Curious Bartender Recipes



50 ml/2 oz. bourbon whiskey
5 g fresh mint leaves (about 12), plus mint sprigs to garnish
7 ml sugar syrup (see page 204)

Add all the ingredients to the base of the julep cup  and stir for 1 minute. Chuck in a big

scoop of crushed ice and churn everything together. Sit a julep strainer  on top and garnish with mint sprigs.

For our US compatriots, the Julep is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, an annual Thoroughbred horse race held in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the course of the Kentucky Derby weekend, the Churchill Downs race track makes an estimated 120,000 Mint Juleps for spectators – ‘das a whole lotta mint!’

The drink itself is basically an Old Fashioned with mint in place of bitters, traditionally served in a (fittingly named) ‘Julep cup’ – a shiny steel, pewter or silver goblet. The drink also lends its name to the ‘Julep strainer’, a staple of the mixologist’s bar kit bag that is commonly used for holding the ice back when straining a drink from mixing beaker to glass. The original intended use for a Julep strainer, however, was to sit on top of a Julep and stop pesky bits of mint and crushed ice making their way into your gob. Nowadays, we usually serve Juleps with thin straws that you could barely hope to breathe through, never mind fit a piece of mint up. The first reference to a Julep dates way back to 1803 when it was described as ‘a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning’. I like to make up a ‘Julep mix’, consisting of mint-infused bourbon and sugar. This is a bit more economical on the mint front, and sits quite happily in a bottle in my home spirits cabinet, requiring only a quick stir with crushed ice to be finished off. The recipe above was given to me by my bourbon-loving friend Jon Lister.



This recipe is inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Hot & Cold Iced Tea’, as served at The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, England. The idea of floating one drink on top of another (vertical float) is not a new one. There are entire books dedicated to shots, shooters, drops and the like that are popular in part because of the visual appeal of one drink sitting on top of another. Creating a drink with a horizontal float, however, is much more difficult. It seems impossible, in fact – how can two liquids sit side by side and not mix together, especially if one is hot and the other cold?

Well, it is entirely possible and it was achieved by The Fat Duck back in 2005, with a side-by-side float of hot tea and iced tea. When you sip on the liquid, there is the most bizarre sensation of experiencing warm and cold at the same time, a bit like when you get one of those taps/faucets on a sink that instead of giving you warm water simultaneously dispenses both scalding and freezing cold water in unmixed form. The effect is achieved by making highly viscous (freeflowing) fluid gels.

We come across fluid gels a lot in everyday life; condiments like tomato ketchup and many shower gels are fluid gels, as they have a low viscosity, but still behave like flowing liquids. Imagine taking a bottle of brown sauce and a bottle of ketchup and squeezing them simultaneously into the base of a glass. As the glass begins to fill, the sauces won’t mix; they’ll simply sit side by side, the low viscosity caused by the gel structure being enough to prevent them from flowing into each other. However, horizontal floats are still achievable with liquids that are much more viscous than the stuff you put on your fries. I’m going to make fluid gels for my Julep that are viscous enough to feel like a liquid, but stable enough to prevent mixing. 

This is, without doubt, one of the most forward-thinking cocktails that I have ever attempted to make, and one of the biggest challenges that I need to  overcome is the incredible piece of evolutionary engineering that is the human tongue.

Our tongues and mouths are unrivalled in their ability to detect minute textural changes. A baby will try to put every object they can get their hands on in their mouth in an effort to understand its texture. Fooling the tongue is incredibly difficult, and getting the viscosity of my fluid gel right will be a crucial part of making this drink work.

The Julep is the perfect cocktail to attempt this with, since it is delicious both as a cold and a hot drink. It also gives me a chance to play with one of mint’s unique properties, the fact that it can be both spicy and cooling at the same time. By  bolstering some of the natural flavour compounds already present in mint, I can take my Julep to the extreme.

The cooling sensation of mint can come from a variety of compounds, but menthol is probably the one we associate it with the most. These cooling compounds trigger nerve endings in our mouths that are responsible for detecting when things are cold. The spiciness or pepperiness of peppermint comes from the compound caryophyllene. This compound is also found in cloves, some types of basil, some types of cinnamon and most predominately in West African black pepper. Like menthol, caryophyllene directly interacts with nerve endings responsible for  detecting heat. Using these compounds, I’m going to adjust the coolness and spiciness of the two halves of my drink to further fool the palate.

I prepare the two halves of the drink separately, then combine them in the cup by pouring them in simultaneously. The measurements here need to be very precise – even the mineral content of the water you use can upset the balance if you’re not careful. To make the Julep infusion, I freeze 15 g/ó oz. mint with liquid nitrogen (see page 44), then break the leaves into a powder using a muddler or rolling pin. Next, I douse the mint with 200 ml/6. oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon and 25 g/1 oz. sugar syrup. The infusion is stirred briskly for 1 minute, then strained through a paper coffee filter or muslin cheesecloth to remove the fine mint particles.

To make the hot Julep, I put 100 ml/313 oz. water in a saucepan along with 0.3 g agar-agar, 0.2 g citric acid and 1 g finely ground West African black pepper. I bring the mixture to the boil and ensure that all the agar is dissolved, then remove from the heat, strain and whisk in 100 ml/313 oz. of the Julep infusion.

To make the cold Julep, I put 100 ml/313 oz. water into a saucepan along with 0.3 g agar-agar, 0.6 g citric acid, a postage stamp-sized slice of lemon zest and 1.5 g menthol crystals (nasal decongestant). I bring the mixture to the boil and ensure that all the agar is dissolved, then remove from the heat, strain and whisk in 100 ml/313 oz. of the Julep infusion.

I cool both mixtures separately in an ice bath and, once chilled, pass them through a fine-mesh sieve/strainer. The mixtures are both then bottled and reserved until required. 

To serve the drink, I heat the warm Julep to 65ºC/ 150ºF in a water bath and simultaneously cool the cold Julep in an ice bath, or fridge. I have created a custom-made vessel to serve my hot and cold Juleps in: a metal tea cup with a secure-fitting plastic insert that can slide into the middle of the cup and acts as a partition between the two liquids when they are poured.

When the liquids are at the correct temperature, I carefully pour the liquids in either side of the partitioned cup at a steady rate, then remove the insert, cross my fingers and serve.

The drink must be consumed quite quickly, because the temperatures of the two halves quickly equilibrate when they are left to sit for more than a few minutes.




25 ml/1 oz. tanqueray no. ten gin

25 ml/1 oz. campari

25 ml/1 oz. martini rosso vermouth

a slice of lemon (or grapefruit), to garnish


Stir all the ingredients over cubed ice for 60 seconds, then strain into a chilled rocks glass with cubed ice (or use a large hand-cracked piece of ice). Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Ask any cocktail bartender what their favourite drink is and they’ll probably beat about the bush suggesting different drinks for different times of the day, or simply say ‘a beer’. Ask them what their second favourite drink is and they’ll quite possibly tell you that it’s a Negroni.

Here is a drink that ingeniously combines herbal aromatics, a bitter-sweet balance as addictive as crack and a decent backbone of booze to make the whole thing worthwhile. The gin provides the bulk of the alcohol content, along with a dry, earthy quality. The vermouth gives a little bit of dilution, some sweetness and a decent herbal flourish. Finally, Campari gives a huge spiced bitter orange sting and a decent glug of sugar to boot.

The commonly accepted story of the Negroni’s creation takes us back to 1920s’ Florence, and a man named Count Camillo Negroni. He orders an Americano (Campari, Italian vermouth and soda), but with gin in place of soda. The truth is a little more muddy and a matter of some contention. In fact, the debate has raged on enough to have now involved members of the Negroni family and Italian historians. My best understanding comes from the book Sulle Tracce del Conte  (‘On the Trail of the Count’, 2002) by Luca Picchi, which,  backed up by a considerable amount of historical documentation, intimates that the drink is named after [deep breath] Cammillo Luigi Manfredo Maria Negroni, who originally asked Fosco Scarselli, bartender at Cafe Casoni, to fortify his Americano with gin. This happened at some time in either 1919 and 1920. One of the ways in which the story is qualified is by a letter sent from Frances Harper of London to [the evidently unwell] Negroni on 13th October 1920: ‘You say you can drink, smoke and I am sure laugh, just as much as ever. I feel you are not much to be pitied! You must not take more than 20 Negronis in one day!’ Clearly the Count was fond of his own drink!

Even though the history is not all that clear, making a Negroni is very easy indeed. You might prefer to go slightly heavier on the gin, or drop the Campari down a touch, but the recipe above is widely accepted as the proper way. The garnish can have a big impact on this drink – an orange twist is common, but I also like a grapefruit twist and have been known to put a slice of cucumber in there too. In the US, the Negroni is more often served straight up (in a martini glass), but in Europe we still serve it on the rocks.


Fairground Negroni

I must confess that this drink is at least partly inspired by a cocktail served to me by my friend Paul Tvaroh of Lounge Bohemia in Shoreditch, London. Paul created a unique take on the classic Campari and Soda by serving a simple glass of soda accompanied by a stick of Campari candyfloss/cotton candy. I was instructed to eat the candyfloss/cotton candy while sipping on the soda. The result was an intense bitter-sweet hit, counteracted by effervescent soda. Brilliant.

The drink got me thinking how cool it would be to recreate ‘all the fun of the fair’ in a cocktail. Each of the three usual Negroni ingredients will be deconstructed into an edible treat and served together for the ultimate fairground experience. There’s a lot of work to do, so let’s get started!

For the Campari candyfloss/cotton candy I need sugar. Candyfloss/cotton candy is made by heating and spinning sugar until liquid strands are shot through tiny holes. The tiny threads of sugar are reasonably stable, so can be wound up together to form big clumps of cotton wool-textured sugar. Campari actually has a lot of sugar in it, around 22 brix (22% sugar), and it’s this sugar we need to make the candyfloss/cotton candy.

To make the Campari sugar, I gently reduce a bottle of Campari down in a saucepan along with 10 drops of pink food colouring, over a very low heat for 3 hours, evaporating off as much of the water and alcohol as I possibly can. Many of the aromatics and, crucially, the bitterness are left in the pan along with all the sugar, and what I end up with is a syrup with the texture of thick honey.

I spread the syrup out on a sheet of greaseproof/wax paper and leave it to dry out in a low oven or in a dehydrator for 8 hours. Every hour or so, I break up the resin into smaller pieces and ensure that all surfaces get a decent amount of warm air over them. What I am left with is an intensely bitter crystallized sugar. I add 1 teaspoon dry Campari sugar to a  candyfloss/cotton candy machine and, following the instructions, form a stick of Campari candyfloss.

I’m now going to make marshmallows out of both the gin and the vermouth. The end result will be the classic contrasting pink and white soft sweets, but with the flavour of gin and vermouth. Marshmallows are reasonably easy to make as they are basically a type of jellied meringue. Because I’m using gelatine to make my marshmallows, it means that they will be stable, even with a bit of alcohol in there.

To make the gin marshmallows, I put 225 g/8 oz. (caster) sugar in a saucepan along with 5 ml liquid glucose and 50 ml/2 oz. water, and heat the mixture to 127ºC/260ºF exactly using a temperature probe or confectioners’ thermometer. I stir in 5 gelatine sheets that have been softened in a little water first, until they dissolve.

In a mixing bowl, I whisk 1 egg white to stiff peaks with an electric hand whisk, then continue whisking while slowly pouring in the hot sugar mixture and 35 ml/1. oz. Tanqueray gin. I continue whisking for about 3 minutes more until the mixture is glossy and firm – the more air, the lighter the marshmallows will be. Once firm, the mixture is transferred to a suitable mould (such as a bread pan), which has been greased and dusted with 50/50 mix of icing/confectioners’ sugar and Cornflour/cornstarch. The gooey mixture is left to set for an hour or two. Once set, the marshmallows are turned out of the mould and chopped into cubes using a hot knife.

To make the sweet vermouth marshmallows, I follow the same method and use the same ingredient ratios, simply substituting the 50 ml/2 oz. water and the Tanqueray for 100 ml/313 oz. Martini Rosso.

I’m also going to garnish the drink with vermouth flavoured popping candy. You will probably remember this stuff from your childhood sweet shop. It looks a lot like sugar, but when you put it in your mouth it pops and cracks, which is both amazing and a little  disconcerting! It came as a surprise to me to discover that the process used to create popping candy is both patented and very dangerous. My version is more simple and more of a 'fizzing candy' than popping.

To make the fizzing candy, I start by dusting a sheet of baking parchment with a little sugar and 30 g/ 1 oz. citric acid powder.

In a saucepan, I combine 260 g/9 oz. granulated sugar, 60 g/2 oz. glucose (or corn) syrup, 2 drops of red food colouring and 15 ml/ó oz. Martini Rosso concentrate, which I have made by reducing Martini Rosso gently on the hob/stove for 4 hours until I am left with a syrup.

Using a temperature probe, the mixture is heated to 150ºC/300ºF, being careful to keep it moving so that sugar crystals are not able to form on the side of the pan. Once heated, I take the pan off the heat and add 5 g bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and quickly whisk the mixture until it is dissolved. The sugar mixture is quickly poured onto the baking parchment, then I sprinkle a further 30 g/1 oz. citric acid powder evenly on top. I allow the sugar to cool, then smash it  up into little pieces so that it resembles shards of popping candy.

Last but not least, I’ll finish the ensemble with a gin-flavoured ice cream, dusted with Campari sugar (the same that is used to create the candyfloss).

I put 500 ml/17 oz. whole milk in a saucepan with 4 g juniper berries and heat them to 65ºC/150ºF. The milk is then strained to remove the berries.

In a stand mixer, I beat 120 g/4 oz. egg yolks with 250 g/9 oz. sugar and 5 g sodium alginate (this is optional, but improves the firmness of the ice cream) for 5 minutes. I continue mixing while slowly pouring in the warm juniper-infused milk. Once everything is mixed, I return the mixture to the pan, heat it to 70ºC/160ºF and hold the temperature for 10 minutes, to pasteurize. The mixture is then allowed to cool, before it is refrigerated for a minimum of 12 hours.

Once the mixture has been chilled, I stir in 350 g/ 12 oz. sour cream and 100 ml/313 oz. gin, then freeze the ice cream, either in an ice cream maker or using liquid nitrogen or dry ice (see pages 44 –45). To serve, I simply assemble all of the components!


These recipes are from The Curious Bartender: Volume 1 available now (along with The Curious Bartender: Volume 2).