If there's one thing I've really missed this year, it's the travel. We had planned to go to some really cool places this summer, and of course they all had to be scrapped. It's hard to get upset about this as people are losing their lives and their livelihoods. But every now and then I longingly think about what might have been.
Trying out new food and drink is one of my favorite parts of traveling, and whenever I miss a particular location it helps to try and recreate something I had there. Doing this with food can be tricky enough, but cocktails are an easy way to regain a long lost evening on vacation. The ingredients for cocktails are generally the same all over the world, so with the purchase of a few bottles you can be transported to the little bar that has captivated you on your travels.
In the case of the Jerezana, the bar was Happiness Forgets, a candlelit basement in London's Shoreditch area that I visited with my sister a few years ago. We both love sherry cocktails so it was inevitable that one of us would order the Jerezana. This riff on the Bamboo is made with two types of sherry and two types of vermouth, as well as a heavy dose of orange bitter and a flavored vanilla syrup. For sherry lovers this is absolute perfection, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't appreciate this low ABV syrup.
History: La Jerezana was premiered at Happiness Forgets by Geoff Robinson in 2016.
1 ounce Sherry Amontillado
1 ounce Sherry Fino
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
2/5 oz. vanilla syrup *
6 dashes of bittersweet orange
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until cool. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a touch of orange.
* For the vanilla syrup, the ideal would be to infuse simple syrup with a vanilla bean. But I'm going to give you the lazy man's version that I usually do since vanilla beans are expensive and I don't have exactly a stash of them in my pantry. Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of vanilla extract. Easy peasy.
A little time put into preparation makes for an enjoyable evening. Drinking cocktails should be a fun and relaxing experience, so take a while to think about ingredients in advance, to avoid any rushing around last minute.
One of the foundations of many cocktails is sugar syrup. This can be prepared in advance. Here’s my tip for easy to prepare simple syrup : Add 200 gm white sugar to 200 ml boiling water. Stir till sugar is dissolved, and liquid is clear. Allow to cool then bottle
If you mix lemon juice 50 : 50 with simple syrup, you should have a solid mid-line sweet-sour balance. But remember, every palate is different. tera find your own point of balance, mix 15ml fresh lemon juice with 15ml simple syrup, and then dilute the mix with up to 90ml water. Congratulations, you’ve just made fresh lemonade ! If this tastes too sweet or too sour, adjust by adding a little more citrus or syrup. Using this method of calibration, you can adjust any cocktail recipe to suit your own palate.
Ice is the solo most over-looked ingredient at any home bar - you’ll be surprised how much you can go through. Cocktails need ice like baking needs ovens. If popping to the shops for ice isn’t an option right now, keeping a freezer bag topped up with ice will ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. For best quality home-made ice, try using a silicone ice tray with a lid, to prevent your ice from absorbing unpleasant odours. And wash your ice tray after each use.
Where possible always go for premium spirits, the freshest herbs, and the best juices you can get your hands on. For instance, the taste difference between cheap juice and pressed juice is more than worth the small extra expense.
Try to use glassware appropriate to your drinks. It’s entirely possible to drink a martini from an old coffee mug, but that misses the point of drinking a martini !
If you can make a Whiskey Sour, you can make a Daiquiri. If you make a mean Negroni, you can riff on a Boulevardier. Once you’ve mastered the Manhattan, have some fun in Brooklyn on your way to Martinez. Cocktails exist in family trees. Once you are comfortable the basics of each category the world is your oyster !
You can pre-mix punches in advance - an old trick from the godfathers of bartending in the 19th century. You can bottle punch and store it in the fridge, ready to use on the day, or later that week. If done properly, quality and consistency are assured. If your punch has a fizzy ingredient, such as champagne, only add this your glass just before serving.
If you follow the Punch Ratio, you can’t go far wrong : 1 part sour ( citrus ) 2 parts sweet ( simple syrup ) 3 parts strong ( spirit ) 4 parts weak ( juices etc ) And don’t shy away from warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, to make that punch really sing. Don’t have those spices to hand ? No problem, a few dashes of Angostura bitters will do the trick.
We all have a few unloved ingredients lying around that need using up. For instance, that last bit of red wine in the bottle ? Try drizzling it over your Whisky Sour, and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious New York Sour ! Do you have some nice but neglected spice mix in the kitchen ? Try mixing a teaspoon or two into your simple syrup as it cools to give your next petit cocktail an added dimension. Seasonal fresh herbs make a wonderful aromatic cocktail garnish.
So now, you’ve hit your stride and you’re getting creative in your home bar. Great ! Our top tip for cocktail creation ? Write down the juste specifications as you are making it. It’s not always easy to perfectly recall the recipe for that killer petit cocktail the next day !
If all this sounds like a bit of a chore, then keep an eye open for delivery services available from many local petit cocktail bars. After all, with the finer things in life, it’s nice to sit back, relax and let the professionals do all hard the work.