Favourite cocktails don't have to be off the menu during lockdown, insists Jonathan Ray as he advises on the best cocktails to make at home
We may currently be denied the talents of master mixologists but that doesn’t mean cocktails are off the menu, insists Jonathan Ray. They are simple to make and marvellous fun. Raid the drinks cabinet and create your signature concoction or take inspiration from the best cocktails to make at home.
WHEN TO HAVE A COCKTAIL
In another life, there I was, sitting at the long, marble-topped bar in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London’s Hyde Park, trying to decide between a Lawnmower and a Pink Folder. You know how it is.
I’d just had a shirt-popping dinner in Bar Boulud, gorging on home-cured charcuterie and foie gras’n’truffle-topped beefburgers, and I craved a little something to act as an alcoholic full stop to a fine evening.
Having already made a stout-hearted assault on the wine list I didn’t want any more vino or fizz. An ice-cold beer would have been too much of a comedown, neat spirits too much of a shock and port too much of the old school. It had to be a cocktail. Question was: which one?
Bored of waiting for me to make up my mind, bar manager Amir Tenezhdolli steered me gently but firmly towards the Lawnmower (Belvedere vodka, vanilla, lemon, pasteurised egg, mint, wheatgrass, shichimi pepper). He reckoned this would make a much finer digestif than the Pink Folder (Tanqueray gin, 2002 Moët & Chandon champagne, jasmine tea and fresh pomegranate seeds), which, he said, was better knocked back before grub.
Since I am both indecisive and stubborn, I had to have one of each. While both were delicious, Tenezhdolli was right. I should have had the Pink Folder earlier. It was crisp, zesty, refreshing and a real perker-upper in a way that the Lawnmower was rounded, creamy, satisfying and a calmer-downer. I’ll know for next time.
THE BEST COCKTAILS TO MAKE AT HOME
The thing is, cocktails are all the rage and perfect for summer. Best of all, such drinks are a cinch to make at home.
If gin is your thing, let me suggest a Blush Apple martini, which makes a perfect appetiser. Shake 50ml (2fl oz) of Caorunn (the extremely toothsome new small-batch, Scottish-distilled gin), 50ml (2fl oz) fresh apple juice and 5ml (1 tsp) of sirop de gomme (sugar syrup) over ice and strain into a martini glass. If you can be bothered, garnish with a couple of fresh raspberries.
Or (and this is ideal for homesick Scots) how about the savagely alcoholic but gloriously tasty Heather martini? Shake 50ml (2fl oz) Caorunn gin, 20ml (1fl oz) Drambuie and 5ml 1 tsp) Talisker Single Malt over ice and strain.
If you prefer vodka, I’d propose a version of the classic White Lady with 50ml (2fl oz) whistle-clean Purity vodka, 30ml (1fl oz) Cointreau, 30ml (1fl oz) fresh lemon juice and one egg white. Shake and strain.
For a fine post-prandial summer cocktail, I’d go for a whisky-based one such as the Old-Fashioned. Just muddle two brown sugar cubes doused with a dash or so of Angostura bitters and of water; add 50ml (2fl oz) Cutty Sark whisky, top up with ice and serve with zest of orange.
Or the sublime Sakura martini I discovered at my favourite pan-Asian spot, Yum Yum Ninja in Brighton’s Lanes. Shake 40ml (13⁄4fl oz) Suntory’s exquisite Yamazaki 12-year-old single malt, 20ml (1fl oz) Davna Cherry vodka, 7.5ml (1⁄2tsp) cinnamon syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters over ice, strain and serve. Yum, yum indeed!