High CALIBRE Cocktails

Here we select three of the finest summer cocktails for your delectation.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Magazine the question was asked ‘what is a cocktail’ to which the editor replied: ‘Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else’.

This was back in 1806 and now cocktails are big business, everyone drinks cocktails; James Bond drinks his vodka martini, Del Boy drinks anything with an umbrella in it and Tom Cruise mixed them up in the drink’s very own movie.

There have been highs and lows; the heady days of the 1800’s when classic cocktails like the Martini and Manhattan came into being and the low days of prohibition when booze was banned and the best you could get was bathtub gin and sugar.

In the days after World War II, the USA saw Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s tropical drinks inspired by the Polynesian islands (the founding fathers of tiki restaurants, bars and nightclubs), and the UK saw the dark days of sour mix and weak spirits throughout the 1970s and 1980s – when the Long Island iced tea was king and concoctions like the Harvey Wallbanger and the Dune Bug were selling like hotcakes.

Pubs of the time did not do cocktails. Hardly anyone outside of London or Manchester drank them either. They were much maligned and were usually only consumed in tourist resorts around the world.

This all began to change in the 1990s. The martini, the daddy of all gin drinks, suddenly developed alter egos: the watermelon martini, the apple martini, the Espresso Martini. Bartenders had their first superstars, with the likes of Dale de Groff, Salvatore Calabrese and Dick Bradsell making cocktails cool again and everyone from the bar and club owners, to the staff and the guests, just seemed to up their game.

Increasing numbers of restaurants began to sell cocktails and as more pubs converted to the cuisine-led ‘gastropub’, they did too.

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The noughties saw the continuation of the new cocktail revolution and the re-emergence of an old societal stalwart: the Speakeasy. All over New York, London and Paris, trendy little bars hidden behind phone booths, fridge doors and florists were serving those drinks popular in the 1900s, such as the Sazerac (a variation of a Cognac cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of Cognac that was its original main ingredient), the Martinez (predecessor to the classic Gin Martini, but opting for sweet vermouth over dry, and with a hint of maraschino liqueur), and the Collins (gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water. First described in 1876 by Jerry Thomas, ‘the father of American mixology’).

These classic drinks from the past are now very much the drinks of the present, with ever more esoteric and forgotten names being brought back to popularity, such as The Last Word (a prohibition-era cocktail from Detroit with gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and freshly pressed lime juice), the Aviation (created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, and featuring gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and Crème De Violette), and the Vieux Carre (a 1930s New Orleans recipe comprising of rye whiskey, Cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, bitters and a cherry garnish).

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Cuba, 1580s; Sir Francis Drake’s nickname El Draque (the dragon) is given to a medicinal tonic of rum, mint and limes which is common in the Caribbean at the time.

Santiago de Cuba, 1920s; America was dry so thirsty Americans headed south to Cuba to enjoy cool libations such as the daiquiri and Cuba Libre. It was there that Ernest Hemmingway drank his first Mojito and it was not to be his last. ‘My Daiquiri’s in La Florida and my Mojito’s in Bodega del Medio’ was his motto, and even his raging diabetes wouldn’t stop him.

The cooling combination of crisp, white rum, fragrant mint and zesty lime, makes this one of the most popular cocktails on the planet.

To make the perfect mojito one will need:

  • A large measure (50ml) of King Robert II white rum
  • 1 large juicy lime (squeezed)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of white sugar
  • Small handful of mint leaves
  • Crushed ice (use a rolling pin and a tea towel or better still an actual ice crusher)
  • A tall glass
  • Two straws
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
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To prepare the perfect Mojito, squeeze the lime juice into the glass, add the sugar and quickly stir, add the mint and stir again, fill half the glass with crushed ice, add the rum and the rest of the ice and give a good stir. Put the straws and mint garnish near each other and serve.

Pegu Club Cocktail

Burma, 1930s; the lounge of the Pegu Club where the high society of British ex-pats imbibes the house cocktail known as the Pegu Club Cocktail. The cocktail is a delightfully light combination of gin, orange liqueur, bitters and the local limes, perfect for cooling the brow and loosening the tongue.

To make the perfect Pegu Club Cocktail:

  • Large measure (50ml) of King Robert II gin
  • A Big dash of Cointreau
  • 1 Large juicy lime (squeezed)
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Lots of cubed ice
  • A large whisky glass

To prepare the perfect Pegu Club Cocktail, fill a cocktail shaker up with ice and add the liquids. Shake it hard until it is too cold to hold and then pour into the whisky glass. Add a lime wheel as a garnish. Serve.

CALIBRE Spring Punch

Up in the highlands or down in the lowlands this was the drink the clan leaders would imbibe at the large spring festivals held every year. Each of the clan leaders would bring an ingredient, which they poured into a large ceremonial bowl. When the punch was distributed the crowd would toast in the new season.*

As the lambs finish their gambolling in the fields and the summer flowers and buds are well underway, sit back and enjoy this refreshing, yet warming, blend of Clan McLeod whisky, crème de cassis, fresh lemon juice and a dash of ginger ale.

To make the perfect CALIBRE Spring Punch you will need:

  • 50ml Clan McLeod whisky
  • Large dash of crème de cassis
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Top with Fever Tree ginger ale
  • A tall glass
  • Lots of cubed ice
  • Lemon slice for garnish

To prepare the perfect CALIBRE Spring Punch fill the tall glass right to the top with cubed ice, squeeze in the lemon juice, add the whiskey and crème de cassis, finally add the ginger ale and stir well. Garnish with the lemon slice and serve.

* this is not entirely true