Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bar Review: Hutong, The Shard

The Lowdown: Fancy sipping on delectable, oriental-inspired concoctions while enjoying an outstanding view across London? Look no further than Hutong at the Shard, where a brand new menu offers drinkers the chance to try Bing Cha (Iced Tea) cocktails with the addition of a birds-eye view.

Where: The Shard isn’t hard to miss, being the tallest building in Western Europe and commanding the London skyline from its location in The City. Zoom up in the lift and you’ll find Hutong on the 33rd floor. Dizzying – in a good way.

First Thing You Notice: It's impossible not to gawk at the view - this is one stunning panorama. Grab a table near the window, get there at early evening, and sip on exotic cocktails while marveling at the sunset, then watch London come to life as lights twinkle on below you.

What You’ll Tell Your Friends: That you enjoyed cocktails from a steaming teapot. To add to the beautiful aesthetic and lovely sense of ceremony, the Bing Cha arrives in traditional tea-pots and are poured into little Chinese cups. Even though it's iced tea, the teapots look like their steaming due to the addition of dry ice.

Atmosphere: This is where the well-healed city folk frolic, and so feel free to dress up a bit. It also gets very busy, so there's a great buzz of excitement and frivolity in the air.

Decor: Glowing red lanterns dangling from the ceiling and beautifully ornate dark wood paneling evoke the seductive Far East. Plus there's that awesome view to arrest your attention.

Creative Concept: The first menu for Hutong was based around Chinese medicine, and there are still echoes of that in the new list, from the likes of the Father of Chinese Medicine and the Jade Emperor, which uses Chinese 5 Spice Tincture. The most innovative offerings are the Bing Cha, which have taken delicate Chinese teas and layered with flavours to create soothing, delicious and unique drinks. Options include the Shuanglong, incorporating Oolng Tea and three whiskies, and the Keemun Guo – Keemun tea, lychee and Grand Marnier.

So You’re Thirsty: You can’t come up here without trying to Bing Cha, but there are also several other exotic offerings to tempt you - some of the favourites being the Shanghai Vines and Lychee Wine.

Hungry Too?: Between 1 and 5pm you can complete your Hutong experience with their divine dim sum. After this time there are still spicy crackers, fried broad beans and Kalamata olives to snack on.

Don’t leave without trying: The Fujian Breeze Bing Cha was our favourite – delicate White Silver Tipped Tea with Hendricks gin. Additions of mint, cucumber and Fernet Braca made for a herbaceous, delicate and soothing concoction.

Prices Please: Averaging at about £13.50 each, the prices are a little on the steeper side – but trust us, the whole experience makes it well worth the money and you’ll be telling everyone you meet about your Hutong Tea-time treat.

Website: Hutong Blog

To read the full review, head to Social and Cocktail.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Top 5 Classic Vodka Cocktails

Photo: Alpha de Centaure (CCL)
This is a guest blog by Social and Cocktail.

Vodka is having a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with deluxe brands appearing that are highly desirable, both as a spirit in their own right and as a great addition to the cocktail. No longer just the colourless, odourless option that acts as a fall-back for those not well educated in the drinks world - now there are vodkas on the market that demand to be taken seriously.

One of these exciting new offerings comes courtesy of Tonino Lamborghini Vodka - made with quality grains from the Balkans and Slovakia and water sourced directly from the valley of Franciacorta in Italy, which is then put through a triple-distillation process and filtered to ensure only the highest quality.

Everything about it roars style, from the elegant and striking bottle to the famous bull lowering its head, ready to charge. It doesn't surprise us that this is going to be a staple in the more fashionable nightspots of the world.

After giving it a try we can concur that this makes for a superbly smooth drink - not since our student days have we sipped vodka neat, but Tonino Lamborghini Vodka left us with a peppery taste on the tongue and a full, rounded finish in the mouth.

Plus, it makes for a mean cocktail, and we've chosen our Top 5 vodka cocktails to accompany it:

White Russian – Beloved drink of The Dude, this smooth and easy-drinking combination of cream, vodka and coffee liquor makes for a decadent and rich treat

Moscow Mule – The addition of ginger beer makes for a refreshing kick, and there’s nothing like quenching a thirst with this cocktail on a hot day.

Cosmopolitan – Not just for ladies in the city who like to talk about their dalliances – the Cosmo is a vodka staple and a well-made one should have the right contrast of sweetness and citrus edge.

Sex on the Beach – Colourful, fruity, and a bit cheeky – this fun loving cocktail definitely delivers on flavour and should be a staple at parties.

French Martini – classy, smooth, and with a delightful frothiness from the sweet pineapple. The Chambord raspberry liquor makes it French, and we could drink them all night long!

What's your favourite way to drink vodka? Tell us in the comments!

Camden Town Brewery's Tank Party 2

Last weekend in a little corner of north London, under the arches of the Kentish Town West railway line, local craft beer producer Camden Town Brewery threw an exceptionally good party, their Tank Party 2.

With the brewery recently featuring on Adams bucket list of craft beer producers to visit, and our friends at Lickalix telling us they'd teamed up with Camden Town Brewery to make two new beer flavoured ice lollies (beertails), we knew we couldn't miss this event.

The star attraction for the Tank Party was an outdoor bar set up right by their huge shiny silver tanks with ten taps pouring their Unfiltered Hells straight from the tank. With appearances by Crabbie Shack, Miss P's Barbecue and Lickalix providing soft-shell crab burgers, Atlanta-style ribs and pulled pork, and sweet, icy lollies respectively, it was a dream afternoon which carried on late into the evening.

Since moving to their location under the Victorian railway arches - a short walk from Camden - in 2010 (a baby brewery!), the Camden Town Brewery has been brewing their signature lager, Hells, and a growing range, after founder Jasper Cuppaidge progressed from a home-brew loving pub landlord to full-time brewer.

All year round CTB (Camden Town Brewery) brew Camden Hells Lager, Camden USA Hells Lager and Camden Unfiltered Hells as well as Camden Pale Ale, Gentleman's Wit and Camden Ink. They also brew a limited series which changes each year, but with an exceptional all-year-round range, there's already enough reason for a visit.

With 60HL (over 10,000 pints) flowing straight from the tank at Tank Party 2, I spent most of the afternoon sipping Unfiltered Hells. Unlike their Hells Lager (£26 per 12, Best of British Beer) which passes through a filter before packaging to remove the yeast, Unfiltered Hells is not, giving it a hazy or cloudy appearance. Smooth and full-bodied, it's got a little more character and depth than the cleaner, sharper Hells, which for a pale ale fan, is a happy medium.

As the sun set, the temperature dropped and the patio heaters came out we ventured inside to The Brewery Bar (their permanent fixture) to try a few more of the CTB brews. Having spent my younger years with my hands around a stubbie of pale ale (fellow South Australians will understand!) it was only natural my first choice was the Camden Pale Ale (£26 per 12, BOB Beer). With a bolder hop flavour in an American pale ale style, it's nicely rounded and big on citrus and tropical fruit flavour....super easy to drink, perhaps a little too easy!

Not content in trying just one, I must have sampled all of the beers available (it was a long evening!) but I must say, I was completely inspired by their Gentleman's Wit (£26 per 12, BOB Beer), a Belgian-style Witbier. A classic white beer spiked with lemon and fragrant with bergamot it's smooth and full-bodied with a sharp citrus hit and a floral freshness.

It was no surprise that our friends at Lickalix also chose to use the Gentleman's Wit in the first of their new limited edition beer infused ice lollies, the Lemonade Bergamot. A super refreshing hit of fresh lemons and Camden Town Brewery's Gentleman's Wit it is definitely a summer lolly, just a shame it wasn't that warm last Saturday! Their second new flavour is a Blackberry Shandy - an intensely fruity blend of blackberries, lemons and beer from CTB. We concluded that this was the manlier of the two given it's denser, creamier taste, but still totally delicious.

For those who prefer something a little heavier and on the more traditional side, fear not, there is also the Camden Ink, a hoppy stout that's bold, smooth and bitter. Loaded with roast and bitter dark chocolate, dark fruits, a rich body and a creamy foam, it tastes sensational (even for a non-stout lover!) and lingers much longer than the lighter lager styles.

Needless to say, Camden Town Brewery put on a great event, and having now sampled (drunk) nearly all of their beers, it's safe to say they deserve their place on Adam's craft brewery bucket list. With a laid back vibe, a local atmosphere and a street food trader cooking up a storm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, this isn't just a brewery, this is a brand, a bar and something very special indeed. They also run brewery tours on Thursdays and Saturdays if you want to see all the action.

Now Camden Town Brewery, answer us one question....did you get through those 60HL last Saturday?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Try Something New: The Fino and Tonic

Photo: Jenny Downing (CCL)
As the season starts to change, and summer draws to a close, we all get a bit sad and dejected. I'm countering my early-onset Seasonal Affective Disorder by shaking things up a bit, cocktail-wise, (pun not intended but left in because it's awesome.)

Sometimes, you don't even have to think big to get a big difference - even a tiny change in ingredient can revitalise a cocktail favourite. A case in point = The Fino and Tonic.

Instead of your average gin and tonic, (or even a twist on the G&T like my Sun and Tonic recipe), use dry, refreshing fino sherry for a fresh, almost savoury alternative. I love fino so much (this fino and chorizo stew is still a favourite meal in our house) and really think sherry cocktails are massively underrated.

The best thing about fino is it's so versatile. It matches tons of different flavours, so you can embellish your F&T any way you like, from adding a splash of orange bitters, to garnishing your drink with lemon, herbs like rosemary or thyme, or even a salt rim.

Here's my basic recipe:

Fino and Tonic recipe


Shake it!

1. Add the fino to a highball glass or large wine glass filled with plenty of large ice cubes.
2. Top up with the tonic water and the orange bitters, and stir with a tall spoon (or bar spoon, if you have one)
3. Garnish with some lemon peel that you have slapped about a bit and rolled in your hands, so all the aromatic lemon oils are released.

How would you have your fino and tonic?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Finding Rarities and Bargains: Whisky Auctions

I read a lot of whisky and spirits blogs, websites, books, watch vlogs and engage in online forums. When you expose yourself to so much interaction in regards to the subject you are always going to hear people raving about this whisky they've had and in a staggering display of consumerist, human greed you feel compelled to have it, to try it and see what all the fuss is about.

The only issue is that this may be a whisky that was a limited edition, or is only available in certain countries, or was discontinued long ago and as such isn't available in a standard shop.

You strap-in to your desk chair and gather your calm and zen for a serious session of Google-fu to find your holy bounty. Eventually you manage to find the bottle, it'll inevitably be readily available in the US for slightly under the original UK rrp or somewhere like The Whisky Exchange or Hedonism for at least triple its' original price dwarfing the national debt of Sierra Leone.

That's it, the quest is over and you lie vanquished before the fact that you can't buy this bottle, you have rent to pay and your whisky collecting habit has made the temptation of selling your spare kidney a literal impossibility as it will kill any recipient. There is no choice but to emotionally collapse in on yourself at the thought of that sumptuous liquid never passing your lips. Or.....

Or, you can check out the monthly whisky auctions online. The online whisky auction industry has absolutely exploded within the last year with thousands of bottles being traded by collectors and whisky investors. These offer opportunities to pick up those long gone bottles at some semblance of a sensible price.

Whisky auction sites have a monthly auction that generally go live towards the end of the month and run for a week or two. The two main sites that I use are Whisky Auctioneer and Scotch Whisky Auctions.

Whisky Auctioneer has an auction live currently (as of 27/08/2014) and theirs run for two weeks. There are no registration fees to join and start bidding, but there are buyer fees at 10% of the final hammer price so be sure to factor that in when bidding. Whisky Auctioneer works a bit differently to most auction sites, but more like a real auction whereby you bid an amount and that is the total on the item until someone comes in with a higher bid, the item price doesn't increase in increments to your willing to pay total like with eBay.

This does make the auction simpler and seems to allow for some more bargains to be found, people don't seem to be trying to outbid each other by a pound half as much and I was able to pick up two bottles from the Bruichladdich Cuvee range for about £60 each a couple of months ago.

Scotch Whisky Auctions has a lot more items each month than Whisky Auctioneer, SWA has several thousand lots a month whereas WA gets about 600-650. That means there can be a lot more choice and also more duplicate lots, however due to its size there is a lot more traffic and competition which can push the prices higher than WA. Registration to SWA is £5, a one-off fee and then you are free to bid to your heart's desire.

Like with WA there is a 10% buyers fee along, but you also need to pay VAT on top of this (this is for the buyers fee and postage, not against the bottle). SWA's bidding system is like that for eBay where you set a maximum and the site bids automatically up to that and there is an added bonus of the site having an iphone app so that you can bid on the move.

Both sites have postage costs which are fairly high, but that is due to there being few courier companies that will take alcohol, they generally charge £10 for the 1st bottle and then £3-4 for every other after that.

I have found Whsiky Auctions to be great for me to get my grubby hands on those bottles that I really want to try, but are gone, or even some that I want in my collection but don't know exactly when or if I'll drink them. I would stress though to keep an eye out for fakes, there is a lot of forging going on in regards to wines and whiskies as with anything of value. Take a look around online for advice on how to spot these as the auction houses will accept bottles back within a few days.

Scotch Whisky Auctions next auction goes live on Friday, 29/08/14, check it out!

Glasses with Class: Gorgeous Etched Glassware

I'm about to move into my first home with my lovely fella, and it's all very exciting indeed. Naturally, when shopping for pretty things for our new place, I'm a bit obsessed with finding some gorgeous glassware (I mean, have you seen my other Glasses with Class pieces?) and I'm falling increasingly in love with etched glasses.

Here are some of the prettiest I've found - let's start with:

Wine Glasses

Call me old-fashioned, but nothing beats floral etched wine glasses for me, even if they do come from a company called Shabby Chic (bleurgh). This set of four is HALF PRICE at just £25 from House of Fraser, and they also do some fetching matching highball glasses (also on offer!) too.

Looking for a less expensive option? Try these GreenGate Grey Etched wine glasses for £8.50 each from OCCA.

The Provence etched wine glasses by Bohemia are even better value - just £29.66 for 6 from Amazon - and they're a little bit less flouncy too.

For full on flounce that doesn't break the bank, my money is on John Lewis' Maison Flora etched wine glasses at just £6 each. They also do etched flutes for the same price - but if these don't float your boat there's more flutes at the bottom of this post.

I think - THINK! - I've found my favourite wine glasses, though. It's these Reims etched wine glasses from Culture Vulture Direct for £6.50 each. They're just so fancy-looking - I'd feel pretty regal sipping a glass of vino out of these.


Ooh, look! LSA have made some Christmassy etched tumblers! I love them so much - imagine pouring yourself a snowball in one of those? They're £25 for four from Amara.

For more year-round etched goodness, I just adore these horse etched whisky tumblers from Jasmine Way. They're magical - although they are £30 for two so I'd probably only buy one pair... (boo!)

Lastly, everyone loves an etched owl tumbler, don't they? These Iittala Talka tumblers are a mighty £25 each from John Lewis. Worth it?


Joy, joy, joy - look at these Flamant Prague etched flutes from OCCA home. Understated but oh-so elegant - I love them. They're £20.50 each though...!

A simpler, more subtle choice is the Villeroy & Boch etched floral flutes from House of Fraser. They're only £11.50 each, too.

Lastly, if you're going to go all out, you might as well go ALL OUT with these mega-decadent Retro Fizz 1890 Champagn Saucers from Urban Bar. They're a very non-decadent £16 a pair too - where do I sign up?

Which of these designs caught your eye? Tell us in the comments - or share any other beautiful glasses you've found...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

6 Sensational Wine Deals to Brighten A Rainy Day

Was your bank holiday weekend a washout? Is this miserably wet Tuesday adding to your back-to-work blues? Never fear, I've found 5 brilliant wine deals that mean you can stock up on some delicious bottles to cheer you up... (most of which you can pick up on your way home...)

All of these are wines I've tried before and really do champion as a bargain, rather than those 'too good to be true' discounts you sometimes see, so you can buy with confidence.

1. Luis Felipe Signature Series Viognier, £6.66 down from £9.99 (save 1/3!)

As a long-time viognier fangirl, I'm always aware that you don't often get a good'un for much less than a tenner, so imagine my delight when I saw this latest price-slash at Majestic!

You have to buy two bottles to get the deal, so we picked up a couple over the weekend as part of our Bank Holiday booty. It's a mouthwateringly good, textbook viognier - charmingly aromatic, and packed with the usual apricot and pear flavour, with a fresh, grippy texture that left me wanting another glass.

And if you're looking for another bargain to make up your 6 bottle case (you have to buy a minimum of 6 bottles at Majestic)...

2. Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel - £8.99 down from £11.99 at Majestic if you buy 2 bottles (save 25%!)
OR £44.96 if you buy six bottles at Tesco Wine (equivalent £7.49 per bottle)

This was very much my 'first love' of Zinfandels and the benchmark by which I measure all others to see if they come up to scratch. It's exactly what a Zinfandel should be - rich, concentrated fruit (cranberry, blueberry, plum) and silky spice that lingers in the mouth for a wonderfully long time.

It's divine to sip on its own (although beware the hefty 14.5% alcohol when you reach for another glass) but I've also had this with Christmas dinner (or Sunday roast chicken with all the pigs-in-blankets, stuffing and cranberry sauce trimmings) several times and it's a dream.

If you're unsure, I'd at least grab two bottles at Majestic while they're on offer, but if you're happy to take my word for what a delight this wine is, then grab the case of six from Tesco. £7.49 a bottle is BONKERS for this wine.

3. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Navarra, £5.44 from £7.25 (save 25%!) - UNTIL 16TH SEPTEMBER

Every time this wine is on offer I dive at the shelves like a deranged lunatic - it's my family's go-to midweek bottle.

This is one of the best Taste the Difference wines available - maybe because Spain provides such exceptional value at the moment, or maybe because not many people have heard of Navarra so the price isn't inflated by popularity - but it's an easy-drinking, fruity sipper that has a balance and complexity that far exceeds my expectations.

For just over a fiver this is an absolute must-buy (at the full price... well, it's fair, but not a bargain.)

4. Tesco Finest Fiano - £5.49 (down from around £7.99!)

If you're used to grabbing a cheap, big-brand white Chardonnay or Sauvignon while you're doing your mid-week shop then you'll probably spend around £5-7, right? Well, stop that, because there's far better value to be found here.

Fiano is a gorgeous, sunny grape that puts similarly-priced chardonnays to shame, big time. And this Fiano - from Sicily - is made by a stupendously good co-op on the island called Settesoli - and believe me, they know what they're doing. Peach, apple, a little spice, and loads of complexity and verve.

It's hard to imagine how I survived without fiano and this is a perfect example of the grape.

5. Wirra Wirra Church Block, £9.99 down from £13.49 at Waitrose (25% off!) - UNTIL 9TH SEPTEMBER

Okay, I'll level with you - Church Block isn't worth £13.49 in the first place. But it's definitely worth a couple of quid more per bottle than £9.99, and it's such a legendary Australian producer and a crazy-delicious wine that I'm happy to say this is a GOOD DEAL.

I've loved this wine for years, and it's utterly perfect for rainy days like today, especially if you're choosing a comfort-food dinner of sausages and mash or a hearty, wine-filled beef stew with dumplings. To get this wine for under a tenner is a very good thing - I'll be picking up a few bottles  before the offer finishes.

6. Tesco Finest Frappato, £6.49 from £7.99 - UNTIL 23RD SEPTEMBER

Fan of the silky, cherry notes of Pinot Noir? Like a red wine to be graceful and refined rather than in-your-face bold? Then you need some frappato in your life, and this Tesco Finest example illustrates all this Italian grape's good points.

Subtle, smooth, lightly aromatic and packed full of red fruit flavour, tied up with a little sweet spice. A delight with tuna steak or Italian chicken dishes.

You've got almost a whole month to grab this one, too - I'm pretty sure I'll be returning for seconds and thirds.

Pick up a bargain and let us know which wines impressed you most - or let us know any other irresistible wine discounts in the comments!

Kilner Jar Wine Cooler

I have a problem. I am obsessed with Kilner jars. I reckon in my pub there is in excess of 100 kilner-style jars of different shapes and sizes, housing everything from pickles to pates, to teas, candles and beer ingredients. Their versatility astounds me, and they are retro and attractive.

When I refurbished my pub, Kilner jars were at the centre of the fixtures and fittings I kitted out the pub with. I designed and made this beer ingredient wall display with jubilee clips and pallet wood; another example of how important a role these lovely little spring-lidded jars play in my life.

So, naturally when it came to buying a new wine cooler at the weekend, I was mortified by the price of them. For a decent looking wine cooler, you can get nothing nice short of £18. Ridiculous considering the majority of reasonably priced quality wine is in the £8 - £15 price range.

So in comes my best friend, Mr Kilner again. I picked up a large one from John Lewis for £4.50, and then let me creative juices flow...

I wrapped some craft string round the top, and added some small flint stones from the garden to the bottom, and then added Ice, Water, and, most importantly; the wine! You can customise it however you want. Why not add a lick of blackboard paint under 'Kilner' and writing 'Wine' on it, or use Kraft coloured garden twine and wrap the whole thing from the top down.

This very simple and effective wine cooler cost me the grand total of £4.98. You're welcome.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Bank Holiday Boozy Brunch: Whisky Maple French Toast

Well hello there Bank Holiday! Oh how I love you so...
In my house, a three day weekend means two rather important things. Firstly, we don’t have to worry if we’ve accidentally opened that other bottle of wine because there’s no work tomorrow (yey!), and secondly, a luxurious leisurely brunch is in order – probably to aid recovery.
If you mention anything to do with breakfast or brunch, my ears instantly prick up; it’s fast becoming my favourite time to go out and eat, mainly because it requires places to be a bit more creative in what morning treats they offer. Deciding to save those well earned pennies, and quite frankly because I don’t want to wear anything other than my PJs right now, I’ve opted for a fancy brunch at home.
Whilst a Bloody Mary would be my usual choice to go with brunch, I’ve decided my booze would be better suited in an edible form; tomato juice is way too healthy for Bank Holiday debauchery anyway. So here we have it, on the menu today, Whisky Maple French Toast.
It’s no secret that whisky and syrupy sweetness go hand in hand - they’re pretty much bezzie mates - add some cinnamon to the equation, along with some custard and a couple of slices of brioche, and hey presto! THE BEST BRUNCH EVER. Definitely not the best for the diet though.. Sod it.
I used Laphroaig Quarter Cask in the recipe – don’t tell my chap that I raided his stash – and it’s peatiness really added an extra dimension to the whole thing. Smoky maple goodness.. Yum! Use whatever you have to hand though, a dark or spiced rum would definitely work here too if you’re not a whisky fan.
Making French toast with brioche is extravagant enough, but by making a delicious custard as opposed to just a couple of beaten eggs, this is a deluxe dish. Don’t worry about those two leftover egg whites you’ll have either, we’ve got it covered; check out these snazzy cocktail recipes!
I tried to add a bit of health to the scenario by throwing on a handful of raspberries. Their sharpness seemed to balance everything out, but as an alternative - and to please our carnivorous side - I reckon a couple of rashers of crispy salty bacon would be frickin’ awesome too.
Ok, that’s enough from me, you need to go and make this recipe NOW.

Whisky Maple French Toast (Serves 2)

You'll need: 

  • 4 thick slices of brioche 
  • 125ml milk 
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp whisky
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 40g sugar 
  • 2 egg yolks 
  • 1 egg 
  • For the syrup: 50ml maple syrup + 15ml whisky
  • Raspberries (optional)

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the milk, creme fraiche, vanilla, cinnamon and whisky. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. 
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together salt, sugar, egg yolks, and egg. Whisk this mixture pretty vigorously for about 5 minutes until pale and creamy. 
  3. Remove your milk mixture from the heat, set aside for a minute to cool slightly. Whisk a small amount in to your eggs, a little at a time, until you’ve added about half of the milk mixture. Don't rush or you'll end up with scrambled eggs. Add the remainder of the hot liquid and whisk until combined. 
  4. Return the egg and milk mixture to your saucepan and put it back on the hob over low heat. Keep it there, stirring frequently, until it has thickened a bit and will coat the back of a spoon - roughly 5 minutes. Remove the custard from the heat. 
  5. At this point, mix up the syrup. Simply measure out the maple syrup, add in the whisky, and stir until combined - easy!
  6. Dip the brioche slices into the custard and soak for about 30 seconds on each side. When the slices have been evenly coated with the custard, place them on a preheated frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. 
  7. Top with fresh raspberries, pour drizzle over plenty of the whisky maple syrup and serve.. preferably with a strong coffee. 

Adapted from Life As A Strawberry blog recipe.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Bank Holiday Cocktail: The ODDKA Flower Bud

A few months ago, when ODDKA sent me their crazy new vodka flavours to try, I was pretty much sure it would be a fun novelty drink (probably pretty tasty) but only the sort of thing I'd use to show off at parties.

While Oddka vodkas definitely make a good talking point (electricity flavour vodka, anyone?) they're actually much, much more than a novelty. A case in point is the gloriousness that is ODDKA's Twisted Melon flavour: it was the surprising runaway hit of the night when my family, friends and I reviewed the ODDKA range and just burst with authentic fruit flavours. It's also not as sweet as you'd expect - so it doesn't leave your mouth all sugary.

I really enjoyed drinking the twisted melon vodka neat, over ice, but the Oddka guys just sent me a bank holiday cocktail - The Flower Bud - that blew my mind. It's summery, fresh and moreish, and bursting with fruit flavour.

No, the weather forecast isn't exactly brilliant for the weekend, but hey - it ain't raining yet...

The ODDKA Flower Bud cocktail (serves one - multiply as needed)

  • 50ml ODDKA Twisted Melon
  • 20ml Lemon juice
  • 10ml Sugar syrup
  • 10ml Grenadine
  • Soda Water
  • 1 slice of cucumber

1. Pour all the ingredients into a highball glass loaded with ice cubes and top up with soda. 
2. Give it a good stir and garnish with a slice of cucumber to create a refreshing cocktail that truly captures the essence of summer.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Top 5 Cocktails for a Garden Party

This is a guest blog from the wonderful guys at Social and Cocktail.

It’s still officially summer, and being Brits we’re going to make the most of it, gosh darnit! Nothing says jolly England more than a good old garden party, complete with whicker furniture and bunting. But hold the iced tea and lemonade, Miss Marple! For a proper knees up you want to add a few exciting concoctions to the mix. Social and Cocktail, the one-stop-site for cocktail information, have recommended five luscious libations to sip on your lawn. 

Raspberry Mojito: Fruity, bright and colourful, this is an excellent twist on a classic. The freshness of raspberries works well with the lime, and a good dose of sugar adds sweetness. Delicious. 

Passion Fruit Daiquiri: Nothing quite says ‘party in the sun’ like a daiquiri. It’s fun, frivolous, and the passionfruit makes it look oh-so-pretty as well as adding a wonderful tang. Exotic. 

Caipivodka: We all love the classic caipirinha, but cachaca isn’t such a common spirit to have in the cupboard. Instead, use vodka to muddle a potent and zingy short drink that will have you pretending you're in Rio. Intense. 

Planters Punch: This cocktail is just bursting with flavour, and is a real thirst quencher. Rum always makes us think of holidays on the beach, and this little number is no exception. Refreshing. 

Blackberry Punch: Another fruity berry drink, but the ginger beer gives an extra spicy kick that works perfectly with the rich sweetness of the ripe blackberries. If you have any growing wild in your garden then get your guests to pick their own! Sumptuous.

Harry Brompton's Premium Alcoholic London Ice Tea

The perfect serve of Harry Brompton's
When I'm queuing up at the bar for 2-for-1 cocktails or heading to free wine tastings to try the expensive stuff I wouldn't normally buy, I sometimes pause to think whether I have yet grown up or whether I'm still revelling in being a twenty-something (which I no longer am) booze lover.

When will I be struck with the realisation that it's not how much you drink anymore, but the quality of what you're drinking? Working in the wine industry I should know this, but still, I like to have a good time!

Every now and again I have a moment of clarity - yes, I am growing up and am now a responsible thirty-something (just). It happened a few weeks ago when I visited Feast festival at Tobacco Dock in London. I was on my own and after the panic of not knowing where to begin, I headed to visit the team at the Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Ice Tea stand. I'd been recommended to visit them, so I made it my first stop.

As I then wandered solo around the rest of the festival sipping my Harry Brompton's through a red and white candy striped straw, I felt in the grown up category. It wasn't a case of knocking it back as quick as I could, or wondering how many shots of alcohol were in it, it was a genuinely enjoyable drinking experience. Unlike wine, I didn't immediately think of food pairings, unlike cocktails it wasn't about presentation, I simply enjoyed it for was it was.

Born in London and handmade in limited batches, Harry Brompton's is the world's only premium alcoholic ice tea. Made with ethically sourced Kenyan black teas, craft distilled grain spirit and infused with natural citrus, it's lightly sparkling and 100% refreshing. At just 4% abv it's not overpowered by an alcoholic taste and the tea and citrus are definitely the front-runners when it comes to flavour. There's also a little sweetness but not too much and a subtle caramel flavour. Like wine, tea also has tannins, and this is detected, but again, not overpowering in Harry Brompton's.

Ian O'Donohue at the Harry Brompton stand at Feast
Down at Feast, I chatted to Ian O'Donohue, who, with his father Martin, set out to produce an exceptional ice tea after years of disappointment throughout their travels.

Many ice tea are too sweet, and for me, that's what set Harry Brompton's apart from any others I've previously tasted (and I've tasted a lot!).

His pride was in sourcing the tea from Kenya where it's handpicked and processed within two hours to lock in the flavours and capture the character of the terroir in which it's grown.

Ian explained that like wine, tea leaves are similar to the grapes in that the flavours are influenced by the altitude, climate and soil quality. Ian and Martin source their teas from the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, where the plants are gown over two thousand metres above sea level and the soil is fertile - perfect for producing complex black teas.

As for the perfect serve, it's best poured over ice with a slice of lime and a fruit garnish as a long drink, or straight from an ice cold bottle with a wedge of lime (I'm told Harry Brompton's is better with lime that lemon). That said, if you want to jazz it up, you can use it in a number of cocktails - it's best paired with white spirits like gin and vodka to allow the tea flavours to still shine. These two cocktails from the Mixology page on the Harry Brompton's website are definitely on my 'cocktails to make' list - please summer stay a little longer so we can enjoy them al fresco!

Gin Brompton
Tall glass, half filled with ice, add 25-35ml gin, add lime and cucumber slices and top up with Harry Brompton's.

Tall glass, add 35ml gin or vodka muddled with bruised mint leaves, lime and sugar syrup then top up with Harry Brompton's and gently stir.

Harry Brompton's with chicken wings from Dirty Bones
Good new is, Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Ice Tea is available at Sainsbury's where it's currently on offer at £1.50 for a 275ml retro bottle, and for £2.00 per 275ml bottle at Waitrose, as well as at a number of independent retailers around the country.

p.s. It's also really nice with chicken wings from Dirty Bones - a la my lunch at Feast!

Chin chin!