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The Quick & The Sloe
Not the name of a cocktail, that I know of at least, no, this is what you get when you start making your own fruit cordials to flavour the likes of vodka or cocktails and your own spirit infusions. And to forgive the pun, the former are quick to make and the latter are a little slower to produce.
First to the making of fruit cordials. Making your own fruit cordials will definitely make your cocktail or spirits offering part of your pub’s USP. This guide explains how easy they are to make, some flavour pairing ideas and serving suggestions.
Best of all you get the chance to increase your G.P. on both bar and food accounts.
- Wash and chop your chosen fresh fruit and/or fresh herbs
- Bring to the boil and continue to boil together with equal parts of caster sugar and water for 5 minutes (for a more intense taste leave for another minute)
- Strain off pulp and reserve
- Allow cordial to cool
- Decant cooled cordial to a sterilised bottle, ‘kilner-style’ for preference
- Keep refrigerated for up to three weeks.
Top Tip – use the reserved fruit pulp to garnish ice cream desserts or pop in the oven with a crumble topping and you’ve got one of your daily dessert specials sorted.
Which Fruit or Herbs To Use….
All berries – raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry, strawberry, gooseberry
Soft & hard fruits – rhubarb, apples, kiwi, melon, peaches and oranges (or other citrus fruit)
Spices & herbs – mint, rosemary, cinnamon, vanilla, chilli
Combinations to try – strawberry & mint, apple & cinnamon, blackberry & rosemary, cranberry & orange, rhubarb & ginger, lime & chilli, gooseberry & ginger
To get you started a traditional Elderflower cordial recipe:
About 25 elderflower heads
Pared zest of 4 unwaxed lemons, plus the juice
Shake the flowers to dislodge any insects but don’t bother washing them.
Strip the flowers from the stems with a fork and place in a bowl together with the lemon zest. Pour 1.5 litres of water over, cover and leave overnight.
Strain through muslin into a saucepan. Add the sugar and lemon juice, warm and stir to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour into sterilised bottles and seal. Dilute to taste when drinking, and keep in the fridge once opened.
Top Tip – turn sparkling wines or Prosecco into Kir Royals with a twist … using blackberry & rosemary fruit cordial. You’ll create an instant premium drink that you can charge for accordingly.
In all probability you won’t be able start your own distillery at your pub, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own flavoured spirits for a lot less than commercially produced infusions.
“The Cocktail Lovers” recommend the following: “citrus vodka, cucumber gin, cherry brandy, these are just a few of the aromatic homemade libations you can add to your drinks collection. They’re simple to make, give added ‘oomph’ to your cocktails and will definitely earn you bonus points in the clever clogs department.”
And when they say simple, they really do mean it.
“All you need is a base spirit – vodka is perfect due to its neutrality; go for something like Smirnoff, Russian Standard or Absolut – good, dependable brands which you can usually pick up on special offer. Then it’s the fun part: deciding on the flavour.
Vanilla is a good one to start with. Take 3-4 vanilla pods, split them down the middle lengthways and add to a sterilised kilner jar. Then pour in a whole bottle of vodka (trust us, it won’t go to waste), shake and store in a cool, dry place.
How long you’ll need to leave it depends on the pods, where you’ve stored the infusion and the temperature of the room, so check every few days for colour (it should be a nice deep amber – think cognac) and taste (you want to get the rich creaminess of the vanilla before it starts to impart any bitterness) giving it a gentle shake every now and again – about a week to ten days should do the trick.”
A favourite infusion of mine is gold tequila with chilli and lime; use a decent standard tequila such as Jose Cuervo, a level teaspoon of crushed chillis (straight from the jar) and the juice of one lime. This one doesn’t take too long, again depending on the strength of flavour and the temperature of the room you store it in, it shouldn’t take more than 3-5 days.
Top Tip – make a cucumber gin and use that with strawberry & mint cordial to make your pub’s special Turbo Pimms pitchers; or, add four shots of chilli tequila to a pitcher of lager to make your own chilli-beer.
More subtle twists for long drinks or mocktails
Gooseberry and ginger syrup
Unless you have had the foresight to grow your own, gooseberries have become an exotic fruit, the kind of thing you have to snap up when you see them. If you get lucky, use some to make this lightly spiced syrup. Gentleman James uses 500g/1lb 2oz of sugar, but I prefer a less sweet version. To turn it into a cocktail add a splash of dark rum.
650g/1lb 7oz gooseberries
300g/11oz caster sugar (or less)
7cm/3in piece of root ginger, thinly sliced
Mix the gooseberries and sugar as described, above. Macerate for two to three days.
Once the fruit is swimming in thick syrup, strain through a sieve. (The gooseberries left in the sieve can be simmered with a little water until soft and then used in a crumble filling, mixed with some Bramley apples.)
Bash the ginger with the bottom of a bottle or in a pestle and mortar.
Add to the syrup and leave to macerate, tasting every now and then. When you can taste the bite, but it is not overpowering the gooseberry, strain out the ginger.
Serve topped up with sparkling water and a wedge of lime.
Peach and rosemary syrup
Another of Gentleman James’s creations. You could use less sugar if you prefer here, too. Caster sugar will dissolve more quickly, though it doesn’t have the depth of flavour.
To turn this into a cocktail, add a measure of whisky.
500g/1lb 2oz ripe peaches
250g/9oz demerara sugar
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
Remove the stones from the peaches and mash with the sugar in a non-reactive bowl.
Cover and macerate for two to three days, stirring often so the sugar dissolves. Strain through a sieve (the toffee-like fruit is gorgeous added to Greek yogurt).
Add the rosemary and leave for another 24 hours, tasting every now and then. When the rosemary flavour is strong enough, strain off the syrup.
Serve with sparkling water, a sprig of rosemary and wedges of orange and lemon.
Rose, raspberry and peppercorn syrup
Raspberries take to cold maceration very well, giving up their ruby juice quickly. I experimented with various combinations – lime zest was delicious but overpowered the delicate raspberry, rose was gorgeously fragrant but lacked bite, mint good. In the end, rose with a hint of spicy pepper won the day. I add the peppercorns after straining, so I can use the leftover fruit in a crumble (banana, say), but you could add them at the beginning of the process if you prefer.
200g/7oz caster sugar
A teaspoonful of peppercorns, crushed
Mix the raspberries and sugar with a few drops of rosewater and leave to macerate for a couple of days, stirring occasionally.
When the sugar has dissolved, strain the syrup through a sieve and add the peppercorns. Leave to macerate for 24 hours, then strain.
Serve with sparkling water, a sprig of mint and a wedge of lime.
Juniper and tonic with angostura
A properly grown-up drink. The chief aromatic in gin is juniper, so scenting a bottle of tonic with juniper gives the fleeting illusion of a real G&T. And it tastes good too.
1 tsp juniper berries
1l bottle of tonic water
Twist of lime (optional)
Crush the juniper berries in a pestle and mortar. Add to the bottle of tonic and leave for half an hour or overnight.
Put a few drops of angostura in a glass and top up with the tonic pouring it through a tea strainer. Finish with a twist of lime if you like.
With thanks to Gentleman James’ website and blog (gentjames.com)