You might think that miniatures are for just collectors, but they have transformed my life in cocktails. Last night I invented a new cocktail, or at least I thought I had. A simple week night Negroni was soon scuppered when I realised I’d run out of old Campari, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. I substituted the Campari for an Amaro from the 1950s and used the Spanish Montseta Vermut Reserva with high strength Gordon’s gin from the 1970s that can be picked up at auction. I hadn’t got the flavour balance right, it was way too bitter so I added ice, tonic water, a frozen raspberry and a slice of cucumber (got to stay healthy)…it was delicious. That’s when I realised I’d made an unsweetened Pimm’s.
Last week I batched up a Sort-Of-Manhattan with a splendid English Rye Malt from Adnams in Southwold, I used another Spanish Vermut called Capcanes (I have a shop round the corner that sells nothing but Spanish vermut).
Tonight I’ll make a Martini with the most delightful Procera gin from Kenya and I’ll open countless miniatures of ancient vermouth until I find one that is fresh enough.
On cold days I make hot toddies with batches of £2 minis that can be picked up at auction. On warm days I use the same pool of random minis for Highballs (not as fun as they sound) and Rob Roys (which is basically a Manhattan without any of the joy). Use our tips on spreading your bids to build up a collection in no time at all.
I’m prone to failure when making my own drinks so I always have plenty of Cocktail Repair Kits to hand for quick fixes:
Cocktail not bitter enough? Just chuck in a few splashes of one of the bitters you can pick up at auction.
Cocktail too bitter? Always have a bottle of Cocchi Vermouth Americano to hand for making drinks more palatable.
Cocktail needs emergency fruit? Have a range of berries in the freezer and lemons drying pretty much everywhere.
Made too much? Batch it up and store it in a suitable decanter.
I’m not a natural cocktail-smith but I just about get away with it. So it was an absolute delight when we invited 16 professional mixologists from some of the top bars in London to invent their own one-of-a-kind cocktails. Our friend Alex Fatho-Bland commissioned each of these craftspeople to create a cocktail based on an endangered animal. The results were spectacular and I’d encourage you to seek them out.. Not only are each of these great cocktails entirely unique but all proceeds from the Find Your Spirit Animal Auction went to the WWF charity.
If you’re experimenting with cocktails then the miniatures auction is a great place to stock up on store-cupboard essentials as well as highly gadgetised equipment.
Here’s my quick five tips of what the budding mixologist should bid on at auction:
- If you don’t want to commit to a long term relationship with a 70cl bottle of an exotic liqueur then get bidding on miniature cocktail ingredients. That’s where you’ll find surprisingly affordable vintage Chartreuse, Benedictine, Drambuie, Kummel, and the lovely ready to drink Gordon’s cocktails from the 1940 and 1950s
- Browse the memorabilia category for bar equipment you never knew you needed. Automatic bar tong anyone?
- Search the word ‘cocktail’ in a live memorabilia auction and you’ll find all manner of cocktail shakers, jiggers, strainers, decanters and glasses.
- There’s usually at least one cocktail book to be found amongst the books and ephemera
- Finally, if all else fails, forget cocktails and buy a proper single malt whisky and sit and sip something truly extraordinary.