Thursday, 31 May 2012

Alco-Shops part 2: The Chinese Supermarket

Slightly early post this week, since I’m not going to be around tomorrow to post it, so here’s part two of the [going-to-be] regular Alco-Shops feature.

I visited the Chinese supermarket near work the other day to pick up some cooking supplies, and while browsing the myriad different types of soy sauce I realised that I had found an interesting new resource, for out of the corner of my eye I noticed there were several different types of Japanese Sake. They were of various sizes, styles and prices, and just like that I’d found something to brighten up my day. I certainly wasn’t intending to buy any booze that day, but for £4 a little bottle of sake (300ml, 15% abv) would do very nicely. And I can always pick up a different one next time.
Kylie is eyeing you up from behind the bottle

 Shopping at the Chinese supermarket is fun for a while, but once you've seen all the chickens' feet, rabbits' tails and donkey noses, it kind of loses its novelty appeal. This was just the kind of thing to move the Chinese Supermarket from the Not to the Hot column.

Once I’d selected my various fish-vinegar-soy-sauces I saw some other weird spirits near the checkout, too. I was tempted, but figured I’d investigate that at some future time. I don’t really know why I was so surprised – where else would you expect to be able to buy sake? It is the Chinese supermarket, after all – Tesco sells booze, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, there you go; try out some proper far eastern booze without having to use your passport – unless you look young, and need it for ID.

Ruby isn't interested in Saki
Well, I was fairly excited about trying the bottle of saki that I bought, so I only waited as long as the weekend. My one previous experience with saki was a good few years ago when I had gone up to Newcastle for a friend’s birthday. His housemate had a bottle that had never been opened, and my friend said it would be fine to try it. I read the card that was included in the box, and learned that saki can be drunk cold, warm or hot. I drank it at room temperature.

Made in the US of A!

It was dark in the house, but I seem to remember the saki was a kind of pinky colour – like sherry. You can see from the pictures that the Nigori brand that I bought last week is very different. I think I was drawn in by the bottle, the alcohol content (which was 0.5% greater than all the others), and the fact that on the back it boasts, “one of the oldest and most traditional of all sakis”. What I didn’t notice was that it said, “made in Berkeley, Ca”.

Now, I have learned that saki is made from rice in a manner that is similar to how beer is made, so it is like rice beer more than rice wine. The rice is scrubbed to leave the starchy element, and after brewing it is usually filtered out. Blah, blah, blah, have a look at Wikipedia if you want more detail.

It looks like they’ve put the ricey stuff back in mine, such that it ends up like Orangina, and you have to shake it ‘before use’. Also, it should be chilled and in general consumed within 2-3 hours of opening. It was only a 300ml bottle, so I figured I may as well drink it in one sitting – which I did, but it was hard work.

Shake it, baby - YOU won't break it!
Despite being a very different type of saki from the one I had tried previously, the flavour was exactly how I remembered it – just with chewy bits. I can’t really describe it for you, I’m afraid, but it convinces me that saki isn’t a taste I need to revisit all that often – until I’ve fully acquired it, I suppose. With so many other interesting beverages out there, I can’t say how long that might be.

Before I go; a word about the weekend. Those of us in the UK who have good employers, and who don’t work in the retail or service industries have an extra long weekend this weekend -  because it’s the Queen’s Jubilee.  Four days off for free! Woo-hoo! Thanks, Queenie! I’m certainly not a royalist, nor will I be partaking in any Jubilee celebrations, but I will be celebrating inwardly at the prospect of (hopefully) three nice lie-ins - only three because my brother-in-law has booked us a round of golf at 07.24 on Sunday. I like playing early, but this is ridiculous. The bacon’s still frozen at that time! I suppose the idea is to get there before there’s anyone else around to see how crap we are (I am), so I appreciate that much, at least.

Also, yesterday was pay day. It’s been an especially long time coming this month, so yesterday I celebrated by finally buying a (hopefully) nice bottle of brandy. I went for Courvoisier VSOP, which is a blend of cognacs, some aged up to 10 years, though in general the designation “VSOP” or “Very Special Old Pale” [that’s not very French, is it?] means the brandies are aged at least 5 years. So we’ll say 5-10.

I haven’t tried it yet, and I’m very much starting out on the brandy journey of discovery, but I can hardly wait. I’ve been meaning to buy a decent brandy for a while, but I always get distracted by the single malt scotch. That almost happened again, and I literally had to drag myself away before I bought something else as well.

So, I hope you have a nice weekend. See you next week.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Original Cocktail Inventions, part 1: Yorkshire Guilt

The real deal
You may remember from my Has Anyone Ever Invented a Cocktail? feature that prior to inventing the Straw Donkey, my original intention was actually to invent a Yorkshire-themed cocktail. I had made a list of potential ingredients, but thought that I would have to put experiments on hold until rhubarb came into season. It turns out I was wrong; you can buy tinned rhubarb in Tesco.

What follows is an account of the making of the drink I decided to call Yorkshire Guilt. The name comes from a phrase coined by my work colleague, Bev. She is actually my second cousin (we learned after two years of working together), and therefore also of Yorkshire origin, and what she is referring to is the practice of assuming guilt for something that one cannot possibly be responsible for. I’m sure it’s not a specifically Yorkshire trait, but we refer to it that way, and it seemed like a good name for an alcoholic drink.

Early attempt
My first attempts were drinkable, but not entirely satisfactory – it was not a drink I’d be inclined to return to. I muddled the tinned rhubarb chunks, then cracked some ice and added 103 Brandy de Jerez and 2 tsp of sugar syrup before topping up with a little ginger wine. It wasn't to my taste, so next I tried replacing the ginger wine with ginger ale, in the style of a mojito. Still dissatisfied, I tried replacing the ginger ale with pineapple juice, and adding sugar instead of sugar syrup. It wasn't bad, but not as good as I was aiming for. Part of the problem was that the rhubarb was blocking up the straw. The next thing would be to blend the rhubarb.

Two experiments
Phase two: after some deliberation I decided to empty the whole tin of rhubarb pieces into the blender, including the syrup. I just blended this up and placed it in a jar in the fridge to draw upon for future experimentation.
with Blue Curacao

Results with the rhubarb were more pleasing. I shook 100ml of rhubarb puree with two measures of dark rum (Lamb's Navy Rum, in place of the 103 Brandy de Jerez), 1 measure of Blue Curacao and 1 measure of lemon juice with 5 ice cubes. It resulted in a fantastic colour, and was enjoyable. I still felt something was missing however, and decided more citrus was required.

Drink n' fixings
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make another one of these, as that one saw the last of the blue curacao. Next time I used Triple Sec instead, and replaced the measure of lemon juice with two measures of lime juice. I thought this was it, but the last time I made it (with the last of the rhubarb puree), I used a little more of the puree, and decided this was better still. So the final recipe goes:

Blend a whole tin of rhubarb pieces, with the syrup. Store in the fridge. Then shake the following until a frost forms:

150ml rhubarb puree
Close-up of the finished article      
2 measures dark rum
1 measure Triple Sec
2 measures lime juice
5 ice cubes

Empty the whole lot into a glass. Enjoy.

So, give it a go, pass it around, tell me what you think. I’ll be planning to bring this one out on any occasion we have guests in future, so be warned. It’s ok if you don’t like it.

So! It's the weekend again, and it looks like it's going to be a hot one, so no doubt you'll be hosting, or be invited to a barbeque, in that usual British, early summer panic to enjoy it before it's over. It's hot! Get the barbeque out! This might be the last chance we get! 

I know I'm going to one, and I learned today that there will be rhubarb bellinis, so I'll be taking more than a passing interest in how those turn out. Hopefully my rhubarb cocktail won't pale in comparison.

I've also got a wedding reception to attend tonight, so I'll have to be making mental notes, as you do when you're planning a wedding of your own.

Enjoy the sunshine then, and hopefully I'll see you next week - in a purely figurative sense, of course.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Drinks With Convicted Killers

Welcome to part one of a new feature in which I’ll be trying drinks combinations that have been suggested by convicted killers. If you are a convicted killer and have any drinks you’d like me to do a feature on, get in touch via the comments. I’ll be glad to give it a go. If you’re not a convicted killer (or in fact any kind of killer) and you have some suggestions, don’t become one; I’ll be glad to feature your recommendations, too.

This first feature comes as a result of watching Werner Herzog’s documentary series Death Row which has been showing on Channel 4 recently. Episode one featured Hank Skinner who is currently on Death Row in Livingstone, Texas, following his conviction for the murder of his girlfriend and her two sons.

During one of the interviews, Skinner said one of the things he misses is eating avocado with tequila, lime and salt and pepper. ‘There’s no taste in the world like it,’ he said. I’m paraphrasing there. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was definitely something like that.

Well, I’ve got a bottle of tequila. I’ve got limes and salt and pepper, and stone me if avocados aren’t 59p at Aldi this week (is that cheap for an avocado? I don’t know). An experiment is planned.

I don’t actually have any experience with avocados. It wasn’t a fruit that made it into my parents’ house in Rotherham, but you know; I’ve eaten Mexican food. Brenda told me the avocado we bought was far too firm, so I had to leave it for a couple of weeks while it softened up. Apparently the idea is that you scoop the flesh out. I may still have started a little too early, since I wasn’t able to scoop much flesh out. It didn’t look like there was that much in there, to be honest, but if I’d waited longer it might have given up more goodness. Below is a picture of the building blocks of my experiment.

Check out the size of that stone!

I don’t know if Skinner’s suggestion has a standard method to follow – Herzog chose not to pursue that particular line of questioning - so I had to make up my own. I scooped as much flesh as I could from the avocado into a bowl and liberally scattered salt and pepper over it. I wasn’t sure what to do with the limes, but ended up squeezing them into the glass of tequila. That’s Jose Cuervo Gold obviously. I’m not sure it makes much difference, but my Silver is almost gone, and I’m saving that for if Brenda fancies a Tequila Sunrise one of these days.

Results! As I said, not much flesh, but the texture and mild flavour of the avocado was nicely seasoned by the salt and pepper, and provided a pleasing contrast with the tequila and lime. It’s good that there’s a snack that makes your mouth alco-numb.

Perhaps this wasn’t what Herzog intended anyone to get from his ruminations on the death penalty, but it’s nice to know there is something pleasant we can learn from people living at the extremes of human existence. 


So it's been a relatively short post today. I am prone to rambling on for two and a half thousand words from time to time, as it's easy to forget that people don't really actually read anything anymore; they just do that 'F' thing, don't they? Where they read the top line, skim down a few paragraphs, read another line, skim down a bit... I know I do. So I thought I'd keep it short today.

Another weekend is upon us, so go forth and try some booze-related things. I don't have any big plans this weekend. I think I'll just get to know one of my whiskies better and play on the Xbox a bit. Whatever you're doing, have a good one. I'll see you next week with... something or other.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Bank Holiday Weekend

Hey! How was your bank holiday weekend? Mine was pretty good, and I feel like I’ve got a lot to tell you about so, while I don’t normally tell you that much about what I’ve gotten up to (perhaps because I don’t tend to get up to much), I’m going to indulge myself today. Don’t worry, it’s all booze related, and I’ll get back to more of the usual type of stuff next week.

Brenda’s been having a hard time of late. It all culminated last week when she had to complete an assignment for her degree, give an assessed group presentation, and oversee the (hopeful and eventual) revalidation of the educational courses that her employer provides. You can imagine it was a very stressful time for her, but she handled it very well. Having learned that ladies like simple but romantic gestures I bought her flowers (the first of three bunches she would receive last week – not from other men, mind!) and asked her out on a date for Friday night. On the recommendation of a drinking colleague from work I decided to take her to Southern Eleven in Manchester’s Spinningfields area.

Spinningfields is still a bit of a ghost town – lots of restaurants and bars, but no customers – but despite the property crash and ensuing (double) financial crisis it actually looks like it is starting to catch on (a little) – thanks in part perhaps, to Southern Eleven because that place was buzzing… in stark contrast to Giraffe and Zizzi, where a couple of embarrassed diners were wondering when The Restaurant Inspector was going to walk in.

Southern Eleven serves American style food (burgers, ribs, steaks, pulled pork and the like), but with a style and quality that is sadly lacking from every other UK-based-US-style bar/restaurant I’ve ever been in. What’s that you say? Food? Yes, I’m talking a little bit about food, but only to set the context for what’s coming next. Be patient. The food’s good enough that it deserves a mention, if not a more thorough description. Perhaps Clare will indulge us with a proper investigation at some point.

What I really came here to tell you about though, is the cocktails. I don’t normally drink cocktails when I go out, but it is a bit more fun when you’re on a date, and they don’t make me feel sluggish and tired like beer can. That’s a good thing, because it probably makes it less likely that Brenda and I will have a daft falling out.

I do make a lot of cocktails, and have been trying my hand at inventing some, but Southern Eleven’s cocktails were the best I’ve ever tasted, and I could only dream of inventing cocktails as complex but wonderfully balanced as these.

a fancy cup-holder contraption - mine's the one on the right
We started out by taking advantage of the special offer – two cocktails (from a small selection – between 4 and 6, I think) for £10.95, so that’s £2-3 cheaper than what I would call standard cocktail price in Manchester.

I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly what was in those cocktails since I’m not (yet) that type of blogger who takes notes or photos of everything no matter what, or where it is, just to show one or two readers. Brenda said I should take a photo of the cocktail menu, but I said, “no, it’ll be online”. It isn’t. Here’s a photo though, of the weird contraption our cocktails came in – with a bowl of olives (bleugh) and strawberries (why?).

What I can tell you is that my cocktail was based on bourbon and combined cherry and chocolate flavours – there may have been some amaretto in there, too. It was perfectly balanced; I just loved it. I like bourbon, I like chocolate, put ‘em together, do a bit of magic – fantastic. Brenda’s was something fruity (I think it was called a Sidecar). It was awesome also, but I can’t remember anything specific about it. We basically had a sip of each other’s, and both agreed that they were excellent, but our own was the best, and that was all we wanted.

The food arrived quickly, and we weren’t there very long, but we did have time for another cocktail. I had a fancy variation on a Mint Julep, which was also excellent, and Brenda had a Hillbilly, which she amusingly called a Hilly-billy. Again, it was something fruity.

In all, both food and drink were very good, so I can recommend you give it a try. You can find a voucher (2 courses and a cocktail for £15) here. We didn’t order a starter, so we weren’t eligible for that particular discount. It’s not the greatest discount in the world, since you can only use one per party, but it’s better than nothing, and it’s good till September.

We had called in the Slug and Lettuce on Deansgate beforehand where it was 2 for 1 on cocktails (so that was good), but the quality was vastly inferior. Well, not that bad; just standard cocktails.

So Friday night was a success in regard to having a nice evening out. We had also called into Trailfinders to see about setting up a honeymoon fund. That was less successful, and raised more questions than it answered, as everything wedding-related seems to be doing at the moment. That little story isn’t booze-related though, so you’ll have to visit my arranging a wedding blog instead…

Saturday would involve a trip out to Whaley Bridge in Cheshire to attend John and Mandy’s party and watch the FA Cup Final. Sadly Liverpool didn’t win, but I drank a lot of beer and Brenda developed a taste for gin and tonic. John and Mandy seem very keen on that, so Brenda didn’t need to dip into the vodka I’d took along for her.

I’d faced a tough choice at Tesco earlier in the day where I was searching just for a vodka for mixing since (as far as I knew) Brenda would be finishing off my Russian Standard at the party later. There was a decent looking brandy on sale and Stolichnaya was only £14, but I had to resist since I’ve already spent a lot of money this month, the credit card debt is racking up, and it’s not like I’ve got nothing to drink at home.

I love Stolichnaya, but it isn’t a mixing vodka, so I decided to try Red Square. I’m not sure whether I’ve tried that one before, but it appears to be British… I’ve stuck it in the freezer for trying later in the week. 

This was the first time I’d had chance to actually use one of those ‘£3 off £20 spend’ vouchers that you get with your receipt when you shop at Tesco. I never seem to have one with me when I actually shop, but earlier in the week something had told me it might prove useful at the weekend if I kept it in my wallet. That brought the £11 vodka down to £8, so as long as it’s good enough for mixing, it’s a bargain.

Sunday was the day of Salford’s Sounds From the Other City Festival, that I mentioned last Friday. I’ve been to this event for at least the last 5 years, and on every one of them I’ve been hungover. It must be something about this particular weekend – this year was no different, and both Brenda and I showed up at the Islington Mill just after 3pm, not really wanting to be there, and not sure how long we’d be able to stick it out.

We met Paul and Victoria at a favourite starting point – The New Oxford – and the first pint (Bohemia Regent, was one of those that just goes right down your gullet – you know when you’ve got a proper thirst on, and you go for a beer? Just like that. It can go either way when you’re already hungover, but I drank my first pint in about 5 minutes. Fantastic; game on. 

The New Oxford sells all kinds of fancy Belgian (and other) beers, and they’re very enthusiastic about them. For the occasion all Belgian lagers were £3.60. That’s very good in this day and age. At Kro Piccadilly a couple of weeks ago, I’d paid £5 for a pint of Bohemia Regent and well, it’s nice, but it’s not that nice – what is?!

Once again, it was a fairly successful festival (for those of us who attended), though the number of attendees was clearly down on previous years – so potentially not so successful for the festival organisers. The pubs seemed to be doing a roaring trade though, and even with numbers down on previous years, they’d be selling a ton more pints than on a usual Sunday afternoon.

Inspired by how much fun we tended to have in Salford pubs at Sounds From the Other City, I had arranged to visit them all on a pub crawl one Saturday last year, only to find a very different atmosphere. Most of the pubs were shut, and the ones that were open had about three people in them – except the New Oxford, which was pleasant and friendly as usual.

The highlight of this year’s festival for me was Wode providing the soundtrack to a silent Japanese film that depicted scenes from a madhouse – you might call it Wode Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sorry. 

Wode have been described (I think in the festival literature) as black metal, but I wouldn’t say they were as dark as that. I would fit it under the broader umbrella of thrash. Using my (admittedly limited) frame of reference, I heard shades of Sepultura, Alice in Chains, Helmet and Slint (if that’s any use to you). The film seemed very rhythmic to me, which fitted in well with what I consider to be a mostly rhythmic kind of music. Wode really were excellent, and we all emerged from the venue buzzing. Until then it had seemed like our £18 had been paid to listen to mostly amateurish screeching and self-indulgent posturing, but now we were ready to believe it had been worth it.

Speaking with Paul and Victoria earlier in the day, I learned they had attended a wine tasting so Paul and I were able to discuss the reservations we have about these kinds of things. It brought to mind for me, the idea of whisky tastings. Brenda’s been toying with the idea of taking me to one for a while (I’d certainly be very interested), but I am quite sceptical. It’s not just that these kinds of things are geared towards encouraging you to buy, when perhaps all you want to do is taste. If you’re a wine novice and you go to a wine tasting, the last thing you’re thinking about is buying a whole case of wine.

I don’t know if that would be the same at a whisky tasting – I suppose buying one bottle would be acceptable, and I might allow myself to do that if it was soon enough after pay day…

My main problem though, is that having a little taste of a whisky wouldn’t be that useful to me. It’s not enough; I do all the proper tasting methods and that, but I maintain that it takes around half a bottle before I actually start to appreciate a whisky – with the possible exception of the Ledaig 10 year old that Brenda took to Canada for her dad, and then brought back almost entirely full because it wasn’t to his taste. That one was right up my street, straight away.

No, in most cases it takes a great deal more. A case in point is the bottle of Highland Park 12 year old that I bought recently. I understand Highland Park is supposed to be thought of quite highly, and I decided to try a bottle of the ‘standard expression’ (as I’ve heard it called), when I saw it on special offer in Sainsburys.

in the bottle
close up, in the glass - nice

I found it severely underwhelming… at first. I’d just finished my bottle of 46% Bruichladdich Rocks, which was very full-bodied, and that I had been enjoying very much. In contrast, Highland Park seemed a great deal lighter, and I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. 

Well, I reached the magical half a bottle mark on Friday night when Brenda and I returned from our date, and for some reason the whisky just revealed itself – not in a creepy old-man-in-a-raincoat kind of way, more in a sexy-lady-slipping-out-of-her-dress-with-a-wiggle kind of way. It tingled and played on every part of my tongue that it came into contact with. It caused my saliva glands to dribble like Thames Water’s leaking pipes. Fantastic.

I don’t know why it always seems to be the case, but that is my experience. I’d read that it’s possible the whisky needs a certain amount of exposure to air to open itself up – since it’s sealed in the bottle for however long it is before you open it. Equally though, I’ve heard that over-exposure to air causes it to stagnate, and that over 2-3 months it will even do this in the bottle. Is it just a fine line between perfect aeration and stagnation?

In terms of my own observations, I don’t think it is a matter of allowing the whisky time to breathe a little since once I’ve already decided I like a certain whisky, the first taste of a new bottle always hits those highs that you remember having experienced before. I think it’s more of a matter of your taste buds becoming receptive to the new (and different) flavours that each individual whisky imparts. And usually, by about halfway down the bottle, I’m fully receptive.

And that’s why I’m sceptical about whisky tastings – as well as being another reason I’ll never be invited to sit on a judging panel.

It doesn’t represent my favourite kind of whisky – that remains the smoky Islay contingent – but Highland Park really revealed its class on Friday night, and has become one I’d be glad to share with a whisky-loving friend. I’m thinking this will be a good one to get in when Brenda’s dad visits for our wedding in August. He’s into the single malt, but not the strong flavours of Islay like I am. This will be a good one to keep on hand.

If you have any thoughts on the issues we’ve discussed today, feel free to get in touch in the comments, and once again, let me just encourage you to visit the various websites I’ve included links to today. It’s been an eclectic post for me, covering restaurants, cocktails, pubs, festivals and music. We’re not likely to see anything like that again for a good long time, so make the most of it. I’ll be back next week with something a bit more specific, and potentially less rambling. I developed a bit of a cold the other night, so this weekend might be the perfect opportunity to start the research into hot toddies that I’ve been planning for some time. I’ll let you know how that turns out at a later date.

Whatever you’re doing, have a good one and enjoy your drinks.

Friday, 4 May 2012

What Can I Do With This Bottle of... Part 1: Glayva

In a previous post I wrote of a few simple, 2 ingredient drinks that you could make when you wanted something tasty and refreshing, but especially if you had a bottle of something that you just don’t like on its own. I’ve come into possession of a few of those recently, and the thought occurred to me – why let it sit untouched on your shelf, when you can use it to make something nice? And why leave it untouched on your shelf when you can experiment with it, and then write about it on your booze blog?

So the simple act of trying to find a use for the black sheep of my booze family, the Raggy Dolls of my alcoholic toy factory, the er… Nickelbacks of my North American rock bands… has led me to a new feature – What can I do with this bottle of…? None of the answers to this question are "stick it up your arse," by the way.

In this new feature, I’ll be actively setting myself challenges, but I won’t be limiting myself to simple drinks. Perhaps as this progresses I might be able to help you out if you’ve acquired something you aren’t keen on drinking. I could be a booze consultant, perhaps with a salary to match.

Part 1: Glayva

Bottles of Glayva were on offer a little while ago, and I decided to try it out. Glayva is a Scottish liqueur, based on whisky and a secret combination of spices with tangerines, cinnamon, almonds and honey. It falls under the Whyte and Mackay stable, and weighs in at 35% ABV.

Despite its on bottle boast of ‘the best liqueur in the world’, I have to tell you there’s a very good chance that it’s not the best liqueur in the world. In fact it tastes like that sweetened medicine you used to get as a child. And how do you substantiate a claim like that, anyway? Mind you, on that subject, claims Glayva has won the ‘prestigious IWSC Award for Best Liqueur an unrivalled 5 times’. Well, they should know what they’re talking about.

A bit of digging into these prestigious awards has turned up some interesting information, including the results of the awards since 2008. In 2008, when Glayva was awarded a gold medal, the conclusion was,

“Light clear golden amber colour. Lifted fine nose, malted whisky with honeysuckle, caramelised citrus peel and aromatic herbs. The distillation and blending here is sensational. All the elements are clearly defined both on the nose and palate but meld superbly.”

The IWSC site could well prove a useful resource for future booze research, so I’ll be taking a note of that one, even if I can’t agree with it on the quality of Glayva. Glayva has been included on shortlists of gold and silver medal winners each year since 2008, but results from the preceding 39 years of competition are absent from the website, so I can’t really confirm whether Glayva actually was best liqueur at any point, nor whether it’s status is ‘unrivalled’.

In the last four years, though:

2008 – one of 9 best in class
2009 – silver medal
2010 – silver; best in class
2011 – silver

So here are the results of my experiments. I tried all of the following combinations. The first five were suggested by the official Glayva website, and the rest were my own ideas.

With ice – the simplest suggestion, and not strictly a combination, but I think it’s essential to try a liqueur in this form before taking investigations any further (and it is suggested on the Glayva website). For me, the holy grail of liqueurs is one that I can happily drink on its own over ice. There are surprisingly few that make the grade, unfortunately. The only one that springs to mind is Vom Fass’s Caipirinha Limette, though I understand that liqueurs are often intended as mixers, and therefore need to be a little sweeter than my palate would like. 

You wouldn’t use the Caipirinha Limette as a mixer - to fill that little bottle you see in the picture below costs £12 (just for the liqueur, not the bottle), and it's far too nice to fritter away in cocktails.
Vom Fass' Caipirinha Limette
So Glayva had its work cut out, and despite its glowing review from IWSC, it doesn’t do it for me. As I said; it reminds me of medicine.

With lemonade – I tried this with normal fizzy lemonade from a bottle, and was unimpressed. It was fine, but you wouldn’t keep buying Glayva for this combination. However, while browsing the excellent Rum Howler Blog, I noticed a review of Glayva, and a recommendation for drinking it with lemonade. It seems lemonade in North America is very different to lemonade in the UK. They make it themselves over there. It still looked very simple, so I figured I could give that a try.

The instructions were to use 1 oz of Glayva, the juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon of sugar, ice and top up with water. I’ve never quite found out what an ounce of liquid is, but I’ve got a double ended measuring cup, one measure on one end, two measures on the other. 
measuring cup - you'll be seeing more of this little fella
I’ve always assumed this represented one and two ounces, but I could be wrong – it could just be non-specific measures, which is fine proportionally until you have to mix drinks with more specific units like tablespoons and millilitres. Similarly, I’ve never quite gotten round to figuring out how much juice is in half a lemon. I don’t tend to bother messing around with fresh lemons and limes; the bottled juice has always been adequate. I’m sure people with more sensitive palates than mine will tell you always to use fresh, but remember; you’ve got to drink it how you like it. I like getting my citrus from a bottle (most of the time).

I decided to use two measures of Glayva, rather than just the one, as well as two measures of lemon juice. I can’t remember whether I doubled up on sugar also, but you can always start with one teaspoon and add more if you want it.

It certainly was tastier than the one I’d made with bottled lemonade, but I think I overpowered the Glayva a little at first, and decided to add another non-specific splash of the liqueur. The results were even better. The sugar mostly just sat at the bottom. I tried to stir it well, but sugar doesn’t dissolve all that well at low temperature. I don’t think the sugar is all that necessary, to be fair.
Glayva and (homemade) lemonade (and measuring cup!)
Nevertheless, this made a good drink. I’ll probably make my own lemonade for mixing more frequently.

With ginger ale – a little bit disappointed. I’m not a massive fan of ginger ale, but for some reason the Glayva counteracts ginger ale’s natural spiciness, which leaves this a little more uninteresting than it ought to be. I had imagined they would work, but in my opinion they don’t.

With apple juice – a very pleasant surprise. This is probably my second favourite of all the combinations. The sweetness of the apple juice combines very well with the Glayva, and it seems to improve the further down the drink you get, despite being sure to mix very well at the start. I’ve found surprisingly few cocktails that are made with apple juice, so this is a useful one for finishing off those juice cartons.

With cranberry juice – a decent combination; just be sure not to use too much cranberry juice and completely eclipse the Glayva.
who's that at the back? "It's me! The measuring cup!"
With Irn Bru – the first thing I thought of trying. Both are Scottish, both are similarly orange; it’s almost as if these two belonged together even before you get around to the tasting. They complement each other very well in that sphere too though – I’m surprised this combination wasn’t suggested on Glayva’s website (if you’re reading, Glayva – you can have this one for free). Irn Bru is the traditional Scottish hangover cure, perhaps Glayva and Irn Bru could be the traditional Scottish hair of the dog. I think I’m going to call it the Scotty Dog.

The Scotty Dog
With lime juice – Frankly I haven’t tried anything so far that hasn’t been improved by the addition of lime juice. It could just be me, but I think lime juice is the ultimate drinker’s condiment. Ok, so I haven’t added it to everything, that would be crazy, but with this second Glayva experiment I found a real winner. With a glass of Glayva and half a lime left over from cooking, it was odds on that there was going to be a coming together. This is my favourite. Perhaps it won’t inspire me to buy another bottle of Glayva since there are loads of things that I could add lime juice to in its’ stead, but it will be useful to keep this one in mind for future reference.

With apple juice and lime juice – given the success of Glayva with apple juice and Glayva with lime juice, why not put them together? Well, because it doesn’t seem to work; that’s why. Don’t get me wrong – it’s fine, but for my tastes it is better to stick with one or the other.

That concludes my investigation into possible uses for Glayva. To recap, Irn Bru, lime juice and apple juice all make ideal partners for your Glayva. I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to let me know if you’ve found any combinations that I haven’t considered here, and be sure to check back another time, when I’ll have conducted investigations into such things as uses for the bottles of scotch that you don’t like, and what you can do with amaretto, Southern Comfort and peach schnapps, amongst other things.

A bank holiday weekend is approaching in the UK, so if you're lucky enough to get bank holidays off work, try and have fun and maybe try a few drinks. I'd just like to encourage you to visit the Rum Howler Blog, too if you get the chance.

I'll be taking Brenda out for a date and cocktails tonight, then watching the FA Cup Final on Saturday with some beers, going to Salford's Sounds From the Other City Festival on Sunday before finally recovering with a nice lie in and mellow bank holiday at home drinks on Monday. Then I'll be back next week with some more booze related bumf. Have a good 'un.