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:

By Henry

I worked in the wine trade and publishing before becoming a freelance writer and broadcaster. My work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. I now works as features editor on the Master of Malt blog. Ihave been on BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 and Monocle Radio, and a judge for the BBC Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards and for the Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards 2018. My book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass won Fortnum & Mason debut drink book 2017. My second, The Home Bar, was published in October 2018.

3 replies on “Ivy League cocktails”

Tuxedo – definitely on my next cocktail agenda, thank God it’s already Friday!
This Adonis leaves me a tad unconvinced, maybe the underwhelming feeling has something to do with it’s unfortunate Blairite connection?

Nicely done Henry.

In your Adonis, the fortified wine which is subject of this entry is the sherry I think, but isn’t vermouth a fortified wine, too? Wine + young brandy. And would the good old Manhattan not qualify therefore under this heading of fortified wine-based cocktails? Perhaps vermouth is classified differently though. Anyway some very interesting drinks there.

Speaking of cocktails, a recent TLS has a great review of a new book called Ten Cocktails by Alice Lascelles. Looks like a must-purchase.

Interesting how the topic of the cocktail has revived in recent years, all to the good. The Brits always seem to do the best writing in this field. Perhaps since they didn’t originate the drink (vs. the term cocktail itself, IMO), they took to it with a special zeal, although the roots of the drink, not just the word, are clearly English in my view. (I’ll have to see what Ms. Lascelles says about it). Take the pink gin, obviously English in origin, and a hop and skip from the cocktail. Or those “cups” and other mixtures which were popular into the 1800’s.

Good drink, when it isn’t French (well, old Roman and Grecian before them), is British. Bourbon may not be British but whisky is, or Irish-and-British, and bourbon wouldn’t be what it is but for a Scot called James Crow who helped get the Kentucky product on its feet in the earlier 1800’s. Bourbon is a cousin to Scots and Irish whisky, and as you noted, people from Britain brought the drink to the States, it simply evolved under different conditions there.

I hope work on your “Empire” book is going well.

Best wishes.


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