Do you make cocktails at home? I do. I keep the spirit cupboard well stocked and always have the ingredients for my favourite tipples (Martini, Negroni, Kir Royale) in large bottles then top up with small bottles for concoctions I have less often (Margarita, Manhattan). Cocktails add a sense of occasion. I’d like to expand my range.
Enter the Cocktail Cookbook.
First things first: this is cooking for cocktails, not cooking with cocktails.
The photography is beautiful and the names of the drinks funny. The layout is gorgeous too: it’s a very pretty book. The front matter is what you’d expect: an intro where we learn a little about Oskar, and chapters on technique and ingredients.
What sets the book apart is the organisation. It’s divided into sections on ingredients and no, not types of booze, but herbs, fruits and stock-cupboard ingredients. Each section opens with one or two recipes for how to make something that can be used in a cocktail, often, but not always, a syrup.
A few ingredients
For the last two weeks I’ve been walking around Edinburgh with a large pair of claw scissors in my handbag. Why? It’s in case I come across a pine tree where I can take a few clippings. I want to make pine syrup, you see, so I can make a Spinal Tap.
This is what I like about Oskar Kinberg’s Cocktail Cookbook: it makes me think about ingredients in a new way and inspires me to try new things. (Coriander mescal margarita is coming to my kitchen soon!) His flavourings range from the familiar and easy to make – rhubarb syrup – to the more thought-provoking and exotic – sorrel juice.
Kinberg’s stock cupboard has gin, vodka and rhum in it, just like mine, but also a couple of f fortified wines different enough from the standard dry and sweet vermouths to be worth investigating. I like that he sticks to certain brands: not every cocktail is based around a new type of booze, there’s a core set of bottles.
Spinal Tap is still on the list of drinks I want to make, the ones I did try were:
- Disco Rhubarb: I have a bottle of something very similar to the specialist ingredient, Skåne akvavit, so was able to make this as soon as I’d made the rhubarb syrup. Cloudy apple juice and a mint-sprig completes this long drink. The akvavit gives a lovely fennely bite so it’s not too fruity.
Conan the Rhubarbarian: Rhubarb syrup comes out to play again, here mixed with Apérol and gin. The end result is like a mellow drink not too far from a Negroni.
- Mountain Dewars: Non-peated whisky shaken with sauvignon blank, lemon juice, sugar syrup, pine apple juice and the special ingredient sage. The sugar syrup is crucial (I know becauee forgot to put it in) and the sage adds a pungent mellowness that makes this much more than a complicated whisky sour.
The book has breadth. Drinks range from sour- and Martini-style drinks, both stirred and shaken, to flips (foaming with eggwhite), through short and long, creamy and fruity recipes. All are photographed with flair and drama.
As well as looking for an opportunity to cut branches of a pinetree, I’m on the look-out for aloe vera drink (not flavoured with grape and lemon). That’s an ingredient in Dillusion, a delicately green drink that’s scented with dill. It sounds blissfull.
Cocktail Cookbook will stay with me, inspiring me to try new thinks, and looking at ingredients in a new way, asking myself the question ‘can I drink that’?