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Cover: Shaken and stirred

April, 2012

27Apr 12

Watermelon Man

Watermelon ManAbout ten years ago, I decided to learn German. And the best way to do that, according to my brilliant scheme, was spending time in cities where it is spoken. I had heard a lot about Berlin and decided to start there. Of course, as soon as I arrived, I realized the futility of my plan. Seeing as I was only going to be spending a week there before going back home, I gave up on the project as soon as I landed and decided to check out the night life instead. This is how I first tried a cocktail called Watermelon Man and met a living legend.

The Watermelon Man was first concocted at a weekly party held in different bars in Berlin in the mid 90s called: Cookie’s parties. These parties were organized by one of Berlin’s top characters: Cookie himself. I went to one of his parties during my stay and actually got to meet him. He is by far one of the most passionate night owls I have ever met. Always up for a drink, always up for a party and eternally in good spirits. When I asked him how he had come up with the cocktail, he replied: “Because when it’s late, people who drink beer become boring. They need something stronger and sweeter, like love itself”! After a spike in popularity, Cookie and his partners were able to rent their own space, and obviously named it… Cookie’s Bar. Now it’s become a trendy central nightlife attraction in Berlin.

The key beverage in the cocktail is watermelon schnapps, which is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage. The word schnapps is derived from the German Schnaps, which can refer to any strong alcoholic drink, but particularly those containing at least 32% alcohol by volume. The rest of the ingredients include: vodka, cointreau and lime juice. It is a sweet, refreshing cocktail, ideal for a night club (much like this vodka and cranberry tipple).

When I asked Cookie where the name of his cocktail came from, he replied that there was only one thing in life which he loved more than night life, and that was Herbie Hancock, the legendary jazz musician. He named the drink after the song from his debut album “Takin Off”. After that week in Berlin, I could not speak a word of German but had made some great friends and have been back to Cookie’s Bar regularly over the years.

Needed:

  • 6cl vodka
  • 3cl Watermelon schnapps
  • 3cl Cointreau
  • 1.5cl lime juice
  • 1 bottle lemon lime soda

How it’s made:

1. Fill 2/3 of cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
2. Add vodka, watermelon schnapps, cointreau and lime juice in cocktail shaker and shake well.
3. Strain and pour into ice-filled Collins glass.
4. Top it off with lemon lime soda.
5. Garnish with lime wedge and serve with a straw.

Time: 3 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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24Apr 12

Hot Toddy

Hot toddyA few years ago, I decided to join some friends who were working as ski instructors in Austria for a couple of weeks. I was actually on my way back from somewhere hot and wasn’t ready for the cold that hit me when I arrived in Lech. In order to warm myself up, I ran into a bar downtown and ordered a Hot Toddy. Luckily, the bartender was from Bolton and understood my request. He gave me a big smile and said, “There is nothing in the world that compares to a good Hot Toddy on a lousy day, is there lad?”

The Hot Toddy is usually known as a winter beverage made from a distilled spirit (whiskey or brandy preferably), sugar and water. It is believed to be very good for people who have the flu or are feeling under the weather. When I was growing up, sometimes my Dad would tell my Mum that he was not feeling very well. Her reply was always,“Shall I make you a Hot Toddy then, Love?”

As to where the name of the drink comes from, it has been suggested that the name comes from the Toddy drink in India produced by fermenting the sap of Palm trees. The term could have been introduced into Scotland by a member of the British East India Company. Another version says it is believed to have originated in 18th century Scotland as a mixed drink to make Scotch drinks more palatable to women. (This pink scotch drink may be pink, but it is delectable for men and women alike!)

Regardless of where it comes from, when I feel cold and somewhat miserable, a nice Hot Toddy always cheers me up.

Needed:

  • 3 cl of brandy, whiskey or rum
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tea bag of your favorite tea
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise

How my Mum used to make it:

  1. Coat the bottom of a mug with the honey.
  2. Add the liquor.
  3. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon.
  4. Heat the cup of water and add the tea bag to make hot tea.
  5. Pour the hot tea into the mug and stir.
  6. Garnish with the cinnamon sticks and anise.

If you’re not a tea drinker, you can substitute coffee or simply add only the hot water.

Time: between 3 and 5 minutes
Makes: 1 tea size mug

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19Apr 12

Sex on the Beach

Sex on the beachThe Sex on the Beach Cocktail (SOTB) is one of the first cocktails I learned how to make. It’s also one of the most popular.

Sex on the Beach is a delicious fruity drink that almost anyone would like. It’s a great tropical highball that is wonderful on hot summer nights or afternoons at the beach. Beginning bartenders should place Sex on the Beach as first on their list of “must-know-how-to-make.” (Another beach favourite is this Tropical Sundown.)

The SOTB is a relatively young and popular cocktail. It was invented approximately at the end of 80’s or beginning of the 90’s in order to promote peach schnapps in Florida. With the influx of tourism for spring break, Republic National Distributor devised a contest that would pay the bar that sold the most peach schnapps a bonus of $1,000. The bartender with the highest sales of schnapps at the winning bar would receive $100 as well. As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of competition!

A bartender named Ted Pizio mixed peach schnapps, vodka, orange juice and grenadine. When Pizio began to sell the sweet and tasty beverage, he was soon asked what it was called. On the spot, Pizio thought about all the partiers that he had seen and the reason why thousands of them came to Florida for spring break and said, “Sex on the Beach”!

There are three types of SOTB. The first one is an International Bartenders’ Association Official Cocktail; it is made from vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice. This is one of my favourites.

The second type is made with vodka, Chambord, Midori, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. This variation is used by TGI Friday’s and is listed in the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide.

The third version is mine. Try it and tell me what you think:

Needed:

  • 4.5cl vodka
  • 1.5cl peach schnapps
  • 1cl Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
  • 6cl cranberry juice
  • 6cl pineapple juice
  • crushed ice

How it’s made:
1. Shake all ingredients and strain into highball glass with ice.
2. Garnish with a lime wedge and cherry.

Time: less than 2 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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16Apr 12

Xanté hot apple

Xanté Hot AppleLast year, I spent a couple of weeks hiking in the mountains of Patagonia, in the south of Argentina. The plan was to reach a mountain hut called “Refugio Laguna Negra”, a 5 hour hike from the nearest town. Once there, I wanted to do some ice skating on the frozen lake. I managed to lose the main trail, and by the time I finally reached the hut, it was almost dark and at subzero temperatures. I was met by a Swiss chap by the name of Carl, who was in charge of Laguna Negra. He immediately gave me a blanket and then did something extremely odd: he poured apple juice in a pan and put it on the stove. When I inquired, he simply replied: “Xanté hot apple for the cold”. This is how I was introduced to a relatively new and very fashionable drink.

Xanté hot apple is a potent warmer that mixes fresh apple juice with Xanté, a Swedish pear-cognac liqueur. According to Carl, it has displaced spiced hot wine as the favourite after-ski drink on the exclusive ski slopes of Verbier in Switzerland. (For a summer apple drink, try this rhubarb ginger apple cocktail.)

Xanté liqueur is a balanced blend of sweet Belgium pears and cognac from French distilleries. It is made with cognac matured for four years in oak barrels, which draws out the rich amber colour and fragrant notes of spicy vanilla and pears. The original recipe dates back to 1875, although it was a relatively unknown brand until the Swedish Tilander family acquired the formula in the late 1990s and reinvigorated it. Today, it is the second best-selling Scandinavian liqueur.

Although Xanté is 76 per cent alcohol, it does not feel that strong when mixed with apple juice. Its flavour is juicy and light, despite being an amber spirit. The pears are distinct and blend perfectly with the vanilla spices.

The original recipe for the Xanté hot apple comes from the Hotel Farinet’s Lounge Bar in Verbier. According to Carl, who worked on the ski slopes for 10 years, it is the best after-ski drink in the world. After the first one, my body and spirit started feeling a whole lot better. Carl just recommended one thing: drink Xanté hot apple when you have finished doing any activity, for it is a lot stronger than its flavour suggests.

Needed:

  • 17cl fresh apple juice
  • 6cl Xanté liqueur at room temperature
  • 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks

How to make it:

1. Heat fresh apple juice on the stovetop until steaming.
2. Pour hot apple juice into a large mug, and then add the Xanté liqueur.
3. Add cinnamon sticks to garnish.
4. Stir with the sticks and serve immediately.

Time: 5 minutes

Makes: 1 cocktail

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14Apr 12

Violette Royal

Violette RoyalTo be honest, I have never been a champagne drinker. When at a wedding, whisky or gin suit me a lot better. (However, combining the two into this French 75 cocktail is pretty tasty.) There is, though, a form of drinking champagne which I have embraced. It is quite rare, and I first tried it when a friend got married in the United States. It was, I admit, a very fancy reception. So there we were chitchatting -as one does at these events- when I was offered a bubbly purple drink. I tried it and absolutely loved it. The name of the cocktail is Violette Royale.

The Violette Royale has got only two ingredients: champagne and Crème de Violette, also known as violet liqueur. It dates back to the early 19th century when it was served with dry vermouth or alone as a cordial. Its name is a generic term for a liqueur with a natural violet flower flavouring and colouring with a brandy base, a neutral spirit base, or a combination of the two. Crème de Violette is made in France and Austria from macerated violets from the Alps.

The aroma and taste of the liqueur are distinctly sweet and floral. If you like old-fashioned violet candies, you’ll love Crème de Violette. There are two things in the liqueur that caught my attention: its beautiful purple colour and the sophisticated sweetness it gives the cocktail when mixed with champagne. Despite the density of the colour, it does not give the drink the sticky taste that many other liqueurs and crèmes give modern beverages.

To be quite honest, it is a perfect drink for a reception on a lawn. Floral, sweet and no trace of the bubbly bitterness a good Extra Brut should carry. After that event, every time I attend a wedding, I am on the lookout for a purple drink coming my way.

Needed:
2cl Crème de Violette
12cl Extra Brut champagne

How it’s made:
1. Pour Crème de Violette into a champagne flute, then top off with champagne.
2. Garnish with a violet.

Takes: 1 minute

Makes: 1 cocktail

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10Apr 12

Sangría

SangriaMost people know that the wonderful climate in Spain is an essential element in the creation of some stunning Spanish wines, as well as other beverages.

When I was about 19 years old, I travelled to Spain with a couple of friends, and at that age, we just wanted to enjoy the Spanish “fiesta” during its best season: summer. We travelled through various cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Valencia and Granada, and all of them had one absolutely refreshing drink in common: Sangria. Although mostly associated with summer, it can be found throughout the year, especially in the warmer Southern parts of Spain. (For another dark  fruit drink, try this dragon-blood punch.)

Sangría comes from the Spanish word ‘sangre`, which means blood. The drink’s colour is dark red, thus the name. The strength and taste can vary depending on the spirit and quantity used.

Sangria is a kind of red wine punch that is thought to have been created during the 15th century in Spain and then spread to Portugal. However some people believe that it was actually invented in the Antilles in the Caribbean, which at the time was a British Colony. Although it is true that the drink is quite common in that part of the world, it is most likely that sangria came from Spain.

The beauty of the basic Sangria recipe is that it is as delicious as it is flexible. I like to vary the fruits I use, or even garnish it with strawberries, which are not in the actual recipe. This drink only gets better as you add your favourite fruits and spices!

Needed:

  • 1 litre of red wine
  • 3 peaches
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ glass of lemon juice
  • 50g of sugar
  • 1 glass of fresh orange juice
  • 1 spiral of lemon peel

 

How it’s made:

1. Peel the peaches, slice in half and then remove the core. Cut into fine slices.

2. Peel the oranges and slice thinly. Do the same with the lemon.

3. Place the fruit slices in a container with the sugar and brandy. Allow this mixture to marinate for up to 3 hours.

4. Put the mixture into a large pitcher. Then add the red wine, orange and lemon juice.

5. Add the lemon peel spiral to the pitcher and leave cooling in the refrigerator.

6.  Serve the drink very cold with ice.

Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 1 pitcher of sangria

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06Apr 12

Singapore Sling

Singapore SlingWhen I think of extravagant places I have visited, Singapore always pops up in my mind. Although it is as complex and beautiful as the rest of Southeast Asia, there is something about this place that makes it unreal. The same happens whenever I taste the most famous cocktail this tiny country has ever produced: the Singapore Sling.

The drink is said to have originated at Singapore’s Raffles Hotel (named after Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Modern Singapore as a trading post of the East India Company in 1819) by a bartender called Ngiam Tong Boon sometime in the early 1920’s. When in this country, you will be offered the Singapore Sling, also referred to as “the lion’s drink”. This is due to the fact that Singapore means “lion city” in Malayan.

The key (and often overlooked) ingredient in a Singapore Sling is Benedictine, a French herbal liqueur which boasts over 30 herbs in its mix. According to history, it was originally meant as a woman’s drink, hence the attractive pink colour and sweetness in its taste.

Another component is a dash of Angostura Bitters which adds a nice touch to various tipples, such as a magic flute or champagne cocktail.

This drink is extravagant as it mixes together 8 different beverages. That’s a lot for a country which is one of the 15 smallest in the world! Another enlightening fact is that Singapore has the world’s third highest GDP per capita and has the largest man-made fountain in the world.

Probably the oddest fact about this cocktail is that no one really knows what the original recipe is. The closest, though, is probably the one served at the Raffles Hotel. So if you are ever in Singapore, I highly recommend you visit the place and try this magnificent and extravagant cocktail.

Ingredients:
• 30 ml Gin.
• 15 ml Cherry Brandy.
• 120 ml Pineapple Juice.
• 15 ml Lime Juice.
• 7.5 ml Cointreau.
• 7.5 ml Dom Benedictine.
• 10 ml Grenadine.
• A Dash of Angostura Bitters
• Club soda.

How to prepare it:
1. Put the Gin, Benedictine, Lime juice, Grenadine, Cointreau, Pineapple juice and Bitters in a shaker with cracked ice and shake five times.
2. Pour into a chilled Collins glass.
3. Top off with club soda.
4. Pour Brandy over the back of a spoon into the center.
5. Garnish with a cherry and an umbrella.

Time: between 3 and 5 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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03Apr 12

Sidecar

Sidecar CocktailLast month, a good friend invited me over to France for a couple of days. She has always had a great sense of humour and an undying passion for nights out. This trip, instead of sipping wine, she introduced me to a drink called the Sidecar.

The Sidecar was invented at the Ritz Hotel Bar in Paris during World War I, and was named after a certain captain who liked a tot or two before dinner. One evening at the Ritz, he was feeling under the weather and ordered an aperitif before dinner.

Since brandy was used to combat a cold in those days, the captain thought a little brandy would help. However, he didn’t want it straight, so he suggested that the bartender add lemon juice and Cointreau to lighten it up a little. After a few of them, he realised he was in no shape to drive his motorcycle and decided to get someone to drive him home while he sat in the sidecar, and thus the cocktail earned its name and reputation.

The main ingredient to a Sidecar is brandy, which is a spirit produced by distilling wine. It generally contains between 35 and 60 per cent alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after dinner drink. The sidecar is considered a strong sour drink, because Cointreau -the other main spirit in it- is a French triple sec that contains around 40 per cent alcoholic volume.

Because of its high alcohol content, I suggest eating something to go with this tipple. If you want to stay with a French theme, try these crepes suzette.

After those few days in Paris, I have become quite a Sidecar fan. Not only because it is very effective if you are feeling under the weather, but also because the story behind the drink is one of the most amusing I have heard so far.

Ingredients:

  • 5cl Brandy
  • 2cl Cointreau
  • 2cl lemon juice

How it’s made:

  1. Rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar.
  2. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  3. Shake for 1 minute.
  4. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish with an orange or lemon slice. (optional)

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1 cocktail

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