Time to get 
in the spirit

There are two things every child should learn. The first is how to open a bottle of champagne properly; the second is how to mix a decent gin and tonic.

I am not saying that these skills should be taught at a very young age, but in those golden years, between GCSEs and before they start borrowing the car, a small set of bartending skills such as these help defray the sheer expense of keeping them. And the benefits are enormous.

As soon as they are old enough they will abandon you to take a job behind a local bar, earning summer holiday money as a barrista, mixing up drinks you have never heard of and making glorious cappuccinos.

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But back to the gin and tonic, and perhaps now is a good time to give your drinks cupboard a clear out. Pour away the dreg ends of all those assorted duty-free bottles, or tip them into a punch or even flame them over a pancake or two.

While no spirit goes off even after years at the back of a cupboard, the delicate aromas of gin will have wafted away leaving just the dull spirit behind.

Good gin is essential for the perfect G&T and I recently tasted through a huge range of gins to find my favourite. I just love the new wave of gins that have entered the market in recent years and while juniper is still an essential ingredient in the aromatic profile of all gins, they all have different nuances depending on what else goes into the secret mix.

Hendrick’s is a summer-time gin with cucumber and rose in the botanical mix while Whitley Neill has a spice and orange notes from its South African botanicals of Baobab and Cape Gooseberries. Whilst it is immensely popular, I find Bombay Sapphire too perfumed and distracting in a G&T, and recently I have taken to drinking Sloane’s Gin (£27.50 Latitude in Leeds) which is relatively new to the market. I like it for its lively citrus notes and the way the juniper is balanced by elements of coriander, cardamom and vanilla. It won best un-aged spirit in the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits competition and it is a balanced, fairly light summertime gin that works in a straight G&T or can be used in all kinds of other cocktails.

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If the Sloane name puts you off, it refers to Sir Hans Sloane who was a Royal physician and botanist, not a bunch of hooray Henrys.

Here are some of my favourite summer cocktails.

Classic Gin and Tonic

Once you have chosen your gin, I like to use a tall glass, half filled with chunks of ice, then pour over a liberal amount of gin, top up with a good quality tonic and garnish with a wedge of lime, not lemon. I avoid saccharin-filled tonics because the artificial sweetener gets in the way of the gin, so that’s why I like Fever-Tree Tonic (around £1.69 for 500ml at Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury and Majestic) because it combines natural quinine, cane sugar and spring water to give clean, refreshing, pure flavours.

Cognac and Ginger

This is another refreshing drink that I came across while I was in the Cognac region with the Yorkshire Post Wine Quiz winners. It goes by the fairly dreadful name of Horse’s Neck, but I prefer to call it Cognac and Ginger. At the end of the day, it provided the right balance of flavour and refreshment, without an overload of alcohol.

Add three drops of Angostura bitters to a tall glass, four ice cubes and a sliver of orange peel. Pour over a measure of quality cognac (try Hine) and top up with quality (Fever-tree) Ginger Ale.

Ginger Summer Cup

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The King’s Ginger was invented to keep Edward VII warm during his morning carriage rides, but it works perfectly well as summertime cooler with fruit. Pour a shot of King’s Ginger (£21.50, Latitude in Leeds) into a tall glass; add three shots of cranberry juice and three parts Fever-Tree lemonade. Garnish with slices of lemon and whole strawberries.

Raspberry Royale

We are fortunate to have Raisthorpe Manor liqueurs widely available within our region (around £16.45 at Fodder, Harrogate; Castle Howard; Field and Fawcett, York and others) and these make an excellent base for summer cocktails. My favourite is Raspberry Gin Liqueur, which captures the juicy, aromatic taste of fresh raspberries in a liqueur base at 18 per cent alcohol. This makes a terrific Raspberry Royale.

Pour a shot of Raisthorpe Manor Raspberry Liqueur Gin in a tall champagne flute and top up with chilled sparkling wine, such as Codorniu Vintage Cava, (down to £6.99 at Tesco until August 14). Garnish with Raisthorpe gin-soaked raspberries and a mint sprig.

While you have the gin-soaked raspberries to hand, add a few to an ice-cream dessert for a totally delicious topping.

Strawberry Shot of Sunshine

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Raisthorpe Manor Strawberry Liqueur Vodka is packed with fresh, succulent strawberry flavours and it makes a refreshing summer cooler.

Pour a shot of the vodka over crushed ice in a tall glass, and top up with chilled cloudy lemonade (try Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade, £1.19 at Waitrose) and add a handful of quartered strawberries.

Minted Appleberry

Making cocktails at home is always fun so long as you don’t try to make a whole range. Stick to a single drink and make sure you have lots of ice and garnish. But if you want to try a choice of cocktails then head to the fourth floor of Harvey Nichols in Leeds where Iveta Zalcaite makes a great range of summer drinks. “I am often asked for prosecco cocktails and summery drinks, even when there is no sun,” she said.

Mojitos are popular at Harvey Nicks and so are raspberry and peach Bellinis.

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She has invented a new light, refreshing taste for the Harvey Nichols list, which you can try out at home, or call in to sip when you are next in Leeds city centre.

Minted Appleberry: 2 parts Absolut Raspberri Vodka; 2 parts apple juice ; ½ part Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur; 8 mint leaves; 5 raspberries; Prosecco top.

Method: Shake with ice and fine strain over into tall glass filled with ice.  Top with Prosecco and garnish with a mint sprig and a raspberry.

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