Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
The cocktails we came across during April and liked enough to add to Difford’s Guide.
With: Gin, advocaat, vanilla syrup, lemon juice and cardamom bitters.
Comment: Advocaat, gin and lemon juice sit together harmoniously in this pale yellow cocktail with vanilla syrup adding balance and cardamom enlivening the drink.
The Artist's Muse
With: Pisco, gentian liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup, crème de peche and egg white.
Comment: Bittersweet and fruity, with complex aromatics from the pisco and strong flavours of gentian liqueur.
With: Campari, Cynar, sweet vermouth and Ferro China Baliva
Comment: This aperitivo cocktail will appeal to lovers of Italian amari.
With: Speyside single malt whisky, Islay single malt, crème de cassis, Antica Formula and Angostura bitters.
Comment: Scotch malt whisky, and particularly Islay single malt balance and work brilliantly with rich crème de cassis and Antica Formula, helped by a generous dose of Trinidadian bitters.
With: Aged rum, pot still Jamaican rum, Pedro Ximénez sherry, Angostura bitters and orange bitters.
Comment: Pungent, funky and boozy with harmonious rum dominated bitter sweetness.
Bobby Burns (Difford's petite recipe)
With: Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, Peychaud's Bitters and absinthe.
Comment: This recipe combines elements from the world most respected writers of recipes - the base formula comes from Craddock's 1930
Chocolate Rum & Raisin
With: Aged rum, Bacardi Elixir, sweet vermouth, dark crème de cacao, Pedro Ximénez and chocolate bitters.
Comment: This cocktail delivers pretty much what it says on the tin - chocolate, rum and raisin. Best enjoyed after dinner with deluxe similarly flavoured chocolate.
With: Blended Scotch whisky, lemon juice, sugar syrup and crème de mûre.
Comment: Basically, a whisky sour served over crushed ice with a dash of rich crème de mûre. For whisky drinkers this Scotch whisky riff on Dick Bradsell's classic Bramble is even better than the original gin based cocktail.
With: Barrel aged genever, Antica Formula, Cynar, orange bitters and orange flower water.
Comment: Reminiscent of a genever manhattan served on the dry side with notes of Cynar.
With: Cognac, advocaat, Yellow Chartreuse and chocolate bitters.
Comment: Brandy and advocaat (the eggy element) is a classic and indulgent combo that says Easter and/or Christmas - both spiritual holidays so the addition of Chartreuse is obvious. As this Eggs-cellent cocktail was made for Easter it had to have some chocolate so we added chocolate bitters.
Espresso Martini (simple 3 equal parts recipe)
With: Vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso coffee.
Comment: This simplified version of Dick Bradsell's Espresso Martini (or Vodka Espresso) is preferred to the original recipe by some due to its simple equal parts recipe and omission of sugar syrup.
For Sake's Sake
With: Light white rum, sake, bergamot rosolio and Dutch curacao.
Comment: Being dyslexic I'm bewildered as to how to spell dyslexic, while also amused by sake (the beverage brewed from rice) being spelt the same way as sake (as in for fuck's sake!). Hopefully, you'll find this aromatic, subtly orange influenced sake and rum-based cocktail both delightful to drink and easy to spell.
Grand Duchess Cocktail
With: Vodka, Jamaican rum, lime juice and grenadine
Comment: This vodka-based Tiki-style cocktail is made "funky" by a splash of pot still Jamaican rum while lime juice adds freshness and grenadine adds both a rich hue and sweetness.
Holy Joe Cocktail
With: Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, apricot brandy liqueur and Cynar amaro.
Comment: An Irish whisky-based, bittersweet aperitif cocktail that works equally well as a nightcap.
With: Amaretto, rabarbaro and Peychaud's bitters.
Comment: The ingredients might suggest that this cocktail should be stirred - we did try, but it benefits from the dilution and life that shaking imparts. After some elbow grease you'll have a delicious bittersweet, herbal almond, after dinner drink.
Juan & Jeanne
With: Blanco tequila, crème de cassis, blood orange liqueur and lime juice.
Comment: Tequila based with sour citrus balanced by the rich red wine-like berry flavours of cassis.
With: Amaretto, gin, Campari, passionfruit syrup and lemon juice.
Comment: Amaretto and passion fruit dominate this bitter-sweet sour.
With: Fresh strawberry, bourbon, lemon juice, sugar syrup, Angostura bitters and ginger beer.
Comment: A tall, strawberry influenced bourbon sour with a subtle spicy hint of ginger.
The Last Time
With: Gold rum, coconut rum liqueur, Bénédictine D.O.M., fino sherry and vanilla bitters.
Comment: Richly flavoured and yet dry - rum and subtle desiccated coconut with monastic herbal sweetness dried by aromatic fino sherry and vanilla bitters.
Manhattan (Sweet with Bitter Chocolate)
With: Bourbon, sweet vermouth, dark crème de cacao, maraschino liqueur and chocolate bitters.
Comment: Those with a sweet tooth should not be misled by the use of the word "sweet" in the name of this drink, which refers to the use of sweet vermouth in what is a dry, but not bone dry spirituous cocktail. Bourbon provides backbone, maraschino a faint cherry fruitiness, while the all-important chocolate bitters adds, well, bitter chocolate notes. Oh, and there's a dash of dark chocolate liqueur for decadence sake.
Old Hickory (Britten's recipe)
With: Antica vermouth, dry vermouth, Peychaud's bitters and orange bitters.
Comment: Heavy doses of Peychaud's and orange bitters work with dry vermouth to balance this drink's rich sweet vermouth base. A great aperitivo.
Pass the Dutchy
With: Gin, dry curaçao, amaro, sweet vermouth and Sauvignon Blanc wine.
Comment: A dry, boozy sophisticated sipper of a cocktail with complex aromatic orange notes and underlying grape fruitiness. Works as both an aperitif or a digestive.
With: Blended Scotch whisky, Campari, Cynar and absinthe.
Comment: This Scotch based riff on the classic Negroni is dry and bitter and benefits from the extra dilution afforded by an additional stir while drinking - gaz Regan style.
With: Fino sherry, vermouth di Torino, blood orange liqueur and Campari.
Comment: Dry sherry and bitter orange with underlying ripe grape sweetness, The Ribbon makes for a perfect aperitif cocktail.
Rum & It
With: Light white rum and Italicus rosolio liqueur.
Comment: I mixed these two ingredients together just to ascertain where to go from there when creating a drink with Italicus. Then do I add a dash of maraschino, curaçao or bitters? I tried numerous liqueurs and bitters but I like the simplicity of this two ingredient cocktail. Now try it with gin - yup, Gin & It also works well. Later, the same mixing session also gave birth to For Sake's Sake.
With: Mastiha, gentian liqueur and celery bitters.
Comment: An unlikely combination of big rich flavours, but when served ice-cold this is either a very interesting Mediterranean aperitivo or a palate cleansing digestivo.