Five unusual spirits for your cocktail cupboard

Date:02-05-2014 07:58:03 read:1

Five unusual spirits for your cocktail cupboard

Got gin, vodka and brandy aplenty? Take your cocktail creativity up to the next level with the addition of one of these less-common ingredients

In the spirit: is it time to add some new drinks to your booze collection? Photo: Alamy

Not so long ago, if you raided someone's drinks cabinet, it was a pretty sure bet what you'd find. Gin, for gin and tonics; whisky for nightcaps; a bottle of brandy (mainly to light the Christmas pudding) and, if they were adventurous, maybe a few weird and wonderful bottles picked up from holidays abroad

All these spirits are useful when it comes to making cocktails - many classic drinks like the martini, after all, only use a few ingredients, so there's no need to shell out a fortune on obscure liqueurs you'll only use once. But what if you've got the gin, the brandy and the vodka, and really want to branch into a few more exciting ingredients? The versatile bottles below will open up a wide range of new cocktails, as well as being drinkable on their own. They are all easily available from good drinks websites like Masters of Malt and The Whisky Exchange - and, while they're not as cheap as supermarket whisky, should last you a long time.

St Germain

This French liqueur is a relatively new kid on the booze block, having only been launched in 2007, but has quickly become a staple for those in the know. A sweet, elderflower-flavoured tipple, I find it a little too sickly to drink on the ice, but it adds a wonderful floral note to cocktails. Try adding a splash to a glass of champagne or a classic martini, or in a fragrant summer sangria with white wine and sliced peaches (a St Germain/wine ratio of about 1/5 does the trick).


Bitter drinks have become hugely popular in the past few years– just how many Negronis and Aperol spritzes did you drink last summer? – but unlike its Italian cousin Campari, Suze, a delicately bitter French concoction, has kept rather under the radar here in Blighty. Made from from the gentian plant, it has a wonderfully earthy taste, and, drunk neat, is a popular aperitif in France. It can also be used as the bitter element in many cocktails. Try it in a white negroni – 40ml gin, 20ml Suze and 20ml dry vermouth stirred with ice in a shaker, then strained into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Licor 43

I first picked this garish yellow liqueur on a whim in an airport in Spain, having never heard of it before, but it’s amazing how many modern cocktails it features in. The marketing spiel claims it dates back to Roman times, while the name comes from the 43 ingredients – mostly herbs and citrus fruits –used to make it (supposedly, only a handful of people know the the exact recipe). Like St Germain, I don’t rate it on the rocks – the vanilla note is a bit cloying, though many people love it – but its complicated flavour makes it useful for adding depth and dimension to cocktails. I like it best in a cocktail called The Angel’s Share, created by bartender Milo Rodriguez – simply mix 1 teaspoon of orange marmalade with 60ml cognac till it dissolves, then add 8ml of Licor 43, 16ml of lemon juice and 8ml of sugar syrup. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Domaine de Canton

If you’re a lover of ginger, it’s worth getting your hands on a bottle of Domaine de Canton. It’s a fragrant ginger liqueur with notes of honey and vanilla that’s stacked up several awards in recent years. What I like most is how versatile it is. Mixed half and half with another spirit, like whisky or brandy, and served over ice, it makes a superb nightcap, while it also adds a spicy note to a whole host of cocktails. A ginger mojito, made by muddling a handful of mint leaves and three lime wedges, then adding 2 parts Domaine with 1/2 part white rum and plenty of ice, is zingy and refreshing.

Cherry Heering

There’s plenty of cherry-flavoured spirits on the market, but even at their best many taste artificial and at their worst, they’re like drinking cough syrup. This rich red Danish liqueur, which dates back to 1818, is made as naturally as possible, and really does taste of the fruit. It’s indispensable in classic cocktails including the Singapore Sling, Remember the Maine and Blood and Sand – an excellent whisky cocktail you can create at home by shaking 20ml of scotch with 20ml of sweet vermouth, 20ml of Heering and 20ml of orange juice with ice, before straining into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or strip of orange peel.

*What spirits and liqueurs do you think are worth investing in for cocktails? Share your thoughts in the comment box below

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