Category Archives: Drinks

Simple Drinks

You want to mix a simple nice drink for yourself, or your parter or a few friends. And you are thinking, maybe I can use that bottle of something, so you start searching for drinks with it. Good luck. You will find plenty of drinks with six-seven ingredients, some of those you never heard of…

I am not a bartender, but there are a few reasons I think this post is relevant after all:

  1. I am not so impressed with many drinks I order, despite they are made by professionals and contain fancy ingredients – I can often do better myself
  2. A lot of those extra ingredients are suger-syrup-artifical-flavour-stuff, that is not very nice
  3. I think, putting many ingredients in a drink just camouflages everything – if I put bourbon in it I want bourbon flavour

I use the established names of drinks when I know them. I do not invent names. You can often find multiple recipies for the same drink – if in doubt, trust the other source.

Basic ingredients
I have made a short list of simple base ingredients that are often used.

  1. Water
  2. Ice
  3. Orange
  4. Lemon (they are a bit bigger, and yellow)
  5. Lime (they are a bit smaller, and green)
  6. Sugar (Simple Syrup, see below)
  7. Coca Cola
  8. 7-Up
  9. Vodka
  10. Dark Rum
  11. Bourbon whiskey
  12. Cointreau
  13. Gin

The sugar can be turned into Simple Syrup. Mix 1 part water and 1 part sugar, heat in microwave oven, stir/heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, cool (quickly with plenty of ice or slowly in fridge).

drinks-basic

Glases and preparation
Cocktails are usually nice to serve in a Martini glass (to the far right above). For long drinks a Highballglas (middle) works fine, and a not too small whisky glass is also good for mixed drinks.

Most drinks should be served ice cold. Often it is enought to just add enough ice to the glas and pour the ingredients on top. If you are going to make many drinks, put the bottles in the freezer or fridge in advance.

A drink shaker is nice if you want to serve ice cold drinks without serving them with ice. But you need much ice and little drink content if you do not want your drink diluted by water. Most of the time, if you keep fruits and soda in the fridge and allow yourself to serve with ice, you will be fine. A real bartender would probably disagree here.

Drinks with just the Basics
Even with just the basics you can produce some very nice drinks.

  • Gimlet: 4 parts Gin, 1 part lime juice, 1 part simple syrup, martini glass
  • Vodka Lime: 4 parts Vodka, 1 part lime juice, 1 part simple syrup, martini glass
  • Whisky Sour: 6cl Bourbon, 3 cl fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp sugar, the white of one egg (egg optional: shake well with plenty of ice in shaker), you might want to sweeten this drink with a little simply syrup if you added too little sugar
  • White Lady: 1 part Cointreau, 1 part Gin, 1 part lemon juice, martini glas
  • 4 cl Bourbon, juice from 1/2 lemon, juice from 1/2 orange, fill up with 7-up in a highball glass
drink-gimlet whiskey-sour

Blue Curacao
Blue Curacao can produce drinks that look amazing (it is extremely blue, and if you mix it with something yellow, it turns very green), but it is trickier to make them taste good too.

drink-bluecuracao-bourbon

  • 1 part Blue Curacao, 1 part Bourbon, 1 part lemon juice, martini glas
  • 1 part Blue Curacao, 1 part Dark rum, 1 part lemon juice, martini glas

Calvados

  • Arch de Triumph: 4cl Calvads, 2cl lemon juice, 2tsp sugar, (stir well with ice) serve in martini glass
  • Apple Car: 4cl Calvados, 2cl Cointreau, 2cl lemon juice

Southern Comfort

  • 4 cl Southern Comfort, squeeze 1/2 lime and leave pieces in highballglass, fill up with Coke.
  • 6 cl Southern Comfort, 3 cl lemon juice, the white of one egg, shake well (like whisky sour, but using (already sweet) Southern Comfort instead of Bourbon and sugar.

Tequila

  • Margarita: 4 cl Tequila, 2 cl Cointreau, 2 cl fresh lime juice. Serve in martini glass. Remember to add salt to the edge of the glass (make wet with lime, dip in salt)

Vermouth / Martini

  • Dry Martini: 6 parts Gin, 1 part Vermouth, martini glass, garnish with an olive (a piece of lemon or lime is also nice)
  • Comfort Dry Manhattan: 4 parts Southern Comfort, 1 part Vermouth, martini glass

Long Island Iced Tea
Take a big glass, fill with ice. Then add 1cl Gin, 1cl Tequila, 1cl Vodka, 1cl White Rum, 1cl Triple Sec (or Cointreau), 2cl Lemon Juice and fill up with Coke (5cl, taste and try). I like to replace the Tequila with Laphroig (to make a Lapsang-iced-tea).

Ginger Ale
Ginger Ale is nice to mix. Fill a glass with ice. Squeeze and add a few lime wedges. Then add your choice of Vodka (Moscow Mule), Jack Daniels (Jack & Ginger) or Jameson (very nice). Finally fill up with Ginger Ale.

Grenadine
New Yorker: 4cl Bourbon, 1 lime wedge, 2-3 dashes (half teaspoon) grenadine. Stir well in glass with ice.

Experimental
2cl white Rum + 2cl Cointeau + 2cl Lemon + a little Raspberry vodka + a smashed raspberry, in a cocktail glass with plenty of ice, was quite good!

Testing Mackmyra

Since 1999 there is a Swedish malt whisky distillery: Mackmyra. They have released a large number of small series of single malt whiskies and people can “buy” their own casks as well. But I am not interested in those now, I will focus on Mackmyra standard products and try to answer the simple question: are they any good?

My expectation is that a standard Mackmyra is comparable to common Scottish malts. For that level of quality I would be willing to pay a little premium (for Mackmyra being a small, new, Swedish distillery).

I bought the following Mackmyra single malts (no age indication)

  • Mackmyra Brukswhisky (hard to translate, but the cheapest one)
  • Mackmyra Svensk Ek (Swedish Oak)
  • Mackmyra Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke)

My testing and tasting method is simple. On each testing occation I try the Mackmyra and a Scottish malt that I expect to be similar. The idea is to decide if the Mackmyra is comparable, better or worse. Note that I did the three testings on different days.

1. Mackmyra Brukswhisky vs Glenturrent 10 years old
Glenturret is one of the single malt whiskies that they let me try in The Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. My bottle says 10 years old and not much more. It does not get more standard when it comes to Scottish Single malt, I think.

Appearance: Very similar, the Mackmyra being slightly paler.

Aroma: Glenturret has a richer, sweeter aroma, but also one I dont find entirely pleasant (it smells Blend, to me). Mackmyra is more subtle, and a bit more fruity (not sweet, perhaps pear).

Taste: Glenturret is quite bitter, fading away with time. Mackmyra has some bitterness, tastes a bit wood (young/dry/burnt), and fades away quicker. At second try the Glenturrent reveals more fruitiness. Adding a little bit of water to the Mackmyra brings out much more fruitiness and that pear I felt in my nose. Adding water to the Glenturret: it has some spiciness and heaviness and improves a little as I slowly finish the small glasses.

Badness: Both of them just have very little badness. The Mackmyra tastes slightly too young (the freshly cut and slightly burnt dry wood, like the smell in a carpenter shop). The Glenturret on the other hand, a little bit chemical and too bitter.

Conclusions: The Glenturret tastes older, and ridiculous as it may be – it tastes more scottish. The younger Mackmyra is a bit different, but it clearly tastes like a single malt.

Winner: no winner. You can serve me Glenturrent or Mackmyra – I will be equally satisfied.

2. Mackmyra Svensk Ek vs Clynelish 14 years old
Both Mackmyra Svensk Ek and Clynelish 14 years old are about 46% strong. The Clynelish I got from a package of three Classic Malts.

Appearance: Very similar, Mackmyra slightly paler.

Aroma: Clynelish clean and elegant. Mackmyra more fruit and vanilla (it’s probably oak). Clynelish a bit heavier and sweeter.

Taste: Clynelish quite thin, a little bitter (probably needs water). Mackmyra some oak, some sourness and bitterness (also in need of water). At this stage, both smell better than they taste so I add water to both.

Clynelish got a nice bourbon flavour with some water. The Swedish oak is clearly there in the Mackmyra – a slightly unusual whisky flavour. While the Clynelish taste is quite well defined, the Mackmyra is more everywhere in the mouth, and a little bit burnt in the finish. I add more water to both.

Well, I have thought about it since the first taste, there is clearly pear in Mackmyra. I think the water did its job and the Mackmyra is now softer, but it also tastes a little diluted. The Clynelish is more oily, sweeter and has more flavour – not bad, but not particularly interesting.

Badness: If you like whisky, there is nothing bad about the Clynelish, but it is not remarkable either. The Mackmyra needs water (and at 46% that is ok) for me to appreciate it, but it quickly tastes a little diluted – to me this is a sign that there simply is not enough flavour in it, and for a young whisky that is not so strange.

Conclusions: The Clynelish is very solid: perfected at 14 years in Bourbon cast to the point that it is not very interesting at all. My impression is that it tastes like a perfect blend, but with little character (Clynelish is not Brora, after all). The Mackmyra, with enough water, tastes fine. But it requires a friendly attitude to come out good.

Winner: The Clynelish wins, and I believe it does for two reasons. First, whisky is Scottish business and while the Clynelish is very solid, the Mackmyra is a little too different, too fruity and too young. Second, the Mackmyra with too little water is not a premium experience. That said, the Mackmyra is more interesting than the rather boring Clynelish, to me. And with enough water, the Mackmyra is a tasty drink.

3. Mackmyra Svensk Rök vs Bunnahabhain 8 years old
I decided to try the Mackmyra Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke) against a Bunnahabhain from Gordon MacPhails, 8 years old. It is labeled “heavily heated”, and my hope was that the level of peatiness/smokiness would be quite the same for the two contestants.

Appearance: Mackmyra is slightly paler, perhaps, they look very similar.

Aroma: Bunnahabhain has a classic Islay smell (which I don’t usually expect in a Bunnahabhain). It is a powerful yet soft smell, not so dominated by peat and smoke after all. Unfortunately, I should have smelled the Mackmyra first, because now I realise that the Bunnahabhain is too powerful and the character of Mackmyra appears to be very subtle. However, after waiting a little while the Mackmyra has a clear and pleasant smell, with not so little smoke (it is not peat) after all. The Mackmyra more resembles (as I remember them) the earlier two Mackmyra, than it resembles Bunnahabhain.

Taste: Mackmyra first now: at 46% some smoke, some fruitiness and some sourness, but it clearly needs water. With little water a nice yet quite subtle smokiness is revealed and behind it the dry flavour of young wood. But it still needs more water. What happens here (with more water) is that the (still subtle) smokiness hides the fruity and nice character of the two previous Mackmyra.

The Bunnahabhain (which arguably smells closet) has a long, complex and soft taste (at its original 43%). It is clearly not as heavy as its more famous Islay neighbours, but compared to Mackmyra it is very rich and oily.

Switching back to Mackmyra is surprisingly pleasant (it tastes nicer after I had the Bunnahabhain, not worse as I expected after something heavier). But the Mackmyra, after Bunnahabhain, is mostly fruity and fresh, not smoky at all.

Badness: Mackmyra, again, requires a certain amount of water get right. It is a rather thin experience, especially with this competition. Bunnahabhain, I would not call it elegant, is rather wild. It is not that it is very powerful or peaty, it is just a little bit everywhere, and now and then, in some places in my nose and mouth, not very refined or elegant. It is a young little Islay brother.

Conclusions: I knew it was going to be tricky to pick a contestant to Mackmyra Svensk Rök. I did not find a Highland Park in my stash, that could have been better. I have a Jura Superstition: it would perhaps have been less peaty and for that reason a better opponent to Mackmyra. But I really like that Jura and I did not want to pit Mackmyra against a personal favourite.

Winner: Bunnahabhain beats Mackmyra, and usually, head to head, a much heavier whisky beats the lighter one. But Bunnahabhain did not come out as fantastic this evening. But there was just too little to explore in the Mackmyra.

Conclusions
My impression is that while the Clynelish is much better than the Glenturrent, the Svensk Ek is not much better than the Brukswhisky. And while Bunnahabhain is not necessarily much better than Clynelish, the Mackmyra Svensk Rök fails to improve much compared to the other two. At least, this is my impression when testing them head to head on different occasions.

In fact Svensk rök was the most disappointing experience (but perhaps the competition was completely unfair).

I think it is unreasonable to expect of a little young Swedish distillery that they produce world class whisky immediately, especially in a business where long storage time is a significant factor in product quality. Mackmyra claims they use small casks to speed up the process, but perhaps this shortcut is not perfect. Mackmyra needs water, but it quickly tastes diluted – there is not so much flavour to reveal. I think it needs more time (and perhaps it needs better casks, I don’t know about that).

I appreciate Mackmyra for being different (sometimes it reminds me of something coming from south of Sweden rather than from west of Sweden). I don’t find Mackmyra unpleasant (disgusting, chemical, bad, as I sometimes do with whisky). But if it is going to beat Scottish whiskies head to head, it needs weaker opponents or more time to mature.

Update: Mackmyra Svensk Rök vs Teachers
Teachers is a respectable Scottish blend with some smoky character so I decided to test it against Mackmyra Svensk Rök. Those who mostly appreciate whisky for being sweet might prefer Teachers (sweetness is something you won’t find in the Mackmyra). I don’t like my whisky sweet, and, side by side, I prefer the Mackmyra (with some water in it, please) to Teachers. As I slowly finish the glasses, I more and more prefer the Mackmyra – compared to Teachers it appears to be a very decent whisky.

This could seem like a ridiculous comparison; a standard blend vs a whisky that is far more expensive than a cheap single malt. I however find it meaningful to establish the relative quality of Mackmyra. And since it is better than a respectable blend, it has quality.

Update: Mackmyra Svensk Ek vs Glenfiddish 12
Glenfiddish 12 is another standard Scottish single malt. I compared it to the Mackmyra Svensk Ek. I think the quality is quite similar. The Glenfiddish is softer and sweeter (aged partly on Sherry casks) and the Mackmyra has more character. I, with a taste for more dry whisky, prefer the Mackmyra.