By Nigel Barden

Shake it up...maybe

This issue BBC Radio London DJ and all-rounder Nigel Barden looks at cocktails
Polly's Special, Blood and Sand, The Vibrators, Rattlesnake, Casanova, Gloom Lifter and Zig Zig Sputnik. I know you've spotted it; a list of whisky based cocktails with a couple of 1980s rock bands thrown in for good measure.If you did spot the cuckoos in the whisky nest, Zig Zig Sputnik and The Vibrators, then award yourself a Blood and Sand; equal measures of Scotch, your favourite blend, maybe a lighter malt. Or heck, why not a touch of the Irish, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, grapefruit juice; ideally freshly squeezed.Shake with lots of ice, strain into a chilled Martini glass & sip gratefully. If there's no cocktail shaker in your dram cabinet, go all Blue Peter and improvise. Use a teapot with your thumb over the spout, or a decanter and then pour through a tea strainer or fine sieve. If it was good enough for Rudolph Valentino at the launch of his film 'Blood and Sand' in 1922, then it should really hit the mark with we Whisky Magazine devotees.For ages the media has banged on about the new dawn of the cocktail and that drinkers were quaffing them all over Britain and Ireland. The cocktail map has been redrawn and we fortunate imbibers can now lubricate our larynxes with some of the best crafted cocktails available anywhere on the drinking planet. Decent bars are springing up all over the place.Unfortunately it's binge drinking which occupies the headlines, with lots of ridiculous inducements. 'Welcome To Our Happy Half Hour: 10 pints of cooking vodka for £2, as long as you neck them between 3.36 and 4.06 in the afternoon'.In contrast a couple of classy cocktails has to be the perfect way to fill a free, but now happily occupied, hour. You wouldn't want to down them all night - or perhaps you would, as you'd be a giggling mess at 'beautiful taxi driver pleash take me home' time. On a couple of memorable occasions I've downed seven or eight over an evening.I soon bucked the 'vodka only' rule and then the 'merely white spirits' edict, before blundering through 'nothing aged in wood', 'has to be grain based', via 'bring them on the darker the better' to 'they must be from either hemisphere'.Remarkably I felt pretty good the next day on both occasions and it wasn't just down to the homeopathic remedy 'nux vomica', which I know sounds like the very thing you're trying to avoid.Put it down to beautifully made drinks using fab ingredients; fresh fruit, broken down with the appropriate muddling stick, excellent garnishes; vanilla pods, caramelised twirls, and crucially the finest spirits on the distilling block.Any cocktail where the lead spirit isn't apparent worries me as it might be far too innocent in it's quaffability and in the process make all the bones drop out of your legs.As it's the catalyst for the drink it should underpin the concoction. If one of the supporting cast hogs the liquid limelight, cream, apricot brandy or coconut milk for example, then that means the leading light has been eclipsed.I was relaxing hard after the recent Flavour Bar Awards and having moved on from The Savoy I descended upon Milk & Honey, a fine Soho cocktail emporium in the vein of a posh speak easy.Snuggling into the welcoming folds of a leather banquette, for which a whole herd of cows must have been skinned, I noticed Julian Gualdoni sitting next to me. I couldn't really miss him as he was wearing a cream and brown pin stripe three piece suit, floral shirt and cream corduroy trilby. Rather dapper in a Kid Creole & The Coconuts sort of way.Born in Saint Tropez he mixes fab cocktails at Trailer Happiness, a basement bar on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and had been on stage earlier picking up a gong at the awards.Using a long silver bar spoon he was slowly and lovingly stirring a ruby, brown concoction in a huge domed mixing glass packed with cubes of ice. At the end of a frenetic evening it was a glorious moment of calm. Like watching an alchemist develop a new elixir.He poured the liquid into a chilled Martini glass, handed it to me and nodded. I sniffed it and my nasal passages went to red alert. Bonfire of the Vanities with a dry finish. Or Bonfire Night with a dry finish. Once past my dentine more fruit became apparent, before heading contentedly to the pit of my stomach, where it sat like a contented Buddha. I'd been Rob Roy'd: two shots of Lagavulin 12, to one each of sweet and dry vermouth, stirred over ice with a few drops of angostura bitters."I think the peaty punch of the Islay malt gives the drink plenty of drive but doesn't overpower the dry fruit of the vermouth. That's why I came to Britain to learn to make drinks like that, for people who appreciate drinking them."I felt honoured. Never has a whisky based cocktail made more sense and tasted better.* Nigel Barden is the Food and Drink correspondent for BBC London and also a rugby commentator on BBC radio.