You might think that using wine instead of spirits would make cocktails light and summery. But there’s plenty of history to prove how wrong you are, as Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller demonstrate here…
EAST INDIA COCKTAIL
Glass: Chilled cocktail glass
45ml fino sherry
Humankind cannot live by spirits and beer alone, there must also be wine. In truth, who doesn’t love the warmth of wine as winter chills the air? Wine, like beer, has been on the drinks menu for centuries, occasionally finding itself not as the sole sipping ingredient but integrated with spices, spirits and syrups. This two-part story tells the tales of both wine and fortified wines in the drink lexicon, offering some low-alcohol inspiration for the season.
A wassail bowl of ale, sherry, and roasted apples greeted many a group of carollers on a frigid Christmas or Twelfth Night stroll through the town.
Port and spice and every-thing nice, that’s where we travel next. The Bishop was an early manifestation of the wine drink, combining a roasted lemon spiked with cloves with port and spices simmered slowly on the fire. Substitute champagne for wine and you have a Pope. Simmer cinnamon, cloves and mace in a small amount of water and add that to a portion of port with two lemon slices as garnish and you have the University of Oxford’s version of a mulled beverage.
45ml aged rum
Legend has it that Negus was invented by a certain Colonel Negus who mixed red port with Seville oranges. Said to strengthen the stomach and act as a stimulant, it is also a quick and simple serve when these bitter oranges are in season.
Possets and flips were all the rage as temperatures plunged. One could always find a few toddy sticks heating in the fireplace at the local tavern. Slowly immersed into a jug filled with well-blended egg, cream and sherry, it delivered a thick, warming version of an egg nog. (A complicated technique it is indeed. So most modern versions of possets and flips simply emulsify and then shake the drink for service.)
Glass: Sour or wine
Sherry Cobblers were a hit not only in Britain, where they appeared in the 1847 edition of Oxford Night Caps, and in the States, where Professor Jerry Thomas wrote about them in his 1862 Bartenders Guide after working in London a few years earlier. When both the oïdium blight and phylloxera crisis decimated European vineyards around the same time, Parisians embraced this refreshingly simple beverage as well. In fact, humourist Alphonse Allais frequented the Sherry Cobbler café on Boulevard St-Michel to partake in its namesake quaff.
Naturally, in more modern times, fortified wines have been generally mixed with more potent spirits. But have you ever considered mixing port with rum instead of vermouth? The Saint Valentine cocktail created by Dave Wondrich speaks the same language as an El Presidente but adds a heightened level of complexity. We prefer making ours with aged rum to further accentuate the lush deep berry notes of the port.
And why not visit a low-alcohol alternative to a Martini or a Manhattan by trying an East India Cocktail? Fino sherry and dry vermouth are enhanced with a dash of bitters and the aroma of orange peel, creating a session-able aperitif before
a meal of grilled fish.
In our next episode of ‘In the Shaker’, we’ll pay homage to the grape again and discover a few twists on tradition.
When you live in the West Country you begin to appreciate the nuances of cider, ice cider and cider brandy. The team at The Dark Horse bar in Bath are well-versed in divining new and interesting ways of serving up these delectable liquid results of the apple harvest.The Dragonfly mixes cider brandy, apricot brandy, yellow chartreuse, and lemon juice with a hit of demerara. It’s one of those flights of fancy that brings us into town even on a cold winter night.
Photo: Stephen Lenthall. Drink styling by Russell burgess. Glassware by Artis