The first single by the Beatles, “Love Me Do”, was released in the UK on this very day in 1962.
It only reached No. 17 in the UK charts, but their second single, "Please Please Me", went to No. 1. Lennon and McCartney had worked on the song when they first formed the band at school, and the Beatles had already been gigging for two years, mainly in Liverpool and Hamburg.
Within a year, Beatlemania was in full swing. This was the first time Britain had seen teenage girls near hysteria at the prospect of getting close to their idols. Within two years the Beatles had cracked the US, and within seven years John Lennon would have left the band for good. We're toasting the Beatles with a creamy Love Me Flip.
Today is also National Vodka Day
October 4th is officially National Vodka Day. Why? No idea, but it's also National Taco Day, so maybe someone got their geography confused. Or as the official organisers say "while October 4th seems well documented as National Vodka Day, we have not found the origins of why, but it works for us."
Now that's cleared up, we thought we'd celebrate with one of our very favourite contemporary vodka cocktails, Dick Bradsell's Polish Martini. Which in turn got us thinking about the very best vodka recipes. The following 11 cocktails prove that vodka is one of the most versatile spirits, pairing with beer, fruit and cognac. For the discerning drinker, our best vodka cocktails:
Polish Martini recipe.
Bison vodka shaken with Old Krupnik Polish honey liqueur and apple juice. The pairing of bison and apple is well-known, but what elevates this drink is the Old Krupnik. Created by Dick Bradsell, for his Polish father-in-law, Victor Sarge.
Bloody Mary recipe.
Whatever the precise story behind this fantastic drink, Bloody Mary recipes are as personal as Martinis. This version of the Bloody Mary is own our, adding a hint of bell pepper freshness and a touch of sherry.
Bloody Mary recipe.
Vodka, dry vermouth, fino sherry and caper brine. As the name suggests, this cocktail has a salty edge but there's also a distinct nuttiness, so we suggest both a long stir for a generous dilution, and serving with grilled almonds. Adapted from a drink created in 2009 by Salvatore Calabrese at Fifty, London.
Steep Flight recipe.
Proving that vodka mixes well with aged spirits, this drink is a blend of calvados brandy, vodka and cognac lengthened with apple juice. Created in 2005 by Simon Difford and awarded a Gold in the Long Drink category at Drinks International Bartender's Challenge on 31st May 2006.
This variation on the Dry Martini is said to have been created by Gilberto Preti at Duke's Hotel, London, for the author Ian Fleming. He liked it so much that he included it in his first James Bond novel, 'Casino Royale', published in 1953.
In chapter seven Bond explains to a Casino bartender exactly how to make and serve the drink: "In a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet [now called Lillet Blanc]. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large slice of lemon peel."
Vesper Dry Martini recipe.
When made, 007 compliments the bartender, but tells him it would be better made with a grain-based vodka. He also explains his Martini to Felix Leiter, the CIA man, saying, "This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."
In chapter eight, Bond meets the beautiful agent Vesper Lynd. She explains why her parents named her Vesper and Bond asks if she'd mind if he called his favourite Martini after her. Like so many of Bond's love interests Vesper turns out to be a double agent and the book closes with his words, "The bitch is dead now."
Reversed Vesper & Tonic recipe.
Vodka combines in equal parts with gin and Lillet Blanc with Becherovka liqueur, pomegranate syrup and tonic water creating a cocktail that is Martini in style but with the hard edges shaken off and a hint of eastern spice added. It took us 14 attempts and 13 wasted drinks to arrive at the recipe we use today.
Espresso Martini recipe.
This now iconic cocktail was created by Dick Bradsell and adapted from his 1983 'Vodka Espresso' invented at the Soho Brasserie, London. Forget the 'Vodka Red Bull', this is the cocktail connoisseur's way of combining caffeine and vodka. You'll need the essential vodka, shaken with espresso coffee, coffee liqueur and sugar.
Dry Ice Martini recipe.
A classic Vodka Martini combined with Icewine. The fabulously rich concentrated flavours of Icewine, due to being made using grapes frozen on the vine in Canada's harsh and early winters, give this Martini a slightly honeyed note rather than being bone dry.
The Reality Check recipe.
In this drink created in 2013 by Simone Caporale at the Artesian Bar, Langham Hotel, vodka provides the backbone for an interesting fusion of flavours. Raspberries mix with vodka, Becherovka liqueur, lime, beer and Angostura Bitters for a fabulously refreshing drink with herbal complexity and a dry hoppy beer finish.
Pineapple & Cardamom Martini recipe.
This is about as good as it gets: a spectacular pairing of fruit and spice. Ingredients are incredibly straight forward in this cocktail created by Henry Besant at The Lonsdale in 2002. Cardamom, vodka, pineapple juice.
Z Martini recipe.
We discovered this simple variant on the Martini in 2004 at Les Zygomates, Boston. Stirred down vodka and tawny port garnished with blue cheese-stuffed olives.
1. Porn Star Martini
Vodka, passion fruit, vanilla and a cheeky shot of champagne on the side.
2. French Martini
Vodka, Chamboard and pineapple juice - a Scottish favourite.
3. Slow Comfortable Screw Against The Wall
Vodka, sloe gin liqueur, Southern Comfort, orange juice, Galliano.
4. Moscow Mule
Vodka, lime, ginger beer and Angostura bitters - deliciously refreshing.
5. Screaming Orgasm
Vodka, coffee liqueur, amaretto liqueur, Baileys Irish cream liqueur, double cream and milk blended together. A boozy dessert.
6. Long Island Iced Tea
Vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec, lemon and coke. Refreshing and lethal.
7. Vesper Dry Martini
One of our recommend - see above.
8. Absolutely Fabulous
Vodka, cranberry and champagne. Named for the eponymous TV show where character Patsy drinks endless Stoli and Bolli.
9. Bloody Mary
One of our recommend - see above.
10. After Eight
Vodka, crème de menthe and crème de cacao. As Simon so wonderfully put it "looks like mouthwash, tastes like after eights."