Before the fall wine

The Vinter by David Teniers the younger

Cheers little dude

Back in the early 1600’s it proved to be rather popular to move to a city, a trend that continues to this day. It was around this time that people really stopped having such a strong link with the seasons. They were less connected with the countryside that fed them. Up until this point, many would refer to the Autumn simply as, “harvest time”. What did urban dwellers care about harvest time? They didn’t pick fruit or plough fields and instead would whizz about the 17th century in hackney carriages and horse-drawn coaches. They needed a new word and so started using the phrase, “fall of the leaf”. They still had access to trees and so this made sense to them. The word Autumn from the Latin Autumnus, the god of changes, also started to curry favour and one took hold in the States and the latter here in England.

We tend to stay in a little more and perhaps drink a little more during these months. Hibernating and taking stock of the year that has almost passed whilst contemplating the year ahead. For the foraging drink maker it may start to feel that there is less around, but you can always make something.

This year I have been experimenting by using just what I can hold of and have come up with the recipe below. You can freeform a little if using, consider each ingredient as a suggestion rather than a hard a fast part of a whole. The main thing really is to get some kind of diversity in there and to keep adding the sugar until everything becomes balanced. Don’t fret too much about the wine either, I’ve even used wine that has been corked and the rest of the flavour mask it’s imperfection. But do consider using a bold fruity wine such as Malbec or Shiraz, elderberry or blackberry.

The fig leaf idea comes from the guys at the White Lyon bar in Hoxton, London – well from Ally who works there and Abi, the brand ambassador for the Botanist Gin who introduced me to their delights. Fig leaves, it would seem, give up the flavour of figs – remarkable!

Before the Fall wine – The recipe

Think mulled wine when making this, but it is more than that; the walnut adds some depth and a backbone the spices add another layer of complexity, the hogweed comes in at the end with some spice and the fig leaves are well, just rather nice! This becoming a firm Autumn favourite.

Thanks to the old tree in Brighton for the photo

Don’t overheat!

2 bottles of fruity red wine
1 tablespoon hogweed seeds (ensure they are not hemlock or giant hogweed seeds)
One root of herb bennet/clove root – washed and grated.
1 walnut leaf (careful not to use black walnut leaves and do ensure you are using a leaf that is still all green).
4-8 fig leaves depending on size
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
50ml rosehip cordial
50ml brandy or cognac – I used Remy’s 1738 Royal Accord, but you can go cheaper.
about 250g/1 cup brown sugar – more if needed.


Pour the wine into a large saucepan and start to heat. The trick is not to whack the heat on full, don’t even simmer – just getting it so it starts to be warm. The more you heat it the more alcohol you’ll loose and you don’t want that.

Once as warm as a cup of tea that you still might just drink start adding the ingredients one by one, adding the sugar last. I taste as I go along. Some flavours will be given up immediately, other will take a while. Keep stirring.

When it comes to adding the sugar add half and see if you like it as is. If not add the other half. If it is still rather astringent then add more, a tablespoon at a time and keep adding until you like the flavour.

Can be served warm or cold.

Wild cocktails – Bristol Wheelbarrow

Paul Fishman and a Bristol wheelbarrow

Paul Fishman and a Bristol wheelbarrow

The blueprint for many wild cocktails comes from the tried and tested cocktails served up by countless bars across our little planet. Take a Negroni, Daiquiri, Manhattan or Tom Collins; each are highly evocative cocktails for me and I can, with ease, picture where I was and who I was with and what the night was like when I first tasted each of them.  The foraged ingredients that I use for my wild bar, I can remember where I was when I picked each ingredient, I can remember if it was a ball ache or idyllic. In the case of gorse flowers, for instance, it is always a ball ache. The picking of the ingredients for the Bristol Wheelbarrow were both idyllic and a bit of a ball ache as when picking the haw blossom it belted it down and the lime blossoms were picked on a clear blue day in July.

Wild cocktails create a marriage between these two worlds, the often isolated world of foraging for ingredients, scratching your fingers with every other handful of gorse flowers or blissfully finding an abundant patch of berries next to a river as a heady sun starts to set and the sociable, jovial world of sharing cocktails with friends.  It is this marriage that excites me, this creating of new flavours of new memories and experiences and then sharing them with the outside world.

This weekend I’ll be taking a hen party out across a park in Bristol and I’ll be feeding them a bunch of wild cocktails. Each one will have a story, each one will have been forged in a place somewhere between my imagination and experiences. Often I keep these cocktails secret so as to create unique experiences for everyone who I serve cocktails to but the one below I liked so much I have decided that it needs to go free amongst the world (but don’t forget to credit me world) and I hope that you too can find something magical at the bottom of a glass and, moreover, in the company of great friends.

The Bristol Wheelbarrow

Loosely based on one of my good friend’s Paul Fishman’s favourite cocktails, the Sidecar. Indeed, mention cocktails to Paul and he’ll always bang on about how great the sidecar is, ignoring most other cocktails. I’m sure I mirror him when I bang on about the Negroni. The Bristol Wheelbarrow contains many ingredients you might find surrounding an English garden or park.

The Bristol wheelbarrow gets it’s named as it was made in the city I currently live in, Bristol and it also contains many ingredients that you might find in a wheelbarrow. Ingredients that grow across English parks and gardens (and in parks and gardens across the world). It does work without the fizz (soda), but I much prefer it as a long drink. As, just like Paul in the photo, you can sit and enjoy it for a bit longer. I also think that there is something about bubbles and the sun that just go well together. Perhaps, it’s the distant memory of a childhood when fizzy pop was the only drink I really wanted or perhaps I just like what they do to my nose.

1 part triple sec (pref Cointreau)
1 part haw blossom brandy (or try rose petal)
1 part rhubarb vodka
1 part Lime blossom syrup
3 parts soda water
Garnish with a lemon.

Stir all the ingredients apart from the soda water over ice. Strain and serve in a highball glass. Top up with soda water as required and garnish with a lemon circle.

Hawblossom Brandy

On my first ever wild booze walk a mild-mannered bloke and his highly amusing and far from mild-mannered friend joined me. One of them drank everything that his was given with much gusto, whilst the other seemed to be taking notes. Mr Mild Mannered turned out to be Nick Moyle, one half of the Two Thirsty Gardeners and he was busy researching his book, Brew it yourself.  He shared with me the delights of Haw blossom brandy, a drink I’d hitherto never come across before. As soon as I got home I made a batch and it was exactly as Nick had described, it tasted of Turkish delight upfront with a warming, brandy aftertaste. It is every bit as delicious as it sounds.

1 litre of haw blooms and leaves
1 litre brandy
Sugar to taste.

Fill a Kilner jar with haw blossoms and leaves about equal amounts of each, but don’t worry too much. Top up with brandy and leave to infuse for three days. Strain and then stir in sugar to taste.


How to make cheap wine taste like chateauneuf du pape

ineyard and andy hamilton

Make us a drink Andy

Before I get nasty emails from French lawyers (Like I did off the Champagne lawyers for elderflower champagne),  the only way you can actually make Chateauneuf du pape is to grow grapes in the Chateauneuf du pape commune. Cheap wine will always be cheap wine, but you can make cheap wine staste better.

This technique will help lift a wine, not a mid-range wine, that should taste ok by itself, but a cheap wine. A wine that might even taste better coming up than it did going down. The sort of wine you may have drunk at a teenager or in your early twenties as it was the cheapest and strongest thing you could get your hands on. The sort of wine that you might now turn your nose up at, unless you have already had a few glasses.

If you need to impress but are skint, or if you are simply tight with your money then please read on.

How to make cheap wine taste expensive

The main thing to make cheap wine taste expensive is to give it a story when we think that something is going to be delicious our mouth will react and we will start to salivate. In that saliva is a chemical that coats our tounges and will actually make things taste superior. Presentation is also key, as a little experiment pour the same wine into two containers, a crystal wine glass, and a jam jar. Give it to your partner, mum, friend, dog and then get them to decided which one is the tastier wine.  I assure you that most (apart from collies who love a good jarred wine), will favour the wine in a glass.

The setting can also make a difference if you have every gone into a pub or an off-licence in search of the Greek Lager, that French plonk or that obscure spirit and have been offered something that you swear isn’t the same then you are not alone. A recent study suggests that subtle changes in light, the music playing and of course your mood will all affect how the wine tastes.

Do please hunt out my youtube channel where you will find a bunch of other booze experiments. Such as how to how to make buckfast,  how to make foraged gin, how to make edible shot glasses or stay right here to find the best tip to make perfect sloe gin and other liqueurs.

I’ve also been experimenting with barrel aging and can simulate barrel aging in days rather than years. This means I can make whisky in 10 days, rioca in weeks and Olde Jenever in a week. Should I share the secret?

The best tip for perfect sloe gin, elderflower liqueur & other infused drinks

thanks john forage london for the photo

Hands off my botanicals

There is one simple mistake that everyone makes when they first get into making infused drinks like elderflower liqueur and sloe gin. I have to admit that for many years I made the same mistake too. It’s an obvious one when you sit back and give it some thought and that mistake is to use cheap vodka or cheap gin.

The subtle flavours and tastes of whatever botanical you choose to infuse can be lost if with the harsh aromas and flavour compounds of the methanol in cheap spirits. Enough sometimes to totally wipe out any subtle flavours. An example is bramble/blackberry flower liqueur. I made some last year, a tiny amount as there was far too much fiddly picking involved. Fiddly picking that was in vain. There was a taste there, a good one, but it didn’t really come through enough.

Luckily you really don’t have to spend a huge fortune on luxury vodka or gin in order to make great drinks. Indeed, unless you are looking for something that goes particularly well with juniper or some of the other botanicals in gin, I wouldn’t bother to infuse anything with it. Instead, you can filter your booze before making the infusion and rid yourself of most of the harsh flavours. In the case of the bramble vodka the flavour, is exquisite. Something unlike blackberry vodka, sweet, perfumed and lightly complex. It’s almost like an expensive brandy or cognac.

Use a filter

Use a filter, any water filter will do, I use a brita one and have used the same one for a year without any need to change the filter but perhaps I should! Or, for the bushcrafty amongst you, of which I know I have at least one reader, (yes it is you), you can make your own filter using a lump of wood as I have in the video below. Whichever way you use, make sure you filter your spirit at least 6 times, if not 8 and also remember never to use the filter the next morning to filter that first cup of water to quench a hungover thirst. I speak from nasty experience.

What this process does is take out the strong-tasting methanol alcohol and leave you with just ethanol. This also has the added bonus of giving you a far less serve hangover the following morning. There is some sound science behind this, but ironically, I am a little too hungover to wrap my head around the concept. This lot will give you a much better idea of the science of a hangover.


Make your own evocative Mediterranean tonic water

The Alps

The Alps great spot of foraging

There are places that you visit that can vividly paint themselves into your consciousness; weaving into daily life as a semi-subconscious backdrop to the daily mundanity of life. These special places, you have only experienced for a moment and yet you can always visit them, always imagine yourself back in their loving embrace. Be it the moment you dipped your toes into a most welcome rock pool after your feet were burnt on the sand from a distant tropical beach. Or, in my case, the moment I walked along a mountain path high up in the Alps, a gentle breeze carrying the distant tin bell ringing from a herd of alpine goats. Just me and my Emma on top of the world. The smells of thyme, lavender and rosemary entering the air with each step as we walked.

This most evocative of moments is one that plays on a loop in the back of my mind, not so much my, “happy place”, as my reminder that to have moments like these and, be able to appreciate them, means that I am a very rich man. What’s more, I realised that I could sit back and drink this moment. I could capture the essence in a glass and let my mind revisit it, it was that moment when the recipe for this Mediteraianin tonic water was born. Coupled with some homemade foraged gin, you can combine all the moments that make life a rich one.

The original tonic recipe that I used can be found here in something I wrote for the Guardian a while back. Once I’d made it a few times it was time to tweak it to something I enjoyed further, Mediterranean tonic water! When creating a new recipe it is good to sit back and work out what flavours work together well. This is the same for cooking as it is for drinks making. Much of the time groups will work well, warming spices live cloves, nutmeg and allspice for example or in this case, rosemary, lavender and thyme as they are all Mediterranean herbs. But most of all, I go by instinct, I let my nose and my taste buds be my guide. I hope that you can too, a touch of experimentation and a few tweaks and you could be back on your favourite beach or high on a mountain path once more!

How to make Mediterranean tonic water

The video is one for how to make your own tonic water, it will give you the idea of how it’s done. Use the recipe below it as a guide and when adding herbs and spices use similar measurements. The only essential ingredient is the cinchona bark, the rest can be chopped and change to match your memory.

900ml water
350g sugar
Zest and juice of 2 limes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
25g Cinchona bark (Don’t use powdered)
28g citric acid
2 sticks of lemongrass
1 sprig Rosemary
3 sprigs Thyme
2 sprigs Lavender (with flowers)
2-4 cardamom pods
10 allspice berries
Soda water


Accurate small scales
Large saucepan
Wooden spoon
Small sieve
A bottle or two

Put all the ingredients except the soda water into your pan and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes. Stir to ensure the sugar has fully dissolved.

Allow to cool, then strain the syrup into bottles. It will keep in the fridge for about a month. If you want it to keep a little longer then you could add around 50ml vodka. Although, do try and remember your tonic syrup is alcoholic when working out how pissed (drunk) you want your friends to be or not to be!

When using, dilute at around 4:1 with soda water to make fizzy tonic water.

You can freeze your tonic as ice cubes and use in gin and soda water, making a gin and tonic that slowly becomes more tonic-y, and therefore more refreshing, as it warms. The cubes won’t fully freeze unless using a deep freeze freezer, they will be a little slushy.

Now your can make your own Mediterranean tonic water, I look forward to trying your New York Tonic water, or your Brockwell Park tonic, Willard Lake tonic water, Paris tonic water, ect…

How to make Hazelnut, Walnut &/or Pistachio nut Bourbon or Whisky

writers tears

Filled after reading my last royalty statement

There is something really refreshing about the taste of nuts at the back of your throat; it’s a taste that can add a velvet complexity to a cocktail or indeed to whisky based dessert such as a Cranachan.

If you are used to making sloe gin or horseradish vodka or other infusions then you’ll be pleased to hear that this is another pretty easy recipe to reproduce. I’ve found that even when infusing using the traditional steeping method you’ll find that the flavours will start to come through in moments.

You can interchange whisky for bourbon but, in my humble opinion, whisky goes better with hazelnuts and the bourbon with walnuts and/or pistachio nuts.

How to make Hazelnut, Walnut &/or Pistachio nut Bourbon or Whisky the traditional method

1. Crack your nuts, then crush them and roast in a warm oven (275ºf or 130ºc).  Weigh around 400g of nuts per 500ml of liquid.

2. Fill an airtight container with crushed and roasted nuts and top up with whisky or bourbon.

3. Leave in a cool dark cupboard for three days.

4. Filter through either a superbag or four thick of muslin cloth/cheese cloth.  There is often a bit of residue so the finer the filtering the better. You may have to repeat the process a few times if you want the liquid to be anything other than a little hazy.

How to make Hazelnut, Walnut &/or Pistachio nut Bourbon or Whisky the rapid method

1. Crack your nuts, then crush them and roast in a warm oven (275ºf or 130ºc).  Weigh around 400g of nuts per 500ml of liquid.

2. Put your crushed nuts into a cream whipper/nitrous oxide infuser and top up with whisky or bourbon.

3. Charge with one charge of Nitrous oxide and leave for at least 90 seconds before shaking and adding one more.

4. Wait another 90 seconds and release the gas.

5. Filter through either a superbag or four thick of muslin cloth/cheese cloth.  There is often a bit of residue so the finer the filtering the better. You may have to repeat the process a few times if you want the liquid to be anything other than a little hazy.




Gin Safari & Wild booze Events in Bristol & Bath 2016

Gin safari, Wild Booze walks and Family soda & Sweet adventures!

Book your Gin Safari. Dates will be announced soon for your Family Soda and Sweet Adventures and the original wild booze walks here! All courses are held in Bristol or Bath unless otherwise stated.

Andy Hamilton, wild man, wild Bristol

Andy Hamilton, wild man, wild Bristol

Before booking please check the cancellation information at the bottom.

Gin Safari – Bristol, Bristol, Saturday 23rd April 1pm – SOLD OUT

Meet Outside the Create Centre Bristol, Tickets cost £30

Gin Safari

(Click to pay)

Over a two-hour stroll I’ll introduce you to a host of new plants and flavours. Giving both anecdotes and tips on how to make your own exquisite drinks and cocktails (gin based and beyond). We’ll drink three gin based cocktails and sample a few shots from my experimental booze cabinet. You’ll return back to our starting point with a fuzzy head full of boozy plant knowledge and hopefully with some new friends too. There will also be a gin based surprise!

Gin Safari – Bath, Sunday 24th April 1pm – Booking ended

We will Meet at the Independent Spirit of Bath and head along the canal. Tickets cost £30

The perfectly picturesque city of Bath again plays host to a Gin Safari amongst its Georgian Splendor. On this walk we may even run into Gin Austin herself. We’ll also find what plants can go in gin (and other drinks), we’ll drink three gin based cocktails and sample a few shots from my experimental booze cabinet. You’ll return back to our starting point with a fuzzy head full of boozy plant knowledge and perhaps even one Jane Austin historical fact, (that may or may not be made up). There will also be a gin based surprise!

Family wild Sweets & Soda Pop Adventures – 2016

Dates announced soon (Summer 2016)

Wild Booze walks 2016

Dates to be announced soon.

Want me to come to you or for your group? Prices Start at £300 for a Gin Safari or Wild Booze walk. Prices are cheaper the closer you are to Bristol. Fill out the form below to see when I’m free.

Cancellation Conditions – The only certainty in life is that it is uncertain and of course despite the best will in the world you may need to cancel. In order to cancel your place please give me at least 2 weeks notice so I can fill the place again. You can pass your place onto a friend or even an enemy if you wish. On one occasion (in the last 10 years) I have had to cancel a walk due to extreme weather conditions.  I also reserve the right to cancel the walk myself and will give a full refund if this is the case. Walks may also be led by other foragers with almost as much charm and knowledge as myself. 

Gift Certificate Conditions

As above.

How to make wild spiced mulled apple juice

Wood Avens

Wood avens aka clove root, herb bennet  or Geum urbanum L

Of all the seasons Autumn is the one that evokes more feelings of nostalgia than any other. A whiff of bonfire smoke or the smell of windfall apples fermenting at our feet can evoke long forgotten memories.  The traditional festivals of this season across the planet reflect this as many will involve the dead in some form or other. From day of the dead to all hallow’s eve (Halloween).

It’s the time when the mercury can start to drop and the nights draw in. A time when we are in need of something warming and comforting. A time when we forget drinks with ice and start to warm everything up. A time to start mulling everything and a time when your priority should be to curl up, mulled apple juice in hand, in front of a fire with a good book. 

Mulled apple juice

Andy Hamilton and Tom Heap

Andy Hamilton and Tom Heap about to go foraging

This will work equally well with wine, (hard) cider or dark ales such as porters and stouts.

However, this non alcoholic version can be enjoyed at any time of the day and with all of the family.

The spices involved can be found in many gardens, parks or common ground right across the Northern Hemisphere.


small saucepan
wooden spoon


1L/2 pints apple juice
Two cloves roots/wood avens roots (washed)
4-5 juniper berries
1 sprig of spruce tips or small handful pine needles
pinch of hogweed seed
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick

Put all the ingredients into your saucepan and heat until it is gently simmering. Stir and keep simmering for about ten minutes. Taste a spoon full and ensure that you are happy with your flavour, remember you can always add more or less of something if you are not.

Serve your mulled apple juice in china tea cups and don’t forget the trick to good mulling is to simmer and not to boil.

Wild Blackberry Wine

Many older foraging books, and my childhood memories of the 1980’s, insist that blackberries are an autumnal fruit rarely seen before the end of August. These days if you wait until autumn to pick blackberries you will be disappointed. The changing climate now means an early August harvest.

Wild blackberry wine

Blackberry wine photography Roy Hunt

For most, the blackberry is the first (and often only) food that will be foraged. It is my hope that it will become as popular to ferment as it is to turn into a crumble, as Blackberry wine is one of the best homemade wines.

Blackberry wine has a robust, fruity flavour and bouquet, while slipping down a little too easily. And start one now and it will be more than ready for Christmas.

Brambles can be found on wasteground, parks, and in hedges. Picking the fruit is not without its hazards, and the thorns make plastic bags a no-go – one snag of your bag and a day’s pickings are lost to the hedgerow. Indeed, it is the thorns that give blackberries one of their country names, “lawyers”; once they trap you in it is very difficult to get loose.

Andy Hamilton picking blackberries

Andy Hamilton picking blackberries taken by Roy Hunt

Blackberries (or brambles) tend to take over wasteground if left unchecked. They can also be found on the edges of parks, in wooded thickets, by railway lines and cycle paths, at field edges and as undergrowth in forests.

2kg blackberries
Half cup of strong black tea
1.5kg sugar
4 litres water
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp pectolase
Red wine yeast
1 tsp yeast nutrient

To extract more juice from the fruit it helps if you keep the berries in the freezer overnight, then allow them to thaw before using. Ensure they are clean and place into a fermentation bin. Crush with your clean hands or a sterilized stainless steel/plastic potato masher. Pour over 1 litre of boiling water and the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the further 2.5 litres of cold water then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Cover, and leave to stand in a warm place for 3 days.

Strain into a demijohn and attach the air lock. Rack after a month and allow to ferment out. Enjoy your blackberry wine with a blue cheesecake.

Elderflower Sherbet Lemon & Elderflower Syrup

Elderflower Sherbet lemon drink and elderflower syrup



This year thus far has been a year of travel and I can safely say that I have seen elderflower in bloom from Scotland to Brighton. Such a delightful sight from the train window as shocks of white flash across our hedgerows. A few years ago I remember walking around the alps and finding elderflower growing across the mountain paths, there was something about the smell of the elder perfume and the fresh mountain air that made picking an ethereal business. Far better than picking elder that smells of cat pee from a supermarket car park in the rain!

For years I’ve made elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne but this year I’ve been experimenting a little with many of my older drinks in the days before we could just inject drinks with Co2 people would use a reaction with bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda, sodium bicarbonate) and an acid to make fizz. This is exactly what this recipe does. I advise drinking it fairly quickly to keep the fizz!

First you need to make elderflower syrup.

Elderflower Syrup

200g sugar (double if making for coffee)
210ml water
1 tablespoon of dried elderflowers or 2 tablespoons of fresh
1 tablespoon of vodka

Pick your elderflowers first thing in the morning. Remove from the stem and ensure that you don’t have any green bits, just flowers.

Heat the water in a saucepan over a medium high heat and be careful not to boil. Stir in the sugar until you can’t feel a crunch on the bottom of the saucepan. Take off the heat, add your elderflowers and stir. Allow to cool, add your vodka and decant into a glass bottle.

Elderflower sherbet lemon

The lemons that I used for this recipe were hand picked by my 2 year old son from his Aunty Susan’s house in Portugal. There is a huge difference in flavour and the amount of juice that you get from her lemons than you would from a supermarket lemon. It isn’t always possible to get Aunty Susan’s lemons so I try to source some good organic ones, ones that are big, fat and full of flavour. Not the tiny waxed things that pass for lemons in most supermarkets. You’ll pay a lot more, but it is worth it. Here in Bristol good independent grocers like Earthbound, Gaines and Dig in are great places to get lemons.

There are a number of cocktails that go really well with this recipe, think gin! You’ll be able to find many of them in my crowd sourced book – Wild booze and hedgerow cocktails.

2 parts rich elderflower syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 part freshly squeezed Lemon juice (juice from half a big lemon)
4 parts water to top up, less to make a richer drink
Ice and lemon wedge

Add the elderflower syrup and lemon juice to a tall Collins glass or half pint glass. Top up with water and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. You may want to do this over a sink as it has a habit of fizzing right up and over the glass. Drop in the ice and add a slice of lemon and sip in the sun or if you live in Glasgow, sit looking at a picture of the sun.


Mid Summer in Glasgow

Mid Summer in Glasgow