NOTHING kicks off a party like a cocktail! And for Caitlin Ruth, a cocktail is something that is worth spending a little extra time over.
A cocktail thrust into the hands of your guests is the best way to say ‘welcome’, the perfect ice-breaker but crucially sets the standard for what may follow.
Cocktails are something that should enjoyed, not endured. They should be fairly potent, but a well- made cocktail will hide that potency behind a perfect symphony of flavours and textures, resulting in a libation so perfectly adult in its construction that it imbues a sense of immediate sophistication.
It is an act of great good fortune that I have a friend who is not only a talented chef, but also an incredible maker of cocktails.
Many of you may know Caitlin Ruth as the Head Chef of Deasy’s Restaurant, just outside Clonakilty in West Cork.
If you have ever had the pleasure of dining there, you’ll know that dinner is not complete without one of Caitlin’s stellar seasonal cocktails, and finished with one of her fruit liqueurs.
The news may also have reached your ears of the closure of this wonderful restaurant. The final service, after 16 years of Caitlin dishing up some of the best food that has ever graced the region, will be on New Year’s Eve. A fitting way to close an era: saying thanks for what has been, and looking forward for what is yet to come. For Auld Lang Syne.
And what is to come is a reincarnation of Caitlin’s passion for food, seasonal provenance, local food, travel and music: Caitlin Ruth Food.
Over the past year, while she perfected the vision of the perfect catering kitchen, her partner, engineer Matt O’Sullivan, brought to life a purpose-built restaurant on wheels from nothing more than an old flat-bed trailer.
Built from the wheels up, it is now a high spec mobile catering unit that aims to serve restaurant quality meals, popping up in rural locations the length and breadth of the country.
“What I’d really like to do is to just pop up in a place where there is a pub, but where the pub doesn’t have a kitchen and the ability to serve food. I want to explore the open roads of Ireland, and spend time in different places learning about the local, seasonal food — what people are growing — and then get creative, using it in dishes that are inspired by my love of global cuisine.
“I like to think of it as slow food cooked quickly! Something may take five days to prep and cook, but it’ll be served up to you in quick order: think freshly baked bread, slow cooked pulled goat and handmade sausages!”
Once Caitlin calls time on her final service in Deasy’s, the kitchen is cleaned down for the last time and the door bolted behind her, some time out will be in order.
January and February will be spent recharging batteries, reconnecting with friends and family, travelling a little and putting the final touches to the plan of action for launching a new era for Caitlin Ruth Food in March, 2020.
In the meantime, there is much celebrating to be had, and you can guarantee that no party hosted by Caitlin really starts until the cocktails have been poured.
So, with that in mind, put the final flourish to your Christmas preparations by raising a glass to the year that has been, and the year that is next to come.
May it be as epic and delicious as these three original recipes for Cracking Christmas Cocktails from the lady herself. Cheers!
Follow Caitlin’s new food adventures on Instagram: @caitlinruthfood
A fan of the movie The Big Lebowski, this is Caitlin’s festive twist on The Dude’s love of a White Russian. Makes four cocktails.
For the Vodka Infusion:
20 whole black peppercorns
3 Barry’s Tea Bags
4 slices of fresh ginger
½ whole nutmeg (do not grate)
5 All Spice berries
15 whole cloves
4 Cinnamon sticks
Infuse the vodka for two hours in a sealed, sterilised bottle.
For the Cocktail:
50ml of the infused Vodka
50ml of coffee liqueur (e.g. Khalua)
40ml of fresh cream
35ml (or a standard measure) of full fat milk
- Into a cocktail shaker, place a handful of ice.
- Pour over the cocktail ingredients and stir together to combine.
- Decant into an elegant glass fitting for a Russian Czar!
This is a beautifully elegant festive reinterpretation of Caitlin’s much loved Rhubarb Martini, made with cranberries, grapes and pink gin.
100g fresh or frozen cranberries
150g fresh unseeded green grapes
130g white sugar
Juice of 2.5 lemons
10 drops of Angostura Bitters
50ml of Beara Pink Ocean Gin per cocktail
- Per cocktail, place 75ml of mix and 50ml of Beara Ocean Pink Gin into a cocktail shaker.
- Add a handful of ice.
- Secure the lid of the shaker and shake vigorously until the outside of the cocktail shaker develops a thin film of ice.
- Open the shaker, and pour into a glass through a sieve.
- Decorate the glass with a fresh cranberry and a ribbon of lemon zest.
Have Yourself a Bitter Little Christmas!
No, this isn’t a cocktail for the recently divorced! Caitlin has always had a love of bitter tastes, this being one of the reasons why she dabbles in creating her own bitters from rhubarb and oranges.
This cocktail is a riff on her favourite cocktail: a classic Negroni. The most potent of all her Christmas Cocktails, Caitlin would advise this as a drink to be slowly sipped for maximum appreciation. Makes 2 cocktails.
35ml of Irish Whiskey (Caitlin would recommend Jameson Black Barrel)
35ml Red Vermouth
70ml Freshly squeezed Grapefruit juice
- Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice and stir until combined. Strain and pour into an elegant tumbler, and garnish with a slice of grapefruit.
CAITLIN’S TOP TIPS FOR CRACKING COCKTAILS EVERY TIME
Ice: is an important ingredient in cocktail making. As well as chilling the drink, the water off the ice infuses with the cocktail mix adding important mouthfeel and volume, greatly enhancing the drinking experience.
Glassware: Cocktails are as much about the look as they are about the taste, so choosing the right glass to hold your carefully made cocktail is actually very important!
Tumbler, high ball, wide rimmed or fluted should be carefully considered to enhance the drinking experience.
A wide rimmed glass will allow the imbiber to be filled with heady aroma of the cocktail, while a flute will enhance mouthfeel, such as bubbles.
Clear, etched or cut glass makes a difference to the look and feel of the drink, as does fine glass or lead crystal. All of these things help to imbue the cocktail with its own sense of personality.
Garnish: A garnish, whether for a cocktail or a plate, should always serve a purpose. So consider what may be an appropriate garnish for the cocktail. Is it to be eaten, is it for added aromatics, or is it for extra flavour.
Should it float in the glass, be mounted on the rim or constructed on a cocktail stick?