You’ll have to forgive me, dear Reader. I have been somewhat off the boil in blog terms of late. The last month and a bit has had many ups and downs, mostly house related and I have been burying my head in a good bit of writing to try and create a more pleasing chapter for the four of us. Enter cocktail hour. At just the right time.
If you follow me on Instagram you will know, dear Reader, that cocktails have featured rather heavily since Christmas. It’s all strictly medicinal, I can assure you. One of the most wonderful presents I have ever received was from Jerry’s grandparents who gifted me a little vintage Gordon’s Gin cocktail book from circa 1950s. Not only does it list my favourites – old fashioned Gimlets, a recipe for ‘Gin Fizz’ but it also has the hilariously named Television Special with orange squash (slightly yuck) and White Lady which embraces that back of the booze cupboard lurker, Cointreau. The ultimate for me though has to be the glorious ‘Gin and it’ which with one sip, I am transported to the drawing room at Home Place (from Elizabeth Jane Howard’s brilliant Cazalet Chronicles – I am totally obsessed with the books, dear Reader) where Edward or Hugh is preparing me a sharpener to sip in beaded evening dress, before dinner. Best of all are the handwritten recipes in the back written by one of Jerry’s great-grandparents. Truly the loveliest of gifts and I send G and G a huge kiss for thinking to pass it on to me, as I know they will be reading this.
With cocktail recipes well and truly tested at home, it was time to have a go at shaking up something new. So it should come as no surprise to you, dear Reader, that I hotfooted my way to Winchester to enjoy an evening of cocktails as part of the fabulous Winchester Cocktail Week organised by the brilliant Cabinet Rooms. A huge thanks to Gary and Marcus for the invitation – how could I refuse?!! Also a special mention to my trusted chauffeur for the evening, my father in law, who drove across Hampshire to make sure that I didn’t have a Cinderella moment.
It has to be said that, a cocktail is really only as good as its ingredients. So where best to start? Well, the ingredients of course and one of my favourite foragers, cooks and foodie wonders, Naked Jam.
Jen Williams is an artisan producer of award winning jams and conserves – her syrups, cordials and jams contain seasonal, local fruits or foraged ingredients with no artificial colours, flavourings, setting agents or preservatives. Bottled beautiful bounty. Jen is a fount of knowledge when it comes to the foraged flavours and it’s not for nothing that she’s been snapped up by Chewton Glen to run a unique course for The Kitchen, Chewton Glen’s new cookery school.
That evening, her gorgeous syrups and recipes included a cocktail with the autumnal mellowness of medlar syrup, a surprisingly drinkable chilli and balsamic number with vodka and the salty swirl of seaweed which produced a syrup that had depth, earthiness and just the right hint of the sea to add to the glass. This was not cocktail making, dear Reader, this was sheer alcoholic alchemy. Jen knows just what will work and her lightness of touch in combining flavours needs to be tasted to be believed. Inspired by her enthusiasm, I came away with some of her delicious velvety medlar syrup to recreate a little something at home.
It was a treat to meet the lovely Gin Monocle Company (an artisan mobile gin bar – gin on the move, what’s not to love?) who served up this rather unusual number – a Gin Fizzless – gin and ale together, rather a revelation that slipped down nicely and altogether too quickly.
The canapes created by Fiona Hill (Twitter – @realfoodnf) were to die for too.
My advice, dear Reader? If you haven’t sampled the delights of Winchester Cocktail Week then you really ought to get it in the diary for next year. With different venues all over the city, a veritable fountain of cocktails to be sipped and savoured, it’s a great week to explore Winchester’s emerging drinks’ scene. Well done to the marvellous Cabinet Rooms‘ chaps! Keep your eyes peeled for more events and insights into the city’s food and drink scene as they have also taken over the Art Café on Jewry Street in Winchester. I can’t wait to see what they concoct next!
As for me, it’s Friday, dear Reader and very nearly time to get the cocktail shaker out…….. After all, it MUST be gin o’clock somewhere in the world. I’ll draw the curtains and get the fire going, you pour the gin. It would be rude not to join them, wouldn’t it dear Reader?!
Brief disclaimer – This does not constitute as encouragement of daytime drinking and Margot is in no way suggesting the reader has a few gins in the dark by his or herself before doing the school run. Have them after you’ve picked up the children.