Good Food Blog
Shaken and stirredPosted at 12:16PM, 04 April 2008 by Jenni Muir - Food writer
Out for dinner the other night, the first thing we were handed on being ushered to our table was a cocktail list. The wine list had to be requested. Cocktails get pretty well any evening off to a swinging start, there's no doubt, but how do they fare as a food accompaniment?
Cocktails seem so right in New York or San Francisco, when you're sitting up at the bar with steaks and salads and deep-fried onion rings, and then wandering back to your hotel. In glamorous Indian restaurants such as Amaya and Veeraswamy (where the non-alcoholic cocktails like lychee and rose lemonade are also a great choice) they can work very well too.
But with so many mixologists developing new drinks, there are times when you need to interrogate the bar staff before ordering. Taking pre-dinner drinks at a hotel bar recently, my husband ordered what sounded like a fairly straightforward citrussy twist on a martini to find himself presented with something creamy and chocolaty that could have passed for dessert. And while it didn't have a paper umbrella, it did make him look a bit like Del-Boy. Not really an appetite sharpener, or good lead-in to a plate of oysters.
Getting it right, for me, has become as satisfying as producing a good curry or cake where special tweaks here and there put your personal stamp on the result.
I've been studying the making of dry martinis for a couple of years now (not every day or even every week I hasten to add!) and on occasion, invariably by accident, have come tantalisingly close to perfection. Getting it right, for me, has become as satisfying as producing a good curry or cake or any other of those recipes where special tweaks here and there put your personal stamp on the result. (Hendrick's gin is my preference, in case you're wondering, plus Noilly Prat and quite a bit of dancing the lemon zest over the glass - a trick I picked up at the wonderful Dukes.)
Friends and neighbours really seem to appreciate being offered something so indulgent. However I've also developed the knack of sending dinner guests face down into the starter. The problem with a good dry martini is that you probably do need to stop at one or two at the very most, as the wonderful Dorothy Parker memorably quipped.
Are cocktails part of your entertaining repertoire? Do they get the party started, or bring it to a crashing halt?