Discerning Drinking, Chapter One.

An introduction to Gerry’s, Diffordsguide and Carmine’s Bar

Originally posted 5th February 2012

This weekend saw the first new bottles of 2012 added to my bar, so let’s give a nice warm welcome to Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Chambord Berry Liqueur!

I get most of my booze from Gerry’s Wine and Spirits on Old Compton Street, an Aladdin’s Cave of alcoholic goodness (enjoyed in moderation obviously) that sells pretty much any bottle of anything anyone can think of.  One day I will own the £109 rifle-shaped bottle of tequila in the window…

Gerry’s is a dangerous place to be.  The air in that shop is probably 180 proof, which is lethal in its own right, but my god it is easy to bin so much cash in there.  Take yesterday for example.  I didn’t even intend to buy anything, as I am still saving up for a few things (the list now includes a bean bag sofa) but I chose to walk past Gerry’s just to see how much Maker’s Mark was.

£10 off RRP, that’s how much.

Can I get a bottle of Maker’s Mark please?

Sure mate, £23.99.  Anything else?

Oh, shit.  Is that a bottle of Chambord I see on the shelf? That’s on my list too.

And a bottle of Chambord, cheers

The problem is, the people in Gerry’s are too nice.  I was even invited back for a Caribbean Rum tasting at 5pm.  So, £45 out of pocket, I headed home.

I mentioned a list.  You see, a great deal of inspiration behind my bar is attributed to Simon Difford, his incredible website and even more incredible book.  Difford has laid out 14 essential bottles that should form a mainstay of any self-respecting bar.  Just add mixers and plenty of ice;

  • Apricot liqueur (done: Bols and Monin)
  • Berry liqueur (done: Chambord)
  • Bourbon (done: Maker’s Mark)
  • Champagne (required)
  • Cognac (required)
  • Gin (done: I got 2x Bombay Sapphire and Whitley Neill)
  • Orange liqueur (required)
  • Rum (done: BacardiCaptain Morgans, and an obscure bottle of pineapple rum from Mauritius
  • Scotch (done and done: 6 single malts including the mighty A’Bunadh, and Hankey Bannister)
  • Tequila (done: Jose Cuervo)
  • Triple Sec (done: Cointreau)
  • Vermouth (dry) (done: Noilly Prat)
  • Vermouth (sweet) (done: Martini Rosso)
  • Vodka (so done: I got 4x various AbsolutsBelvedereChase, Pinky and Smirnoff Black Label)

So I am almost there!

Part of the routine for me when I buy new bottles for my collection is to give them a try; so I organised for my housemate and myself an Old Fashioned and an Ivo.

The Old Fashioned is an ancient drink; dating back the 19th Century, and I have always wanted to try one.  It consists of 2 and a half shots of bourbon and half a shot of my homemade sugar syrup, with three dashes of Angostura Bitters.  Difford’s Cocktails 9 states that a perfect Old Fashioned commands tremendous care when it is being made; stir in one shot of bourbon with two ice cubes, add the sugar syrup and bitters and stir more.  Then add two more ice cubes and stir again.  Add two more ice cubes and the rest of the bourbon, then stir again.  I chose to shake everything together, over ice in about 23 seconds, which is probably why I was seriously underwhelmed by this drink (to me, it was like drinking bourbon on the rocks, nothing more).  I’ll take more care next time.

The Ivo is 2 parts Bourbon to 1 part Dry Vermouth, with half a shot of Chambord and a dash of Angostura Bitters.  It is listed as to be served in a Martini glass however I have managed to destroy all of mine so we served it over ice in a tumbler.  It is bleeding strong, but I have never tasted a drink so well balanced.  The berry offsets the bourbon incredibly well, and the tang of Angostura is just present.  A true winter warmer if there ever was one.

So, what next for ‘Carmine’s Bar’?  Well, I really should get some more Martini glasses.  Another trip to Gerry’s should see the top 14 bottles through.  And I need more ice.

Lots of ice.

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