During Christmas, there are plenty of occasions for inventive cocktails. In this four-part series we asked four bartenders to each create a celebratory, festive drink. Clinton Cawood reports
The festive vibes are strong from the very first stop of this cocktail challenge, with an elegant cocktail to suit any wintertime celebration. The setting is Tredwells, on a crisp November morning, as Callum Leslie begins preparing a Feather in the Cap, created by Dav Eames, bar manager at The Gilbert Scott.
Frapin VSOP is at the core of this drink, accentuated by four other sweet ingredients, not least some Pedro Ximénez sherry, alongside crème de figue, crème d’abricot and Grand Marnier, finished with Maraschino cherries and a lemon twist.
BRAND: FRAPIN COGNAC
DRINK: FEATHER IN THE CAP
Garnish: Maraschino cherry and lemon twist
Method: Stir ingredients over ice and strain into coupe.
40ml Frapin VSOP
10ml crème de fi gue
10ml crème d’abricot
5ml Grand Marnier
5ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
dash Angostura Bitters
‘I wanted to make a drink that reflected the season, taking the comforting, warming notes of the cognac and exaggerating those with complementary raisin and stewed fruits notes from the sherry and the fig liqueur at the bottom end, and the higher citrus notes of Grand Marnier over the top,’ explains Eames. ‘The clove bitterness from the Angostura Bitters holds the balance together, and adds another touch of winter too.’
It’s evident, looking at the ingredients going into the mixing glass, that this is a digestif cocktail, and perfectly suited to follow a serious Christmas lunch. What’s impressive is how well balanced, even fresh, the finished product is, while still remaining rich and comforting.
Eames attributes this in part to the cognac producer’s house style. ‘The whole Frapin range expresses a fresh and light quality without becoming too heavy or dominant in mixed drinks,’ he says. ‘The VSOP is the best of the range to complement this drink, as it has some heavier elements that suited my thoughts of chestnuts, stewed fruits and long, dark winter evenings in front of grand fireplaces. With a traditional flaming Christmas pudding!’
‘I think that it would make quite a good breakfast cocktail too,’ points out Imbibe acting editor Millie Milliken. ‘It’s so much fresher than I expected.’
‘The apricot and the fig really help to showcase the Frapin VSOP in the drink. Those flavours play well with the cognac, which is then lifted by the citrus elements. The result manages to be both rich and sweet as well as bright and lifted at the same time,’ adds Imbibe contributor, Clinton Cawood.
Festive fare indeed, and it looks the part too. The challenge is off to a fine start.