Wine articles

Ivy League cocktails

I’ve been doing some serious research for my latest Guardian column. It’s on cocktails made with fortified wine. I did so much research that I feel a bit bleary this morning. No matter, I can pretend it’s work. This is what I drank last night:

The Princeton

Named after the University in America. I can never think of Ivy league schools without thinking of Louis Winthorpe III’s awful friends in Trading Places. I imagine everyone is called Dash, Tash, Cash or Tad Allagash.

On second thoughts Princeton sounds fun!. Here’s the cocktail:


2 oz/ 60ml Old Tom Gin – this is a sweet gin. I didn’t have any so I used my special mixture gin which is based on Martin Miller gin topped up with dozens of sample bottles of gins I’ve been sent. I added a half teaspoon of sugar to make it sweet.

2 dashes orange bitters

¾ ounce/ 20ml – port chilled – I used Fonseca bin 27

Add the gin and the bitters to ice, stir and strain into a glass. I don’t have proper cocktail glasses so I used an Aspalls half pint glass that my brother pinched from a pub years ago.

Then very carefully pour the port down the side of the glass so it settles on the bottom. You will then have two-tone effect.

I couldn’t quite get the hang of this as it just tasted of sweetened gin. So I muddled it all together and it became better. A bit like sloe gin with a nice lift from the orange bitters. Only problem is it’s bloody strong and sweet. I can’t imagine drinking it all before it became warm.


The gin looks a bit cloudy doesn’t it? It think that’s undissolved sugar.

Sherry cobbler
This was Dickens’ favourite. You can read all about it when the column appears.

About ¼ of a pint of  amontillado sherry – I used Tesco finest made by Barbadillo. It’s not bad

Tea spoon of sugar

Crushed ice, lots

Slice of lemon and grapefruit

This is very refreshing. Tang of sherry goes nicely with citrus

Found this very moreish especially as it became dilute


Named after the former Minister of Education under Tony Blair.

1 part sweet vermouth – I used  a bottle of Martini Rosso that had been sitting in our cupboard for years

2 parts  fino sherry – Tio Pepe

2 dashes orange bitter, strip of orange zest

This is very light and delicate, could have done with more oomph. I ended up adding more rosso which improved it somewhat. The underwhelming results may have had something to do with my ancient bottle of Martini.


Named after a country club in New Jersey where they always dress for dinner.

2 parts  gin (My house gin)

1 part fino

2 dash orange bitters

Recipe calls for one strip of orange peel, I used grapefruit

I like this. You can really taste the yeastiness and almonds of the sherry,  and it goes really well with the gin. The orange bitters lifts it too. One for martini fans. I’d probably make it with a little more gin next time. Still this is an excellent drink. Next time I have a gin party. This is going to be the drink de jour.

I’ll post the Guardian article when it appears. It’s awfully clever.

All sherry recipes adapted from Talia Baocchi’s excellent new book:

Wine articles

The British invented Bourbon

Of course they didn’t. But I noticed that after publishing an article in the Guardian looking at the British roots of whiskey (note e) in America, someone on twitter accused the goddamned Limeys of trying to take credit for an American product (I’m paraphrasing here.) Amazing how many people don’t look beyond the headline before getting stroppy. Anyway here’s the article:

A friend told me that I was a bad drinks correspondent for ignoring the recentWorld Gin Day. In my defence it’s difficult to keep track of all these promotional occasions – did you know that there’s a British Sandwich Week? Surely in Britain every week is sandwich week? I was just writing something on American whiskey, but then I noticed that I’d just missed National Bourbon Day. It was on 14 June, and now I worry that my article is going to seem about as fresh as a warm Jim Beam and Coke.

My interest was sparked by a book called Bourbon Empire by Reid Mitenbuler(great American name.) Reid tells how settlers brought a knowledge of distilling from Britain and found in Kentucky the perfect spot to make what would become known as Bourbon. Everything was there to make whiskey: plenty of water, trees to fuel the stills and make barrels from, and instead of barley there was rye and corn. The soil was so fertile that Kentucky was “legendary for growing corn.” Americans call these people Scotch-Irish, but this isn’t entirely accurate. They were Protestant English-speaking people from both sides of the Scottish border and from Northern Ireland.

Mitenbuler’s book made me return to a classic of American history called Albion’s Seed. Author David Hackett Fischer’s thesis is that America derives much of its culture in all its contradictory glory from four waves of immigration from Britain: Puritans from East Anglia who settled in New England, Anglican gentry from the West Country in Virginia, midland Quakers in Pennsylvania and borderers from Scotland and Northern Ireland in Appalachia. To put his enormously learned thesis baldly, the reason why people in Appalachia are distrustful of authority, clannish and violent is because they came from a society in Britain with just such tendencies. Fischer estimates that 90% of 18th-century settlers to Kentucky and Tennessee were north Britons. This legacy shows in the names of towns, such as Cumberland and Durham; in their traditional music – country and bluegrass; in a certain crudity of speech (there were waterways called Tickle Cunt Branch and Fucking Creek) – and, of course, in bourbon. These backcountry people, who fought so fiercely against the British Crown during the revolutionary war, then took up arms against the young republic when Washington tried to tax their whiskey. That’s some native belligerence.

The old rebellious spirit lives on in the iconography of bourbon, with brands such as Rebel Yell and Bulleit. The truth is, of course, more prosaic. Bulleit is distilled by the decidedly unromantic-sounding Midwest Grain Producers in Indiana. No wonder they have a National Bourbon Day to inject a bit of glamour. Next week, I will be covering International Creme de Menthe day. Bet you can’t wait.

See, nothing controversial here. Now for some authentic frontier gibberish: