The Dry Martini Recipe

I’m Listening To: So Many Have Told Me by The Duprees (1964)


There are just *so many* ways to make a damn Martini, aren’t there? And I just mean the standard gin type, not vodka or any of the endless ‘-tini’ variations that aren’t really proper Martinis at all. It’s utterly amazing that such a simple cocktail, with only two real ingredients, could produce so much disagreement in the way it should be prepared. In this article, I’ll try and come up with a  consensus on what I think the ‘best’ way to make a dry Martini is. But at the end of the day, it’s just my opinion – and as I say, a million other Martini makers out there have another million different ways!

The Gin

I’ve already touched on good Martini gins in my previous article on the Vesper, but I’ll elaborate a bit further here.

I’m currently enjoying Hendrick’s gin in a martini.


The Ingredients


The Dry Martini Recipe

The Cocktail Archaeologist #1: The Olympic Cocktail


Welcome to the first edition of the Cocktail Archaeologist – where I dig up and review some largely forgotten cocktail recipes, and let you know how to make them yourself.

After posting my Caipirinha recipe for the start of the Rio games the other week, I’m continuing the Olympic theme with the appropriately named Olympic Cocktail.

Pulled from the pages of Harry Craddock’s venerable Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), I’ve reproduced the original recipe below (my modern ingredient suggestions are featured beside the recipe in [square brackets])

The Recipe

1oz/30ml Brandy [or Cognac]

1oz/30ml Freshly squeezed orange juice

1oz/30ml Curacao [or orange liqueur such as Triple Sec/Cointreau or Grand Marnier]

As featured in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930)


1. Fill a cocktail shaker/mixing glass with good quality cubed ice.

2. Add the brandy/cognac, curaçao/orange liqueur , and freshly squeezed orange juice. Stir for around 30-40 seconds, until the mixture is properly cooled.

3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin slice of orange peel, or leave ungarnished.

The Review

The drink does take on an aesthetically pleasing bronze colour – which presumably led to its being called the Olympic cocktail. I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to represent gold, but the colour is a little too rusty for me to really think that.

The taste is a little too overly floral for my liking. I’m not the biggest brandy fan to begin with (thus making me a poor choice to give this drink an unbiased review, really), and the cognac flavour rather overpowered the drink. Combined with the Grand Marnier essences, this gave the resulting concoction the taste of vermouth that’s been left open to the air a little too long.

A more modern update of the drink that I found called for a dash of lemon juice along with the above ingredients. This may be a variation worth trying, as I think the lemon juice may slightly curb the floral taste, and introduce some welcome tartness – while also making the drink a more Olympics-appropriate gold colour rather than bronze!

Overall, I feel that the Olympic is perhaps a good example of a classic cocktail that (whilst it may have worked very well in the 20s and 30s) doesn’t really carry over well to modern palates. Unless, of course, you’re a big lover of brandy.

The Verdict

An interesting experiment, but not to my taste. Unless you’re a big brandy fan, give it a miss – stick to the Caipirinha’s for your Rio Olympics cocktails.


The Tom Collins Recipe

I’m Listening To: Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks (1966)


When the rarely seen warm summer’s day rolls around here in Newcastle, most reach for a bottle of ice-cold beer. I, however, think of a Tom Collins. It’s like alcoholic lemonade, and is (in my opinion) by far the most refreshing cocktail for a sunny day. So, as the “summer” (I use the term loosely) of 2016 winds to a close in the next few days, here’s my recipe for a classic Tom Collins. Try and enjoy it in the sun while you still can!

The cocktail itself is an old one, dating from the 19th century. Thus the most appropriate gin to use is the equally 19th century Old Tom Gin. This particular variety was widespread in the 1800s, but has almost entirely been replaced by the ubiquitous London Dry Gin. The resurgence of the cocktail culture, however, has seen something of a revival of the Old Tom variety – largely due to its usefulness in making cocktails such as the Tom Collins (which is more than likely named after it). In comparison to the modern London Dry Gin, Old Tom is sweeter and a little more accessible, and thus more suited to the Tom Collins. Good brands of Old Tom to try include Hayman’s or Poetic License (both available at Fenwick wine store for those in Newcastle). Other suggestions:Jensen’s or Tanqueray.

If you can’t get your hands on some Old Tom, or simply prefer a drier Tom Collins, I don’t think you can beat Beefeater. Feel free to experiment and try different brands, until you find the one that works best for you!

Per the soda water – unlike with a Gin and Tonic, I don’t think it’s really worth seeking out any premium soda waters, as it doesn’t contain the same botanicals. This means there really isn’t a lot of difference, so just stick with Schweppes. Fever Tree do produce a premium Club Soda (as seen on The Whisky Exchange) –  but I haven’t tried it, and so can’t comment! Try and pick up soda water in small individual cans or bottles, rather than a single large bottle. This will ensure that the soda is fresh and fizzy for every drink you make. Schweppes used to have a pack of small cans widely available, but it unfortunately seems to have disappeared lately.

The traditional recipe for a Tom Collins calls for it to be ‘built’ (made) in the glass in which is it served. I like to divide it into two stages, in order to ensure the proper mixing, chilling, and dilution of the non-soda ingredients. However, feel free to just mix it all together in the one glass before topping with soda water – that is the original recipe, and also easier!

The Ingredients


2oz/50ml Gin (preferably Old Tom, but this is dependant on taste)

0.75oz/25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately one half of an average-sized lemon)

0.5oz/15ml sugar syrup

Soda water (fresh and chilled), to top up

Ice (cubed, good quality)

Lemon peel or cocktail cherry to garnish

The Method


1. Fill a cocktail shaker/mixing glass with a few ice cubes. Add the gin and sugar syrup, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir for around 30 seconds, until the mixture feels nicely chilled. Make sure not to dilute too much ice!


2. Fill a Collins glass with more cubed ice, and strain the mixture from the shaker/mixing glass into it.


3. Top up with soda water. Stir like I described in my Gin and Tonic recipe – try rapidly twirling the spoon while moving it up and down in the glass. This ensures proper effervescence and mixing of the different parts!

4. Garnish with either a large, thin slice of lemon peel or a cocktail cherry (preferably a maraschino cherry).


5. Relax.

The Tom Collins Recipe

The Sweet-Dry Manhattan Recipe

I’m Listening To: Manhattan by Ella Fitzgerald (1956) – naturally.


To my mind, no cocktail better represents the culture of 19th and early 20th century New York than the Manhattan. The mingling of bold American rye and classy Italian vemouth is a perfect metaphor for the melting pot of immigrants and natives that the most populous New York isle became, along with the beauty (architectural, cultural, and otherwise) that arose from it. In the troubling times of recent months, perhaps we should take inspiration from what can really be accomplished when different cultures mix together in harmony. With that in mind, here’s my recipe for my favourite Manhattan variation, the sweet-dry Manhattan.

I say my favourite variation, as the Manhattan is probably the traditional cocktail with the largest number of different permutations. The standard Manhattan is made with a ratio of whisky to sweet vermouth of approximately 2:1. A ‘dry’ Manhattan substitutes the sweet vermouth for dry vermouth, while a ‘perfect’ Manhattan is made of equal parts sweet to dry vermouth.

I’ve elected on the name ‘sweet-dry’ for this variation, as while it still uses sweet rather than dry vermouth, the ratio of vermouth to whiskey is closer to that of a dry Martini. The use of ‘dry’ to mean dry vermouth (with a Manhattan) and ‘dry’ to also not much vermouth (with a Martini) is a confusing distinction, so be careful when ordering a Manhattan at a bar and ensure that  you’re getting what you want!

The sweet-dry (and indeed, any) Manhattan is made up of the three following principal ingredients:

The Whiskey

I’m an advocate of making the drink with the original intended spirit – rye whiskey. To me, nothing else really compares for depth and texture of flavour in a Manhattan. Sadly, Rye isn’t the easiest or cheapest thing to get hold of in the UK (though the situation is greatly improving recently – Fenwick stock both Bulleit and Few Rye, but both are a little pricey), so why not follow the example of Prohibition-era Americans when they didn’t have any Rye, and swap it Canadian whisky? Canadian Club is a good Rye substitute, and be grabbed for a decent price at Fenwick and Sainsbury’s (and quite possibly elsewhere). If you can’t get either of these, or don’t find them to your taste, the other option is to use a rye-heavy bourbon. This means looking for things like Few Bourbon, Wild Turkey, Bulleit Bourbon, or TinCup. These are all great bourbons, and Wild Turkey, Bulleit, and TinCup are widely available – and while your Manhattan won’t be the most authentic, it will still be damn tasty.

The Vermouth

As for the vermouth, I’ve always preferred French rather than Italian in both my Martinis and Manhattans. While not sticking to the original recipe entirely (I know, I’m a hypocrite to insist on rye and then alter this…), French vermouth is more to my tastes. As with most things in cocktail making, it’s really a case of bending the ingredients to your own personal tastes.

If you want to go Italian, finding a great vermouth can be a little more challenging – Martini Rosso simply won’t cut it if you want to make this thing properly. Antica Formula is a great choice when buying a whole bottle. For those in Newcastle, Fenwick Wine Store stock small bottles of it at a good price. For people further afield, head to The Whisky Exchange.

The Bitters

The original recipe calls for Angostura Bitters, and these are still probably the most accessible, and best place to start when making your Manhattan. If you want to change things up and experiment, Bob’s Abbotts Bitters and Jack Rudy’s Bitters both work exceptionally well in a sweet-dry Manhattan.


The Ingredients


2oz/50ml Rye Whiskey, Canadian Club, or rye-heavy Bourbon

Sweet (Red) Vermouth

Four of five dashes of bitters (Bob’s Abbotts Bitters or Jack Rudy’s Bitters are particularly recommended)

A cocktail cherry or slice of orange peel to garnish

A handful of good quality, purified ice cubes (mineral or filtered water!)


The Method


1. Stick your cocktail glass into the fridge to properly chill it before serving.


2. Fill your cocktail shaker/mixing glass with the ice cubes. Add the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.

3. Stir until the exterior of the shaker/mixing glass feels nice and cool, and the ice has slightly melted. Some recipes call for as little as 30 seconds of stirring – I prefer closer to a minute to 90 seconds to ensure the drink is entirely chilled. Just make sure that the ice doesn’t melt too much and overly dilute the drink! Stirring a Manhattan can end up being a very fine line between the perfect mix and a drink that’s diluted and ruined, and it’s really all a case of both practice and discovering your personal taste.

4. Take your cocktail glass from the fridge, and strain the cocktail mixture into the glass.


5. Garnish with either a cocktail cherry or a slice of orange peel. Jack Rudy’s produce (along with many other fine things) some decadent bourbon-soaked cocktail cherries that work excellently in a Manhattan (along with an Old Fashioned, or even to give a bit of bite to a Tom Collins). Like the Antica Formula, these can be grabbed from Fenwick Wine Store in Toon, or The Whisky Exchange.


6. Savour. A Manhattan is a great choice to enjoy on a contemplative summer evening.

The Sweet-Dry Manhattan Recipe

Bond Cocktails: The Vesper Recipe

I’m Listening To: The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield (1967)


Welcome to my new semi-regular feature on the various cocktails that have been imbibed by both the cinematic and literary incarnations of the world’s most famous alcoholic: James Bond. And what better place to start than the propriety Bond cocktail, the Vesper? The creation of Ian Fleming and Ivar Bryce, the Vesper tastes perhaps surprisingly good considering its ingredients. Though, with Fleming being a noted drinker himself, he no doubt refined and perfected the recipe himself…

“I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

James Bond, Casino Royale (1953)

James Bond thankfully did not get round to patenting the Vesper. Presumably international espionage/raging sex, alcohol, and gambling addictions/crashing his DB5 into a wall like that one scene in Goldfinger got in the way. Either way, the drink (along with poker and tying ) saw a surge in popularity after the release of the film adaptation of Casino Royale in 2006. It’s never really left after that, and I’m pleased to see it becoming a cocktail menu mainstay again in recent years  – particularly whenever a new Bond film is released. I got utterly pissed on about six or seven Vespers while at the cinema watching Spectre, and still have genuinely no idea what happened for a good half of that movie.

However, I’ve seen all kinds of abominations of this thing in bars – generally substituting the three measures of gin for two, in order to make the drink cheaper and more appealing to a mass drinking audience. I’ve also seen it called a ‘Vespa’, and have no idea what that is all about. The following recipe shows how to make the Vesper properly, as Fleming intended. I say Fleming quite deliberately, as the original ‘Vesper’ was apparently a reference to the canonical hour of the same name – the ‘violet hour’ – rather than to the literary character. Fleming was served this original cocktail, a drink consisting of frozen rum with fruit and herbs which sounds similar to the modern frozen Daiquiri, by an elderly couple in Jamaica (where Fleming lived and wrote at his estate, Goldeneye).

Do not be fooled into thinking that it is easy drinking – it is every bit as unforgiving to a novice drinker as its ingredients list would suggest! I once went to a James Bond-themed film quiz, and the ‘hard lads’ who turned up in costume in Daniel Craig-esque Casino Royale tiny swimming trunks (in Newcastle…in the middle of November) couldn’t even handle a few sips of the Vespers they ordered. Be warned.

The real trick to ensure potability of the Vesper is to make sure that it is well shaken, to ensure proper dilution of the ice – this keeps the drink from tasting overpoweringly alcoholic.

The Gin

Basically, your Vesper should contain a high-quality, (preferably) high-proof gin. The gin makes up the majority of this cocktail – and so while it should be potent, it shouldn’t overpower the entire drink. For this reason, I would advise avoiding any excessively floral gins (such as Bombay Sapphire, Brooklyn Gin, or Botanist for example). Go with something clear-tasting and smooth – my personal favourite choices for the gin are Beefeater 24, Tanqueray Ten, Broker’s, and Portobello Road. All of these are incidentally also excellent choices for a standard dry martini!

The Vodka

A 100-proof vodka (such as export-strength Smirnoff Blue) is the standard go-to choice for those wishing to emulate the OTT alcoholism of Fleming’s late 50s Bond. Personally, I prefer something a bit more approachable. You can never really go wrong with Stolichnaya, which is pound-for-pound one of the best vodkas out there. If you want to be a bit more extravagant, go for Belvedere. Just try and steer clear of Smirnoff Red Label and similar. I don’t care if Pierce Brosnan drank it in Tomorrow Never Dies – that film. The 90s was a dearth of taste in general, it seems. And I shouldn’t have to tell you at this point to not use any of the jet fuel that masquerades as supermarket own-brand vodka these days. Just don’t do it.

For bonus Fleming points, though, go with Chase Vodka. This is one of the few decent-quality vodkas on the market these days made with potatoes rather than grain – which is what the vodka in Bond’s Vesper was made from (‘…but if you can get vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better’). The overall feel of the vodka is a bit greasier than a standard grain vodka, but the flavour is certainly an interesting change from the norm.

The Rest

To call the third ingredient in this drink “the rest” is perhaps being a bit derisory, as it is essentially its flavour that should give the Vesper its distinctive “bitter aftertaste” as the drinks’ namesake Vesper Lynd put it in the cinematic Casino Royale.

While a simple, high quality dry French vermouth (such as Noilly Prat or Dolin) can work in a pinch, the resulting drink tastes too clean and smooth. While this is an appealing drink in itself due to its drinkability, it isn’t really the taste of a true Vesper. Perhaps a Vesper made with vermouth should be classed as a whole new cocktail entirely – a ‘The Bitch is Dead’, perhaps?

Your two real choices are Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano. Lillet sadly discontinued the Kina Lillet specified by Bond some years ago, and Lillet Blanc isn’t quite as appealingly bitter as the original. If using Lillet Blanc, make sure you add a few drops of bitters to the mix in order to recreate some of that original flavour (Boker’s Bitters are my personal recommendation, though simple Angostura Bitters will suffice).

Those lucky few who have managed to taste Lillet Blanc, however, insist that Cocchi Americano is the closest like-for-like replacement available on the market today. I’d advise tracking this down if you can find it (The Whisky Exchange currently stock it for those in Europe) – the authenticity that it affords the drink simply can’t be replicated otherwise.

The Ingredients


3oz/90ml Gin

1oz/30ml Vodka

1/2 oz/15ml Lillet Blanc* OR 1/2 oz/15ml Cocchi Americano

Ice (good quality, cubed)

*If using Lillet Blanc, add two dashes of bitters to recreate the bitter taste of the original

The Method

1) Fill your cocktail shaker with good quality ice


2) Add the gin, vodka, and fortified wine


3) Shake well until the exterior of the cocktail shaker has begun to freeze (if using a metal shaker) or until the drink feels adequately chilled (if using a Boston shaker)


4) Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe (or champagne glass, for full Fleming authenticity)

5) Cut a large, thin slice of lemon peel and express (twist) it over the drink, before dropping it into the glass.

6) Make Mads Mikkelsen cry by beating him at poker. Who wears a black shirt with a tuxedo, anyway? He was asking for it.

Bond Cocktails: The Vesper Recipe

The Perfect Gin & Tonic Recipe

I’m Listening To: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones (1969)


A great poet once said: “That’s a mighty good gin and tonic. You should mix me up another”. Or maybe it was the Star Wars Gangsta Rap. Either way – today I’m going to let you in on how a perfect gin and tonic should be done, just the way R2 makes them.

Now I know that to profess to have created a ‘perfect’ gin and tonic is a bold claim, and one that I can’t frankly back up. However, I’ve never made a bad one with this method – and for such a ridiculously simple drink, I’ve seen them ballsed up *a lot*. The most frequent offender is the unstirred G&T, which treats the drinker to an utterly bland experience for the first two thirds before they hit a brick wall of overpowering gin flavour.

First things first, serve it in a Collins (‘hi-ball’/‘tumbler’) glass. There’s a trend right now to serve gin and tonic in a large balloon glass, but really these should be reserved for Spanish-style G&Ts, if used at all. There the larger size makes sense there in accommodating the wedges of fresh citrus etc – but when dealing with a simple British G&T, such a large glass seems unwieldy and overly fussy.

Which gin should you use? Well, at a later date I’m going to create a comprehensive list of which gins work best at creating certain flavours or styles of G&T. For now though, as ever, I’d advise adjusting to palate. If you enjoy the taste of a particular gin then chances are you’ll enjoy it in a gin and tonic – it is very much the primary ingredient after all. I’m much more a fan of smooth gins rather than overly flowery or botanical varieties, but if you prefer that kind then feel free to go with them. I honestly haven’t come across a variety of gin yet that simply didn’t work in a gin and tonic at all!

And finally, which tonic? There are many different types of tonic water floating around now, particularly flavoured varieties. I’d advise sticking to plain tonic water to start with – experimentation is great, but a flavoured tonic (as one would expect) can completely alter the palate of the drink. Just because a certain gin works very well with a plain tonic doesn’t mean that it will work just as well with Elderflower tonic, for example! Basically, just try and use a high-quality brand – I can wholeheartedly recommend Fentiman’s, Fevertree, and Franklin & Sons.

And for the record, there is generally very little difference in flavour between the same brand’s regular and slim version of tonic (the slim version usually simply substitutes sugar for fructose, while keeping the same botanicals). So if you’re on a diet, or just want to regulate your sugar and calorie intake, feel free to go with the slim version!

Also, I’d strongly suggest going with small bottles or cans of tonic water (generally available in most supermarkets, at around 150-200ml) rather than larger bottles, unless you drink a *lot* of them. This will ensure that the tonic water you use is always fresh and does not go flat. Oh, and try and always keep your tonic water chilled! This will help to stop it from melting the ice while mixing the drink and overly diluting it.

The Ingredients

1.5oz/45ml Gin (adjusted to taste, see above)

Tonic water (good quality, approx 100ml)

Ice (good quality, cubed)

Lemon peel

The Method


1) Fill your Collins glass with cubed ice. Add the gin.

2) Top up with tonic water. Slice a thin piece of lemon peel, express it over the glass, and drop it in,

3) Stir the drink with a bar spoon by putting it right to the bottom of the glass, holding the top of the spoon, and quickly rotating it back and forth on the spot. While continuing to rotate the spoon, lift it up and down through the glass. This will create a whirlpool-like effect in the glass, allowing the denser gin particles to effervesce right through the tonic, and creates a much more even flavour from the top to the bottom of the glass. Stir for around ten seconds, then serve.

4) Try and come up with a witty final line to your drinks recipe. Inevitably fail (as you’ve been drinking), and make yourself another gin and tonic.

A final tip: if you are using a small bottle of tonic that makes two drinks (for example, 200ml) and want to make another G&T to use the rest up, make this recipe ‘backwards’ – that is, put the tonic water in before the gin. That will ensure that you can alter the amount of gin you use to suit the amount of tonic water, and prevent you from making an overly strong G&T! And, yes, this is something I have learned from experience.


The Perfect Gin & Tonic Recipe

The Caipirinha Recipe

I’m Listening To: Aquarela Do Brasil by Frank Sinatra (1957)


The Rio Olympics are finally upon us! Has it really been four years since London 2012 already?! Best have a drink and try to forget that slow but steady march of time (tick tick tick). And what better drink than the national cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha (a rhetorical question, please don’t list them)?

No doubt you’ll be seeing these things everywhere at the moment – the same effect happened during the 2014 Brazil World Cup. While it;s traditional drink from the early twentieth century (containing lime juice, sugar, and cachaça – a sugarcane spirit similar to white rum), I’ve seen about as many different methods for making one as I’ve seen places serving them. However, mine sticks quite close to the traditional IBA approved version – if you’re going to make one of these things, at least make it properly! Certainly don’t add any soda water, or you’ve essentially made a less minty Mojito.

Speaking of Mojitos – I’ve often considered the Caipirinha a more ‘grown-up’ version of the Mojito, especially now that the Mojito has become ubiquitous in pubs, bars, and restaurants everywhere. While cachaça is made from fermented fresh sugarcane, white rum is generally made from refinery by-products like molasses, and so there is a difference. If you like a Mojito, do give this a try. It’s a bit stronger due to the lack of soda water, but it tastes incredible!

But which cachaça is best? While cachaça Ouro (Gold) is the more expensive, the more mass-produced cachaça Prato (Silver) is the best for a Caipirinha. Ypióca is probably the most widely available brand in the UK, though I use Sagatiba Pura. Other great makers, if you can find them, are Novo Fogo or Velho Barreiro. Just try and stay away from the equally rather widespread Cachaça 51!

I’ve seen recipes calling for both cubed ice and crushed. I prefer cubed ice (in all drinks, generally, as it tends to overly dilute things very quickly), but it’s basically a matter of taste.

And finally, I’d recommend sticking to cubed or granulated demerara sugar and sticking away from sugar syrup. The cachaça and lime juice are viscous enough as it is, and I find that sugar syrup makes the entire drink a bit too ‘gloopy’.

The Ingredients

2oz/60ml Cachaça Prato

1 lime, cut into four or eight wedges

Demerara sugar to taste (I recommend two or three cubes, but it largely depends on how sweet you like your drinks. Experiment!)

Ice (good quality cubes, or crushed)

The Method


1) Put your sugar cubes in the base of the glass. Cut the lime into between four or eight wedges, and pile on top of the sugar cubes.


2) Muddle the lime wedges and sugar cubes until as much juice is released as possible, and the sugar cubes are crushed and mostly dissolved.


3) Add the cachaça, and fill the glass with ice. Stir for around ten seconds to cool and dissolve any remaining sugar granules, then serve.


4) Hope that cachaça isn’t on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances (I’m not sure myself – they emailed me the list a while ago but I didn’t check the attachment).

The Caipirinha Recipe

The Quick Old Fashioned Recipe

I’m Listening To: Witchcraft by Frank Sinatra (1957)


“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”. So said Seth Brundle in Jurassic Park. I know, I know. The Old Fashioned is a drink designed to be made slow and enjoyed even more slowly. A drink to savour, a concoction that somehow manages to both warm dark winter nights and cool blazing summer days. It’s my personal favourite cocktail for all occasions (a dry gin martini is the only one which can really compete).

But sometimes, for whatever reason I find that I want one quickly. Because, let’s be honest, it does take a while to make (I’ve personally spent upwards of twenty minutes agonising over a single drink at times. I mean, it tasted excellent, but that’s besides the point). I know it’s pretty much cocktail heresy to shake one of these things, but I just can’t help myself. Rather than considering it an insult that I can’t be bothered to make an Old Fashioned the proper, laborious way, think of it as a compliment – the drink is so damn good that I simply can’t wait around for it.

This recipe does have a few caveats – while it does taste (perhaps surprisingly) fantastic, it will never fully recreate the taste or silky feel of a stirred Old Fashioned. I recently read an article in which Adam Stemmler of the Blind Tiger Cocktail Co. argued that shaking an Old Fashioned essentially ruins the drink, making it thin and frothy ( But this is a pretty good approximation of the ‘real thing’ for roughly two minutes of work – the bite of the whisky is still there, the smoothness and sweetness of the sugar, the kick of the bitters. While I would concede that this Old Fashioned does end up a little ‘thinner’ than the stirred version, it certainly doesn’t become aerated, frothy, or overly diluted if done properly. And it certainly has a depth of flavour to compete with any Old Fashioned you’d be able to make more slowly.

I may go more into the science of why this method works as well as it does at a later date, but for now I’ll just get to the magic…



The Ingredients

3oz/90ml good quality Bourbon or Rye whisky

3 demerara sugar cubes

Aromatic bitters (Angostura, Jerry Thomas, or Jack Rudy’s are particularly recommended)

Orange peel

Ice (good quality cubes)

The Method


1) Place the sugar cubes in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Cover them with three or four dashes of aromatic bitters. Muddle the cubes into a paste.


2) Add your whiskey and a large, thin slice of orange peel. Don’t add any ice at this stage. Cover the shaker and shake for roughly thirty seconds (just keep count in your head, it doesn’t have to be exact). Most of the sugar should be dissolved after this stage.


3) Remove the lid of the shaker, and allow the drink to settle for around a minute. This helps reduce the aeration and frothiness in the drink.


4) Add ice to your shaker to the level of the whisky, and stir for a further thirty seconds.


5) Strain into an old-fashioned tumbler filled with plenty more ice. Garnish with another thin slice of orange peel (expressed over the glass), and serve.

6) Be grateful that you can now enjoy an excellent Old Fashioned without having to wait for twenty minutes.

On a final note, I’m sure that I’ve read a recipe similar to this somewhere before and then tweaked it slightly – but after scouring all of my cocktail books as well as the internet, I couldn’t find any trace. If anyone knows anything about it so that I can give appropriate credit, I’d be much obliged to hear!

The Quick Old Fashioned Recipe

The One Where I Write A Review Of Hop & Cleaver


I’d call Hop and Cleaver a hidden gem, but I’d be lying. I first spotted their large advertising hoarding by chance while passing St Nicholas’ Cathedral in the height of last summer, and the promise of plentiful bourbon and chicken wings seemed too good to be true. Alas, I was passing far too quickly to note down the name of this magical promised land, and I was forced to go without my chicken and whisky fix. It wasn’t until a few months later, quite by chance, that I stumbled upon it. And I was damn glad that I did.

The joint is owned by the same group who control such as RedHouse, to which Hop and Cleaver is connected via labyrinthine medieval passages and alleyways – probably the coolest trip to the bathroom you’ll find in Newcastle. As with their other properties, the bar is targeted with a particular niche in mind: in this case, a whiskey bar combined with a dash of smokehouse restaurant. In this respect, Hop and Cleaver does not disappoint. Their menu boasts an enviable 50 different varieties of American and Canadian bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, rye, and blends, and their shelves appear stacked with an even larger selection of spirits. This selection ranges from your standard, Jim Beam-level offerings (though it is notable that they do not stock any variations of Jack Daniel’s other than the upmarket Single Barrel variety, opting instead for their vastly underappreciated rivals George Dickel for their standard Tennessee fix) to several truly top-notch whiskies, including the super-premium Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye – which was recently selected by Whisky Magazine as their American Whiskey of the Year, and runs at up to 400 quid for a bottle. So, not cheap. For non-Whiskey fans, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a huge range of craft beers and ales on offer. There’s even a slick-looking side room (The Tap Room) which is available for private hire.

Top_Hop & Cleaver_MainRoom

The cocktail selection is equally impressive, seemingly running the entire gamut of classic American whiskey cocktails, with a good range of their own creations too if you fancy trying something different. I usually elect my go-to choice of the classic Old Fashioned, which (when made by capable hands such as those found at the H&C) never disappoints. Hop and Cleaver mix it with. Top marks for the bartenders too, as this is the only place where I’ve been asked how I take my Old Fashioneds (strong, but very sweet if you’re taking notes). The next stop is generally a Whiskey Sour. A minor complaint here – I’m not sure why so many bars (in Newcastle, especially) are electing to serve their Sours with crushed ice rather than cubed. The final effect is something feeling like an alcoholic lemon slushy, which ends up being nowhere near as pleasant as it sounds. I can only assume that this is related to the more modern Amaretto and Midori sours rather than the more traditional Whiskey variety (traditionally served straight up) – though I have noticed several cocktail guides advocating the crushed ice Whiskey Sour. Perhaps I should start a petition. Anyway, a final nod has to be given to their build-your-own Manhattan, which is one of the best ideas I’ve ever come across. Pick your whiskey (Jim Beam Rye, please), your garnish, your bitters etc. Genuinely brilliant. For non-whiskey lovers a selection of other drinks are available, most notably the hard-shake cocktails available in Mojito and Daiquiri varieties, amongst others.

As Hop and Cleaver puts such stock in their smokehouse offerings, it would be unfair to not briefly comment on the food in this (admittedly cocktail-based) review. I’ll admit that the bar’s sheer unabashed popularity means that I haven’t been able to sample the cuisine as often as I’d like – getting a table on the fly over the weekend, and even on some weeknights, is impossible. So book in advance! However, I can only speak incredibly highly of their offerings, with a particular shoutout to the BBQ chicken wings. I’ll often pair that with the half-roast chicken in BBQ catsup for an extravagant chicken feast. One day I’ll try that Tomahawk steak…one day.

Rating: The Sazerac Rye of whiskey bars.

Follow them on Twitter @hopandcleaver, and find them online at Or even better, pay them a visit down on the Newcastle Quayside at 40 Sandhill. Give them a call on 0191 261 1037 to book a table for food – a must if you’re eating on a busy night, or during Restaurant Week!

The One Where I Write A Review Of Hop & Cleaver

Pleased to Meet You? You Should Be.


Pleased to Meet You is one of my favourite places to head to in the middle of the day for a drink in town. It’s never that quiet (for a place at, say, 2pm on a Wednesday), but you can usually always get a good table. Excellent drinks, brilliant food, proper music, and great place to sit and contemplate the world. Of course, it’s just as excellent at night. Come for the gin, stay for the Martini Lunch (albeit two, not three), get a taxi home at 1AM. Excellent.

I’d like to think that I’m one of PTMY’s longest standing customers, having first visited a few days after they first opened. I have fond memories of that being the last time my friend and I were able to get a seat at the bat without any issues. Yes, PTMY is now perpetually rammed whatever day of the week you visit. Hopefully their new extension – comprising a fancy-looking outdoor terrace, basement colonial cocktail bar, and more – will go some way to alleviating the crush, but you can’t be too harsh on the people of Newcastle for having good taste. Because PTMY is genuinely one of the best cocktail bars in the city – brilliant décor, great staff, good drinks. The selection of gins alone is frankly ridiculous (I maintain that one day I may get through them all), but for those who aren’t such a fan of gin they offer a great selection of other drinks as well; ranging from guest ales to an enviable selection of whiskies and bourbons (any place that stocks Tin Cup is fine by me). Until recently I had a bit of a bugbear with the cocktail list, though I’m a big fan of their new Aviation-ful Spring/Summer menu. If you chaps could only find some way to include an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac on there for us whisky lovers, it may be perfect. Though I do have to give good marks for the staff, who never seem to have an issue with preparing me an Old Fashioned off the menu.


As mentioned it’s a perpetual haunt for me for lunch, and the food is never anything less than spectacular. Try the jumbo fish and thrice-cooked chips, which really isn’t false advertising, Seriously, it’s like they raided the set of Jaws for those things. Consistently some of the best cooked fish-and-chips in town. Their ribeye steak has also always been a perennial favourite, though there are plenty of good vegetarian options on there too. With Newcastle’s ever-popular Restaurant Week coming around again, it’s not like you even need an excuse for sampling their delicious grub.

Rating: A perfectly-stirred gin martini.

PTMY is easily one of the most popular places in town, so I doubt any of what you just read is news to you. But do them a visit in town if you haven’t already on High Bridge (NE1 1EW), or online (I hear that’s the big thing these days) at or @ptmynewcastle. They take table bookings for food during the week – give them a call on 0191 340 5137.

Pleased to Meet You? You Should Be.