Out and About: The Albannach

I know it’s Wednesday (I’ve just caught up with the fact we are now peaking the mid-week hump!), but I’m both reminiscing and thinking ahead to next week…beat the Monday blues with a LONDON BLUES at The Albannach!

Mondays, oh yes, they drag. But after a wine tasting of twenty South African wines with fantastic producers with The Wine Society Monday just gone, a friend and I headed for dinner at The Albannach on Trafalgar Square – part restaurant, part cocktail and whisky bar, part club/lounge. Listed in the Time Out 2012 Eating & Drinking Guide, this ultra central venue is great for food (beef wellington was fantastic!), has a wide range of whiskys and a deliciously tempting cocktail list. Taking a break from wine, we started with a patriotic aperitif….followed by a fantastic meal and bottle of Pinot Noir!

London Blues, Albannach’s Signature Cocktails, £8.00

Britain’s proudest traditions showcased in a single cocktail:

Blend Tanqueray gin, Pimm’s, apple juice, lime juice, and ginger ale. Serve in tall glass with ice and a sprig of mint and a fancy granny smith apple fan!

A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: L is for Limoncello

Dreaming of sunshine and long hot summer evenings which seem so long ago, this week’s post seems appropriate as I hear stories of friends winding up their summer travels in Europe – yes, Tipple Tipple’s Laura this means you! – particularly along the stunning Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy.

What is it? Bright yellow in colour, Limoncello is a an intensely lemony Italian liqueur made from the zest and peel of big, ripe, juicy Mediterranean, usually Sorrento lemons. Produced mainly in Southern Italy around the Gulf of Naples, Amalfi Coast and islands of Capri and Ischia, this popular liqueur is very strong, very sweet, and very satisfying. Limoncello is made using a combination of ground lemon rinds washed in water, grain alcohol, and sugar and is distilled for at least 80 days.

How can I enjoy it? Limoncello is traditionally served as a ‘digestivo’ after a meal, or with dessert, in a small ceramic beaker or a chilled cordial glass.  This zesty, potent liqueur (usually around 31-31% abv) is delicious when paired with Italian desserts, such as Tiramisu, a pear tarte, or almost any chocolate concoction. Limoncello may also be served drizzled over ice cream or in cocktails – usually with vodka and tangy cranberry of lime flavours. Keep in the freezer to store! Try this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) recipe from The Nibble:

The Amalfi

Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 ounces citrus vodka
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 sprigs lemon thyme or regular
    thyme

Preparation

  1. Put vodka, limoncello, fresh lime juice and the leaves from one sprig of thyme into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously.
  2. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

I want it! Where can I get it? Available at most good drinks stockists, it’s pretty easy to find. For an easy online purchase, The Drink Shop has a 70cl bottle of Luxardo Limoncello (27% abv) for £18.05.  Various del charges may apply. If you’re lucky enough to make a trip to Italy, pick up the real deal while you’re there. I can personally vouch for the Capri Limoncello – stunning (that includes the view!).

Gorgeous lemon shot from Dan Harrelson‘s photostream on flickr.

Friday night curry: Wines to go with spicy dishes

Post curry night with work colleagues, I felt inspired to share some tips for matching wines with spicy dishes. I LOVE cooking Asian inspired dishes – Thai particularly – and to find a great wine match is ultra enjoyable. Try these easy-peasy rules next time you’re stuck for choices and just dont fancy a pint (granted this is the standard UK curry match, and even as a wine lover, yes, I did have a pint of Kingfisher with mine !)

1. Match spice for spice. Try a spicy Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris with a white meat, or veggie dish with a range of spices, or a peppery Zinfandel with a red meat dish to match red chilli spice.

2. Go for bold, not subtle. A subtle wine will be  overpowered by a spicy, often flavoursome dish. Go for complex or aged wines with big flavours, like a  zesty Riesling or a floral, tropical/exotic white.

3. Balance heat with sweet. Residual sugars in off-dry, and indeed some dry white and rose wines, balance the fiery kick in spicy dishes. Try a demi-sec Vouvray, a juicy Loire rose.

4.  Sparkle, sparkle. A dry or even demi-sec sparkling will cut through any grease and chillled bubbles will cool the palate but fire up fantastic flavours.

5. NO tannin! If you do fancy a red, don’t pick one with bold tannin, this will only enhance the spice and chilli-heat and will make a tannic wine taste bitter and ruin both the wine and food. Instead, try a lighter red like a Beaujolais or a powerful flavoured, spicy, robust red like Zinfandel.

To match these top 5 tips, here are my top 5 wine choices from established member’s owned co-operative, The Wine Society. The application is a one-off payment of £40.00 for a lifetime membership, but from now until Christmas, every new member gets £20.00 credit on their account to spend towards their first order!

1. Zarcillo Gewürztraminer, 2011, £6.25 per bottle. 13.5%. The pink-skinned gewürztraminer offers exotic flavours of lychees and superb value for money. Delicious with fresh ginger spiced dishes. One of my absolute favourite buys.

2. Kumeu River Pinot Gris, 2010, Auckland, £12.50 per bottle. 13%. A lovely floral pinot gris which is smooth textured, like good Alsace examples, but with the vibrant fresh fruit so typical of New Zealand. Although dry, the sensation of a little sweetness works well with a spicy Thai green curry.

3. Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée St Laurent, 2010, £9.95 per bottle. 12%. Stylish, rounded sparkler from the Aude Valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees where bubbly has been made for 500 years. The blend is chardonnay, chenin and a little local mauzac. A perfect aperitif. Crisp and fresh, try with a creamy curry to cut through grease, or a fresh, spicy chilli noodle salad.

4. The Society’s California Old Vine Zinfandel, £6.95 per bottle. 13.5%. California’s quintessential red grape, best at producing ripe, full-flavoured dry wines, this Zinfandel is a ripe but serious dry red with the juicy fruit and hint of pepper typical of the variety, with enough structure to last a few years in bottle. It would stand up well to robust, spicy, red meat curries.

5. Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, £12.50 per bottle. 13.5%. Deeply coloured, rich-tasting sparkling Aussie shiraz. You may think – how is this going to work?! But it seems to have the sweetness to stand up to the spices and the sparkle cuts through richer curry sauces. Yes, Shiraz generally breaks the rule of avoiding highly-tannic wines, but the effervesence of this wine creates a lighter feel. Best served chilled.

Enjoy!!

Thai Curry snap from missy & the universe‘s photostream on flickr.

My Weekend Tipple: Amorous Argentinian Malbec

Sunday nights – you either love them or hate them. I love them. Yes, the anticpation of going back to work on Monday can seem terribly depressing, but equally you could see it as the celebration of a fantastic weekend. With the nights starting to draw in and the question on everyone’s lips ‘is it too early to put the heating on?’, Sundays are the cosy, relaxing end of the weekend.  At 5 minutes to 4 yesterday we raced to Tesco and splashed out on deliciously decadent (for us!) Sirloin steak. As we rushed through to the till, we swung by the wine isle and grabbed a bottle of Artesano De Argento Malbec for £6.99.

Back at home, relaxed, and catching up on repeat episodes of Come Dine With Me, we cracked open the vino…

Deep violet purple colour with an exciting nose showing notes of plums,then black cherries and hints of rich, dark chocolate. Flavours on the palate of blackberry and blackcurrant with a sweet spice and a balanced acidity. Medium bodied with rounded tannins,  and terribly easy to drink, it has a long smooth finish and I can vouch is absolutely spot on with steak!

 

A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: K is for Kahlúa

What is it? Kahlúa is a coffee flavoured, rum-based liqueur from Mexico. Intensely sweet and with a distinct coffee flavour and a hint of vanilla, it comes in a variety of styles; Original, French Vanilla, Mocha, Hazelnut, Especial and Peppermint Mocha. Whilst not all of these may be available in the UK, the original recipe is incredibly versatile and extremely delicious!

How can I enjoy it? This is one of my favourite liqueurs – may have something to do with the fact I’m a bit of a coffee addict :-) There are so many ways to enjoy Kahlúa – on it’s own with ice or without, in coffee, in cocktails or as a dessert ingredient or sauce.

CLASSIC; White Russian

50ml Vokda, 20ml Kahúa, 30ml fresh cream. Pour Kahlúa and vodka into a tumbler filled with ice. Float fresh cream on top and stir slowly.

CLASSY; Kahlúa Espresso Martini

1.5 parts KAHLÚA
1 part Vodka
1 fresh brewed espresso

Fill a shaker with ice, add Kahlúa, Vodka and a fresh brewed espresso. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Legend has it the Kahlúa Espresso Martini was created in the 1980s by a London cocktail guru late one night for a famous supermodel (according to the Kahlúa website!).

CULINARY; Kahlúa Tiramisu with Amaretto Ice Cream

This decadent dessert recipe, orginally on Epicurious, sourced from Yummly, looks like the perfect end to a meal. A traditional Italian dessert containing eggs, sugar, marscarpone cheese, cream, marsala, coffee powder, ladyfinger biscuits and of course Kahlúa, this Tiramisu is a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. A perfect example of how this versatile liqueur may be used to add to an already delicious recipe. For full recipe details, click on the link!

I want it! Where can I get it? One Click Vintage currently has a 70 cl bottle of the regular blend Kahlúa at the special price of £17.08, that’s 25% off their normal price AND the shipping is free. Happy days! But, most UK supermarkets and off licenses stock it, for around £18.

Actually factual: It takes 7 years to create each bottle of Kahlúa, from harvest of the coffee beans, vanilla, and sugar cane to bottle.

Kahlua bottle shot picture from alyssalaurel‘s photostream on flickr.

Do you have cenosillicaphobia? I do!

Cenosillicaphobia; n. Fear of an empty glass.

An appropriate post as we approach the weekend? See, that is clever positioning for you. You’ll be telling your mates about this in the pub tonight, asking the barman if he knows, wowing the opposite sex with your amazing knowledge.

I first learnt of this word when I visited the D’Arenberg winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia in January. Plastered in chalk across a board in their tasting room, was the invitation to join their Cenosilicaphobic Club – a membership for d’Arenberg imbibers with an active interest in fine wine, particularly aged reds. Intruiged, I asked, and since have been hooked on the word. Whilst I understand this may make me sound a little like an alcoholic, this is not true –  I simply enjoy alcohol the way it should be, as a social lubricant.

Like all good things, there is also a Facebook page for all those lovers of this phobia- like it!

Photo from Flabber DeGasky’s photostream on flickr.

Tea Time: Tempting teas to take the stress away

Tea Dance Pink Cup, Whittards, £8.00

As much as us Tipple Tippler’s enjoy seeking out the best alcoholic beverages, sometimes we all need to take a step back and rest our livers. At the end of the day, nothing beats a cup of tea – at least not if you’re British. I have long been intrigued by my parents who like nothing more to arrive home after a long day to utter the words ‘oooh let’s put the kettle on’. That is now me. And I don’t feel ashamed to admit it!

Like with wine, there are thousands of varieties of tea from all around the world, each with different characteristics, flavours and intensities. And no, PG Tips is a brand, not a variety! I have long been a fan of green tea, peppermint and fruit teas – the idea of enjoying simply without milk or sugar appeals to me – but it is no longer that simple. Traditionally Westerners are drinkers of black tea, but in recent years there has been a surge of interest in green and white teas, herbal and fruit infusions and loose tea rather than the good old tea-bag.

A staple in my tea shopping repertoire is Whittards – a London tea and coffee specialist since 1886. With over 130 varieties of tea, I find it incredibly hard to walk out without a purchase. Whilst my wish list consists of their fine bone china tea sets, my budget stretches only to their fabulous teas….sigh! My top three?

Strawberry & Vanilla Rooibos Caffeine Free Herbal Infusion, 20 Teabags, £3.25

Oh my, what an aroma! Ripe fruit and creamy vanilla flavours combine to celebrate the English summer. Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the South African Redbush plant. Naturally caffeine free, high in antioxidants, with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, it’s perfect for any time of day and has become a staple on my desk at work.

Spiced Chai, 50 Teabags, £3.25

Black tea infused with the intense flavours of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and black pepper to create a spicy, exotic blend. It’s based on  the Southern Asian masala chai (meaning ‘mixed-spiced tea) and can be drunk black, or with the addition of milk and sugar (my preference).

Cranberry & Raspberry Instant Tea, £5.50

This super super easy tea is soooooo delicious. A beautiful colour and sweet fruity flavours, it’s a blend of sweet raspberries and tart cranberries. The best part? All you need to do is add water. Delicious hot or cold, these instant fruit teas are a great pick me up. Be careful on your measures though as it may end up tasting too sweet.

Happy tea time!