Friday, 3 October 2014

True Haven

To mark the launch of True Haven, a Regency-inspired fantasy adventure, it's time to dream up a Georgian-style cocktail.  

Of course, gin is the base (see Fancy a blue ruin?), so I felt that pineapple had to be the main fruit ingredient.

I recently visited Guy's Cliffe walled garden that is being restored, and I heard from the project botany supremo Barry Meatyard that pineapples were often just handed round - and not even eaten. Intrigued, I looked up more. Well!

Recipe first – then history.

Measure of gin
Two measures of pineapple juice
Dash of lime juice
Measure of dry vermouth
Twist of lime peel
Ice cubes

Shake over ice. I used cubes of frozen juice, as I tend not to get through a whole carton of pineapple juice.

For a drier version, use grapefruit juice and possible sweet white vermouth.

Back to the fascinating history of this exotic produce. Ships brought in preserved pineapples from Caribbean islands as expensive sweetmeats – pineapple chunks candied, glazed and packed in sugar. It seems that the actual whole fruit was even more costly and difficult to obtain. Wooden ship travel in the tropics was hot, humid and slow, and cargoes rotted before they could be landed.

Only the speediest ships and most fortuitous weather conditions could deliver ripe, wholesome pineapples to the confectionery shops of cities far away.

It was de rigueur to grace your dining table with a fresh pineapple, but as they were so hard to acquire, confectioners sometimes rented them to households by the day. Later, the same fruit was sold to other, more affluent clients who actually ate it.

This period was all about appearances. In larger, well-to-do homes, the dining room doors were kept closed to heighten suspense about what was on the other side. At the appointed moment, and with the maximum amount of pomp and drama, the doors were flung open to reveal the evening’s main event.

So, this odd fruit came to symbolise the hospitality of the social event itself; the image of the pineapple coming to express the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection.

Later, architects, artisans and craftsmen took it one. The wealthy would commission stone carvings, stating the hospitality (and wealth, no doubt) of a mansion with carved pineapples on its main gate posts.

Travel round any Georgian property, and you’ll find copper and brass pineapples in weather vanes; sculpted pineapples into door lintels; stencilled pineapples on walls and canvas mats; pineapple motifs woven into tablecloths, napkins, carpets and draperies; and cast pineapples into metal hot plates.

Such whimsical pineapple shapes led the way in food creations and general table decorations throughout the 1700 and 1800s. Pineapple-shaped cakes, pineapple-shaped gelatine moulds, candies pressed out like small pineapples, pineapples moulded of gum and sugar, pineapples made of creamed ice, biscuits cut like pineapples and pineapple shapes created by arrangements of other fruits. There were also ceramic bowls formed like pineapples, fruit and sweet trays incorporating pineapple designs, and pineapple pitchers, cups and even candelabras.

Come Christmas, I might have some fun freezing the outer casing and popping in a candle ... Why not? I can be as crazy as the Georgians.


PS Watch out for the non-alcoholic pineapple drink and a brief history of scurvy.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Sloe gin – basic recipe

’Tis the time to be picking sloes.

Sloes ripening in my local park in Kenilworth

 For any hedgerow fan, there are rich pickings – certainly in Warwickshire.

Basic recipe:
450g sloes
350g caster sugar (or granulated, but it takes longer)
750ml gin (or vodka)

If you don’t have such a sweet tooth, reduce the sugar to 250g. For a richer version, use brown sugar.

For those with patience, prick the sloes with a needle. I freeze them and break them up with a weight. Put them into sterilised Kilner jars – allow the fruit to come a third of the way up. Divide the sugar among them and top up with alcohol. Don’t waste a decent brand. You won’t be able to tell the difference.

Place the sealed jars somewhere cool and dark and leave for for 8-10 weeks, turning the bottle from time to time and shaking once a week.

Sloe gin has a fascinating history - see my forthcoming article. It all started when I was researching some typical 18th-century parlance for a book I was working on. True Haven is a regency YA fantasy set in the quirky land of Sulisia ... Here's the companion blog to find out more.

The book comes out in digital form on 3 October - available on Amazon and Crooked Cat! Who else?

By Pamela Kelt

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Love in the Cold War

This is cocktail #2 to mark the launch of Not With A Whimper, an original Cold War thriller.

The heart is easy to do. Just cut a maraschino cherry in two, then nip at the sides with a pair of kitchen scissors.

1 measure vodka
1 measure dry martini
1 measure apricot brandy
Dash cranberry bitters
Cocktail cherry

Shake the first three ingredients over ice, pour into a glass and drop in the cherry. If you add another ice cube, it makes it easier to dash in the bitters. Don't stir it right away and let them sink to the bottom. If you don’t have cranberry bitters, a few drops of grenadine or hibiscus juice would do, although it won’t look quite as dramatic.

By Pamela Kelt

Checkpoint Charlie

Today is a special occasion. It’s the launch of my late father’s original Cold War thriller, Not With A Whimper.

I was given his manuscripts some months ago, and as soon as I read the first few paragraphs, I was on a mission to get his first novel published. For the whole story, do pop along to a small website I put together in my father's memory: Peter A. W. Kelt.

Thanks to Crooked Cat, his novel is out today.

Set in Spain at the end of Franco’s reign, it’s a riveting tale of espionage and conspiracy, written in a tight, Chandleresque style.

So, here’s a cocktail on the Cold War theme: Checkpoint Charlie, as a reminder of the US, British, French and Soviet sectors.

1 measure Bourbon
1 measure Pimms
1 measure vodka
1 measure Chambord

Shake over ice. Take a seat and sip. Beware, it packs a punch.

By Pamela Kelt

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Cocktail Hour

To celebrate the launch of 'Crooked Cats' Tales', a veritable cocktail of short stories, I came up with this little beverage.

Inspired by my contribution, somewhat cheekily tagged 'Cocktail Hour', it's a 'stormier' version of a Sea Breeze, which can be a little bland.

1.5 measures vodka
1 measure cranberry juice
Juice of half a lime
Dash of cranberry bitters
Dash of tonic water

Shake everything bar the tonic water over ice and add a spritz of tonic water to taste.

The cocktail story (and the cocktail itself) were inspired by a visit to the Finnish archipelago, which was stunning. We were lucky enough to be be invited to stay in the guest house of a family who lived on a tiny island, 20 minutes from the mainland.

It was the epitome of serenity - in August. We were entranced by the colours of the ocean and wildlife (see more images on Pinterest). As a fan of Nordic Noir, it wasn't surprising when a dark little story popped into my head.

If you fancy some great holiday reading, do please join the Facebook launch of the anthology.

Cocktail Hour is the first on the list. Chin chin.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Lost Orchid

This pale pink concoction has a classy dusky hue. Forget all the other ‘pink’ drinks. This dessert cocktail is sheer sophistication.

It was inspired by The Lost Orchid, a botanical mystery set in the 1880s when orchidmania was rife ... 

1 measure of Chambord (or cassis)
1 measure of vodka
1 tiny dash of blueberry liqueur
a tiny dash of dark crème de cacao
1 measure single cream

To serve:
sugar crystals

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. To prepare the glass, moisten the rim with grenadine and place upside down on a saucer filled with granulated sugar (or other pink sugar crystals).

Different brands of liqueurs will produce different hues, so it might be worth experimenting with tiny measures in a clear glass. The crème de cacao, for instance, gives the drink a fantastic subtle edge, but too much of it will turn the mix beige. A posh beige, but beige nonetheless.

Whatever you do, DO NOT add grenadine. It will turn your cocktail the colour of blancmange.

By Pamela Kelt 

Available here:

Friday, 10 January 2014

Sweet Thang

Out of necessity, I converted a classic orange cocktail into a grapefruit surprise.

The ‘Sweet Patootie’, which blends gin with triple sec and orange juice is a nice enough cocktail. However, our house was an OJ-free zone. Time to improvise.


1 measure Cointreau or triple sec
1 measure gin
1 measure grapefruit juice
Dash of grenadine or hibiscus
Dash of orange bitters.

Shake over ice. Refrain from the grenadine or hibiscus if you don’t have a sweet tooth. I like it either way.

Regarding the name, I’m a little mystified. Literally, it’s US for sweet potato – and the colour matches, but only when made with grenadine. Otherwise, it’s a subtle yellow.


By Pamela Kelt 

If you add the grenadine after the fact, let it sink to the bottom, you can create a 'sunrise' effect.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Union member

This cocktail is a mystery. I found a post-it note in my cocktail bible with the name Union Member, with the following ingredients.

I can’t recall where I found it. I’m guessing it’s close to Union Jack, with sloe gin, more regular gin and grenadine.

It could be that if you use a really dark sloe gin, it comes out a shade of red worthy of a socialist flag. My home-made sloe gin is rather pale, so it's definitely more 'pinko' than truly communist.

So, whatever the origin, here it is:

1 measure sloe gin
1 measure dry vermouth
Dash angostura bitters

Shake over ice – and serve with a maraschino cherry if you’ve any left over from Christmas.

If anyone knows where this originated, I’d love to hear from you.

PS: Here's a sneak preview of the next batch of sloe gin I'm making, which is reminiscent of a murky pond at this stage. A month on, it's now mulberry-coloured, thanks to using brown sugar. We shall see ...