- Food & Drink
I’ll begin this post with a disclaimer: I know Emma Stokes, aka GinMonkey, the author of The Periodic Table of COCKTAILS. We have drunk more than a little gin together, so the chances of this review being unbiased are very small indeed. Tiny, in fact. Especially as she sent me a copy of the book in a disco bronze envelope for free.
But I thought I should try to insert some fairness into this blog post, rather than just tell you to buy my friend’s book (which, incidentally, you definitely should do). So I spent Sunday making cocktails from the book and drinking them, all in the name of book reviewing science.
The Periodic Table of COCKTAILS is part of a series that covers other life essentials like wine, hip hop and rock music. It’s organised along the line of – you guessed it – the periodic table. But instead of dull things like chromium and radon taking up space in the table, there are nice things like Singapore slings, fog cutters, corpse revivers, and zombies. The cocktail table is organised by spirit and style of drink. The theory being that you run your finger along the table till you find a cocktail made with a spirit you like and then try all the ones around it, because you’ll probably like those ones, too.
I approached the table by working out what spirits were in my house and proceeding from there. Unsurprisingly, there was gin a-plenty in my wardrobe bar (there’s not enough room in the kitchen), so first up was a breakfast martini. Emma recommends a London dry gin in this drink to stand up to the sweetness of the Cointreau and marmalade. I had a Sipsmith miniature that needed using up, and you don’t get much drier than Sipsmith.
With gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, marmalade and ice in the shaker, I got my shake on and double strained the resulting mix into a Babysham glass that I’d chilled earlier. Pleasingly, it fitted perfectly in the Babycham glass. It was a nice misty white and smelled of oranges and cold mornings.
In hindsight, Sipsmith was actually too dry and I would’ve been better off with something softer like Pickering’s. But it was a belter of a drink. I drank it by itself, as I’d already eaten breakfast and you can’t have lunch with a breakfast martini.
I picked a white lady as my next cocktail, because I’ve always liked its freshness and the name reminds me of Wilkie Collins, which is appropriate at this time of the year. More ice, triple sec, lemon juice and some City Of London Dry Gin went into the shaker. I set about shaking it with the enthusiasm of someone who has just discovered how easy it is to make cocktails at home.
The top flew off. Gin, egg, orangey liquor and shards of ice went everywhere. On the floor, up the walls, down my pyjamas (cocktail drinking while wearing pjs is fine). I’m sure there is a warning in the book to make sure you have actually screwed the shaker together before you give it the full Tom Cruise, but I may not have paid attention.
Anyway, once version one was mopped up, I had another go, giving the cocktail shaker the merest of tremors over the sink, just in case. It went into another chilled Baycham glass (I have infinite supplies), garnished with a slice of lemon peel rather than orange. I was essentially drinking the same cocktail as before, but with eggs rather than marmalade as the breakfast element.
A sensible person might stop at two cocktails before 2pm, but dammit, I was doing science. So I decided to have a go at making a whisky cobbler: whisky, orange slices, and something else I can’t remember. Maybe sugar? Plus, lots of ice. Some in the shaker and some crushed up in the glass.
Small problem: not enough ice. I could either shake the cocktail with ice or pour it over ice, but not both.
Reading the recipe, I saw that I should garnish my whisky cobbler with mint leaves and ‘seasonal berries’. I looked speculatively at a bag of frozen berries. If they’re good enough to garnish the drink….
A fistful went into the shaker and I was off, rattling the mix with gusto, suggesting that I’d totally forgotten about spraying my kitchen with eggy gin an hour before. I strained the resulting pink drink into the glass and garnished away merrily. This was actually surprisingly good, so adding more frozen strawberry to whisky cobblers is my top tip for barmen everywhere.
I had some peanuts with the whisky cobbler, and with my stomach suitably lined I thought I could handle one more cocktail. I opted for a tequila sour, and actually made some sugar syrup and chilled it (gaining me valuable water drinking time) so I could do the cocktail properly.
Don Julio Blanco Tequila, lime juice, egg white and sugar syrup with the very last scrapings of ice from the freezer (I admit, I did briefly consider the frozen peas), all shaken together and poured into an glass. Mini Cheddars on the side. I was on top of the world.
Half an hour later, I ate a pizza and then got into bed. It was 4.30pm.
From my experimentations, I’m forced to conclude that cocktails are much too easy to make at home and The Periodic Table of COCKTAILS is an extremely dangerous book to own. You should definitely buy it.