Tag Archives: cocktail

The Pinewood with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Recently I sampled cocktails at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar on behalf of The Holborn Magazine (http://theholbornmag.com) and wrote up the below piece, which can also be read here

Easing into one of the cosy, copper-roofed booths at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is a sure-fire way to unwind after a long day. Even more so when it’s with a steady supply of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, pegged as the ultimate bourbon for modern whiskey connoisseurs.

The salty caramel bourbon can be enjoyed neat as an “occasion whiskey” or mixed by skilled bartenders such as Tom Vernon, brand ambassador for Woodford Reserve, America’s oldest and smallest distillery. Over the years, Woodford has produced award-winning bourbon and honed its skills in eking out the best flavour from the five sources of the bourbon-making process: water, grain, fermentation, distillation and maturation.


The “Double Oaked” name refers to the unique two-stage maturation process which uses two barrels to yield a rich, smooth and well rounded whiskey. The bourbon begins life as fully matured Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select before being transferred into a second, heavily toasted, charred barrel, which imparts a distinct rich, caramel quality and adds further layers of bold flavour. The amber liquid matures for a full year in the second barrel, over which time it takes on notes of dark fruits and hazelnut.

Tasting the finished product, there is sweetness to start with, before a pleasant dryness can be picked up on the sides of the tongue thanks to the wood treatment. Flavours of toffee, cinnamon, liquorice and even leather meld with spice and rye.


The bourbon shines in cocktails such as The Pinewood, a hybrid of a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. Dry Italian vermouth enlivens the rich, smooth flavours of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and the whole palate is stimulated with sweet pineapple spirit, smoked salt and a dash of bitters.

35ml WRDO
35ml Punt E Mes
Dash, Angustura Bitters
Orange rind
5ml Smoked Salt and Pineapple Syrup

Stir down and serve straight up with a twist of orange

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, is priced at £50 per bottle, available from Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, The Whisky Shop (in-store and online), plus any Hawksmoor.



Illy University

“I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear”

Like Sting’s Englishman in New York, I see away 4 or 5 cups of tea every day (earl grey, splash of milk, no sugar – thanks). While I love coffee, I don’t drink it regularly and usually only indulge in this most seductive of caffeine hits when it’s made for me by a proper barista with a good machine.

Recently I discovered that there is a middle ground between the dirty dishwater style coffee that dribbles out of the worst vending machines and the multi-thousand pound professional kit. The lovely people at the Illy University (yes, there is such a thing – this is where budding baristas come for training) invited me over for a demonstration of their at-home machines, which they promised would give me the high-quality java I craved in my own flat.

First, the drawbacks of the bulky, heavy professional machines were explained. Marco Arrigo, Head of Quality for Illy Coffee in the UK, is deeply fond of his Faema coffee machine from the 1960s, but it needs constant maintenance to be kept running smoothly.


Marco and his team have to pull hundreds of espressos every day to ensure it stays in good nick: obviously hugely impractical for a household that requires just a handful of cups per day.


Marco said he “fights against” the vintage, clanking machinery every day and let me have a go at grappling myself.

One of my first ever teenage jobs was at a well-known high street coffee chain, which I won’t name, but they’re known for their green aprons… There, you were taught to use spoons to control your steamed and foamed milk but Marco is a purist: it’s all in the wrist, no spoons allowed. With Marco’s help I completed a couple of shaky hearts and leaves.



While the “third wave” coffee movement comprising independent roasteries believe freshly roasted green beans are the best, Illy prefers to let the roasted coffee beans mellow over 21 days in pressurised cans. Illy sources beans from nine different countries and has to produce a consistent, familiar Illy taste each time, so the blend has to be just right.

The capsules used in Illy’s at-home machines are similarly pressurised.


Comparing coffees from the professional and at-home machines was a revelation: both had a lingering viscosity, a sign of high quality. Thin, watery mouthfeel is often a bad or poorly made coffee. The proper, thick stuff should be powerful enough so the flavour coats the tongue long after you sip. Sure enough, it was impossible to detect the difference between the coffee from the professional machine and the coffee from the at-home machine.

After a few more lessons (such as how to store coffee beans or grounds – NEVER in the fridge or freezer), class was dismissed at Illy University.

Which meant it was booze o’clock! We were treated to espresso martinis made by Bea Bradsell, whose father Dick invented the espresso martini in the 1980s at the Soho Brasserie, after a supermodel demanded “a drink that will wake me up and then fuck me up”.


Bea Bradsell’s perfect espresso martini recipe:

50ml vodka
25ml good espresso, chilled (never use freshly pulled espresso because it will melt the ice and give you a watery drink)
10ml Tia Maria
15ml Kahlua
Dash simple syrup

Shake vigorously with ice and strain into chilled glass. Decorate with three coffee beans for luck. Bottoms up!


The fun didn’t stop there: Illy let me take my very own machine home to practice my new-found latte art skills.

Say hello to the Illy Francis Francis X7.1!


This baby is a cinch to use, looks great in my kitchen and produces excellent espresso at the touch of a button. It would be good to see Illy use more recyclable materials in the future.

As an early Christmas present I have a nifty promo code to share, which gives you 20% off new machines and coffee until 10th January 2014 (maximum of 3 items per order):


What’s your perfect brew?

Recipes from Lima: ceviche and Pisco sour

Peruvian food is a bit of a “thing” in London these days, with restaurants such as Lima, Coya and others opening recently.

Ceviche is by far Peru’s most famous and popular dish. The idea is to get the freshest seafood possible and toss it in lime juice and other flavourings to cure the flesh slightly.

Since food is often best in its birthplace, I couldn’t wait to go on a bit of a pilgrimage while we were in Lima, Peru to learn more about ceviche and check out some top cevicherias.

I asked Ericka from Delectable Peru to take me under her wing with a visit to one of her favourite cevicherias, El Veridico De Fidel, where we would be shown how to make a classic ceviche (and eat plenty of samples, of course!).


The ingredients, freshly picked up from Lima’s ports, were waiting for us to get stuck in.


We had to don attractive headgear to be allowed in the prep area.


This is the recipe we followed:

Classic Peruvian ceviche


  • 1kg Cojinoa fish (or any firm-fleshed white fish), cleaned and diced into 2cm chunks
  • About 15 limes, freshly squeezed for 200ml juice
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ajinomoto (later I learned this is MSG and can be omitted)
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced (about 150g)
  • Small handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 2tbsp hot salsa (recipe follows), or to taste

To make one cup of hot salsa, blend together the following in a blender or food processor:

  • 100g celery
  • 10g garlic
  • 10g ginger
  • 5 aji lemon peppers (a mild, fruity red chilli as modelled by Mark below)
  • 5ml oil
  • 5ml condensed milk


1) Put the fish pieces into a large mixing bowl.


2) Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.


3) Allow to marinate for no more than a few minutes while you decorate your serving plate with choclo (sweetcorn), sweet potato and lettuce.

4) Feel free to get silly with some of the ingredients.


5) Serve the ceviche (don’t waste any of that tasty juice) and enjoy!


Ideally the seafood should only be allowed to sit in the marinade for up to five minutes to just take away the edge of the rawness. If left too long, the acid from the lime juice overcooks the flesh, leaving it with an unpleasant mealy, mushy texture and a watery taste – not what you want! The best ceviche should have fresh, citrussy, sour and salty flavours with firm, meaty flesh. Ceviche is often served with popcorn which is great for soaking up the juices left on the plate.

You can also make ceviche with different varieties of seafood, such as shrimp for prawns, octopus, or these black clams.


Leche de Tigre (tiger’s milk) is a drink for only the brave – it is made with ceviche juice mixed with a little milk and garnished with seafood.


Yummy, but an acquired taste as the milk has a tendency to curdle with all that lime juice.

The classic Peruvian cocktail, Pisco Sour, is a great boozy drink to have with ceviche.


The universal ratio to remember is 3,1,1,1 (3 shots Pisco, 1 shot lime juice, 1 shot sugar syrup and 1egg white). Shake like crazy with plenty of ice, pour into an old-fashioned glass and sprinkle Angostura bitters on top of the foam. You can experiment with flavoured Pisco if you like – the bottles below contain strawberries, coca leaves, lemon zest and much more.