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7:00am Saturday 27th October 2012 in NewsXtra
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some bewitching tipples for howling Halloween parties and bonfire bashes
Devishly divine drinks
Hocus pocus! With the clocks turning back and the streets blanketed in darkness for Halloween (October 31), the night sky and ghostly shadows are the perfect platform for partygoers who love to get spirited away.
And with fireworks and rockets shooting across the darkness a few days later to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night (November 5), it's a great time for social get-togethers over a bonfire.
Carving out pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns can be thirsty work, and for the lads who like an ice-cold beer, Meantime Brewery has launched its first new bottled beer since London Lager hit the streets two years ago.
Certain to tantalise the taste buds, Yakima Red (£1.59, 33cl, 4.1%, Waitrose) is a deep amber beer made from five different hop varieties from the Yakima Valley, Washington State, USA. Balancing sweetness, tropical fruit notes and a hoppy bitterness, it's extremely refreshing and tastes great with bangers and ham hock terrine.
Frightfully good, Barefoot is America's top-selling wine brand and a blood-red wine cocktail made with its smooth and fruity Barefoot Merlot, California, USA (£6.69, Sainsbury's) is sure to inspire tales of the unexpected.
:: Barefoot's Witches' Brew
2 cups Barefoot Merlot, 1 cup blackberry syrup, 1.5 cups cranberry juice, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the ingredients, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lychee 'eyeball', gummy worm sweets or a maraschino cherry.
Fangtastic cocktails in ghoulish green will encourage revellers to put on their spookiest costumes, and Midori melon liqueur (£10.67, 50cl, Asda) has created a bespoke cocktail for the Halloween season to be served at Fat Cat bars across the country (visit www.fatcatcafebars.co.uk).
For trick-or-treaters who'd like to try the creepy cocktail at home and impress their friends with some creative flair, here's the recipe:
:: Japanese Dragon
25ml Midori, 25ml vodka, 12.5ml lemon juice, 10ml kiwi syrup (can be replaced with 1/2 a muddled kiwi), 20ml apple juice, 1/3 bar spoon of stem ginger
Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the ingredients, shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with three melon balls.
Big box of treats... if you're handing out pumpkin pie, plates of spicy pasta or baked potatoes on a grand scale (or just fancy an easy tipple that will take you through to bonfire night and beyond), Lateral Sauvignon Blanc NV, Chile (£16.49, 3ltr, Tesco) is the equivalent of four bottles of wine. A vibrant, refreshing white with delicate lime flavours, floral aromas and a zingy finish, it'll charm your friends long into the witching hour and stays fresh for up to six weeks after opening.
And for a generous splash of spice and sorcery, Lateral Shiraz NV, Chile (£16.49, 3ltr, Tesco) is a dense, dark red with a forest floor of chewy brambly fruits, supple tannins and a hint of smoke on the finish. It's a great winter warmer that will keep its spell of freshness up to six weeks after opening.
Alternatively, if you love to sin with zin, but prefer to pull tight the curtains and avoid a howling Halloween, try Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel 2009, California, USA (£12.99, Waitrose). Not for the faint-hearted, at 15% abv, Brazin is bold and muscular with complex flavours of blackberry, blueberry and baked cherry with accents of bitter chocolate, smoke and firm tannins on the giant finish... bring on the saucy ribs and peppered steak.
With a history as colourful as the gun powder plot, The King's Ginger (£21, 50cl, www.bbr.com) was created in 1903 for King Edward VII to warm the cockles of his heart while enjoying outdoor sporting pursuits. To this day, the students of Wye College commemorate his coronation by lighting a bonfire to outline the crown which is cut into the chalk hillside of the North Downs.
A rich, golden liqueur with a spicy, ginger profile, The King's Ginger tastes delicious in ginger-infused cocktails and long drinks such as this cheeky cobbler. Here's the easy peasy recipe your friends will love:
:: The King's Ginger Autumn Wye Cobbler
50ml The King's Ginger, 10ml Merlet Creme de Mure (blackberry liqueur),
3 lemon wedges, 3 blackberries to garnish, 25ml quality pear cider
Half fill a highball glass with ice. Add the King's Ginger and blackberry liqueur, then top up with pear cider. Stir well with a bar spoon, squeeze lemon wedges and garnish with blackberries.
Celebrating its 150th birthday this year, Bacardi has launched a velvety smooth, spicy dark rum. Fermented in charred American white oak barrels, it has an oaky, robust flavour with notes of vanilla. To toast torch-lit parades and bonfire bashes, try serving Bacardi OakHeart (£18, 70cl, Tesco) neat over ice, with cola, or in a Cuban special with a Guy Fawkes twist.
:: Fawkes Fizz
50ml Bacardi OakHeart, 25ml pineapple juice, 25ml cranberry juice, lemonade
Half fill a highball glass with ice. Add the Bacardi OakHeart, pineapple juice and cranberry juice, stir with a long bar spoon and top with lemonade.
Remember, remember, the Bacardi logo is a bat, which also makes OakHeart the perfect pour on fright night... cheers!
:: Best buy
The Science Museum has designed a wine carafe inspired by a chemistry flask, and proves decanters don't have to be made out of the finest cut glass crystal. Most wines benefit from a little aeration and the Earl Carafe (£18, www.sciencemuseum.org.uk) has a wide base to give you plenty of room to swirl the wine, and the wide mouth ensures the wine is well exposed to air.
:: Liquid news
London boasts best bar in the world... Artesian at the Langham hotel has been named the world's best bar by Drinks International at The World's Best 50 Bars Awards 2012. Alex Kratena, head mixologist, says: "We're very proud of our innovative and diverse cocktail menu, and we will continue to push the boundaries of cocktail experimentation." Kratena's gin martinis are sophisticated and unfussy and his new age Langham Paris Martini (£16.50) is served in a two-part Tanqueray No Ten heavy chrome vessel to keep the liquid at the perfect temperature. Infused with lavender, Mediterranean herbs and anise, it's a martini connoisseur's dream come true. For more information, visit www.artesian-bar.co.uk