christmas mince pies in foil paper

Boozy mince pies: let the Christmas fun be-gin

At this time of year, the pre-Christmas nibbling has probably already begun.
Mince pies are one of the most traditional of all English treats at Christmas time – and for many, they are the taste of Christmas. But if you’re not brought up with this tradition, it’s sometimes quite difficult to get your head around the term “mince pie”. In fact, these days, there’s absolutely no meat to be found inside a traditional mince pie.

These sweet little pies have been decorating English Christmas tables since the 13th century when they were first brought to England by crusaders returning from the Middle East. The original Mediterranean recipes included meats, fruits and spices representing the symbolism of the gifts delivered to the baby Jesus by the Magi. In fact, in the early days, mince pies were actually rectangular and “manger-shaped” and were often topped with a pastry image of the Christ Child.

From crusader cuisine to rich, sweet Christmas pies

Over the centuries, these tasty sweet and savoury treats began to lose the savoury.  In fact, these days, the meat has been removed altogether, in favour of traditional sweet mincemeat – a rich mixture of chopped, dried fruit, spices, sugar and distilled spirits. 

The fruits usually include chopped apple, fresh citrus peal, currants, candied fruits, citron and brandy or rum. It’s then all mixed together and aged so that the flavours deepen and the texture changes to a dark, sticky, boozy Christmas goo! This gorgeous mixture is then encased in little pastry packages of buttery goodness and baked. 

Once out of the oven, they receive a final light dusting of sugar powder to finish it all off. 

For the final step: top with a little cream or brandy butter and pop this little sweet, spicy, steamy Christmas parcel into your mouth. Christmas will follow. 

This amazing mince pie mixture is unlikely to last you the whole festive season, but if you maintain your discipline, it can be stored for up to 10 years. 

Sloe is better

But what if we were to substitute a little gin where traditionally there was rum or brandy?

And even better, what about sloe gin?

If that’s more to your taste, then here’s a simple little mince pie recipe that means you don’t have to mix your spirits – just stick with gin!

These festive pies are made with lashings of sloe gin for a truly festive blast of boozy, fruity, seasonal goodness and they’re really easy to make. We recommend using Sipsmith Sloe Gin for this recipe, with its deep, warming sloe-ness. But you can choose any sloe gin you prefer – or even use your own if you have some home made sloe already in the house.

Mince pies recipe

Ingredients:

Mince pies
  • 300g fresh cranberries
  • 300g dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apricots etc.)
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 40z Sipsmith Sloe Gin
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp nutmeg
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 1 orange

For the pastry:

Mince pies
  • 350g flour
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Icing sugar (to dust)

Method:

Mince pies
  1. Heat the sloe gin and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring until all sugar has dissolved
  2. Stir in the dried fruit, spices and grate ion the zest from the orange
  3. Add the cranberries and squeeze in the juice from the orange. Leave to stew for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Remove from heat and place to the side while you make your pastry
  5. Rub the flour and butter together in a bowl until it forms a crumbly mixture
  6. Add the sugar and egg and knead together into a dough
  7. Roll the pastry out and use a circle cookie cutter to cut dough circles to the right size for your muffin tins
  8. Squeeze the dough circles into your muffin tin and generously fill with mincemeat
  9. Top each pie with a pastry star, sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven for 18 minutes at 220C
  10. Pour one glass of Sipsmith Sloe Gin for you. Pour another one for Santa. Sit back and hope you’re not on the naughty list.

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 Monkey gland cocktail.

The Monkey Gland: 1920s Viagra in a classic cocktail

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

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 Monkey gland 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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    It’s that time of year again. Every spring, we are teased with fleeting glimpses of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We are seduced by the promise of warmer air and longer evenings.  And then, we return to the cooler weather and grey skies for a few days, feeling a little cheated and let down.  … Continued
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