We’ve all been there, you’ve plucked up the courage to ask out that dreamboat you’ve been eyeing up for the last few months……and they’ve said “Yes”.
After the first few moments of exhilaration, sitting there with a goofy smile on your face, reality decides to crash the party. You’ve the perfect restaurant lined up, but it’s closed due to lockdown. That romantic little pub with the fantastic live music and great bar-staff, same.
You bite the bullet and offer them a meal at yours, they accept — Now what?
You spend a few hours rushing around your place with the cleaning equivalent of a flamethrower until it looks acceptable, or at least habitable. The playlist is selected, carefully balanced — some safe songs sprinkled with the occasional ringer to show how eclectic and sophisticated you really are. Food is sorted (thankyou local restaurant doing takeaway meals).
But you still need to make a real impact, something to show off with, something memorable, something impressive, something that blows their little socks off……
…. and something that eases you through that awkward first few minutes when you’re both standing there wondering what to say next.
I give you — cocktails!
Now, this isn’t the moment to panic as you think of those YouTube videos full of gorgeous people slinging bottles and cocktail shakers around the place in slow motion while putting together some amazing creation almost always includes dry ice and unicorn tears.
Yes, they are amazing but unless you are a trained juggler the likelihood is that you’ll either brain yourself or your date with a bottle of gin and that hurts, a lot.
Even if you can juggle, I still wouldn’t recommend it. The whole point of making a cocktail for someone is that you look cool, calm, sophisticated, knowledgeable and in control while chatting away to them. You can’t do that while trying to make sure the vodka bottle doesn’t embed itself in the ceiling and the ice cubes haven’t disappeared down the back of the sofa……..
Keep it Simple
We’re not looking to recreate Carmen Miranda’s headwear (Google it — you’ll be amazed). Nor do we want to blow a month’s rent on the ingredients, or spend hours carving orange peels into weird and wonderful shapes (though if you want to, and you can do it without removing fingers, go for it).
We’re looking to make something easy, simple and quick. Something you can make while holding a sensible conversation. Something that is bullet-proof and will turn out right regardless of how nervous you are.
So, here you are, the 5 easy, high “wow” factor cocktails you can make to impress……….
- Espresso Martini — gin and espresso coffee, sophisticated and delicious
- Maple Mule — gin, maple syrup and ginger beer, simple and very yummy
- Cranberry French 75 — gin and champagne, what’s not to like?
- Classic Margarita — everyone loves a Margarita don’t they? And people are well impressed if you know how to make one
- Classic Daiquiri — a true hint of the exotic a very, very more-ish
The Espresso Martini was invented in 1983 by Dick Bradsell in the Soho Brasserie in London. The story goes that a young supermodel staggered up to the bar and asked for something that will “wake me up, and then f*ck me up”. Dick is on record as saying his station was right next to the coffee machine (which drove him mad with it’s noise and coffee grounds everywhere) so the creation was fairly logical.
There are two key points to making a great Espresso Martini… the Espresso must be fresh (though cold brew works well too) and you have to really, really shake it to get a proper crema (the foamy, silky layer of tight bubbles that sit on top of the cocktail).
- 50ml Gin (vodka works too)
- 25ml espresso
- 20ml coffee liqueur
- 5ml simple syrup (see tips)
- 3 coffee beans or a twist of orange peel.
- Earlier in the day put a couple of cocktail glasses in the fridge to chill.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice (if you don’t have one, anything solid with a good lid will do).
- Add all the other ingredients except the garnish and shake like crazy for about 30 seconds. You’re looking to build up a cream on top (like on a coffee) so it needs a bit harder shaking than most cocktails.
- Strain into those chilled cocktail glasses and garnish with the coffee beans.
The Maple Mule is a riff on the classic Moscow Mule that was invented in early 1940’s New York. There are two variations of the creation story. In the first the owner of Cock ’n’ Bull ginger beer (John Morgan) was having drinks with the president of Heublein Brothers and the president of the Heublein Brothers’ Smirnoff vodka division. The story goes that they were feeling creative and decided to find out what happened when Morgan’s ginger beer was mixed with the Smirnoff vodka. In the second story, it was all created by Morgan’s head barman, Wes Price, who was trying to clear out his bar’s cellar which was packed with unsold inventory — mainly vodka and ginger beer.
The copper mug which the Moscow Mule is famously sold in, was a marketing gimmick used to sell Smirnoff vodka.
The Maple Mule was created for Juniper & Peat by Jack Jamieson as part of his amazing Scottishmixology instagram account.
- 50ml Navy Strength Gin (Biggar gin is great for this)
- 15ml maple syrup
- 15ml lemon juice
- Dry ginger beer
- Mint leaf and an orange slice (caramelised under the grill if you can be bothered).
- Add the first three ingredients to a highball glass
- Stir to combine
- Fill with ice
- Top up with ginger beer and garnish
No chance to show off with a cocktail shaker — but sometimes that’s no bad thing!
Bashall Cranberry French ‘75
A riff on the classic “French ‘75" cocktail, so called because it allegedly has a kick like the legendary World War I French artillery gun…..
The first recorded recipe for the French ’75 is in the famous “The Savoy Cocktail Book” of 1930, but it’s often credited to Scot Harry MacElhone owner of Harry’s American Bar in Paris in 1926. He never claimed its creation though and its recorded that Charles Dickens used to serve gin and champagne to his guests, as did many of the British nobility of his time. It’s most famous outing is in the world’s most famous “gin joint”, Rick’s Bar in the movie Casablanca where it is ordered in the film by Rick when his ex turns up with her new Nazi boyfriend in tow.
- 50ml Gin (Bashall’s is great)
- 15ml cranberry juice
- 15ml lemon juice
- 7.5ml sugar syrup
- Rosemary sprig or a lemon twist
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
- Add all ingredients except the champagne and shake until the shaker is frosty (about 20 seconds)
- Strain into a champagne flute
- Top up with champagne and garnish with a sprig of rosemary
Nobody is really sure where it was invented, there are loads of myths, but everyone agrees it was a product of American Prohibition (1920–1933) as people slipped across the border into Mexico for their drinks.
One story goes that the drink was first concocted by Mexican restaurant owner Carlos (Danny) Herrera in 1938 for gorgeous Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King. King was allergic to all forms of alcohol except tequila, but didn’t like to drink the stuff straight. Herrera supposedly solved the problem by adding salt and lime and creating the world’s first margarita.
Another is that it was named after actress Rita Hayworth (real name Margarita Cansino), who was offered one by an admiring bartender during a theater gig in Tijuana in the 1940s. Or after the singer Peggy Lee (Peggy is a nickname for Margaret so Margarita).
The more prosaic option is that it was created from the “Daisy” cocktail and the Spanish name of a daisy is margarita. Wherever it was created it’s become a classic and was the most commonly ordered drink in the US in 2008.
- 50ml Tequila blanco
- 20ml Triple Sec (Cointreau or Grand Marnier work well too)
- 25ml lime juice
- Lime Wedges or slices
- Sprinkle a spoonful of salt onto a plate
- Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and then dip it in the salt so the whole rim is covered
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the tequila, lime juice and triple sec
- Shake until the outside of the shaker feels cold
- Strain into the glass and serve with a wedge of lime
Unlike many cocktails where the creation is shrouded in myth, the origins of the Daiquiri are well documented. It was created by an American engineer, Stockton Cox, who led an exploratory mining expedition in Cuba in 1900. Living in the town of Daiquiri he ran out of gin one day when entertaining American visitors and, wary of serving them straight rum, added lime and sugar.
It was brought back to America by Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson in 1909 when he introduced it to the Army and Navy club in Washington. It then grew to popularity during WWII when whisky and vodka became difficult to get hold of. It is reputed to be one of the favourite drinks of Ernest Hemingway and President John F Kennedy.
Since then it has been widely used and abused with cheap, frozen Daiquiris a feature in most beach-side bars. This though is the original recipe, simple, classy and delicious.
- 50ml white rum
- 25ml lime juice
- 10ml sugar syrup
- Lime Wedges or slices
- Put all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake
- Strain into a cocktail glass
There are many variations on the Daiquiri but these are the most straight forward and easy:
Add a handful of ripe strawberries to the cocktail shaker and gently muddle (crush) them. Then follow the normal recipe.
Relaxed fun is the winning formula. You’re showing off your sophistication and your dexterity (hopefully!) while doing something that allows you to chat away at the same time.
Plus, the stories behind the drinks give you an easy opening conversation.
And if you drop it on the floor? Just laugh and make another one!