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Food, liquor and cocktail ideas to enjoy in the sun this weekend

We may all be in lockdown but the sun is shining so if you are lucky enough to have a garden then this weekend is a great opportunity to fire up your BBQ for members of your own household, or head to your balcony to soak up some rays.

Here are some really simple ideas for cocktails you can rustle up at home using liquors and ingredients that are easily available from your local supermarket and liquor store. We've also included some food ideas, including a tasty bourbon whiskey marinade that works with beef, pork and chicken.

Stay home, stay safe!

Make way for margaritas

Nothing screams ‘sun’ more than a margarita. This tequila-based cocktail classic was invented in 1938 by bartender Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera at the Rancho La Gloria restaurant near Tijuana. It was created for a regular customer, Marjorie King, who claimed she was allergic to most spirits, but (thankfully) not tequila.

It’s easy to make at home, with all the ingredients easily accessible from your local supermarket and liquor store.

– Chill your glass. Ideally a margarita glass but a martini glass or tumbler is also fine.

– Add 35ml of tequila (Reposado is preferable), 20ml of orange liqueur (Cointreau or Triple Sec), 35ml of fresh lime juice and a handful of ice cubes into a shaker and shake vigorously.

– Dip the rim of your glass into water then dip into salt to give a salted rim.

– Strain your cocktail from the shaker into the glass.

– Garnish with lime, then sit back and enjoy the sun.

Bourbon your BBQ

Whilst people across the globe enjoy barbecue, perhaps the most iconic cuisine comes from the deep south of the USA. As a result, smokey bourbon whiskey is a natural bedfellow for BBQ food whether as part of a marinade or an accompanying drink.

Try this simple marinade for your beef, pork or chicken:

– 125ml bourbon whiskey

– 180ml honey

– 60ml of olive or rapeseed oil

– 2 tablespoons of brown sugar

– 2 chopped garlic cloves

– 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

– 1 tablespoon of soy sauce

– 1 tablespoon of Dijon or American yellow mustard

Take all the ingredients and bring to a boil in a pan, whilst stirring continuously to stop sticking or burning. Simmer the mixture for five minutes. Leave to cool then pour over your meat and rub in the marinade; seal everything in a plastic bag and put in the fridge, rotating occasionally to spread the marinade liquor. Ideally leave the meat overnight in the marinade in your fridge for maximum flavour punch.

For a spicier marinade try adding Tabasco sauce and black pepper.

Let Tom take the strain

Whilst we all love cocktails, as host of a BBQ the last thing you want to be doing is becoming bartender for the afternoon running around serving drinks rather than relaxing with your friends and family.

Many cocktails can be pre-mixed and then served up in a jug or pitcher. Bloody Mary is one, but that might be a bit heavy later in the day. So look to a classic such as the Tom Collins, one of the first cocktails ever to be written down by iconic bartender and father of US mixology Jerry Thomas in 1876.

Depending on the size of your jug you’ll need to adjust the volume of ingredients, but a rough guide is below:

– Add one part of gin with the juice of half a lemon and two teaspoons of white sugar to your jug and stir until the sugar dissolves.

– Add plenty of cubed ice and stir again.

– Top up with soda water (ratio should be approximately twice the volume of the gin).

– Stir again and garnish with slices of lemon.

Fishing for a lighter garden dining idea?

If you’re not a meat fan, then skip the deep flavours of whiskey and look towards vodka and gin to sit with your garden buffet. The Swedes make a twist on salmon Gravad lax (typically salmon cured with salt and sugar then flavoured with white pepper and dill) called Gingravad lax which is usually saved for celebrations.

Both gin and vodka well as a marinade for salmon; there are literally hundreds of recipes of varying degrees of complexity available online. Their fresh, clean flavour also makes a great accompanying drink, especially with oily fishes like salmon and herring, and rich seafood such as crab and lobster. Also think what botanicals you’d typically find in gin, or add to your drink as a garnish: cucumber, lemon, lime, ginger… and of course juniper.

For a lighter twist on a Bloody Mary which works well with raw shellfish, try a Caesar: vodka, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Caesar Mix (a combination of tomato and clam juice; the mix can be found in specialist stores).

Make your BBQ pop!

Without doubt Champagne always brings a bit of sparkle to any occasion, although you may be reticent to experiment with your own cocktails and a pricey bottle of French Champagne.

However, there are lots of alternative to using Champagne (that’s sparkling wine produced exclusively within the Rheims and Épernay region of France). For cocktails that need more body then look for sparkling wines that are made in the same way as Champagne. This is called ‘traditional method’ and means the wine is fermented in tank or barrel first, then goes through a second fermentation with yeast in the bottle. It means the wine gains greater complexity, which only increases with age. Many other regions of France produce sparkling wine with this method, and its a fraction of the price of Champagne. Equally, Cava from Spain is produced this way and is incredibly accessible in terms of price.

Many people prefer the lightness of Prosecco, produced in the north east of Italy. Prosecco is tank fermented then bottled; it doesn’t go through a second fermentation in the bottle. Avoid cheaper Prosecco if you can, and opt for a bottle around the €12-15 mark if quality is your thing.

Here are some really simple Champagne and sparkling wine cocktails:

Bellini (this Italian drink works will with Prosecco)

– Add Prosecco to your glass then top up with white peach purée (ratio should be approximately 2:1)

Mimosa (perhaps the most familiar mixed Champagne drink)

– Add two parts Brut Champagne to one part fresh orange juice

Classic Champagne Cocktail

– Add a sugar cube to a chilled Champagne flute

– Dash it with 2-3 drops of Angostura bitters (available at larger supermarkets and liquor stores)

– Top up with Brut Champagne

– Squeeze a lemon twist on top

Death in the Afternoon (reputably a favourite of author Ernest Hemingway)

– Add 40ml of absinthe to a glass

– Top up with 100ml chilled Brut Champagne until the drink clouds


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