For such a sophisticated drink, the name of the original cocktail on which our ‘Damson 98’ is based, has a surprisingly violent origin. The ‘French 75’ (gin, lemon & champagne) derived its name from the Canon de 75 Modèle 1897 - a French 75 - widely regarded as warfare’s first piece of modern artillery. The punch of the cocktail was said to be like being hit by a French 75 … not so our version! It has a gentler story behind it too.
Charlie Hibbert - Ox Barn Head Chef - has been visiting his Grandma Vera in Eynsham since he was a little boy, and the highlight at this time of year is picking from the damson tree at the end of her garden. It always fruits in abundance and Charlie's harvest is put to good work in syrup-making for The Baa; and jams, jellies, pickles, sauces and damson-fuelled menus with the rest. Damson season is fleeting, if you don't have a tree in your garden they can be found in good supermarkets and farmshops, it's the perfect time to preserve them. This syrup recipe will make about a litre and is delicious in puddings, particularly poured over a very good vanilla ice-cream. So to Charlie’s cocktail, inspired by his 97 year-old grandmother and her extraordinary damson tree.
To make Charlie's syrup:
- Take 500 g of damsons, cover with water and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 15 mins. Strain and weigh the resulting liquid.
- Add half that weight of sugar and the juice of 2 lemons. Bring back to the boil and remove immediately from the heat.
- Pour into sterilised jars or bottles and allow to cool before refridgerating (it will keep for up to a month).
Note: to sterilise, simply wash with warm soapy water, rinse & dry before putting into an oven at 110°c for 30 minutes.
- 15 ml Williams extra dry gin
- 12.5 ml Lemon juice
- 30 ml damson syrup
- sparkling wine, we love Castle Brook or Nyetimber
- Add the gin, lemon juice, damson syrup to your cocktail shaker and shake briefly
- Strain into tall champagne flute
- Carefully top up the glass with sparkling wine