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.


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.


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.




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.

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

The Wild Martini

The Wild Martini

The wild Martini

A tin cup is better than no glass in the wild

From its origins sometime in the 18th century the Martini has endured and evolved. It’s a sophisticated cocktail that gets an upgrade every few years. From the Dry Martini in the roaring 1920’s, to James Bonds Vesper Martini in the 1950’s, to the Espresso Martini that seems to be the drink of choice amongst many drinkers here in Bristol. Perhaps right now it is time to add to that list the Wild Martini, a drink that infuses the outdoors into this classic drink.

The Wild Martini is unlike many other cocktails as it can change with the seasons as Each of its botanicals comes in and out of season. It can also change depending on where you live and what wild plants are available. The below ingredients are meant as a suggestion as you should really put your mark on the wild Martini, I’ll refrain from saying “go wild”.

For the gin

Gin is basically a flavoured vodka it’s just that one of the flavourings has to be juniper but other than that one essential botanical you can put anything you like in. These are suggestions and pretty much what I have in season within a few steps from my back door.

1 x 750ml bottle of cheap Vodka filtered 8 times.
30ml of Juniper tincture (infuse 20 juniper berries overnight in 100ml vodka).
1 tbs Wild Rose petals
1 tbs Elderflowers
3 springs of Ground Ivy (ale hoof/ Glechoma hederacea)
1 tsp of Geum urbanum root (herb bennet/wood avens/clove root)
2 tbs of fennel leaves or 1/4 tbs of seeds
1 handful of spruce tips

Pour your juniper tincture into your vodka.

Place the remaining botanicals into the mason jar. Top up with the juniper vodka and leave for a further 36 hours. Alternatively you can rapidly infuse all the ingredients using a Nitrous oxide infuser/cream whipper.

Filter your gin back into the vodka bottle.

For the vermouth

1x bottle of white wine – a cheap Pinot Grigio works or if you want to be even more wild a bottle of homemade country wine. I’m a fan of dandelion or rosehip, courgette hasn’t worked quite so well in the past.
10ml Wormwood infusion – without which it wouldn’t be a vermouth

9 x other infused wild herbs and botanicals. Take your pick, mix and match and experiment. I tend to use small kilner jars filled with herbs and then topped up with vodka. Seal and put into a dark cupboard. As for how long you let everything infuse. 3 days for flowers, 2-3 weeks for herbs and up to three months for nuts. Some final vermouth recipes will be available in my book Wild Booze and hedgerow cocktails. I’ll also custom make you your own bottle if you pledge.

The trick really is to load up a few bitter flavours and some aromatics. Just ensure that you are not imbibing anything poisonous.

200ml Caramel syrup

Pour the above in a large jug and stir until fully mixed

Andy Hamilton Cocktail glass


For the Wild Martini

There is no greater debate in cocktail circles than the best ratio for a Martini, I’m going to put my next out and suggest that you should make it just how you like and stuff everyone else. Personally, I like to have 3-4 parts vermouth to 1 part gin. However, most will say this should be the other way around.

It should be served in a chilled cocktails glass (also mistakenly called a Martini glass), with three pitted olives on a cocktail stick. It should be stirred and not shaken, although there has been some research to suggest that, despite making the cocktails cloudy, shaking will release more antioxidants! I guess this means a shaken Wild Martini is almost a super food.


1875 The Pisco Sour and the Tom Collins and 1855 The Americano

1875 The Pisco Sour and the Tom Collins

Continuing my 800 years of the history of booze. I take a look at 1875 and 1855. The 19th Century was a great time for cocktails and it is hard to pick two favourites from that time.

The Pisco Sour

The Pisco Sour was invented in 1872 by an Englishman called Elliot Stubb and not Victor Vaughen Morris an American bar tender. And it’s comments like that could easily start a war between Peru and Chile as both lay claim to this cocktail. The Peruvians claim that in 1920 in Vaughen bar a cocktail called the Pisco sour was first mixed. Almost fifty years earlier a steward was working aboard a ship named Sunrise and in the port of lquique in Chile (then Peru) he first mixed the drink as variation of the Whisky sour. We may never know who did really invent the cocktail, but we are certainly left with a decent drink.

2 parts pisco
1 part lime juice
1 part sugar syrup
1 egg white
3 drops of Angostura bitters

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, pour over the pisco, lime juice, sugar syrup and egg white. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass. Finish with three drops of Angostura bitters.

If you prefer a sweeter of more sour drink adjust the sugar syrup or lime juice accordingly.

Tom Collins

When we were at School Jamie Ellis invented a person, Jim Ellis. Quite see through really, yet Jim became more well known that Jamie. A group of us started adding him to registers, talking about him in loud voices and asking people if they have seen Jim Ellis the new kid. We’d make up rumours about him and exclaim how much of a good laugh he was when we were out. After a while we got bored and killed him off. Yet, half the School were talking about him.

Little did we know that 110 years previous in New York a similar thing had happened. In 1874 the Tom Collins Hoax entertained New Yorkers. They would tell people that Tom Collins was talking about them and newspapers even printed stories about this made up slanderer. Subsequently, the name was held in the public conciousness and of course it didn’t take long before it was attributed to a drink.

The recipe was first published in The Bartenders guide by Jerry Thomas. A book that has been republished.

Jerry Thomas’ Tom Collins Gin (1876)
(Use large bar-glass.)
Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup.
Juice of a small lemon.
1 large wine-glass of gin.
2 or 3 lumps of ice;
Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and drink while it is lively

1855-1860 Miller Brewery Founded & Campari invented and wine became poncey

I couldn’t mentioning 1855 without mentioning Miller. It was in 1855 that German immigrant Frederick Miller brewed his first beer in the States. With just $3000 (or $80,000 in today’s money) given to him annually he made beer that apparently won over the German population. Something Miller lite is unlikely to do now.

Campari And the Americano Cocktail

Luckily, the world wouldn’t have to wait long for something better to come along and five years later Campari was born along with the Americano cocktail.

Campari was invented in the cellar of Garspare Campari Milan bar. He used to spend days locked away mixing ingredients together to come up with the perfect mix. Imagine the Aladdin’s cave full of herbs and spices all macerating in neutral alcohol all being mixed by this exuberant Italian. No one really knows what is in it but at a guess, angelica, fennel, orris root, wormwood, cloves, thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, anise and of course Bitter Saville Orange Peel all seem evident.

The Americano was first named the Milano-Torino as Campari was from Milan and the sweet vermouth from Turin. American tourists flocked to Garsapre’s bar during prohibition and they lapped up the Milano-Torino. It soon became known as the Americano.

The Americano – Ingredients

1 part Campari
1 Part Italian Sweet vermouth

Pour both ingredients over ice in an old fashioned glass (tumbler) and top up with soda water. Garnish with half an orange slice.


Whilst America was sipping crappy beer and waiting for a cocktail to be named after them France was busy getting its wine in order. The then Emperor Napoleon 3rd, requested a classification system for France’s finest Bordeaux wines. The wines became ranked according to their Chateau’s quality, reputation and price.

The best wine became the Premier Cru and these included (and still include) Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Latour. Deuxièmes Crus Classés, Which include Château Rauzan-Gassies, Léoville-Poyferré, Château Lascombes and Château Gruaud-Larose. Troisièmes Crus Classés Château Giscours, d’Issan, Langoa-Barton, Château Desmirail, and Château Ferrière. Quatrièmes Crus Classés which include such delights as Château Branaire, Château Pouget, Cantenac-Margaux
and Château Marquis-de-Terme. At the bottom of the pile are Cinquièmes Crus Classés
including Château Haut-Batailley, Château Dauzac, and Château Cos Labory.

The classification was meant as a snapshot, showing off to the world how great wine was in France. It was really just good PR. Yet, it remains sacrosanct today. Obviously, it worked a little too well.

Homemade buckfast and what were we drinking in 1895?

Homemade Buckfast and what we what we were drinking in 1895

A bottle of Heroin

Heroin, it’s where I draw the line

I’ll be continuing my countdown of 800 years of booze to coincide with 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta.  Thus far I’ve covered predictions for 2015 and the rest of the 21st Century

This week I’ll be looking at how to make your own Buckfast whilst taking a quick look at Laudanum. I did think about giving a home-brew Laudanum recipe, but it didn’t seem right somehow. I guess I’ve finally found where I draw my line.

Somehow the image of Victorians has been distorted, children not speaking until they are spoken too, everyone wearing black and an overall, compliant population. Yet the more you peer into the world of over a century ago the murkier and dirtier it seems. Chemists sold Heroin and Cocaine over the counter and there were 80,000 sex workers in London which is one to every 35 inhabitants. Really, rather grim if you ponder about it.

1895 -Buckfast

Under that backdrop it is of little wonder that Buckfast was created in 1895. The monks of Buckfast abbey first sold in small quantities with the slogan “Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood“. Buckfast somehow found its way up to Scotland and in Strathclyde from 2006-2009 it was mentioned in three crime reports (on average) every day. The potent mix of 15% fortified wine and 281mg of caffeine which is the equivalent to five cups of tea.

I would love to include a homebrew recipe for some, but alas I can’t find anything. Here is the closest thing I can think of that might work, my version of Backfast.

How to make your own Homemade Buckfast

Day One

  1. Put equal parts lovage and sage, thyme and a very small piece (0.5cm) of liquorice root in a small mason jar or jam jar and top 100ml brandy. Leave for three days.
  2. Bucky has a red wine base so – 1 bottle of 12% cheap Spanish* red wine . Leave the wine open for three nights so that it oxygenates and this will give your wine a raisin taste.  You can also push in small head of dried lavender flowers as these will infuse into the wine.

*traditionally Spanish wine was used in Buckfast but you could use any if you can’t get Spanish. Just don’t waste a decent bottle.

Day three

  1. Strain the herbal brandy and pour into to your wine. To fortify a 750ml bottle of wine and bring the level up to 15% you’ll need around 100ml brandy.
  2. Boil Cola. Given that Bucky has a taste of Cola, the easiest way to get the sweetness and the high level of caffeine into the tonic wine will be to boil down about 3 litres of cola until it is a syrup. Stir in your wine vigorously. You will need to continue to boil the wine to ensure you get at much of the gloop into the wine.
  3. Allow to cool then decant.
  4. Drink and start a fight.

And there you have it homemade Buckfast! Well, the “wine” won’t taste exactly like buckfast, it might even taste better. But it will have the same effect I suggest if you do make it then do it once as an experiment and go easy on it.


Buckfast might have been invented in 1895 but the popular drink of choice during that time was Laudanum. Essentially, it’s opium infused in alcohol. Doctors of the age would prescribe it for illnesses including toothache, gout, rheumatic pain and melancholy.

The tonic was flavoured with cinnamon or saffron although a tastier sounding variant called Battley’s Drops was also available which contained a mix of opium, sherry, alcohol, slaked lime and distilled water.

Of course Laudanum was soon found to be highly addictive and is now a controlled substance. Although, it did take it’s time to be outlawed and despite knowing it’s dangers it was still legal in the UK right up until 1920.

Cheers opened or did it?

I couldn’t mention 1895 without mentioning Cheers. As a child in the 1980’s I’d look at the Cheers sign that was shown every ad break and read est 1895 and wonder if they would celebrate 100 years of the bar. Thing was it wasn’t first opened in 1895, it was actually opened in 1889. The date was changed by Carla who wanted the bar to fit with her Numerological superstition.

Boozy advent calendar part two, the run up to Christmas day

andy hamilton martini glass

You could turn these infusions into cocktails!

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas yet to come? ” said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand. ” You are about to
show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen…

I couldn’t resist but put a quote from my favourite Christmas story when I realised the boozy advent calendar consists of three spirits. I guess that make the wine infusions Jacob Marley. If you have no idea what I’m talking about then, either pick up Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and have a read or watch the best version on Netflix – A Muppet Christmas Carol!

Anyway, where were we… ah yes.

Day Nineteen to twenty three – Brandy infusions

jar and cinnamon

What do you call a mother with a huge flat face? Cine-mum

To see the other boozy advent calendar infusions have a look here. You might also be interested in my series of 12 drinks for Christmas that I ran last year. Here is the first a recipe for T’ej beer. Click on the arrow on the top right of the screen for the other eleven.

Remember each of these infusions should be made before the 1st December. I understand that you don’t have much time, therefore I have designed these last few so that they will still work if you do them by the around 10th December. The difference will be that the taste won’t be nearly so strong. Apart from the Christmas day one.

Jar Nineteen – Hibiscus Brandy

Hibiscus is my go to herbal tea and the dried flowers are easily obtained from a health food shop or from world-food supermarkets.

Fill jar with hibiscus, top up with brandy and shake. It will turn a lovely rich ox-blood colour and will match your Chesterfield.  It can be a little sharp for certain tastes so you might want to top up with some simple syrup to taste.

Jar Twenty – Ginger Brandy

Ginger always reminds me of helping my Mum make the Christmas Pudding. She used

jars and a shot

jars and a shot

also add a good glug of Stout and I can distinctly remember having a sneaky sip even back then at age 7! I don’t think I really liked it that much, oh how times have changed.

Grate 2cm ginger into your jar and top up with Brandy. Filter before serving.

Jar Twenty-one – Summer solstice Brandy

What could be better on the shortest day of the year than to have a taste of the summer. In the UK the solstice its at 23.03 this year so make sure you raise a glass to the coming year at that point!

Grab a bag of frozen summer fruits. Take out two tablespoons out of the freezer and allow to thaw, mush them up a bit.  Slodge the mush into your jar and top up with brandy.  You will certainly need to strain when serving. Again add simple syrup to taste.

Jar twenty two – Advocaat

I can remember this being the only booze available one Christmas eve round a mates house. I’m not sure that Christmas dinner when down that well after downing a bottle of it. But you should be find on a 70ml shot.

Another one for the fridge. This can be made on the same day of drinking too.

1 egg yolk, pinch of salt, teaspoon sugar, pinch of cinnamon, 28ml brandy, 28ml vodka and four drops of vanilla extract.

Bring a pan of water to a simmer. Whisk all but the booze and vanilla extract together in a bowl. The bowl should fit nicely in the pan by the way. Put the bowl over the pan and cook, whisky like buggery. After a few minutes the mixture will be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, this means its ready. Allow to cool, then whack in the fridge.

Jar Twenty Three – Pear infused brandy

Stuff a ripe pair slice in your jar and top up with brandy.

The Christmas Eve Jar – Christmas pudding brandy

It had to be something a little bit special to warrant a christmas eve drink. Lets face it this will probably be the first of many!

Quarter of a teaspoon of brown sugar, a whisper of lemon, lime and tangerine peal all de-pithed, four sultanas, four and a half raisins, a crushed almond, one clove, a tiny pinch of nutmeg and dried allspice.  Put all of the ingredients in your jar and shake it as much as possible. This will be ready in less than 24 days if you forget.

The Christmas Day Jar

This time you will be using the 250ml jar.

God belss us, everyone

God belss us, everyone

Add – 1g wormwood, 2g Gentin root, 2g dried orange peel, 2g dried grapefruit peel, 1g horseradish, 2g spruce needles, 2g fennel seed, 2g fenugreek seeds, 2g coriander seeds, a small sprig of rosemary, a sprig of lavender to your jar and top up with brandy (or any spirit that you have). Shake it daily.

Make 200ml of caramel syrup. Pour two bottles of Shiraz into a massive jug, bucket or what ever you have big enough to hold 2 litres of liquid. Pour in the sugar syrup and the final jar and stir like mad. The result will be a vermouth which can be used to make cocktails throughout Christmas!

Happy Christmas from all at The Other Andy Hamilton, namely … Me, The Other Andy Hamilton!