Entries in Drinking (6)


How to make an Irish Hot Whiskey

Happy St Patrick's Day my lovelies.  May you have a day filled with blessings and laughter.

The rain is battering my window and the green is glimpsed through the mists of grey.  I've come in from walking the dogs and feeling a bit like a drowned rat.

To warm my chilled bones a hot whiskey is the ticket.  

This is a drink of few ingredients and one that doesn't need fussing.

Most important is the whiskey I love Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.  This Irish whiskey is 100% barley and made in a copper pot still.

It has a lovely honey flavour with a burst of ginger and butterscotch, there are hints of toasted oat.  It is smooth.  A result of being tripled distilled and matured in charred bourbon barrels.  Writerṣ Tears” is a old style Irish Pot still Whiskey, with its vatting of Single Malt and Single Pot Still whiskeys, it is distilled from 60% malt and 40% pot still.

Years of making hot whiskey's for customers means I know every trick in the book.  The secret is to warm the glass before adding the whiskey.  Put a teaspoon into a glass and fill with water that is just off the boil.  Meanwhile stud a lemon with cloves. Being careful not to burn fingers, disgard the water from the glass, add the whiskey, clove studded lemon and add a good three fingers of Whiskey to the glass, fill with hot water, stirring  to it swirls add a teaspoon of honey - or brown sugar.  Stir until the sugar is disolved.  Wrap a napkin around the glass so as not to burn your fingers and drink with your toes up in front of a roaring fire.


Happy St Patrick's Day!

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Portable Smoothie

 Are you a fan of Green Juice?  I think you are either a fan or not.  Otherwise you only tolerate it, and the pleasure and enjoyment for drinking something really good for you, leaves and the exercise becomes one that is ritualistic, demanding and being done because you think it is good for you.  The attitude becomes on of   So you learn to tolerate the fresh green flavour, but you never come to love it.  Our attitudes for me determine how much benefit we actually get from the food or drink we are imbibing.

I have always been a fan of Green juice, feeling like it cleanses my insides, brings me energy and makes me feel good.  Regardless of health benefits, I want to enjoy my food, to take pleasure from it, and know at the same time it is doing me good.  Just because a food does me good, does not mean I will eat or drink it.  The worthiness and virtue of drinking something supposedly amazing for you, is not enough for me.  I don't want to feel virtuous, I want to feel good.

I tend to drink Green juice first thing in the morning, bringing a jar with me to work to drink from throughout the afternoon.  It is a great energiser and settler.  Perfect before or after an exercise class.

I was drinking a cup of juice one afternoon when my two year old nephew took it off me and promptly drank 1/2 cup, leaving himself with a vivid green circle around his mouth.  It was very funny to look at.  NOw everytime I make green juice he wants his own cup, I give him a tiny amount less than 50mls but he loves it.

If you are making green juice to carry with you, use an old jam jar with a tighly fitting lid, like Bonne Mamma.  A great boost to have mid afternoon as a pick me up - it will definitely keep you away from cake and chocolate and coffee.

Green Juice Recipe



  • 2 blocks of frozen spinach
  • 1 green apple cored and sliced into chunks
  • 1 small green pear cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 scoop of spirulina powder
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/2 and advocado stone and skin removed 
  • 2 sticks of celery roughly chopped
  • 1/4 of a large cucumber roughly sliced
  • 7 mint leaves
  • 1 small glass of coconut milk about 1/3 of a cup - you can also use Green Tea


Place all ingredients in a blender, and mix until smooth.

Serve immediately or keep covered and refridgerated for 24 hours

You have just read the day 15 in the series 31 Days of Eating, read Day One Vegan Chocolate mousse and day two Leek and Potato Soup, day three Saturday Reading, day four, Brownies for a tenderheart, day five Birthday Cake, day six Vegan Tagine, day seven q&a with Karen Daly founder of WOW sausages, day eight Vegan Red Wine Chocolate Cakeday nine Bone Broth day 10, 21 things you can do to find space, day 11 Pizza and Prosecco, day 12 reading listday 13 Armagh Brambly Apples and day 14 Recipes I want to cook from cookbooks I want to read.


That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable




How to make Nectarine & Peach White Wine Sangria - summer sipping series

 Peaches, nectarines, apricots, don't the names of summer fruits make you smile?  While we may not have been having the beautiful summer sunshine we had hoped for here in Ireland, we can bring smiles to our faces sitting inside sipping ice cold white wine sangria made with ripe summer fruit.  

Who cares if it is lashing (commonly used Irish phrase meaning pouring with rain) outside, a glass of this in our hands and we are onto something really rather perfect.

 Now tear your mind away from those ghastly sickly sweet concoctions served to you, that left you with pounding hangovers.  These were basically sugar, sugar, sugar, food colouring, a dash of something 100% proof and water masquerading as Sangria.

Good drinks need good ingredients.

What we have in mind today is luscious ripe fruit, layered with this really good white wine from Marks and Spencer.

Marks and Spencer Kaituna Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand is a delight to drink. 

Marks and Spencer have worked with wine maker Jeneve Williams and Marlborough specialist Marieta Blasco Perez to produce this crisp fragrant Sauvignon Blanc which is dry with a fruity palate, pleasantly flinty, with a light citrus kick and a good gooseberry flavour, and notes of greengage linger on the palate.

It is perfect for sipping chilled on its own, as an accompaniment to dinner perhaps some BBQ'd chicken or as the base for a jug of Nectarine & Peach White Wine Sangria.  

Marks and Spencer sell fruit which is a whole handstand above anything else found on the high street.  There is a depth of flavour and a pleasant sweetness to the peaches and juicy nectarines, that when added to the white wine enhances both the flavour of the fruit and the wine.

 I drink a small glass of Marks and Spencer Pink Grapefruit juice every morning, and really enjoy blending drinks with the revitalisting range of fresh juices on offer in Marks and Spencer.  The pure peach and grape juice is sweet but fresh and crisp and makes the perfect sweetner for the White Wine Sangria.

 Add a handful of blueberries for extra colour, lots of ice, and some sweet basil, to the wine, peach and grape juice and white wine and you are ready to serve.

 This is a lovely drink to serve at brunch, or for something refreshing in the late afternoon for an early cocktail hour.  It can be made a day a head and left covered in the fridge to allow the flavours to meld and mix.

The delightful thing about this drink is it is easy to make so whether you are in a hurry to serve, or just want something quick, refreshing and delicious, this can be made in a matter of moments.  It is literally a one jug cocktail.

I enjoy the crisp sharp sweet flavour of this Sangria that allows the flavours of the wine to shine through but if you want something sweeter dissolve a tablespoon of sugar into the fruit juice.  

Adding sparkling water starts edging things into wine spritzer but if you want something with less alcoholic punch by all means add a splash of sparkling water to each glass.

There is something oh so spectacular about basil, I adore it.  One whiff of the scent and you fall in love.

After my trip to the South of France earlier in the summer I have been putting basil into everything sweet and savoury - its perfume makes it so pleasurable to eat.  Embrace its headiness and lingering scents use it abundantly and with extravagance. 


Nectarine & Peach White Wine Sangria

serves four generously






  1. In a large pitcher, combine the sliced fruit, wine and fruit juice with ice
  2. Pour into glasses and add a sprig of basil before serving


What way do you like your sangria?

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



7 top tips for planning an at home wine tasting

image copyright

A wine evening is a fun way to host friends, whether you want to simply have drinks and nibbles, or a sit down meal.  Trying wines at home is fun pleasurable and a great way to spend an evening with friends.  I recently hosted a sit down wine tasting dinner with friends using wines from my favourite high street retailer Marks and Spencer, who's wine selection is excellent, well priced and offers great quality.

Salt and Sparkle's 7 Tips on how to have an at Home Wine Tasting

 Decide if you will have a theme, ideas are endless and include:

·         Grape variety – like cabernet sauvignons from around the world, or from the same country, but from   different vineyards or vintages
·         Wines to drink with cheese
·         A variety of wines from one particular country
·         Old world New World
·         Same wine different vintage
·         Vintages
·         Price
·         Wines for Christmas or summer for, holidays and highdays
·         A mix of reds and whites
·         All red or all white, all champagne, cava or preseccos
·         Wines to serve at dinner
·         Wines chosen to match specific food dishes

Six or seven wines is usually a good number to work within when tasting as the palate can become jaded with any more, always have glasses of water on hand to clear the palate between each wine.

Between four and eight people are a good number to invite to the tasting, as this allows ease of preparation and pouring and good conversation.  It's fun to provide pencils and notepads for people to take notes.

The tasting should move from lighter sparkling wines (a glass of bubbly is a very relaxed way to start the evening, and puts people at ease), through white wines, to roses, to lighter then more full bodied reds, finishing either with a fortified wine like port, or a dessert wine.

White and Rose wines should be chilled for at least 3-4 hours, preferably overnight in the fridge is best, and red wine should be opened 2 hours in advance, and its worth considering decanting it, to let the aromas which have been trapped in the bottom come alive as they mingle with air

Pour slowly allowing there to be enough of each bottle to go round for the tasting, then a little left for further sipping

There are four stages of wine tasting


  1. Look at the colour of the wine, is it clear, and bright, he colour of the wine gives an idea of its strength, reds tend to fade with age, whereas whites become darker
  2. Smelling the wine reveals its character.  Swirl the wine in the glass, then put your nose into the glass and sniff, does it smell fresh (corked wines are immediately apparent as their smell is so sour) what do you smell, ask others, write your ideas down, compare them with what might be written on the bottle.
  3. Take a sip, hold it in your mouth, chew it a little, like a bar of sticky sweets then swallow, are there any differences between smell, taste and aftertaste.  Is the wine smooth or sharp, what is its texture like, big or small, are there lots of flavours or one dominant one.
  4. What is the aftertaste, the flavour that lingers on your palate before you have the next mouthful, good wines always linger.


I recommend trying the wine on its own, then trying it with food, to see how the flavours or texture of the wine changes.

The six wines I chose from Marks and Spencer were -


Australia - Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield Shiraz, 2010

Italy – Chianti Classico Riserva Castello della Paneretta


America - Charles Smith The Honourable Riesling from Washington State

Italy – Gavi

Greece -  Atlantis Santorini


Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 

Wine tasting as a way of entertaining, is informative, enjoyable and fun.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


7 tips from Ground Espresso from Top Coffee

We visited Ground Espresso in Belfast recently to try all the coffee's on their menu - what an incredible tasting session it was.


While we where there we asked Dermott the area manager to share some of his top tips for a great coffee everytime.

1. Use good base ingredients - a superb coffee blend like our Purple Dragon Blend


2. Ensure all your equipment, cups, coffee maker, spoons, milk and sugar are scrumptiously clean, so as the flavour of the coffee is not tainted.

3. Use water that is just under boiling


4. Serve warm milk with coffee but never boil or burn the milk, instead heat milk gently.  Warm the cups you will serve the coffee in.


5. Remember enjoy what you are drinking and regardless of what people tell you, coffee has no hard and fast rules, except you should enjoy what you are drinking

6. Drink 300ml of water after every couple of mouthfuls of coffee to stop dehydration 

7. Do not reheat coffee as it makes it taste bitter and burnt

And, don't be afraid to order something different from normal!

Happy coffee drinking.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Bushmills Distillery - how Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made

There’s something about the idea of drinking whiskey that has always made me smile.  Smooth and nuanced the pale gold liquid swirls in the glass beckoning us to try her.  It’s a drink of reliability, a taste that pulls us in, suggesting calm in swirling smoke, and stormy seas.  I imagine myself with a glass, dog at my feet, sitting by a turf fire, engaged in relaxed conversation and comfortable silences.

When I think of Whiskey I automatically think of the Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Nestled into the hillside, this rather magical place holds many a barrel of the amber nectar, on its vast site of some 84 acres with 18 warehouses, each holding casks filled with whiskey stacked six high.  

Whiskey has been distilled on this site since 1608 with the official licence to distil being granted in 1784, making Bushmills the oldest licenced distillery in the world. The pot still also in 1784 became the registered trademark/logo of Bushmills Whiskey – its still in use today on each of the bottles.  The Distillery blends its buildings as well as its whiskey, with a range of old heavy stone, whitewashed and modern structures across the site.

There are 160 staff on this fully working distillery, which gives the guest a real sense of the business of whiskey - the craft, expertise and skill that goes into each bottle of Bushmills. 

With a keen sense of anticipation I join a tour on a dampish Saturday afternoon.  Stepping into the mashhouse, any sense of chill leaves our bodies, as the sweet heady smell of yeast, and the warmth of the house surround us like a comforter.  

It is in the Mashhouse three ingredients come together – unpeated malted barley from Co Kildare in Ireland, distillers yeast and water from St Columbs Mill a tributary of the River Bush – in a vast copper kettle. The mixture is heated with hot air, rather than over a peat fire which gives Bushmills its clean distinct unsmokey taste. The metal floor vibrates under our feet as the three ingredients are slowly stirred together, a giant mechanical arm grinding the grains to a coarse flour also known as a girst by distillers. 

The stir and standing time is about six and a half hours, using 48’000 litres of water the grains and yeast are heated to three different temperatures.  Bushmills Distillery have three to four separate mixings in the Mashhouse each day.

The liquid wash becomes known as wort which is full of sugars essential for the distillation process.  When the yeast is added, it triggers alcoholic fermentation – which basically means the wort sugars turn into alcohol.  The vessels where the fermentation takes place are called washbacks, they are huge metal containers, standing on a metal grill, I look at them sitting about a metre above the surface, wondering how they can hold 48,000 litres until I look down, and these vast tanks seem to stretch on forever.  The alcohol that is formed here is about 7.5%, once the alcohol has formed the distillation process begins.

Our tour walk to the distillation room where the heat makes me think I am in a warm comforting whiskey sauna.  In tall copper pot stills, with fat bottoms and long swan like necks, the whiskey is distilled three times.

It is this tripled distillation process which makes Bushmills smooth and subtle, and distinguishes it from other whiskeys which are usually only distilled twice.  Here the whiskey is clear like water, because it is all down to the barrel to create the colour and draw out the character of the whiskey.

Using American Bourbon barrels, Sherry casks and even Maderia or Port casks, the distilled alcohol is barrelled and left to rest for a minimum of three years.  At this point the blending of the whiskey begins.  Here the whiskey is left to sleep in different types of barrels to create the specific blends of Bushmills Whiskey. On a cold day the grain of the wood tightens and on a warm day it relaxes, the wood acts as a lung allowing the whiskey to breathe.  A certain amount of whiskey is lost through this breathing process and it becomes known as the angel breath.

Bushmills make a range of whiskeys – there are seven altogether in the Bushmills Whiskey family - two blends, Bushmills original the youngest whiskey and Black Bush, here grain alcohol is added to the whiskey to create the blend, and a range of single malts 10, 12 (only available to purchase at the distillery), 16 and 21 which are aged and blended in casks for their respective number of years. 

After the whiskey has been aged in the barrels for the relevant number of years it moves for bottling, a noisy room, where the whiskey is decanted, labelled, sealed and checked before making its way across the world, to a bar near to you.

Bushmills make a range of whiskeys there are two blends – Bushmills original the youngest whiskey and Black Bush, here grain alcohol is added to the whiskey to create the blend, and a range of single malts, which are aged in casks.  For example the 21-year-old whiskey is aged for 19 years in either bourbon or sherry casks, then finished in port.  They also have a Bushmills Honey, were the whiskey has been blended with pure Irish Honey.

Now for tasting the whiskeys – at the end of the tour each of us are offered a dram or whatever Bushmills whiskey we would like to try or there is the opportunity to have a private tasting of all the whiskey’s. But how did the Bushmills taste, I can hear you ask?

The Bushmills style is fruity throughout all the family of whiskeys.  Bushmills Original is soft and rounded, with vanilla and grain on the nose, and honey on the palate with a fairly fiery finish as the alcohol takes over.

Back home, I pour a glass and ease back into my chair, fire crackling by my toes, and sigh, contentedly.

I will be sharing my experiences of the private tutored tasting in another feature here on Salt and Sparkle, as well as a piece on how to drink whiskey and a whiskey based cocktail & food recipe – so watch out for those coming over the next couple of weeks. 

How do you like to drink your Bushmills?

That’s it for now …




Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable




Salt and Sparkle were guests of the Bushmills Distillery