Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Quick, Quick, Sloe

Cocktail recipes are everywhere, including supermarkets (keen to make a buck by selling you posh licquor). I picked up a leaflet from our local Waitrose and found a sloe gin cocktail called Blackthorn ripe for adaptation.

When seeking inspiration, I often walk the dogs in our nearby spinney, which this year has been abundant with hedgerow gems, none more so than sloe berries. So, this autumn, I made a batch of my own sloe gin. (Recipe for this to follow.)

So, here’s my version, using my own brew. Admittedly, my gin was a bit pale, but the flavour is great. I suspect I used slightly unripe berries in my eagerness.


1 measure sloe gin
2 measure martini rosso
dash of Angostura bitters
twist of lemon

Mix over ice and serve.

Try it with cranberry bitters for a festive twist. Confession - I reused the glog-infused lemon peel for the garnish. Soz.

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 13 December 2013

Legendary liqueurs

So many cocktails require a mix of lemon juice and a dash of Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec.

These orange liqueurs used to be a Christmas treat for the ‘ladies’ in the household. (My grandmother particularly liked Grand Marnier. A neighbour of hers always used to call it Grand Mariner and the name’s stuck.)

But they’re costly to bung in a cocktail. Even the poorer cousin, Triple Sec, is well over a tenner for a small bottle.

I’m currently working on The Golden Bell, book two of the Legends of the Liria series. It’s set in a Morenija, an Mediterranean-style city by the sea, famous for its citronelles, mystic orange trees that grow in every square.

So, when it comes to making a cocktail to celebrate its completion, I began to rummage for some unfussy orange liqueur recipes. To my delight, I found a fabulous website by a chap called Gunther dedicated to all manner of home-made liqueurs, and adapted one of the recipes. It’s simplicity itself, once you’ve mastered the knack of removing the pith from orange peel.

I’ve tried potato peelers, vegetable knives, even scissors for God’s sake. However, the best weapon for me is a grapefruit knife. I slice off the peel fairly roughly, lie it flat in strips and whisk off the pesky bitter white pith in no time at all.

Here’s the recipe for what might turn out to be a halfway decent Triple Sec. (Is that a Double Sec?) It’s a work in progress, so I’ll report back. It won’t be colourless, I suspect. Perhaps a pale, orange. We’ll see.

Six juicy oranges (to yield 480ml juice)
600ml alcohol (cheap schnapps is fine)
420g white sugar

Peel the zest from a couple of the oranges and squeeze the juice from all the oranges into a measuring cup and add water, if necessary, to bring juice to 480ml. Pour the juice, sugar and zest into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten more minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pour the cooled juice mixture and vodka into a Kilner jar, stir to combine and seal. Let steep three to four months before straining off the orange peel and sediment.

Thoughts. I might try brown sugar next time. Brandy instead of schnapps might result in a Grand Marnier-esque potion. I’ll report back.

I feel another trip to Ikea coming on. I need to stock up on Kilner jars.

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 29 November 2013

Eye of the Skython

A few years ago, Rob was invited to officiate a PhD viva in Tromso, Norway. Intrigued, I wangled my way along. I'd never been that far north before - and it was boggling.

I particularly loved the old museum on the harbour, with photos and artefacts relating to the mad explorers who sailed from Tromso to Spitsbergen. I have a sneaking feeling that Philip Pullman, author of the Dark Materials trilogy, visited the same place. Polar bears, northern lights, hot air balloons ... sound familiar?

Anyway, not to be outdone, I came up with my own adventure - Ice Trekker. Monsters, myths and mayhem. 

The first strange creature the young hero Mitch encounters is a skython.

What a good name for a cocktail! To celebrate the launch, I came up with this: The Eye of the Skython, in all its purple glory.

Teaspoon of crème de mûres (or cassis)
Teaspoon of blue curação
Sliver of black grape (for effect!)

Mix the two liqueurs until you have a concentrated purple. Top up with Prosecco and float the grape. Off you go.

Hope you enjoy it.
By Pamela Kelt

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Dark Interlude

Dark Interlude is a sepia-inspired cocktail I devised for the book, a historical adventure set in Scotland in the winter of 1918/1919. As its coming up to St Andrews Day, it seems appropriate.

It was a fascinating period, as the nation struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of war. Thousands of demobbed soldiers poured back, but there were few jobs to go round. Rationing was still in force and times were hard. In Glasgow, the dockworkers decided to vote for a shorter week so every man could have a job. The government didn't like this at all, fearing a Bolshevik uprising.

They nearly got one. They called it 'the revolution that never was'. There's more background on the companion website. You'll find the book on Amazon and Smashwords.

So, here we are: Dark Interlude, the cocktail. I did a video at the time. Just a bit of fun. Here's the link.

Half a measure of Scotch
Teaspoon of cassis
One measure of sweet red vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters
Dash cranberry bitters
Juice of half a lime
Juice of half a lemon.

Shake over ice. It's quite strong, so use plenty.

Did you know that when they first designed the label for Angostura bitters, they got the size wrong? However, they liked the effect of the over-wrapped bottle, so kept it as distinguishing feature.

I plan to make my own cranberry bitters shortly. Watch this space ...

Friday, 15 November 2013

Berlini: a new Aperol ‘martini'

Of course, the definition of a martini is a cocktail featuring gin and dry vermouth.

If you’ll forgive the expression, I’m going to twist the rules for a new creation, a Berlin-inspired martini, with Aperol. Rob (my husband and co-author) and I took a trip there for research, partly computational chemistry, partly for the sequel of Half Life. Our characters are sent on a tricky mission to the heart of the Nazi power base. So, off we went - and I made myself busy making mixology notes, too.

The darling of Italy, Aperol is now more widely available. It’s all over Berlin bars, too, its tangerine-coloured contents lighting up many a dark shelf. We tried it first in Venice, so it will be forever associated with luxury.

One part Aperol
One part gin
One part sweet white vermouth
Dash of grapefruit
Juice of half a lemon.
Orange for garnish. 

Shake over ice and add a twist of orange peel. The orange is a natural partner for the slightly bitter tang of Aperol.

I’m ambitious when it comes to garnishes, but ham-fisted. I have discovered a trick, however. I used my deadliest knife to peel large sections of orange peel, but there was still too much pith. Using an old-fashioned grapefruit knife, I cut this away, then abandoned dodgy blades altogether, reaching instead for a pair of scissors. I use scissors a lot in the kitchen, even when serving spaghetti!

I cut out an easy leaf shape, scoring the peel with the scissor tip to release the zest, and poured the cocktail over this.

Another tip: if you’re forever opening fruit juice cartons, freeze some of the juice in ice cube trays. I had a stash of grapefruit juice cubes in the bottom of the freezer, which was just as well, as I’d almost run out of ice.

Oh, I muddle through.

As Christmas approaches, I feel I might have some more Aperol moments.

Did you know, one of the flavours in the secret Italian recipe is rhubarb? Also, it’s not as strong as you might think from the taste: its alcohol content is only 11 per cent.

By Pamela Kelt

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Half Life: #2 Junkers 52

Half Life: cocktail #2 Junkers 52

This is a rather special little number which we’ve dubbed the Junkers 52.

We got to know ‘Iron Annie’ rather well because it was used as the basis for the most iconic seaplanes of the period.

Two measures of vodka
One measure of cloudberry liqueur
Half measure of triple sec
Juice of a lime.

To make:
Shake over ice and serve.

There is a passing mention of cloudberries in the book, so they were a key ingredient. In fact, they're quite fascinating.

Cloudberries, like cranberries, are rather good for you, thanks to their high vitamin C content. Nordic seafarers and the Inuit regard them as protection against scurvy. The benzoic acid content acts as a natural preservative.

It was also a popular herbal medicine in ancient Scandinavian lore. The tea from cloudberry leaves was used in to cure abdominal infections.

The cloudberry is also tough, being able withstand temperatures of below -40°C.

If I can find the berries for sale anywhere, I’m going to try my own version of the liqueur, based on the apricot recipe I put up recently. We bought our cloudberry liqueur at Helsinki airport, but it is available over the internet. Try looking up Lakkalikööri (‘Lakka’ means cloudberry in Finnish).

You can also buy the jam from a well-known Swedish homestyle store. If I’m ever brave enough, I’m going to try out a recipe I found for jam wine (as you can imagine, I am wary) and try this instead.

By Pamela Kelt

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Half Life: #1 Arctic Breeze

Half Life: cocktail #1 Arctic Breeze

Cocktail time. The bluest and the best. This is the Arctic Breeze, devised to celebrate Half Life, a film noir mystery thriller I co-wrote with my husband Rob (pictured below), inspired by a trip to Norway. Off we go.

One measure of vodka
One measure of dry martini
Half measure of triple sec
Juice of half a lemon
Half a teaspoon of blue curaçao.

Add to shaker. Add handful of ice. Shake and pour. It should come out a lovely, pale, polar blue. (If I were to use more blue curacao, it would make my tongue blue, which is a bit peculiar.) If you're being fancy, frost a glass. Here's how. Dab of lemon juice round the rim. Dip into caster sugar in a saucer and store in fridge. Cool.

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 8 November 2013

Tomorrow’s Anecdote

This was my first literary concoction, to celebrate my first release, retro mystery Tomorrow's Anecdote on Crooked Cat.

When the paperback arrived from Amazon, I felt the need to celebrate.

The book is semi-autobiographical, based on my heady days in the newsroom during the turbulent Thatcher years. Gin and lime helped - as it does the heroine in the book.

If I were feeling fancy, I’d suggest that Tomorrow’s Anecdote itself is a quirky blend of literary elements.

Part mystery, part thriller, part family saga, part romance.

So, I decided to come up with a Tomorrow’s Anecdote cocktail based on the protagonist’s penchant for a cheeky little gin and lime. So, in an online exclusive, here’s the totally original recipe that we came up with, amid much merriment.

Half measure each of: gin, dry white vermouth, sweet red vermouth, lime cordial, apricot brandy.

To make:
Use equal parts of all liquors. Shake over lots and lots of ice (three or four per person). Strain and serve.

If you hold it up to the light, it matches the pinkish hue on the cover of the book.

NB If it pains to you make cocktails with apricot brandy, which is rather expensive, it’s easy to make your own.

Recipe coming soon ...

The Cloud Pearl Blush - a variation

What a difference bitters can make.

I've always loved Angostura bitters, but recently I've been branching out. Have you tried cranberry bitters? They make a super Christmas present suggestion - especially if your partner is stuck for ideas for what to buy you.

Try this variation of The Cloud Pearl. It's surprisingly different in taste, with just a minor adjustment.

The Cloud Pearl Blush

One measure of gin
One measure of sweet vermouth (bianco)
One measure of dry vermouth
Dash of cranberry bitters
Ice (tonic water ice cubes and regular).
Make some tonic water ice cubes by pouring tonic water into the ice cube tray. 
    To make:
    Place liquor into a shaker and shake lightly with two or three ice cubes per person.
    Place tonic water ice cube into a classic wide cocktail glass.

    The cranberry bitters create this subtle pink shade and add a lovely fruity hint.

    The Cloud Pearl

    I love a cocktail with a gimmick.

    Here’s the recipe for The Cloud Pearl cocktail. It has a UV twist!

    One measure of gin
    One measure of sweet vermouth (bianco)
    One measure of dry vermouth
    Dash of Angostura bitters
    Make some tonic water ice cubes by pouring tonic water into an ice cube tray. You’ll also need to locate a source of UV light. I bought a cheap mini-torch on ebay. It also has an infra-red light, which I feel might feature in a future post. Blacklight bulbs are also easy to find - you might have one left over from Halloween ...

      To make:
      Place liquor into a shaker and shake lightly with two or three ice cubes per person.
      Drop a single tonic water ice cube into a classic wide cocktail glass.
      Dim the lights and switch on UV light as you pour the cocktail over the tonic water cube.

      The quinine in the tonic water glows lilac. It fizzles as it floats and looks amazing. The idea was to represent the 'cloud pearls' concept from the book, which are frozen hailstones flung to earth by angry weather gods.

      By Pamela Kelt

      Sunday, 3 November 2013



      It's fun to make wine. Bread. Yogurt. Pasta. But cocktails are my latest thing. 

      At cocktail hour (whenever that happens to be), we often chat over the day as I rustle up a little something.

      If you’re wondering about the title, whenever my father went on a golfing holiday to France, when asked what time it was, he always said: ‘Half-past Kronenburg.’ It was that kind of gents’ vacation. This is my small homage to the expression.