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Happy New Year: Debauchery or Bust

My finest (or worst) hour came one Christmas not so long ago in a rather bleak farmhouse in North Wales. A mixture of inclement weather, excellent company, laziness and a rather impressive stash of fine wine and food saw my body-weight rise by seven pounds over the course of Christmas week. If you are reading this and fear that you too have let debauchery get the better of you then I suggest that you pay a visit to your local bookstore and buy yourself something with a title similar to: ‘New Year, New Me’. If the idea of newness or de-toxing quackery fills you with dread then the only thing I can suggest is a couple of simple cocktails with which to charge both your glass and flagging energy levels. Be brave, clench fists, it’s nearly January.

  1. Virgin Mary

Tomato juice
Lemon juice to taste
Celery salt, ditto
Worcestershire sauce, ditto
Black pepper, you get the picture
Tabasco, this is your drink, you decide how spicy you want it
A stick of Celery

Mix all ingredients in a high ball and wait for someone to bring you a sandwich.

Forget the ‘Corpse Reviver’ and the ‘Apothecary’ you are not dead and nobody wants to drink medicine (although I did like Buttercup Syrup) the best pick me up is the Martini.

  1. Martini

Chill the Martini glasses
Chill the Gin
Half fill a jug with ice cubes
Stir in a measure of dry vermouth
Stir until aromatic
Drain/strain the vermouth from the ice (down the sink)
Add a double measure of your favourite Gin to the vermouth kissed ice
Stir again
Pour into the chilled glasses
Garnish with a green olive or two (or if you prefer – I’m not sure why you would – omit the olives and add a twist of lemon)

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The W Taipei

Although no longer the newest big hotel in town (the Mandarin Oriental is the wearer of that crown) the W remains Sniff’s favourite.

The secret is in the service, the ease with which anyone can navigate the drinks/wine-list and the relaxed and hip hedonism that pervades the bar space here. Too many Taipeian establishments remain mired in the past, sporting onerous beverage menus that make little sense, are intimidating and bear no relation to the environment (the bar or restaurant) that they are representing. The W exists without a sommelier, and I like a good sommelier, so a great deal of credit must go to Kenny Miau (W’s Beverage and Food manager) for providing a list that is extensive yet compact enough not to warrant the expense.

I have to confess some bias here as a friend and ex-student of mine, the excellent Nancy Wang works in the W’s top floor Yen restaurant where both commanding views over the city and great food can be had. The employment of skilled people like Nancy, who has worked for luminaries such as Gordon Ramsey, helps explain why the W offers an experience that is so easy to appreciate by both those from within and outside of Asia. They know what they are doing.

On speaking with the knowledgeable and affable Cary Gray (W’s General Manager), I was keen to ascertain the top performing drinks at the W. On the wine front these are Kim Crawford’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. They also sell a wide variety of cocktails with the ‘Flirtini’ their best-seller. I’m more of an ‘Old-Fashioned’ kind of guy but for those in search of voguish modernity, the W should be visited, just remember to book.

Listed below are the W’s biggest selling tipples, plus my favourite…

Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2013,12.5%
Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: Stainless steel, this is all about the fruit
Note: Clean and fresh with passion-fruit and pink grapefruit. Very Marlborough and very suitable accompaniment to Taipei’s sub-tropical climate.
Price at the W: 2500NT per bottle, 500NT per glass (plus service)
Score: 16/20

Veuve Clicquot Yellow label, Champagne, N.V, 12%Grape: 50% Pinot Noir with the balance made up of Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay
Wine-making: On lees for at least two years
Note: Classic, biscuity style of Champagne that is dangerously easy to drink due in part to the lack of any acidic bite (a result of the dosage’s effect of rounding out the seam of acidity that underpins this Grand Marque).
Price at the W: 4800NT per bottle, 690 per glass (plus service)
Score: 16/20

The Flirtini: How to make one, courtesy of the W.

30 mls of Raspberry Vodka
15mls of Cointreau (Triple Sec )
30mls of Pineapple Juice
20mls of Raspberry Puree
5ml of Lime Juice

The Mix Method:
Add all ingredients to the mixing glass (a Boston Shaker is what you need)
Add ice and shake well
Strain into a chilled Martini Glass

Redcurrant if you have them to hand…

Price at the W: 400NT
Score: another please!


The ‘Old-Fashioned’, this recipe is lifted from the great Charles Schumann’s ‘American Bar’

1 sugar cube
dashes of Angostura bitters
2oz of Bourbon
Stemmed Cherry

The Mix Method:
Place sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass (a tumbler)
Saturate with the bitters
Add orange and lemon wedges
Press with a pestle or muddler
Add Bourbon
Stir well, add ice cubes, top with soda
Stir again and garnish with cherry

Price: This is priceless, my go-to cocktail
Score: With good bourbon and patience when stirring (you need some of the water in the ice to melt) this is a 19/20.

Sniff NL Bottle Block

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Something for the Weekend 3

With the weather about to break in Taipei and rain forecast for tomorrow, this may be the last day for a while that’s still heavy with the heat of summer. On such sultry days a weekend is most impressively started with a cocktail – especially if it is wine based. The Bellini, a mix of peach puree and Prosecco made famous by Harry’s Bar in Venice, is as easy to make as it is to drink. Purists will say that the peaches should be white but I have made Bellinis with yellow fleshed varieties and with nectarines and they always taste great. Just remember to skin them first, no one wants fur in their fizz.

So here is Sniff’s version of the Venetian Classsic.

For six

1 Bottle of Prosecco Extra Dry or Brut (no sweeter).
Four white peaches skinned and pureed until very smooth in a food processor.

That’s it for the traditional version, Sniff ‘improves’ the original by adding:

8 cl’s of Peach Liqueur – we use iichiko’s from their bar range.
Juice of half to one lemon (dependent on the sweetness of your peaches and Prosecco – helps give the drink a lift).

To serve:
Fill a flute with approximately a third of the puree and top slowly with Prosecco. Stir, drink and…you will probably want another so you might want to double the recipe.