[Please note the title of this post should be sung to the tune of the theme from Duck Tales]
I am really struggling with a lack of complexity more than anything actually specifically alcohol related, so thought I’d have an experiment with mocktails, to see if they give me more depth than standard soft drinks. Thankfully with it being dry January there are plenty of weekend newspaper colour supplements and their websites full of recipes. Going in at the deep end I am trying one for an alcohol free analogue of one of my favourites.
The Old Fashioned.
An Old Fashioned is whisky, sugar and bitters. Getting this across without the whisky is going to be pretty tough. The confidence in this attempt comes from it being from the head barman at Blacklock, who did pretty nifty cocktails when I went. The vibe seems to be sugar, spice and orange (and bitters, which aren’t cheating. While they’re very very boozy indeed, by the time you’ve diluted the few drips down the finished product is about as booze as a glass of fruit juice. Aside: most fruit juice has started to ferment or has been stabilised with alcohol. To be classed as non-alcoholic in most of the world, things can be up to 0.5% ABV). The magic ingredient? Lapdog Shoesnog (lapsang souchong tea, as advertised by Stephen Fry in the mid 90s. Most of my brain is occupied by 90s advertising). It’s bitter and smokey, so I sort of get where they’re coming from, but it’s also tea.
The recipe takes lots of tea (while it wants loose leaf, my local Sainsbury’s isn’t posh enough to have loose leaf tea, so I googled how much tea there is in a teabag and used that. 1.5-2g it turns out), cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, orange peel and steep them in hot water for half an hour (the actual recipe also requests hops, but seriously, where from? It does say to use more orange peel otherwise, so I did).
Once you’ve steeped everything you strain it into a jug with the sugar and bitters [full disclosure, I forgot to add the cayenne earlier and added it at this point and then left it another half hour while I had my dinner] and then filter it into a clean container. I tasted it at the point just before I’d added the Cayenne and it did taste rather a lot like warm, very sweet lapsang souchong. I feel like it possibly needed the spices steeping for longer than the tea (a function of using the teabags, maybe?). As I write this first half of the post it is filtering slowly through my pour over coffee doodah.
It took far longer than I expected it would to get through the filter. We’re a little closer to bedtime than I expected we’d be, so if I am even less good than usual at wordsing, I am sorry! To build the final drink you take 35ml of the syrup with 35ml of water and lots of ice in an Old fashioned glass and garnish with an orange twist.
It’s OK. Not amazing, nor an Old Fashioned. I wasn’t expecting amazing, or an Old Fashioned, and it’s certainly a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It definitely has some complexity to it, it’s not as well integrated as a real old fashioned would be and you can definitely taste the individual ingredients rather than a whole balanced drink. It was possibly down to my mistake with the cayenne timing (although this meant less, rather than more contact) but it’s a bit too hot for my taste. I guess they’re trying to replicate some heat from the whisky, but it’s a different type of heat that doesn’t quite translate, being very much on the lips here rather than whisky’s mouth warming tendencies. If I do it again (and I might) I think I’ll do the steeping the citrus peel and spices for longer than the tea, so they come through a bit more and go easier on the cayenne. Not bad for a first foray though.
Sam Dagger (that’s a great name!) of Blacklock’s non-alcoholic old fashioned
470ml hot water
2½ tsp cayenne pepper
4 cinnamon sticks, cracked
4 twists orange peel (or two and 20g of hops)
20g loose lapsang souchong tea leaves
140g light muscovado sugar
5ml orange bitters (I used about a teaspoon)
9ml Angostura bitters (I used about two teaspoons)
This makes about 10.