this blogging lark can sometimes be really hard. not just in regards to the writing and editing and creating interesting content part of it. no. on the conscience, too. for instance: i will never write about gambling. it's a decision i made early on in my "blogging career", for super personal reasons that i'm not going to touch on here, but the amount of events i have turned down - despite sounding mega awesome, simply because they're a gambling or casino or betting brand, well... i've genuinely lost count. so, when an email landed in my inbox last week inviting me to a blogging event at ascot racecourse, i was torn.
the racecourse's primary sponsor - appletiser, were celebrating their 50th anniversary by teaming up with duck and waffle's rich woods on a range of virgin and alcoholic cocktails, to show off the sparkling apple drink's versatility as a mixer. the cocktail guy (who is a mega babe)(sorry rich's wife) was going to be on hand all day to demonstrate these original cocktails, in appletiser's private box. we were invited to come and learn, try, and spend the day hanging out in... appletiser's private box. you see my dilemma right?
thankfully after a quick chat with the brand rep, i decided that so long as i didn't have to participate in or talk about gambling here, then i would be more than happy to come along and quite ~happily talk aaaall about the cocktails instead. and so it was that i was on the 10:09am train from waterloo last sunday, ascot bound with two of my favourite humans - charley and milly. did we drink gin-in-a-tin on the train? yes we did. were we slightly tipsy by the time we arrived an hour later? yes we were. but, it had us in the right spirits to get our sleeves rolled up and get our cocktail making on!
after a quick intro from appletiser's brand manager jenny and then the man of the hour himself, we were on to the cocktail making (and testing, and drinking). up first: the "pine needle high ball". if you fancy trying it yourself, here's what you'll need:
50ml dry vermouth
2 dash lemon bitters
10ml sugar syrup
pine needle stalk to garnish
glass: tall high ball
1. add the vermouth, lemon bitters and sugar syrup to a glass filled with ice. 2. pour in half the appletiser and stir. 3. top up with the remaining appletiser. 4. smack the pine needle then add to the drink to garnish. 5. drink with gusto! the pine needle high ball was a refreshing aperitif, and the perfect drink to start the day (ignoring the gin-in-a-tin, obviously). yum!
next up was a cocktail that i'd had my eye on since we first arrived in the box, and we'd taken stock of the bar; rich had very kindly prepped us with bottles of distilled flavours and home-made mixers, and one of them i'd noticed was labeled "i.p.a. reduction". i had to ask rich if his ipa reduction was what i thought it was, and when he confirmed that yes, it was whisked-down craft beer, i did a little happy dance. ipa is my favourite kind of beer, and after the house of peroni concoctions i was subject to last year, i was super keen to get making the "hoppy ever after" - here's how:
15ml martini bianco
15ml ipa reduction
35ml appletiser apple and pomegranate
glass: small martini glass
for the ipa reduction: 1. one standard ipa beer bottle (330ml) heated over a medium heat, to two thirds of its original volume. add in 100g of sugar and mix to dissolve the sugar. 2. allow to cool and whisk, to remove any additional froth. 3. bottle and refrigerate (mix will last four-five days). to make the cocktail: 1. stir all with cubes of ice in a cocktail shaker, and strain into a glass.
the fruitiness from the reduction of the hopps and the combination of the gin and the martini was just - ugh, so delicious. the apple and pomegranate was a tasty touch, as it added the bubbly sensation to an already-flavourful drink, but the pomegranate definitely gave the cocktail something different. plain apple would have made it all too-sweet, i think, but the citrus in the pomegranate really evened out our second drink. so far, this one was definitely a fave, and one i can definitely see myself trying to recreate myself.
the final cocktail on the list was a fancy bloody frothy one, that - given i was paying zero attention to poor rich by this point, i did a pretty fab job of re-creating. this cocktail - the "orchard fizz" required the skilful separation of egg whites from egg non-whites, and what with the previous two cocktails, the gins-in-tins, and the glass of champagne on arrival, i don't feel we were adequately equipped for. nevertheless, i will never back down from a challenge, and wouldn't you know it! separated first time! fancy trying your hand at egg separation for something other than egg-white omelettes? try:
25ml apple liqueur
10ml fresh lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
1 egg white
3 drops tartaric acid
50ml appletiser apple and pomegranate
dehydrated granny smith apple slice
pomegranate seeds to garnish
glass: coupette glass
1. fill the coupette glass with ice to chill. 2. pour the gin, apple liqueur, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, egg white and tartaric acid solution into a cocktail shaker, and shake without ice for about 15 seconds (see above for classic shaking shots) - shaking this way aerates the egg white and binds the ingredients, much the same way as whisking. 3. re-shake with a scoop of cubed ice for a further ten seconds - the ice adds two principle benefits to a drink: it chills, and dilutes. both are important, but you definitely don't want an over-diluted drink. 4. remove the ice from the glass and strain the cocktail in to it. 5. gently top up with appletiser apple and pomegranate, to add some fizz. 6. garnish with a dehydrated granny smith slice and pomegranate seeds for the pretty effect.
et voila! a totally frothy cocktail, shaken not stirred. it tasted really yummy, although i was a bit weirded out about the raw egg going down the hatch disguised as a fruity cocktail, but... when in rome! this delicious pink drink was the prelude we needed to create our own fancy cocktails, for rich to then judge (and then probably steal to sell for twelve quid a pop at duck and waffle later on)(i'm kidding)(well..) after a simple sip!
well, our daftly named "the helicopter" was the only cocktail in the competition with fresh foliage in it, and therefore won the unofficial "it looks the best" title, while the actual prize went to... i don't know. not us. it doesn't matter, really, because we got to drink our entries after that, and ours was made of gin, apple and pomegranate, peach liqueur, and champagne. yes, real, proper champagne. so, losing never taste so gooooood.
after the cocktail master class was done and dusted, we sat around chit-chatting with the other bloggers we'd met, ate a whole lot of the buffet lunch, watched some of the races (i particularly enjoyed watching jockeys fall off their horses, and the horses not only keep running, but also end up placing before other horses ~with jockeys on them - very funny!), and the girls placed some bets. before we knew it, it was after four, and we'd been drinking, chatting and eating for five hours. seeing as we were an hour from home, we decided we'd leave a great day where it was, and head through the petting zoo on the way back to the train.
it was my first and probably last time i'll ever go to the races. i'm not really a "get dolled up and be a lady" type of girl, but seeing as the prince's countryside race day is a more casual and laid back kind of day, it was definitely more suited for me. it was a real privilege to spend the day with such great company, and with such a renowned guest host as rich woods. so a massive thank you to him, and to appletiser, for having us for the day and for trusting a room full of alcohol to a room full of alcoholics.
*drink responsibly everyone. and if you're going to gamble, know it affects everyone*