Wimbledon semi finals: the Thrashing Serb cocktail

10 July 2015 by in Current events, Spirits distilled, Wine and spirits

It’s an exciting day at Wimbledon with two stellar matches to watch. Though we sadly don’t have tickets to the grounds, we can share in the spirit both tennis and alcohol related. Of course, the best thing to drink at Wimbledon is Pimms, in true British style but because we’re not there and to celebrate the other European players, we’ve come up with some fun and ‘alternative’ cocktails.

The Thrashing Serb
Semi-final Match One: Djokovic vs. Gasquet

OK so we may have given this cocktail a bit of a Wimbledon-themed name (it’s actually called a Summit) but we thought that it sounded refreshingly tennis-y and incorporated the all-important cognac, popular in both Serbia and France. To make your Thrashing Serb (I have now trademarked this name and intend to bequeath it upon my first-born) you will need:

4 slices of ginger
1 lime slice
4 cl VSOP Cognac
6 cl lemonade
a fine peel of cucumber

Place the lime and ginger into a glass, and add 2 cl of Cognac.  Then add ice and stir. Add the rest of the Cognac the lemonade – then, finally add the cucumber peel.

However, if this doesn’t really float your boat and you’re hoping that the first match will be a classic five-setter so that you will have enough time to dash home from the office to watch what promises to be a stupendous showdown between Murray (come on, Tim!) and Federer (lovely hair!) then we would suggest you go for something much more refined, like a fine Swiss wine (yes, they do exist) or just stock up on the ginger beer and strawberries for Pimms O’Clock!

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Cocktails for Wimbledon Round 2

2 July 2015 by in Current events, Spirits distilled, Wine and spirits

It’s day 4 of Wimbledon and since yesterday was the hottest July on record, it is appropriate that today, rain is scheduled to interrupt play. What is Wimbledon without a rain break? It’s like the adverts on the BBC, gives you time to pop the kettle on and catch your breath from moving your head up and down your TV screen (or if you’re lucky enough to get tickets, left and right). We’re not really sure that tea is the best antidote to a rain break; we think that cocktails are much more chic.

In his second round, Andy Murray will play Dutchman Robin Haase. Since we can’t be there to cheer Andy on or should ‘come on, Tim’ loudly at the telly in jest, we thought we’d come up with a few cocktails that you can make at home and that Andy can swig in the dressing room once play has been suspended.

Andy Murray Wimbledon
Are you Hasse-ing a good time?
Yes, that’s right, we went there. But what better cocktail for a Dutchman than one that features ‘Dutch courage’, or gin to most of us, which originates from the spirit genever; we think that Hasse is going to need some serious Dutch courage today when he squares up against a previous winner of the tournament.

Mix 3/4 oz gin with 3/4 oz Green Chartreuse, 3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur and 3/4 oz lime juice over ice in a shaker. Shake, and strain into a cocktail glass.

We think that this will be very refreshing on such a hot day, stick a cherry in it if you like, they’re in season and will really bring out that liqueur!

Ginger on Court One
What’s more British than lashings of ginger beer while watching the LTA’s annual fete? For those in the Murray camp (I think that’s all of us, COME ON, TIM) why not try this awfully refreshing fruity drink:

Mix 1 part mandarin vodka, 2 parts ginger beer, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part melon liqueur and 2 dashes strawberry puree in a cocktail sheker. Shake and pour into a chilled glass.

Good luck, Andy we’ll see you in round three (fingers crossed). If you have enjoyed our cocktail suggestions, you can find more in Spirits distilled by Mark Ridgwell, as well as a fascinating history of spirits and their distillation process.

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My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender

18 June 2015 by in Classic Wine Library, Current events, Wine and spirits

Napoleon madeira waterloo…which means he never got to drink the madeira that he had purchased on his way. Most people would stop off at the petrol station on a long journey, but in times of war, it would seem the French General was tempted by a few bottles of madeira that he purchased in Funchal.

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and what have we learnt since then? Well, firstly, you can make a hit song out of a French navy’s defeat, rubber boots will always be in fashion and the Duke of Wellington is still a very popular military leader. You may wish to commemorate today by re-enacting the battle, or by reading many military history books, or even just listening to ABBA, the only palindromic band to be a success.

Infinite Ideas, however, are huge fans of the pub. We love any chance to celebrate and today seems as good as any. We can’t guarantee that we’ll be ordering a glass of madeira in our first round, but we’re sure it would be appropriate to toast our victory over the French than sipping on a lovely glass.

This legendary wine accompanied napoleon when he called in at Funchal en route to St. Helena in 1815. it was never drunk by the exiled Emperor, nor was it officially paid for, but the British consul henry Veitch was apparently given some gold coins by napoleon in exchange. These were buried beneath the foundation stone of the anglican church (church of the holy Trinity) in Funchal, the building of which was supervised by Veitch. Two years after Napoleon’s death the wine was returned to Veitch, who sold it on to Charles Ridpath Blandy. The wine was left to Dr Michael Grabham who was born in the year the wine was bottled (1840) and whose father was born in 1792. Two dozen bottles were bought by the saintsbury club in London. The following poem by Martin Armstrong, one of the founding members of the Saintsbury Club in London, describes the episode:

On a certain Madeira Boal 1792
The doomed and broken Bonaparte
To thaw the ice that bound his heart
Bore from Madeira to his jail
Islanded twixt sea and gale
The barreled juice of grapes that grew
Twenty-three years ere Waterloo.
But Death was urging to his bed
Him who so richly Death had fed;
Aye, that more grim Napoleon
Was closing icy fingers on
The little body and great brain,
Bidding the haughty lip abstain
From comfort of the anodyne.
The weakening hand put by the wine,
And when at last the hand fell slack,
Homeward the cask was carried back
Unbroached, and when the wine had stood
Nigh half a century in wood,
They bottled it and duly laid Cellared in its native shade.
The heart that hoped the world to gain
A century in dust has lain.
Yet we of these late times may sip
The wine forbid his dying lip.

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Madeira: what a wonderful place to go on holiday

8 June 2015 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

The UK has finally decided that it wants to join in with the rest of the northern hemisphere and be all summery. We no longer have to sit in the office chanting ‘Winter is coming’ while watching the rain pour down the windows. So we’re all about planning our summer break and where better to get inspiration than from our own bookshelves?

Madeira: the islands and their wines offers a rich and detailed history of the islands and includes excellent tips for when you holiday there yourself. Lonely Planet eat your heart out! What’s better than a book that immerses you in the culture of its pages? Catherine is seriously rethinking her trip to Madrid and perhaps needs to take a ‘work placement’ among the vines of Madeira!

Did you know that because Madeira is so hilly that most of the vineyards are on a slope? Over hundreds of years, the volcanic islands have been cultivated to produce a very special type of wine. Make sure that you’re on solid ground, though as fortified wine can hit you quicker than the average bottle.

Blandy's wine lodge

Given that Madeira is basically a very large volcano, there are lots of lava pools to enjoy, hot springs to take a dip in or, if you’re concerned about lava after that wonderful Hollywood classic, Volcano, perhaps you’d prefer to lounge on the beaches, which we think look very nice indeed!

However, don’t forget when travelling to this fantastic island that while there you can literally drink the island! Madeira is growing in popularity and where better to savour the taste than at the source. What is a holiday for, if not to relax and we can’t think of a better way to do that than a vineyard tour and wine tasting. (Catherine recently went to one in Canada, yes, Canada, and can attest that this is an excellent way to spend a holiday). Why not book yourself a wine tour and enjoy what really makes the island special. For hundreds of years, wine has been made on the islands, gaining a global reputation and popularity. Touring the wine lodge of Blandy’s, one of the most successful producers of Madeira, in Funchal will allow you to immerse yourself in the wine and the history of the islands. It should certainly be on your list of things to do when on holiday.

There’s always a come-down when one arrives back in (usually rainy) Britain after a fantastic holiday but at least after visiting Madeira, you can pick up a bottle from your local supermarket and relive the summer once again.

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Madeira: the American connection

28 May 2015 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

You may have heard of madeira cake and you might even have been to Madeira on holiday, but what do a few islands off the coast of Africa have to do with America? Well, quite a lot actually. Did you know that it was George Washington’s favourite drink? Did you know that it was used to toast the American Independence in 1776? You could say that madeira is as American as hamburgers and Dolly Parton.

Infinite Ideas recently went to the Big Fortified Tasting in London and we were lucky enough to try some very exceptional madeira (one glass was enough for Catherine as she might not have made it back to Oxford!). The history of this timeless drink is incredibly rich and embedded in many cultures, not just that of Portugal and the surrounding areas.

Jefferson madeiraSo, madeira and America, eh? We certainly didn’t see that one coming. Thomas Jefferson once remarked, “it is a wine which I do not drink, being entirely too powerful”, well that power was enough to spark a drinking revolution in the USA, which it is fair to say, has reverberated around the world. We’ve all been for happy hour cocktails, some of us may have even hosted our very own cocktail parties at home, well madeira parties paved the way for this popular social occasion.

In his new book, Madeira: the islands and their wines, Richard Mayson writes about the origin of madeira parties:

Until the end of the nineteenth century, madeira was the most prestigious wine in north america. collectors held madeira parties to share their knowledge and show off their wines. These were common among high society, whose members lived on the eastern seaboard in cities from Boston to New Orleans including Philadelphia, Baltimore, savannah and charleston. Madeira parties generally took place in the late afternoon with eight to a dozen men sharing and discussing perhaps half a dozen wines over a period of two or three hours. One of the most lavish madeira parties was hosted in Baltimore by David Thomas in 1899 when twenty-six madeiras ranging in date from 1805 to 1854 were served in one sitting. This is recorded in detail by Emanuel Berk in a self-published pamphlet entitled A Century Past, A Celebration of the Madeira Party in America. The madeira party died out, along with the popularity of madeira  wine, as the cocktail took over in the early years of the twentieth century. It lives on in name only, with a range of wines produced by Barbeito for the US market named after the cities where the parties took place. However, since 2012 a group of international madeira aficionados have been assembling annually in New York to taste and discuss twenty rare and venerable wines, some of them from old American collections.

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Dry January

13 January 2015 by in Lifestyle, Spirits distilled, Wine and spirits

Many people this time of the year are choosing to observe ‘dry January’ in a bid to detox their bodies from all the Christmas overindulgence.

We’re almost half way through the month now and many of you may be rethinking a whole 31 days without alcohol. Rather than going cold turkey and risk crying in the wine aisle at the supermarket, why not adjust your goal to something more reasonable such as only drinking at weekends. We’re also approaching that dreaded of all days, ‘blue Monday’ where the entire human race seems to question its own existence and wonders whether it isn’t better to just admit defeat and look for the answer at the bottom of a large bottle of Jack Daniels and the wrappers of the now not-so-amazing Cadbury’s creme eggs.

cocktail

Perhaps, rather than drowning your sorrows in whisky, you could take this month of reflection to learn more about the spirits that you regularly consume during happy hour. Mark Ridgwell’s Spirits distilled is an excellent book filled with everything you need to know about spirits. Each chapter begins with a brief history of the drink and provides ample opportunity for you to bone-up on your knowledge and impress your colleagues at after work drinks. Perhaps this is the month to drink the bar dry or to enjoy a dry gin and tonic. Be creative and impress your friends by coming across as a cognac connoisseur, a whisky wizard or a gin genius. Ridgwell’s book is interspersed with quizzes so that you can test your knowledge on what you’ve read and prove that you really do know your stuff.

All the best for the upcoming Monday, we really do hope that you make it to work on Tuesday. Our sound advice would be to get back off the wagon slowly, tonight, treat yourself to a scotch (or American) on the rocks, then perhaps that bottle of JD will go down smoother than expected! Buy Spirits Distilled