Sunday 29 January 2012


The Grey Goose Le Fizz, made using proper cocktail equipment

I'm very fond of cocktailing: the very act of ordering a Daiquiri or a Manhattan in a smart hotel bar makes me feel as if I am, despite all appearances to the contrary, a heady fizz of Jazz Age glamour and Bloomsbury loucheness. Every sip contains the promise of an evening at Jay Gatsby's or an invitation to Mrs Dalloway's Party.
You see, it's the myth of the cocktail, rather than the sum of its alcoholic parts, that's so incredibly potent: More than an amusing way to drink alcohol, a well-made cocktail is a sign that you recognise the possibility of a more sophisticated, less frantic world - at least until you slide inelegantly off your bar-stool having forgotten Dorothy Parker's maxim: 'I like to have a martini,/Two at the very most/Three and I'm under the table/Four and I'm under the host.'

Anyway, whilst cocktailing at Claridges or The Connaught is to Town what Bunburying is to the Country, it's the kind of treat one ought to reserve for when one really needs it, in the manner of a peculiarly expensive yet speedy rest-cure. But perfectly acceptable cocktails can, and should, be made at home too: I don't think I've ever managed the full F.Scott.F experience in my own kitchen, but there's something I rather like about making guests a pre-dinner cocktail rather than cracking open the usual bottle of champagne.

People talk a lot about the genius of the mixologist - I'm sure this is true when it comes to conjuring up a spectacularly novel molecular something like they do at Purl, but when you're simply after something with a little retro-elegance and a strong kick, you need neither skill nor a vast selection of arcane ingredients - if you have a decent gin, vodka, a white rum and a whisky or bourbon, some ice and something to measure the booze with, you're off to a good start. You don't need sugar syrup - caster sugar does perfectly well as long as you get it dissolved in the alcohol or citrus, if you're using it, and nor do you need special kit: I used to measure the alcohol in an old baby bottle and shake over ice in a (thoroughly cleaned) Dolmio jar, with a spare lid punched with holes for straining the liquid from the ice. However, although this approach scores ten out of ten for resourcefulness, it does rather ruin the Mad-Men effect - far better, as the marvellously knowledgeable and very kind Dan Priseman of Bitters and Twisted pointed out, to have the proper equipment.

Anyway, here are six classic cocktails everyone should be able to make without going further than Waitrose for the ingredients.

The Claridges Champagne Cocktail

Angostura Bitters
Remy Martin VSOP
Grand Marnier
Laurent Perrier
An orange

Put the sugarcube on a paper napkin or bit of kitchen roll before dropping the Bitters onto it - I find that if you lob the sugar in the glass first, it's all too easy to end up with a great, overpowering lug of Angostura. Drop it into a champagne flute and add 2 teaspoons of Remy Martin and one of Grand Marnier. Top up with Laurent Perrier (Claridges house champagne), and then pare a slice of orange peel over the glass so the oil adds a tiny hint of citrus.

Chez Trefusis, we don't usually run to Laurent Perrier and so I've most often made this with cheap champagne - the kind on offer at a supermarket, and an own-label brandy: it's not Claridges-perfection, but then nor is it thirteen quid a glass. I've also used Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, depending on what's in the cupboard. The slice of orange peel is very pretty, but I like to pop a maraschino cherry in the glass as well. Growing up in the nineteen seventies has left an indelible mark.

The Trefusis Whisky Sour
Trefusis Whisky Sour:
please excuse it being in the wrong glass
I love whisky (and whiskeys), and have a cupboard full of single malts: I rather loathe that hushed reverence that seems to be attached to the drinking of single malts - I want to drink the damn thing, not write a poem to it, but I probably wouldn't make a whisky sour with The Macallan, or one of the older Glenfiddichs - the very slight smokiness of The Famous Grouse, however, does marvellously well. Anyway, a whisky sour is a cold toddy, by any other name. I also ignore people who go on about egg white in a whisky sour - it's fine in if you're in a bar, but chez Trefusis, if there are any egg whites around they go straight into a meringue.

I call this the Trefusis Whisky Sour because I think I may be making it with the wrong proportions of whisky to lemon. Never mind, it works for me.

2 measures of whisky
1 measure of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp of caster sugar
a maraschino cherry

Stir the sugar in the lemon juice until it's dissolved, or at least until you can't be bothered whether it's dissolved or not, add the whisky, shake over ice, strain into whatever glass you have handy and add a marachino cherry.

I've also made this with Drambuie - I was given a bottle once and it's a very flexible cocktail ingredient. It's already sweetened with honey, so just add lemon and shake over ice.

Grey Goose Le Fizz

An incredibly refreshing alternative to pre-dinner champagne

35ml Vodka (Grey Goose, since it's their recipe, but again, unless you're a super-taster, I challenge anyone to be able to pass the pepsi challenge if voddie's mixed with other ingredients)
15ml Elderflower cordial
15ml freshly squeezed lime juice
60ml soda water (mostly when a recipe states soda water, I use sparkling mineral water, rather than leg it out to the nearest off-license, but I think I've established I'm not a purist)

Serve in a champagne glass.

Classic Daiquiri

When living in Cuba, Hemmingway would write between 8am and 2pm and then hove off to El Floridita for the first of a zillion Daiquiris. He liked them so much, he had his own made for him, the Papa Doble, but I prefer the original, which is deliciously sherberty.

60ml Bacardi (or any white rum)
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp caster sugar
Ice cubes
Crushed ice ( put ice cubes in a plastic bag between two teatowels and bash with a rolling pin)

Mix the lime juice and sugar together to dissolve the latter, add the rum, pour it over a combination of crushed and cubed ice and shake for about twice as long as you would normally. Strain it into a chilled martini glass.


God, I hate Sex and the City for reasons too complicated and long-winded to go into here, but the Cosmo was made popular by the show and people seem to like it.

60ml Vodka
25ml Cointreau (I've also used Grand Marnier, no one said anything)
10ml fresh lime juice
25ml cranberry juice

Shake over ice, pour into a chilled martini glass

Gin Rickey

Ah, who couldn't love F.Scott.Fitzgerald's favourite drink? Apparently F.Scott loved gin because he thought it undetectable on the breath, which it isn't, of course. Anyway, the Gin Rickey is simple, exceptionally refreshing, very low calorie and after three I have no idea how he managed to finish writing The Great Gatsby.

60ml Gin
15ml freshly squeezed lime juice (call it the juice of half a lime)
Soda water (see above)

Put lots of ice into a tall glass (a Collins glass, if we're getting technical), pour in the lime juice, pour over the gin, throw in the squeezed out lime half and top up with soda water.

Old Fashioned

When Don Draper said 'Make mine an Old Fashioned' in series one of Mad Men, I thought, yes, to hell with your Roger Stirling martinis, bourbon is infinitely more devil-may-care and a lot more palatable than neat vodka with a hint of vermouth.
It's a cocktail that deserves a decent bourbon like Woodford Reserve: like a good martini, it's a drink that can't hide behind the other ingredients. Anyway, this is my favourite bourbon cocktail, possibly because of the Mad Men link, but also because of what it has in common with the classic Claridges champagne cocktail.

Sugar cube (or a tsp caster sugar)
Angostura bitters
60ml bourbon

Use a short, straight sided whisky glass. Put the caster sugar or a sugar cube into the glass and add a couple of drops of bitters. Carefully pare a long skein of orange over the glass so you catch the oils, then muddle (which is posh bar-man speak for giving it a good old mix around with a spoon or special muddling thingy), add bourbon, ice and stir.

There are, of course, zillions of other cocktails that are perfectly suited to making at home - the naffly named but delicious Flirtini for one, and the mis-named but easy-drinking French Martini for another. The cocktail I most often claim I want to drink is a Hemlocktini - invented by the lovely Waffle and I as an elegant solution to extreme situations - but since a martini glass rinsed with hemlock and filled with iced vodka would be as toxic as it sounds, it's just as well the Hemlocktini exists only as a metaphor.

But whether real or imagined, home-made or bar-bought, a cocktail is always a perfect treat: and as Fitzgerald expert and fellow cocktail-afficionado, Sarah Churchwell, is wont to remind me, 'cocktail' is also a verb. So then, when shall we next cocktail?

Sunday 8 January 2012


Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez are Holmes and Watson
Sherlock Holmes is having something of a moment - the second Guy Ritchie film was out before Christmas, of course, and if the twitterati were to be believed, it was merely a gun-toting amuse-bouche for the second series of the much acclaimed BBC series. I'm rather fond of the agreeable Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson  - if you have yet to catch it, here's the first episode which aired last Sunday. But the vogue for everyone's favourite literary detective does not stop there - you can also catch more Holmes and Watson action this coming week at the Soho Theatre in an hour-long show.

Penned and played by award-winning comedy duo Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez, Max and Ivan are... Holmes and Watson has done something infinitely more daring than even the BBC's Aldiss and Moffat:  rather than re-imagine Conan-Doyle's stories for the twenty-first century, they've written their own breathtakingly original and utterly hilarious final chapter in the Holmes saga. Taking up some rejuvenating years after Sherlock Holmes' final outing as a bee-keeping spy-catcher of the last Conan-Doyle story, Max and Ivan put our hero's famous powers of deduction to work in a prohibition era tale of revenge, whiskey and javelins set in Chicago's criminal underworld.

Quite clearly, this isn't a Holmes and Watson for purists, but it is one of the funniest thing I've seen live on stage for ages. It's quirky, witty, fast-paced and, whilst unmistakably irreverent, manages to tug its forlock in the direction of the Conan-Doyle creation on which it depends.

I first saw the show when Max and Ivan previewed it before taking it to the Fringe last summer: they are - as it says on the play-bill - Holmes and Watson, but they also play about eleventy-three other characters, including a rather chilling Voldemort-esque Moriarty, and the shifts between are deft, convincing and terribly, terribly funny. It's gifted physical comedy as well as cleverly scripted and I can't think of a better, quicker way of catapulting oneself out of the January slough of despond than to spend an hour in Soho watching this unique show.

If you want more Sherlock Holmes in your life - and really, can one ever have enough - then hot-foot it to the Soho Theatre : Max and Ivan are... Holmes and Watson plays from thursday 12th January to Saturday 14th and again from thursday 19th to Saturday 21st January. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £10.

Max and Ivan are... Holmes and Watson, Soho Theatre, from 12th January.
BOX OFFICE 020 7478 0100 
Follow Max and Ivan on twitter @maxandivan