Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Chocolate Cocktail: Bailey's Cocoa Blossom

We've got tons of exciting cocktail recipes to share with you, but this week we thought we'd share Baileys' newest concoction, released in perfect time for the Easter booze a chocolate tomfoolery:

Baileys Cocoa Blossom Cocktail


35ml Baileys Orange Truffle
20ml Ketel One Vodka
1/2 Teaspoon Cocoa Powder
5ml Single Cream

Make it:

1. Shake all the ingrediants together in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice.
2. Serve over ice in a short glass
3. Garnish with orange zest and freshly grated dark chocolate

The new Baileys Orange Truffle liqueur is only just hitting the shelves, but you can grab a bottle for £12 in Asda.

If you can't pick up a bottle (or don't fancy it), you could always try using chocolate liqueur, and substituting 10ml of the vodka for cointreau or Grand Marnier. Asda do Thornton's liqueur for £10 a bottle, but we prefer Mozart gold chocolate liqueur from Waitrose for £15.19. It's well worth stocking up on...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

In the Bleak Mid-Spring: Balvenie Doublewood Whisky

Despite it being almost April, the weather is apparently still doing the Narnia thing, so I decided it was necessary to turn once again to the warming and homely single malt whisky as my evening drink of choice. 

With that in mind, last weekend I bought myself a bottle of Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood. Why? The double casking, the description and (a little too honestly here) the nice label played a part, but it was also £28 down from the RRP of £33.90 in Asda. So was it worth it?

The nose on the Balvenie is supremely creamy with vanilla, toasted oak, spicy honeyed fruitcake - not too far removed from sherry. 

In fact, something slightly unusual about the Doublewood is that it is stored in two barrels - the first whisky oak and the second sherry. Despite only being casked in the sherry barrel for 2 months of it’s 12 years this gives an extra fruity quality that you might not otherwise find.

The taste is fantastic: lots of spicy fruit, toffee and oak, this is a mellow and creamy whisky with the slightest hints of vanilla coming through. There's even some citrus if you can be disciplined enough to pour it and leave it for half an hour (I recommend a snooze in an armchair by a great big log fire while you wait).

There is not too much heat off it at the back of the throat, however there is the wonderful warming effect down the chest I was looking for. The finish is a little short with the flavour dissipating fairly quickly which is a shame.

All in all, this is a single malt for the masses - not too austere for the newcomer or lacking in complexity for the veteran, there’s something for everybody.

For the time being I am finding warmth and cosiness in this lovely malt, but the Pimms season cannot get here quickly enough.

This was a post by our resident whisky and rum fanatic, Hugo Fountain. 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Excellent Value Easter Wine

With all the advice being thrown at you from every retailer, column and know-it-all friend, choosing wine for your Easter feast can seem like a bit of a challenge. Whatever you choose, you want to know you're getting a wine you'll enjoy that's also good value for money (then you'll have more cash for chocolate = bonus), so we've compiled a list of our best tried-and-tested Easter tipples.

For Lamb

A glorious, juicy roasted joint of spring lamb seems to be the traditional Easter dinner, which is good news for people that don't have the foggiest when it comes to wine and food matching: you pretty much can't go wrong with a red wine.

Classic matches are Rioja, Claret, and sangiovese (the grape that makes Chianti), but I also love herby Southern French reds (particularly Syrah-based), Aussie cab-merlot, or even a New World pinot noir.

If anything, this makes choosing a wine even scarier, so here are some we know work well:

Sainsbury's Marques de Montino Rioja Reserva is silky smooth and dangerously drinkable. The current 2007 vintage is particularly tasty. It's half-price at £5.99 until 9th April, which makes this staggering value.

Marks and Spencer come up trumps with one of the best under-£10 Clarets I've found: Christian Moueix 2008 (£8.99) is simply made for drinking now and has that typical Bordeaux red fruit and cedarwood style.

Waitrose are spoiling us: San Colombano Chianti Riserva has 1/3 off until 2nd April, so now you can get a juicy, cherry-filled red to match a redcurrant jelly-smothered slice of lamb for £6.66.

If mint is more your idea of lamb heaven, look no further than the Domaine Clavel Coteaux du Languedoc from The Wine Society for £8.95 (or if you're not a member, it's £10.60 from Tanners). Herby, rich and full, this will show your lamb a good time.

If someone demands white: well, who are we to stop them? There's no technical match (maybe you could match the fatty meat with a fatty wine like a viognier or pinot gris, but even that's the longest of long shots) so just pick a white you know they like. That way, they'll still enjoy the wine and the food, just separately. It's no biggie.

For Chicken

Roast chicken is another Easter fave. Problem: Look on the back of pretty much every white wine in the world and the label will tell you it works with poultry. They can't all be right, but I think the best matches are lightly-oaked chardonnay (not at scary Burgundy prices, but not Jacob's Creek either), Alsace pinot gris, or viognier:

There's plenty of good value Chardonnay out there (round and satisfying Dona Paulina Chardonnay from The Wine Society being a personal fave at £5.25) but Majestic currently have the long and tasty Paul Mas Chardonnay from the South of France at a smashing £5.99 down from £8.49 if you buy two bottles.

Tesco Finest do themselves proud with their rich, floral Alsace Pinot Gris from £7.89 a bottle. It's equally delicious on its own as well as with food.

Probably the best value viognier I've tried: The Wine Society feature the Les Pierre Bordes Marsanne-Viognier blend for a measly £5.75. It has a beautiful texture and a fresh, chicken-friendly palate.

For reds, give New World pinot noir a try, but if you're serving your chicken with all the stuffing and cranberry sauce stuff, you can afford to choose a fuller red like Aussie shiraz or Californian zinfandel:

Surprisingly, Sainsbury's House Pinot Noir is a huge hit at a ridiculous £4.50. From Romania but well-made, it's one of the highlights of their range.

One of my all-time favourite Zins is the Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel from California. Members of The Wine Society get it for £8.75, but if you don't want to join them you can currently pick up two bottles for £8.99 each at Majestic.

For Chocolatey Treats

Of course, chocolate is a must at Easter. The problem is most people think wine and chocolate are a big N-O. Not true, if you know where to look:

For dark chocolate, Cafe Cabernet from The Drink Shop is a joy. Rich, deeply dark and cherry-filled, it is the perfect match for the bitterness of 70% cocoa solids and a super £8.98.

Chocolatey puds and creamier chocolate is best with something sweet but rich, like madeira or Samos Anthemis from The Wine Society. For £6.95 this has a whole lot of figgy flavour. Alternatively, I've yet to find a tastier madeira than the Henriques and Henriques Malmsey. You can get it from Majestic for £16.99.

For Hot Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding

If you're not making this, you're missing out on the ultimate Easter treat. And the perfect wine match is something like Sauternes, Monbazillac, or their cheaper alternatives. By far the best in my opinion is D'Arenberg's marmaladey, luscious The Noble Prankster. It's £10.95 a half from Slurp.