Five comfort drinks

It’s a shame that a lot of people only ever tip back cocktails in specialist bars, because some mixed drinks are at their best in your own home, sipped sunk into an armchair by the fire after a long day. Admittedly they’re possibly not the most fashionable or avant-garde ones, but I like to think of them as the soothing alcoholic equivalents of lasagne or rice pudding.

1. Old-fashioned

A contentious drink, and one that seems like hard work when they make it in a bar because they tend to use the purist’s method of soaking a sugar cube in bitters then stirring it for several minutes with ice to dissolve it. But if you keep a little jar of sugar syrup handy then it becomes quick work. As far as the whisky goes, I just use a reasonable blended one, on the principle that I’m obscuring the flavour with sugar and bitters, though perfectionists will demand a good bourbon.

2 oz whisky
1 tsp sugar syrup (made by mixing equal quantities of sugar and boiling water – do it in batches of a few tablespoons at a time and it’ll keep pretty well)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Mix with plenty of ice in an old-fashioned glass or short tumbler. Stir well, then top with more ice. Garnish with a cocktail cherry and a twist of orange peel.

2. Brandy Manhattan

A Manhattan is supposed to be a bourbon drink, and it’s very good when you make it that way. But I read a few years ago about a variant (allegedly originating in Milwaukee) using brandy instead, and somehow this version just feels more silky and warming.

2 oz brandy
1 oz sweet (red) vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir over ice like a martini, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

3. Journalist

I reckon your time is better spent drinking cocktails than mixing them. So leave the Ramos Fizz to the professionals, and stick to recipes with no more than three ingredients. Except this one, which is absolutely worth the modest effort. It’s spicy, fruity, and strong enough to hit you hard behind the eyes in the nicest possible way.

2 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet (red) vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

4. B&B

From moderate complexity to absolute simplicity. Two ingredients, equal parts. I’m particularly partial to this one, in that Benedictine – that sweet, medicinal tipple beloved of French monks and working men from Burnley – is my favourite liqueur, and brandy is my favourite neat spirit. Somehow they seem to bring out the best in one another. Some recipes call for ice, but I reckon this is one that you sniff as much as you sip.

2 oz cognac
2 oz Benedictine liqueur

Stir together in a brandy balloon and warm it in your hands for a while before you drink it.

5. Gin and mixed

My old man wasn’t a particularly big drinker, but most nights when he got home from the factory he used to rustle himself up one of these, accompanied by a large handful of mixed nuts from the jar on top of the drinks cabinet. The recipe recommends equal parts, but you’ll soon find your own preferred blend. My mum takes hers quite dry, but in one regard at least I am my father’s son, and I’m always generous with the rosso.

2 oz gin
2 oz dry vermouth
2 oz sweet (red) vermouth

Mix with a few cubes of ice (not too much) in a small tumbler. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.


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