Of Spirits and Cocktails

In the name of diversity, my drinking does include some modest partaking of elixirs other than wine. Now I am fervently preparing for summer by ensuring that my list of warm-weather refreshing drinks is up to speed, and barring one or two exceptions, the upcoming festive season will see the imbibing of a few trusty and spirited coolers.

I don’t much use the word cocktail, for this implies one requiring a set of flashy mixing-skills, donning a floral Hawaii shirt and walking around with a stainless-steel shaker. My mixed drinks are tres ordinaire and have never failed my personal wants as well as those of my guests.

Few things beat the trusty gin-and-tonic for a daytime summer drink. And with the stupendous number of flashy gins on the market, one is spoilt for choice. I don’t, however, much like the florally scented and fruity gins that are so in fashion. Gordon’s is pretty much my go to. However, the straight-up Musgrave Botanical Gin provides a perfect balance between a juniper-driven gin with a bit of vooma and some refreshing botanical flavours.

As one should always do when selecting your gin, try a neat sip to determine its suitability in terms of strength and flavour. And here Musgrave is on-point – I have even taken to drinking it neat with a bunch of ice and a slice of lemon. The immediate kick of alcohol leading to that irresistible numb, pleasurable feeling is an added incentive for knocking it back neat.

However, the G&T is this gin’s perfect home. One-third Musgrave Botanical, two thirds tonic-water and a slice of lemon….joy comes in simplicity. There is the hearty hit of gin spirit soothed by the reverberating freshness of the tonic with a citrussy lemon cut. A lovely drink. And don’t believe in all the press about the crafted tonic waters being superior – Schweppes is just fine, my dear.

Despite being of mature age, the bitterness of the Negroni has never done it for me until this winter past when I joined some fashionable ladies before a fireplace in sipping these gin drinks. One part gin, one part dry Vermouth and one part Campari and lotsa ice. This thud of crunchy bitter does have something going for it and sure does sharpen the appetite. Once again, making my own Negronis at Casa Joubert I found Musgrave totally ideal as those manly big-branded gins force the bitterness just a bit.

Having done some long-haul flying over winter I had plenty of opportunity to indulge in my favourite airport drink, namely the Bloody Mary. Vodka, tomato cocktail, ice, Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco. Why this drink appeals to me in airport lounges I cannot say, but I get a craving for a Bloody M just by seeing an airline commercial on television.

Like the G&T, I am picky about the vodka used in this bloody marvellous drink, and of late I have decided that I am a Stolichnaya fan. This once Russian spirit is now distilled in Latvia and is the perfect mixing vodka, although a few neat shots of ice-cold Stoli does have its charms in times when called for.

I mix one-third Stoli to two parts tomato cocktail with a few ice-cubes in the glass. Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco, of course….but here’s the kicker: A Swedish bar-tender recently lifted my Bloody Mary to new heights by serving it with a strip of crispy bacon. Yes, a lengthy line of golden-brown grilled bacon in the glass of Bloody M. Sipping the tomato-and-vodka drink between nibbles of crunchy bacon made this the most satisfying drink of the year so far, the only trouble being that you may really be tempted to have a Bloody Mary for breakfast.

Cap Classique and other sparkling wines are terrific bases for mixed drinks, with – talking of breakfast – the Mimosa being a case in point. Orange juice – freshly squeezed, of course – is the traditional Mimosa ingredient, with one-third juice to two-thirds fizz. However, after watching the second series of White Lotus set in Sicily where the characters were breakfasting over pineapple Mimosas I had to try this. Gorgeously fruity with the Cap Classique’s sparkly wine-flavoured fizz elevating the pineapple to new levels of cheerful, cheeky morning-drinking enjoyment.

While on the matter of sparkling wine, do not forget the Black Velvet, a mighty mixed drink especially worshipped by those of us with Irish roots.

For this, take a beer glass and fill halfway up with Guinness or any other stout – Castle Milk Stout is great – and top-up with a Cap Classique or Champagne. The quality of the fizz matters here. One sip and the name comes to life, a dark velvety curtain of creamy black stout complemented by the zingy freshness of good sparkling wine. A great drink with oysters and at times when reassuring fortification is required, deliciously.

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