In the shaker: Getting creative with cocktails


It’s a classic that’s easy to make, mouth-watering to drink and open to countless interesting variations. Paul Mathew enjoys getting his tastebuds round the sour

Paul Mathew

I’m all for straightforward drinks, and the sour shows off all of a bartender’s skill in balancing flavours while only having to learn one basic recipe. Originally a stirred drink with sugar, it evolved to include a dash of soda to dissolve the sugar, and then further ‘improved’ in the 1920s to include a little egg white and leave out the soda. After a period of shock and horror at using fresh eggs over the last 20 years or so, it’s fortunately now perfectly acceptable again.

The Sweet Fairy

Glass: Cocktail

Garnish: Lemon twist

Method: Double shake hard and strain.

  • 35ml Krupnik Honey Vodka
  • 15ml absinthe (the bitter Czech style)
  • 20ml fresh lemon juice
  • 5ml sugar syrup (2:1)
  • 5ml egg white

Origin: my own creation

Glasgow Sour

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: None

Method: Double shake all ingredients except the wine. Pour over rocks, then float the wine over the back of a bar spoon.

  • 50ml Compass Box Asyla
  • 20ml fresh lemon juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup (2:1 mix)
  • 15ml egg white
  • 10ml claret or similar

Origin: Rufus Grantham

Holland Sour

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Three juniper berries

Method: Double shake and strain over rocks.

  • 50ml Bokma Oude Friesche Genever
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup (2:1)
  • 15ml egg white

Origin: my own creation

The Delicious Sour

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: None

Method: Double shake and strain over rocks.

  • 25ml Applejack or Calvados
  • 25ml Briottet apricot liqueur
  • 20ml fresh lime juice
  • 7.5ml sugar syrup (2:1)
  • 15ml egg white

Origin: The Flowing Bowl (1892).

Cherry Bourbon Sour

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Bourbon-soaked cherry

Method: Shake and strain over rocks.

  • 40ml Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • 20ml fresh lemon juice
  • 10ml Heering cherry liqueur
  • 10ml sugar syrup (2:1 mix)
  • 5ml maraschino
  • 15ml egg white

Origin: The Hide

Peruvian Pisco Sour

Glass: Flute or goblet

Garnish: Four drops Angostura bitters (or Chuncho bitters if you can find it)

Method: Double shake and strain into flute.

  • 30ml non-aromatic pisco
  • 10ml aromatic pisco
  • 10ml fresh juice from tart South American limes (or use 15-20ml UK standard)
  • 10ml sugar syrup (2:1)
  • 15ml egg white

Origin: Johnny Schuler

Mixing tips

Taste your freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice as the ripeness of the fruit will affect the sugar balance. Always squeeze fresh for each drink.

Likewise taste the sugar syrup to make sure it’s spot on (especially if you have 1:1 and 2:1 concentrations behind the bar!).

Shake hard without ice to get a smooth texture, then ice the shaker and shake again to chill. Shake until your arms are aching and the outside of the tin is properly frosted.

Always taste from the tin after first shaking, but before icing as it’s easier to tell if the balance is off before the drink is cold. Correct as necessary.

Make slightly too sour in preference as it’s much easier to sweeten the drink with a little syrup.

Jamie Stephenson

The one where Jamie Stephenson asks ‘what’s in a name?’, and finds at least part of the answer in a former public convenience

Putting cocktails on the map

Etymology is not just a high-scoring word in Scrabble – it’s also the study of words and names. Naming a cocktail for me is extremely important. I like to make sure it has relevance – either to its ingredients or origin, or its style.

When looking for cocktail inspiration for the Angostura Global Competition I looked at a map of Trinidad and Tobago. In Tobago I noticed a lot of names descended from the Scots, including Speyside in the north and Culloden in the west.

Culloden is famous in British history as the spot where, in 1746, the English army quashed the Jacobite Rebellion, forcing Bonnie Prince Charlie to flee Scotland. Grateful for his help, Prince Charles gave William Mackinnon the secret recipe to his family’s elixir. The Mackinnon family then produced the elixir commercially, christening it ‘An Dram Buich’ – Gaelic for ‘the drink that satisfies’.

I wanted to use Drambuie, but give it a Caribbean twist. One of the traditional drinks of Barbados is a corn ‘n’ oil, which uses rum and bitters with local product, falernum, a sweet syrup made from lime, cloves and almonds. The name falernum itself has a great story. It’s said that Sir James Taylor Mountjoy was attracted to the kitchen of his St Phillips plantation house by a wonderful aroma. He asked the maid the ingredients in the recipe. ‘You want fuh learn ‘em?’ she inquired. ‘Fa‘ernum! Good Lord, what a fine name!’ he cried. ‘Reminds me of the classic wine of ancient Campania beloved by the gods, called Falernian!’ And so it became known.

Back at the competition, I created a Scottish twist on a Bajan classic: 40ml Drambuie, 20ml falernum and 10ml Angostura Bitters, on the rocks in a tumbler, and garnished with a twist of lime. A laid-back drink true to its name – Easily Satisfied.

Atomising in style

I’ve been jinxed when it comes to mentioning the gadgets and gizmos I’ve procured on my travels, as each item I’ve enthusiastically revealed has been de-listed. (Come on Muji, bring back the ice ball
moulds please!)

This time I’m not going to pretend this is something you can easily get hold of, but I love it so much I’m going to have to show it off.

Many bartenders have recently opted for atomisers for their bitters, as they deliver a more consistent dose and allow for flaming bitters garnishes. This king of bling uses a silver-effect atomiser with a solid silver sheath in the shape of the Angostura bitters label. Perfect for giving your drinks a ‘kick in the glass’.

Cocktails at your convenience

While The Savoy is taking its sabbatical, I’ve taken to continuing to the end of the Strand to a bar firmly on my favourites list: Cellar Door at Zero Aldwych. The bar was formerly an underground toilet, therefore is so tiny you could barely swing a cat. But it’s very cool: designer furniture, live cabaret, funky toilets, fab lighting, an SMS-operated jukebox − and a decent drinks list. My favourite cocktail is London Calling: Hendricks Gin with pear, honey, grapes and mint, served by very friendly staff. I’m never disappointed; check it out if you haven’t already. Cellar Door, Zero Aldwych, London, WC2E 7DN

We have a bar in Manchester that’s also a converted loo, but it’s not quite as high-brow, although it has a better name – The Temple of Convenience. Find it at 100 Bridgewater St, Manchester.

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