The Monkey Gland: 1920s Viagra in a classic cocktail

We seem to have developed a bit of a monkey theme this week.  So in that spirit, here’s the bizarre story behind one of the world’s most famous gin cocktails – the Monkey Gland. 

This classic cocktail was first mixed up at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.   Let’s take a step back in time to the 1920s, when legendary bartender Harry MacElhone was starting to build a reputation for himself in the heart of Paris.  He was well known for mixing up fabulous American style cocktails for his glamorous roster of international clients.  In 1922, in a clever marketing move, he thought he’d collect his best recipes and publish them in a book of cocktails which he called “Harry’s ABC of mixing cocktails”.  The book contained one particular drink with a strange name and a bizarre story. 

Building the legend

The art of cocktail making isn’t simply about mixing the right ingredients, there is also the little matter of building a reputation.  Harry knew that and concocted a wickedly strong cocktail by mixing classic London Dry gin with a little orange juice and a few dashes of Grenadine. To top it off, he added the final detail – 3 dashes of high strength Absinthe to guarantee an out of this world experience.  He mixed it all up, shook it with ice and poured it into a Martini glass. It was delicious, but he knew he had to have a name for it if he was to create a classic cocktail.  He called it the Monkey Gland – and he took inspiration from a bizarre source. 

Monkey glands, Viagra and a Russian scientist

In those pre-Viagra days, a Russian scientist called Serge Voronoff was experimenting with ways of maintaining men’s “staying power” and he hit on a very strange technique.  He grafted monkey glands onto men in a bid to boost their virility.  While this was a bit extreme (and there is no evidence that this technique actually worked) Harry was inspired.  He knew that sex sells, so in honour of Prof. Voronoff, he decided to name his new drink “The Monkey Gland” with all the promises and hope that a stimulating drink like this brings to men of a certain age. 

It has been a bartender’s classic ever since.  While we can’t vouch for the medical benefits of this drink, we can highly recommend it for its flavour and strength. For the prefect pour, we recommend making it with a good, classic London Dry such as Sipsmith [paid link].

Handle with care

Beware of the Absinthe – it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it packs a real alcoholic punch, so handle with care.

Bottoms up!

Here’s our classic recipe for a traditional Monkey Gland:

Ingredients:

  • 3 dashes of absinthe
  • 3 dashes of Grenadine
  • ⅓ orange juice
  • ⅔ London Dry gin

Method:

Shake well (over ice) and stir into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice or a twist of burnt orange peel for a little extra flavour. Enjoy!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.

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Two scary and funny halloween pumpkins

Halloween treat: try a Corpse Reviver No. 2

Halloween is here and this evening, it is very likely that you will get a knock on the door. When you answer it, you will probably be confronted with a child dressed as a witch, or a famous superhero or even a headless ghost. They will charm you, and you will fall for their charms. And then, they will demand candy in return for not messing up your front doorstep. This has become the modern Halloween tradition that we all recognise.

But Halloween is not just a contemporary combination of a fancy dress party and a sugar-rush. It is an ancient festival, dedicated to remembering the dead and is thought to have evolved from ancient Celtic harvest festivals with pagan roots.

From pagan roots to hobby horses

Over the years, we have become familiar with the most recent incarnations of those ancient rituals. These include pumpkin carving, costume parties, telling scary ghost stories and generally spooking people out. But before the current tradition of trick or treat began, earlier versions were taking place.

From as early as the 16th century, the tradition of mumming was common in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. People went from house to house exchanging songs and verse for food. In those days, they would dress up as the souls of the dead. At around the same time, over in England, a man with a hobby horse led youths from house to house reciting verses with pagan overtones. And in Scotland people in masks went from door to door threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed.

Turnips, pumpkins and cross-dressing Scots

Fast forward to the late 19th and early 20th century and it appears that the youth of Glamorgan and Orkney went for a bit of cross-dressing. In the 20th century, the pranks became more common in England as well and naughty kids would hollow out turnips and carve grotesque faces in them to use as lanterns. These in turn became the Jack ‘O’ Lanterns that we now carve out of pumpkins.

Echoes of these roots can still be glimpsed in our 21st century version of Halloween. And given the year we’re in, strangers knocking on your doors in masks may have a particular resonance.

Manning the barricades

So, if you’re planning on manning the barricades this Halloween, it’s best to be prepared. Obviously, you’ll need a large bag of assorted candy to ward off the ghosts and ghouls – and a strong gin cocktail to keep your own spirits up.

And what cocktail could be better than a Corpse Reviver?

This classic cocktail was invented by the eminent Harry Craddock, original head bartender at the American Bar of the Savoy (and all round legend). It features in his famous Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. Ever helpful, right underneath the recipe, Harry offers the following advice:

Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.

Harry Craddock

TOP TIP: We don’t necessarily recommend downing four in a row, unless you really want to see spirits. But one or two won’t do you any harm. And it will help you to deal with those pesky Halloweeners outside your front door.

Harry Craddock’s original recipe for a Corpse Reviver No.2:

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass

Happy Halloween!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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a glass mug with a warm drink garnished with star anis, cloves and cinnamon stick

Hot sloe gin toddy: an easy recipe for autumn comfort

Summer is officially behind us and these days, the weather’s much colder, the rain’s more frequent and sometimes you can even see your breath in the air. This is the season of long nights, darker mornings, conkers, log fires, cozy walks, sturdy walking shoes and Wellington boots. But it is also sloe gin season in the UK.

You might have seen our interview with our friends Jenny and Hamish Prentice about how and when to harvest sloe berries. They’ve been making sloe gin in the Wiltshire countryside for years and they offered some handy tips on exactly how and when to harvest these elusive little berries and turn them into sloe gin. It’s well worth a read if you missed it. But once you’ve got your sloe gin, what exactly do you with it on a cold autumn evening?

Spice up those autumn nights

Well one thing you could do is warm yourself up with a delicious hot sloe gin toddy. So, we thought we’d make it nice and easy for you by giving you a simple recipe that will add a little spice to those cold, dark nights. When you’re trapped indoors (maybe enjoying the warmth of a log fire or wondering what gin based drink you should have) you could get your evening going with a burst of delicious, spicy alcoholic warmth.

Welcome to our hot sloe gin toddy – we think you’ll FALL in love with it (see what I did there?)

Ingredients: Continued

Ingredients: Continued

a whiskey glass being poured a cocktail from a shaker and garnished with orange peel

What exactly is a Pink Gin?

Some people think that Pink Gin is just a gimmicky brand name or just a normal gin that’s been infused with something pink.  But, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Pink gin is a thing of its own and it has been for centuries.

So, how did it get its name?

Originally, it was drunk on board Royal Navy ships, where the sailors knew it as “Pinkers”. In those days alcohol was a vital medical supply, used to clean wounds and combat infection. As such, it became a mainstay in any ship’s galley. In the old days, gin was a much stronger affair, so the sailors tended to mix it with equal quantities of water to make it drinkable.

The days when we drank gin for “medicinal purposes “ are now long behind us but for old times sake, here’s a traditional pink gin recipe to try.  But remember, it’s not for the easily intimidated. These days, with such a huge selection of gins to choose from, all with different flavour profiles and characteristics, you might want to make your own pink gin at home. It couldn’t be any simpler and apparently it’s a good cure for seasickness. It seems we have a lot more to thank the Royal Navy for than we possibly imagined!

Pink Gin


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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a cocktail shaker pouring a cocktail in a glass with an icecube and some fruits and decoration lights in the backgroud

Negroni cocktail recipe – the Holy Grail!

All good drinks should have a story attached and this classic Negroni cocktail is no exception. 

Some time, way back in the 1920s,  Italian Count Camillo Negroni walked into a bar called Cafe Casoni in Florence looking for a drink that required freshness, acidity and a touch of bitterness.  He asked the bartender for an Americano (equal parts Martini Rosso and Campari, topped with soda water).  But he didn’t think it was quite doing the trick.  So, he took out the soda and put in a shot of gin. The rest is history.

In fact, the Negroni cocktail is the bartenders Holy Grail.

Get it right and it’s a sublime drink. Get it wrong and it can taste a little bitter.

But one thing is certain, it is a true cocktail classic – up there with the Old Fashioned (for Bourbon fans). That’s why it is so important for you to get the Negroni cocktail recipe right.

No more than 20 Negronis per day!

The Negroni  first became popular in the 1920s and has been an iconic, classic cocktail ever since. In fact, Frances Harper of London wrote a letter to the ailing Count in 1920 which was delivered to his hospital bed. It offered some valuable advice:

– “You say you can drink, smoke and laugh just as much as ever. I feel you are not too much to be pitied. You must take no more than 20 Negronis in one day!”

This classic Negroni cocktail is the perfect drink for before (and after) dinner, but (like the Count) you can drink it any time.

Welcome to the king of drinks. Here is our version of the classic, simple  Negroni cocktail recipe that the Count inadvertently created back in the 1920s.

Negroni Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts of gin, Campari and Italian red vermouth

Method:

  • Mix in an ice filled mixing glass
  • Stir gently and pour into an Old Fashioned glass or tumbler

Garnish with chunky orange wedge and drink.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Warm your cockles on a cold Autumn weekend with a Hot Gin Toddy – a hug in a mug!

Autumn is definitely in the air and we all know that Winter is just around the corner.

So, while you’re feeling the comforting crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet and before the cold Winter wind drives you towards the mulled wine, how about something a little different – a nice warming Hot Gin Toddy to get you through the weeks between now and Christmas.

Hot gin might sound a bit weird but it’s delicious.

Why not give it a try this weekend if you need a little “gin hug” to revive your spirits..

There are some great seasonal gin cocktail recipes that are perfect for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. They are easy to make and guaranteed to warm you up from the inside out as the nights grow colder, longer and darker.

You can even drink them from a coffee cup – nobody will ever know!

Here’s one of our favourites, a simple recipe, full of Autumn goodness and gingery warmth.

Wrap up warm, put the kettle on and enjoy.

Hot Gin Toddy Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ginger tea bag
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 8 oz hot water
  • 1 lemon

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a mug.

Add 8 oz hot water.

Garnish with a cinammon stick.

Cheers!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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The Laverstoke cocktail

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On a recent tour of the beautiful Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire (highly recommended by the way!), I stumbled across the Laverstoke cocktail as one of my post-tour choices.

It’s been my “go to” Summer drink ever since, because it combines some of my favourite ingredients including elderflower, lime, ginger and gin. Mixed together it is the lightest and most refreshing of summer cocktails.

Perfect for sipping on a summer’s day overlooking the clear waters of the trout stream that flows swiftly under the amazing converted mill deep in the Hampshire countryside – now home to the Bombay Sapphire distillery (and one of the best and prettiest gin tours in the UK).

Here’s how to make one (courtesy of Bombay Sapphire’s head bartender, Sam Carter).

  • Squeeze 2 freshly cut lime wedges into a large copa (balloon) glass then drop in
  • Pour in 10 ml of Elderflower cordial (paid link)
  • Add 15 ml of Martini Rosso vermout (paid link)
  • Pour in 50 ml of gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire! (paid link)
  • Fill glass completely with large ice cubes and stir well to chill
  • Pour ginger ale (or ginger beer) down a twisted bar spoon over the ice and gently stir cocktail at same time
  • Garnish with a snapped ginger slice and an awoken mint leaf
  • Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy…

For more of Sam’s delicious gin cocktail recipes click here

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Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Anyone for Pimm’s?

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There’s nothing more delicious on an English summer day than a long, refreshing jug of Pimms, served with lemonade, ice, mint, cucumber, sliced oranges and lemons and poured over a pile of ice cubes.

It is the drink of Wimbledon and Ascot, Henley Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show – but it’s at its best in your back garden on a (rare) English summer’s day. So why is it so hard to find in the land of Sangria and Tinto Verano? Well maybe that’s just it – there are so many established alternatives in Spain, so why should they bother with an English version off what they already do well?

I’ll tell you why – because its got gin in it and it’s absolutely delicious.

So what is it and how did it come about?

The original Pimms was invented in 1840 by James Pimm of London town. He was a restaurant owner with several establishments across the city and experimented by blending gin with liqueurs, spices and other special ingredients, which he then served in pint tankards. It proved so popular with his customers, that he saw an opportunity and he took it. He started bottling his concoction and his customers loved it. That began a great British love affair with this delicious, easy to drink gin-based spirit.

Shortly after the bottling started, so di the journey of Pimms itself. One of its first ever shipments was to the Galle Face hotel (I was there earlier this year and I can vouch for the fact that there can be no finer place in the world to sip it than on the verandah of this classic colonial, eating a fine curry and gazing out at the Indian Ocean). In 1898, a shipment of Pimms was sent up the Nile by boat to Sudan. Its mission: to help to quench the thirst of the forces who were digging in to defend Khartoum. I can only imagine General Gordon having a last glass of Pimms before his last stand at the Battle of Omdurman guaranteed his place in the history books forever.

Since then, Pimms has gone from strength to strength and a number of different Pimms Cups are now available including Pimms No. 2 (based on scotch); Pimms No. 3 (based on rum); Pimms No. 4 (based on rye whiskey); and Pimms No. 5 (based on vodka). But the Daddy of them all is still Pimms No.1 and it stll tastes of Summer.

Hard to find in Barcelona, but availabe at Colmado Quilez

Classic Pimm’s No. 1 Cup recipe

  1. Mix 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 with three parts sparkling lemonade
  2. Add strawberries, cucumber, mint and orange to a large jug
  3. Pour the concoction over ice into a long glass (or a tankard)
  4. Garnish to taste.

Enjoy!

Thank you, Mr. Pimm.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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The Singapore Sling: classic and exotic

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The Singapore Sling classic cocktail was invented in Singapore’s Raffles Hotel where it started off as a Straits Sling.

However, this appeared a little too dry for the contemporary taste buds, so the head bartender decided to sweeten it up a bit. Kirsch was replaced with cherry brandy and the drink was lengthened to make it more refreshing.

The result:  one of the most famous gin-based cocktails in the world, ready to refresh your taste-buds on a hot day and transport you to a fan cooled veranda on a hot and humid Singapore day. Aaaah! I can taste it now…

Singapore Sling recipe

Ingredients:

Method:

Build the first 4 ingredients in a tall ice-filled glass, then stir, top up with soda water and add the bitters.

For a spicy twist on the classic recipe, replace soda water with ginger beer or ginger ale, sit back and pretend you’re in Singapore.

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Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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The Aviation: a high-flying classic cocktail

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The Aviation, a high-flying classic cocktail recipe – simple to prepare with complex flavours and an incredible glamour.

Created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York in the early 20th century, it was refined in the 1930s by Harry Craddock, head bartender of the Savoy (paid link).

This classic gin cocktail has stood the test of time. Try it out and let us know what you think…

The Aviation recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 30 ml of Old Tom Gin
  • 20 ml of Maraschino
  • 15 ml of fresh lemon juice

Method:

Shake all the ingredient together with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a cherry. 

Challenge: these are delicious. See if you can stop at one…

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