Cocktail Time: Valencian Orange

Summer is here! Warm sunny days, late nights, relaxing by the pool. Paddling pool, that is, as travel is still something out of reach for most of us at the moment. But never fear: Platinum Al is here with the perfect cocktail to enjoy on a balmy evening as you watch the sun go down.

The Valencian Orange cocktail can be a potent concoction, as you can tell from the ingredients. It should, of course, be made with freshly squeezed Valencian oranges, but as that’s a bit impossible at the moment, regular freshly squeeezed will have to do.

Valencian Orange Cocktail

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Sugar
  • Cava
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice

You’ll need a large glass (see the big wine glass in the picture for reference). Add one measure of vodka, one measure of gin, and a teaspoonful of sugar.

Next, pour in a generous amount of Cava. There’s no specified measure for this, so play around with it to your taste. I’d aim for a small glass of wine’s worth for starters. You can play around with all of these measures to get your preferred taste.

Finally, top up with the freshly squeezed orange juice, et voila – one Valencian Orange cocktail.

TIP: The cava and the orange juice both need to be chilled (or ice cold) – as ice cubes will melt and water down the taste.

In the accompanying photo, you’ll notice that the glasses feature a sugared rim. This is really just for appearances. You can recreate this with grenadine and sugar, mixed on a plate – which you then place the rim of the glass into, upside down. Obviously, do this part of the creation before you put the liquid in the glass…

Now you’re free to enjoy this great cocktail. It’s refreshing, fruity and potentially heady, all in one drink. Enjoy!

Soundtrack: Spanish Caravan by The Doors, Gipsy Kings, Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Valencia. I stole this recipe from an episode of Travel Man, starring one of my heroes, Richard Ayoade.

Food Quest: Chiquito, Broughton Park

chiquitoChiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill, Broughton Park

Regular readers will already know how much I love Mexican food.  It’s fair to say that I’m pretty obsessed with grub from south of the border, be it tacos, enchiladas, burritos or whatever.  Just wrap it up in a tortilla and I’m one happy hombre.

Of course, I have been to a Chiquito restaurant before, there’s one at ChOaks (that’s Cheshire Oaks, amigo).  However I was anxious to try the newer establishment at nearby Broughton Park, if only because – well, it’s nearer.

I got my chance on a lunch time visit with work colleagues.  I saddled up my pony and rode over the border home into Wales for some refreshment at the Chiquito cantina.  Even though the website says Broughton Park is in Chester (England), which it’s not.  Minus points for racism, Chiquito. nachos

As we only had an hour before the banditos would be back on our trail, starters were skipped.  Which is a shame, as there were plenty of tantalising items on offer.  Likewise, I didn’t opt for an alcoholic beverage with my meal, though I could have chosen from an array of suitable beers.

Instead I had a coke, but the good news was that there were free refills!  Just ask your courteous waiting on staff.  I like that.

So on to the meal.  After some deliberation, I opted for a chimichanga – a dish I love and have enjoyed before at other establishments.  Now for those of you who are unschooled in the ways of Mexican food, a chimihcanga is essentially a fried burrito.  Still none the wiser?  Take a tortilla, add the filling of your choice (in my case pulled pork) and throw in some rice, refried beans and sauce.  Roll it up and cook/fry.

el-taco-grande

El Taco Grande enjoying his meal

The chimichanga was accompanied by fries and the usual suspects – salsa, sour cream and guacamole dips.

This was all very tasty, and I really enjoyed the food.  It had a home cooked feel to it, not mass produced and thrown together at all.

The only thing that confused me was the serving style – the food was presented in a little deep frying metal container.  This looked very cool, but wasn’t the easiest way to eat.  Unless you’re supposed to pick the chimichanga up and eat with your hands – surely not?  I must be wrong.

All in all, my experience was very good – with a couple of minor criticisms.  Firstly, although the style and decor of Chiquito was really groovy, the music was a bit hit and miss.  It seemed like every other song was Enrique Iglesias, mixed alternately with some more authentic Latin sounds.  Enrique may be OK for the ladies who lunch crowd, but I expect more genuine Mariachi music.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

But then Chiquito is Tex Mex, rather than just Mex.  They even have a steak and fish menu, as well as burgers.  This may be far too normal for my tastes, but I suppose that it may entice some Brits in – they may even, one day, try something a little more exotic than chips and egg.

I have no real problems with Chiquito – the food and service were both great.  I really enjoyed my meal and was impressed by the large amount of choice on the menu.  Go give Chiquito a try – but please, try the Mexican food!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: large amount to choose from.  Great Mexican dishes, with some more traditional choices for anyone with a less adventurous palate.
  • Drink: I was on soft drinks, but they have free refills – yes!  Tons of alcoholic choices too.
  • Service: Very good, friendly staff.
  • Cost: Acceptable for a lunch time treat!

Chiquito, Unit 19 Broughton Chopping Park, Broughton CH4 0DE

01244 530564

The Chiquito website is here.

Cocktail Time: Blue Hawaiian

IMG_20160213_182122090

It’s that time again!  Time to chill in the Virtual Hot Tub with a refreshing cocktail, letting the week’s stresses flow away.  And what a great cocktail I have to share with you this time!

The Blue Hawaiian is a classic cocktail, simply delicious and full of summer excitement.  There’s plenty of time till summer, so get your kit together and practice making this tipple ready for those warm evenings.  I highly recommend a blender is used for this recipe, rather than just shaking. IMG_20160213_180025383

Blue Hawaiian

  • White rum
  • Blue curacao
  • Coconut cream
  • Pineapple juice
  • Ice

First of all, get that blender prepped and ready.  Pour in 2 measures of the white rum and one measure of the blue curacao (for one person).  Add 3 tablespoons of the coconut milk and a few ice cubes.  Give the mixture a quick 30 second mix in the blender, to get the colour even.

Then pour in the pineapple juice.  The recommended amount is 3 tablespoons, but I would experiment here and add a more if required.  Now give the mixture a full blitz in the blender until it’s frothy, man.

Now you can pour the mixture into your glass, and garnish the hell out of it.  Umbrellas, straws, slices of pineapple – go for it with whatever you can find. IMG_20160213_181643659

The result is a beautifully fruity cocktail that is ideal to sip and chill out with.  I highly recommend some Hawaiian music (on wax, of course) to complete the mood.

Enjoy!

Soundtrack: Hawaiian tunes (see photo); Arthur Lyman’s “Hawaiian Nights”; Les Baxter; Martin Denny; Elvis.

Johnny’s Place Playlist

 

IMG_4299Johnny’s Place, Parga, Greece

My holiday this summer was another visit to Parga in Greece.  It’s a very beautiful town on the west coast; nestled snugly amongst beach and harbour.  In the bay there is a small island with white church resting on top; above the town is an ancient fort – it’s real picturesque stuff.

Parga features many excellent tavernas, restaurants and bars.  A bar I’ve now visited a few times is Johnny’s Place, where the cold beer is “cheap as chips” and the welcome is warm.

Situated in the middle of town, the people watching at Johnny’s Place is second to none.  It’s a relaxing atmosphere with some great tunes.

Over the space of a few visits to this bar, we compiled a playlist of songs that were heard.  In the spirit of reminiscing about another fabulous summer holiday, here are the songs that take me back to that time and place.

Imagine enjoying a cold Mythos (and a plate of meze, as provided gratis here!) and let the everyday stresses melt away…

  1. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
  2. Bee Gees – “Staying Alive”
  3. Boney M – Bahama Mama”
  4. The Beatles – “Come Together”
  5. The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”
  6. Aerosmith – “Dream On”
  7. Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
  8. Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters”
  9. Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”
  10. The Eagles – “Hotel California”
  11. Pulp – “Disco 2000”
  12. Duran Duran – “Save a Prayer”
  13. Madness – “It Must Be Love”
  14. The Cure – “Lovesong”
  15. Manic Street Preachers – “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”
  16. Rod Stewart – “Baby Jane”

If you visit Parga – and I highly recommend you do – don’t forget to pay Johnny’s Place a visit.

The website for Johnny’s Place is here.

The Facebook page is here.

Thanks to Colin for the menu board photo!

Johnnys

Seasonal drink: Snowball

If you’re still in a party mood – and who isn’t, with New Year’s Eve on the way? – here’s a recipe for a seasonal cocktail that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  The festive season may be coming to an end, but this tipple is still a top recommendation.

The Snowball is well known, and can be made to your particular taste.  You may know the ingredients already, so consider this a reminder of a winter classic.

Why not pull up a chair at the Virtual Tiki Bar and ask Veronica, our Virtual Bar Attendant, to concoct one of these for you?  Made just how you like it. IMG_2740

Snowball

  • Advocaat
  • Vodka
  • Lime juice (cordial)
  • Lemonade
  • Ice

The amounts required for this drink depend on the drinker’s taste, and the size of glass used.  Experiment and adjust to your preference.

Add ice at first, then pour a small amount of lime cordial.  Throw in a shot of vodka – this can be substituted by brandy, if desired.

Pour in a big old dose of the Advocaat, then top up with lemonade.  Veronica was a bit sketchy on the measures, so just play around.  Mix with a stirrer and enjoy.

Drink responsibly!

Soundtrack: Christmas with the Rat Pack, or Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails (Vol I and II).

Drink of the Week: Monkey Wrench

Better hurry and mix this drink while you can – it’s an ideal summer refresher and there ain’t much summer left…

The Monkey Wrench is a popular warm weather tipple here at the Virtual Hot Tub.  Ask Veronica, the Virtual Barmaid, to throw one of these together for you – and join me in the tub for a soak. IMG_3137

Monkey Wrench

  • White rum
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Lemonade
  • Ice

Crush the ice and add to a tall glass.  Add two measures of white rum, then pour in the grapefruit juice.  Finally top up with lemonade and give it a stir.

Grapefruit juice can be a little sharp, but don’t worry if you’re not a fan – the lemonade can take the edge off.  Experiment with the quantities to achieve a taste you like.

Enjoy!

Soundtrack: “Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters.

American Beer – Cheers!

Despite the well stocked Virtual Tiki Bar here at the Virtual Hot Tub, it’s not that often that I actually drink cocktails.  When I’m soaking in the virtual warm water, in reality I usually drink beer.  So it’s about time I featured some beer on this blog.

I have grown to admire American beer over the last few years.  In particular, a few of the less obvious brands that are now turning up in the UK.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Back in 2000, I made my first visit to the United States of America, after wanting to travel there for a long time.  That first trip I was introduced to Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  It was love at first taste.  Unlike other American beers I was familiar with, Sam Adams has a full flavour.  Now available in supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, this beer is highly recommended.  I was really happy to see this beer so readily available, it’s a definite favourite.

Visit the Samuel Adams web page here.

Another bottled beer that is now available on our shores is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  This is a newer discovery for me, again it can be easily found in your local Tesco.  Sierra Nevada is no fizzy lager either, rather you’re going to experience a quality drink with character.

Visit the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale web page here.

Sierra Nevada - left, Brooklyn Lager - right

Sierra Nevada – left, Brooklyn Lager – right

Finally, we have Brooklyn Lager.  I’ve discovered this beer in the supermarkets; though now it is starting to appear in bars/restaurants, where it’s a great accompaniment to pulled pork burgers!  Described as an amber lager, this beer has a great flavour far removed from the typical US beers we’re often exposed to.  It’s easy to pick up in Tesco so give it a try – again, recommended.  If you’re lucky enough to find this beer on draught, treat yourself to a pint.  You can thank me later.

The web page for Brooklyn Brewery is here.

The USA is not a country famed for alcohol.  Prohibition?  What the hell is that all about?  And just what is a “light” beer anyway?  But these breweries are building on traditions that were long lost, delivering great tasting beer that is well worth investigating.

Iechyd Da, America!

Drink of the Week #3

Lemon, Lime & Bitters

This is another cocktail that may be of interest to anyone trying to be good and cut down on the booze at this time of year.  Technically this isn’t an alcohol free drink, as there is alcohol in Angostura bitters.  But you’ll only be using a tiny amount of that ingredient in this drink.

Lemon, Lime & Bitters 

IMG_2569

  • Lemonade
  • Lime cordial
  • Angostura bitters
  • Ice

Take a tall glass and pour in some lime cordial, enough as though you were making just a lime and water drink.  Then add the ice.

Next add the Angostura bitters – just add drop by drop.  Aim for a half to one full teaspoon full of bitters, and play around to see how you like the taste.  The bitters will affect both the taste and colour, so experimentation is key.

Finally, top the glass up with lemonade and stir.

Drink of the Week #2

Shirley Temple

Are you being good after indulging during Christmas?  Have you sworn off alcohol for a while, maybe even the whole of January?  If you have, but you’re after something more than a cup of tea, this one’s for you.

The Shirley Temple is a non-alcoholic cocktail, or mocktail, if you will.  The legend is that it was concocted in a Hollywood hotel for the then child star, and of course is alcohol free.  It’s a great drink to enjoy if you’re staying off the booze – the ritual of mixing a drink makes it seem special.  Plus it’s easy to make.

Shirley Temple IMG_2583

  • Grenadine
  • Sprite or 7Up
  • Ice

Pour a small measure of grenadine syrup into a glass.  Think of it as if you were making a cordial drink: the grenadine is the cordial which you will add to.  Of course you can experiment with the amount of grenadine to achieve the taste you like.  Add ice and pour in the Sprite/7Up.

Don’t forget – you could use diet versions of the Sprite or 7Up if you want a slightly healthier version…

Grenadine is easily available in supermarkets.  It’s not expensive and is a common ingredient in many other cocktails, so useful to have in your cupboard.

Soundtrack: The Aquabats! – “Hi-Five Soup!”

Christmas Drink of the Week

Chocolate Smarties

Also known as “Chocolate Orange” or “Christmas Smarties”, for some reason this great drink has become linked to the festive season for me.  I can’t remember now how I was first introduced to this tipple (if it was you, and you’re reading this, please remind me); but I’m sure you’ll love it if you try it.

Basically, what we have here is an alcoholic drink that tastes like chocolate orange.  If for some reason that doesn’t entice you, give this a go anyway – you may be pleasantly surprised. IMG_2721

Chocolate Smarties

  • Tia Maria
  • Orange juice
  • Ice

Take a standard tumbler (the glass in the picture is a typical pub half pint glass).  Pour in two measures of Tia Maria.  Add a few ice cubes, then top up with fresh orange juice (the carton type or some good old Britvic).  Enjoy!

Play around with the measure to get a taste you prefer.  You may like a single measure of Tia Maria, you may want more or less orange juice.  Feel free to experiment till you get the desired flavour.

Soundtrack: “Merry Christmas Everybody” – Slade.