Monaco Martini

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a tiny little obsession with Formula 1. Fast cars, cutting-edge technology, glamourous lifestyle and, erm, the drivers aren’t bad either. What’s not to like?

I had a half-chance to go to the Monaco Grand Prix this year, pretty cheaply too, but I couldn’t be away because I was graduating; although somehow I’m still a student. The only way to feel a bit of the Monaco glamour was to brave the post-graduation-party hangover on Sunday noon and make myself a Martini while watching the race.

I had this cocktail in Minneapolis, where Hendrick’s Gin seemed to be surprisingly popular, but I had already had a few g&ts by then and I can’t remember what it was called. I’m just going to call it My Monaco Martini and hope no one gets angry with me with some copyright issues. But if you do know the real name, or have a more exciting suggestion to make, please let me know in the comments.

My Monaco Martini


45 ml Hendrick’s Gin
25 ml Chambord
a squeeze of half a lemon

Shaken, not stirred, with some ice. Strain into a martini glass. Enjoy (responsibly).

A couple of notes:

  • If you haven’t got Hendrick’s use another gin, but make sure it’s a high-quality smooth one, since there will be no tonic to mask any harshness. I had run out of Hendrick’s so used Tanqueray 10 instead, but I still think it’s better with Hendrick’s.
  • If you haven’t got Chambord, use some other raspberry liqueur, but keep in mind that the end result might be different as this is made from black raspberries and it has a slight bitter aftertaste after the initial sweetness.

It’s surprisingly easy to drink given the amount of alcohol in it. You’ve been warned.

Somada or The Drink that Makes Me Homesick

Somada (or Soumada, as it is called in other areas of Greece) is a non-alcoholic drink made with almonds and sugar.

The real version is made with some bitter almonds mixed in too, and I really think this is what makes the difference. I’ve had Somada from the Mastiha Shop before, and it really didn’t taste right at all. Bitter almonds contain hydrogen cyanide which is lethal if consumed in large enough quantities, which really is true about everything in this world. Unfortunately, in the case of bitter almonds, a couple of dozens are enough.

You don’t need that many to make Somada. I also think that heat removes it, but don’t take my word for it. If you make this at home, the easiest thing to do is use bitter almond extract, as it will be quite tricky to find bitter almonds.

The general idea is to grind the almonds into a paste, place them in muslin and soak them in water, so that the water gets all the flavour and juices. Then, you add the sugar – a silly amount of sugar, but it needs it- and boil it so it reduces down to a thick liquid.

Somada is served in a short glass mixed with cold water. You can drink it just like that, but the best bit is dipping paximadia in it:

I feel like I should have more memories of this one: It’s one of the most traditional drinks back home, but all I remember is talking about it rather than drinking it. I tried it a couple of times as a teenager and didn’t really like it, but grew to love it later on. If you get the chance to try authentic somada, give it a go, it’s brilliant. Even better if you have it in a traditional cafe.

Happy Hour

Being a hard-working (!) PhD student, you have to look forward to the social event of the week, happy hour. I know it sounds bad: lots of mathmos drinking beer in the maths department. But, it’s actually surprisingly social. And the drinks are cheap. And nice, since I choose them.

Now, I love beer and I’m not a cider fan. I’m not a cider-drinker fan either. So, when people requested some cider on the happy hour menu, I got a bit annoyed. Anyway, I know I said I don’t like people that choose cider over beer, but sometimes you have to accept your friends with their flaws, and that’s what I’ve done with my French friend who has been introduced to the concept of pubs but still can’t get her head round beer. Weird.

Her favourite is Henney’s Frome Valley cider. Since it has been available at happy hour, it’s one of the most popular drinks. It comes from Frome in Herefordshire. You can get sweet, medium or dry. I’ve only tried the dry one, and it’s awesome. At first it tastes like apple juice, fruity and sweet, but the aftertaste is crisp and dry. In Paul’s words (see picture): It’s GOOD. And he isn’t a cider drinker either.