What Fresh Hell Is This?

It has come to my attention that someone has created this: the peanut butter and jam old fashioned. And when I say “someone”, I mean the R&D people at a company called Aske Stephenson.

According to their own blurb, “It all starts with bourbon. Good bourbon.”

So far, I’m with them. A great many fine drinks start with good bourbon. But they go on…

They go on to flavour it with peanut butter using a rotary evaporator, before adding salt and raspberry syrup made with their “own fare (sic) hands”.

Since I am a fair-minded sort of chap, or at least I try to be, I am willing to overlook the typo. But, Aske Stephenson, what the actual fuck are you doing?

This isn’t innovation, this is fucking vandalism!

I have no problem with the flavouring of bourbon. I have been known to infuse it with bacon from time to time, among other things.

My problem here is that this infantilises not just the old fashioned but drinking in general. The old fashioned is for grown-ups, not nappy-wearing knicker wetters. It is a serious drink. Where the drinker of the negroni is signifying flair, or trying to, the orderer of the old fashioned is signifying their reliability. S/he will have a wry sense of humour (pun intended), an easy smile, and will be someone you want on your side when the shit comes down. Which is why it is ironic that Don Draper drank them in Mad Men.

This abominable concoction, with is raspberry scented wax upon its cork, signifies a drinker who is not ready for the real world. In short, someone who should not be drinking at all.

In Defence Of Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial

This last weekend, a good friend of mine went to lunch.

This is perhaps the least exciting opening sentence I have ever written. But wait: there is conflict to come.

Asked what she’d like to drink, she said: “I’d like a soda and lime please. With lime cordial.”

“We use fresh lime,” said the waiter.

“That’s a totally different drink,” said my friend.

“Yes, but we use fresh lime. Would you like fresh lime?” Which amounts to a refusal to serve what was asked for, for one thing. And a dismissal of lime cordial. Which shows a disregarding ignorance for all matters Bar.

Fresh lime has its place. And it’s an important place. There is no Margarita without fresh lime. But lime cordial, and by “lime cordial” we mean Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, has an important place too, and no bar should be without it.

For one thing, if you don’t have it and someone orders a Gimlet, you’re fucked. A Gimlet doesn’t just require a slug of Rose’s, the recipe demands it. By name.

Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial was first produced by Lauchlan Rose in 1867. It was the world’s first fruit concentrate, and within a year of its launch it became a key part of the Royal Navy’s Vitamin C delivery system. Though lime juice consumption had been advocated since the middle of the 18th Century, its preservation was not always reliable. So…

… Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial is why yanks call us limeys.

And adding to the Gimlet’s naval heritage, it is said to be named after Rear-Admiral Desmond Gimlette, who was a key advocate of the lime ration, and of the mixing of lime with gin.

As to the drink itself, Harry Craddock’s recipe in The Savoy Cocktail Book lists the Gimlet’s ingredients as 1 part Plymouth Gin to 1 part Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial. “And nothing else,” Raymond Chandler adds in The Long Goodbye. Which makes it one of the very few cocktails made without ice. Which is hardly surprising given ice’s scarcity on the high seas.

These days, Gimlet’s are often stirred over the cold stuff or served on the rocks, and the ratio of lime cordial in the drink tends to be much lower, as low as one part in five in some versions. But even at this lower quantity, its sweet-tang flavour has a role to play in the overall cocktail.

To dismiss lime cordial in favour of fresh lime juice is not just snobbery. It is stupidity. But beware: some Rose’s Lime Juice Cordials are more Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial than others. Rose’s was acquired by Schweppes in the late ’50s, which in turn merged with Cadbury’s, with the beverage holdings being off-loaded in 2008. This has resulted in different versions of the cordial in different territories. The UK and Canadian versions remain close to the original recipe, using real sugar as a sweetener and no artificial preservatives. The US version uses high fructose corn syrup and sodium metabisulfite, while the New Zealand version bins out the corn syrup for sugar but keeps the preservatives.

As with so many things, the original recipe is the best.

Vodka… Huah!… What Is It Good For?

What is the point of vodka? Someone needs to explain it to me. Because I can see no discernible purpose for a drink that tastes of… nothing.

Vodka fans, you can keep all your “subtle hints of” bullshit. You know, deep in your souls, that if you drink vodka on the rocks, you’re only really tasting any taint on the ice from your freezer. That’s why you put a twist in it. To make it taste of something.

That’s why people make flavoured vodkas, which are abominable and pointless in themselves.

I do not understand why you’d go to all the trouble of distilling wheat, barley, rye, winter wheat, apples, potatoes… milk, for God’s sake… and then strip the flavour out of all of them.

Which is why I feel this burning need to borrow from Edwin Starr to ask, what is it good for?

Getting drunk.

A vodka and orange is just an excuse to get drunk while drinking orange juice. A Bloody Mary is an excuse to get a little sozzled at brunch.

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. What bothers me about vodka is that its an entire section of the market that is all about positioning and very little else.

What, exactly, is the difference between your ordinary Russian Standard and your fanciest bottle of Belvedere? Answer: positioning, and fuck all.

Posh vodka is a scam. And that’s all there is to it. I’d go so far as to say, if you’re in the market for a bottle of vodka, buy anything you like.

Except Smirnoff.

We’ll talk about why next week.


Since it’s so damned cold…

… I thought we should talk about ice. This rather serious and bewhiskered gentleman is Frederic Tudor. And I’d like to suggest that he did more for the cocktail industry than almost anyone else in the 19th Century.


Because he pretty much invented the ice trade.

Tudor began his business in 1806, when he was just 23, buying his first brig to ship his first cargo some 1,500 miles from Charlestown to Martinique, and harvesting the ice from ponds on his father’s farm. “No joke,” said the Boston Gazette, when it left town on 10th February. “A vessel has cleared at the Custom House for Martinique with a cargo of ice. We hope this will not prove a slippery speculation.”

As you’d imagine, most of it melted.

But, despite incurring debts so severe that he spent a year in debtors’ prison in 1812, Tudor was onto something. Not least because he had the foresight to secure exclusive rights to supply ice to a number of Caribbean islands, including Cuba.

By 1825, thanks to his supplier Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, they had figured out how to mass cut ice, improving production, and they’d had nearly 10 years to improve insulation on his ships. By 1833, they were exporting to India. In fact, when the first ship arrived at the Ganges that year, everyone thought it was a joke. But 100 tons of ice survived the journey.

Tudor may not have been the best business man in the world — he lost a bunch of money in the coffee trade — but his insights about the ice business changed the world. Harvested ice was vital for shipping fresh foods west on the burgeoning American railroad system in 1870s. It allowed meats and vegetables to be exported for the first time. And it allowed for cold drinks.

It’s no accident that Tudor’s first successful markets are the party towns of Havana and New Orleans. Nor that India, original home of the gin and tonic, should become one of the biggest importers of arctic ice.

By the time Jerry Thomas opened his first New York saloon in 1851, the ice trade is well established. And without ice, his 1862 book How To Mix Drinks would have been very thin indeed.

Plant produced ice only really begins to supersede harvested ice at the turn of the 20th Century.

So, since you cannot have cocktails without a reliable supply of ice, it stands to reason that Tudor’s ice exporting innovation was a major motor under-pining the bar business.

Alongside the Industrial Revolution, which brought people into cities, created jobs that gave people disposable income and leisure and a desire for novelty for the first time, which in turn led to a different kinds of bars and drinking habits appearing in different ways around the world, ice is critical to modern drinking. You cannot have a cocktail bar without it.

So the next time you order a gin and tonic (India), a daiquiri or a mojito (Havana), a Sazerac (New Orleans), a martini shaken or stirred, hell, even your Campari soda (Turin), tip your glass to Frederic Tudor. Without him and his competitors, the drink in your hand would certainly be different.

No. It’s Not.

Every time I walk past a branch of Jamie’s Italian, I have this barely resistable urge to reach for the spray can and write “No, he’s not” underneath the sign.

However, when I saw this recipe for a port and rum negroni in today’s Guardian, I could resist no more.

It’s not a fucking negroni.



For the love of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong here: it sounds delicious (unlike the accurséd apple martini). And 10 Greek Street is a lovely place. But this is not a fucking negroni.

It’s a valid drink. It might be a little sweet for my taste, but I bet it will sell like gangbusters.

But, dear bartenders, you are the heirs to such luminaries as Jerry Thomas and Harry MacElhone. Do you think they ponced about naming their creations an XX martini or a YY negroni. No they bloody didn’t. They used their imaginations and came up with great names for their drinks that survive to this day.

Give it a name of its own.

Because it is not a fucking negroni.

What Is And What Is Not A Martini

Let’s kick this off properly with a drink that divides opinion. The Martini.

A wise woman once wrote that a martini is made with gin, a vodka martini is made with vodka, and an apple martini is an abomination. I know this because I’m married to her. And I agree.

Which is probably just as well.

But let’s go further.

The famous “martini” at Duke’s is not a martini. It is a large glass of cold gin. A martini is a mixed drink. It requires dry vermouth. Now, I don’t care if you add the vermouth with an atomiser, but it must be there.

A martini should be small. It should be very, very cold. And the balance of its dilution over the ice must be tight-rope perfect. Which is why the martini should ideally be stirred. As President Bartlett once said of James Bond’s shaken specimens, “He’s ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.”

And, to go a little further still, a martini is made of two ingredients, chilled over ice, served “up”, and garnished. Just because your drink is served in a martini (or cocktail) glass, it doesn’t mean it’s a fucking martini. All your lychee martinis, espresso martinis, marmalade martinis and (oh kill me now)_ pornstar martinis… they are not martinis. Why? Because a martini is made with gin and a vodka martini is made with vodka.

All these other drinks may be perfectly enjoyable, though many are not, but they’re just scrabbling for attention on the noble martini’s coat tails. And their names display both a paucity of imagination on the part of their inventors, and a cynical piece of marketing.

To put it another way, the Cosmopolitan is not a cranberry martini.

So you can take your “martini lists”, and shove ’em.