Bar

Vodka, Grapefruit & Rosemary Fizz

Grapefruit & Rosemary Fizz

Vodka isn’t a spirit I know much about. Oh I’ve drank enough of it in my time, believe me, but it’s usually reserved for a nondescript vodka & cranberry while I dance the night away, too dizzy to think of anything else. Or with Coke in plastic cups, in suspect bars where my only other options are Tropical VKs or pints of Fosters. While we’ve been building up our home bar (something I’d like to write a post about very soon, but here’s a good one while you wait), vodka has pretty much sat there without much attention: a simple bottle of Green Mark collecting dust on our faux-marble trolley top. So when I got sent a little sample bottle of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, I used it as a much needed chance to give something I’d fallen out of love with a new lease of life.

Cocktails with a herby element are often my favourites, and while I’m not trained in the art of mixology, I think adding some botanicals is a great way to balance the sweetness of what usually starts with a spirit and a fruit juice. I’m partial to a Basil Grandé, so I know basil with berries works well, but for the vodka I had a hankering for citrus. Knowing how well a Screwdriver seems to go down (especially on board short-haul easyJet flights to southern Spain), I figured an acidic, fruity match would be a reliable place to start. A flavoured sugar syrup is an easy extra that seems pretty impressive, so I decided a quick infusion would be a good way to deliver a robust rosemary flavour and add something creative to my recipe.

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I’ve never made a syrup before, at least not one I can remember, but I’m in awe of those people who have these sort of concoctions on their fridge shelves, ready to roll out just in case they fancy something special come 5pm. It was simple enough, just sugar, herbs, water and a bit of time made for a gorgeous, aromatic element to an otherwise pretty formulaic cocktail. As well as adding rosemary flavour, the sweetness of the syrup also serves to mellow the tartness of the grapefruit – a fruit I generally associate with old, wiry women with pinched faces and teaspoons. A health food in the extreme *shudder*.

Shake the vodka, syrup, grapefruit juice and a squeeze of lime with ice, and top up with tonic water. Served from a pitcher with plenty of ice, it’s a cliché but this feels a little like summer in a glass. If you can, drink it outside in bright sunlight, with some king prawns on the barbie.

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Grapefruit & Rosemary Fizz (makes a pitcher: 6-8 glasses)

10 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
8 Shots of Vodka
1 Grapefruit
1 litre Pink Grapefruit Juice
2 Lime
1 Bottle of Tonic Water
Ice

1. Place a small pan over a medium heat. Pour in one cup of tap water and add one cup of sugar. Whisk to distribute the sugar and add 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary.

2. Bring to the mix to the boil and allow to bubble for one minute. Remove from heat and leave to steep for 30 minutes before draining into a sterilised container and placing in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours. If you’re in a rush, put it in the freezer, but don’t forget about it!

3. Fill a pitcher half way up with ice. Add the vodka, syrup and squeeze in the juice of both limes.

4. Pour in the grapefruit juice and muddle until well mixed. Top with tonic water and garnish with slices of fresh grapefruit and sprigs of rosemary.

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Little Tipples

Little Tipples

Subscription services are pretty commonplace these days. There’s Birchbox, The Foodie’s Larder, hell, there’s even a box for your cat. Personally, I like it. I like that you don’t even have to go out to try new things. Stuff comes right to you, and it’s good stuff too, usually curated by someone in the know. The idea of trying different products at a much lower cost than if I were to buy them separately really appeals to me, especially when it comes to food and drink. So when  I was offered the chance to try Little Tipples, miniature measures to taste & savour, I got excited. Rum through my letter box? Don’t mind if I do.

Little Tipples

Little Tipples, as I understand it, runs on two aims. The first is to provide you with quality, varied spirits to drink at home at your pleasure. The second is to develop your palate and teach you a bit about what you’re drinking. Each month you’ll receive two 50ml bottles. Once you unpack them, the idea is that you log on, enter the codes marked on the front and read the tasting notes while you try them. After you’ve tasted them, both neat and with your favourite mixer, you click the reveal button to see which rums you’ve been supping on. You record your prefences, type up your comments and save them to your profile. That way you can revisit your thoughts whenever you like. If you wish, you can go ahead and purchase a full size bottle of any of the rums you’ve tried directly from the website.

The website itself provides a number of good resources to help you on your rum tasting journey. Not only is there a dummy-proof tasting method to walk you through your experience, but there are cocktail recipes to help you make the most of your minis. A leaderboard keeps you abreast of which rum other users rate, so you can anticipate next month’s delivery.

Subscriptions from Little Tipples come in at £10 a month including delivery straight to your door. The boxes are small enough to slip right through your letter box so no need to worry about those pesky “Sorry we missed you” slips. There are no long term commitments and your subscription is available to cancel at any time. You can also earn referral points if someone signs up because you sent them. You can put your points towards a full sized bottle from the leaderboard.

To be quite honest, I have very little to be critical about here. I think the price is good, the rums are varied enough that you wouldn’t get bored, and I think the fact you can log in and see what you liked from the start of your subscription is very useful (like those little tasting notebooks big fat men on real ale trails carry in their pockets, but digital). My only criticism would be that it’s limited to rum, but the word on the street is that whisky and gin are on their way. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly love this. Sure, it’s a bit of an indulgence, hardly a monthly necessity when you’re working out your budget, but it’s fun, informative and a nice thing. And we all like nice things, right?

Little Tipples

After I tasted what was in my bottles, I preferred the white rum (Banks 5 Island) neat and the dark rum (Pussers Blue Label) mixed, I thought it was only right to make a cocktail to celebrate. Rum is my favourite spirit and a Dark n Stormy probably my favourite cocktail, so I rustled one up. Little Tipples have their recipe listed on their blog, and it’s pretty darn perfect. Though a Dark n Stormy should be a long drink, I was taking it steady so I kept the measures small this time. I didn’t want to drown out the rum with too much ginger. For a traditional drink use a double shot. I also had no lime so used a lemon instead, but this is by no means a substitution I’d endorse. Sure, it’s better than nowt, but lime is the ideal complement to the spice of the ginger. The deep caramel flavour of Pussers Blue Label matched perfectly in this but if you’re making it at home with what you have, a spiced rum like Morgans or Sailor Jerry would work well too. This is how I made mine.

Dark n Stormy makes one cocktail

25ml Dark Rum
250ml Ginger Beer (I used Old Jamaica)
Wedge of Lime
3 Ice Cubes

Pour the ginger beer into a tumbler over your ice. Top up with rum. Take your wedge of lime and squeeze it lightly into your drink, then drop it in. Mix and enjoy.

Little Tipples £10 inc. delivery per month available to cancel at any time | @LittleTipples

Disclaimer: I was sent my first box for free to try. My thoughts on this product are unbiased and honest. I only endorse products I feel strongly about and this is one of them! I will be paying full price for an ongoing subscription.;

Orange & Pomegranate Fizz

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Despite not being big drinkers, every year on Christmas Morning my family crack open the champers. Usually it’s straight up for the hardcore and Bucks Fizz for those attempting to keep a hold of their enunciation skills before lunchtime, but 2013 was the year that my mum handed over some holiday responsibility to me, so when I prepared breakfast on Christmas day I rustled up some cocktails with a subtle change.

The thing with this cocktail is that it doesn’t have to be much work. I squeezed the oranges so we had fresh juice, but you could go the way of the carton if you fancied. A bit of vermouth, a splash of lemon juice and one lone pomegranate later, and you’re well on your way to a fruity but sharp festive alternative.

The thing with jars right, they’re pretty. I’m not ashamed to say I love drinking out of them, even if they are made for jam and grannies and non-Pinteresters alike think I’m a dickhead. Call me a hipster if you like but I’m into it. Jars are also good if you don’t have a cocktail shaker to hand. I poured orange juice and Martini (that’s vermouth, but you could use a vodka or gin if you liked) into my Kilner with a bit of lemon juice. I dropped some ice in to make it good and cold, and then I whacked on the lid and shook it up good and proper. One minor note, though. As much as I love how they look, there is one caveat to using a jar as your glass. Unlike a traditional shaker and glass option, your drink isn’t poured over fresh ice when you serve it, instead it’s served with the ice you shake it up with. The movement means you get the ice going and warm it up, making it melt quicker. So as you get to the bottom of your jarred cocktail it can turn a bit watery. My solution is to drink up faster.

Orange and Pomegranate Fizz 1

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 Cocktails)

5 Large Oranges
1-2 Lemons
150ml Dry Vermouth (that’s about 25ml, 1 shot, per person)
1 Pomegranate
1 Cup of Ice
1 Bottle of Champagne, Prosecco or Cava (in fact, any sparkling wine will do)

Method

1. Juice the oranges into a measuring jug. I used a wooden reamer from Lakeland, but you could use a fancy machine or just squeeze them by hand, it won’t take you long. Strain the juice through a sieve if you want it smooth, otherwise leave it as it is!

2. Pour the juice a third of the way up your jar or glass. Next, add a shot of vermouth to each jar.

3. Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to each cocktail. I did this by sight, it doesn’t have to be exact. Drop a couple of ice cubes into each jar and screw the lid on tight. Shake away for 10-15 seconds, until all the ingredients are well mixed and the liquid’s temperature has come down.

4. Top each jar to the brim with bubbles. Drop in 2 tbsp of pomegranate seeds. Squeeze a little juice in while you’re at it. Voila!

I find that the fruit and vermouth counteract the dryness of the champagne quite nicely, but the tanginess the drink leaves behind means you can’t help but take this cocktail seriously. Fizzy pop, this ain’t. Leave your Sex On the Beach at home, I might just drink it all year long.