There are easier tasks in the world that getting hold of Andy Clarke. Just ask Hercules.
Whether he is introducing Rag ‘n’ Bone Man to the Pub in the Park stage, mixing a cocktail in front of a crowd baying for a Whiskey Sour, asking Tom Kerridge beside the fire pit how he likes his steak sandwich, writing features for this publication, or producing a TV series for Jamie Oliver, the window of opportunity is small.
But the wait is so worth it, for there are few in the world of food and drink who fizz with such energy and fun as Andy Clarke; few more knowledgeable either, sharing his expertise effortlessly. The man with no time has time for everyone.
Andy knows his food and fire, as well as his drinks, having worked with some of
the world’s greatest chefs, as a TV producer and director. Credits include BBC’s Saturday Kitchen Live; Gordon, Gino & Fred: Road Trip; both James Martin’s French and American Adventures; Channel 4’s Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver; and he is a regular presenter on ITV’s Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh. He is also main stage host at Pub in the Park, as well as hosting and presenting at other food, drink and music festivals and events.
TS Eliot’s J Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons; Andy measures his in cocktails – not just for personal consumption I might add. He has just distilled his love for them into a book called Home Bar – Over 60 cocktails to shake, muddle and stir at home.
It is an intoxicating read. I initially – and boldly – thought, in the interests of research, I really ought to try them all, following simple instructions, with all the cocktails beautifully illustrated transporting you to a Jay Gatsby party – even if more Bristol (Andy’s home city) than Long Island.
However, in the interests of relative sobriety I plumped for a couple of Andy’s cocktails most suitable for drinking at a barbecue and with fire food sizzling on the coals.
“Nothing says fun-yet-warming better than rum,” says Andy, as he mixes his take on a classic Dark & Stormy, with the rich dark rum and ginger beer along with cola, fresh lime juice and Angostura bitters, with wedges of lime and grinds of black pepper to garnish.
“It’s both refreshing and comforting. Great to sip when you want to cool down in the summer and it’s a fantastic treat in the winter,” says Clarke.
Inspired by the awesome feasts Shropshire Lad Adam Purnell (right) fired up over the logs and coals at Pub in the Park, I used the rum he produced in collaboration with Ironbridge-based Moonshine & Fuggles.
The partnership created The Rum Project Shropshire Lad hand-crafted batch of rum – an aged dark rum from Guyana, infused with Adam’s signature smoked ingredients including smoked malted barley, pimento, clove and cinnamon. Organic coconut blossom syrup was added to round out this finish and provide the perfect balance to the smoke and spice. A donation from each bottle sale goes to Shropshire honey producer Broseley Bees.
The Rum Project brings together imported Caribbean rum spirit with an artisan distiller in the Black Country. It does exactly what it promises as the perfect companion to smoky meats around the fire. In fact, I think I might even have lit the barbecue with my breath after the second glass.
The trouble with Home Bar is that you can’t just flick through; you stop at every page and check the cupboard for ingredients. Have I got some campari for that Negroni? Gin for the White Lady, vodka for the Moscow Mule.
Apart from the classics, Andy treats us to his own personal twists, including the Supersonic Aviation, with gin, dry vermouth and pomegranate juice. “In celebration of the days of Concorde – a plane my parents had an association with when they worked at Rolls Royce in Bristol in the 1960s and 70s.”
There is a section on syrups for cocktails, as well as what kit and glassware you need, a run-through cocktail-making basics and even a range of snacks, be they cream cheese tortilla swirls with salmon, harissa prawns or tomato bruschetta.
Time for a Smoky Whiskey Sour and here BBQ magazine can bask in a measure of reflected glory. Asked by the magazine last year to create a cocktail to complement barbecued food, the result was Andy’s twist on a Whiskey Sour, where you can use a smoky-aged Scotch, an Irish whiskey – or as I did – a bourbon in the form of Buffalo Trace Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey, paying homage to the ancient paths of buffalo, crossing the Kentucky River. Andy’s smoked, paprika-infused honey instead of a simple sugar syrup is the game-changer.
“It’s the perfect complement to barbecued offerings, meats especially – a great match with food treated to rubs and marinades.”
We all have variations on what our Home Bar is or should be and Andy gives a social history lesson too. While we all like to go out and hit the bars and restaurants, there is a home bartender and mixologist in all of us.
My copy of the book currently sits between bottles of The Rum Project and Buffalo Trace, with the gin collection feeling slightly aggrieved. Time for a gimlet to keep the peace in the drinks’ cabinet. Cheers.
Home Bar: Over 60 Cocktails to Shake, Muddle and Stir by Andy Clarke (Welbeck, £12.99) Illustrations: Evi-O.Studio
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