposed to pass as a coffee) and although we’ve found a few exceptional places in London and in Hitchin, we were excited by the prospect of being able to get a great coffee in lots of places.

Our guide book also offered us temptations in the form of cocktail bars, Gluwein (the yummy mulled wine you can buy at the Christmas markets) and of course, lots of cakes and things to go with them. And we certainly weren’t disappointed either! We spent many an hour just relxing in one of Vienna’s lovely cafes, and were so pleased with the bar we first found that we didn’t bother going anywhere else!

So, here’s my round up of Vienna’s cafes and bars….

The first place anyone usually tells you to go in Vienna is Cafe Sacher. The famous hotel is located right behind the Staatsoper (opera house) and is a mecca for those wanting to try the iconic Sacher Torte. The dense chocolate cake was first created by the hotel’s chef Sacher in 1832, and the original recipe remains a hotel secret (as you’d expect for what they claim is the most famous cake in all the world!). And whilst the cafe is delightfully traditional and ever so proper (mind you choose the smoking or non smoking room as you prefer….not something we are used to any more!) and the cake is nice enough, it’s certainly more about the experience of going rather than the cake being any kind of special. There, I said it. Don’t hate me.

Purists may dislike me for it, but I actually much preferred our visit to Cafe Sperl, another Vienese favourite although a little more hidden away behind the Museum Quarter. The speciality here is Sperlschnitte, a sort of crispy-topped, dense chocolate torte-style brownie….and BOY is it special! The coffee here was perfect too, and I could have happily whiled away the entire day in the decadent surroundings (even if the service there is a little more brusque!).

I’m usually the sort of person who stays glued to their guide book and only ventures into places recommended by it….but that just makes it even more of a pleasure when I find somewhere by myself! Orlando di Castello didn’t need a Trip Advisor rating to draw me in….the huge shiny glass windows fronting onto one of the squares we visited for its Christkindlmarkt, revealed a stunning interior, and we all know I’m driven by appearances! This place is beautiful though…fresh white walls and furniture are accented with pretty red flower bud motifs, and the attractive looking menu was the sort I just like to stare at and then point at random to order. Despite that though, the coffees here were nothing short of amazing….we visited twice and tried several of their specialities (usually involving booze or ice cream…or sometimes both!) and we were wowed by every one.

Cafe Pruckel isn’t too far behind Cafe Sacher in terms of reputation. Right next to the Stadt Park within a gorgeously deco building, this is the sort of cafe that people sit in for hours reading the papers and slowly drinking their way through their long coffees. Despite the informality though, this is a buzzing cafe and the offerings are just delicious. We tried the Schoko Weicher and Topfelstrudel, both of which were deliciously rich and totally dreamy. And whilst I stuck with a (admittedly yummy) standard coffee, Adam went to town with one of their super-boozy, super-naughty coffee specials, which happily set him up for the cold outside!

As I mentioned, we didn’t venture bar-wards too much after finding our favourite place…..we loved the tiny and charming Loos American Bar near the cathedral, but it was far too smokey for us and crammed from early on….and we had great cocktails (and burgers!) on our first night at the late opening bar in the Museum Quarter….but the only place we really settled in was Kruger Bar. You’re asked to leave your coat with the lovely lady at the little foyer kiosk, then if you prefer to sit in the smoking or non smoking room (nicely separated by glass so non-smokers aren’t bother at all!). We were presented with a very comprehensive leather bound cocktail menu and brought yummy nibbles as we settled into our gentlemans’ club style leather arm chairs….and what’s more is that our order even satisfied my cocktail-snob of a fiance! We tried a good few of our favourite classics as well as some of the house specialities, and all were great quality and good value to boot. I’d definitely recommend nesting-in here for a few pre-dinner martinis, or for your post-opera night caps.

Prost!

Ems x

Something from the weekend……. a night market, a wedding, and London’s oldest Music Hall

Another amazing few days this weekend! We didn’t ram as much in as we sometimes do, but it was certainly fun filled!……

On Friday after work, Adam and I met up with our good friends Kate and Jason at the Bermondsey Square Night Market, “The StockMKT.” It’s silly that I’ve not made it to one of the markets there before as it’s so close, and we enjoyed a lovely walk over to the other side of the river from home. The whole square was filled with food stalls, bars, crafty things and vintage treasures, as well as a band tent. The latter was hosted for the evening by the fabulous Albert Ball’s Flying Aces, whose wonderfully retro sounds had us all toe tapping.

IMG_0618
First off though it was a visit to the first bar we spotted….. and luckily it was a bar hosted by the very wonderful Sparrow Gin from Peckham! Serving a small but perfect list of cocktails, as well as good old fashioned G&Ts, the stall was super cool with jam jars, striped straws and vintage glasses and serving things. We got chatting to the lovely Pru who told us proudly about the gin’s super grapefruityness (although rather more eloquently than me) and gave us a taster of the tipple straight up. It is a beautifully fresh and citrusy gin, and almost a little herbal with the generous number of botanicals used in its production. It’s currently on very limited availability, so we did our best to drink up the current batch and encourage the guys to brew up some more….. the Negroni and the Martini were especially good (we tried the whole list), but I think, like Pru, I would prefer to drink it straight up, nice and cold.

IMG_0612

With drinks in hand, we took a wander about the stalls of pretties and treasures, finding the super Ink Heart Kicks which I’ve been oggling on Etsy, BG Design from where we bought some gorgeous cards, and Kamm and Sons  from whom we bought a bottle of delicious Ginseng spirit. I also picked up some great vintage post cards from a stall of vintage treasures, and we yummed up a very large slice of Yummy Boutique’s super delicious Red Velvet Cheesecake.

IMG_0640

Afterwards we made our way homeward, stopping off for a curry in the award winning Empress Curry House for supper. Although I’d not had a proper meal, I was really too stuffed with gins and cheesecake to need the several dishes I yummed up, so I did rather roll home.

Saturday saw the FINAL arrival of our friends, Matthew and Siobhan’s, wedding. I’d been excited about it for aaaages, but for the last week ridiculously so! After spending the entire morning primping and packing the various bags I ended up taking (shoes, hat, cameras, confetti……) we jumped on the tube to make our way to Putney. The venue for the whole day was the beautiful Star and Garter which is right on the river. The Ballroom has a gloriously high ceiling, chandeliers and stacks of natural light.

IMG_0726

Matthew was looking super hot in a beautiful kilt and tweed jacket, and seemed pretty cool as we chatted before the ceremony. I’d been lucky enough to see Siobhan’s dress at her fitting at Liberty, but I still felt my jaw drop as she walked into the room looking so incredibly stunning. Both of them were glowing throughout the ceremony, and I honestly can’t think I’ve ever seen two people look more happy. It was so touching to hear them exchange their vows, as well as bridesmaid Jo’s lovely reading….. I shed plenty of tears of joy too!

IMG_0753

After the ceremony we drank saucers of Cham in the bar downstairs whilst the happy couple had photos taken out by the river and the Ballroom was turned around ready for the reception. It was brilliant to have time to catch up with people and have some good chat time….. as well as a chance to sample some of the bar’s wonderful cocktails!

Back upstairs, we readied ourselves for the couple’s first announcement into the room…. I had made confetti in little vintage sheet music cones, which several of us sprinkled on them from our balcony seats as they walked in. Then it was a yummy buffet dinner at large round tables dressed with gerbera in vintage IRN BRU bottles, and hand made paper stars (good work Justine!). There were lots of personal touches that reminded us of Matthew and Siobhan too…. the tables were names after Radiohead albums, and they had prepared special CDs as favours, stamped with a cut-out style image of the two of them.

IMG_0762

We had so much fun, chatting and throwing balloons around and dancing the night away….. Matthew and Siobhan had created their own playlist for the night packed with floor fillers, and even Adam got up to dance (first time ever!). There was cheese, fruit cake and bacon rolls as a wonderful late night snack which kept us going, and I danced my last song, rather aptly to Tiffany, I think We’re Alone Now. It was such a joy to be part of their special day, and to see them enjoy it so much. Love you guys!

IMG_0730

It was a traditional lie in on Sunday, as we were feeling rather worn out. So we decided to keep it local and just popped over the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for a few hours in the afternoon. It was the last day the historical venue was open, before the refurbishment of the auditorium takes place. After we’d had a wander about and taken a few snaps, Artistic Director Frances Mayhew took to the stage alongside Capital Project Patron David Suchet who talked of the importance of the refurbishment and the continued fundraising necessary to protect the music hall.

We were lucky enough to get tickets for the final tour, and so ‘Deputy Tour Guide Chris’ gave us the lowdown on the history of the local area and the beginnings of Wilton’s, before Carole told us all about the history of the building itself and some of the most notable events in its history. It was wonderful to hear some of the stories about the place and I would highly recommend taking the tour there…… the auditorium is due to open in 2013 but until then the beautiful Mahogany Bar is still open for drinks, as will be the new cocktail bar which will open soon, and even some performances taking place in the smaller rooms (I very much want to go to the Horror! Horror! Halloween show!). I’m really looking forward to seeing the auditorium again once it’s finished, although we were promised that the appearance won’t change.

IMG_0843

IMG_0841

IMG_0844

IMG_0862

After that it was home for a pot of tea, and to finish up a pot of clotted cream we had left over from my birthday…… I made up a large helping of what I’ve named ‘French Tea’ (strawberries, clotted cream and jam on thick slices of brioche in lieu of any scones!). And after that we were only fit to slob about and watch Planet Terror….. a nicely quiet end to a super weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours….do share!

Ems x

Planning for a rainy weekend……

We’re set for rain this weekend, so you’ll have to plan well and ensure you have indoor plans too! Here are some of my ideas for things to do in London and beyond……

Shopping

St David’s Day True Taste Market at the Southbank Centre

In celebration of St David’s Day, the usual food market behind the Royal Festival Hall will showcase Welsh produce including lamb, cheeses and chocolate. There will be lots of Welsh products to buy as well as cookery demos to watch from the likes of James Sommerin and Rhodri Edwards.

An exhibition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum

I love this world-renowned annual exhibition and have been going for years. Hosting the most remarkable images of nature, wildlife and the environment inside a specially built space within the museum, I adore the mixture of rarely seen wonders of the world, alongside comical and diverting images that could well have been taken on our door step. The photographs are selected from thousands of entries all over the world, and presented beautifully on backlit screens.

I would very much advise booking online in advance and going earlier in the morning as it does get very busy.

Until 11th March

Adults £9

To drink

Town House, 31 Beauchamp Place

Whilst you’re in Knightsbridge at the Natural History Museum, visit the elegant Town House Bar. Serving a variety of cocktails and Asian Yakatori skewers over three floors, this sophisticated venue is nestled within an ivy covered Georgian house on exclusive Beauchamp Place.

A recipe

On Saturday, I’ll be sharing Adam’s Healthy (ish) Spaghetti Carbonara recipe…. so get in the eggs and bacon.

A Film

You can still catch The Artist and The Descendents at lots of cinemas, both of which I suggest you don’t miss. We’ll be off to see the well-rated The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel though…..will let you know how it is! I can’t recommend Rampart I’m afraid though, as much as I thought it was going to be brilliant. Woody Harrelson is marvellous but I’m afraid I found the film rather dragged.

Out and about in London

The Big Egg Hunt

200 eggs created by leading artists, designers, architects and jewellers (including Polly Morgan, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Bruce Oldfield, Nicky Haslam and Mat Collishaw) have been hidden all over the capital. A fundraising event for Elephant Family and Action for Children challenges the public to try spot them all, in order to win The Diamond Jubilee Egg which is valued at over £100,000……the unique piece of jewellery has been specially crafted by Faberge, and is encrusted with 60 fine gems on an 18 carat gold egg.

At the end of the hunt, all of the eggs will be gathered together to be auctioned for charity. But I have my eye on the Le Collier Plume D’Or which has been created specifically for the Fabergé Big Egg Banquet charity auction and is one of a series of unique couture egg pendants, “created by Fabergé to re-imagine and pay homage to the artistry and ingenuity of the legendary, iconic jewelled Imperial Easter Eggs, the most famous of Fabergé works of art, and a vital part of the continuing legend.”

We’re hoping to enter the photography competition once we’ve been on our hunt….. there’s a chance to win a great Sony camera and to have your photo exhibited at Somerset House as part of World Photo London.

To help you on your hunt you can find zone maps here.

And to stand a chance of winning the big egg prize you need to get hunting soon….. all text entries must be in by 3rd April.

Good luck! And have a brilliant weekend!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. a trip oop North

PLEASE NOTE!! I’ve had to remove all the images from this post for a bit due to technomalogical weirdness. They will be back when I have figured it out! Ems

 

 

I’ve just awoken from a rather long lie in (I should explain that it’s ‘now’ 09:30, as I’ll inevitably become distracted by tea, crumpets and the need for a shower before I actually manage to publish this). It’s not my fault though….I was catching up from a weekend of adventuring and fun….I needed it!
My weekend started on Friday evening….. we headed out to the cinema to see The Descendants on an early showing and I thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous film, which is so very funny, clever, and also tear-inducingly sad. It’s about a dysfunctional family trying to deal with a crisis, and coming together as they do so. George Clooney’s performance as the dad is unsurprisingly wonderful, really hilarious at times but also very touching. It’s probably the most ‘real’ thing I’ve seen in a while, and I know I’ll want to watch it again.
After a supper of veggie stew, it was time for an early night….as early on Saturday morning we toddled off to Kings Cross to catch the train oop North. We were off to Newcastle to celebrate my friend Hannah’s 30th Birthday, and I was super excited to be going to visit, and to see her new house too. We’d brought along a flask of coffee, which I drank alongside choccy biscuits and a yummy free range egg sandwich. The train journey is not short (I grumbled the whole three hours journey about how Newcastle is too far away), but I managed to entertain myself typing up notes from a recent exhibition and gazing out of the window. I noticed for the first time just how many gorgeous and huge churches there are alongside this route…..it seemed every town we stopped at (Peterbrough, Doncaster, York, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham)  has an amazingly imposing church in its centre, none more so than the last we passed at Durham which sits atop its hill, dwarfing the pretty town around it.

 

We arrived over one of the excellent bridges on the Tyne, looking down the river to see The Sage and the Millennium Bridge, and after a quick bus ride and proudly finding Hannah’s, arrived ready for cups of tea and a tour of the house. After a little sit and catch up, we took the bus back into town for a wander…. Mhairi needed her eyebrows doing so we popped into Fenwicks and did some browsing (mainly looking at expensive make up and its drool inducing packaging) whilst waiting for her. Next it was a root around in TK Maxx (Mhairi, I still think you should have bought that dinosaur garden sculpture), before we headed back to the house for a nails and make up session, and pizza to ready us for our night out.

A short taxi ride took us to Mr Lynch, a wonderfully retro bar, decorated with 70s prints, wallpaper and furniture. Mhairi and Jamie surprised Hannah by secretly arranging for a friend to come along, whom Hannah had met through Twitter but not in person yet….. her and her hubby are absolute darlings and Hannah was so delighted to meet them (as were we actually).  Adam and I chose the Old Fashioned from the lengthy cocktail menu, and waited the full ten minutes our attentive bar man swirled and mixed them to perfection. Delicious as they were, we decided to stick with the whisky but opted for rather quicker to mix cocktails…. the Manhattan (my old favourite) wasn’t quite made to my taste so it was Whisky Sours I drank the night away with. And so it was only a matter of time before I was up and dancing to Aretha Franklin, and lamenting my choice of footwear. However, a wonderful night ended with a chip-run and more girly chatting before I crashed out on an air bed.

 

 After lying in for a good while, Adam and I woke up the others with cups of tea, and a first breakfast of doughnuts (as well as the premier of my video of Mhairi and Hannah performing Proud Mary the night before….I’m convinced it will be an internet sensation if only I can work out how to get it on there). We all craved something rather more savoury after the doughnuts, and headed into town for a fry up. By the time we’d eaten though it was time for us to catch our train home, so we stocked up on snacks for the journey and hugged everyone goodbye. I knew I wasn’t going to be at all productive on this journey, so my laptop I’d taken along to ‘work’ on just became a DVD player as we watched a few more episodes of The Killing (we recently started season one and I’m just getting hooked). That, and a bumper bag of giant chocolate buttons helped me stay awake until we got back, and we settled on the sofa with a supper of noodles to watch a film.

Adam got Summer Wars on blu ray ages ago, but we’ve just not gotten around to watching it. I was too tired to watch the subtitled version, which we’d usually prefer, but the dubbed version was wonderful enough…. it’s the kind of film I can’t believe they haven’t made before, but at the same time it’s so different and original. To summarise (without spoilers) two friends make their way to a family reunion, only for one of them to be implicated in an internet hack….. the rest of the film is a fabulously fun story of how they ‘made everything right again’, the action taking place half ‘for real’ at the family reunion, and half in a a virtual reality where the characters become heroes in avatar form. We absolutely loved this film, and Adam even commented it may make his top ten. It was exactly the feel-good, easy watch we needed before we popped off to bed with a Horlicks.

What a brilliant weekend!

How was yours….?

May……

May Blog Pics

Clockwise from top left: Channelling the 70′s vibe and Margot of The Good Life in floral jump suit and wedges….. Carry On prints in the snug at Wild and Woods….. prize May purchase: Deco silver pineapple candelabra….. home made pot … Continue reading

Rate this: