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Sweet, sour, booze.

This little triptych of ingredients form the basis for a wealth of cocktails and mixed drinks that have been adored, pored over and modified since such a time that these recipes were recorded. We know the ones: sidecar, daiquiri, margarita; and we know the genres: swizzles, fixes, rickeys. All have been ripped in two and rebuilt with cut bases of spirits, flavoured syrups, botanical enhancements, fire and smoke, alchemy and voodoo. One thing that remains largely untouched however, is one of those three key elements: the sour. Lemon and lime (occasionally grapefruit) sit unchallenged at the heart of all.

In recent times bartenders have talked to chefs and equated themselves with verjus, the pungent sour grape juice used in many a demi-glace. But what if you wanted to delve a little more deep into getting as creative with your sours as you can with this sweet-infused syrups. Enter kombucha. Something we’ve been growing, harvesting and using as a sour base for the past two years.

It’s hard to declare this a niche product anymore - bottled, flavoured kombucha adorn every Whole Foods spin-off from here to Dumfries. However, for best results we reckon it’s best to make your own. Here’s for why:

  • Bottled kombucha is a lot more expensive than lemon or lime (won’t anyone think of the GP!) making your own will cost you peanuts, just a little time and love :)

  • Kombucha is a live culture, this means if you’ve done it right it will be unstable and change a lot over a matter of days. Whilst there are loads of adequate products on the shelf a lot is lost in the bottling process for mass-consumption. This is an evolving, living, fermented tea so, to get the most punch out of your booch you need to make your own and monitor it carefully!

  • You can add whatever flavour you want and get a sour juice to play with! Our current iteration contains seaweed, bonito fish flakes, yuzu and miso. The result is a crisp, saline, acidic treat.

And here’s for how:

  • Get a SCOBY; you can find these online or you can come and get off of us :-) And a 3L kilner jar. A bit like a goldfish, your SCOBY ( a culture of yeast and bacteria that looks like something out Aliens) will grow to fit it’s surrounds and then start making extra SCOBYs you can rip off and give to your friends!

  • Mix up 2 litres of Oolong tea (the SCOBY likes an Oolong) with 300g caster sugar (this is important - complex sugars are not preferable as your SCOBY will struggle to break them down). Oh, and use proper diluted water, not tap water; limescale and chlorine are no good here.

  • Place your SCOBY in it’s (sterilised!) jar and add the tea. DO NOT SEAL THE JAR! It needs to breathe. Just place some double layer muslin cloth over the top and rubber band to hold it. After two weeks drain off the tea, clean out the jar and add a fresh batch. You can leave a little of the tea in the base of the jar. If handling the SCOBY be sure to wash your hands in something like Cider vinegar to sterilise them.

  • With your drained kombucha tea you should be tasting something pretty pungent and sour. If it doesn’t knock you back a bit it probably hasn’t been fermenting for long enough so put it back for a few days more. Once happy, this is the stuff you can start adding flavours too. Experiment with batching it in 500 ml brass lidded kilner jars. For each jar add a tablespoon or 2 of fresh juice and some other bits and pieces: cut fruit, ginger, honey, herbs, insects, seaweed etc. Seal for three days and then strain through a double sheet of muslin. Viola. If you want something fizzy, add more sugar at the start.

  • The key thing is that even the drained tea will contain trace element of your SCOBY that will continue fermenting and growing in the second batch, so the juice should keep evolving toward sour; but, it’s definitely good for up to a week. Don’t seal your eventual juice as this could turn it fizzy too (unless that’s what you want).

For reference our current Ponzu Kombucha goes like this:

In a sterile 500 ml brass lidded kilner jar, add:

  • 6 g kombu seaweed

  • 1 tbsp yuzu juice

  • 1 tbsp white miso paste

  • 1 tbsp bonito flakes

Pour over raw kombucha tea up to the line; seal and date. Strain each lidded jar after 3 days through double muslin cloth.

Drink Your Christmas Tree

By the time this reaches you it may, nay probably will, already be too late.

12 day advocates will have diligently dispensed with decor and festive firs on Sunday gone (or Saturday depending on your interpretation). If however, like us, you’ve slumped into January with a month long hangover and about as much energy for clearing out your now unwanted relics of the festive fortnight as a doped sloth, this could be for you. Summon your inner strength, be that you you blabbed on about up to midnight on new years, grab your shears (or buy some) and get trimming!


Please note, we used a whole tree for this as we’re batching for a 3 month menu in a commercial bar. This took a long time. Home enthusiasts can scale down and appropriate something much quicker.

First up check your tree is not poisonous before you batch to bottles and kill your friends. From our understanding anything with red berries is bad, or Yew in the title. Firs tend to be OK. Ours was a hardy Nordmann Fir that had been up for a month; drying out but still retaining that magic aroma.

Trim down some branches and get picking the pines needles, you don’t need to be too delicate here but try to avoid twigs and stray bits of plastic decor. Ideally we want the needles loosely chopped to release the scent but if you’re working with a pretty dried out tree this should come quite naturally through picking. Once you have a satisfactory amount of needles in a pot or measuring jug (bearing in mind that your harvest will yield about double that amount in syrup) rinse the leaves thoroughly under the tap with several blasts of cold water (at least until the water runs clean) and set aside to dry out. We picked 15 pints worth of needles. To put in context: that’s about two seasons and an aneurysm worth of Friends looping inanely in the background while two of us set to work. You needn’t exert yourself this hard. No-one needs to go through this.


Once you have your ‘chopped’ needles, have restored sanity to your fingertips and have measured out your pickings it’s time to make syrup. We work to equal parts pine:water:sugar. So whatever fluid volume of pine needles you have apply that to water and granulated sugar too. Using the same measuring jug here helps. Buy some water from the shop that’s been filtered as tap water will kill off your creation much quicker and get some decent sugar from some-place nice. This goes without saying really; it doesn’t need to be a wafty life-choice that spawns corduroy and a beard, just don’t-be-a-dick-in-2019.

Mix the sugar and water and bring slowly to the boil while stirring constantly. If you don’t do this the sugar will sit at the bottom of the pan and just caramelise. Heat low and slow because you don’t want too much water to evaporate. Once you hit boiling point that’s the time to get the pine in. But, instead of taking off the heat immediately, ramp it up for a sec until you feel it boiling properly again. Adding cold needles to hot syrup will bring the temperature down. We want all the needles to feel that high heat to kill off any undesirables so it’s worth going hard on the hob for a second or two.

Mix everything together thoroughly, squeeze in a little lemon juice (this will help preserve), mix again and then set aside to steep for up to 24 hours. You check intermittently on your work for potency by lifting the lid and copping a smell. Winter in Lapland: good - wet dog: bad (don’t pick up dead trees from the street!)

Once you’re happy strain through muslin cloth (twice) and part into sealed glass bottles in the fridge. This should keep for up to 3 months.

We add CBD extract to ours but how would be telling ☃︎