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American Adventures: Birthday Cake Shots

We had a couple of birthdays to celebrate while in the US for the summer, and faced with the amazing selection of flavoured vodkas and liquors in the American market, I got to have some fun.

I decided to make these easy, sweet but potent birthday cake shots.

Ingredients (per shot):

2oz Cake Vodka
1 tsp White Cake Mix

DSCF4577 You really have to shake it and stir it properly to make sure the powder has all dissolved in the vodka. If you wanted to make it less strong, you could add a little whipping cream to the shot mixture, or substitute some of the vodka for Bailey’s.

DSCF4557These shots look amazing too– I used corn syrup to rim the shot glasses and then dipped into sprinkles. After pouring the shot, top off with a dollop of cream– also useful to stick a candle into for the birthday girl/boy.

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Thanks for reading! <3

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Homebrewing Porter with True Batch Brew: Part One

 

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Working in a craft beer pub, I’ve met a lot of professional microbrewers and people who brew their own beer at home, and I was curious to try it for myself—so I bought one of True Batch Brew’s homebrew kits, specifically tailored to make Porter.

Many kits online range between €70 and 100 so True Batch Brew does a good deal with their kit at 55. It has almost everything you need and it’s brilliant quality, the tools included will last a very long time and a top up of ingredients is pretty reasonable at 15. I got mine from a pub in Dublin called 57 The Headline but they can be bought online HERE.

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I haven’t done this before so I’m not going to do a full review of the kit itself, as I really wouldn’t know the difference, but overall it was easy to use. The instructions seem simple to begin with and the layout looks great, but you do have to give a thorough read-through beforehand and make sure you have everything you need. Some of the instructions seem to be a little out of order and often require preparation for a later step that you need to remember before you start.

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Apart from what was included, it says you need a big pot and a sieve.  At this point, it all got a bit DIY and we ended up with three big ass pots and a contraption of two sieves tied to wooden spoons to make sure we were getting the best result– it requires a bit of initiative and True Batch Brew intends that you mess around with things.

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It’s a lot of waiting around really, with precise timing and temperatures, so it does take a little concentration. The first few steps are pretty simple, boiling water, cooking the grain, straining, boiling the liquid. You then leave it to cool, which we did over night.

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After that, it gets a little science-y with hydrometers and sanitising and then you leave it to ferment with yeast for 3 days.

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Then it looks something like this:

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And that’s part one of this post! There’s  a good bit more to the process and many weeks to wait so I’ll put up part two when it’s ready to drink!

Thanks for reading <3

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Homemade Vodka Infusions: Toffee and Bubblegum

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Anyone who has tried to make cocktails in Ireland will already know how hard it can be to find specialty spirits and ingredients. I’m planning a few recipes that needed flavoured vodka, but rather than buy online for ridiculous prices, I decided to flavour them myself. The concept is the same as that for Skittles vodka, which many of you will have seen already.

Bubblegum:
This one is super simple but requires some time to sit. Cut 10 or so pieces of gum into smaller chunks and add vodka, roughly 6:1 ratio. Leave overnight or for a couple of days, shaking every so often. Then strain into a bottle.

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Toffee:
Break up the toffee into small chunks and put into a microwave-safe bowl. Pour in a little water, roughly enough to cover the toffee, and microwave for about 3 minutes, stirring every so often. When the toffee has melted, pour vodka over the top, again around 5/6:1, and shake. You’re pretty much good to go.

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Cocktail Ideas:

  • Toffee: Mix with apple juice and cinnamon or Goldschlager for an apple pie treat
  • Toffee: Mix with Coca Cola for a rich, sweet drink
  • Toffee: Mix with Baileys over ice
  • Bubblegum: Mix with soda water for a simple cocktail
  • Bubblegum: Make a shot with bubblegum and skittles vodka!

My favourite cocktail of all time requires toffee vodka, so stay tuned for that recipe next week!

Thanks for reading <3

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The Classics: The Pink Lady

The Pink Lady is as girly as it sounds, with sweet grenadine, tangy lemon and tearful gin.

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This is the simplified version of the original recipe, using lemonade instead of lemon juice and omitting the egg white altogether. Because of this, it’s less pink than blood red,  but still just as delicious and much simpler to make. This is the version you’ll get at many bars with a cocktail menu, and you won’t need any fancy equipment to make it.

  • 2oz gin
  • dash of grenadine
  • white lemonade

Add gin and grenadine to ice and stir, then add white lemonade.

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Strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy!

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*I usually like to shake everything, but for gin recipes I always stir. Shaking gin causes bubbles of air and “bruises” the flavour, causing it to be bitter.  So when Mr Bond orders his Martini shaken not stirred, he’s taking a weak Martini, however unless you’re a gin connoisseur, you probably won’t notice.

Thanks for reading <3

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Purl, London: Possibly the Most Pretentious Place on the Planet.

Purl markets itself as a post-prohibition (i.e. pointless) speakeasy, the kind of place you only know about if you know about it, housed in the basement of a building in Marylebone. On arrival, my two friends and I were told by a conspicuous bouncer at the top of the stairs leading into the basement bar that it was impossible for us to get in. Being 7pm, we guessed it was unlikely to be full, and bargained with him that we would stay for one only and be off. He took five minutes to go and ask someone inside (I’m still convinced he was just hiding inside the door) then returned and told us fine, twenty minutes. Already bemused by the place, we had to laugh when we entered to a roaring crowd of about 7 people. The interior is rich, dark and musty, and we were guided into a little stone cave-like booth with velvet couches along three sides and a low table in the middle, lit by dim lamps. It would have been a great atmosphere in the actual prohibition, or at least before the smoking ban, but in reality it was quite grotty and claustrophobic.

Purl’s private booths, photo from their website.

A cheap paper menu was handed to the three of us and our host disappeared. The pretentiousness of the place was solidified by the strange drinks on offer. It was as though they had made every effort to include as few recognisable words and brands as possible. This was pure upper-class hipster. The standard cocktails were between 11-15 pounds, and honestly none were too appealing. They opted for quirky and exotic over complementary flavours, so we ended up just picking at random. We went ourselves to the bar to order, the server having abandoned us, and our drinks came soon after. I went for a drink that was explained as gin, vermouth and creme de cassis served with a red wine ice lolly and fizzy grapes (…) The presentation should have been something to admire, but honestly it was just laughable. One of the drinks, an Old Fashioned,  came with a little spray of something that you either flavour the drink with or spray into your mouth before you drink, but the cute little spritzer apparently gets stolen all the time so the waitress would only let my friend try it, spray her drink, and then took it back. It also came with a tiny half-melted ice cream. The third was a Jekyll and Hyde theme and served in chemical bottles with dry ice.

Jekyll and Hyde at the top, my Poor Man’s Cuba Libre in the middle and the Old Fashioned.

I can’t deny the originality in the cocktails and their presentation and I get that any bar in as huge place like London has to do something to stand out, but it was such an uncomfortable experience I would never go back. A laugh, but not the right kind, and certainly not worth the money. Their website is HERE for anyone interested. Thanks for reading <3 https://www.facebook.com/SipProKate

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No Cocktails at the Bar? The Best Alternatives.

I’ve often found myself in bars that serve nothing from the cocktail family,  or bars that charge a day’s pay for a single drink, and as someone who’s almost always craving a cocktail, I’ve had to think outside the box. Here are a couple of ways you can get your sweet fix without much trouble.

  • Lindemans Fruit Beer

If you find yourself in a craft brew pub, the sort that seem to be popping up all over Dublin and soon the rest of Ireland, as of late (I should know, I work at one), check the fridges for a thing called Lindemans. It’s beer, but don’t be scared off. These are made in the style of Lambic beers, a Belgian brew, and fruit juice is added during the fermentation process. The result is a richly fruity, unsyrupy sweet treat of a beer, without the usual grainy taste. They’re light in alcohol content and absolutely delicious–you may find yourself addicted! The Peach and Apple flavours are my favourite.

  • Flavoured vodka and a clashing mixer:

Absolut and Smirnoff and many other brands all have a huge range of flavoured vodkas, so this works in particular in the case of the super-expensive cocktail bar, as they should stock all of them. Try clashing flavours, orange vodka with cranberry juice, lemon vodka with apple juice, currant flavours with orange juice, to recreate the taste depth of a simple cocktail.

  • Core Ingredients

Take the core two ingredients from your favourite cocktail and get the closest thing you can!
Cosmopolitan: Lemon/Orange Vodka with Cranberry Juice
Whiskey Sour: Whiskey and Bitter Lemon (by Schweppes)
Cube Libre: Not a substitute, just rum and coke with lime squeezed in!
Tequila Sunrise: Tequila and Orange Juice
Dark and Stormy: Dark rum and ginger beer/ginger ale (with lime squeeze)
Kamikaze: Orange Vodka and Lime Juice
Skittle Bomb: A bomb, but it’s delicious as a long drink! Cointreau and Red Bull
Pina Colada: Mentioned before, Malibu with pineapple juice.
Google your favourite cocktail and see what you can do to make an alternative.

  • Pimm’s and Lemonade

This stuff is so delicious when made right. Make sure the bartender is muddling (squishing) the lemons and limes and it’s even better with strawberries. So refreshing in the summer and you will gulp this right down.

  • Chocolate Stout:

Obviously if you only want super sweet and fresh this is not going to cut it, but chocolate stouts are rich, sweet and delicious. If you’re any way adventurous or would drink a beer at a push, try a chocolate stout. My favourites are Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Galway Bay Brewery’s Buried At Sea. If you can find it, Anderson Valley’s Bourbon Barrel Stout has an amazing toffee and espresso flavour. So hard to find but such a treat if you can.

Thanks for reading <3

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The Cure: 10 Ways to Ease A Hangover

I’ve been asked a couple of times to write something about that elusive goal: the hangover cure. A hangover is your body being completely dehydrated, so think about that when you’re preparing the night before or medicating the next horrible day. There is no cure, but here’s how you can soften the blow and speed your recovery.

Preparation:
Expecting people to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink is probably not realistic, so just before bed on a night out, drink a pint of water. With that, it helps to eat something salty (chips, crisps) and if you’re having a skittish sleep (as is usual with alcohol), and wake a couple of times in the morning, take a couple of panadol before going back to sleep. The salt will help you to retain the water you’re drinking, and the panadol in the morning will help with any headache before you’re conscious enough to feel it.

I’m young enough to not know a true hangover, so I’m told, but I can tell you that this habit has definitely changed how I feel in the morning after a heavier than usual night out.

Sleep:
By far the best cure, if all else fails, go back to bed. For some of us, that’s not always a luxury we can afford, with work, other responsibilities, needing to show face with friends who think we’re dead or just making our way home after crashing on someone’s couch, so here are some of the best tips I can give if you have to get moving.

Hydrate:
Alcohol is a diuretic (breaking the seal is a real thing) so you’ll have to replenish the water and electrolytes that you’ll have lost over the course of the evening and your nights sleep. Obviously keeping H2O going in is basic science, but it might help to drink a Lucozade Sport, Coconut Water or Gatorade to get those electrolytes back and help your body fix itself.

Eat:
A jumbo breakfast roll is often the best thing in the morning, no matter how vile the thought seems. The salt levels in all the fried food is probably a big help, and there’s nothing better than some greasy petrol station sandwiches when you’re in bits. Even just some bacon on toast and a cuppa tea has done wonders for me.

Medicate:
Note: if you took the Panadol earlier, or at any stage, be very careful what else you use. Lots of things, even Lemsip and Calpol, have paracetemol in them and you don’t want to overdose yourself.
However if you didn’t take anything, the best thing to reach for is Alka Seltzer. I don’t use this myself but I’ve heard enough reports to give it a recommendation.

Shower:
It may seem like the toughest job in the world, but you KNOW how much better you’ll feel when you’re clean. Nothing worse than the smell of last nights Jägerbombs or the smoking area in Coppers to give you the fear. Sweat it out under the hottest you can handle, or chill out and wake up under the cold tap.

Thoughts on Caffiene:
I can’t say I’ve never used a Starbucks or 10 to get me through the day but it’s definitely a very very short term solution–caffiene, also a diuretic, will just reverse your efforts to hydrate and so prolong the hangover. If you have somewhere to be or something to do that requires brain power, it might be the only way, but use with caution.

Bloody Mary.
Working in a London bar taught me anything, it’s that hungover English people LOVE their Bloody Marys.  It’s not the vodka, though some may say this helps, but the tomato juice that really replenishes your nutrients, and the lemon will ease your stomach pain. Laze over one far too early at a bar for best effects.
Shot of vodka (or keep it Virgin)
Tomato Juice
Salt, Pepper, Tabasco, Worcester Sauce and Lemon Juice (All to taste)
A stick of celery to garnish

Hair of the Dog:
Not just a saying, but an actual cocktail. It’s mostly gin.
3 measures Gin
lemon juice, tabasco and chili pepper (to taste)

Complain:
It’s the night after a hilarious party, a terrible nightclub, or crazy dancing, so if you and your friends are all together, tell stories, punctuated by complaints about how utterly shit you feel, and if you dare, get out the cameras and sent messages and check the damage.

You’re literally never ever going to drink again.

Thanks for Reading <3

https://www.facebook.com/SipProKate

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The Classics: Homemade Strawberry Daiquiri (Frozen)

A few sunny days are beginning to creep into the Irish weather and while we’re a long way from summer yet, I’m taking this as the start of cocktail season.

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The Strawberry Daiquiri is an incredibly popular rum-based cocktail, especially with the girls, but it’s also fairly simple to make at home.
Most things might even be in the fridge already, other than the grenadine, but I’ll say it now and probably a thousand times again, if there’s anything you should pick up for your home bar, it’s a bottle of grenadine. It adds something amazing to any fruity drink and you can make a cocktail style concoction with just vodka, any cordial and a splash of grenadine. It’s really cheap from most off-licences, less than a tenner, and it will last for ages, as it’s strong and only a tiny dash is needed.

(If you’re really stuck, a quick google will give you a load of recipes for making grenadine syrup at home.)

Once you have that, the rest is easy.

You will need:

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  • Large handful of ice
  • Large handful of frozen strawberries
  • A dash of grenadine
  • A shot of white rum (35ml)
  • A half lime worth of juice
  • Two teaspoons of sugar

Blend the lot together until smooth.

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Pour into a big glass!
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Garnish with a strawberry and enjoy.

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Tips:

  • Some recipes would say to add the rum last after the blending but personally I think this way is easiest and they taste the same.
  • You can switch out the lime juice for anything you fancy, apple, orange, lemon etc.
  • If you have the time, first rim the glass with lime juice and dip in sugar for extra presentation points.
  • This is the frozen daiquiri, to make it a regular daiquiri you simply shake the ingredients, without the ice or freezing the strawberries, and strain into a glass in the same way.

Thanks for reading <3

https://www.facebook.com/SipProKate

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If you buy one cocktail book…Tipsy Bartender I’m Having A Girl Over

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Tipsy Bartender is one of the reasons I’m quite as into cocktail making as I am. I came across Skyy John’s YouTube channel a good while ago, and it’s by far my favourite place to go for drinkspiration. His concept is simple: he comes up with great tasting, sweet and decadent cocktails, with a smattering of hardcore extremes like the 11th Hour or the Kim Jong-Un Nuclear Bomb shot. And most importantly, he makes these drinks with the help of one of his smoking hot girls, a beautiful assistant if you like.

This is Skyy John’s first cocktail book. It’s called “I’m having a girl over,” so it’s marketed towards guys wanting to impress a girl, but the drinks are all girly and sweet and without a strong alcoholic taste. It’s a short book of 60ish pages and about 150 recipes, but it’s about the right amount– I’m someone who has a number of “cocktail bibles” and I find that I rarely dip into them for a drink recipe, just because of the vast amount of choice. It’s like Netflix, you spend so long searching you end up with nothing.

Every single drink in this book sounds delicious, with ingredients you can mostly buy at the local supermarket. The layout is simple, the recipes short and to the point with a photo of each alongside, no extra fuss. They’re separated into useful categories, martinis, margaritas, ice-cream cocktails, shots etc, so it’s easy to find something you’ll love. I also love that most of the names are just a description of the ingredients, rather than something lyrical and obscure. A Raspberry Martini is just that, so it’s easy to open a page and know what you want. 

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This is a recommendation, not a review, so I’m not going to look at the couple of little things that I would change. Overall it’s a great book and if you have nothing else, you’d be sorted with this. If you’re unconvinced by a short blog post, check out the Tipsy Bartender YouTube channel and decide for yourself.

You can buy the book on Amazon UK HERE.

Here’s the Cake Batter Martini Recipe, which is the first in the book, and a pretty good example of the indulgence of the some of the cocktails.

Thanks for reading <3

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Absinthe: Art Collection

The Absinthe Drip: Making It Taste Less Like Poison

Absinthe: Art Collection

So you’re probably here because you thought it would be funny to buy a bottle of absinthe from an airport duty free someplace where it’s not illegal and now that you’ve tasted some, you have absolutely no idea how to get rid of the rest, because it’s kind of disgusting.

I started doing this a few years ago in Paris, and have since replaced my stocks every holiday I get, having found the answer. The main problem with absinthe, and the reason for its infamous potency, is not just the 68-80% alcohol content, but the fact that most people don’t know how to prepare an absinthe drink. So if you have some green fairy lying around, try this, and you’ll see what you’ve been missing.

Absinthe is notorious for its strength and overpowering flavour. It’s pointless to add this spirit to any mixer or cocktail as it’s impossible to taste anything but the herby, anise flavour of the green stuff. The answer is to not mix with anything flavoured and let the absinthe show off its own taste.

This is how to prepare an Absinthe Drip, the way it’s supposed to be drunk, as taught to me by the lovely people at La Fée Absinthe Parisienne.

  1. Pour out a shot of absinthe into a glass. (If you have the absinthe goblets that’s great but anything will do.)
  2. Melt a few cubes of ice in a jug
  3. Place a slotted spoon (or for us plebs, a fork) on the top of the glass balanced on the edge.
  4. On the fork, place two or three sugar cubes.
  5. Now take the ice water in the jug and very slowly pour directly onto the sugar cubes until they dissolve.
  6. Optional is to add a little splash of lemon juice.

And that’s it! You’d be amazed how drinkable and tasty this drink is after preparing it like this. The less you like the flavour of absinthe, the more sugar and water you can add. (By the way, the contraption behind me in the main photo on SipProKate is especially for Absinthe Drips. The little taps can be turned on over the sugar cubes to slowly melt them.)

Of the absinthe I’ve bought, I’ve found the French- Grand Absente (HERE) to be the most drinkable and the Spanish- Mari Mayans Absinthe Art Collection (HERE)  to be the least, weirdly, given there’s only a percent or two between these.

Thank you for reading <3

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