Saturday, June 23, 2018

You can't ignore cucumber, or the search for a good Sherry cup recipe

I have to organise a series of tastings at work for staff and customers next week - the expectation seems to have been something Cocktail based for staff, but it's during the working day. I know from experience that this is A Very Bad Idea both in terms of productivity, and anybody's ability to reliably give the correct change.

The expectation for the customer event is that it will be some sort of gin tasting, but I'm on the fence about that too. I want to go something entirely different - this is just the chance to play around with punches/cups that I've been looking for.

What I really, really, want to do is a Sherry cup, although this recipe for Peach Cup from Ambrose Heath also appeals to me "Prick a large ripe Peach all over with a silver fork, and put it in a pint of champagne." Unfortunately I can't put my hand to a silver fork between now and Monday when the first event takes place, ripe peaches are even more of a challenge (the rock hard things sold as ready to eat will not do) and champagne is undoubtedly out of budget. Another time.

It's Ambrose Heath who I've turned to for Sherry cup recipes as well, he has a couple but only says Sherry - like it's obvious which one I should use - it is not (and this is why I think the silver fork might really matter to the peach). Sherry comes in everything from bone dry and light (Fino) to something that resembles treacle (Pedro Ximenez).

I've asked around and the consensus seems to be that Fino Sherry is the way to go. I have a bottle of Fino in the fridge so I've been experimenting. The results have made me light headed but indecisive. Heath's recipe is for 2 bottles of Sherry, 1/2 a pint of Cognac, 1/4 of a pint of curaçao (I'm subbing it with triple sec) and 3 drops of almond essence all mixed well together, then with a slice of cucumber and 3 or 4 bottles of Soda water.

I've scaled that down to fit in a glass so the proportions are all off - the single, thin, slice of cucumber is really making its presence felt for a start. A second recipe uses lemonade as well as soda water which would add sweetness - so I've also played around with some sugar syrup - and thrown in some fruit because plenty of old recipes call for it.

The result is okay, I like it, but I like my drinks dry, a lot of my colleagues do not. I don't have a pale cream Sherry to try this with but think that might be too sweet. It's all very annoying, and all I can taste now is cucumber anyway. How can anything with so much water in it be such a flavour bully?

Meanwhile there's a plan B. It comes from Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food. She gives recipes for White wine cup (wine, Brandy, elderflower cordial, soda water, cucumber rind) Wine cup (rose wine, Brandy, lemonade, cucumber rind and soda water) or Quaglino cup (champagne, orange juice, Brandy, curaçao, soda water, no cucumber) which is allegedly less alcoholic than a Buck's Fizz. I'll take her word for that, though I think the brandy and curaçao will make up for the extra soda water.

The advantage of going with plan B is that Boxer has already done the hard work so I have a nice, specific, recipe to follow that will make roughly the quantity I need, and is I suspect, adjusted for modern tastes, I don't even have to find a ripe peach, or a silver fork. The down side is that it could be a while before I get another Sherry cup chance and I really feel that done right it could be a winner.

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