Toasting a round of cocktails in a bar

The world of travel retail is full of delicious delights perfect for luxurious libations. In this article, David T Smith has a look at the spirits on offer and makes some globe-trotting suggestions for how you can enjoy them.  

Old Fashioned cocktail

Brandy: Toblerone Old Fashioned

The Toblerone chocolate bar has been a staple in travel retail for decades and this drink pays homage to it.

  • 60 ml brandy
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 3-4 dashes chocolate bitters

Add the sugar and bitters to a mixing glass, add a splash of water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add ice and the brandy, then stir until chilled. Strain into a pre-chilled tumbler containing more ice and garnish with a small Toblerone (or one piece from a larger bar).

The choice of brandy depends upon where you are travelling to. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland will have Asbach, whilst South Africa has brands such as Van Ryn’s, and Spain has Torres. Of course, wherever you are, you should be able to pick up a nice VS or VSOP Cognac, which works wonderfully in this cocktail. 

A Rum and Tonic cocktail with lime garnish

Rum: Mr Hannam’s Holiday

Rum, like gin, is made around the world, from the Caribbean to South America, Southeast Asia to Europe, and even in the UK, so wherever you travel, there’s bound to be a local(ish) brand to enjoy. 

In another parallel to gin, rum mixes especially well with tonic to create a refreshing long drink, which may be of particular interest to those who find Rum & Cola a bit sickly. This cocktail is a specific variation on the Rum & Tonic.

  • 50ml rum
  • Tonic or sparkling water
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ lime

Into a big balloon glass, squeeze half a lemon and half a lime. Add the empty shells to the glass, too. Add the rum, then fill the glass with ice and top up with tonic water. For a lighter drink, you could replace the tonic with sparkling water. 

Pisco: Passport to Peru

Unaged grape brandy can be found in many wine-producing countries. Italy has grappa, whilst others tend to have marc or pomace brandy, and for Chile and Peru, it’s pisco. South American piscos use particularly aromatic grape varieties, creating a notably unique spirit. This cocktail is a fruity number and a nod to one of Peru’s most famous fictional characters.

  • 50ml pisco
  • 10ml sweet vermouth
  • 1 tsp orange marmalade

Add all of the ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously, then fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

A fragrant and fruity drink with a delightful herbal complexity from the vermouth and a bitter sweetness from the marmalade, which is as good in a cocktail as it is in a sandwich – I’ll save mine for later!

Alexander cocktail

Tequila: Alejandro

Mexico is a popular holiday destination for many folk and, if a vacation is not a time for decadence, then when is? This simple drink is a variation on the Alexander.

  • 25ml blanco tequila
  • 25ml creme de cacao
  • 20ml double cream

Add the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously, before straining into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The result is a seriously decadent drink with a gentle smokiness and creamy chocolate notes – dessert in a glass.

A sparkling wine cocktail

Bitters: Underberg Royale

A perennial in travel retail, Underberg is one of those things that many people see without knowing what it is really for. These small green-topped, brown-paper-wrapped bottles contain 20ml of digestive bitters, which in my experience do wonders for a hangover. 

It’s worth noting that they can still be enjoyed the night before the morning after, however.

  • 5-10 ml Underberg Bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • Sparkling wine (brut – whatever is local)

Add the sugar cube to a champagne flute and douse with half a bottle or so of Underberg. Top up with the wine.

Pina Colada cocktail

Gin: Gina Colada

This gin version of the Pina Colada works especially well with the Hendrick’s travel exclusive, Amazonia: a gin “infused with tropical flavours, inspired by a botanical quest to a South American rainforest”. The exact botanicals are not disclosed, but the gin is full of succulent flavours such as pineapple, mango, and papaya.

  • 40 ml Amazonia Gin
  • 60 ml pineapple juice
  • 30 ml cream of coconut
  • 10 ml sugar syrup (optional)

Add the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously, before straining into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pineapple ring and cherry combo.

The fruity tropical notes of the gin go particularly well with the succulent pineapple and indulgent cream in this cocktail. As the gin is less sweet than rum, some drinkers may like to add a splash of sugar syrup.

Whiskey Sour cocktail

Smoky Whisky: Smoked Honey Sour

This drink is a creation of Steph DiCamillo of Cocktails By Mail, in this case made with the travel exclusive Johnnie Walker Island Green. This is a blend of single malt whiskies, but with a greater influence from Caol Ila than the original Green Label.

  • 50 ml Johnnie Walker Island Green (or other smoky whisky)
  • 25 ml honey syrup (two parts honey, one part boiling water; stir and cool)
  • 25 ml fresh lemon juice

Add the ingredients to a mixing glass and stir vigorously, then strain into an ice-filled tumbler and garnish with a long, thin strip of lemon peel.

The smoky notes of the whisky integrate well with the mellow honey, whilst the citrus gives a balancing lift.

This article was first published in Travelux issue 2 in September 2022.

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