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Distilled – The ultimate Bloody Mary

Our latest round-up of trends from the top shelf, including tips for the perfect Bloody Mary, the recipe for a tropical Air Mail and the story behind the Nick & Nora glass.

No smoke without fire

Celebrated on World Bloody Mary Day, 1 January, this classic vodka-and-tomato-juice cocktail is also a winning hangover cure, according to its disciples. But more importantly it’s one of those recipes that can be tweaked and refined to suit your individual taste perfectly. Step forward Tongue in Peat, the world’s only peat-smoked tomato juice, which makes a deliciously smoky, savoury Mary. Launched by a small Scottish drinks company in 2020, it’s made by cold-smoking fresh tomatoes over a peat fire for 12 hours, which are then blended, infused and bottled. Peat is sourced from Islay, so no surprises the flavour will appeal to fans of smoky single malts.

For my ultimate Bloody Mary, I stir together 50ml vodka, 150ml Tongue in Peat, 15ml manzanilla Sherry, 10ml lemon juice, 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 2 dashes Fee Brothers Celery Bitters and 1 dash Tabasco, in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with a celery stick and wedge of lemon. £15.99/3x500ml, £24.99/6x500ml tongueinpeat.com

What is… a Nick & Nora?

The Nick & Nora is a stemmed cocktail glass with an inverted bowl, used to serve stirred or shaken cocktails straight up – in other words, without ice. The stem prevents the drink getting too warm in your hand. This style of glass was resurrected by bartending icon Dale DeGroff of New York City’s Rainbow Room in the late 1980s. Hunting for a smaller alternative to the conical Martini glasses of the time, he noticed fictional detectives Nick and Nora Charles drinking their Martinis from delicate glasses in The Thin Man, a series of comedy-mystery films released in 1930s and 1940s. Manhattan-based Minners Designs sent DeGroff one of its 1930s catalogues, which had a similar design called a ‘Little Martini’. DeGroff commissioned new moulds of the design, naming his glasses Nick & Nora.

What to drink now… Air Mail

If dark January has got you pining for some winter sun, try this tropical twist on a Champagne cocktail. The Air Mail first appeared in a recipe pamphlet in Cuba by the Bacardí company in 1930. The Cuban air mail service began the same year, which could indicate the drink was invented then and named after it, but there’s no evidence to support that. You can use sparkling wine instead of Champagne and any gold rum (aged one to three years) – though the original called for Bacardí Gold. Try Bacardí Carta Oro (Alc 40%, £20.99-£23.95/70cl Distillers Direct, Gerry’s, Master of Malt, Ocado, Spirits Kiosk, The Bottle Club, The Whisky Exchange). To make your own honey syrup, dissolve 5ml honey in 5ml warm water.

Air Mail

Ingredients: 45ml gold rum, 15ml lime juice, 15ml honey syrup, Champagne to top

Glass: Highball

Garnish: None

Method: Put the rum, lime and syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until your hands are cold. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and top with Champagne.

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