Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Best In Class- Chairman's Reserve Rum

The International Wine and Spirit Award medals have been handed out for another year. On this wave of endorsements was washed fortune for myself, in the opportunity to sample Chairman's Reserve.

Hailing from St. Lucia and named for the fact the then chairman (Laurie Barnard) oversaw the original blending, Chairman's is ever-present on the awards scene. Winning golds and silvers galore across their range, even the Rum Trophy this year for their Forgotten Casks rum, it is certain that there has to be something behind the hype. 

The nose is warm and heavy with notes of vanilla and dried, honeyed fruit. The sweeter aspects lead the way, this rum is almost like a perfume at points with nuts and spice coming through later after the first sugary hit.

On the palate there are much the same notes as on the nose, with fruit, some spice and also slightly creamy. Neat, I wouldn't call this a sipping rum and as they say themselves; Chairman's reserve is a great base for cocktails. This rum has a bit of heat to it on it's own, however, I agree with the fact that this rum would be better over ice. Yet, once I added the mixer this rum truly came to life. Once mixed the flavours seemed to pop all the more with all the heat gone they had a real chance to shine.

I personally see this as a premium mixing rum, one of the best in it's class. This rum really excels once mixed and I can't think of a finer cocktail rum. It is (Or very recently was) the perfect weather for fruity alfresco Caribbean concoctions and as such I suggest you pick up a bottle yourself.

Chairman's Reserve is available at Sainsbury's for £20 or The Whisky Exchange for £18.95 

Viognier, You Saucy Devil



Yet again, Waitrose has done me proud.
I'm pretty sceptical about buying wine in the supermarkets generally but Waitrose is one of only a couple that seem to get it right. So I headed there to pick up a bottle of something nice.

I've been on the white wine lately, I've given up on the whole 'drink to suit the weather' thing and I got a bottle of Laurent Miquel Nocturnes Viognier, which is from the south of France. As I mentioned in a previous post where I suggested some great wines under £6, the south of France is a real hotspot for value.

Although this Viognier is normally £8.49 it's currently on special offer at £6.35, which is good news for us folk who like decent booze but resent having to pay full whack for it.

Viognier is one that divides people, which is a good thing because pleasing everyone is boring. I once heard the variety be described as a bit of an 'over-familiar, busty barmaid', Which I totally understand because Viognier very rarely holds back, it is quite upfront and leaves nobody guessing. Complexity is often limited but there is bucketloads of flavour. If you imagine Sancerre as being the beautiful lady in a red dress, Viognier is 'buxom' and wearing a short denim skirt and leather jacket, with a questionable red mark on her neck. Her boyfriend is probably a biker and would beat you to a pulp if he knew she had her hand in your pants... Not that I'm complaining. so I sat back and popped the cork on the Viognier. So to speak...

This Laurent Miquel Viognier is overflowing with floral aromas, just what Viognier is famous for. You can practically pick up on the smells from arms length, the naughty naughty wine is just desperate to get out of the glass and into your mouth. All when you have only just met. Filthy.

On the palate, the floral notes continue but then comes lots of delicious stone fruit flavours. It's quite a big wine at 13% but there is plenty acidity, which keeps it feeling nice and fresh.

This is definitely a luscious wine, perfect if you don't tend to like oaked whites. Excellent when served with white meat dishes.

If you want an experience that you may or may not to want to brag to your friends about, get over to Waitrose online and pick up a bottle of the Laurent Miquel Nocturnes Viognier while the offer lasts because it's a goodun. If you don't mind being fondled in the mouth, this one is totally for you.

What's your favourite Viognier? We would love to know! Tell us below or on our facebook or twitter pages.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Jamie's Italian Wines at Tesco


Supermarket giant, Tesco, announced this week that they have teamed up again with Jamie Oliver to be the exclusive retailer for a range of three wines, which will be available both in store and online. The new white, rosé and red join the Jamie's Italian Prosecco NV which was the first of the range to be launched earlier this year.
 
Back in April at the Tesco Wine Spring Press Tasting, Laura and I were (unexpectedly) delighted by Jamie's Prosecco, which had been available in the Jamie's Italian restaurants for some months, but new to Tesco. If I'm honest, I wasn't wowed by the label, and the very fact it was marketed under a celebrity chef's name had me questioning just how good it was going to be. Crisp and fresh, with flavours of green apple and peach, it was everything we expected from a Prosecco and at just 11% alcohol, makes for the perfect apertif. Currently on offer at 20% on
Tesco Wine by the Case, it's the equivalent of just £7.99 per bottle - a bit of a steal for a good quality sparkler which I initially dismissed as a bit of a marketing gimmick.
Whilst I am yet to try the new wines to the range, they sound promising, and given the success of the Prosecco, am sure that they will be flying off the shelves, even at £7.99 per bottle. The Bianco, Rosato and Rosso have all been on sale within the Jamie's Italian restaurants for some time, and are now available for us to try at home. All three wines are blends of a number of grape varieties and have been created to be enjoyed with food and friends - easy drinking and uncomplicated - and encourage people to create a restuarant experience at home. There's no serious food and wine matching to be done, just strip it back to basics - white with salads, fish, poultry, rosé with just about anything, but lovely with tuna, salmon or pasta, and red with pizza, pasta and meats.

Whilst many may argue that this range might be gimmicky and marketing driven, it's a great way to engage new wine drinkers with a famous name that they associate with good food and good times. The labels aren't too tacky and with a gaggle of celebrities plastering their name on a bottle of plonk - Madonna, Gerard Depardieu, Francis Ford Coppola and Cliff Richard to name a few - Jamie has no reason not to try as well. As a long-time Jamie fan I am willing to give these wines a go, though I can't say the same for the Drew Barrymore collaboration....
Look out for them in Tesco stores and online at Wine by the Case soon...
Have you tried any of the range in a Jamie's Italian? Let us know, we'd love to hear from you!



Lovely Shaped Wine Racks from The Metal House


So we've established that I love weird and wonderful wine racks, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered The Metal House.

They're based in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, and have been making all manner of lovely homewares for the past few years, however their Amazon store has the cheapest prices.


Their most popular piece (pictured above) is the S'wine wine storage rack in the shape of a pig (gettit? Wine AND puns, hooray!). Much as it's a little disconcerting to shove a wine bottle through a poor innocent farm animal's innards, they are pretty adorable and come in black and pink too. They're £49.99.


Personally, my fave is their grapes wine storage rack. This ones comes in white too (ooh! Black and white grapes! How appropriate) and is £36.99.


Then there's the bottle shaped wine rack, which stores nine bottles and is the most sensible of the bunch. Nice and simple, but still brilliant for wine fans. It's £39.99.


Lastly, nothing says 'I love wine' better than a heart-shaped wine rack. Even the little bottle holes are heart-shaped, and it comes in silver and white too. Although it only has three holes, it's the cheapest of the lot at £29.99. Perfect for those special bottles.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Drinking Games: Corkers Wine Game


Hands up if you're a wine geek? Yeah, quite a few of our readers fit comfortably under this dorky, slightly tipsy umbrella, and every one of our writers very much have the t-shirt as well.

Being a geek is brilliant, but so often wine geekery isn't appreciated in the same way as the other geekery. Sometimes, you just need some merchandise that puts your geek knowledge to good use for once, and brings your equally ridiculous friends together. There's nothing quite like being able to prove you know a whole load of stuff most people don't know, nor do they really wish to know, but that makes you feel like a boss.

A total wine fanatic has come up with Corkers, a new wine game that I was lucky enough to receive a cheeky sample of and that kept my drunk friends and I amused over the weekend.

The aim of the game is to own as many vineyards as you can (much like monopoly properties, you earn money when people land on your vineyard) and to evict the other players from their vineyards, which you do by answering wine questions. Each vineyard is worth a certain number of grapes. It's BLOODY BRILLIANT.

The counters are adorable little wine barrels, and the fantasy currency is 'vinos', fines of which you have to pay the banker (who in this game is called - get it - a negociant!) when you get questions wrong.

It really is marvellous, although some of the questions range from being ridiculously easy to being much harder than even seasoned winos could answer, so we're not sure they've got the balance quite right. That said, we do probably know more than the average wine geek as we're all working in the industry, so for most people you'd be playing AND LEARNING at the same time.

You can buy the game directly from their website, but you can also get it from their Amazon store - either way, it'll set you back £27.50 (unfortunately, you cannot pay in grapes or vinos - we've checked.)
We seriously urge you to grab one of these for much drunken shenanigans, it's pretty much the best thing we've ever played.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Friday Cocktail: Melon Mule

Last week the cherry margarita went down so well I thought some more fruit was in order. This is a little less boozy but oh so refreshing, with a gorgeous zing from the ginger beer and a lovely balance of flavours. I've called it a mule based on the mississippi mule because it contains gin, but you can use vodka too if you're feeling traditional.

You'll need less melon than you think to make enough juice for the cocktail, and - just a heads up - if you don't sieve the melon and instead shove the whole thing in the freezer after shaking it up, you'll get a lovely boozy sorbet (as the gin, blueberry and eldeflower sorbet proved, you guys love sorbets.)

Melon Mule recipe (serves 1)

Ingredients:

75ml melon juice (blend about two to three handfuls of cubed canteloupe melon until as smooth as possible, and pass it through a sieve to make sure any massive bits are removed)
60ml gin
Juice of half a lemon
4 sprigs of mint
1tsp honey
Ginger beer (to top up) - we prefer the alcoholic ginger beer by Crabbies
Dash sugar syrup (optional)

Shake it!

1. Shake everything except the ginger beer and sugar syrup (if you're using it) over ice until nicely blended.
2. Strain into an old-fashioned glass or champagne saucer and fish out the mint leaves.
3. If you're using sugar syrup, add a dash at a time and keep tasting the cocktail (tough, I know) until it feels sweet enough.
4. Top up the glass with ginger beer.

We like garnishing with mint leaves to enhance the minty hints. Enjoy!

EPA: A Refreshing Summer Thirst-Quencher

- By Matthew Kitwood

What could be more of a great accompaniment to such fantastic weather other than something wet and alcoholic? I personally don’t think there is much else, and I’ve certainly been getting my fill!

Now, it is often wrongly assumed by younger drinkers that beer can’t be refreshing in hot weather, which is a common reason for many to choose lager and cider over beer. Beer can undoubtedly be enjoyed when it’s sweltering, and I’ve had the opportunity to try a real summery little gem, which goes by the name of EPA (English Pale Ale). 

It is brewed in Burton by the Marston’s brewery using Burton’s unique spring water.

Its roots stretch back to the Victorian era when IPA (India Pale Ale) was being produced in Burton for export to India.

Marston’s has brought this old classic back as EPA and it really hits the spot when the sun is out and you're gasping for a drink. At 3.6% ABV it can be enjoyed comfortably all afternoon, perfect for any beer garden gathering. It’s fruity and slightly bitter which makes it beautifully refreshing.

I found this in cask at my local, but you can buy cases of a dozen 500 ml bottles of Marston's EPA directly from their site for £14.98, which I think is a bargain for such a belter.

By the bottle or cask, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Amaretto Sour: An Underappreciated Cocktail Classic

For as long as I can remember I have always loved sour drinks and sweets. When taking trips to the sweet shop I would always go for a box of WarHeads or Sour Apples instead of a bar of chocolate. When it comes to my favourite cocktail, it appears that I have the same taste!

An Amaretto Sour is a short drink served in most cocktail bars and trendy restaurants, but to make the most basic version at home couldn't be easier.

Basic Amaretto Sour recipe (serves 1)

Ingredients:

2 measures amaretto liqueur (Disaronno is perfect - and currently £16 for 70cl in Tesco),
1 drizzle angostura bitters (£10, Waitrose and Tesco)
Juice of half a lemon.
That’s it!

Recipe

Simply pour two measures of Disaronno over ice, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, drop in a delicate drizzle of Angostura Bitters for added zing and garnish with a slice of sugared lemon. Simples.

As mentioned, this is a very basic (but very tasty) version of the Amaretto Sour, something that is great for a late evening pick me up or a post-meal tipple. There are however a number of small tweaks you can make to this; like swapping the lemon for orange, using sugar syrup instead of Angostura Bitters etc etc.

All these will make a sharp, refreshing drink that those sour heads out there are going to love. There is however, one recipe which I believe to be the best of the best. 


There's more ingredients this time: Amaretto Liqueur, Bourbon, lemon, sugar syrup/Angostura Bitters and an egg white.

What is really great about this version, apart from the addition of more alcohol, is the consistency. The beaten egg whites give it a thicker, fluffy feel similar to a Pina Colada that gives this short drink a bit more substance without skimping on the flavour! It really is worth the extra effort, even if you're already tipsy at the end of the night...

OK, I admit it. It is quite a camp drink. But that doesn't stop me drinking it! And it shouldn't put you off either, because if you want a shorter, booze infused drink packed full of great flavours (unlike vodka and coke or tequila shooters) this really is a great option.

And you know, I'm a firm believer that sometimes it is good to get in touch with your slightly more feminine side...

Images from Phil Campbell and meisjevandeslijterij's photostreams respectively.

Mouthwatering Moscato; Perfect Party Starter

As our new best friend Mother Nature continues to send glorious sunshine and balmy afternoons our way, it's the perfect time to embrace one of my favourite summer tipples - Moscato. Usually lower in alcohol (5-8%), spritzy and fragrant, it's the perfect daytime drinker, and tends to be popular among new wine lovers with its delicate and fruity style. The delicate bubbles, surprise sweetness and light body are enough to woo and win over many an unsuspecting palate - I dare you!

Produced from the Moscato grape, this light-bodied sweetie is often labeled simply as Moscato, or if it's born and bred in Italy's Northwest region of Piedmont, in the town of Asti, it's seen sporting its full name of Moscato d'Asti. If you're not already hooked from the first whiff of orange blossom, honeysuckle and peach, you'll be sure to be dazzled by the fruit-forward palate profile of crushed apples, ripe peaches and grapes. Yes, this is a wine where you can actually say that the wine tastes like, well...grapes!

Moscato needs to be served well chilled and with its sweet flavour profile is downright delicious with desserts. Try Moscato d'Asti, 2012, Elio Perrone at £7.50 from The Wine Society - most delicious I have tried and perfect with profiteroles, apple tart or crepes suzette. At just 5% alcohol it's a responsible (yes, we can be!) and light way to finish a meal. It also makes for an uncomplicated aperitif - tried and tested many times, I might add.

An Aussie favourite is the Brown Brother's Moscato, currently at £10.00 per bottle from Tesco Wine by the Case. Matthew Jukes says of the 2011 vintage; "This cheeky white is one of Australia’s bestselling wines. The formula involves ripe, tropical fruit notes, a dash of grapey sweetness and a gentle spritz on the palate. It’s delicious served ice-cold." Voted by Dan Murphy's customers (Dan Murphy's is a huge alcohol superstore in Australia) as one of the top 100 products of 2012, is a delightful reminder of warmer months with its aromas of musk and freshly crushed grapes.

For fresh summer fruit salads, fresh berries or juicy watermelon try Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Mosacto, 2012, also from The Wine Society, at £7.95 per bottle. This effervescent, fun, salmon pink Moscato has been sold at Wirra Wirra’s cellar door for years and now we can finally buy it in the UK - woohoo!! For me, this is simply summer in a glass, and at just 4.5% it is perfectly uncomplicated and designed for sunny afternoons with friends. Ever one for something different, I am loving the closure on this one - no classic cork, no safe, sassy screw cap, but a crown seal - totally South Australian!

Here at Vinspire, we love nothing more that a cheeky tipple with friends, so yes, we will be cracking open a bottle over the weekend - Mother Nature, please be kind!

Cheers!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Keeping cool: Geeky Ice Cube Trays.

So you've organised your party, you've sorted all the booze (obviously), you've dug out the nice glasses and armed yourself with the best drinking tools. But one tiny little detail that so often gets overlooked at parties is the ice. So often I've been to a garden party when an entire parties ice needs are being serviced by the ice tray that came with the freezer. Warm gins all round then!
Sure you could just go and pick up a bag of ice and chuck it in the bucket usually used for washing the car, but why not make a little extra effort and go for something quirky that will make people smile and unleash your inner geek on unsuspecting glasses everywhere!

First up for the child in you, Lego shapes!

Try and build a classic Lego house with the Lego bricks ice tray from Amazon at £4.95 before all the ice melts and then fill your Lego ice house with some Lego ice people also from Amazon at £7.95.
Or just put them in your drink...whatever.

Always more of a K'NEX person? Yeah me too. Why not go a bit Saturday night Sci-Fi with Daleks and TARDIS' (TARDI?) in the Dr Who ice tray from Lakeland at £4.99. Exterminate the warm beverage! (Sorry).
Prefer your video games a bit more retro with irregular shapes that magically fit together and disappear? Try Tetris bricks from Forbidden Planet for £5.49.

Still not retro enough? Well then let's go a bit further back. Let's get Jurassic Yo! Dinosaur bone ice tray from LazyboneUK for £4.49.

Perhaps you want your ice cube taking inspiration from the most awesome of the awesome in the entire history of awesome. I talk of course, of Star Wars. For as long as I can remember, Star Wars has been my go to for most things. Films, costume parties and toys etc. But I never thought the force would lead me to kitchenware. There are a few different Star Wars themed ice trays, but I've chosen my two favourites. First up, Han Solo encased in carbonite! No longer will you put Captain Solo in the cargo hold. £9.99 from LazyboneUK.
My ultimate favourite however, is this. Death Star Ice mould!
Admittedly, it only makes one, which is a pain if you've got guests over but you can just make yourself look awesome with it. Plus it's pretty massive so you only really need one. It's also amazingly detailed for what is essentially a ball of ice. And before you ask, no it doesn't have the power to blow up Alderon. £9.62 from Amazon.
So make sure you pay attention to the little details of your shindig and put some geek in your glass.

Chateau Aigues Vives from Corbieres - or PHWOARbieres! *titter chortle splutter*

HOORAY I'm drinking red wine, which as I mentioned before has some great health benefits. I'm feeling like a god already.

With all the hot hot heat lately, the bottles of red have been stuck in the cupboard under the stairs, neglected. So because today has been drizzly up north and the temperature had dropped slightly, from boiling to a gentle simmer, I thought it would be daft not to get a bit of tannin back in my life.

I've been drinking Château Aigues Vives "Cuvée d'Exception" 2007 from Corbières in France. Corbières is a wine making area within Languedoc-Rousillon, right down in the south, a region which is great for offering excellent value for money.

This is a bottle that I picked up at Majestic in York for £9.99 a short while ago and I had pretty much forgotten about, so it has come in very handy for perking up an otherwise alcohol free Tuesday night. I love this job.

So, the reviewy type business! On the nose, Ch. Aigues Vives is really appealing. There is dark berries, chocolate and a hint of leather, lots of layers of aroma that give the impression of a fuller bodied red. HOWEVER, although very pleasant, this is slightly misleading. In the mouth the wine isn't too full bodied at all, instead a bit closer to the lighter end of the scale. The dark fruit becomes more like cherry, although the coffee does follow through onto the palate. There is plenty of acidity, at first it feels a little harsh but when the wine has had a couple of minutes to open up, everything becomes a little more balanced.

Chateau Aigues Vives is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan and with so many varieties involved in the blend it's just about complex enough to keep it interesting for even a hardened wine lover. For the price it's pretty damn good!

Is it just me or does "Hardened wine lover sound wrong"??

If you've been invited out for dinner this is an ideal wine to take along as it has the benefit of being very approachable, there is nothing much to dislike about it but it is interesting enough to keep any wine ponce entertained.

In my opinion, this red is best served after spending 10 minutes in the fridge, so as to avoid it becoming too jammy.

You can pick up a bottle of the Chateau Aigues Vives 2010 from Majestic for £9.99 or £8.99 if you buy two bottles.

What's your favourite Corbieres? Let us know by commenting below or on our twitter and facebook pages.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Touch of the Tropical- The Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask

I'm a self confessed lover of rum and Balvenie fanboy, there I said it. Luckily for me there is now a bottle that cobines those two loves with another; the good and honest, single malt, scottish whisky. Balvenie now offer the Balvenie Caribbean Cask, a replacement for the previous Cuban selection. This whisky is matured for the vast majority of its' life in standard oak barrels, but is transferred to old rum barrels to impart that heady, exotic character.

On the nose the rumy quality comes through in a big way, I'm pretty sure that on a 'blind smelling' people would not place this as the noble product of Scotland. There is a cacophony of tropical notes coming through, fruit, sugar cane along with cream, vanilla, fudge and toffee. This is obviously a very sweet nose as would be expected from a whisky finished in such a way, but also is very stereotypical I've found of Balvenie as a distillery.

On the palate again the sweetness is there with honey, vanilla, cream, mango, orange, and toffee to name just some of the flavours I picked up. After the primary assault the flavour fades into a nice vanilla and spiced toffee lull, lasting a good amount of time coating the mouth. There is a lot going on in this glass which I didn't expect with such an overbearing wood finish, but is very nicely mellowed with no burn on it.

The Caribbean Cask is a step up from the Doublewood price wise,  but I would suggest it as a way of trying a different wood finish and sampling something pretty different from the norm. I think this would  also make a great gift for all those rum and bourbon drinkers out there, it has a lot of shared qualities with those and could be a great introduction to new drinkers.

Pick up a bottle from The Whiskey Exchange for £42.95, or there may be on on the shelf of your local Asda for £41

Epic Oversized Champagne Cork Stools & Homewares!


To say these products are frivolous, arguably garish, and out of our price range anyway... well, that would be the sensible view. And we don't often take the sensible view on Vinspire, so I'm going to show you these amazing things anyway.

The Wine Journal are based in Cheltenham, and are most famous for (clue's in the name) their wine journal. It's massive and red, and a bit like the This Is Your Life for wine lovers.

They also, however, make a range of cork-shaped homewares that are frankly brilliant (in a mental, I shouldn't like them but I do way):

Pictured above is a giant champagne cork stool. I wish there was a better word than stool, because all I can think of is some sort of medical sample, but basically you can chill out with a glass of the good stuff while your delicate derriere is perched on a stool in the shape of a champagne cork. HOW BRILLIANT. It also comes as a side table (although I think they're basically the same thing by a different name?) and both retail at £120 at Hurn & Hurn.

If you get no kicks from Champagne, you may like the Bordeaux wine cork stool instead. It's currently on offer at a mere £100 from Notonthehighstreet, and also doubles as the side table and a brilliant "now where's that giant bottle of Champagne?" joke that will remain funny for years and years and years.

Yes I know the picture is almost exactly the same as the others. The point is these are smaller, apparently.

Back to Champagne though (because why wouldn't you?) there are also a range of smaller giant champagne corks, such as a Champagne cork door stopper for £45 direct from The Wine Journal. Perfect for the most showy-offy of doors. I love it.


Lastly, check out the champagne cork wine cooler. We showed you al fresco dining treats yesterday, and this would be the ultimate statement. It says "LOOK AT ME. I can afford a champagne cork as an ice bucket. But now I'm so skint the bottle I'm chilling is some Lambrusco." Anyway, so worth it. It's £44.90 (an important 10p cheaper than the door stopper) from NotOnTheHighStreet.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Amazing Flavoured Cocktail Glass Rimmers


Okay, stop sniggering at the back. I know I said rimmers, but there's no need to-PAHAHA, okay, it is quite funny. Anyway.

Cocktails look great when the rim of the glass is coated in delicious sugars or salt. They also add to the flavour, and when they're colourful it's even better!

But have you ever bought flavoured sugars to add the perfect extra hint of something delicious to your finished cocktail? They're out there, people, and I am all over them. You would not BELIEVE the number of show-off points you get at parties for these bad boys.

A good place to start is Steenberg's who make lovely organic sugars. They have their own website which sells the sugars a few pence cheaper, but if you factor in delivery they're actually cheaper on Amazon. That said - at £3.50 per 200g plus £3.99 delivery - they're still not exactly inexpensive, but for special occasions they really are the dog's bollocks.



Imagine using rose sugar with a Turkish delight martini? Or adding lavender sugar the rim of a champagne cocktail? Heaven. Then there's cinnamon sugar (Christmas, yay!), lemon sugar (oh hi, lemon drop!) and vanilla, which will really pimp up a pornstar martini.



Stanger's Cookshop do a range of cocktail sugars by Arom, but they're even pricier at £9.99 plus £6.99 delivery (say whaaat?!) but I had to mention them because they do candy floss flavour sugar and it made me very excited indeed.

Lastly, though, an absolute gem from the States: Chicago-based Deli Cove Spices from my beloved Etsy. They do a huge range of flavours and colours, but here are a few favourites:


Coconut flavoured sugar. Oh boy.


Honey flavoured sugar. This will come very much in handy for the cocktail we have coming up on Friday.


Toasted marshmallow flavoured sugar. HEAVEN.


Sugar with pink and red hearts! Think of the Valentine's Day points, lads!


More seasonal now: wedding cake flavour. I have no idea whether this will be amazing or a bit gross, but I still want some.


Pumpkin pie spice flavour. I know we don't have Thanksgiving in the UK, but HALLOWEEN cocktails, anyone?


Lastly, and possibly my personal fave: candy cane flavoured sugar! All minty and sweet and making me want to drink bright red cocktails and sing jingle bells RIGHT NOW. In the middle of the hottest summer we've had in years. Yeah, well.

They're all £2.66 with £8.71 shipping (crikey, I know!) buuuut it does make them work out cheaper than the Arom ones, so what the hell! I'm treating myself.

Which flavour would you pick?!

30 Ultimate Outdoor Summer Drinking Gadgets for Barbecues & Picnics

UPDATED MAY 2015 - NEW PRODUCTS ADDED & PRICES AND LINKS UPDATED

The summer weather has been ace, and looks set to continue for a few more weeks. There'll be time for more barbecues, more garden parties, more going to the beach, and more taking picnics to the park and getting tipsy with my friends.

I've already found the bicycle wine rack for impromptu trips, but what if you're making a day of it and want the latest gadgets and accessories to make your outdoor drinking time super cool in more ways than one? Here's our ultimate list:

Keeping cool

Yep, if you want to drink Jo's picnic drinking suggestions, Freddy's summer wine picks, or Sam's must-try summer white wines, then your chosen beverage simply has to be ice cool. The Rapid Ice Wine Sleeve is pretty good (£12.70 at Tesco*) and you can even get a beer bottle sized cooling sleeve (£4.99 at Amazon) , but here are some suggestions that range from the handy to the epic:


For a simple but stylish ice bucket, the cheapest I can find is the funky pink ice bucket for a measly £7 from Wine Gift Centre. (They do a bigger, 2-bottle ice bucket for £12.95 too which is ridiculous value - and yes, it's still pink.)


Obvioiusly we've written about the wonders of corkcicles several times (sorry about that) but this guide wouldn't be complete without mentioning them one more time. My current fave is the Corkcicle Air (£19.99 at Firebox*) because once your wine is chilled, you just pop the lid off the wine cooler and pour the ice cold wine straight through it.


And Firebox's latest bit of genius is the Freeze Chilling Wine Glasses - keep them in the fridge or freezer, and just pour in your wine/G&T and they'll keep your beverage cool for hours! It's £24.99 for two.

And now for the more epic coolers, courtesy of Lakeland*:



The Kilner Drinks Dispenser. Want so bad. So. Many. Showoff. Points. And it's only £29.99.


Your very own cool bar! Look how many bottles you can store on ice, and then you can use the table to shake up a cocktail without going anywhere near the kitchen! Hooray! Oh, but it's £69.99, so I'm going to have to save for a bit...


Hold Me!



I'm definitely going to jam a hands-free wine glass holder (£4.99 at Lakeland*) into the grass when I'm next laying in the park reading a good book on a sunny day - and these drinks spikers from Not On The High Street* (£24.95 for the set) take it one further with a handy place to hold your bottle too!


The On The Go wine glasses (£9.99) are also pretty nifty - the base keeps your wine upright, but then when you're ready to go home/trying to ward off pesky flies you just unscrew the bottom and it pops right on the top as a lid.








Another sturdy, anti-spill wine glass is this sippy picnic wine glass from Not on the High Street* for £9.50. I like the fact that the extra layer on insulation keeps the wine cool as well!

And the pretty little water/cordial bottle is only £6, but it makes carting cold drinks around so much easier (and, frankly, more stylish...)



Tool Up


We've told you about the amazing 10-in-1 cocktail tool before, but it would be amazing for some impromptu cocktail mixing outdoors, and I also love this super-tiny but easy to use mini corkscrew for a ridiculous £3.95 from Wine Gift Centre, and the bike mini bottle opener keyring from Tesco (so you'll never miss an al fresco beer opportunity.) for a mere £1.99!



Then there's reusable ice cubes, which are surprisingly good and stop your drinks from going all watery. Whisky stones are at the top of my wish list, and stay so cool they can even be kept in the fridge. They're £13.99 from Drink Stuff.



If you like your ice cubes with a dose of cute, I can't recommend these penguin drink coolers enough! Look, penguins are swimming in your gin! Best. Day. Ever. They're £6.99 for 18 at Drink Stuff.


Accessorize


Umbrella lolly moulds. Oh yes. They're £4.00 from Amazon. And guitar ice cube trays to make very rock n' roll stirrers are £10 from Not on the High Street*!

To keep the outdoor festivities going well into the night (which seem to be as hot as regular English summer days at the moment) you definitely need to invest in some outdoor lighting. It doesn't have to be pricy, though: Ikea do the pretty solar powered LED lighting chain pendants for £4 for 12 (you'll need the lighting chain too for £8), and the amazing solar-powered ground stick (for the same price, but you get 5 lights rather than 12) are tranquil globes that seem to float in the dark! It'll look like the Ood!



Get your straw-fix with these very retro stripy paper straws (they're £3.50 for 25 from NOTHS*) and colour-changing straws (eee! Especially amazing at night with the floating globes) are £2.99 for 25 on Amazon*.



And the retro cocktail stick holders (£11) are perfect to hold these pretty butterfly cocktail sticks from Lakeland (£3.49):

Epic Barbecue Gadgets and Finishing Touches






Lastly, for pure fun, the Chill Factor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker is a bit on the epic side. It's £23.77, but without any ice or fuss you can make a slushy from your favourite juice/cocktail in about 30 seconds. Waaaaant.


And if you have a little extra budget, the Snowcone/Slushie maker is like being a kid all over again, although this time you'll obviously use it to make lots and lots of nice, icy booze. It's £49.95. Worth it.


A BBQ branding iron. I really can't decide if this is the best or worst thing I've found on my barbecue accessories search. It's £14.99 from Firebox.


Your very own bacon curing and smoking kit (£49, NOTHS)!! I have no words. No words except 'get in my face bacon' and 'I hope this summer lasts forever.'

Happy BBQing! Get those picnic baskets at the ready...

*Shops marked with an asterisk support affiliate links - but don't worry, they don't bite! It just means if you like the look of something and click through to buy it, we might get a few pence or so commission as a thank you. But we NEVER recommend anything we don't truly love and buy/want ourselves. You can find out more about affiliate links here.