Intoxicating Drinks

White Solstice

The Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere this year falls on Friday the 22nd of December at 3:28am. On the Summer Solstice, the sun reaches its zenith – its highest point in the sky. It is our longest day of the year.

As part of my summer celebrations, I went to a berry picking farm to load up on fresh berries. I bought enough to enjoy a few days worth of fresh berries and plenty to freeze for the rest of the year. As I was about to pay, I saw some strange white berries on the counter and asked what they were. They were whitecurrants. The staff said you could eat them just like that but that most people bought them to make sauces with. I’ve eaten redcurrants, but never whitecurrants, so I bought a punnet to see what they would be like.

On the drive home I started thinking of how I was going to use them. I was originally going to make a whitecurrant version of a redcurrant sauce, maybe with a bit of apple or apple juice. But when I tasted a few fresh ones, I quickly changed my mind. These tiny berries packed a punch with a tart sharpness mellowed by only a hint of sweetness. My first thought after tasting them was they would go great with gin and tonic! I immediately started thinking of the many ways I could play with a gin, tonic and whitecurrant combination. After a little experimenting and the addition of apple juice, I came up with a surprisingly delicious and refreshing concoction – perfect for the Summer Solstice.

White Currant Gin and Tonic

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Ingredients
3/4 cup whitecurrants, stems removed
3/4 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup gin
tonic water

Instructions
Place the whitecurrants and apple juice in a blender and blend until smooth.
Strain into a jug.
Stir in the maple syrup.
Divide the gin between two glasses.
Pour the juice evenly over the gin.
Top up with tonic water to taste.

Black Apples & Vernal Equinoxes

I was wondering why I was finding it hard to get excited about the Spring Equinox this weekend. Then it hit me. I’m in mourning for winter. The Spring or Vernal Equinox is a time of balance, when day and night are relatively equal. It signifies a change in power between day and night. After the Spring Equinox the day wins ascendancy as long nights are overtaken by longer days. My short cold days and comforting long nights are almost over. I will miss them but know they will return when the wheel spins its way to autumn once more.

To mourn the loss of winter I thought I would create a variation of a Black Velvet. The Black Velvet was supposedly created by a London bartender in 1861 to mourn the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Consort, Prince Albert. The colour of the drink was meant to symbolise the colour of the black armbands worn by mourners. A Black Velvet is a mix of equal parts champagne or sparkling wine and stout. To make, fill a glass halfway with chilled sparkling wine or champagne then slowly top with chilled stout.

A Poor Man’s Black Velvet, also called Mud and Blood, is a variation of a Black Velvet which substitutes the sparkling wine or champagne for apple or pear cider. One way of serving either drink is to try slowly pouring the stout over the back of a spoon into the sparkling wine or cider. If done right, the stout will sit on the top and create a layered effect. I tried this but failed 🙂 If you can achieve the separation of colours, these Black Velvets would be perfect for the Equinoxes as they visually symbolise the balance between day and night.

While I am celebrating the Spring Equinox, I am also mourning the end of winter and its long cold nights which were warmed by comforting hot drinks. To commemorate this loss I thought I would make a warm and spicy mulled version of a Poor Man’s Black Velvet.
I’m calling it a Dark Queen’s Black Apple.

Dark Queen’s Black Apple

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Ingredients
1 orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 cups apple cider
2 cups stout

Instructions
Using a knife or vegetable peeler, peel the skin from the orange leaving behind as much of the white pith as you can.
Place the orange peel and all the other ingredients into a saucepan.
Simmer gently over low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the drink is hot but not boiling.
Strain into heatproof mugs or glasses.
Refrigerate any leftover drink.
You can reheat it or drink it chilled.

A Day For Gin

World Gin Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in June. This is a day to enjoy all things gin. For some of us, World Gin Day is every day!

I’ve always loved gin. I love the aromatics and the infinite flavours you can play with. The only things gin needs in order to be called gin is distilled alcohol and juniper berries. After that you can add anything else and it’s still a gin. In fact the name gin is derived from juniperus, the Latin word for juniper.

One of the more interesting gins I have recently discovered is an Australian gin called Ink. It was the deep blue/purple colour that drew me to the bottle. I then discovered that this blue/purple colour changes to a light purple/pink when you add tonic water. I was entranced! I was also very happy that this gin was not just a gimmick, but a beautiful tasting one as well.

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Ink is infused with 14 different botanicals including butterfly pea flowers. It is these flowers that give the gin its bright colour as well as its colour changing properties. Butterfly pea flowers are considered an aphrodisiac as the flowers resemble female genitalia. Not surprisingly their scientific name is derived from the Latin for clitoris – Clitoria ternatea.

With that in mind I started thinking of a way of showcasing this delicious and unusual gin while adding a feminine touch 🙂 After much thought I really couldn’t go past a classic gin and tonic with the addition of strawberries. Strawberries are associated with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, after whom aphrodisiacs are named.

Strawberry Gin and Tonic

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Ingredients
60ml gin
1 strawberry, sliced lengthways
90ml tonic water

Instructions
Pour the gin into a glass.
Add the sliced strawberry.
Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
Add the tonic water.
Enjoy!
Makes one mixed drink.

For more gin drinks, check out my recipes for Glow In The Dark Gin & Tonic, Gin Alexander and Sage Mulled Wine.

Season Of The Witch

New Year’s Eve 1999 was not spent partying like it was 1999. It was spent extracting metaphorical knives from my back and wondering if there were any more to come. I was happy to see the end of a year, century and millennia. I had a lot to put behind me. I also had so many good memories and great achievements to take with me into the new millennia. I was excited for the journey ahead. I thought I knew where my paths would lead me. I was wrong. I really had no idea. It’s ended up being a wild and bumpy ride. But I wouldn’t change it for the world!

2016 was one of those years that makes you think about the past, present and future. So many strange things happened. So many deaths. It made me think about my past and the decisions I made in 2000, the things and people I lost when I removed those metaphorical knives all those years ago. I’m happy to say I don’t miss much from those times but the one thing I do miss is witchcraft.

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I decided to take a sabbatical from witchcraft in 2000, mainly because some of the knives had been wielded by my coven and those knives hurt a lot. A sabbatical usually refers to a leave of absence from a job, usually an academic position. The term comes from sabbath which represents a day of rest. More broadly, a sabbath highlights the importance of making time for periods of rest and rejuvenation throughout your life. This was just what I needed in 2000, a time to rest, nurture and restore myself. As the years rolled by, I yearned for a return to ritual and witchy magic. I often remembered the fun times I had with various covens. The nights spent outdoors with a fire burning. The singing, chanting and dancing followed by cookies and wine.

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As an homage to my past, I decided to make my old coven recipe for crescent cookies. I was going to use them for my new year post on Mari Lwyd. My mouth watered as I remembered the golden, buttery taste of the delicately flavoured almond cookies. I was so eager to taste them that I ate a hot one straight from the oven. It wasn’t very nice. It was bland and dry. I waited until they cooled. They were worse. What had gone wrong? I’m not sure. I’ve certainly become a much better cook than I was back then. Could that be it? Again, I’m not sure, but the failure of my cookies reminded me of both the good and bad coven times. It wasn’t all cookies and wine. So for now I’ll put the cookies and thoughts of covens on the back burner. There is a new path ahead for me. There are many reasons why I think 2017 will be my season of the witch. I’ll share those reasons soon, but for now I’d love to share a recipe for a Strega Sunrise – my witchy tweak to a Tequila Sunrise, one of my favourite cocktails 🙂

Strega is a saffron based Italian herbal liqueur. I first saw a bottle of this golden elixir many years ago at my Italian brother in law’s home. When he told me that strega was Italian for witch, I had to take a good look at the label. It features witches dancing with half goat, half man creatures. There’s also an old witch holding a broomstick. She has snakes in her hair! I couldn’t believe it. Medusa, Pan, Witches and Saffron – what’s not to love about Strega!

Strega Sunrise

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Ingredients
ice cubes
30ml Strega
3/4 cup orange juice
15ml grenadine

Method
Place a few ice cubes in a tall glass.
Pour the Strega over the ice.
Pour in the orange juice.
Gently pour in the grenadine so it slips down and then rises again, creating a sunrise effect.

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Horsey New Year!

What if I told you you could ring in the New Year with a Zombie Horse! For those of us of a gothic persuasion, the spirit of the New Year cannot be embodied in a better form than that of the Welsh Mari Lwyd. Mari Lwyd, or Y Fari Lwyd in Welsh, translates as Grey Mare or Grey Mary. Mari Lwyd is a horse that comes back from the dead in the guise of a horse’s skull decorated in ribbons and mounted on a pole. A white sheet is attached to the pole hiding both the pole and the person carrying the Spooky Hobby Horse.

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Mari Lwyd and her gang of followers engage in Hobby Horse Hijinks by travelling from house to house trying to gain entry. They do this by singing and engaging in a battle of riddles. The occupants refuse entry in song and riddles. The banter continues until the occupants relent and allow Mari Lywd inside, where she is rewarded with food and drink. It is lucky to allow the Grey Mare entry as she brings good luck to the occupants for the New Year.

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If Mari Lywd comes knocking on your door New Year’s Eve, you can try offering the Zombie Horse some horsey based food and drink. Devils on Horseback sound like an appropriate treat. My two versions of the popular canapé feature dates and prunes stuffed with blue cheese wrapped in prosciutto and dates and prunes stuffed with dark chocolate wrapped in bacon.

Devils On Horseback

 

Ingredients
12 dates, pitted
12 prunes, pitted

for the blue cheese devils
100g blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
12 thin slices of prosciutto

for the chocolate devils
12 squares of 70% dark chocolate,
6 strips of bacon, halved crosswise

Instructions
Preheat oven to 230C / 450F.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Place the blue cheese in a small bowl. Add the pepper and mash until combined.
Fill 6 dates and 6 prunes with an equal amount of cheese.
Wrap each one tightly with a slice of prosciutto.
Secure with a toothpick.
Fill remaining dates and prunes with a piece of chocolate.
Wrap each one tightly with a slice of bacon.
Secure with a toothpick.
Place on prepared trays and bake for about 10 minutes or until the prosciutto and bacon are crispy. Turn over once, halfway through cooking time.
Serve warm.

What better way to wash done these tasty snacks than with a horsey cocktail 🙂 I thought of making a Moscow Mule, but chose a less known drink called a Horse’s Neck. I think it is the perfect drink for a horse whose head is balanced on a stick!

Horse’s Neck Cocktail

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Ingredients
Ice
25ml whisky
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Spiral of lemon peel
Ginger ale

Instructions
Fill a highball glass with ice.
Pour the whisky over the ice.
Add the bitters and lemon peel.
Top up with ginger ale.

Omit the lemon peel and you have a variation on the Horse’s Neck cocktail called a Horse Feather cocktail.

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I Never Drink … Wine

When Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi first uttered those immortal words in Tod Browning’s 1931 movie Dracula, he didn’t realise he would be giving birth to one of the most famous lines in vampire folklore. These words never appeared in Bram Stoker’s novel. They were unique to the film which is loosely based on the 1924 stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. It was this play that introduced us to an urbane, tuxedo wearing Count Dracula, much different to Stoker’s quite repulsive vampire. The romantic, cape wearing Count would become one of the most popular versions of the mercurial vampire in literature and cinema. His popularity does not appearing to be waning.

To celebrate Bela’s upcoming 134th birthday on Thursday October 20, I thought I would drink some wine in his honour 🙂 Sangria, a chilled Spanish red wine drink, is supposedly named after the Spanish word for blood – sangre – which reflects its dark red colour. I have chosen to meld a chilled Spanish sangria with a warm mulled wine. After all, if Dracula did drink wine he most certainly would want it served warm – like blood!

Hot Blooded Sangria

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Ingredients
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
750ml bottle of red wine
1/3 cup brandy
1 blood orange, cut into pieces

Method
Place the juice and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined.
Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
Add the wine and brandy. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 5 minutes.
Add the blood orange pieces to a heatproof jug.
Pour wine over the blood orange pieces.
Drink while warm.
Refrigerate any leftover wine and enjoy cold over ice.

Spanish Rioja is traditional but you can use any red wine you like. I used a Vampire Merlot from Transylvania 🙂
You can use any variety of oranges when blood oranges are out of season.

Drinks To Drive For

Gemelli, a great new food place, recently opened up near us. We’ve been there a few times trying out the menu. They have some great food but the standout favourites have to be their milkshakes. Four flavours range from Berry Cheesecake, Cara-Malt Popcorn, Chocolate – Chocolate – Chocolate to Vanilla Brulee. It took a while, but I tried them all 🙂 Choosing a favourite is difficult, as each has something unusual and delicious to tempt you.

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the wobbly jelly pieces in the Berry Cheesecake

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the caramel popcorn floating crunchily in the Cara-Malt Popcorn

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the chocolate filled wafers poking out of the Chocolate – Chocolate – Chocolate

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the bruleed marshmallow sitting in a mini ice cream cone, poking out of the Vanilla Brulee

I did not think there was a drink to match these in beauty and flavour but I was wrong. After conquering the milkshake challenge I turned to one of my favourite drinks – the Affogato.

What is not to love about cold ice cream served with a shot of hot coffee to pour over it? Affogato means “drowned” in Italian and refers to the ice cream being drowned by the coffee. When the hot coffee meets the cold ice cream a battle begins between the two. Will the heat of the coffee melt the ice cream or will the cold ice cream cool down the coffee? Both things actually happen. What you are left with is a warm, creamy, melting coffee flavoured ice cream which you both drink and eat with a spoon!

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Can it get any better? Yes! By the additional of alcohol. Affogato can be served with a shot of Amaretto, a sweet, almond flavoured liqueur. But the affogato here is served with Frangelico, a sublime hazelnut flavoured liqueur. It was a very pleasant surprise. While you are meant to pour both the coffee and the liqueur over the ice cream, I kept some Frangelico back for the end. Finishing my affogato with a final sip of warming Frangelico was the perfect end to a perfect drink.

I loved the affogato so much I decided to make my own version with vanilla and raspberry ice cream, served with a shot of hot coffee and a shot of Turkish Delight liqueur. The raspberry ice cream almost overpowered the coffee, but the coffee bravely fought back. The raspberry and Turkish Delight liqueur complemented each other beautifully and I was left with an intriguing mix of flavours which I liked.

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If you are happy to stray from the traditional flavours of an affogato, you can have heaps of fun experimenting. I’m wondering what coconut ice cream and coffee would taste like and what liqueur to pair them with and … I could go on but it’s time to have a coffee – without ice cream! 🙂

Full Moons & Full Drinks

Moon

Dracula Tarot Moon Card
Created by Vicky Vladic
Illustrated by Anna Gerraty

December’s full moon falls on xmas day, which is a very rare event. The last one was in 1977 and the next one will be in 2034. In honour of the full moon and the shining bright star that is a part of the xmas story, I created a very special drink – a glow in the dark gin and tonic. The inclusion of apple is tasty, but the star hidden inside makes it a perfect solstice and xmas addition 🙂

Quinine, found in tonic water, glows under UV light so, if you have a blacklight you can shine it on this drink for a glowing surprise.

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Gin & Tonic By Day

 

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Gin & Tonic By Blacklight

Glow In The Dark Gin And Tonic
For each glass you will need:
100ml frozen tonic water
100ml frozen apple juice
50ml gin
apple slice cut crosswise to show the star shape

Method
Freeze the tonic water in large cubes.
Freeze the apple juice in large cubes.
Place the ice cubes into a large glass.
Pour in the gin.
Add the apple slice and wait for the cubes to melt.

A Bloody Birthday Drink

October 20th is Bela Lugosi’s birthday. He would be 133 years old if he lived. Considering he is one of the most famous actors who played Dracula, he may still be living – or undead!

As I continue to explore the five taste sensations through drinks, I couldn’t resist creating a Bloody Virgin Mary. Not only is it a drink most appropriate for a vampire, it is also a celebration of umami flavours. Umami is a Japanese word and is used to describe the unique flavour of savoury. Best examples of umami flavours can be found in aged foods such as cheese, cured foods, fermented foods, meats, sauces, seaweed and stocks.

Bloody Virgin Mary
A heady combination of savoury and salty flavours.

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Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup beef stock
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 spring onions, finely chopped

Method
Place the tomato juice, beef stock, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and spring onions in a blender. Blend until combined. Pour into a jug. The mixture will be frothy so chill in the refrigerator until settled before serving.

A Taste For Gin

I’ve been drinking gin since I was 15 years old. Something about the heady aromatics of
juniper berries grabbed me and held on tight. I love the different botanicals in different gins. When I discovered sloe gin I was blown away.

In my younger days I mixed my gin with lemonade or lemon squash. Now I shudder at the thought. Being older and wiser I go for the more traditional gin and tonic with a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber.

A while ago I saw that The Bass and Flinders Distillery in Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula was offering a Gin Masterclass. I couldn’t wait to enrol in their two hour workshop and quickly booked a place.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived and was a little nervous. All I knew was that it was a workshop where I would be creating a bottle of gin for myself! I shouldn’t have worried. As soon I walked in the door, I was offered a gin and tonic with a choice of gin. That’s a good start! They make a few different gins here so there was quite a choice. I chose the Monsoon, which is a blend of 8 botanicals featuring coriander, ginger and lemon grass. It was delicious.

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I sat down at a little table and was confronted with an array of small glasses filled with liquid alcoholic botanicals. It was like being in a laboratory. I had a mixing glass in which I poured the juniper berry base. Coriander was added as the balancing element. Now all I had to do was decide which other flavours I wanted for my personal blend of gin!

The botanicals came from three regions – Asia, Australia and Europe and ranged from dry to aromatic. I decided to try and taste all the botanicals but after a few sips I was getting confused. So I just launched in and starting mixing flavours – keeping written notes so I could remember my final blend. I was doing really well until I added lemon myrtle, one of my favourite Australian herbs. Sadly it completely destroyed my gin and turned it into a lemon cough syrup. No amount of coriander could balance out that taste and I was devastated.
Luckily there was a second round.

I decided to punish and banish all the Australian botanicals from the next round and went for a blend I like to think of as The European Panda 🙂 There were only a few European botanicals so I decided to use them all and mixed them with a few Asian botanicals to come up with a very delicious gin. My final concoction was a heady blend of juniper, coriander, barberry, dill, elderberry and cardamon. My job was done!

All I had to do was decide what I wanted on my label and then wait for my very personal bottle of gin to arrive in the mail. The first part was easy as I’d already made up my mind. The second part, not so much. Patience is not my strong point. As the weeks passed I kept checking the mail, getting more and more anxious. Would the gin be as good as I remembered? How long was the process going to take? Had they forgotten me? Where is MY GIN?? were justIMG_0414 some of the thoughts that ran through my mind.

Finally my package arrived. I cracked it open and took a much anticipated drink. It was better than I remembered. It was so good straight that it didn’t need any mixers.

I smiled when I looked at the label. There, draped between two women, were the words – Vintage Vladic Aged 50 Years. This was a 50th birthday present to myself. I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for an ancient gin drinker 🙂

Gin Alexander
Another one of my favourite drinks growing up was Brandy Alexander. It wasn’t the brandy I liked, but the cream and the chocolate. Naturally I had to try it with gin.

1 part gin
1 part creme de cacao
1 part thin cream
ice cubes
grated dark chocolate for sprinkling

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well.
Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Sprinkle with grated dark chocolate.