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A Christmas Gin Gift List

I thought I’d make a gin hit list for anyone looking for the best gin to buy for Christmas this year, whether you’re looking to purchase some new and exciting gin for your home bar or for a gin lover in your life, they would make the ideal gift this year.

My Christmas gin list includes gin’s I’ve got at home, some I’ve tried and loved on my travels and ones that I need in my life, like right now!

There’s gin’s close to home in the UK,more exotic ones like the Persian peach and from around the world including my favourite Japanese distillery Nikka, Scapegrace Gold from New Zealand, gin spiked or aged in with wine and barrels from Four Pillars.

That Boutiquey- Gin Company also do the craziest concoctions out there too. I’ve even got to bottle a blend of my own recently with them too at The Dead Canary in Cardiff.

The gin list will be growing as and when I find new epic gins that are worthy of the gin hit list, so if none of them take your fancy now, pop back in a little while to find some more.

I’ve not only added gin though, I’ve got a few items I have in my home bar for making some classic gin cocktails such as bitters and vermouths for Martini’s, Maraschino for Aviation’s and Chartreuse for The Last Word cocktail. Oh and a few recommendations such as the large ice mould’s that come in handy for Negroni’s and Old Fashioned’s (although not gin, but bloody good none the less)

Take a look at my ultimate gin gift list for Christmas. (Please note that gin is for life and not just for Christmas, unless you’ve drunk it all, in that case you will need another form the attached list)

Take a look at my ultimate Christmas Gin Gift List

 

Classic Cocktail Recipes & Bastardised Classics

If you’re looking for some inspiration for some classic cocktails or my spin on classic gin and whisky cocktails then these few cocktails might be right up your street.

I’m mostly found drinking gin when out in bars in the evening but I’m a sucker for a Japanese whisky, especially the Nikka Whisky range. Luckily for me they’ve recently branched out into the juniper spirit world too.

I’m by no means a professional mixologist but I do like to experiment not only in the kitchen but with my ever growing collection of spirits at home.

The Last Word Cocktail

Classic Last Word Cocktail

  • 50ml gin
  • 25ml Green Chartreuse
  • 25ml Maraschino Liquer
  • 25ml fresh lime juice

Instructions

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.

Last Samurai Cocktail

Last Samurai cocktail

  • 50ml Nikka Coffey Gin
  • 25ml Green Chartruese
  • 25ml Maraschino Liquer
  • 12ml lime juice
  • 12ml yuzu juice

Instructions

This is a play on the Last word cocktail above but with a Japanese twist using Nikka Coffey Gin with it’s Japanese inspired botanicals and subbing half the lime juice with Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit.

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.

Aviation Cocktail

  • 50ml gin
  • 12ml Crème de Violette
  • 12ml Maraschino Liquer
  • 25ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Luxardo maraschino cherry to garnish

Instructions

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix.

Add a Luxardo maraschino cherry and a little of the syrup into a chilled couple glass. Strain the cooled mixture into the couple glass and serve.

Chocolate, Hazelnut and Tonka Bean Old Fashioned Cocktail

Nikka whisky cocao tonka bean hazlenut old fashioned cocktail

 

  • 50ml Cocao butter fat washed Nikka From The Barrel Whisky
  • 10ml Tonka Bean and Hazlenut Syrup
  • 3 dashes umeboshi

Instructions

Add the Nkka, Tonka Bean Syrup and umeboshi to a mixing glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for around 15-20 seconds to both dilute and cool the mix.

Strain into a cut glass old fashioned or rocks glass with a block of ice and serve.

How to make the components of the cocktail

  1. To make the Cacao butter fat washed Nikka you will need to melt cacao butter in a bowl over hot water and pour the liquid butter into a container with the whisky. Depending on how much you want to make depends on how much cacao butter to use.
  2. I made 50ml of whisky to test and used a chunk about the size of my thumb. Make sure the container is to seal as you want to shake it to mix the fat in with the whisky.
  3. I left out to make sure it cooled for a few hours, then put it in the fridge overnight. I then placed the whisky in the freezer for an hour or two so the fat hardens. It has probably solidified already but we want to make sure it is solid so we can scoop it out easily.
  4. When you’re ready to roll, take the container out of the freezer and use a spoon to scoop out the cocao butter. Mine resembled a mini poppadum and was in two large pieces so was easy to fish out. Then take a fine sieve and pour the whisky into whatever container you want to store it in so it could be the empty whisky bottle but using the sieve to catch any small remnants of the cocao butter.
  5. The longer you leave the butter in the whisky the more pronounced the flavour. You don’t want to overpower the drink so play around with the timings. Mine was about 24 hours but you could do it less for a more subtle taste or depending how much cacao butter you use.
  6. To make the tonka bean and hazelnut syrup you want to smash up a few hazlenuts and dry roast in a pan to toast them and give them a more smoky flavour. Depending on how much you want to make up the measurements but I went for a test batch and used about 5 or 6 nuts with equal amounts of water and sugar. For this small batch I used 75ml of water and 75ml of sugar.
  7. Once the hazlenuts have toasted but make sure they don’t burn, add the sugar and water and turn it up to a boil. Cook for another minute once it’s boiling and take off the heat. I then added 1 tonka bean, which I snapped into 4 pieces.
  8. Bare in mind that in high does tonka beans, much like nutmeg can become toxic so don’t overdo it but some sources have said it could take around 20+ tonka beans for a person to cause damage. It’s for this reason tonka beans are banned in the US but this is from many years before too much research had been done to say they are toxic but in high quantities.
  9. Leave the mixture to cool for a few hours and to develop. Once you are happy with the concentration of flavours, decant the mixture into a clean container or bottle using a fine mesh sieve again to remove any residue that could cause it to spoil.

Bottomless Brunch Review at Revolucion de Cuba Cardiff

If you’re not familiar, Revolucion de Cuba is the older sibling of the student favourite Vodka Revolution and situated adjacent to The Hilton Hotel in Cardiff. Whereas Vodka revolution is themed around vodka, Revs de Cuba has a more latin affair with rum featuring heavily on the cocktail menu, live music early evenings and attracting a slightly older audience compared to it’s Russian themed counterpart.

I did go through a rum faze a few years ago, opting for the spiced variety so have been on many a night out in Revs de Cuba over the years but it’s never been on my radar to visit for food until I heard about the bottomless brunch they have just launched.

We were invited to the launch weekend back a few weeks ago to sample the brunch menu and see how the selected drinks menu held up against rival venues offering bottomless brunch with prosecco. The bottomless brunch craze seems to be sweeping over Cardiff of late but the food options tend to be limited to your standard avocado and egg based offerings, which I can do myself equally as well for a fraction of the price any day of the week. At Revolucion de Cuba however they’ve injected a much needed hit of flavour and spice with the taste of Latino.

bottomless brunch menu revs de cuba cardiff

Brunch food menu options:

  • Full grilled breakfast
  • Bacon and egg brioche
  • Cubano Benedict
  • Spanish omelette
  • Avocado Brunch
  • Brekkie burrito
  • Huevos Rancheros

Ok so there’s a few familiar plates but I like that they’ve had a Cuban twist such as the Cubano Benedict, which was top of my list but unfortunately as it was they were out of the pork. Instead I opted for the next dish on my hit list the Heuvos Rancheros, which i’ve attempted in the house a few times.

heuvos rancheros at revs de cuba cardiff

Revs de Cuba’s take on the tomatoey favourite is a flour tortilla topped with spiced black beans, tomatoes and mushroom. Finished with a fried egg, spicy rum sauce and crispy patatas.

Portion size was good, it wasn’t massive but this is a bottomless brunch so you want some space left for a cocktail or 4. I really enjoyed the dish to with just the right bit of spice nothing too hot to handle and it tasted really fresh for a chain restaurant.

brekkie burrito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch Cardiff

I’d definitely order it again but I’d like to give the Cuban Benedict a try first. My mum ordered the burrito and she must be the most fussy eater i’ve ever countered on this earth and she managed to polish off the plate too.

Drinks

Ok so you don’t get to order any cocktail from the main cocktail menu but this speeds things up ordering i guess so you can fit more into your 2 hour window of glutony.

For the two hours you get to order the following, one drink at a time:

  • Glass of Prosecco
  • Bloody Mary
  • Classic Mojito
  • Pint of Mahou
  • Tea
  • Americano
  • Soft drink

First up was the Bloody Mary for me. There’s 2 variants on the brunch cocktails menu depending on what poison you decide on. Bloody Mary is with vodka, Bloody Pirate comes with rum and the Red Snapper comes with Gin.

I wasn’t sure if the standard vodka was the only one in the all you can drink but they served me a Gin Red Snapper on the day but we were testers for the day so might of been given a bit of special treatment. I never used to be a Bloody Mary fan but I do seem to be adding them to brunch / lunch dates regularly lately and this was a pretty decent example. I only opted for the one and went onto the Mojito as I’d had enough of tomatoes after the meal too.

mojito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch cardiff

Everyone knows what a mojito tastes like although I’ve witnessed it is possible to masacre them in the past but seeing as it’s a rum bar they do a good job of them here.

The Verdict

There were four of us in the group and we all enjoyed what we were served up for food and the drinks. My mum was already planning taking the girls from work in a few weeks too, which is always a good sign.

The bottomless brunch deal is £20 usually and you get a choice of one of the food items on the special menu and as much alcoholic or soft drinks you can handle in a two hour time frame. This would make an excellent pre-game nibble and get you on your way if you ask me or the recipe for a very interesting day of shopping.

I’d definitely recommend it as I really enjoyed the food and you more than get your monies worth with the drinks compared to the standard prices on the menu there.

The Mulberry Cocktail Bar review at The Celtic Manor, Newport

I’ve always been a fan of The Celtic Manor down in Newport and like the fact they are always evolving, changing and enhancing what they have to offer under the roof and in the mass of acres surrounding the Luxury Hotel Complex.

Not content with trying the afternoon tea once i’ve been back 3 times for the ever changing specials they run such as the Willy Wonka Chocolate and the Easter themed one i’ve taken my younger sister to. I love the afternoon tea that much I’ve booked in for a 4th time in March for their afternoon tea with a twist and exploration of world cuisine with the Ribs Slider Afternoon tea that is there for the month of March. I’m equally keen to try out the Asian themed afternoon tea there in June.

Then there’s the inaugural Polo at the Celtic where everyone gets glammed up I’d like to say to watch the Polo but it’s an excuse to put some smart summer wear on, shades high heels / loafers and quaff measurable amounts of Pimms and Champagne in sun kissed Newport Countryside. I attended the event last, 2 years ago but contemplating adding it to this summers list of events.

I was saddened to hear about the fine dinning restaurant closing at the Celtic Manor back last year but when an invite landed in my inbox to the vacant spaces latest incarnation the Mulberry Cocktail Bar I was more than happy to check out what they had mustered up in it’s place.

Mulberry Cocktail Bar Celtic Manor Resort

The Bar

I’ve stayed and ate plus attended a couple of years at the Digital Wales events at the Celtic Manor but I was unfortunate not to eat at the Epicure restaurant when it was open so can’t compare what the decor was like before the Mulberry opened but I thought it did make a lasting impression walking through the glass doors with the bar in front, swooping chandeliers, large high backed chairs, mood lighting and classy fittings.

Mulberry Bar cocktail lounge Celtic Manor

There were scutterings of tables in all shapes and sizes to fulfil groups of varying sizes from small tea seaters, large canvas backed lounge seating to hold small groups that was occupied by a friendly gaggle of locals and regulars at the restaurant who were enjoying their first round of Mulberry fizz’s. There were offshoots with rooms and couches curtailed by thin threads giving a sense of privacy that can be booked out for groups and parties I was informed and then weather permitting (which it wasn’t on Thursday sadly) outside parasol entombed tables centered around a modern fire pit, which i’m sure would be well exploited come early spring and into the late evenings in summer after feasting on one of the many current restaurants across the resort.

Not being one who prefers the element of surprise, I had – had a sneak peek of the menu before the evening to see how they compared to recent visits to some of London’s favourite cocktail haunts such as Duck and Waffle, The Shard and the legendary Savoy. Sticking to my mantra of doing a smaller menu very well rather than an excessive menu very badly there were 11 cocktails to choose from. If you would of asked me what the ingredients to most of them were 12 months ago I wouldn’t of had a clue but to anyone whose graced the pages of my Instagram recently they’d know I’m partial to a cocktail or two these days.

There were a few familiar faces in attendance and not just fellow foodies and bloggers but Welsh Rugby hero Gareth Edwards, who i’m guessing is a keen golfer down at the Celtic Manor and none other than TV favourite Bradley Walsh who was staying at the hotel during filming of an upcoming show.

The Drinks

Price wise the cocktails were around the £15 mark, which for a Cardiff City Centre before 10pm might sound excessive to some but most of the venues in town who offer two for one generally in my eyes based on taste just use the same amount of alcohol but spread over two glasses so you’re just getting more juice or ice for your money. Having visited one venue well known for their two for one pricing the night after my visit I was quite appalled to see they were charging £9.70 for an Aperol Spritz outside of the happy hour window.

Here though at The Mulberry Bar they aren’t just using your standard house spirits such as red labeled vodka or sub £20 London Dry Gin they are using some of the best spirits available to make up the cocktails, which I think does warrant the slightly higher prices one would be more accustomed to in nearing Welsh cities. I’ve never actually been to a hotel for their amazing cocktail deals anyway as you come to expect to pay a little bit extra as it’s not just about the drink it’s about the experience, the service and having everything under one roof.

mulberry Fizz cocktail and canapés Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

First up we were served a Mulberry Spritz containing vodka infused mulberries, Blackberry Pimms and Ice Cuvee. This wasn’t just some berries thrown in some vodka and shaken to within an inch of it’s life with ice with a straw. some thought and preparation and been involved from the steeping of the mulberries, the ice shaped carriages to hold the berries and the overall presentation of the drink. The first sip was quite potent but a little stir and muddle of the ice and it was a lot smoother.

We were treated to a decadent selection of canapés to go with the drinks with fois gras and truffle, lobster with scallops and a mushroom with mozzarella. These were later joined with a panko crumbed raspberry with poppet of boozy liquer along with a rich chocolate and rose pot.

candyfloss cocktail at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

Next up was the Candy Floss Royal. Not a drink I would normally opt for myself as I don’t go for anything that sounds overly sweet but it was a lot better than i thought it would be and not too sweet at all. A chunk of candy floss drizzled with black muscat and finally drenched in Champagne. What’s not to like with anything topped with Champagne?

Negroni and Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor review

I got to choose my next drink so obviously went for a classic gin cocktail and what’s more classic than a Negroni, but not just any Negroni… a Posh Negroni with Martini Rosso, Roby Italian Roby Marton gin and bitter Campari. This was the biggest glass of Negroni I’ve ever set eyes on. They’re an acquired taste if you’ve not tried Campari before but i’ve had my fare share over the past 12 months and got a taste for it now. It was good as is but the bar manager offered a splash of Prosecco, which just lifted it perfectly.

Japanese Whisky Cabinet at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

The Whisky Cabinet didn’t escape my radar right by the entrance to The Mulberry Bar and on further inspection they’ve added a few Japanese Whisky’s that I’ve had a soft spot for since my visit and Whisky flight at A Bull in a China shop in Shoreditch, London just before Christmas. I’d also treated myself to a sexy bottle of Nikka From The Barrel for Christmas. I’d not seen the Nikka Coffey in a bar yet though and been dying to try it. It didn’t disappoint either so if you like your Whisky, next time you’re at a bar or take a trip to The Mulberry Bar at the Celtic Manor make sure you sample one or two in their ever growing list of Japanese Whisky’s.

Cheese trolley at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

Did we mention the cheese trolley they have too? Just our luck they plonked it next to us with it calling out “EAT ME!” for the duration of the visit. Sadly it was just to entice us back as it was just for show but we were informed it was around £14 for a choice of 4 cheeses. To make up for it though the friendly and attentive bartender rustled up a the showpiece of the cocktail menu the Cheese Delice featuring Monkey Shoulder Whisky blended with Kahulua and hazelnut liquer in the centre of a plate adorned with nuggets of cheese and drops of chocolate.

Cheese Delice cocktail at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

The idea is to dip the cheese in the chocolate, take a bite and then have a sip of the drink. This was definitely a dessert to share much like a cheeseboard. I loved the different flavour combos going on with the dish / drink but it would of been a struggle to finish on my own and was a great sharing drink after some food.

The Verdict

We both loved our first visit to The Mulberry Bar at The Celtic Manor and will no doubt be back to finish off where we left off. I loved the surroundings, the vibes and of course the cocktail and whisky list. We had a good chat to the bar manager who talked us through some of the drinks on the menu, techniques they’ve employed to deliver the epic cocktails and plans for the future with drink and menu development, which sounded more than promising.

The waiters and bar staff were very knowledgable and more than happy to explain some of the more unusual ingredients and offer recommendations based on our tastes.

If you are staying at the Celtic Manor and booked in for food at one of the restaurants then the Mulberry Bar is a must to end a perfect evening in Wales most prestigious Hotel. Even though it’s in the afternoon, we’re off for the afternoon tea in a few weeks and I’m definitely going to see if they can sneak us in if it’s close to opening time.

The Bar is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm but closed Monday and Tuesday and to find out more visit The Mulberry Bar website.

Lurvill’s Delight Botanical Water Review with G and Tea cocktail

I was asked to test out the relaunched Lurvill’sDelight recently. For those unaware of the brand or product it was born out of the Rhondda Valleys some 100 odd years ago by twin brothers Harold and Lolo Lewis.

The story goes that the brothers used profits of the drink to pay for 150 local coal mining families in the Ynishir area of the Rhondda to travel to the states around 1900’s. The carbonated drink ceased production not because a decline in sales but from a shortage of one of the main ingredients, dock leaves in 1910.

Having heard about the relaunch back last year on social media, I was keen to sample the drink especially as it was initially brewed and bottled just over the mountain from my home town of Abercynon.

I found the botanical blend of Welsh Springwater to be rather refreshing, poured over a large 3″ chunk of ice made from my recently aqcuired ice cub tray from Amazon. This is definitely an adults drink as there is no added sugar, colour, preservatives or artificial flavours.

With hints of rhubarb, dock leaf, nettle and juniper the botanicals lend themselves very well to Gin and not just as a thirst quencher on it’s own. I did enjoy the drink by itself but it wasn’t as fizzy as I would of liked personally although that might of been something to do with the huge block of ice in my glass. It sounds more of a health drink and had that sort of medicinal feel when first trying but with a sence of nostalgia knowing the history behind the drink but the mellow flavours where made for marrying the juniper flavour with a good gin.

I tried a few different concoctions of gin and garnish with the Lurvill’s Delight but found the Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin to compliment it best. I gave the Negroni cocktail a go from the Lurvill’s website but I’m not sure if I used too much Campari but it overpowered the subtle flavour of the Lurvills Delight as it is quite bitter.

Where can I buy Lurvill’s delight?

I’ve been informed that bottles can be bought from a range of deli’s and suppliers in Cardiff with Wally’s deli being the most well known. They can be picked up online at Amazon with a crate for £20 and drinkstuff also had some in stock too after a quick search on google too.

lurvills delight g and tea cocktail

Lurvills Delight G & Tea

  • 50ml Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin
  • Twist of lemon
  • Dash of Lurvills Delight
  • Loads of ice

Fill a large goblet type gin glass with large chunks of ice.

Use a potato peeler to shave the skin of the lemon. Cut in half lengthways and twist the skin to release the essential oils but take care not to tear it in half then drop in the glass with ice.

Pour the double measure of Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin into the ice filled glass and top up with the Lurvills Delight to your desired strength.

Negroni recipe

My first taste of a Negroni was the woodland Negroni at Duck and Waffle in London, which I have to admit wasn’t to my taste as it tasted like i’d just necked a bottle of pond water as it was seaped through layers of nature or moss as I’d call it.

I wasn’t put off though and knew there was more to this classic Gin cocktail as i’ve seen it cropping up a lot lately so after working my way through the taster menu at Mint and Mustard in Penarth last night we popped into Asda on the way home. I wasn’t quite ready for bed so left with a bottle of Campari in tow after hunting down a bottle of Noilly Prat Vermouth a few weeks back to make my own Negroni.

Negroni ingredients

2 x 25ml Gin (I used Portobello Road as it’s my favourite all rounder)

1 x 25ml Noilly Prat Vermouth

1 x 25ml Campari

1 twist of orange

Negroni cocktail making

Instructions

To make two add 2 x double shots of Gin, 1 double Noilly Prat and 1 double Campari to a large tumbler filled with ice and stir for a good 30 seconds. Take a potato peeler to an orange and peel a slither of the rind, twist and squeeze to release some of the oils in the orange and add to cut glass tumbler. Pour the Negroni mixture equally between two glasses along with thick chunks of ice to keep the glass cold without over diluting.