Ran­dom spir­its lurk­ing in your liquor cab­i­net? Mike Ben­nie gets cre­ative to find a use for all of them (well, al­most).

delicious - - CONTENTS - @mikeben­nie101 @mikeben­nie101 de­li­cious.com.au/drinks To pe­ruse more of Mike’s favourite drinks.

Un­leash your hid­den cock­tail skills.

STAN­TON & KILLEEN CLAS­SIC RUTHER­GLEN MUS­CAT 12 YEARS, $35 Be it for Gran to have a tip­ple of, to spike a dessert (pour it over ice cream and watch it sing!) or just to lux­u­ri­ate with in front of a fire, Ruther­glen Mus­cat is a won­der­ful thing. Think lush, dense, liq­ue­fied Xmas pud­ding in style. Magic.

CY­NAR, $25 Cy­nar is a bit­ter Ital­ian liqueur made from 13 botan­i­cals; the dom­i­nant base is ar­ti­choke. Don’t baulk at that, it’s one of the most de­li­cious di­ges­tifs go­ing. Some serve it with a wedge of orange over soda, but I like it chilled, neat, and downed as a sin­gle shot.


CAS­SIS, $53 Vedrenne makes some of the best spir­its around, and this is a pro­foundly good ex­am­ple. In­com­pa­ra­ble for its main­lin­ing of black­cur­rant aro­mas and flavours, cas­sis is bril­liant in Kir Royale cock­tails where you add a splash to Cham­pagne or sparkling wine. De­li­cious!

VOK TRIPLE SEC, $25 If you rum­mage through any col­lec­tion of spir­its, you’re bound to find triple sec gath­er­ing dust. Usu­ally it’s the cheaper end, too. Vok is a bar­gain in the triple sec stakes, de­liv­er­ing just the right or­angey tang to spike a Mar­garita Cos­mopoli­tan (re­mem­ber those?!) or Mai Tai. TWENTY THIRD STREET DIS­TILLERY NOT YOUR NANNA’S BRANDY, $55 Brandy has a pretty daggy vibe and, in­deed, a bit of a rep for be­ing Nan’s choice of drink. Bot­tles lan­guish in drinks cab­i­nets, but with class ex­am­ples like this, bust out the triple sec and lemon juice, and whip up a classy Side­car.


BIANCO, $45 Grappa is the bane of my cab­i­net. It turns up in the back, in an oddly shaped bot­tle, and seems to mul­ti­ply. Fear not: a wise Ital­ian friend re­minded me that caffè

cor­retto, an espresso with a belt of grappa in it, is how he starts his day. It’s also great af­ter a long din­ner.

THERE’S A COM­MON un­der­stand­ing that to be a great home cook you have to be able to throw to­gether a de­cent meal from the left­overs in a fridge and pantry. The magic of be­ing able to walk into any kitchen, spot a clutch of in­gre­di­ents and pro­duce some­thing edi­ble is cer­tainly an at­tribute I ad­mire in peo­ple.

What most don’t think about is how that might also work for the hum­ble liquor cab­i­net. Sure, you might be up to speed on ar­ti­san gin, small-batch bour­bon or Tas­ma­nian sin­gle malt, but what about the dusty flot­sam and jet­sam of bot­tles lurk­ing in the nethers of that cup­board?

While in­ves­ti­gat­ing this story, I brushed away cob­webs from the creak­ing doors of my liquor cab­i­net, reached gin­gerly into the back, re­coiled at some­thing furry, then dragged out 10 or so bot­tles to in­ves­ti­gate.

Brandy! Wow, haven’t had a sip since flog­ging a nip from my dad’s high­est-filled spirit bot­tles to make rocket fuel in my wan­ton child­hood. South African moon­shine? Some­one was play­ing a bad joke on me at a din­ner party some­where last century. South­ern Com­fort? I shud­der look­ing at the la­bel. Ad­vo­caat? Well, I don’t think a bot­tle of the stuff has been opened since flares and fon­due were in fash­ion.

The left­overs of the liquor cab­i­net are typ­i­cally a mine­field of re-gifted bot­tles and hard-to-drink, un­usual-in-ap­pli­ca­tion spir­its that mostly are left stand­ing sen­try while the front of the cup­board shuf­fles in and out with mirth­ful reg­u­lar­ity.

What is left un­said is that those spir­its left want­ing do have a pur­pose. Brandy makes friends in some of the world’s best cock­tails. Moon­shine is a won­der­ful talk­ing point and can be dressed up with cola. South­ern Com­fort had a small re­nais­sance when peo­ple found it ac­tu­ally works well in punch. And Ad­vo­caat, well, that’s a toughy, but if you like Fluffy Ducks, go for it.

With that in mind, here’s a neat se­lec­tion of liqueurs and spir­its that might just help in­spire you to work through that rus­tic back cat­a­logue of booze.

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