a little gem of blueish colour: aviation

the art of cocktail making comes in so many shapes, aromas and colours, which is a real pleasure not only to the tastebuds but also the eye! whenever you are feeling blue, why not go for a blueish pick-me-up. it is a classic and with a classic you can never go wrong!

aviation

aviation

ingredients:

2cl gin (tanqueray is a good choice here)

0.5cl lime juice

0.5cl maraschino liqueur

2 tsp creme de violette or violet liqueur (i used the bitter truth variety)

combine all in a cocktail shaker and shake withĀ ice – then strain into a martini glass. garnish with some lemon or lime zest or (as i did) with a frozen strawberry!

what i really like about the aviation is the complexity in taste. taken on its own, maraschino liqueur (which is made from marasca cherries) and violet liqueur are quite sweet but the gin and lime juice nicely balance the sweetness and you have a wonderful slighly perfumed aroma in your mouth with flowery and fruity overtones combining well with the tartness of the lime and the herbal touch of the gin. the ‘original’ recipe (but what is original nowadays?!) only asks for one tsp or barspoon of creme de violette, but i find the ‘perfume’ it adds so nice that i always use a bit more – don’t overdo it though as otherwise you might end up thinking you took a sip from grannie’s old perfume bottle instead šŸ™‚

 

a cultural musical journey – part II

time to continue with some musical culture – or whatever one considers culture. after all it is always deeply personal and what i find musical, others might classify as noise!

nonetheless here are some more favourites of mine:

TORI AMOS – night of hunters

this is tori amos’ most classical album, which is fittingly influenced by classical music pieces which she has taken as inspiration and/or reworked into heartwrenching works of art. there is really no real way to describe this album other than saying put it on, close your eyes and listen. it goes from simplicity to monumental and back and is full of gems (and you get to hear tori’s daughter singing on several tracks as well!). the highest recommendation possible – this is no easy listening but it shoots right to your emotional core!

night of hunters

good place to start: star whisperer, your ghost, job’s coffin

UTE LEMPER – punishing kiss

ute lemper always divides opinion and here she is at herĀ most ‘kunstdiva’ possible, which i mean as a great compliment. she interprets modern songwriters such as nick cave, elvis costello and the divine comedy and adds her own inimitable flavour to it – as well as throwing in a classic by kurt weill (in a duet with neil hannon from the divine comedy). this is cabaret in its most progressive form and ‘kunst as kunst can’. artful but in no way artificial.

punishing kiss

good place to start: little water song, tango ballad, you were meant for me

CYNDI LAUPER – at last

whoever still considers cyndi lauper a pop-relic from the 80s, should listen to her take on standards and classics from burt bacharach, edith piaf, etta james or nina simone (just to name a few) from 2003. i promise you that your jaw will drop as her vocal abilities make them sound fresh and anew and the arrangements go from sparse and faithful to slightlyĀ cooky. it feels like a breath of fresh air blown all over you and the whole album is full of highlights (and her version of piaf’s hymn to love is simply to die for).

at last

good place to start: hymn to love, at last, unchained melody

HILDEGARD KNEF – knef

in germany, everyone knows hildegard knef who has been immortalised through songs such as ‘fĆ¼r mich soll’s rote rosen regnen’ (who still remembers that she was the first german to have a hit in a long-running broadway musical with ‘silk stockings’ though…) – ella fitzgerald once called her ‘the greatest singer without a voice’. admittedly she was not your usual singer, but more an interpreter and the way she used her smoky voice via enunciation and accentuation was shere perfection, as her phrasing was always immensely musical and intelligent.

in 1970 she took on modern ‘vibes’ and created an album that was both forward looking as well as tradiotional, both avantgardeĀ and highly unique. the lyrics are witty and critical (as in ‘herren dieser welt’) and are typically knef. this is german chanson at its very best!

knef

good place to start: ich brauch’ tapetenwechsel, herren dieser welt, friedenskampf und schadenfreude

MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – all things will unwind

if you like sufjan stevens, you might have come across my brightest diamond before, as shara worden (how she is known in real life) has collaborated with him frequently on his albums, so you might have heard her voice before. her own style is, quite similar to sufjan stevens, highly personal and quirky and combines many different musical styles. this is a singer/songwriter at herĀ most developed stage with a voice that seems both angelic and earthy and comes right out of heaven.

all things will unwind

my brightest diamond live on youtube

good place to start: we added up, high low middle, i have never loved someone

THE TIGER LILLIES – shockheaded peter

whatever one considers to be ‘twisted cabaret’ or ‘dark cabaret’, the tiger lillies are it to a 1000%! nothing about them is conventional – from the high-pitched vocals of martyn jacques to the orchestration of ukulele, piano, harmonica and more, it is just what defines the genre. it is quirky and alternative without sounding arty-farty and it makes you smile even when the stories told are dark and gruesome. ‘shockheaded peter’ is called a trash opera and based on ‘der struwwelpeter’ (a book of moralising children’s tales that is very well know in germany … and you wonder why we have a word such as ‘schadenfreude’????!!!) and i first discovered it as a stage play (of course with the tiger lillies performing).Ā the mere aural version on its own still conveys much of the stories, as you see poor harriet burn in front of your inner eye and robert flying away in a storm. it is truly exceptional and so much worth a listen (should you ever see it being performed live, i implore you to book a ticket straight away!)!

shockheaded peter

excerpt from shockheaded peter on youtube

good place to start: flying robert, bully boys, the dreadful story about harriet and the matches

 

stay tuned … more music to follow in the near futureĀ asĀ one can never have enough cocktails or culture!

 

simple vegan pleasures … potatoes with chervil

if you fancy a simple dish that is nonetheless full of flavour, slightly roasted potatoes are always a good option – especially when herbs are added.

lightly roasted potatoes with chervil

potatoes

ingredients (for one):

4 medium sized potatoes

1 shallot

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil

bunch of fresh chervil (chopped)

sea salt

chili flakes

peel the potatoes and dice them, then slighly steam them (or boil them in water, they should not be fully cooked but only pre-cooked). meanwhile chop the shallot and the garlic and lighly fry them in the oil. transfer the potatoes with the shallots and garlic into a baking dish, season with sea salt and chili flakes and stir well.

put them into the oven at a moderate heat for about 20 minutes, they should only be ever so slightly brown around the edges and still very much golden in colour. add the chopped chervil, stir and tug in.

this will make a light but carbohydrate-rich lunch and goes well served with a green salad on the side. the chervil will give the potatoes a nice green hint (and aroma), making the dish as pleasant to the eye as it is easy to digest!

marteani … a marriage of cocktail and tea (or the art of infusing gin with tea)!

valentine is over, hence it is the day after being sarcastic. i used the weekend to infuse my own flavoured gin, made from gin and tea. it is quick, fragrant and rich in taste. i actually made two different kinds (as i have heaps of different teas) and afterwards two different cocktails. cocktails first, the recipe for tea infused gin will follow at the very bottom:

earl grey marteani (with a hint of elderflower)

earl grey marteani

ingredients (for one):

5cl earl grey infused gin

2.5cl lime or lemon juice

2 cl elderflower syrup

add all liquids with iceĀ into a cocktail shaker and shake, shake, shake! strain into a martini glass and start sipping like a real gentleman (or lady) …

the elderflower syrup adds a to the heady floral taste from the bergamotte in the earl grey. should you detest elderflower than just substitute with simple syrup or agave nectar. overall it is a very nice blend of flavours and smells divine!

jasmine marteani

jasmineteani

ingredients (for one):

5cl jasmine tea infused gin

1-2cl vermouth with lime flavour (i used cinzano – if you cannot get vermouth that is slightly lime flavoured, then use regular vermouth bianco and add some lime zest)

with this recipe, i stayed much closer to the regular martini by using just gin and vermouth – hence the taste is cleaner and less fruity. add the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake with ice vigorously, then strain into a martini glass. it will have some nice frothy foam on top and looks pretty.

the jasmine martini is headily floral in scent with a flowery but ever so slighly tartĀ note (from the green tea leavesĀ that areĀ used for jasmine tea), which i find very mouthwatering. i think this might become a new favourite of mine and will substitute for a regular martini quite often…

how to make tea infused gin?

it is ever so easy and done in under two hours! all you need is:

350ml* gin (use a regular dry gin that is clean in flavour)

4 tsp aromatic tea leaves (best to use oganic), i.e. earl grey, jasmine…

in a big jar or bottle with a wide top, mix the gin with the dry tea leaves and give it a slight swing around or stir. close the bottle and let the leaves macerate in the spirit for about 60 to 90 minutes (swing around once more during that time), then strain through a sieve. do not squeeze the tea leaves in the sieve, just let them drip off and then discard them. if you squeeze the leaves, your infused gin will turn very bitter as you will extract too much tannine from the tea! the colour of the infused gin will depend on the tea you used, a green tea will be lighter than a black tea (in the picture above you see how dark the earl grey infused gin is, it is the bottle to the left behind the glass).

as i am usually quite bold with flavours, taste the gin while infusing after about 30 minutes (it might have enough flavour by then, according to your tastebuds), as the infusion i made is on the strong side – for a lighter flavour, infuse the gin for a shorter period of time.

et voila, your infused gin is ready to be used in marteanis, g&ts or even pure! you can use any black or green tea you want for infusion, but i would go with teas that have a floral scent as this goes soo well with the herbiness of the gin.

 

*see what i did? as a regular bottle of gin has 700ml, you can get two differently infused gins from one bottle! šŸ™‚

physalis charleston – a ray of bright orange!

sunday is cocktailtime! and time to reinvent a ‘classic’, a charleston cocktail with a twist!

physalis charleston

charleston

ingredients (for one):

six frozen physalis (also known as cape gooseberry or tomatillo)

two tbsp peach liqueur

juice from one clementine

prosecco or cremant (chilled)

first of all, juice the clementine and fill into an icecube tray to freeze (juice should make about three cubes). put in the freezer, as well as the physalis (separately) to have allĀ frozen (will take a couple of hours).

once the physalis are frozen, blend them into a mash in a food processor with the two tbsp of peach liqueur. fill the puree into a cocktail glass (if you don’t like pips, then strain through a sieve beforehand).

meanwhile add the iced clementine juice as well and fill the glass with chilled prosecco or cremant. gently stir it all together (be careful not to be too vigorous … you don’t want it to go flat).

decorate with a fresh physalis and enjoy a cocktail that is as sunny in colour as it is wonderfully fruity in taste (without being too sweet!). makes a great welcome drink for a cocktail party with friends!!!

music that makes me dance … or listen and swoon – a cultural journey from nouveau classical to electronic beats

browsing through my extensive music library which spans many centuries of music, i have beenĀ getting out old and new favourites of mine, which i want to share. keep your ears open and your feet dancing (more or less) to those jewels of music culture:

PHILIP GLASS – songs

philip glass is consideredĀ one of the forerunners of the minimalist movement. his music can often seem repetitive but i also found it multi-faceted and highly absorbing. this two cd-set consists of the song cycle ‘songs for liquid days’ (with lyrics by laurie anderson and suzanne vega amongst others!) and a collection of excerpts from his ‘trilogy’ operas (akhnaten, satyagraha and einstein on the beach). the mix of classical and electronic music is splendid as you have operatic splendour, highly emotionalĀ overtones, bouncing rhythms and more (songs from liquid days is more electronic than songs from the trilogy). it is rounded by vocalists of the highest order (i.e. linda ronstadt and the roches in liquid days and operatic voices such as paul esswood and douglas perry)

(as the two cd set seems out of print, links are to the separate albums)

songs from liquid days

songs from the trilogy

good placeĀ to start: changing opinion & freezing (liquid days) – protest & knee 5 (trilogy)

KATE BUSH – the dreaming

this 1982 album finds kate bush at her most individual and experimental – there is not a single note of mainstream. this is not merely pop, this is musical art and it can take a while to enter the sound world completely as it is such a multitude of sound samples, instruments and melodies that it inhabits a complex universe of its own. but this universe is truly and soundly kate bush! it might not consist of popular hits but it will linger in your ears long after having heard it.

the dreaming

good placeĀ to start: sat in your lap, suspended in gaffa & the dreaming

MARIANNE FAITHFULL – before the poison

marianne faithfull is such a great artist, that whatever she touches nowadays seems to turn into a wonder of feeling and wisdom where every note and word and each and every sigh and hush matters. teaming her up with such innovative artists such as nick cave and pj harvey is here like coating a diamond with platinum. it is raw, sometimes rough but at the same time involving and deeply personal. and the last song of the album with its layers of music boxes is true genius!

before the poisonĀ (or for the actual cd and not merely mp3:Ā before the poison cd)

good placeĀ to start: city of quartz, the mystery of love & there is a ghost

SUFJAN STEVENS – the age of adz

sufjan stevens seems to be able to do whatever he wants musically – folk, rock, neo classical and for this majestic work, he employs electro to amalgamate all into one big soundwall. it is eery with layers and layers of words and music coming together in his own inimitable style. you really need to sit and listen (and you will probably start dancing) as it is no background music! his slightly etheral singing style really floats on the arrangements and culminates in a 25 min epic closing track…

the age of adz

good placeĀ to start: vesuvius, i walked & impossible soul

PATRICK WOLF – the magic position

i came across this by accident years ago, is i found the cover so quirky that i felt the urge to have a listen – and was struck by the vivacy of the music and a voice and songwriting that struck me as deeply unique. even though patrick wolf’s music can be quite dark, this album has a very joyous and life-affirming quality and always does the trick to uplift me energetically if i feel a bit tired. plus it is limb-shakingly wonderful too with its electro beats and violins and pianoĀ and all! (having marianne faithfull as guest vocalist on one track is intriguing too)

the magic position

good placeĀ to start: the magic position, get lost & magpie

ELKE BRAUWEILER – twist in saint tropez

being better know via her band PAULA, elke brauweiler always had an affinity for french music (even with paula, there was aĀ les rita mitsouko cover) and here she flung out to do an album of popular and obscure french music (gainsbourg et al), mostlyĀ in an electronic dress with the occasional guitar thrown in. this is danceĀ musicĀ at its best with its forward-going rhythms. i would call it arty dance music as it is no dancefloor trash. there is an honesty in the presentation that shows the deep love for this kind of french ‘chanson’ (i use the term in the widest possible sense!) and it is truly fabulous.

twist in saint tropez

good placeĀ to start: ouragon, pourquoi tu vis & laisse tomber les filles

KATERINE – mes mauvaises frequentations

i cannot believe that it has already been 20 years since the original release of this gem! french easy listening at its best. katerine later turned more electro but this early album is all french charm and lounge – it feels like a summery breeze where you sit in the shade sipping drinks. nonchalance in its purest form and it will accompany a great cocktail party with friends as well as a lighthearted evening at home.

mes mauvaises frequentations

good placeĀ to start: mon coeur balance, parlez vous anglais mr katerine & les grands magasins

JANE BIRKIN – rendez-vous

english by birth but somehow a ‘french’ nouvelle vague icon (via her relationship with serge gainsbourg and the notoriety of their single je t’aime moi non plus), she never had a strongĀ singing voice, but what she has, she uses in a very artsy way. to make much of little, she teamed up with partners such as bryan ferry, feist, brian molko, francoise hardy and mickey 3d for this album and the finished product is a multifaceted mixture of glacial style and french cool. it is a very rewarding listen and sounds to me like the aural equivalent of an arthouse film (with some added selfmockeryĀ in the first track!).

rendez-vous

good placeĀ to start: je m’appelle jane, t’as pas leĀ droit d’avoir moins mal que moi & pour un flirt avec toi

… more cultural highlights to follow soon – there is still the need for tori amos, my brightest diamond and many more hidden gems! plus another venture into classical music is long overdue. food for the ears šŸ™‚

vatican for pleasure … or how even catholicism turns into a (vegan) cocktail!

as it is carnival season in the cologne area (don’t ask, if you were not born in the area you will not understand. i was not born in the area. i don’t understand and don’t really appreciate the why?!) the streets will this thursday be filled with dressed up people who mostly are drunk before noon. even though it does not get me festive, it gives me an excuse to become cocktaily again – though not before noon!

the vatican is a very colourful cocktail with only a couple of ingredients but lots of flavour. no idea where the name comes from, but the flavourĀ is good enough in itself: a bit sweet and a bit spicy. sounds strange? tastes splendid!

vatican

ingredients (for one cocktail):

4 frozen strawberries

4cl vodka

1cl fresh lime juice

dash of sugar syrup (optional, depending on how sweet the strawberries are)

pepper (freshly ground from the mill)

in a blender, mix all ingredients (apart from the pepper) together until you have a smooth liquid (it only takes a couple of seconds). transfer to a cocktail shaker and shake with a couple of ice cubes, then strain into a cocktail glass.

grind some pepper on top of it (if you like it really spicy, chili flakes are fine too). then sip it and enjoy the pepper giving it a slight tingling which really complements the sweetness of the strawberries!

personally, i would prefer this as an after-dinner drink as it is too sweet for an aperitif. the sweetness mainly coming from the strawberries, means it is headily fruity rather than sticky-sweet. plus it will make you happy.