In celebrating “World Cocktail Week” from May 6-13, this third episode of cocktails from around the globe focuses on Spanish and Mediterranean cocktails leading up to “World Cocktail Day” on the 13th. This week was selected for the prestigious holiday because it marks the first time the word ‘cocktail’ was published back in 1806. The definition appeared in “The Balance and Columbian Repository” and read, “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters." I can drink to that!
Spain and the Mediterranean.
Spain has its own drinking culture, traditions, and of course, great respect for the quality of their drinks, which are taken seriously by every Spaniard. Wine and Sangrias are not only their distinctive national drink, but there are many other drinks, spirits, and liqueurs that hail from Spain, but are pretty unknown. Drinking is much more than an action, but also a great social pleasure to be enjoyed with friends, family and work colleagues at any occasion, whether it's a refreshing Sangria or Rioja during summer or a nice warming liqueur or brandy during winter.
The most popular Spanish spirit is Brandy. Brandy in Spain, as well as other countries, was originally elaborated for medicinal purposes. Spanish brandy is characterized for being sweeter than other brandies and the biggest representatives are: Brandy de Jerez and Orujo. The most popular Spanish liqueurs include: Anise liqueurs and Licor 43. Spain is, however, wild about gin and tonics and it is considered to be it's national drink.
The Mediterranean produces a highly-rated gin called Xoriguer MAHON Gin, which is a unique artisanal gin handcrafted on the Mediterranean island of Menorca. With a history dating back to the early 18th century, Xoriguer Gin is distilled from wine and Mediterranean juniper berries in traditional copper stills and certified gluten-free. MAHÓN GIN, one of only three Geographically Designated Gins in the World is now available in the United States. MAHÓN GIN was first introduced in 1708 to satisfy the thirst of the British Navy, after which Gin became a wildly popular island drink, still to this day. MAHÓN GIN has become an iconic Mediterranean spirit, and a standard for distinctive world class craft Gin.
Spanish Gin & Tonic with Xoriguer Mahon Gin
It is characterized as having "very distinct aromas of lemongrass, verbena, juniper, dried oil paint, and dusty cedar with a silky, dryish medium-to-full body and a well integrated, peppery spice, creamy vanilla nougat, mint, and earth accented finish. An artfully composed gin that will shine in craft cocktails."
The Greeks are well known for their brandy, specifically Metaxa and Ouzo, which are great to sip on a cold winter's night. Oúzo is known as the National Drink of Greece. It is a clear distilled spirit flavored with anise. It has a very distinct flavor and it turns opaque once mixed with water.
Spanish Gin & Tonics (many variations)
Photo by Caroline on Crack from TheChesnut Club in Santa Monica
The Spanish style, unlike the English one, is a beautiful mix of gin, tonic, herbs, fruit and citrus peels displayed in a wide-rimmed glass to better showcase the aromas as well as the colorful ingredients. It’s refreshing and bright, transporting you to a café seat on Las Ramblas in the hot sun.
- 2 oz Aviation Gin
- 5 oz tonic water (I recommend Q-Tonic or Fever Tree)
- 2 lavender sprigs
- 1 grapefruit to peel
Prep - In a mixing glass, hand-press the lavender stems then add gin to mixing glass. Dump contents into a wine glass or goblet. With a peeler peel two long grapefruit peels, express the oils and place in glass. Add tonic and gently stir. Garnish with a lavender blossom.
Variations (try to pair herbs/spice with fruit that pairs well with gin) - Gin and tonic water as above, but substitute kumquats and lime or lavender and lemon/lemongrass or dill and cucumber or Thai-chili and lime or saffron and lime or coriander (cilantro) with lemon.
Photo courtesy of Todd Coleman
The recipe for this Mediterranean take on the Tequila Sunrise comes to us from the New York City restaurant Molyvos. Try using a Greek honey infused with thyme for a more pronounced floral sweetness, or swap out the vodka for ouzo for an intoxicating punch of licorice flavor.
- 2 slices pink grapefruit, quartered (8 total pieces)
- 4 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 tsp. honey (Greek honey, if available)
- 2 oz. pink grapefruit-infused vodka (see below) or UV Ruby Red Graprefruit Vodka or Plomari Ouzo
- 3 oz. freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
- 1 oz. Campari
To make grapefruit-infused vodka, slice 1 pink grapefruit and stuff it into a glass jar. Pour in unflavored vodka until grapefruit is completely submerged. Seal jar with a tight fitting lid and let sit for 3 days at room temperature. Strain solids out through a large strainer into another glass jar; refrigerate and store infused vodka for 2 months.
Classic Mahon Gin Cocktails -
GIN DE MAHON POMADA
- 1 oz Gin de Mahon
- fill with homemade lemonade (1 part cold water, 1 part simple syrup, 2 parts fresh lemon juice)
- lemon slice for garnish
Prep - Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the gin, lemonade and lemon slice. Stir well. Garnish lemon slice.
ODD BACHUS POMADA
- 2 oz Gin de Mahon
- fresh-squeezed lemon juice from one lemon
- tonic water (Q Tonic or Fentimans)
- 3 large spearmint leaves (optional)
Prep - Add the lemon juice and gin to a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a highball glass and top off with the tonic. This cocktail tastes tart and refreshingly aromatic. To give the cocktail a little extra burst of freshness, add three spearmint leaves to the shaker with the lemon juice and gin. When you shake the cocktail, the ice cubes will bruise the leaves, releasing the essential oils.
My modern twist -
Photo courtesy of Brides
- 2 oz Mahon Gin
- 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Simple Syrup
- 2 slices of English Hothouse Cucumber & 1 large sprig of rosemary
- Cucumber Ribbon for garnish
Prep - In a mixing glass, muddle cuke slice and rosemary with simple syrup and lemon juice. Add gin and ice. Shake well for 20 seconds. Double strain with a strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Peel the third layer of a cucumber (with some skin) with a vegetable peeler and skewer forming a ribbon. Set across the rim.
In celebrating “World Cocktail Week” from May 6-13, I will be offering up cocktails from around the globe focusing on a different region of the world or country's signature drinks culminating in “World Cocktail Day” on the 13th. This week was selected for the prestigious holiday because it marks the first time the word ‘cocktail’ was published back in 1806. The definition appeared in “The Balance and Columbian Repository” and read, “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters." I can drink to that!
Second up - India.