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Guest Tam o' Shantie

Cocktail cabinet recommendations

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Guest Tam o' Shantie

My folks asked me what I wanted for christmas about 3 days beforehand, so I just asked for some cocktail making stuff - I figured that being a kick ass cocktail barman was a great way to trick people into liking you - and lo and behold, beneath the tree was a recipe book, shaker and stuff like that :up: I probably won't be throwing any parties until I buy a new flat, preferably one that doesn't resemble a derelict crack den.

Only problem is, though I'm fairly savvy when it comes to rum, I've never been much of a connoisseur of anything else. If nobody has any decent suggestions, I'm sure Gordon's, Jack Daniels', Smirnoff etc will do no harm but I'm sure there are a nicer and more interesting alternatives for similar or slightly higher prices. Of course, I don't have the luxury of my own drinks distributor, so please keep the suggestions limited to stuff that is easy enough to find in a decent booze shop.

Vodka:

Absolut would be my preferred supermarket choice, but they have started selling 'Russian Standard' there too along with a host of others in recent times...is this the same stuff as Russky Standart or is it just a coincimental name?

Gin:

Prefer Tanqueray to Gordon's...anything else worth knowing?

Whisky/Bourbon:

Don't have a clue about Scottish or American whiskies of any sort.

Brandy:

Ditto. There is also a fairly regular call for cherry brandy and apple brandy.

Dry vermouth:

Seems to be a highly popular ingredient...is Martini a safe bet?

Liqeurs / syrupy things:

Grenadine I take it is cheap/easy to find in a supermarket, 'sugar syrup' gets mentioned a fair bit. Campari, Midouri, Creme De Bananes? Anything I should know?

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Things like sugar syrup are easy enough to make, you can find recipes online. The rest of that stuff is fairly easily found in supermarkets. I think Asda has a fair selection. While I'm sure some people will disagree with me, I think you'd be better spending money on the alcohol and the main mixer (tonic, fruit juices etc) rather than the syrups as a lot of the time they just add colour and a hint of taste.

Don't know if you're a big gin drinker, but if you are you should try some Feverfew tonic. It's lovely, rather tricky to get hold of though. Goes very nicely with Tanqueray.

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Whisky/Bourbon:

Don't have a clue about Scottish or American whiskies of any sort.

Assuming you really don't have any knowledge then here's some key facts about Scotch:

Comes in two main types Blended or Single Malt. It's farily obvious what the difference is, blended has multiple types of whisky in it, single malt has just the one.

Cheap blends (famous grouse etc) will be fine for cocktails, avoid the really cheap stuff. As with most things in life, with whisky you get what you pay for.

Good whisky shouldn't burn your throat and will be surprisingly easy to drink.

If you go down the single malt route it gets a bit more complicated. Generally Speyside (Glenfiddich, Aberlour etc) stuff is lighter in colour and in taste, great if you're new to whisky or like me the peaty stuff gives you a migraine. Island and highland whisky (Tobermory, Talisker, Highland Park) is darker in colour and has a stronger, smokier taste.

Now's a great time to experiment as there's loads of the stuff on special offer. Co-op has Aberlour for 15 and Jura for 16, so that would be a bottle of Speyside and an Island one at a good price to give you an idea which style you prefer.

No doubt someone else will have more to add, but that's some quick thoughts to get you started.

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Sugar syrup is about 3 a 750ml bottle in the supermarket - look for "sirop de gomme" on the drinks shelves.

Don't get too bogged down with brands - you'll go through a lot of crap recipies before you get it right so don't spend a fortune on bottles that you'll mix then hate.

just get a blended whisky - anyone that mixes a malt deserves shot at dawn.

martini is a fine vermouth - you'll even get supermarket brands cheaper.

vodkas - it's worth getting a few of the flavoured vodkas (Absolut are around 15 each) but start with Orange as you'll use it most.

Make sure you have the basics - lemons, limes, cola, lemonade, tonic water, soda water, orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, olives, cherries, straws.

And most of all ice. Lots of ice.

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Cheap blends (famous grouse etc) will be fine for cocktails, avoid the really cheap stuff. As with most things in life, with whisky you get what you pay for.

that's good advice right there.

best to avoid the dirt cheap bottles of everything, not just whisky, but don't go mad over getting the best either.

Simple place to start is with a gin, vodka, whisky, rum & the mixers.

And a decent book - I got this one for about a fiver in Asda a couple of years back - 501 Must-drink Cocktails: Amazon.co.uk: Books

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Guest Tam o' Shantie

yeah sorry I forgot to mention that I got a book, so won't be doing any real experimenting yet. i just listed a few of the most common ingredients that the tasty looking ones seemed to call for.

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Guest Tam o' Shantie
Assuming you really don't have any knowledge then here's some key facts about Scotch:

Comes in two main types Blended or Single Malt. It's farily obvious what the difference is, blended has multiple types of whisky in it, single malt has just the one.

Cheap blends (famous grouse etc) will be fine for cocktails, avoid the really cheap stuff. As with most things in life, with whisky you get what you pay for.

Good whisky shouldn't burn your throat and will be surprisingly easy to drink.

If you go down the single malt route it gets a bit more complicated. Generally Speyside (Glenfiddich, Aberlour etc) stuff is lighter in colour and in taste, great if you're new to whisky or like me the peaty stuff gives you a migraine. Island and highland whisky (Tobermory, Talisker, Highland Park) is darker in colour and has a stronger, smokier taste.

Now's a great time to experiment as there's loads of the stuff on special offer. Co-op has Aberlour for 15 and Jura for 16, so that would be a bottle of Speyside and an Island one at a good price to give you an idea which style you prefer.

No doubt someone else will have more to add, but that's some quick thoughts to get you started.

The reason I don't have a clue about whisky is that I don't like it! I've tried the 'good stuff' and didn't find it any more agreeable. How does bourbon differ and am I likely to need both in my cabinet?

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How does bourbon differ and am I likely to need both in my cabinet?

Well they taste different. I'm not so big on bourbon though so can't tell you much about it. Sure Flash or someone else can shed some light though.

As for needing both, maybe you should have a read of the book and see how many whisky/bourbon cocktails you plan to try and see if it's really worth it. Otherwise just buy the one you'll use most.

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Well they taste different. I'm not so big on bourbon though so can't tell you much about it. Sure Flash or someone else can shed some light though.

As for needing both, maybe you should have a read of the book and see how many whisky/bourbon cocktails you plan to try and see if it's really worth it. Otherwise just buy the one you'll use most.

I've got Bourbons (jim beam, etc) in the cupboard - nice with coke & lime (and ice!).

Probably have about 10 different Malts in the house (no blends, funnily enough) & I only have them with a drop of water, nothing else. Especially ice!

They do taste very different - I'm sure they're interchangeable in a cocktail but they'd radically alter the taste in my opinion.

personally i'd say pick up a Bourbon and a blended whisky for the cocktails.

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Another thing - I spent ages (and I mean ages) getting loads of bottles to fill the cabinet. Stick with the essentials, like I said, and keep an eye out in Supermarkets / off licenses for special offers of bottles to add over time.

I really can't stress how much ice you need though!!!

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Sugar syrup is about 3 a 750ml bottle in the supermarket - look for "sirop de gomme" on the drinks shelves.

A bag of sugar and some boiling water would be a cheaper alternative to this, obviously let it cool before you go sticking it in drinks mind :) Just keep putting sugar in the water until it stops dissolving.

Em, from your list quickly, other things of note, Cherry Brandy, you will find for sure in Oddbins (the big one at the top of Bon Accord Street), It's in the Bols range of Liqueurs. Same for CD Bananes.

There's heaps of other stuff to mention but as i'm late for work, my parting shot will be, if your inventing, get some Chambord, you can find it in Asda, in a little round bottle (looks like the holy hand grendade), it's a Black Raspberry Liqueur, and makes pretty much anything you put it in taste nice!

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Guest Tam o' Shantie

thanks for the advice, but once again i'm not inventing. just looking for clarification on what brands people recommend in the way of the straightforward spirits

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in that case I reckon gordon's, smirnoff, bacardi, jack, grouse and martini will serve you fairly well. And get a big wooden rolling pin so you can muddle limes and smoosh ice properly :up:

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I can do a little piece about vodka!

Russian Standard is actually fine - pretty good for the price. Especially for mixing.

Absolut - concentrate on getting some flavours. The orange, lemon and blackcurrant ones would be priorities in my books.

If in doubt - Stolichnaya is the bees knees as far as grabbing it as the supermarket goes. Mixes well with generally everything. I've been using it recently in white russians and it works a treat. I'll also offer a nod to Finlandia.

If you're making something that's basically all vodka and ice but with a little pinch of something else then Grey Goose is lovely. I wouldn't waste this on anything else though.

Plus lots of ice!

Avoid Smirnoff or anything cheap and nasty like the plague. I generally find that unless realy goddamn cold... Smirnoff tastes like crap.

Other good ingredients:

Midori (melon liquor)

Chambord (Black Raspberry)

Anything from the Bols range - Blue Bols being the most common.

They have some flavours that are pretty hard to get a hold of but if you can get them - usually from specialist websites - then they are brilliant.

I've been after the Parfait Amour for a while (Violet flavour).

See ---------> Bols Cocktails.com: The best professional bartender

The bottles are also specially designed for flaring. The website has a ton of recipes you can use as well as stockist information to boot :)

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Guest Tam o' Shantie
in that case I reckon gordon's, smirnoff, bacardi, jack, grouse and martini will serve you fairly well. And get a big wooden rolling pin so you can muddle limes and smoosh ice properly :up:

but they're all so boring! if someone asked me to advise an alternative to bacardi that was a bit nicer, i'd say appleton white. gordon's, i'd say tanqueray. what about jack n grouse?

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If you're mixing spirits then the key is to use those of good quality. Most of the big brand names are of reasonable quality and very consistent quality.

Russky Standart is not as good as it used to be, gone too big volume now. I also found it started to cause a hangover, something that it never used to do, so we discontinued it some time back.

Which spirits you use really comes down to personal taste. Most cocktail guides will contain recipes for commonly available stuff that is regular tasting. For more exotic things you need to order on-line.

To mix your own reciepies you need to get used to the taste of each spirit mixed with lots of juice, this will give you an indication of the particular flavors that it imparts. Try 1 part spirit and 8-10 parts orange juice with some ice. Then try mixing it with pineapple, apple, cranberry, coke, ginger beer etc.

The more exotic stuff that I'd recommend are:

Tanquerry Gin - very fresh tasting. Gordon's tastes stale by comparison. Tanquerry makes a VERY dry martini. Don't forget the olives.

We love Chopin vodka which is made from potatoes. Potato vodka is much smoother than grain vodka, these are generally Polish.

For bourbon try all the small batch stuff. Knob Creek is the dryest.

For rum there is a lot of choice, and it's one of the most versatile cocktail spirits. There are probably more rum based cocktails out there than anything else. rums also vary more in their flavour than other spirits. Here are some good ones, they are all very different.

Firstly rums vary greatly with the Island on which they are produced. And there are lots of islands... ones to definitely try are:

Cuban

Jamaican

Martinique

Barbados

Secondly rum comes in 3 colours, white, amber, and dark.

The Martinique rums (they spell it Rhum) are made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses. This gives them a completely different taste. Try Clement for white Martinique, but you need to dilute it with lots of juice. I find that it mixes particularly well with ginger beer. Make sure you get hold of a nice burny ginger beer.

Appleton is Jamaican rum. The white is very sweet compared with Bacardi. The ambers are very light smoothed and they also make aged rums which are not so useful in cocktails. Don't forget Koko Kanu.

Mount Gay is a Barbados rum. Similar to Appleton special (amber) but stronger tasting and dryer.

Cuban rums I'm not so familiar with yet.

Tequila is a minefield. There are 3 different spirits made from agave, tequila, mezcal, and sotol. You generally get more choice of tequila, and all tequilas that are made from 100% blue agave are worth trying out. There are a lot of great tequilas out there but personally I can't see past Patron Silver.

Aside from these there are various other weird and wonderful things out there, stuff like Arrak of which we have a bottle, and is technically similar to rum but tastes nothing like it.

Hope you found that useful.

There is a great book on the subject, called "Booze". It's like the bible for alchies:

Booze: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century: Richard Neill: Amazon.co.uk: Books

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Sailor Jerry rum is pretty fantastic, though it smells a bit better than it tastes!

Juniper Green gin is pretty amazing, and had come down in price a bit as far as I know. AND IT'S SCOTTISH SO YOU CAN SUPPORT THE ECONOMY

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