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

Muddling Through: Tools of the Trade

Hello again!

Now, before we begin with the recipes I thought it might be pertinent to make a few suggestions as to the little bits of equipment you might need in order to make yourself some tasty cocktails! I’d hate to see anyone get halfway through a recipe before realising they were missing something!

So, on to the fundamentals…..

image

A Cocktail Shaker

Unless you were planning on stirring all of your cocktails together in a glass, you won’t get very far without one of these!

image (1)

A Jigger

For measuring your liquids. Remember what I said about recipes and chucking in more of this or less of that? It won’t always work, so you’re going to need one of these. They come in various shapes and sizes but in the UK at least you’ll most likely have a 25/50ml one.

image (2)

A Bar Spoon

For stirring… Its long, slender design helps maintain a smooth stirring motion rather than a whisking one you might get from a regular spoon. Also used for layering drinks.

image (3)

A Strainer

For pouring your drinks into your nicely chilled glasses! The strainer is a bit more versatile than the built in one in the lid of your shaker and offers a bit more control.

image (4)

A Muddler

For mashing ingredients such as sugar, lime and mint.

image (5)

A Zester

For zesting fruit and cutting twists.

That’s about it for now! That’s almost certainly everything I’ve used so far, with the exception of a knife, but I’m betting you have one of those already!

Next post we’ll aim to include some liquids shall we!

Adam

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

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

A Pretentious Valentines….. Our way to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Right now, those of you who know me, may well be thinking that Valentine’s Day and all its associated ephemera are really not my bag. And you’d not be wrong. But then those of you who know me really well, may indeed know that I love to celebrate Valentine’s Day…..in my own way……

Since we got together, Adam and I have honed a little tradition for this day. Not fond of the overly commercial excuse to remind each other that we love one another (and we certainly remember just how pantsy it was when we were single), we decided to do things our own way. Now, maybe you won’t think this is romantic at all, and I’m not suggesting everyone celebrate today this way (although I certainly believe it is the BEST way to celebrate today), but I just thought I’d share how we ‘do Valentines’ in the hope of inspiring those who might like to move away from the more conventional way…..

We did Valentines this year on Saturday, mainly because we were so excited about it, and also because it meant we had a much longer evening to enjoy it than on a week day. There’s a real formula to our Valentine’s Day, and I can’t see us ever budging from it….here are the vital ingredients:

1. The entertainment

For our Valentine’s Day entertainment, we like to choose a film to watch at home on the sofa (snuggled up). The main thing in the choice of said film is that it should NOT be conventionally romantic. Having chosen Lost Boys and Big Trouble in Little China as our last two Valentines films, we have a sort of criteria: the film should ideally involve scariness (in a silly way), datedness (ideally we want something from the 80’s), and certainly an air of the utterly ridiculous.

This year, we really wanted to incorporate a Sci-Fi element, and so after asking for advice from our most discerning (*cough*) film buff friends, we arrived at a decision: Lifeforce.

Lifeforce is a 1985 classic, directed by Tobe Hooper and based on the novel The Space Vampires, published in 1976, by Colin Wilson. There really is everything we could want in this film….. Space Vampires….. a comet threatening the planet….. Zombie Apocalypse…… a romance between an alien and a human (or is he?….)….. and, PATRICK STEWART.

We really did excel ourselves this year…… I can’t think how we can top this next year.

2. The food

This bit is very important, and in fact we haven’t wavered in our choice since starting this tradition. The meal should be ordered in, and no time spent slaving over preparation or dish-washing. We have always opted for a Chinese take out, although any style of take away will do. It should have a feast-like quality (you will see we didn’t hold back, with our entire coffee table laden with naughty treats), and the idea isn’t to sit together over candle light and enjoy some decadent menu (plenty of other days for that), but to enjoy over-eating an obscene amount of non-healthy food. You can use plates, cutlery and such of course (we’re not complete barbarians).

3. The drinks

This is where a smidgen of sophistication can slip in…. if you were going to choose Fish and Chips for your take away meal of choice then I would say a pot of tea would both elegantly partner this and also enter very much into the spirit of the festivities. We usually go for wine though, and because I can’t drink anything else, a nice one. This year we went for the rather lovely Crying Vine Shiraz. The spicy and berry-rich flavour was enough to match our rather greasy menu and its mish-mash of flavours, and there was something about the name that fitted our not-commercially-romantic theme.

4. The mood

Now I’m a big tea-light fan all of the time, so lighting a few candles is allowed, providing they are not in the shape of hearts or sickly-sweet-scented (that would ruin your enjoyment of the food of course). We don’t get AT ALL dressed up for our Valentines either, and more to the point, it’s important to wear something comfortable to allow sofa snuggling (read: slobbing) and of course plenty of ‘give’ for that big meal. I did make an effort to put a bit of make up on (never without the mascara anyway) and comb my hair, but there isn’t really much point glamming up for this kind of night, when we are both mainly looking at the space vampires and zombies on the screen anyway.

Now I know this will sound horribly unromantic to plenty of you, and perhaps you’ll feel sorry for us even that we are ‘missing out’ on red roses, heart-wielding teddy bears and Marks and Spencer’s special sparkling rosé. And it’s fair to say that our traditional Valentines is indeed a rebellion against the commercially acceptable modes of expressing romance. But in honesty, we really value this day because it’s sort of a way of us saying we *can* be all romantical, but we don’t need to follow anyone else’s rules of how to do so.

So, er, Happy Valentine’s / Zombie Apocalypse / Rip-off-Red-Roses Day everyone!