“First off, there’s the petite evening accessory… these tend to be as intricately embellished as a Fabergé egg and… only marginally more useful.
But, gosh, they’re an unbeatable dose of unmitigated luxury – the style equivalent of a shot of gold-leaf vodka (yes, there is such a thing).”
-Anna Murphy, in The Times, talking of an Alexander McQueen Swarovski embellished Royal Scull clutch, price £2,595
Today is the Christian feast of the epiphany – a word deriving from the ancient Greek meaning ‘revelation’. It’s the day on which the three wise men followed the star and made their way to Bethlehem. According to this beautiful Ravenna mosaic in the basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the donor of the gold was Gaspar.
I have to admit that this gold-inspired drink is, if not exactly a revelation to me, at least a surprise. How did I come to invent it?
It was partly a matter of ‘necessity being the mother….etc’.
My daughter has a penchant for drinking Smirnoff Gold on Christmas Eve. This vodka is described on the Tesco’s website as:
“inspired by the opulence of the Tsars of Russia and their passion for gold, Smirnoff Gold is the perfect luxury liqueur made with Smirnoff No.21 premium vodka with a hint of cinnamon flavourings and garnished with real edible gold leaf.”
Yes – around Christmas and New Year it’s readily available in most supermarkets and costs only about £18 a bottle.
I love the gold flakes but in addition of the other ingredients there is also an awful lot of sugar….. so the big question was what to do with it to make it drinkable….
My approach for inventing wise man Gaspar’s thrice gold cocktail
I went back to the first principles of cocktails – they need a bit of ‘sweet’ – well, this tipple had that in spades so building block one was there.
They need a bit of ‘strong’ as well, and at 37.5% ABV Smirnoff Gold can provide some force.
They need bitters. If I had had some orange bitters I would have added five or six drops of those. Unfortunately I only had Angostura to hand, but as it happened this turned out to be an excellent substitution.
It lacked subtlety. I added champagne (or rather some reasonably-priced rather good sparkling wine, see champagne cocktails) – four to five parts to the one part of the gold-flecked vodka.
It still needed a touch more flavour and a bit of colour – I twisted some thin orange peel over the surface, and then used it to decorate the glass.
Do I prefer this to the classic Grand Marnier, bitters and sugar cube champagne cocktail? It’s different – and the cinnamon and gold make it especially Christmassy, so yes, not all the time perhaps, but for a glittery winter occasion it would be perfect.
Recipe for Wise Man Gaspar’s Thrice Gold Cocktail
- 4-5 parts chilled Champagne (or sparkling wine)
- 1 part Smirnoff Gold
- 5 drops Angostura or orange bitters
- Small piece of orange peel
- Mix first three ingredients together in a chilled glass
- Twist the orange peel over the liquid
- And use to garnish the glass
Listen to some music by Gypsy Kings, or to When I Fall In Love, a duet by Nat and Natalie King Cole as you sip appreciatively.
Bit full on? Alternatively watch the beautiful shapes of the dance in The Golden Hour.
Afterwards you might enjoy watching Woman In Gold – a film about Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, who takes on the Austrian government to recover a portrait of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which she believes rightfully belongs to her family. I thoroughly recommend this film which deals with themes of determination, obsession, moving on, generational handing down of guilt, dehumanisation, duty to the dead and much more, all with a deft and elegant hand, a true achievement by director, Simon Curtis. Helen Mirren’s performance as Maria Altmann is pitch perfect and does her stellar reputation proud. Ryan Reynolds gives strong support.