Entries in Cocktails (8)

Sunday
Sep252016

Mulled Sloe Gin Cups

As I walked to the car I noticed the nip in the air had become a chill.  The bright harvest moon has been waning and the evenings have drawn in.  Autumn has arrived in a blaze of colour and beauty. The season has transitioned and my body is starting to crave warm drinks and maybe just maybe a little less ice.  As I wait for the sloes to ripen and the first frost to fall, I have been experimenting with this Sloe Gin from Marks and Spencer and come up with a warm and soothing drink - a Mulled Sloe Gin Cup.

Sloes are the fruit of the the blackthorn, Marks and Spencer sloe gin mixes sloe berries with sugar matured in gin, resulting in a sloe gin with a fruity full flavour.  I warmed a two cups of sloe gin with a 1/2 cup of water, 2 cloves, 2 crushed green cardamon pods, a cinnamon stick, 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and three slices of ginger to just before boiling for 4 minutes.  I then poured it into glass cups I had added a slice of ginger speared with three cloves, a couple of blackberries, a cinnamon stick and the rind of some orange.  

This creates a sweetly spiced drink that is soothing and warming.  

 

Mulled Sloe Gin Cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of sloe gin
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 cloves
  • 3crushed green cardamon pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 slices of orange rind
  • 3 slices of ginger

Method

Put all ingredients into a pan, then simmer for 4-8 minutes, and serve in glass cups I had added a slice of ginger speared with three cloves, a couple of blackberries, a cinnamon stick and the rind of some orange.  

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Aug042016

My favourite Brazilian cocktail, perfect for Olympic sipping

The best drinks are a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and simplicity just like this Caipirinha pronounced ‘cay-per-REEN-yah’ which uses the Brazilian Cachaça pronoucned kah-SHAH-sa spirit, limes and sugar.  

This organic Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça from Marks and Spencer, when muddled, stirred and poured over ice creates a cocktail refreshing and perfect for the lengthening evenings.

Brazilian’s don’t like cachaça being called rum – even though it is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane, and a cousin of white rum.  The difference between the two spirits is the way the ingredient is handled.  White rum is traditionally made from processed cane molasses and cachaça is made from fresh-pressed, unprocessed sugarcane juice, giving it the clean grassy smoky flavour and a herby nose.

The Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail and it is made with the sugar cane liqueur Cachaça.  The drink is made by muddling the fruit and the sugar together, and adding the liquor Cachaça, then pouring over ice.  It is one your going to want to drink as you cheer your country or team on during the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.  What do you want to watch?  I am excited for the swimming and the horseriding, the althetics and sailing - but our TV will be on pretty much for the whole show.

This Cachaça from Marks and Spencer has a sharp smoky flavour, that is almost textured on the tongue.  Muddled with sugar and lime it becomes and sublime and smooth.  A very enjoyable and easy to sip cocktail.

Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça stands out as a really well-made cachaça with a typical fresh, crisp delivery and light grassy notes.  

Recipe (makes one cocktail)

Ingredients

  • 50ml cachaça
  • Juice of two freshly squeezed limes
  • 3 teapsoons of granulated sugar (or three dashes of sugar syrup)

Method

Muddle the sugar and lime, add the cachaça, then ice and stir well, serve in a squat old-fashioned glass. 

This fresh, herby just slightly smoky cocktail is a taste of the summer to come, and a celebation of the  longer evenings.

It can also be served in large jugs with plenty of ice for people to help themselves, perfect for sipping while you watch the Olympics.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Please note - this post previously appeared early in 2015

Wednesday
Dec092015

Gin and Tonic

Gin and Tonic the most refreshing of drinks.  As long as it is well made, with good gin, lots of ice and a twist of lemon or lime, this drink is always a winner.  It was in Prague on tour with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir when I was but a teen, my love for a good gin and tonic began.

Lately, I just haven't wanted to drink gin and tonic.  A first for nearly 20 years, or a bit longer.  Even though its refreshing I feel I want something with just a little more kick, but I don't want a sugary syrup laden ice packed drink.  Instead I want the sophisication of a gin and tonic, but with just that little something else.  Something more, I didn't know what until ... 

Enter Marks and Spencer Clementine Gin  the drink I have been looking for, has found me.

With a light fire on the tongue this gin from Marks and Spencer is made in France.  It is slightly sharp and succulent.  Add a splash of tonic - always get a good tonic, or some clementine juice, and this drink is a winner.  Its fire mellows to a warming glow.

Hold the slices of lemon or lime with this gin.  Instead serving it with chunky sliced clementine starred with cloves, that bring a smoky sweetness to the flavour.

It is a great gin to create a Christmas Cocktail, and would work really well in my Christmas morning Poinsetta cocktail.  In a large jug with lots of ice, mix, a bottle of prosecco, 5 measures  clementine gin, 1 carton pomegranate juice, and 3 measures of orange liqueur.

Drunk over ice, with a mixer or lightly warmed - Spiced Clementine Gin from Marks and Spencer, is one of the drinks of the season. 

Sip slowly with friends, served with Marks and Spencer Prosecco sparkling berry crisps.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Saturday
Aug222015

Rum, pineapple and lime cooler - summer sipping series

Tall refreshing drinks are a crucial part of summer - well anytime of year really.  Sometimes a drink should be as simple as superb great ingredients over ice.

Great ingredients such as this Plantation 3 Stars Rum from Marks and Spencer.   

With a bright inviting nose, this rum is fruity, sharp and lingers on the palate.  The blend of three island styles Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, creates a pleasing sipping experience.  

My Bajan friends told me the mark of a good rum is that it can be sipped alone over ice, or made into a cocktail.  The Plantation 3 Stars Rum from Marks and Spencer has a nose of dried coconut and honey, followed by a soft spice.  They recommended drinking it with pineapple juice.  

On the palate the rum offers a lingering flavour of fresh cane sugar and honey, with vanilla overtones, it has a zinging floral finish.  This sweetness is balanced by the tartness of the pineapple and a splice of lime.

This cooler is lovely served with brunch or in the early evening.

Rum, pineapple and lime cooler

Ingredients

makes one pitcher of cooler - serves 4

 

 

Method

  1. Fill each glass with ice and add a lime wedge
  2. Place all ingredients for the cocktail into a large pitcher and stir
  3. Serve immediately

 

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Mar312015

Chef Alastair Fullerton's new menu at the Fitzwilliam Belfast

 

 


Eating in the restaurant of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast is an intimate and lovely experience.  It offers fine dining with a relaxed casual feel.  Recently appointed Head Chef Alastair Fullerton brings a commitment to local produce, well sourced, perfectly cooked and served to create a menu full of excellent taste combinations.

The Fitzwilliam’s Head Chef Alastair Fullerton has used his some 30 years of restaurant experience to create a menu that focuses on using fresh local produce, cooked well and beautifully served.  

We started with smoked salmon, thin flavoursome slices were presented cleverly in a shell, with fresh salad and wheaten bread, the food was as beautiful to look at as it was to taste.  Crispy breadcrumbs hid soft oozing balls of goat’s cheese.  The smooth flavour of which was nicely complimented by crisp hazelnuts and earthy beetroot.

The dinner menu offers traditional dishes made from the freshest of local ingredients; fish from Keenan’s Seafood, beef from K&G McAtamney, Goat’s cheese from Boile in Cookstown, and potatoes from Comber in County Down; with a slight twist.  Pork Belly is slow cooked and served with Pear and Blue Cheese salad, and chorizo, grilled mackerel comes with an Japanese influence in pickled vegetables and horseradish cream, little balls of deep fried goats cheese are served with their natural partners beetroot and hazelnuts.  Provenance of the ingredients is readily available from the staff but is not listed on the menu.

The soft cool wood and subdued pink upholstery, booths and open dining with funky high backed chairs, creates a room that is contemporary and a pleasure to spend time in. 

The wood holds the sound meaning that conversations can be private in secluded booths, or full of laughter in the open tables.  The space is split into two rooms, using clever wooden partitioning.  When we dined, our side of the room had couples and small groups, while on the other a large group of ladies were celebrating an upcoming wedding.

Tables are dressed simply with strips of starched white linen, with place settings at either end and sparkling glasses.

 

 Sarah one of the Salt and Sparkle associates was the perfect dinner guest.

We began our evening with glasses of Louis Roederer which were served interesting in glasses dipped in lime cordial and topped with sugar, a smart touch for cocktails but perhaps unnecessary with such fine champagne.  Our waiter for the evening was Gabor, a handsome and interesting young man from Hungry with a great knowledge of food and wine.

Wine is served in fine stemware which allows the flavours to breathe and come alive.  We sip Irish sparkling and still water throughout the evening. 

The Fitzwilliam’s commitment to serving excellent produce be it wines, water or food and supporting the best producers is to be highly commended.  Their food and wine are consistently good, and I have  no hesitate to recommending the restaurant to anyone wanting a relaxed special evening, with great food, where they will be well looked after.

 

The fillet of beef was succulent with a depth of flavour that comes from a long hanging.  The woody mushrooms and the soft potato mash created a smooth mouthful.  

The Potato and Herb Gnocchi had an array of strong flavours all used with precision and thought, to create a rich dish with lots of flavour.  The Fitzwilliam’s main course menu also included a selection of great combinations such as Confit Duck leg with black pudding, pork fillet medallions with sweet potato and cider, Salmon with mussels and vegetable chowder and butter roast chicken.  

The selection on the menu is good offering firm favourites well interpreted in Chef Alastair’s own style.

The Fitzwilliam’s wine list is one of the gems of Belfast, filled with carefully selected boutique wines that really compliment Chef Fullerton’s dishes.  

Combine a wine list like this with staff like Gabor’s excellent knowledge, and what is on offer at the Fitzwilliam is something really very special and very enjoyable to guests.  It makes me smile to see how the Fitzwilliam invest in their staff to bring the guest the best experience when they spend time in the hotel.  

Gabor is currently doing his wine exams, and what is so lovely about his wine knowledge is that he does not try to show off, instead he shares what he knows to enhance our evening.

We were particularly impressed with our waiter Gador’s knowledge of Northern Irish cuisine and his expertise in choosing wines to perfectly compliment the dishes we ate.  

Gabor bought two very different, and lovely glasses of wine, for each course, perfectly chosen to compliment the dishes we were eating.  The wines when sipped on their own, were really enjoyable, but when drunk with this food, took on a whole new level of interest, complexity and depth.  The Fitzwilliam Hotel have an excellence in their wine and food pairings.

A coche was placed over a dish to keep it warm when guests left the table for any period of time, this is a very professional touch, and something I have not seen done elsewhere in Belfast.

The waiting staff at the Fitzwilliam Belfast have been superbly trained, welcoming and all with bright smiles.   They are pleasant, knowledgeable and polite, knowing when to offer comment, and when to refrain.  How they treat us is evidence that they enjoy their jobs and working environment.

The cheese board comes on a slate board with a selection of two Irish Cheeses, Cahill's Guinnes Cheddar, Cashel Blue and an applewood smoked. An interesting addition to the cheeseboard is mango chutney which goes surprisingly well with the Cashel Blue.

We finish our meal by sharing cheesecake and a cheeseboard.  Gabor who is from Hungry produces glasses of Tokaji, a Hungarian desert wine which is really a nectar of the gods, it has flavours of citrus, apricot, nuts and a fresh finish.   He carefully explained how it was made using late harvested grapes and those affected by botrytis to create a concentrated wine with complex flavours.

 

Gador shows us a cocktail list, for a nightcap, but says we can order anything we like, having heard us talk about Margaritas, he appears with two of the best Margaritas, we have ever tasted.  One on the rocks, the other frozen, these cocktails are smooth and spikey with a citrusy kick.  The secret we discover is that they are made by the Fitz’s head barman who also happens to be American.

The Fitzwilliam Belfast is a beautiful boutique hotel, with a restaurant that offers well thought out menus, using local produce were possible, an excellent wine list and a setting that is sophisticated.  The staff are some of the best we have encountered they want guests to really enjoy their time.  This is a wonderful place to spend an evening, sip a glass of wine, eat delicious food, celebrate with family and friends, take a date.  The Fitzwilliam Hotel is one of Salt and Sparkle's favourite places in Belfast.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Salt and Sparkle dined as guests of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast

Tuesday
Mar312015

An sweet and sour Easter Cocktail - Caipirinha

The best drinks are a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and simplicity just like this Caipirinha pronounced ‘cay-per-REEN-yah’ which uses the Brazilian Cachaça pronoucned kah-SHAH-sa spirit, limes and sugar.  

This organic Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça from Marks and Spencer, when muddled, stirred and poured over ice creates a cocktail refreshing and perfect for the lengthening evenings.

Brazilian’s don’t like cachaça being called rum – even though it is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane, and a cousin of white rum.  The difference between the two spirits is the way the ingredient is handled.  White rum is traditionally made from processed cane molasses and cachaça is made from fresh-pressed, unprocessed sugarcane juice, giving it the clean grassy smoky flavour and a herby nose.

The Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail and it is made with the sugar cane liqueur Cachaça.  The drink is made by muddling the fruit and the sugar together, and adding the liquor Cachaça, then pouring over ice.

This Cachaça from Marks and Spencer has a sharp smoky flavour, that is almost textured on the tongue.  Muddled with sugar and lime it becomes and sublime and smooth.  A very enjoyable and easy to sip cocktail.


Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça stands out as a really well-made cachaça with a typical fresh, crisp delivery and light grassy notes.  

Recipe (makes one cocktail)

Ingredients

  • 50ml cachaça
  • Juice of two freshly squeezed limes
  • 3 teapsoons of granulated sugar (or three dashes of sugar syrup)

Method

Muddle the sugar and lime, add the cachaça, then ice and stir well, serve in a squat old-fashioned glass. 

This fresh, herby just slightly smoky cocktail is a taste of the summer to come, and a celebation of the  longer evenings.

It can also be served in large jugs with plenty of ice for people to help themselves.

Happy Easter,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Feb112015

Sláinte - Blood Orange Vodka Rocks

Blood Oranges look divine, ruby red, soft pinks and deep orange in colour.  They are best eaten fresh and raw in salads, and salsas or in drinks.  Considered the finest dessert oranges in the world, most blood oranges come from the shores of the Mediterranean countries, particulary Sicily, Southern Italy and California.

With a thin, red blushed orange skin, they taste tart-sweet, and slightly berry like.  They have a delicious spicy sharpness, which when poured over ice with a good dash of smooth Dingle pot still vodka a refreshing cocktail is made.

Blood oranges have a very short season in late winter they are the sunniest fruits in the bleakest of weathers.  

Blood oranges are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, anthocyanins, calcium and Vitamin A, among other minerals and vitamins and are a very good source of fiber. The levels of vitamin C are higher in these oranges compared to regular oranges. The blood orange is also known as the anti-aging orange.

I love to serve glasses of Blood Orange vodka at the start of a dinner party, or as a simple pick me up drink, to enjoy with friends or family.  A lovely thing about this drink is that it is equally delicious served with gin, and the tiniest squeeze of lime.

To make two cocktails, juice 5-7 blood oranges, fill two tumbles with ice, and pour over a good measure of Dingle vodka - about three fingers - then fill up with the blood orange juice, and add a twisted thin slice to the top of the drink and enjoy.  This is one of the most refreshing drinks you'll have the pleasure to enjoying during winter months.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable