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Weekend Cocktail – Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre

Another nice and easy cocktail just in time for the weekend, but don’t let the simple ingredients fool you as this is more than just a humble rum and coke – the addition of fresh lime juice gives a balance that makes this an easy drinking cocktail perfect in warmer weather. The balance in this case is achieved through the combination of sweet:sour ingredients, with the sweetness coming from the sugar in the Coca Cola and the sour from the citric acid in the lime juice.

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A little History

The Cuba Libre, as the name suggests, originated in Cuba sometime around 1900 when Coca Cola was first introduced to the island. The name is thought to be based on a battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during their war of Independence in 1898, and was called out in recognition of their newly found independence during some heavy drinking sessions.

 

Making the Cuba Libre

 

Cuba Libre Ingredients

You will need

  • Collins/Highball glass
  • 50ml Rum (preferably Cuban)
  • 1 lime (preferably ripe)
  • Coca Cola

 

Mixing Method

Take your highball and use your measure to pour in 50ml Cuban rum (I’ve used Havana Club as it’s actually Cuban but if you’re from the USA then this isn’t going to be available – light Cruzan or Bacardi will do).

 

Next, cut your lime in half and use a citrus press to squeeze 15ml lime juice (you can use your measure again to ensure you get the right amount.

 

Fill your glass with cubed ice – nice big ice cubes are best as they will melt slower than smaller ones. Make sure to get as much ice in the glass as you can – more ice will allow the drink to cool faster and also stops us from pouring too much Coke.

 

Rum, lime and ice in the glass means it’s time for the Coke. Fill the glass with Coke to the top, but leave a small amount of room so that you can actually pick the glass up and move it around without spilling your cocktail.

 

Finish the Cuba Libre by cutting a nice wedge of lime and dropping it into the glass, and feel free to add a straw if you feel like it.

 

Cuba Libre, ready to drink

 

Done!

 

Variations to Try

Since you already have the ingredients a good little experiment is to make a Rum and Coke (Cuba Libra without fresh lime) and try the two drinks next to each other. What you should notice is that the addition of the sour citric acid from the lime juice in the Cuba Libra has offset the sweetness of the Coca Cola and helped even out the flavour, or balance, when compared to the rum and Coke.

 

The next easy variation to try is changing up the rum. Cuban rums tend to be very light in style so if you swap it out for something darker (Mount Gay, Appletons or even darker with something like Goslings Black Seal) you’re going to end up with a heavier, ‘richer’ flavour. You could also try using a spiced rum (Sailor Jerrys, Kraken, Captain Morgan’s Spiced), depending on which brand you use you can get some strong vanilla, citrus and cinnamon style flavours coming through.

 

Let me know what combinations you try and how they work out by leaving a comment below or posting on the facebook page.

 

/David

Sweet Manhattan

Weekend ready cocktails – the Sweet Manhattan

 

Sweet Manhattan

 

Sweet Manhattan

There has been a real resurgence in the bars for true classic cocktails in the past few years, helped in part to the general increase in bartenders knowledge, the rise of  speak easy style bars, and the popularity of cult shows and characters like Don Draper of the hit Mad Men. One of the true classics, and a favourite of many a bartender and customer the world over, is the Sweet Manhattan.

The cocktail (a mix of whiskey and vermouth) was invented sometime around the 1870s, as vermouth was seeing a rise in popularity as a bar ingredient, and is commonly credited to being first made at the Manhattan Club in New York (hence the name).  Very early recipes used an almost equal amount of whiskey to vermouth but over the years this has evolved and the modern cocktail tends to be a much more whiskey heavy drink.

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You will need

  • Cocktail glass or rocks/old fashioned glass
  • Rye whiskey (an American style of whiskey, you can sub with Bourbon if that’s what you have)
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Angostura Bitters

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Method

Chilling the glass

 

The particular taste of the Manhattan comes from the whiskey:vermouth ratio used when making the drink, so the proportions of each ingredient you use becomes very important. For this example we are going to go for a 5:2 ratio, meaning five parts whiskey to 2 parts vermouth (this is a reasonably classic ratio for a Manhattan).

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If you are going to serve your Manhattan ‘up’ ( in a cocktail glass), then the first step is to get your glass chilling. You can do this by putting your glass in the freezer (if you have space), or taking your glass and adding a couple of ice cubes and some water. This will let the glass cool down while we make our cocktail. This step is not as necessary if we are using a rocks glass as we will have ice in the rocks glass when we serve the cocktail.

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Mixing the cocktail

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Take your mixing glass (the glass that comes with your Boston shaker) and fill it with cubed ice. Measure in 50ml Rye whiskey, 20ml sweet (red) vermouth, and add two dashes of Angostura bitters.

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Stir the liquid in your mixing glass with your bar spoon; the aim is for us to cool the drink down and mix the ingredients, two jobs we should be able to do with around 30 seconds of nice even stirring. Try and stir smoothly around the side of your glass; you want the ice to move around quickly but gently.

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Once the ingredients are nicely mixed and the drink is cold, empty the ice and water from your cocktail glass (it should be getting cold now), and using your Hawthorne strainer, pour the Manhattan into the cocktail glass, making sure you don’t let any ice fall in.

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Garnish

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Last but not least, we can garnish the drink. A traditional garnish for a Sweet Manhattan is a maraschino cocktail cherry (the bright red cherries you can by in a syrup filled jar), or for a slightly different flavour, try an orange twist. To prepare an orange twist you’ll need to cut off a small strip of orange peel, about 1cm x 8cm long, avoiding as much of the bitter white pith on the back as possible.

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Once you have your twist, hold it over the top of your glass and squeeze the skin together – if you have done this correctly you’ll see a spray of orange oil fall on the top of your Manhattan, giving a nice subtle orange flavour to the drink. Now ‘twist’ the orange slice and drop it into your cocktail.

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(If this all seems a little complicated don’t worry – a lesson on garnishes will be up soon explain it all in much more detail!)

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Now it’s time to enjoy your Manhattan!

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Variations to Try

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The Sweet Manhattan has a few other direct family members: the Dry Manhattan, which you can make by substituting the sweet vermouth in the original recipe with dry vermouth, and the Perfect Manhattan, a cocktail made using both sweet and and dry vermouths.

An easy way to play with a Manhattan is to change the brand or amount of vermouth you use; instead of  5:2 ratio you could try 4:2 or 3:2, or you could try using a less common brand, perhaps something like Punt e Mas or Antica.

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You can also play around with the bitters; try increasing or decreasing the number of dashes of Angostura, or lose the Angostura altogether and try another style of bitters completely. There are now a huge range of bitters that could be used in its place, Orange Bitters (such as Reagans or Fee Brothers) or Peychard will give a different flavour to your cocktail

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Finally, you could try skipping the American Rye or Bourbon all together and use Scotch instead; doing this will give you a cocktail known as a Rob Roy.

 

As always, if you have any questions or feedback either leave a comment or contact me, otherwise

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Happy mixing!

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/ David

 

Recommended Products from Amazon for Manhattan Cocktail

Pikesville Rye

Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey 700ml

Regans' Orange Bitters

Regans’ Orange Bitters, 148 ml

Key ingredients for the Moscow Mule

Cocktail Recipes – Vodka – The Moscow Mule

Key ingredients for the Moscow Mule

 

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Moscow Mule

Time for the first drink recipe! And a quick and easy one to start, with the cocktail that helped truly bring vodka into bars in the USA for the first time, the Moscow Mule.

A bit of history

The Moscow Mule has been around since 1941, with its invention credited to John G Martin, of Heublein Brothers Inc (an American spirits distributor who had recently obtained the rights to Smirnoff Vodka), and Jack Morgan, who owned a popular bar in LA called the Cock ‘n’ Bull Tavern. The world of cocktails was a very different place in 1941, with the war in Europe raging on and prohibition in the USA only recently coming to an end. Vodka as a spirit was relativly unheard of in North American bars and distillers and distributers were looking for a way to help it break into this lucrative market. Time for Martin and Morgan.

Morgan had recently started making his own ginger beer and Martin was trying to get his Smirnoff brand into bars. Together the two came up with the vodka/ginger beer combo, making perfect use of each others products. In a great marketing move they named this drink the Moscow Mule and served it in a copper mug; Martin set off around the country promoting the cocktail (and thus, the main ingredient, Smirnoff), and low and behold, vodka had finally got its long awaited entry into American bars.

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Making the Moscow Mule

You will need:

  • Highball glass/ Collins glass
  • 50ml Vodka
  • 25ml fresh Lime juice/limes
  • Ginger Beer
  • Angustora bitters*
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Mixing method

Method: Build.

 

Take your highball glass and use your measure to pour in 50ml Vodka (the brand is unnecessary, although I’d avoid using anything you’ve paid a lot for as it will be lost in other ingredients). Next, grab your citrus press and squeeze in 25ml of fresh lime juice (the lime juice is key – it will add a necessary sour character to the drink).

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So far we have vodka and lime; if you were to taste the cocktail now it would be what we describe as unbalanced, in that the sweet:sour ratio would be off. Therefore, it’s time for the sweetener. Many cocktails we’ll make use a sugar syrup or liqueur to get the sweet component to the sweet:sour balance but for the Moscow Mule we’re going to get our sweetness from the sugar in the ginger beer instead.

So fill your highball with ice (as much as you can fit – the more ice you have, the colder the drink will be. It’ll melt slower as well!) and top up with your ginger beer. The quality of your ginger beer is going to have a big effect on the taste of the overall drink so try and avoid the bland store-brand varieties if you can – we want that nice, spicy kick from the ginger.

 

Garnish with a nice big lime wedge and a straw.

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Done!

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* Many bars will add Angustora bitters to a Moscow Mule, it certainly adds to the overall flavour of the cocktail so after you’ve made this first version try remaking the drink with a couple of dashes of  bitters and see which one you prefer (and now you have two drinks… for science!). Be careful not to add to much as aromatic bitters have a very strong taste, as with all ingredients, it’s better to add a small amount and then add more if necessary.

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Happy mixing,

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/David

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