Now Serving – Cinnamon Bee’s Knees

By The Gentleman

Cinnamon Bee's Knees

Today on the Cocktail Challenge we have a bit of a blast from the past for you. We’ve revisited the first drink we ever made on the Cocktail Challenge, the Bee’s Knees. God we really didn’t have any idea what we were doing back then. Not that we have much idea what we were doing then, we’re just better at faking it now. We always said we wanted to come back to it so we did, putting a little twist on it by giving it a cinnamon boost.

 

Cinnamon Bee’s Knees

60ml Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin

30ml Cinnamon honey syrup

30ml Lemon Juice

Ice

Cinnamon stick to garnish

 

Prep your martini glass by filling it with ice. Then grab your cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Pour in the gin, honey syrup and lemon juice. Shake it hard for about 20 seconds. Remove the ice from glasses and strain in. Garnish with your cinnamon stick.

Cinnamon Bee's Knees

Cinnamon Honey Syrup

2tbs cinnamon infused honey

2tbs hot water

1/4 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

 

Place the honey in a bowl. Pour over the hot water and stir until the honey has melted to create a syrup. Add in the ground cinnamon and cinnamon stick. Leave to infuse for about 15-20 minutes and then remove the cinnamon stick. Place in the fridge to cool. I already had a cinnamon infused honey to start with. If you don’t then up then double the amount of cinnamon and leave it to infuse for closer to 30 minutes.

Cinnamon Bee's Knees

It’s nice to know that after investing countless time and money into our cocktail habit we have improved marginally. This time we even managed to do the honey right, getting a little bit fancy and adding some cinnamon because cinnamon makes everything better. There was no solidified honey in the shaker for us, oh no. That bad boy got mixed in real good. The sweeter Barrel Aged Gin also definitely provides a different flavour than the London No.3 Dry Gin we used last time. The gin is less in your face, mixing nicely with the lemon and honey. The drink overall is much sweeter, with the cinnamon providing a delicious aroma and just a bit of a tingling sensation on your tongue and lips. It’s not an overly strong cinnamon flavour, but something surprisingly subtle. A touch less on the lemon juice may allow the cinnamon to shine through even more. Really this was just something that was very easy to drink mixing two of our favourite things, gin and cinnamon.

Cinnamon Bee's Knees

Sometimes a trip down memory lane is a bad thing and looking over the first post on the Cocktail Challenge was a bit cringe worthy. We were such noobs. Luckily the Cinnamon Bee’s Knees made it worth the reflection.

 

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Now Serving – Clubhouse Rock

By The Gentleman

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The Lady is a tea fiend. She is the quintessential old lady in a young person’s body who surrounds herself with cats while drinking cups of tea and showing off her eclectic tea pots. I don’t like tea (gasp!) and I think if it weren’t for my winning personality and ability to supply The Lady with tasty treats and delicious beverages it would probably be a deal breaker. For this cocktail, we decided to mix The Lady’s tea love with something we can all enjoy, booze. Introducing the Clubhouse Rock.

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Clubhouse Rock

60ml Alaskan Rock Vodka infused with Scullery Made Clubhouse Lane Tea

Juice of Half a Lemon + lemon peel for garnish

30ml Cinnamon Simple Syrup

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Infuse 60ml of vodka with 1 tsp of tea for at least 2 hours. The longer you infuse it the better and you can also make more as you need it, and why wouldn’t you, following the ratio of 60ml to 1 tsp. We chose Scullery Made because it’s a local South Australian tea seller who have some pretty amazing sounding blends. After leaving your vodka to infuse, strain it into a cocktail shaker filled with lots of ice. Add your lemon and cinnamon syrup. Shake it well. Strain it into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with your lemon peel. Try and get it to twist, but don’t worry if you can’t. Those lemons can be tricky.

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So I’ll be first to admit that the Scullery Made Clubhouse Lane tea smelt pretty damn good. The Clubhouse Lane blend is made with a rooibos-like tea called honeybush, along with orange zest, cinnamon, cloves and calendula petals. I don’t really know what any of that means, all I know is it had a very strong smell with a hint of cinnamon. It was that cinnamon flavour in the tea that I wanted to capture and enhance with the cinnamon syrup. The tea was perfect for a cocktail. It gave the drink a very pretty colour and the smell of the tea carried over to the cocktail, with a stronger cinnamon scent and just a touch of lemon. It infused really well and there was no harshness from the vodka, it provided the perfect canvas for the tea to shine. The drink is sweet, but all the spices from the tea and the cinnamon syrup really balance it out. Also be warned, I downed this bad boy in a few sips and didn’t even realise. It is so easy to drink.

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I may not be a total tea convert but after making a tea infused cocktail I am definitely open to imbibing in more tea cocktails. Also there are so many options for different infusions with different teas and spirits. I think this is the start of a long and beautiful friendship.

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Now Serving – Five C’s Mulled Wine

By the Gentleman

Mulled Wine4

Holy moly it has been a cold winter here at Cocktail Challenge HQ. Wind, rain, the occasional bit of hail, and freezing cold nights have been the norm for the past few weeks. Meanwhile, my daily web surfing is filled with descriptions of wonderful summer drinks and recipes to refresh and cool you down. Son, I don’t need to be any cooler I’m like Mr. Freeze already. So what’s a dynamic duo of internet bloggers supposed to do in such inclimate weather? Make Mulled Wine of course so that we can get drunk and warm at the same time, which is the best way to get warm (well, one of the best ways 😉 ). The process for this Mulled Wine is based off a post I found on the River Cottage forum but the flavours are all my own.

 

I decided to make the syrup ahead so I could take it to The Lady’s new place and enjoy some Mulled Wine with dinner, being all fancy and romantic. By making it ahead there was no risk of boiling the wine and getting rid of the alcohol, which is a horrible crime. I used brown sugar and molasses and I’m very happy with this decision. They gave the syrup a really deep brown, almost burgundy colour which is far more reminiscent of red wine than most mulling syrups you see. They also didn’t make it overly sweet, which a lot of people feel they do, instead just giving it enough sweetness and that beautiful deep colour. The all C’s spice mix was to be a little bit different and to try something new with Mulled Wine. I think the amounts need a bit of tinkering, but the flavour was definitely interesting enough for me to want to revisit it. I used a pretty cheap bottle of red wine, a Shiraz, but it was an Australian Shiraz so it’s really better than it’s price suggests. It had a really strong fruity smell, which is what you’re after with Mulled Wine. I chose the bottle through my usual method, the Wine Men of Gotham has an interesting label and an even more interesting story behind it. I was pretty happy that I could find a cheap bottle of wine that also had a cool label. The below recipe will make enough syrup to go with one bottle of wine but you can easily use it to make more by repeating the amounts for every bottle.

Mulled Wine2Grand Marnier

Ingredients

375ml water

50g brown sugar

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

4 green cardamon pods

1/2 cinnamon stick (I added another whole way towards the end and transferred it to the bottle)

Juice of half an orange, reserve husk to put in mix

Half an apple studded with 9 cloves + 3 extra cloves

1 1/2 tbsp molasses

Rind of one lemon

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 oz Grand Marnier (optional)

750ml bottle Wine Men of Gotham Shiraz

Orange Wedge for garnish

Cloves for garnish

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Method

Toast cardamon pods, coriander seeds and caraway seeds in a pan to open up the flavours.

Place all ingredients except the red wine in a pan. Stir to combine

Bring the pan to the boil and reduce to strong bubbling simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes remove the fruit with a slotted spoon

Bring the pan to a rolling boil. Keep boiling till the liquid is half the volume and syrupy. Watch out because this will happen quickly.

Strain the syrup through a sieve, muslin or a coffee filter.

Bottle in sterilised bottles and seal firmly

To make mulled wine mix your red wine with the prepared syrup. Heat till warm but not boiling.

Serve in mugs or cup and saucer with an orange wedge studded with cloves.

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The Lady has indulged in far more mulled wine than I have during her overseas travels so I let her comments guide me. She said it tasted and smelt like Mulled Wine should which is always good to know. The syrup had this beautifully spiced aroma that was very strong, the whole house smelt of cinnamon, cloves and pretty much how I imagine a white Christmas to smell. You can’t smell the cayenne pepper at all. It lurks in the background. Taking a mouthful you get the warmth of the drink, a reassuring embrace on a cold winter night. Then you’re hit with the traditional mulling spices. A soothing spice feeling from the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods. Between the warmth of the drink and the soothing spices you get lulled into the drinks embrace and then BAM! Real heat from the cayenne and probably the coriander seeds. It fills your mouth and goes right down the back of your throat. Take a swing of this on a cold night and you would definitely feel warmer. The cayenne may not be for everyone but I was looking for something different from ginger that would keep with my C spices theme. The Lady reckons cayenne is my thing at the moment, adding it to anything and everything and I admit I may have put a bit too much of a pinch in but I don’t think it overly dominated the drink. It just provided the heat I was looking to replace from the ginger. I was a bit disappointed with the fruit, I thought their flavour would have been a bit stronger and maybe in the future I’ll increase the amount of fruit I add to try and get a more prominent flavour.

Mulled Wine

Researching Mulled Wine recipes I shouldn’t have been shocked at how much it divided people. Some people love it and others absolutely hate it.  Really this is pretty much how anyone talks about any sort of alcohol but nearly every Mulled Wine recipe or article includes the fact that people love it or hate it. I just it’s because you make it yourself  and it is very open to interpretation that people can end up with wildly different results. At the moment I wouldn’t say this is a great recipe, it needs some work to round out the flavours and deliver a more balanced Mulled Wine. But on a cold winter’s night, snuggled up on the couch freaking out to American Horror Story it certainly did the job. Warming, spicy with an extra kick you certainly won’t regret pouring in that bottle of wine and in the end, isn’t that all that matters?

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On the Shelf – Bitter Tears ‘Lucille’ Bitters

It’s funny to think that bitters were originally developed and marketed for medicinal purposes. Now they are an essential part of any bar to add a little something extra to a cocktail or even drunk straight up or with ice. The humble bitters has come a long way and there are now many other companies, outside of the industry institutions Angostura and Peychaud’s. In choosing the first bitters for my collection I decided to go for something a little different and chose the ‘Lucille’ by Bitter Tears.

Bitter Tears are a small batch bitters company based in Los Angeles, California. The company was founded in 2010 with just three flavors and have since expanded to make twelve different flavors, with six flavors forming the core of the brand.

They really seem to be trying to differentiate themselves from the traditional offerings of Angostura and Peychaud’s with such flavors as smoky bacon and peppercorn in the Ms. Piggy. As the people from Bitter Tears explain, bitters can be made from pretty much anything these days so the crazy flavors aren’t so surprising. For my first bottle of bitters though I wanted something a little less out there, but still full of flavor. In the end I settled on the Lucille.

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Lucille’s main flavors are blood orange and ginger with hints of anise and cinnamon. And yes, the site does say the drink is named after the comedic redhead. I’m basically a fan of anything with ginger and cinnamon in it and the introduction of blood orange sounds great as its such a strong and distinct flavor.

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The company has also developed a very distinct branding that runs across all their bottles that I am a fan of. Each bottle features the eyes with a single tear, but a different color range for the pattern on the bottle. It is very well done and looks quite effective when you seen an image of all the different bottles lined up together.

 

I’m quite looking forward to sitting down with a nice cocktail that’s been amplified by a few pulls of my Lucille bitters from Bitter Tears.

 

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Out & About – Infused Vodka @ Hells Kitchen Melbourne

Recently I went to Melbourne and spent most of my time partaking in the great food and bar culture the city has to offer. The first stop on my whirlwind visit was Hells Kitchen on a recommendation from my brother and the bar didn’t disappoint.

Hell’s Kitchen Courtesy of The Age

Located upstairs in Centre Place its quite a small bar with a really good vibe that was aided by being quite busy. We sat at the long table over looking the laneway down below and it gave a good view of the street art that has been done over the roller doors of the various businesses. I felt like I may not have been cool enough to remain in the bar, what with its eclectic mix of furniture that may have come from your grandparents garage and funky wallpaper but then I had a drink and didn’t give a shit.

The drink that caught my eye was the housemade, infused vodkas. Each bottle of 666 Vodka was loaded up with either vanilla, cinnamon, honey and ginger or chilli. It was great to see them not only using an Australian sourced vodka, but to also see the huge amounts of vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, ginger husks and chillies in the bottles. It did beg the question though, what was the best mixer to have with each of the infused spirits? Luckily the bartender was able to help out and I sampled the honey and ginger with soda water, cinnamon with apple juice and lime, and vanilla with ginger ale and lime.  Sadly I didn’t get a chance to try the chilli vodka, I’d be very curious to know what they suggest with that, but I’m sure I’ll get a chance again soon.

Of the three the honey and ginger with soda water was my least favorite. I don’t know whether there was too much ice or soda water was the wrong choice or the infusion wasn’t quite right because it was a bit meh. While it was easy to drink, as the soda water mellowed out the alcohol, it just lacked a bit of punch. I was expecting some big ginger flavor as well and it just didn’t happen.

(L) Honey and Ginger Infused Vodka with Soda Water (R) Cinnamon Infused Vodka with Apple Juice and Lime

(L) Honey and Ginger Infused Vodka with Soda Water (R) Cinnamon Infused Vodka with Apple Juice and Lime

The vanilla with ginger ale and lime seemed like an odd mix at first, but actually worked quite well. The mix of the vanilla and ginger ale was very smooth. You ended up with a strong and long lasting vanilla aftertaste which is what I was hoping you’d get with the honey and ginger.

(L) Cinnamon Infused Vodka With Apple Juice and Lime. (R) Vanilla Infused Vodka With Ginger Ale and Lime

(L) Cinnamon Infused Vodka With Apple Juice and Lime. (R) Vanilla Infused Vodka With Ginger Ale and Lime

The best mix though was the cinnamon with apple juice and lime. It was literally like taking a big bite of apple pie. Sweet, sweet alcoholic apple pie. The flavors combined so well together and the spice flavor of the cinnamon was strong but not overpowering. I tip my hat to the bartender for an excellent recommendation on that one. I think I’ll be buying some vodka, cinnamon sticks and apple juice very shortly so I can enjoy some more of that at home.

 

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