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Why not raise a glass for some festive cheer

Raise a glass for some festive cheer
Susannah Wright
• Actually, if you’re not sure, don’t worry as apparently nearly a third of Mancunians don’t know the difference, according to a new survey. And I have to confess I was one of them.
Despite having previously worked in a pub, my mixology skills are seriously lacking. So in the interests of self-improvement, and possibly to extend some hospitality to my friends, I went along to Manchester’s Prohibition bar to learn some tricks of the trade.
“You’ll need to have a passion for cocktails and a desire to create the perfect drink,” says manager Andi Fenlon. Well, in that case, I’m half-way there already...
“Mixologists also need an outgoing personality, because it’s quite a theatrical thing,” he adds. “Part of the job involves entertaining the customer.”
For the record, a classic stirred Martini involves pouring one and half shots of gin or vodka and half a shot of dry vermouth into a cocktail shaker with ice, stirring it, and straining it into a chilled Martini glass, then garnishing with an olive or twist of lemon.
While for a shaken one – popularised by James Bond – the same liquors are placed into the tin with ice and shaken vigorously for 15 seconds. It is served the same way, but as shaking makes the ice start to melt, the drink is colder and more diluted.
Keen to get stuck in, Andi showed me how to make a modern version of the drink, an Espresso Martini (see side facing page). Before we start, he gives me a few general pointers on making cocktails.
Liquids are measured in ‘counts’ – ie, counting one, two, three, although some drinks pour quicker than others. Three counts is generally equal to one shot.
Other snippets of useful information are that a mixing glass is called a ‘Boston’ glass, and ‘crowning’ a drink means topping it with crushed ice.
Surprisingly, the shaking part of the Espresso Martini is harder than it looks. The idea is to shake the mixture vigorously in the Boston glass and metal cocktail shaker, for a good minute, until the coffee and liquor goes frothy. It’s actually quite tiring, a bit like a mini work-out for the arms.
And tapping the tin to release it from the glass requires a decent thwack with the heel of your hand. Nevertheless, with a bit of help, I got there in the end.
The Espresso Martini has quite a strong flavour, and looks like a cappuccino. It’s a good option if you’re not keen on fruity sweet cocktails.
Something altogether different is the English Country Garden. It’s a modern twist on the classic mojito, and I did wonder about the wisdom of using cucumbers, lime and mint together, but thinking of it as being a sort of boozy salad, it seemed all the more appealing.
A new skill in the form of muddling was required. It’s basically mashing the ingredients together with a wooden stick in a mixing glass.
Andi says: “A cocktail is a battle between sweet and sour, but it has to fit the occasion and the taste of the drinker.
“It’s all about trial and error.”
The English Country Garden did remind me of a traditional cottage vegetable patch, and I couldn’t help thinking about peas.
“You want to take the customer on a journey of taste,” advises Andi.
Before my cocktail class, I had thought I might get to try the bottle-flinging capers as displayed by Tom Cruise in the hit movie, Cocktail, but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. I think Andi suspected I would have taken someone’s eye out.
Yet once I’d polished off the first two cocktails, I felt sufficiently emboldened to have a go at making up my own concoction.
Deciding to use the letters of the M.E.N as a guide, I opted for Midori melon and Effen black cherry liqueurs along with No 209 gin, as my base liquors.
Following the shaking and straining, I crowned the green mix with the red of cranberry.
To make it look even more festive, I garnished it with a sprig of holly, and triumphantly named it an M.E.N Christmas Kiss.
And after all that, I went for a lie down.
Espresso Martini
Place ice and soda water into a Martini glass to chill it.
In a Boston glass, pour in two counts of gomme syrup, two of Kahlua (coffee liqueur), four counts of vodka, and a shot of freshly made espresso.
Fill with ice cubes, place a metal tin on top, tap it lightly to make sure it’s securely on, then shake vigorously until the mixture goes frothy.
Tap the tin with the heel of your hand to loosen it.
Throw the iced water out of the Martini glass and shake it to get rid of the excess.
Cover the Boston glass with a horseshoe strainer, and using a separate tea strainer over the Martini glass, pour the cocktail. Tap the tea strainer to ensure the froth goes through.
Garnish with three coffee beans.

English Country Garden
To a Boston glass, add a sprig of mint, two lime wedges, two slices of cucumber, a couple of counts each of lemon juice, St Germain (elderflower liqueur) and gomme (sugar) syrup.
Muddle together, taking care not to splash it out of the glass.
Add a scoop of crushed ice, half cover the glass with a napkin so as not to touch the rim, and stir with a long-handled spoon.
Taste it by inserting a straw to the bottom, holding on to the top, and when you take it out, there'll be some liquid in the straw.
This is where you make any additions that might be needed, such as more gomme syrup to cut through the sharpness of the lime.
Crown with crushed ice, then add apple juice to a centimetre below the rim.
Garnish with a slice of cucumber and two sprigs of mint which need to be slapped against the palm of your hand. This breaks the veins which releases the scent.

MEN Christmas Kiss
Chill a rounded half-pint glass with iced water.
Into a Boston glass pour two counts each of Midori melon liqueur and Effen black cherry vodka, one count each of No 209 gin and vanilla-flavoured gomme, and another two counts of lemon juice.
Add ice, top with a metal tin and give it a quick shake.
Remove the iced water from the serving glass, add crushed ice, and pour in the cocktail through a horseshoe strainer.
Carefully pour on cranberry juice so that the red layer sits on top of the green spirit mix. Garnish with a sprig of fake holly. - Fly at a Smile-Price