• How to make the perfect Bloody Mary

    Tomato juice isn’t a drink we pay much attention to. It’s not something we buy regularly, except for the rare occasion we fancy a Bloody Mary, so we have no idea if the tomato juice market is in the midst of a reinvention like most of the drinks sector seems to be these days.

    If it is about to go through a revolutionary phase then perhaps smoked tomato juice could be the thing that squeezes it into action. A few weeks ago we were sent a sample of Peat Smoked Tomato Juice, delivered by a Scottish business called Tongue in Peat, and it instantly seemed like such a good idea that we wondered why we’ve not encountered something similar before.

    To do the juice justice we set about making the best Bloody Mary we could conjure. And here it is, your guide to the perfect Bloody Mary*…

    How to make the perfect Bloody Mary

    The Bloody Mary is one of those cocktails that doesn’t have a definitive recipe. Tomato juice, vodka, salt, lemon and some sort of savoury and spicy sauces are all key ingredients, but exactly how you make it is up to you. For us, the ingredients are as follows…

    • Approx 100ml tomato juice
    • Approx 50ml vodka
    • 4 to 6 dashes Tabasco sauce
    • 3 to 5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
    • Juice of half a lemon (15ml)
    • A pinch of salt
    • A stick of celery
    • Ice to serve

    Peat Smoked tomato juice

    The juice

    For a top notch Bloody Mary you need top notch tomato juice. Tongue in Peat’s is produced in small batches and infused by Islay’s finest peat, which imparts smoky, salty flavours into the sweet and sharp fleshy fruits, along with a spiky hit of heat. It’s a delicious thing and adds extra depth to the cocktail. 

    The vodka

    Again, a good quality, clean tasting vodka will give you a better Bloody Mary. Seeing as our tomato juice is Scottish we’ve gone for a Scottish vodka – Holy Grass. It’s a deliciously smooth vodka with a grassy freshness and hint of pepper that perfectly suits our recipe.

    Tabasco sauce

    All good Bloody Marys need a bit of heat. We’ve been known to infuse chillis in vodka purely for this purpose, but the cocktail purists in us like the peppery warmth that tabasco sauce brings. Four dashes minimum; Six for decent heat; More for a full tabasco blast.

    Worcestershire sauce

    We would argue this is another essential. The unami flavours pull everything together, transforming it from a simple drink to something approaching a full meal. If you’re suffering from a hangover and believe in the ‘hair of the dog’ method for recovery then lashings of the stuff is required. For the rest of us, three to five dashes will suffice.

    Lemon

    Freshens the whole piece. If you’re squeezing, half a lemon will suffice; if you’re measuring, 15ml will do the trick.

    Salt

    Seeing as this is now practically a meal, a pinch of salt will heighten the flavour senses to the maximum. You could also add a grind of pepper, a pinch of celery salt, a few flakes of chilli powder, or any other herbs and spices you care to lob into the mix. We think a simple pinch of salt is enough.

    Celery

    Celery doesn’t get much of a look in when it comes to fine cuisine, so why deprive it of its glory as the traditional Bloody Mary stirring stick of choice. Gives off a nice whiff as you approach the glass and, when you’ve finished drinking, it gives you something extra to munch through.

    How to mix your bloody Mary

    This is a good drink for making in large batches to share with friends or pop in the fridge for later. Simply put all of the ingredients in a jug. Gently stir. Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the bloody mix before finishing with the stick of celery.

    Get your Tongue in Peat tomato juice here

    Bloody Mary cocktail recipe

    *Why is it called a Bloody Mary? Seems that no-one is quite sure. Queen Mary I, the royal who was nicknamed Bloody Mary due to her bloody reign over England? Hollywood star Mary Pickford? A waitress at a Chicago bar, the Bucket of Blood? A mispronunciation of Vladimir? Or someone called Mary getting the drinks order wrong on a hen night. All theories, none proved…

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  • How to make a Butterfly cocktail

    In celebration of the launch of Planting for Butterflies – a book written by our pal Jane Moore – we’ve been unravelling our disturbingly long proboscises into this tasty, vodka-based cocktail.

    It’s a perfect booze for garden-based summertime sipping and was created by booze guru Alex Kammerling of Kamm & Sons, who kindly gave us permission to run the recipe.

    It’s dead easy to make, delicious, and we are happy to report that doesn’t contain a single butterfly. Here’s how to make it…

    How to make a Butterfly Cocktail

    Difficulty level: Easy

    Ingredients

    8 fresh seedless white grapes
    3 fresh basil leaves
    3 fresh mint leaves
    45ml vodka
    7.5ml St Germain elderflower liqueur
    7.5ml freshly squeezed lemon juice.

    Directions

    1. Fling the grapes in a shaker, give them a muddle (squish and twist the contents, ideally using a muddler), then add the other ingredients.
    2. Give it a good old shake before straining into a chilled martini glass.
    3. Transfer contents of martini glass to stomach, via lips and mouth.
    4. Cheers!

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  • An interview with… Jane Moore, gardener and author

    In a horticultural career spanning 30 years, Jane Moore has been a head gardener at a Benedictine abbey, a BBC researcher, a presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World and an acclaimed writer for numerous gardening publications. She is currently Group Head Gardener for several swish Andrew Brownsword hotels and has somehow found time to write Planting for Butterflies, a rather excellent book about our favourite* winged garden visitors.

    On sunny days she can be found flitting between plants at The Bath Priory, so armed with a massive net and human-sized jam-jar, we headed out to snare some top butterfly facts and tips..

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    We’ve heard reports that butterflies have been emerging from their winter slumber earlier this year. Have you noticed this in the gardens that you manage?

    So far, it’s turning into a good year for butterflies. I’ve seen more of the early season ones like Orange Tips and Brimstones than I have for several years. At the moment the meadow at The Bath Priory Hotel where I work is alive with Meadow Brown butterflies as well as some of the spectacular day flying moths such as Garden Tiger moth and Six Spot Burnet moth. I’ve already seen a couple of freshly hatched Red Admirals too.

    What’s the best way to ID a butterfly? They never seem to stay still for long enough…

    I know! It’s very frustrating! My other half always accuses me of ruining many a good walk by stopping all the time to scrutinise fluttering things in hedgerows. There are a few things that you can use to help identify the little blighters. The food plants they’re fluttering around, and general location are a great help. For example, the Gatekeeper really does like gateways in fields and hedgerows, Meadow Browns like meadows and grassland. Blues are quite difficult, but garden blues are nearly always Holly Blue, but I often see the Common Blue on the meadow at the hotel as they like grassland. The other thing is to learn what the underside of the wing looks like as well as the upper wing as butterflies have an annoying habit of feeding with their wings closed. The underside is often more camouflaged than the colourful upper wings, but the combination of colour, underside and location should nail it.

    Is there a certain time of day that is best for butterfly spotting?

    Prime daytime is when they’re most active. Weather conditions have more of a bearing as butterflies like the still, warm, calm days of spring and summer and won’t tend to fly if it’s wet and windy.

    What makes a butterfly a butterfly and a moth a moth?

    Ah now that’s a tricky one. As a rule, moths fly at night and butterflies during the day. There are day flying moths too but not many. Also, butterflies have delicate antennae with a sort of bulb or club at the end, whereas moths often have furry antennae. In fact moths are generally more furry and have more camouflage colours than butterflies.

    What would be your top three plants for butterfly attraction?

    Buddleia is the obvious choice – it pulls in all the flamboyant butterflies of high summer such as Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. I’m a great fan of Asters too as they’re such good garden plants – as long as you steer clear of the mildew prone New York asters and pick varieties with single flowers, so the nectar is on show. After that I like the herbs such as Lavender and Marjoram as they’re great for bees as well as butterflies and are incredibly useful as well as attractive. 

    And what would be your favourite butterfly? (We’re guessing the Cabbage White is pretty low down on your list.)

    I’ve gone from a love/hate affair with Cabbage Whites to more of a ‘aw shucks I rather like you’ in the past few years. That’s partly because there have been less of them around due to a parasite, I think, but also because they do make such a picture fluttering over the lavender in summer. Also, I don’t grow as many cabbages as I used to!

    My favourite butterfly has to be the Orange Tip, one of the first butterflies you tend to see in spring and early summer. I grow Hesperis or Sweet Rocket specially for them, well and for me too as I love it in the garden because it keeps on flowering its socks off. You have to be a bit careful with the Orange Tip though, as the males are the ones with the colourful wings and the females are plain white and look suspiciously like the Small White butterfly. Timing is the key here as the Orange Tips are way earlier than the Whites.

    Help! My buddleia has taken over the garden! How can I tame it?

    This is why all gardeners develop a ruthless pruning streak after a few years. You need a good pair of loppers, perhaps even a pruning saw and a strong sense of empowerment. Whatever you do to it in spring, it will come back, believe me.

    After a hard day of butterfly spotting, what drink would you reach for?

    You two made me a gin and cucumber cooler a year or two ago and that was perfect for a hot day. Left to my own devices, it’s a classic mojito every time.

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    Planting for Butterflies:
    The Grower’s Guide to Creating a Flutter is available now.
    Published by Quadrille Publishing, £12.00

    BUY NOW

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    *Maybe second favourite, behind birds. Certainly ahead of wasps and gnats.

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  • Five things to do with surplus rhubarb

    Rhubarb is one of the allotment’s most productive veg but after a few months of crumbles, compotes and fools you might start to wonder what else you can do with the stuff. Not only do these five suggestions solve that problem, they’ll also keep the rhubarb flavour alive long after you’ve uprooted the year’s last stick.

    What can I do with surplus rhubarb?

    Booze

    Rhubarb is one of our favourite alcoholic drinks ingredients, making its way into just about every type of booze we try. The easiest way to use it is by macerating in spirits and sweetening to make a liqueur. Our book features a delicious rhubarb and vanilla recipe that has been enjoyed by top TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.* Also in the book, and elsewhere on this site, our most popular wine recipe is rhubarb – it’s an ideal choice for wine making novices and one we make every year. We’ve also used it in cocktails and have even dabbled with a rhubarb beer.

    Jam

    The sweet and sharp combination of sugar and rhubarb is ideal for jam makers. You can give it a solo spot, spice it up with a hot flush of ginger or marmalise with orange. It’s also handy at bulking out other fruits – for example, if your currant harvest is a bit thin, give it a rhubarb stick to lean on and it’ll spread the currenty wealth without overpowering its flavour.

    Pickle

    Pickled rhubarb is a cheffy preserve that deserves more widespread recognition. Chop up a few sticks of rhubarb and soak them in your best pickling solution before serving them with grilled mackerel and you might just get the Michelin man sniffing around with a pocketful of stars. You can add some culinary creativity by combining with a few extra spices (we can recommend cloves and ginger) or go for the full chutney blowout by cooking them up with a pan full of other pickling ingredients.

    Freeze

    Rhubarb crumble is a comforting classic for the winter months but to enjoy it any time after July you’ll need to have a frozen supply to hand. Show some foresight by washing and chopping your rhubarb and spreading out the cubes on a tray which is then carefully balanced on the bags of frozen chips and fish fingers. Once frozen you can gleefully transfer the hard pink nuggets to their own bag and force them into a gap by the peas and sweetcorn. This method will ensure your rhubarb won’t freeze into one solid block.

    Dried

    We’ve not yet tried drying rhubarb, but if there’s still some left after brewing, jamming, pickling and freezing we’ll definitely give it a go. Using an oven as a drying mechanism it would seem there are two main options: either dry raw, chopped rhubarb or cook it first, with sugar, and spread on a tray before it reaches the oven. The former should make a handy store-cupboard ingredient for cereals and cakes; the latter, known as ‘rhubarb leather’, can be used as a chewy sweet or tanned, shaped and stitched into natty pink slippers.**

    *This is true. We attended one of his book signings and thrust a small bottle of the stuff into his hands. He took a sip, claimed to like it and promised to finish the bottle on the train home. We never heard back from him.

    **This is a lie. You can’t tan rhubarb leather.

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  • New booze round-up #22: Wine in a can, whisky on Zoom and cocktails in a sweet

    As lockdown continued we were sent lots more drinks samples to try at home, with another online whisky tasting among them. We also got to suck on some cocktail-infused, sugar-coated sweets – which were way better than we thought possible…

    bottle of glen moray

    Glen Moray, Madeira Cask Project, 2006, 46.3%

    We’ve been taking part in another Zoom whisky tasting, this time hosted by Glen Moray to introduce the world to the latest release from their Curiosity range, a whisky aged for 13 years in ex-Madeira casks.

    Dr Kirstie McCallum, Glen Moray’s head of whisky creation, talked us through the dram, announcing it as “dessert in a bottle” and, more precisely, an aroma of “chocolate and poached pears.” We don’t always detect the same aromas and flavours as others when supping whisky – our senses all vary and, in a whisky, the comparisons are often very subtle – but in this instance, chocolate and poached pears very much chimed with us.

    An initial sweetness to the flavour opened out into a delicious, syruppy textured whisky, with more pear and tannic oak in the frame. We’re also going to throw in a flavour that it reminded us of, but is almost certainly one few others will detect – bitter rowan berries, as used in our own booze experiments. 

    We’re enjoying these online tastings, particularly when there’s such a knowledgeable expert on hand to help us appreciate more about the whisky we’re drinking – and especially when it’s such a fine whisky as this release from Glen Moray.

    BUY

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    review of Ardbeg blaaack

    Ardbeg Blaaack , 46%

    One tasting we missed out on was for a new Ardbeg Limited Edition release to celebrate Ardbeg Day, but we were kindly sent a sample to experience its smoky charms in our own time. This whisky has spent time in New Zealand Pinot Noir casks, with the distillery highlighting a connection between its home and New Zealand both having a large sheep population by adding a ‘baaa’ to its name. Thankfully the whisky is much better than the pun.

    It’s always enjoyable to open a new bottle of Ardbeg whisky, with the waft of sweet smoke beckoning you. A closer sniff also brought a cherry-like aroma, as you might find emanating from a glass of kirschwasser. Sipping the whisky reveals a sweet, hard toffee creaminess, giving it a degree of suckability, while the smoke turns to charred wood as the oak makes its mark and stretches out the finish. It’s a typically smoky Ardbeg beast and not at all harsh – we might say it’s perfectly well baaalanced but we’re much too sheepish for such puns.

    BUY

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    Camden Lagers…

    Everyone knows that summer = BBQ and, as it’s been too scary to go down to the pub of an evening for risk of catching the lurgy, we’ve been busying ourselves instead by charring the bejesus out of vegetables and bits of meat on our respective back garden grills. The drink of choice for BBQs HAS to be beer – specifically a lager-style beer – straight from the fridge – and so to accompany our alfresco efforts, we’ve been guzzling a selection of new lagers from Camden Breweries small batch series, Arch 55. Our picks were:

    Wilkin St NW5 White Pilsner 5.8%
    A gluggable hefeweizen homage with the trad fruity flavours provided by a plethora of German hops. Good with sausages.

    Mexican Lager 4.4% 
    Brewed with mexican yeast and Wakatu hops to give it a crisp, fruity twang. Roasted peppers proved to be the perfect pairing. 

    Yeast Lightening Brut IPL, 5.8% 
    A wonderfully fragrant, fruity lager with a super dry finish. Worked wonders bookending unmannerly mouthfuls of mushroom and halloumi kebab.

    USA Hells Lager, 4.6%
    Our favorite – a flavoursome, unfiltered helles-style lager which competently doused the fire of our underdone, overspiced buffalo wings. Yeehaw! 

    Get your Camden lagers HERE

    …and a Camden Pale Ale

    It’s not just lagers that Camden produces with aplomb, they also know how to knock out a fine pale ale. To coincide with the re-opening of pubs they’re brought out new 500ml cans of To The Pub, an American Pale Ale stuffed with five different hops. And what a fine brew it is too, slightly hazy, fresh and frothy with a touch of the tropics and a pinch of pine. Double dry hopped and effortlessly drinkable. The kind of pale ale that suits a large measure, such as a pint pot, served in a pub…

    We’re reluctant to rush to the pub anytime soon so are thankful to Camden four sending us a four pack to review, giving us three more opportunities for home drinking to check that they’re all up to standard. Which, of course, they are…

    Proceeds of sales go to supporting pubs, which you can read about at here

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    Symington Portuguese wine duroro

    Symington Family Estates, Altano Douro White Wine, 12.5%

    We very rarely feature wine pressed from grapes on this site (wine conjured from rhubarb, beetroot and pea pods is more our thing) but we were recently introduced to the Symington Family Estates portfolio of wines and were sent a bottle of their Altano Douro to review. To give it the best possible environment for tasting we gave it our prime time drinking slot – Friday after work – and it impressed as much as anything we’ve guzzled this year.

    Coming from Portugal’s Douro Valley, the wine is made from a blend of Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho grapes – names we’re not too familiar with but are said to be well suited to the vineyard’s cooler Portuguese climate. Initially there’s a friendly floral aroma and a slight sweet tropical taste, but in the main it’s a citrussy sensation. Lemon and lime cut a dash with their acidic brightness, while some pithiness helps lend it a drying depth and flavour intensity that suits its creamy viscous feel. It is a wine that perfectly suited our tastes, being simultaneously full of flavour and easy to drink.

    We may be more familiar with wines made from other fruits and vegetables but reckon these Portuguese grapes can give even our favourite ingredients a run for their money.

    BUY

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    hun wine range

    HUNWines SA Sauvignon Blanc 2019, 12.5% 

    No sooner are we reviewing one grape wine than three more arrive through the post, this time in the unfamiliar wine packaging of cans. And while we think the humble can should be perfectly suited to wine packaging, we’re not sure a wine brand called HUN, with pink livery, is quite aimed at the likes of us. So we gave the Pale Rosé to a more glamorous friend for a second opinion and kept the Sparkling Rosé and Sauvingon Blanc to ourselves.

    The former left us unmoved – at just 5.5% it didn’t really pack much vinous goodness for us – but the Sauvignon Blanc was just as we would hope. It possessed lots of fresh, green grape aromas and a crisp acidity that finished with a grown-up dryness. It would be ideal as a summer wine-on-the-go and, at just £3 for a 250ml can, you can load up without worrying about carrying home half-emptied bottles.

    As for the Pale Rosé, our glamorous friend was equally impressed. “Super, Darling” she purred…

    Look out for a can in your local Tesco store

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    Whisky Club cocktail dummies

    Smith & Sinclair, Whisky Club Alcoholic Cocktail Gummies, 5%

    Over the years we’ve been sent a few sweets flavoured with cocktails. They tend not to be very good and rarely get finished before entering the food waste bin. Earlier this month we were sent a selection box of whisky cocktail sweets from Smith & Sinclair that sounded more promising and looked a bit more enticing than most. We were hopeful, but far from confident.

    We no longer have any Smith & Sinclair cocktail sweets left. All gone. Gobbled in no time at all. Because they taste amazing. Sugar coated, soft jellied confection with a gently boozy burst of Old Fashioned or aromatic kick of Whiskey Sour. This is how to make cocktail sweets: real booze flavours, expertly combined with the finest sugary confection, and some actual booze to boot. Genuine sweet treats.

    BUY

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