Tonic at Home: Cosmopolitan

There was a long while when the Cosmopolitan was ‘my’ cocktail, mainly because it was so easy to make – and absolutely nothing to do with any TV shows, honest! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Vodka, cranberry juice, and orange liqueur – Cointreau for me, Triple sec in the Tonic at Home cocktail – simple and delicious!

Of course, that just means that when I’m trying a new ‘version’, my first reaction was more along the lines of “Hmm, that doesn’t taste quite right.” I think the difference is that Tonic adds sugar and some chemicals, and I don’t really feel they’re in the drink’s favour at all. I’m also fond of the ‘twist’ of lime juice usually added, so sweet definitely feels a bit wrong here.

Tonic at Home Cosmopolitan cocktail

That said, it’s still very drinkable, and it did grow on me as I finished the cocktail (hic). Still, far from my favourite from the Mix and Match hamper – I think I’ll stick to doing this one myself, with just three ingredients and my own control over relative quantities.

Tonic at Home: Pina Colada Daiquiri

It’s turned practically tropical in Scotland (yeah, yeah, hitting 20C is a bit of a ‘it’s too hot!’ kind of moment here ;)) which calls for some tropical kinds of cocktails!

Tonic at Home Pina Colada

Up to this point my main experience of a Pina Colada would be the earworm of a song that praises rain and disses yoga and is thus clearly quite confused, and that’s before it turns out the guy is trying to cheat on his wife – with his also-cheating wife. Hmm. In drink form, though, the ingredients are:

  • Bacardi white rum
  • coconut puree
  • pineapple juice
  • sugar syrup

Other versions seem to omit the syrup, but I’m starting to notice that Tonic does like to sweeten things up. The use ofย coconut milk or cream elsewhere also makes this seem like a pretty easy one to replicate yourself.

Which makes it a bit of a shame that I didn’t really like it! I’m sure it was a perfectly nice Pina Colada, but the mix of flavours didn’t sit well on my palate. I love pineapple, but between the extra sweetness and the cloying coconut, it tasted a bit sour and off to me.ย 

I finished it, right enough, and it did improve as I went on. Yes, probably because alcohol, but also as I grew accustomed to what this ‘should’ taste like. However, I’ll swerve this in future – I’d rather just put rum in pineapple juice and stop there!

Fun fact: Pina colada apparently means ‘strained pineapple’.

Tonic’s web page for their cocktail is here.

Tonic at Home: Puerto Rico Boat Trip

I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this one – one of the pre-mixed cocktails in the Tonic at Home Mix and Match selection. Let’s start with the ingredients:

  • Raspberry Bacardi rum
  • velvet falernum (see below)
  • triple sec (orange liqueur)
  • plum bitters

(and some less interesting bits and pieces like water and E numbers)

Talking of water, it sure looks a lot like it:

Puerto Rico Boat Trip cocktail from Tonic

What is that ‘velvet falernum’ thingy? It’s a rum-based liqueur made with sugar cane, lime, almond and cloves. Cloves sounds really scary, but definitely wasn’t getting that in the cocktail, so all good.

Now, turns out I should have read the description on the website, as it’s pretty accurate: “the flavours of Haribo and sherbet” – yes! It’s sweet and sherbety and rather surprising, especially given the rather dull appearance. And it’s a nice sweet and sherbety! ๐Ÿ™‚

The website also tells me that this is Tonic’s twist on the classic ‘Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’ cocktail, which to be honest I’ve never heard of. A quick internet search shows me that it involves white rum, falernum, orange liqueur, lime juice, and sugar syrup – a little bit more accessible, I’m thinking, although it’d be a shame to spoil a good thing – and the PRBT is a pretty good thing! Recommended ๐Ÿ™‚

Tonic at Home: Watermeloooan

So… which of the Tonic at Home cocktails that came in my Mix and Match selection seemed best to suit a sunny bank holiday? Several seemed likely – and fruity! – candidates, but let’s go with… the Watermeloooan!

I have no idea why it’s spelled like that, no o.O

Again, I forgot to take any photos (you’ll spot a theme here as this ‘series’ goes on, you really will!) so here’s the one from Tonic themselves again:Tonic at Home Watermeloooan cocktail

The ingredients include:

  • Olemca Altos Tequila (I had a lesson once in whyย goodย tequila is good and bad tequila not – worth a few extra ยฃ!)
  • cranberry juice
  • watermelon syrup
  • orgeat (an almond and rose syrup, apparently)
  • grenadine (another syrup, most famed for the red colour – used in Tequila Sunrise)
  • triple sec (orange liqueur)

I’m going to state right off that I don’t see me trying to replicate this one at home – watermelon syrup and orgeat are both missing from my ‘cocktail cupboard’, and I wasn’t so keen on this cocktail to spend ยฃ20 buying a couple of bottles (or, heaven forbid, trying toย make syrups even though they are totally easy honest o.O).

Now, I’m in two minds about watermelon. As a fruit – not so keen. I love melon, but the watermelon is well-named and just watery. Flavourless. Despite that, there is such a thing as ‘watermelon flavour’, which I’ve enjoyed in soft drinks (J20 do a refreshing one) and perhaps least authentically but most memorably: Nerd sweets. Am I showing my age?! Used to really love the watermelon ones of those!

Absolutely none of that comes across in this cocktail. It’s not unpleasant, but it is… disappointing. It tastes rather artificial, too. I suppose I’d drink it again if handed one, but I very definitely won’t be going looking for it.

Still, first disappointment, and it’s just a ‘meh’ rather than an out and out complaint.

Tonic at Home: There’s No Place Like Tonic

There were a couple in the Tonic@Home Mix and Match hamper that didn’t appeal quite so much to me, mainly ‘cos I’m not a huge fan of gin or rather some of the things it tends to get mixed with. One of my doubts was There’s No Place Like Tonic, which – with a name like that – I presume it’s something of the house cocktail. Indeed, when the ‘at home’ range was launched after we all went into lockdown, this was one of the first three offerings.

The ingredients are:

  • Tanqueray gin (a brand, from England, apparently one of the more popular ones but as I said, I’m not a huge gin fan)
  • Mango puree
  • Basil and ginger syrup
  • (citric/malic acid and E211, yum ;))

I was a little worried about that basil and ginger syrup – sounds… herby? But I needn’t have worried. This is a very mango-tastic drink, quite thick, and the syrup oddly enough cuts a little bit of the sweetness. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of mango, but in this combo – with a hefty, boozy kick! – was actually rather lush.

I’m surprised at how much I liked this, given my lack of out-and-out love for the ingredients. But it was tropical and summery and fruity and smooth. And boozy. Did I mention boozy? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Definitely happy to drink this again, so yay for surprise discoveries! I forgot to take any pictures, so here’s Tonic’s:

There's No Place Like Tonic cocktail

Could I do a version of this at home? Anything is possible, but I’d say: not easily. Gin is simple enough, but mango puree would involve actual fruit, or accepting a much runnier version using fruit juice. And while I do know how to make flavoured syrups I think they’re a faff and I’m not sure I’d get the basil/ginger proportions at all correct. So you’re safe, Tonic – I’ll have to buy this from you again ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tonic at Home: Espresso Martini

Time to make a start telling you about the Tonic at Home hamper of pre-made cocktails – I’m only about halfway through it already, hic ๐Ÿ˜‰

The mix and match hamper I received had 14 cocktails and 11 flavours, meaning 3 duplicates. Made sense in my head to start with one of the doubles, and one that I both knew I liked and could compare to previous versions tried.

An espresso martini comprises vodka (so, not a ‘true’ martini, which is gin and vermouth), espresso coffee (cold), coffee liqueur, and sugar syrup.

Of course, with the Tonic sachets, all you have to provide is ice and a shaker! Pour the pre-mixed sachet in, shake up, and away you go.

Espresso martini pouch

Sometimes I’ve found espresso martinis a little rough, but not this – this is smooooth. Probably a bit sweeter than I’ve tried before, which is what makes the difference. Probably the nicest version of it I’ve ever had, I’m not going to lie. Maybe it’s the vanilla vodka? Will be giving that a go!

I’m sure I’ve not actually had more espresso martinis than other cocktails, out and about, but it definitely sticks in the mind where I’ve tried this. Most infamously, at at Starbucks Christmas Event (never repeated, much to my disappointment!) that was serving these, and on top of all the coffee tasters probably had me at 14+ shots of espresso for the evening, a horrendous night’s sleep, and the inability to face coffee again – for a few weeks ๐Ÿ˜‰

row of espresso martinis

I also made these in a cocktail tasting at home ‘class’ that we did as a social event during lockdown. We made those with instant coffee – and surprise, it worked fine! I don’t really have espresso lying around, so definitely more accessible. And as a friend pointed out, opens up the possibility of a decaf version – I find the mix of coffee (don’t drink too late) and alcohol (probably don’t start too early ;)) an odd one, but then, the story goes that a super model asked a bartender for a drink that would “wake her up and then f*ck her up”. Classy ๐Ÿ˜‰

The basic recipe to be played about with:

50ml vodka
25ml espresso OR instant
25ml coffee liqueur (Tia Maria, Kahlua, etc)
sugar syrup to taste

Variations could include:

  • adding a shot of Baileys for something creamier
  • using flavoured vodka – vanilla, as above, or I have a lovely bottle of espresso vodka that’s just perfect!
  • feeling lazy? That espresso vodka mixed with Tia Maria is a potent easy cheat!

Hello Fresh: Veggie Packed Chilli

I suppose I should finish off one topic before launching into the next, and I’ve been dawdling over this final recipe kit from my second Hello Fresh box.

ingredients for Hello Fresh veggie chilli

Veggie chilli is something I make on a regular basis, and I always recommend the Cookie and Kate one I zazzed up a little, here. But it’s always good to get a slightly new take, and so here we go.

The main differences for me where the BBQ sauce – adds a bit of smokiness, which I will probably replicate with chipotle hot sauce – and using black beans instead of kidney beans, which worked really well. I’d also never put spinach in a chilli, but hey – more veg the better, really! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cooking couldn’t have been simpler, more or less bunging everything in a pot – exactly as expected, tbh. I did decide to deviate a bit. I’ve done ‘spicy’ from Hello Fresh before, and it’s not really. So, I decided to jazz this up, too. I make my own fajita spice and the ingredients seem to match the HF Mexican spice sachet, so I’ll just add a bit of mine, too – only, it kind of came out a lot faster than I expected, so, urm… yeah, mine was a little on the intense side o.O Good, though – I recommend if you do the same, just add a bit of sour cream or natural yogurt (with lime juice, if you like) to the side, and have some tortilla chips on the side.

Hello Fresh veggie chilli

It was really nice. I mean, it seems like a hard thing to muck up if you like chilli/spicy food, but hey – they managed it with the curry when I’d said something similar.

Recommended? Yup, liked this one. It froze well, too, and I got three pretty big portions out of the recipe kit.

Overall: 8.5/10.

The Hello Fresh recipe can be found here.

Tonic at Home: Mix & Match box

It’s time for another kind of product review, I’d say – and now we’re talking cocktails! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve always enjoyed a cocktail. As well as the images of elegance and sophistication, there’s something quite potion-y about the mixing of different things, coming up with all sorts of exciting concoctions. I’ll confess, though, that despite a vaguely impressive cocktail cabinet, I never quite seem to have everything I need to make more than a couple of minor variations of things.

Step forward, then, the Tonic at Home hand-made, pre-mixed cocktails, delivered across the UK from this Edinburgh company. Each cocktail comes in a single-serve pouch, so all you have to do is add ice and shake it up. The one I went for was the Mix & Match box, which contained 11 different cocktails and a total of 14 pouches (i.e. 3 doubles). It also has a bag of dehydrated lemon slices for garnish, although mine was missing the coffee beans that were said to come with the kit but as those are just for one drink, I don’t really mind. *Update: turns out they were in the same packet as the lemon. Hmm.

Tonic at Home box

I was really looking forward to getting stuck in to these, as you might imagine!

But first, a quick look at the best before dates. The website says that the pouches come with a 3-week best before date, but that seems to be a minimum. Mine ranged from 3-6 weeks, which at least offered a bit of a steer on what to try first. Still, I took them up on the advice, and popped all bar one in the freezer – leaving one in the fridge for a … ahem… Friday-eve treat ๐Ÿ˜‰

The flavours contained here are:

  • Espresso martini (x2) – vodka (vanilla-infused Ketel One, to be precise!), Kahlua, espressoย 
  • Pornstar martini (x2) – vodka and passionfruit
  • Starburst martini (x2) – vodka, creme de cassis, apple juice, raspberry syrup
  • Lychee daiquiri – Bacardi (white rum), lychee puree, apple juice
  • Strawberry daiquiri – Bacardi, strawberry puree, syrup
  • Pina colada daiquiri – Bacardi, coconut, pineapple
  • Cosmopolitan – vodka, cranberry, triple sec (orange liqueur)
  • Watermeloooan – tequila, cranberry, watermelon, orgeat (almond syrup), grenadine, triple sec
  • Puerto Rico Boat Trip – raspberry Bacardi, velvet falernum (lime, almond, clove botanical), triple sec, plum bitters
  • I’ll Be Your Wingman – pink gin, violette, raspberry syrup, cherry puree, elderflower cordial
  • There’s No Place Like Tonic – gin, mango, basil and ginger syrup

(I’ve left out most of the chemical-y looking ingredients, but worth noting that theyย all come with sodium benzoate (E211), which one of my friends is allergic to. They also use aquafaba for froth, but you can read about that on their website if you want).

Phew, that should keep me going a while! Plan is to post as I try each flavour, giving my views and maybe some thoughts about how to recreate the ones I like.

You can find the Tonic at Home Mix & Match box on their website.

Right, let’s get drinking! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hello Fresh: Roasted Butternut Squash Curry

Ah, it’s never worth making assumptions, like “I’ve really enjoyed my Hello Fresh curries, this one will be just as lovely!” I mean, as soon as I read the ingredients properly, I started having vague doubts. No coconut, no tomato – but sour cream?

Hello Fresh ingredients sent for butternut squash curry

Also, shout out to the world’s teeniest butternut squash – it was so cute! Although why this one came whole and the previous squash recipe sent a bag of pre-diced, I have no idea.

The recipe stated a 40 minute cooking time, but most of that is just pre-roasting the butternut squash. With that done, it’s more or less just throwing everything together in the pan.

Apparently I forgot to take a photo of the finished article, but it didn’t look too far off the Hello Fresh version – just, with added spinach, because everything got some of the many many bags of spinach ๐Ÿ˜‰ :

Hello Fresh butternut curry

Ah, I shouldn’t grumble too much. It was perfectly edible. But I wasn’t particularly impressed with the consistency (think in an almost gloopy way), or how crunchy the green beans stayed despite following instructions. In fact, it was pretty dreadful compared to my self-concocted butternut squash curry. if that’s not too much boasting!

It did sort of freeze okay, slightly to my surprise. I suppose it’s also shown me a new use for sour cream, for the next time I end up with a surplus – but only if I absolutely can’t think of anything else to use it for, tbh.

Overall: 5/10. Just disappointing, and green beans feel like a very poor choice for a curry.

You can find the Hello Fresh recipe here.

Hello Fresh: Sweet Potato Coconut Dal

My favourite from my first Hello Fresh box experiment was definitely a curry, so this was probably the meal I was most looking forward to. Sweet potato and lentils with ginger, coconut, lime – sign me up!

ingredients from Hello Fresh meal kit for sweet potato dal

Incidentally, this was one of three not-small bags of spinach I got in this box. I was aiming for being Popeye by the end of it, it would seem ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s a really easy make, not much more than bung everything in the pan, and tasted quite nice. However, despite a whole knob of ginger – I did wonder if I was meant to be using it all, and the ingredients aren’t helpful (they could provide any size bit of ginger, so saying ‘use it’ didn’t fill me with confidence) – it lacked a bit of ‘kick’. I’d do it again maybe with some chilli? Of course, I did manage to skip the salsa side, maybe that would have helped.

Sweet potato coconut dal

I also skipped the ‘cheat’s chapati’ i.e. a pan fried tortilla. I had naan bread instead, and will keep the pack of tortillas for something more mexican, methinks.

There’s a limit to how far wrong you can go with a curry, I’m thinking, but while this was perfectly nice it lacked a bit of ‘wow’ factor. Overall: 7/10 – at least until I replicate it with a few tweaks ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hello Fresh recipe link