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Cover: Shaken and stirred

May, 2012

30May 12

Mojito

MojitoWhen I think of my days in Cuba, I think of gorgeous sandy beaches, exotic women with big white smiles, the face of Che Guevara on sign posts everywhere, and of Ernest Hemingway. During my stay in La Habana, I could sense his presence in many of the little streets of the old part of the city. Following in his footsteps I ended up in La Bodeguita, a local bar where Hemingway, according to the legend, used to sit and write. Ernesto, the oldest barman in the place, said he did sit there, but didn´t write as much as taste Mojitos, the drink the Bodeguita prides itself on. The Mojito, in honor of Hemingway and the beautiful island of Cuba, is going to be our cocktail of the day.

The Mojito is a drink made with rum, which is fire water made by distilling sugar cane and is the first national drink of the New World. It is a drink which affects the nose more than the eyes. It may look a little uninteresting at first sight, but as soon as one experiences its scent and taste, it becomes a must for outdoor experiences and hot afternoons. I prefer the traditional drink, but a gooseberry mojito is nice as well.

The Mojito’s secret is the mint and the role it plays in the final aroma and taste of the cocktail. It is a perfect drink for a day in the countryside, for if there is a stream running nearby, there is almost certainly mint growing somewhere in the river bed. On a sunny July afternoon, Mojitos go perfectly with cucumber sandwiches and good company. The aroma of fresh mint and rum, mixed up with lemon juice and syrup will drive your senses crazy and give you a Hemingway experience wherever you may be.

What you need
• 4.5 cl of white rum
• Two stalks of fresh mint
• 1.5 cl of lemon juice
• 2 spoonfuls Syrup (or sugar)
• Ice (preferably crushed)
• Splash of mineral water

How Ernesto made it for Ernest

1. Put mint in a tall glass, with lemon juice and syrup. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then crush the mint against the sides of the glass without breaking the stalks, as you need to free that special mint aroma.
2. Once you have accomplished this, fill your tall glass with ice and add rum. Top it off with mineral water.
3. Now you are ready for a real sensation of a drink.

Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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25May 12

Lime Margarita

Lime MargaritaMexico is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. It is also a place where fun is part of the day, every day. On any given day, at any given hour, Mexicans are always up for a good time, especially if the good time involves drinking their pride drink: tequila. Today, I want to share with you one of the best known cocktails worldwide: the lime margarita. (You can also try this margarita recipe and decide which one you like better.)

The main ingredient in a lime margarita is tequila, which is a spirit made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila in the western state of Jalisco. Mexico is so proud of tequila that it has claimed the exclusive international right over the word, threatening legal actions against manufacturers of distilled blue agave spirits in other countries.

OK, so tequila belongs to Mexico. But where does the name “Margarita” come from? Although there is no solid proof regarding who invented the margarita, rumor has it that is was first served in a bar in Ensenada, Mexico, by a bartender named Don Carlos Orozco. One afternoon in October 1941, while experimenting with new mixes, a lady named Margarita Henkel, daughter of a German ambassador, walked into the bar. Don Carlos offered the drink he had concocted to Margarita and named it after her for being the first person to taste it. The cocktail was a mixture of tequila, triple sec and freshly squeezed lime juice.

After that, legend and history grew hand in hand.

Needed:
• 3 cl tequila
• 1.5 cl Triple Sec
• 3 cl lime juice, freshly squeezed
• 5 teaspoons sugar
• lime wedge (optional)
• crushed ice or ice cubes

How Don Carlos made his first Margarita:

  1. Take your lime wedge or a bit of Triple Sec and rub around edge of the glass. Turn it upside down and press the rim into salt laid on a plate.
  2. Shake the tequila, triple sec, lime juice and sugar in a shaker (or stir vigorously with a spoon) for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Pour the mix over ice into your salted glass.
  4. Last but not least, garnish the glass with a wedge of lemon, and serve.

Time: between 3 and 5 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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17May 12

Tom Collins

Tom CollinsDuring my years on the road, I have learnt a great deal about local drinks and mixes in the different regions I have visited. And although every country is proud of a particular beverage, there are drinks which are famous anywhere you go. The Tom Collins is one of them. Whether in South America or Asia, in a big city or a beach bar, this cocktail is a must on every bartender’s list.

The main ingredient to a Tom Collins is gin. It’s a tremendously refreshing drink and great to sip on hot, damp afternoons while watching the West Indies play England at cricket in Barbados. This is actually where I started drinking it.

According to history, the Tom Collins was first mixed by an American bartender named James Collins, somewhere in the state of New York in the late 1870s. As the story goes, he used Old Tom gin, a sweeter type than the London dry brand, to prepare the cocktail. He then named the drink using a mix of both his name and the gin’s.

The Tom Collins became so famous worldwide that there is even a cocktail glass named after it. It became so popular, that it has inspired a load of spin-off drinks such as:

  • John Collins (replace the gin with whiskey)
  • Joe Collins (replace the gin with scotch)
  • Ivan Collins (replace the gin with vodka)
  • Sloe gin Tom Collins

To me, it tastes like delicious lemonade, with no noticeable alcohol trace. This can be very dangerous, especially on a warm afternoon in a tropical country. In other words, be careful how many you drink if you intend to walk back to your hotel after 7 hours of cricket.

Needed:

  • 45ml Old Tom gin
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of super fine sugar
  • 60ml club soda
  • 1 Maraschino cherry
  • 1 slice of orange

How to prepare it:
1. In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin, lemon juice and sugar. Shake well.
2. Strain into a Collins glass almost filled with ice cubes.
3. Add the club soda.
4. Stir and garnish with the cherry and the orange slice.

Time: between 2 and 3 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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10May 12

Negroni

NegroniIf I were able to choose where I came from, without thinking twice, I would pick Florence, Italy. Ever since I spent a couple of months in the city a few years ago, I fell in love with the architecture and the passionate way Italians speak and gesture with their hands in order to communicate. Also, one of my favourite drinks was invented in Florence: The Negroni.

Very typically Italian, where everything is extravagant and over-the-top, the Negroni has not one or two, but three main ingredients: Gin, Campari and Sweet Red Vermouth. Campari is the one that really struck my attention because I had not seen it in a great many drinks before the Negroni. Campari is an alcoholic apéritif obtained from the infusion of herbs and fruit in alcohol and water. It is described as a bitter.

So where does the name of the drink come from? In the 1920’s, Florentine aristocracy used to meet at the Café Casoni, in a beautiful Renaissance building downtown Florence. The trendy drink for aristocrats at the time was the American cocktail, mixed with equal parts of Campari and Sweet Red Vermouth. History has it that Count Negroni grew bored of the drink and, one evening, asked his favourite bartender, Fosco Scarelli, to add gin into his American cocktail to see what would happen. The result is that almost 100 years later, Negroni is one of Italy’s favourite drinks. When asked about the drink, a friend from Florence boasted that he had more Negroni than blood in his system.

Whatever the season, whether served as a summer negroni or winter cocktail, this beverage is usually offered as an appetizer, as Campari is meant to awaken your taste buds and get you ready for a meal. Also, you’ll want to drink it slowly because it is a rather strong mix. As a cocktail, it is an acquired taste, and once you get used to it, the Negroni grows on you, just as everything Italian has been growing on me ever since I went to Florence for the first time.

Needed:

  • 3cl Gin
  • 3cl Campari
  • 3cl Sweet Red Vermouth
  • Ice cubes
  • Orange slice

How to make a Negroni:

  1. Pour all ingredients directly into an old fashioned glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir gently.
  3. Garnish with half an orange slice and a stirrer.

Time: about 1 minute
Makes: 1 cocktail

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04May 12

Fernet with Coke

Fernet with ColaToday, I want to tell you about a friend of mine and how he got me hooked on one of the most unlikely drinks in history. Rodrigo Bueno, “el Potro” (the stallion), as his friends called him, was a Jet Ski instructor I met in Benidorm, in the south of Spain. I don´t know if you have ever met an Argentine before, but I think he epitomized the concept: dark skin, amazing looks, and an undying love for a drink which I had never heard of before: Fernet Branca. For almost a fortnight, we got together and supped on this very strange drink. And every time, we ended up talking about childhood memories, friends, and all the topics which make you feel closer to home when you are abroad.

Fernet Branca (or just Fernet to Rodrigo and his friends) is an Italian liqueur, with a top-secret recipe that hasn’t changed since its creation in 1845. Fratelli Branca, one of the oldest companies to manufacture Fernet, say it includes 27 different herbs and spices taken from four continents: including South African aloe, gentian root, chamomile, iris, rhubarb, gum myrrh, red cinchona bark, galangal, cinnamon, zedoary, and yellow Iranian saffron.

The dark syrupy liqueur has a bitter, almost medicinal herbal flavor. While some would say it’s an acquired taste, in Argentina, it’s the national cocktail; more than 10 million bottles of it are consumed every year.

So what is so special about a drink which just consists of Fernet Branca and cola? Rodrigo explained it to me one day, with just a gesture. We were sitting on a terrace (I forget whose!) and I asked him that very question. He opened his arms, looked around, and said: “This, my friend, this”. I looked up and saw a bunch of people talking, laughing their heads off and having a good time. And that is what I cherish about my memories of Fernet and my Argentine friends.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cl Fernet Branca
  • 27 cl Coke
  • Ice

How to make it like a real Argentine:
1. Start by pouring the Fernet over the ice in a tall frosted glass.
2. Slowly add the Coke.
3. When it begins to froth (which Fernet does, for some reason), sip.
4. Add more Coke and sip, until the right flavor combination has been reached.

Time: 1 minute
Makes: 1 cocktail

Note: Another typically Italian liqueur is limoncello. I suggest having a go at this Kirsch and limoncello Tanqueray presse.

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01May 12

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the afternoonWhen I was a teenager, my mother gave me a book called “Death in the Afternoon” one Christmas. It is an Ernest Hemingway classic, a nonfiction account of the customs of Spanish bullfighting. Many years later, I attended a party where I was offered a cocktail that happened to be called Death in the Afternoon too. At the time, it just felt like a coincidence, but after some research, I found out it was not only named in honour of the book, but also that it had been invented by the author himself!

In 1932, Ernest Hemingway was living in Europe, and there is ample documentation of his time spent in bars and cafés across the continent. The cocktail itself was reportedly invented by Hemingway on one of the Channel Islands “with some Brits after a spot of nautical unpleasantness”.

The key ingredient to a Death in the Afternoon is the infamous absinthe, which is a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage. It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including wormwood. It originated in the Neuchatel canton of Switzerland in the late 18th century and became very popular in the early 20th century among Parisian artists and writers. Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical compound thujone, although present in the spirit in only tiny amounts, was the perfect excuse to have it banned. In the 1990s, there was a revival of the drink, and long-standing barriers to its production and sale were removed.

The only other beverage in a Death in the Afternoon is champagne, though there has been much arguing over what sort. According to Hemingway’s friends, he wasn’t too picky and drank almost anything, as did the characters in his novels. Whether the champagne was meant to be Brut or Extra Brut is only a small detail. (Also try this classic champagne cocktail.)

Death in the Afternoon is very strong. You can taste the smell of the absinthe, and it overpowers the champagne taste. However, the bubbles give it a nice tickle in your mouth. Regarding how to make the perfect one, Ernest Hemingway can end this story in his own words: “”Pour one jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne… Drink three to five of these slowly.”

 Needed:

  •  3cl absinthe
  •  Champagne

How to make it:

1. Pour absinthe into a champagne flute.
2.Top with chilled champagne.

Time: 1 minute

Makes: 1 cocktail

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