6 September 2023 · Discover ckbk
It’s standard practice to head to the cookbook shelf when you fancy something a little bit different for dinner, but have you ever considered doing the same when it comes to drinks? There are so many ways to expand your beverage repertoire across a surprising number of categories. You can find more than 3,000 drinks recipes listed on ckbk to suit all tastes and all occasions. Dive in with me and let’s look at some of the highlights.
At the heart of the matter, beer is a fermented drink made from four basic ingredients; water, yeast, malt and hops. But this simplicity belies the great versatility of the category. Beer cocktails have never found the popularity that they deserve, in my opinion, but there are some stone-cold classics out there just waiting for you to try. The Black Velvet, for example, combines Guinness (or any Irish stout) with Champagne or Prosecco and really helps the fruity flavours of that darkest of beers to open up.
The classic Mexican Michelada too is a chronically underrated drink that is endlessly customisable. This spiced drink combines beer with tomato juice and lime and is served in a salt-rimmed glass. A perfect alternative to a Bloody Mary when you are enjoying a decadent brunch. Dial up the flavour even further with Ivy Stark’s vibrant Beer and Clamtomato Juice recipe from the excellent Dos Caminos Mexican Street Food.
Of course, you might like to make your own beer, rather than mix it. If so, Roger Philips’ Wild Food from 1986 is still an absolute goldmine of wonderful recipes that use foraged ingredients and don’t require a lot of specialist equipment. It’s nice to be able to dip your toe in without committing yourself to a full-blown homebrewing set-up! I particularly like the Spruce Beer recipe which uses fragrant spruce tips in place of hops and dark treacle to provide the fermentable sugars that traditionally come from malt.
Professional bartenders learn their craft through years of training and tasting. Happily, some of the best have distilled all of their knowledge into the most wonderful and easy-to-follow recipes so you can prepare decadent drinks at home.
Some cocktails have really stood the test of time. Classics like the refreshing Bellini or intense and intriguing Negroni have been delighting drinkers for generations. However, you can also serve up a glass of surprise with some more contemporary takes. I adore Aya Nishimura’s Nashi Pear, Sake & Shiso frozen cocktail because it takes fantastic fragrant Japanese ingredients that were rarely available a decade ago, and makes something modern and delicious from them. Happily, these ingredients are much easier for many of us to source now. Try adding shiso leaves to a classic Mojito for a delightful twist.
Of course, cocktails don’t have to contain alcohol to taste fantastic. I love Ariane Resnick’s The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Drinking with its easy-going approach to mindful drinking. Her alcohol-free Kimmy Gimlet combines the punch of lime juice with the herbal fragrance of basil to create a delightful drink.
Tread with caution when starting on the path of fermented drinks. Many find that it is a hobby that soon grows into an obsession. As well as including that hippest of beverages, kombucha, the fermented drinks category includes some really interesting traditional drinks from different parts of the globe. View a dazzling array of options in ckbk’s featured collection of kombucha recipes.
Naturally Asa Simonsson’s book Fermentation: How to make your own sauerkraut, kimchi, brine pickles, kefir, kombucha, vegan dairy and more is a seminal reference work for this category. In fact, it was named the Best Fermentation Cookbook in the world by Gourmand International. It gives you the lowdown on the equipment you will need to experiment with home fermenting, as well as suggests some approachable recipes, like Asa’s Simple Lemon Water Kefir.
While Kombucha is a fermented drink that combines tea and sugar with yeast and bacteria as well as your choice of juice, spices or other flavourings, kvass is a fermented cereal-based drink that comes from the northeast of Europe. You can use up any seasonal fruit in a kvass, but the strawberry kvass suggested by Stephanie Thurow is particularly delicious on a hot summer afternoon.
Smoothies aren’t just for kids, although having some tried and trusted recipes on hand is sure to be a winner when you want something to do as a family that yields delicious results! Alice Hart’s blackberry milkshake can be made with frozen yoghurt, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream to give it a more decadent texture.
Take inspiration from Ethiopia with Jasmine Hemsley’s amazing Suff recipe. This sunflower seed smoothie is made with rose water and gives you the opportunity to take a middle-of-the-road smoothie and make it into something really special. Transport yourself to the Indian subcontinent with a cooling Lassi, a yoghurt-based smoothie that is a really great way to use up any unexpected glut of soft fruit. The Mango Lassi is my favourite variant, and Nisha Katona’s recipe is a great place to begin if you’d like to explore it for yourself.
If you have a juicer gathering dust in the cupboard, perhaps it is time to find a new inspiration. Tasos Gaitano and Alex Large’s new book Brunch with Brother Marcus shares some of the most popular dishes from the acclaimed London restaurant’s repertoire. This includes their legendary Green Juice recipe, which gives a refreshing and healthy drink that classic Easter Mediterranean twist.
There’s no reason that tea should be boring, as the relentless craze for bubble tea shows. Making your own at home is a piece of cake - once you know how to handle those tapioca pearls. Check Hinnerk von Bargen’s Street Foods for all the details.
If you are looking for something with a little more refinement, Yvette van Boven’s rhubarb iced tea is a sure-fire winner. The recipe is particularly helpful as it includes store-bought tea which makes it much easier to whip up from ingredients you already have.
Everyone should have a solid lemonade recipe in their back pocket for a scorching summer afternoon, and Tessa Kiros’s version gives you a great building block on which you can add your own flair. If you are put off from making your own lemonade because of the sugar content, Bobby Parrish helpfully offers up a diabetic and keto-friendly sugar-free recipe in his Flavcity’s Five Ingredient Meals.
If you fancy something refreshing, but with a little more kick, then look to the Caribbean for inspiration. Virginia Burke’s ginger beer recipe squeezes every drop of flavour from root ginger to bring a little pitcher of sunshine to your kitchen counter.
Jancis Robinson’s seminal work, the Oxford Companion to Wine, is the best place to jump into the incredible array of wine styles that are available, giving you the how and why of all aspects of wine production and tasting. Whether you are completely new to the subject or something of an old hand, there’s sure to be something new to discover as Robinson covers all aspects of winemaking, including varieties, processes and key regions.
If that has left you wanting more, why not have a go at making your own wine? Elderflower wine is not only simple to make, but also the ingredients are readily foraged for free in the spring. The same applies to delicious blackberry wine later in the year.
That may sound like a little too much effort. If so, perhaps a Champagne cocktail is more your style? The Official Downtown Abbey Cocktail Book features a range of recipes that open a door to the past, with an introduction by food historian Annie Gray. One of my favourites is the Champagne Cobbler, a crushed ice drink from the 19th century that will keep you cool on the hottest days.
If you have found some helpful inspiration here, now it’s time to step your drinks game up a notch with some fantastic food pairings. There are some wonderful suggestions in previous ckbk features, including - might I modestly suggest - my own tribute to the flavours and flexibility of rich, deep stout.
The late Richard Olney wrote evocatively about how to pair food and wine in his work Ten Vineyard Lunches. Dive into this feature that lays out the key French wine regions which he highlights with recommendations for wines to pair with some beautifully simple locally inspired recipes.
If a wee dram is more your style, then peruse Ghillie Basan’s expert insight into the most amazing food and whisky pairings in Spirit & Spice. The book is peppered with tales of her own family life in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Her writing gives a valuable insight into the bounty of Scotland’s unique larder, using spice cookery to give a new approach to some old favourites.
Why not add the the whole collection to your favorites