Rhumtopf (rum pot)

This is a traditional German thing.

Take one massive earthenware pot with lid. As berries come into season, spread them in the pot, removing ones that are bruised or damaged.  Cover each new layer with a layer of sugar and then enough high percentage rum to cover.  Leave for at least year, then eat on ice-cream and use the juices in drinks or desserts.

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Liqueur making

Whilst I’m on the subject of spirits, this is something I believe most of us do not do enough of! It’s quite simple to make very nice liqueurs which can then be drunk straight with tonic water or maybe with a couple of drops of orange bitters. A general recipe:

use lots of passata and put the bottles through the dishwasher to get them really clean, you need these to store your liqueur in & speaking as someone who has tried shoving damsons (small plums) through the neck of a gin bottle, the wide opening is really necessary;

start with decent quality spirits (gin, vodka, brandy all work well as they are dry – I’ve tried rum and it’s natural flavour is a bit too sweet);
prick the fruit a few times (for cumquats, sloes, damsons, apricots etc, not necessary for thin skinned fruit like berries);
put fruit in the bottle up to the half way mark;
depending on the sweetness of the fruit itself add sugar to the 1/4 – 1/3 mark of the bottle;
top up with your chosen spirit (the bottle will then take a little over half it’s volume in spirit (i.e. a 700mL bottle will take about 400mL of spirits);
gently mix every couple of days until all the sugar is dissolved (by gently turning the bottle, don’t shake hard!);
drink any time more than 3 months later – the longer you leave it the better it will taste!


Poli Moscatel Grappa

This is pretty amazing stuff. If you think of grappa as being something akin to an anti-biotic mouthwash, you have to try this. It’s made from Moscatel grapes (the only wine grape which is officially described as having a ‘grapey’ aroma) and on the nose and in the mouth it does have the wonderful floral aromatics of the moscatel: lychees and rose, apricot, mmmm lovely. Really long aftertaste of moscatel as well – it’s something to convert those who don’t usually drink their spirits straight up! (As well as having lovely packaging for a present – copper coloured tin & a swing top, with a very narrow neck for the precision pour).

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Cocktails – Aviator

My line of work takes me around quite a few cocktail bars, and I was recently glancing through the drinks list at Lab (Old Compton St, Soho, London) and came across their ‘Dutchy’ which reminded me that I’d always wanted to try an Aviator. Given Julian’s almost got his private pilot’s licence it seemed strangely appropriate. That night we tried it out & it’s fantastic, despite a couple of substitutions in the ingredients department!  I’ve also added in the orange bitters, which I think I saw on someone’s recipe when I was web trawling & I find it really balances out the flavours (also of many other drinks, including my home-made damson gin)


  • 60mL gin
  • 15mL (1 tbs) lemon juice
  • 10mL (2 tsp) maraschino liqueur (gotta buy it as currently the Bombay Sapphire is balancing out the pretty rough cooking kirsch I’m using)
  • 5mL (1 tsp) cr�me de violette (I’m using Monin violet syrup)
  • 2-3 drops of Orange bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.


Uncorked Italian wine tasting

The winner for me at this tasting was the Nicodemi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo at £8.49 an absolute bargain. Well balanced, gamey with tobacco box and chocolate & damson plum notes. This was long, tasted typically Italian & is a great food wine. We later drank this with pizza – perfect!

And the winner in the whites was a Soave – what a revelation, I thought everything from this region was undrinkable! From Inama (Veneto) 2005 Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico – lovely pear, honey & green peach aromas, light & crisp, really well balanced with a slightly oily mouthfeel – £12.95. This only just beat the 2006 Soave Classico by the same people, not quite as well balanced, with more of a stewed apple character, mineral tones and slightly bitter at £9.49

Other wines that got my attention were: 2003 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Il Macchione with raisin & licorice on the nose, hazelnut & cedar £16.95. The Corte Sant’Alda 2003 Amarone at £37.95 was a nice restrained example. Amarone is made by drying the grapes before pressing them, which in a less well made style can bring port like tones of raisin and prunes and huge amounts of alcohol. This had an agreeable raisin note along with damson, cherry, cinnamon & vanilla, very full bodied & well balanced. And the highlight was probably from La Fiorita the 2000 Brunello di Montalicino with great fruit and licorice notes, underlain by clean fresh oak notes of pencil shavings. This being the last wine of the tasting, my notes are somewhat sparse.


Waitrose Decanter awards wine tasting Canary Wharf

Last night was a tasting of some of the wines stocked by Waitrose, which won trophies or medals in the recent Decanter awards, & I have to say there were a lot of nice things there at quite reasonable prices!

So here are the highlights for me:

Chateau Jolys Cuvee Jean from Jurancon, France. This is an incredible sweet wine from a region close to the border of Spain whose wine making dates back to the 14th Century. Fantastic slightly botrytised ripe pear notes with honey, great oily mouthfeel & long £10. I’d love to try the sweet Jurancon from Chamarre but I don’t know where to find a Co-Op store.

Chateau Jolys Jurancon Sec light dry wine with light tropical fruit aromas made of Gros Manseng grapes tastes a little like a chardonnay with more acidity £7.

Montes Alpha Syrah will have to check my notes – Argentinian??? £10 lovely wine with deep black fruits, clear fresh new oak with a smokey note, long well balanced.

Cono Sur Gewurztraminer very fruity intense lychee, rose, citrus wine, well balanced strong, my pick for Thai £6.


Good Budget Wines

and I’m not talking about exceptional £10 wines here!

Last night we had a simple little Corbieres from Tesco, producer Lionel Faivre year 2000. It tasted quite fresh & nicely of damson plums. Nothing spectacular, but for around £5 very drinkable. I’m still angry though that I got the 2 cases I got to fill the order and not the case I actually wanted. Never trust Tesco!

Waitrose always treats us well & according to the wine importers they are an ‘honorary independant wine store’ for fair dealings & fair pricing and no outrageous market destroying gimmick marketing. Below are a few things we’ve been enjoying…

We drink a lot of the Moscatel by Lustau – this is a fortified wine at 15% alcohol, sweet but well balanced with nice aromas of grape. The great thing is that being fortified you can keep a bottle open in your fridge for about 3 weeks without it going off, however we rarely manage more than 3 days. At £5 really great value.

We recently had a little Portuguese red which is getting the critics (Wine Spectator, our local rag) excited at the £5 price (Altano Douro 2005), we weren’t that thrilled, however it was a solid little light bodied wine that drank well, so no complaints!

I believe I paid £5.50 for a lovely little pink bubbly, for that price great balance between the red fruits & the acidity which had both Julian (moscato drinker) & myself (champagne drinker) excited. It was the Marques de Monistrol Reserva Cava Seleccion Especial Rose Brut. The addition of a small amount of sugar to the wine implied in the term ‘brut’ gave it excellent balance. This is a traditionally vinified sparkling, however it did have slightly bigger bubbles than champagne.

Oh and a word of warning the Waitrose Pale Cream sherry at around £6.50 for 1L is really disgustingly undrinkable – the one sip I had before making Julian drink the rest was very sulphuric & lead to some nasty hangovers for Julian. On the other hand the Solera Jerezana Cream which is sweetened with some PX giving it lovely caramel and coffee tones is a bargain for £7.50.

However if you have the option always get the Lustau East India Sherry (available at Uncorked) for around £13 or around $40 at The Prince Wine Store as it is a truly magnificent sweet sherry with great complexity!


Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz Grenache 2003 South Australia 15.5% abv. approx. £10 = well ok some sites say $14.40

This is a serious beast of a wine. I loved it & in researching the price in Oz just now I discovered that Robert Parker did too, giving it 92 points (which equates to something like ‘a wine of exceptional quality’). Massive rich fruit (black cherry & plum) underlaid with spicey notes from the fruit & the clean but not obtrusive oak – cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper, star anise. A lovely well balanced wine, relatively long & offers a lot for the price & remarkably it does manage to carry off that level of alcohol. Not so my head 🙁

And of course available at Uncorked.  If you’re wondering, no I don’t have links to this company, they’re just my most local decent wine store who always help me out, which I appreciate!

Or if you’re in oz & don’t mind taking a gamble on the vintage these people seem outrageously affordable:



Massaya Classic 2005 Lebanon Bekaa Valley 14.5% abv Cinsault 60%, Cab sav. 20% Shiraz 20% £8

Lebanese wine!

A first for me, and since firsts are becoming more rare wine-wise I was very excited! On buying it my nice salesman at Uncorked told me that it is completely unlike other Lebanese wines – consistent, unoxidised, nice to drink… How could I resist?

Now I haven’t drunk a cinsault based wine before so this was doubly exciting.

At first I had it at room temperature & it seemed excessively alcoholic, however after cooling in the fridge and breathing a little it became something extremely interesting – medium + bodied, medium flavour intensity, medium length, medium + acidity and with tannins coming ever increasingly to the fore. With notes of violet and licorice I could see why the South Africans decided to cross this with Pinot Noir to produce their major red grape, Pinotage! All in all this was a clean, simple wine, a bit high in alcohol, but that’s unavoidable with red wine at the moment, with unusual fruit, very enjoyable!

I would pair this with duck, salmon or maybe tomato based vegetarian meals – let me know if anything better occurs to you. Apart from my head the next day, perfect for a Wednesday night wine.