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That perfect summer cocktail

July 2019

A man making a cocktail
Summer and cocktails go together…what could be more perfect than sipping a lovely cocktail on the lawn

Cocktails, a word which really simply means a combination of drinks and flavours, used to be high fashion in the 1930s but in recent decades they lost favour. Now, along with boutique beers and the dramatic resurgence of gin, cocktails are coming right back into the limelight.

And rightly so! The different flavours and experiences you can have from cocktails are endless. Today here in the UK nine million of us often choose cocktails and more and more pubs across the country are offering a range of cocktails along with their traditional drinks.

There are some fascinating ideas explaining the name cocktail, but none have been totally verified. One idea is that they relate to the historic custom of docking the tails of horses which were not thoroughbreds. These horses were called cocktailed horses, and one theory is that the name of a diluted, or changed drink, comes from this original equine practice.

Whatever the origin, cocktails began to become popular during the 19th century, and the first recorded cocktail party was held in St Louis, America, in 1917.

Now, the old favourites from last century, such as White Lady (with gin, cointreau, lemon juice and egg white); Dry Martini (with French vermouth and gin); a Tom Collins (with gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda) and Whisky Sour (with whisky, lemon juice and sugar) have pretty well gone out of fashion, although the continual spate of James Bond films keep dry martinis alive and well! Negroni (with Campari, sweet vermouth and gin) is beginning to make a comeback.

Some of the traditional favourites like Daiquiris (rum, lime juice and sugar) are right back in popularity but often with added modern takes such as strawberry or passion fruit daiquiris. Margaritas, traditionally with tequila, lime juice and salt, are now mixed with cointreau or Pimms for increasingly fashionable new drinks.

Some cocktails have some fascinating histories. The Mojito, with its tasty mix of white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda and mint leaves, is associated with a story concerning the island of Cuba and Sir Francis Drake. The legend says that in the late 1500’s Drake arrived in Cuba looking for a remedy for the scurvy which was afflicting his crew. In those days, among the wealthier Cubans, a drink of rum, lime juice and sugarcane juice was popular as a health drink, and Drake tried it among his crew with good results. There are many other stories concerning lime juice as a cure for scurvy, but the legend says it was Drake who started the popularity of the Mojito cocktail. Either way this drink is still popular today but is often mixed with different fruits such as strawberries or peaches for a modern version.

There are of course brand new cocktails being invented as well, such as a Woo Woo (vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry and lime juice) or a Moscow Mule (with vodka, lime, ginger and soda).

Whatever cocktail you choose to drink or make, it is all about personal preferences and ingredients that are available. It is also about presentation, a cocktail with delicate pieces of fruit and a pretty cocktail stick as decoration can add dramatically to the appeal of the drink.

Oh, and that famous Bond line..shaken not stirred... is not only memorable also interesting as it reflects on a significant aspect of cocktail making. When you shake a cocktail, you aerate the drink, slightly changing its texture. Shaking with ice also dilutes the drink slightly and cools it. Stirring will ensure the drink is not over diluted form the ice and the texture won’t be changed. Smaller ice cubes will also dilute a cocktail more quickly.

According to a recent poll taken by the Sun newspaper, the top ten top selling cocktails at the moment are:

  1. Pornstar Martini (a refreshing mix of vodka, passion fruit puree, vanilla and lime juice)
  2. Mojito (fresh mint, white rum, sugar, lime and soda)
  3. Long Island Iced Tea (vodka, tequila, light rum, triple sec, gin, and a splash of cola)
  4. Sex on the beach (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice)
  5. Daiquiri (rum, lime juice and sugar)
  6. Woo Woo (vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry and lime juice)
  7. Expresso Martini (vodka, coffee liqueur, expresso coffee and sugar)
  8. Martini (vermouth and gin)
  9. Pina Colada (rum, cream of coconut or coconut milk, and pineapple juice)
  10. Tom Collins (gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda)

Other polls give different results – but they all look delicious! Maybe this is the perfect time for you to create and launch a brand new cocktail for yourself…and name it with your own name of course!

There is a mass of information on line about cocktails. Good places to start could be:

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