Entries in drinks (30)


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



Spirit of Autumn Gin Cup

Gin is the Spirit of Autumn, its popularity has soared this year and so we thought we'd make a cocktail in its honour.  Welcome to the Spirit of Autumn Gin Cup.

Usually all the bounty of Autumn, its time to get on down there with apples, pears and cloves for this Spirit of Autumn Gin Cup, made using Marks and Spencer London Dry Gin.  

Marks and Spencer London Dry Gin is blended and distilled in Scotland.  It has a big juniper and citrus peel taste and is flavoured with botanicals of angelica, orris root, cassia bark, lemon peel, coriander, liquorice and grapefruit.  

Incidentially have you tried Gin and Grapefruit? Now that is one Gin and Juice that gets right on down there.  I digress ...

Spirit of Autumn Gin Cup is warm and zingy, I was inspired by the changing seasons and the coming of Autumn harvest.  This drink mixes crisp apples and pears with warm cloves, a pinch of cinnamon, ginger and apple cider.  It can be served hot or cold.  

Spirit of Autmn Gin Cup Cocktail


to make a jug that serves 4 generously

  • 2 x cups of London Dry Gin
  • 1 x litre bottle of Pink Lady Apple Juice
  • 2 granny smith apples washed and finely sliced
  • 2 ripe but firm pears cored and finely sliced
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 x 500ml bottle of Magners Cider
  • 4 x thin slices of ginger one for each serving glass
  • Pinch of cinnamon - optional
  • lots of ice or this drink can be served warm, simmer for 1 minute and serve in heat proof glasses


Mix everything together and serve in short glasses.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Let's talk about Gin

Have you noticed gin is everywhere these days?  Gin menus propped up on bars.  

Gin is hip.  It's the drink of choice and I feel rightly so.  It might even for some be hipster.  What once was Mother's Ruin is enjoying a renaissance.

There are bars that serve only gin.  Staff that turn their noses up when you ask for a regular tonic water.  Or as one female waitress said to me when I mentioned the tonic was flat, 'Oh you mustn't know a lot about drinking gin and just be used to drinking chemical filled tonics.' I looked at her retreating back with outrage.  My gin and tonic that had cost £10 was flat and straight outta ice.  The manager replaced it for me and with my choice of tonic.

A lack of ice and flat tonic remind me of an ill advised date I'd taken, I can still taste that revolting drink ... that had me running out of their on my high heels.

'Can I have more ice?' I asked when he served me and g&t. 'No, I froze the lemon instead' too much ice he went on to say is never a good thing.  He had a bouncy walk and long flopsy blond hair, he was too skinny for his own good.  Why I was on a date with him I'll never know!  Anyway back to the trauma I suffered from a bad gin and tonic.  I looked down at my drink, with its precisely measured thimbleful of gin, measly slice of lemon, hadn't this guy heard of a wedge of lemon; topped up with flat tonic and shuddered.  It didn't take long for me to be in a taxi home.  I wasn't available next time he called or the time after that.   

One thing I know is a good man, well he knows how to make a gin and tonic.  Gin and tonic lessons should be given to all young males of drinking age.  Then they are sorted for life.

Marks and Spencer have just launched the most fantastic selection of gins both store brand and a carefully curated selection of the best gins on the market at the moment. 

Gin is having a moment, it is popular.  

The masses are drinking it. Bars are springing up to serve it.  Everyone who's anyone is having a go at making it.  There are large batch, small batch, limited edition, made with this herb or that one, distilled in a variety of pots from copper to bathtubs, as well as compound and column distilled.  Different types of gin in groovy bottles are everywhere as well as the more traditional green bottle of Gordons.  Gordons is in the top ten best selling spirits on the planet and is made using an unchanged 18th century recipe. 

Gin most easily defined is a spirit distilled with juniper and it has evolved to be flavoured with other botanicals.  Juniper has been infused with spirits almost since the invention of distillation, bringing with it flavour and medicinal properties such as a medicine to treat arthritis, overactive and a loss of appetite, and gout.   Gin has been around since the Middle Ages, but the stuff we pour today finds its origins with the Dutch in the 17th Century by Franciscus Sylvius, it was called genever.  It hoped over the channel to Britain with William of Orange, or King Billy as he is known in Northern Ireland.  Low taxation meant it was cheap to make and cheap to buy.  The Gin Craze had begun, more than half of London's drinking rooms where gin shops.  Overconsumption, and extreme drunkenness was rampant.  Hogarth’s diptych of Gin Lane and Beer Street, showing the perils of drinking gin as opposed to the joy of drinking beer, lead parliament to clamp down with stricter laws to produce gin.

Gin is produced mainly in two ways - compounding and distilling.

Compounded gin sees flavours - either actual botancials or natural extracts - added to a neutral spirit, this is the method used for cheaper gins as well as for some superior gins which macerate whole botanicals with a high quality neutral spirit.

Distilled gin is made by redistilling distilled spirit with botanicals added to it.

London Dry Gin can be made anywhere in the world and is a method where distilled gin has nothing added but water after distillation.

For a spirit to be called gin the distilled spirit must have a predominant flavour of juniper, after which each producer can add their own mix of ingredients.  Common botanicals added to gin include - orange, grapefruit and lemon peel (both fresh and dried), coriander, liquorice, anise and cardamom, green tea, rose, and cucumber, rosemary, honey, sloe, and a wide range of fruits and plants, as well as orris and angelica root.

Marks and Spencer have in their selection a brown papered bottle gin made in a bathtub, which has an alluring spicy taste, an elderflower infused gin perfect to drink when you need a hit of summer in winter, there's a pink gin and a sloe gin, one with mint and cucumber, one by Gordons and another by Plymouth, there's an own brand London Dry Gin, one from Brooklyn and another from Spain. 

We have tried them all, and they are each very special and can be used to create a wide variety of delicious drinks to sip.

I have loved a good gin and tonic for a very long time.

Not for me the allure of vodka and all its supposed purity.  

Give me a drink swimming with juniper, scented with herby botanicals, and topped up with a good fizzy tonic.  Oh and ice have I mentioned ice - put lots in there.  I am really American when it comes to ice, especially in my alcoholic drinks.  For me the more ice the better, I am always on the side of more.  Not for me the gin and tonic served in those tiny wineglasses from the 1980s with a slimey piece of lemon from a jar and one cube of ice.  

For a classic g&t ice, lemon and lime, a good splash of gin - usually go for three fingers, depending on the side of the glass - and topped up with tonic, always freshly opened, never flat, stir and serve.

The best Gin and Tonic you'll ever drink is the one you make at home.  Those I pour for nor I have ever been disappointed by a g&t from my hand.  Gin and tonic is in my mind the most refreshing alcoholic drink. It's classy, refreshing and alluring.  Its the drink my older female relatives enjoyed as I grew up.  Their mantra was always serve gin in a good glass, a crisp drink needs a thin lipped crystal, it makes it special.  I agree, enjoying a g&t should be special.  

It was on the way to Prague with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir I got my own taste for gin and tonic, boy did I feel grown up.  Other women on the tour had stocked up with bottles of Gordons with its distinctive yellow labels in the duty free.  They arrived in the Czech Republic clinking.  Each night after we had performed, the night was filled with the sounds of Irish voices lifted in song, alongside glasses with a splash of gordons and tonic.  This was a good few years ago now ... 

My taste for gin and tonic has not subscided, it is always my drink of choice and the one I love to serve to others.  From student parties where we handed out pints of g&t, to Autumns filled with pricking sloes to soak in gin, to drinks with the girls in my family, to sipping from tiny silver cups on a cold frosty morning waiting for the horses.

I am happy to share the gin craze with you.  Over the next little while we will be sharing our favourites from Marks and Spencer with you and suggesting a variety of ways to drink gin, from the class g&t, to mulled, to gin lemonade. 

So prepare to dive in and swim around in the gin.


That's it for now ...


Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Sláinte - it's a Friday Summer Cooler 2016

Slainte it's Friday - how has your week been, has it been long?  Are you ready for the weekend?

Well this Friday cocktail has got your back and all bases covered.  It's a winner alright.

 It's time to put some booze in the blender.

 In this case Marks and Spencer Coconut and Lime Rum, then mix it up with these refreshing Spirit of Summer coolers. And ice, of course ice.  Who could forget ice.

This Caribbean flavoured rum is fresh and light, mixed with these coolers it creates a zingy frozen drink - really like an adult slush puppy. My favourite is the Marks and Spencer summer sour.

Make the mix by adding 3 cups of Marks and Spencer Coconut and Lime Rum to three cups of ice in a blender, then add your choosen Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer cooler, or mix all three together for extra zing, adding more rum as you feel the need.  And on a Friday when the sun goes down - there's always a need. Right!


Then add lime twists and umbrellas.  Always add umbrellas they are kitsch and fun.  And Fridays - well they are all about fun.

Happy Friday!

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


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)


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


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 ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Please note - this post previously appeared early in 2015


Basil Bellini

Holding a bottle of ice cold prosecco by the neck and watching the birds eating from the fatballs in front of my kitchen window my eyes catch the large basil bush.

As often happens to me - lots of associations at breakneck speed - I wondered how basil would mix with my peach bellinis.  I recalled a delicious nectarine, apricot and basil crumble I made last year, surely basil would work just as well with peaches, I pondered for moments before my hands started creating.   

Never one to let a good idea wander for long, I quickly added some torn basil to the bottom of my bellini glasses, poured in prosecco and then fresh peach puree that I had made with ripen on the windowsil peaches earlier that afternoon.

What resulted was a fresh, heady drink that will be served in my kitchen all summer long.


 Basil is such a pleasurable herb, its headiness and sensuality make it a joy to use with abundance in sweet and savoury dishes.  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. Mixed with peach puree and Marks and Spencer light crisp lemony prosecco this basil bellini deserves a place on your menu all summer long.


Basil Peach Bellini


  • 3 Peaches, ripe, peeled, stoned and pureed or one tin of peaches in their own juice pureed.
  • 1 tbsp Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp Sugar - optional
  • 1 bottle Prosecco chilled sparkling wine


Mix all ingredients together in a large jug and serve immediately in tall champagne flutes or highballs.


That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Sláinte Coconut, lime, Pineapple & Rum Cooler

Summer needs long cool drinks - especially when the weather is hot and sticky, and the journey home from work is humid and yucky - the scent of BBQ and an iced drink in hand, suddenly makes the world feel like a big better place.

This Lime and Coconut Rum from Marks and Spencer is a brilliant base for a long cool drink that couldn't be quicker or easier.

Squeeze four limes into the bottom of a large jug, pack full of ice - pour over 2 cups of this rum to 3 cups of pineapple juice, stir and serve.

Now what could possibly be nicer after work than sitting in the garden chatting with a drink like this as the BBQ smokes.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle  = Life Remarkable