Whiling away some time on social media can be good for your mental health, contrary to popular opinion. It connects you to friends, and pops little joyous videos of clumsy cats into your feed. But sometimes, around July/August, in the bitter depths of winter it can do the opposite. Seemingly every single friend is in Ibiza, Paris, or a tiny little nook of Croatia you’ve never heard of. Why are you the only loser who isn’t going anywhere!? The great European festival of smug happens every year. This year we have to contend with it on Instagram, TikTok AND Threads. Now we have to read about it all as well as look at endless slideshows of it all.
If, like me, you’re over it why don't you join me on a grand tour of Europe, via some of our favourite European cocktails. I’ve compiled this list in chronological order - that is chronological order of the day. A mid-morning Bloody Mary all the way to a nightcap whisky.
Those history buffs among you are probably thinking “Bloody Mary - named after Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. Must be an English cocktail.” Well, you’d be reasonable in your deductions, but wrong. It was a Frenchman at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris around 100 years ago who created this ultimate kick-starter to your day. A drink with an endless list of ingredients, unlimited variations and house specials, and as many options in the garnish as shake a biodegradable straw at. There are a few things you need here to have the foundations of a great drink - good quality vodka and tomato juice, of course. And also a touch of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some Worcestershire Sauce (pronounce it how you want but if you say anything other than Wooster you’re wrong). From here you can reach for anything with a kick, Tabasco, chilli sauce, you like it, you include it. And when it comes to garnish go with the things in your heart, the things in your mind and most importantly, the things in your fridge. If you want to balance an oyster on top I would salute you.
Native Botanical Spritz
Claims to the ownership of this drink could spark another European war, and no one has time for that, so let’s not try to be too definitive here. For centuries many people have added a touch of water to their wine, a little Vin Ordinaire. Perfect for breakfast, or babies, according to both the French, and my parents. Someone decided to be a fancy pants mixologist and add some sparkling water to some wine - that whizz kid created a Spritzer. And someone even smarter, said why are we watering down our fine European wine - let’s add wine to this wine instead! And the Spritz was born. There’s variety in the name - a Spritz has to have some sort of wine base. But that wine could be fortified, it might be aromatised. There might be another fortification added on top, maybe a gin, or in this case we’ve utilised our Native Botanical Vodka to create an incredibly easy-to-make drink. This cocktail is perfect for entertaining - so easy to top everyone up. And it’s perfect for the early afternoon when the winter sun is high in the sky.
In terms of drinks with long histories, you don’t do much better than a Sgroppino. It is quite literally about 500 years old. Pretty much as soon as Italians had invented gelato and prosecco some brilliant mind combined the two. Imagine the height of luxury and status - to have an ice house in Venice. To have a team of chefs whip gelato by hand, fermented sparkling beverages and then to have the audacity to combine the two. It’s sort of inconceivable to consider that ice wasn’t always just sitting in the freezer. That was imported across the globe, hand chiselled.
Now a touch of vodka to some lemon gelato and prosecco is the go-to. But it doesn’t have to be that limited. A light base spirit, a delicious gelato flavour, and sparkling wine. Whisk it into a frothy cloud. This drink is the greatest drink to experiment with - pop along to your favourite gelato shop, and find a flavour that you think will pair well with your spirit.
Here’s the starter recipe to begin with. But then change things up!
2 scoops of lemon gelato
30ml Signature Dry Gin
Start with your prosecco in a bowl (this is an excellent drink to serve in bulk - just multiply your volumes and get a bigger bowl).
Using two spoons, or a whisk, spread the gelato across the bowl, incorporating the spirit and adding the prosecco as you go. Keep turning the mixture over until it’s incorporated, it should start to look like a cloud. Drinking it should feel like tasting a cloud. It’s great after lunch as a palate cleanser. Some people like this drink when it’s hot, but I think it’s great all year round.
Hot Buttered Rum
We don’t know where the Toddy came from. It’s hot spiced booze. So it came from somewhere cold, and Toddy just sounds Scottish to me, so let’s go with Scotland. The Scots claim it too, so that sounds about right. We do know that the first introduction of butter to a Hot Toddy was first recorded during the reign of Henry VIII - so we’re going back 500 years here too.
30ml Triple Molasses Rum
30ml Mobius Apple Pie Liqueur
80ml hot but not boiling water
10g Spiced, Whipped Butter
Spiced Whipped Butter 250g Salted butter 50g Sugar Spices - feel free to experiment with what you have in the cupboard. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. Any of the sweet baking spices works a treat, add to taste.
Melt butter in pan on a medium-low heat, with spice, herb and sugar. Keep on heat for 5 min, do not let the butter burn, slight browning is ok. Fine strain out spice & herbs. Place in bowl over ice bath, whip. Butter will re-solidify.
You can add to a warm drink with a spoon stirred through the drink. Get arty, get messy.
We just don’t know who invented it, alongside every great invention everyone thinks they came up with it first. There is certainly a long murky history for whisky, quite possibly invented in Ireland, refined in Scotland. Again we don’t want to spark the fires of war, so let’s just agree that the most revered of spirits in all likelihood came from one of those two places (although distillation inarugably happened elsewhere, earlier). Along with respecting history what you’re doing here is also respecting the evening. There is no more refined, more elegant, more sophisticated way to work up the appetite for sleep than to pour a dram of something neat? While you do, appreciate that having a whisky in winter in Australia is not unlike having a whisky in summer in either Scotland or Ireland. Slainte!