Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: Gin, The Manual by Dave Broom


For twenty-five years Dave Broom has been writing about whiskey and other matters of alcohol. His last book was Whiskey: The Manual, manifestly THE tour book to the grandeur of whiskey. Now, on October 6th, actually, we’ll be able to read his latest work, Gin: The Manual, a work of equal dedication, research, and expertise.

The core of this book is a survey of 120 gins from around the world. British at first, of course. But there is space here for a gin made in Brooklyn next to the Gowanus Canal, a waterway still condemned but loved by film makers and the many restaurants, distilleries, and breweries that find a 19th Century industrial environment invigorating — if not exactly swimmable.

Gin is in. There are the heritage brands we all know. And then new ones coming on line from boutique firms in London, Brooklyn, Upstate New York, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, and many other spiritual by-ways. Gin has been rediscovered. The days of the bathtub are long gone.

The “manual” part of this book comes from the intensely packed descriptions of a diverse spectrums of gin brands. A typical page is shown at the bottom of this post. The description begins with Botanicals: what are the flavorings that appear in the bottle. Literally hundreds of flavors are used around the world and, yes, most gins do contain some juniper berries. Beyond the juniper, most gins have a handful of other ingredients to generate their own particular flavor and aroma profile. Noet’s Silver Dry Gin from The Netherlands is typical: juniper plus citrus peels, orris root, liquorice root, white peach, Turkish rose, and raspberry. Orris root? All I know is that it takes five years for the root to dry out and become usable.

But Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin from Germany has juniper and 40 others elements, like bee balm, honeysuckle, acacia, rose hips, and dog rose. Dog rose? It’s a very dainty purple climbing wild rose native to Europe.

Beyond those botanical ingredients, Dave provides a long one paragraph introduction and description for each gin. It’s all about the who, why, where, and how of this particular bottle. Very importantly, Dave has tasted each gin so you can benefit from his very educated opinion. That Noet’s Silver Dry Gin has a perfume nose, one that reminded Dave of the perfume of his teenage daughter [and the daughter agreed].

So, if you were in a liquor store, The Manual in hand, you could pick up a bottle and, if it is one Dave has surveyed, find what goes in it and how it is made. But how would you use it? That’s the ultimate benefit of the very extensive research Dave has systematically applied.

The bottom of each review has a section called the Flavour Camp [he’s British so flavour does come with a “u”]. Dave offers reviews and guidance for using this gin in four iconic gin beverages:

  • The G&T
  • With Sicilian Lemonade
  • Negroni [that combo of three liqueurs: gin, vermouth, and Campari]
  • Martini

Dave tells you if — because not all gins work for every cocktail — the gin should be used and gives a rating for the quality of the final cocktail. But wait, there’s more. You get detail on how to mix the cocktail, light or heavy on the vermouth, for example. For the Negroni, which is this seemingly combustible combination of liqueurs that may conflict at times, Dave has tested out four different ratios of the three liqueurs and suggests the precise proportions that generate the best beverage experience.

I have never seen this detail before in a beverage book. It is rocket science impressive. And I intend to celebrate with a G&T. First though, I have to push aside my Hendricks and Tanqueray and find some Sipsmith V.J.O.P. which, in his expert opinion, give you the very best G&T on the planet.

Ah, there are other gin drinks beside that G&T. And the back of the book provides thirty pages of recipes for a variety of delights, some old and some new. Dave calls this BV and AV, for Before Vodka and After Vodka. A hundred years ago, we drank gin, not vodka, and we made our cocktails with gin, not vodka. Life, styles and cocktails change. We had the Cold War and the onrush of vodka appearing in new drinks with new profiles. Now, with the resurgence of gin worldwide, the classic cocktail formulations are back with us. And mixologists are having a field day experimenting with all the new brands and flavors. Who knows, you may have already sipped some dog roseor orris root in an upscale bar.

No “manual” would be complete without some history and navigation. The book opens with fifty pages devoted to gin history, production, mixers that you might use, and the half dozen classic recipes you need —just in case you don’t make it to the back of the book.

On that iconic scale of 1 to 10, Gin: The Manual is an 11 or 12. You could not write a more sophisticated book or pack more detail onto each page. It’s an absorbing book, one that I will be carrying along every time I visit my liquor store. You’ll want your own copy of this traveling and drinking companion, too.

Ah, I was proofreading this review and discovered I’ve done it again: used liquor in some places and liqueur in others. So, I finally googled and learned I have not sinned very much, if at all. The term “liquor” refers to an alcoholic liquid made via distillation. And you do buy them in liquor stores. A “liqueur” is a liquor that is mixed with herbs and spices, to add flavor or sweetness.

Gin is a liqueur and Gin: The Manual will surely add flavor and sweetness to your drinking experiences.



Malt Ball Tiffin or Malteser Tiffin


Sometimes we all encounter a word we do not know. But two words in a row? Malteser? Tiffin?

Maltesers are candies from Mars that are sold in Great Britain but, sadly not here. They are, by description, a malt ball with honey. I’m not sure what it will taste like, but I have 130 grams on the way thanks to Amazon.

Tiffin is more complicated. In India, a tiffin is a small cake, often served for lunch or for a snack. In Wales, a tiffin is something else: an unbaked cookie rich in butter and chocolate. I was researching tiffins because I had one that called for cherries and I am just not fond of cherries and chocolate. No Black Forest Cake for me.

I did find this Malteser Tiffin recipe and then I discovered that maltesers are siblings with regular malt balls. So, I made this cookie using the recipe below but substituted milk chocolate-cover malt balls.

You refrigerate these to become solid, instead of baking. I’m keeping mine in the fridge and they come out cold, solid, and flavor-inspired. The combination of milk chocolate top and bottom with the chunks of malt ball is candy heaven. Crunched up Walkers shortbread cookies are in the base and, yes, you can taste their buttery sweetness. Is this tiffin candy or is it a cookie? I don’t care. You won’t either.

The recipe below calls for using whole maltesers in the batter, but I had large malt balls. As the picture shows, I quartered them so that they could drift and fit within the batter layer.

Clearly, if I did not like cherries and went down the malt ball path, you are free to improvise, too. Other fruits, nuts, or candies can be substituted. Or mixed. This is a marvelous template to let you build the flavor profile you always wanted but could never find in an American candy store.

The recipe calls for golden syrup. That’s another British item that you may find in an American supermarket and you may not. There are varying descriptions of substitutes for golden syrup on the web. It’s corn syrup + honey or corn syrup + molasses, to cite two cases. I went for the version with equal parts corn syrup and honey.

Finally, when you read this recipe, see if you note something odd about the measurements. I’ve got the answer below after the photo credit.

Malteser Tiffin

Yield: 20+ squares depending on how you carve them up


For the cookie:

  • 200g milk chocolate (I use Lindt milk chocolate)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 125g digestive biscuits [British for shortbread cookies, like Walkers]
  • 135g bag of Maltesers

For the topping:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon golden syrup


Line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment. Place the 200g of chocolate, butter and syrup in a heat-proof bowl and melt over a pan of barely simmering water or in the microwave. Once almost melted, remove from the heat and gently stir until any tiny bits chocolate have melted. Allow to cool a little.

Place the biscuits and 35g of the Maltesers in a freezer bag, seal and crush with a rolling pin. You want mainly crumbs but a few small chunks of biscuit is fine.

Top the crushed mixture and whole Maltesers (save 1 or 2 for yourself) to the melted chocolate and stir until everything is coated. Press into the prepared tin and make the topping.

For the topping, melt the chocolate, butter and syrup as before and spread over the biscuit base.

Cover the tin with cling film or foil and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before cutting into squares.


Photo Information [Top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4 for1/30th second at ISO‑200

Photo Information [Bottom]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4 for1/30th second at ISO‑200

On the measurements: I find it so curious that in this recipe the pan size is stated in centimeters and the chocolate and butter are measured in grams. But the liquid components are in teaspoons and tablespoons. A true metric-English-system compromise.



TBT Cookbook Review: The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge


Abigail Johnson Dodge is a prodigious author. You’ll see her latest book, The Everyday Baker: Recipes and Techniques for Foolproof Baking, this coming December. This book, The Weekend Baker, 2005, has the perfect subtitle: irresistible recipes, simple techniques and stress-free strategies for busy people

That is in a nutshell the perfect description of this serious book. We all like baked goods and many of love to bake them rather than buy. But, home baking on Tuesday or Thursday night is often just impossible. And then, on the weekend, we want to bake but we have to shuffle the kids to that soccer match, and there is a birthday party, and … And. And.

So even if we find a time window to make something, we are already stressed and pressed. Making something irresistible seems a very distant, if not impossible, goal.

Consequently, this book is not organized around cakes, cookies and pies. This book is organized around time. Do you need to make something quickly? Can you take time to make components in advance and then do final assembly on Saturday afternoon? Do you have a whole day to just be in the kitchen and make something that is a marvel?

The three chapters in this book are devoted to Baker’s Express, Baking in Stages, and Productions. In each of these chapter you’ll find a variety of recipes satisfying your time opportunity:

  • Cookies and bar
  • Cakes, large and small
  • Breads
  • Mousses, Custards, and Puddings,
  • Pies and tarts, cobblers and crisps

What’s a Baking in Stages dessert look like? At the bottom of this post, there is a picture of one: Old-Fashioned Berry Icebox Cake. You can make this dessert in stages by preparing the fruit up to 3-days in advance and the cake can be made and refrigerated for up to 3 days, too. On Dessert Day, it’s a matter of assembly and assembly is just putting fruit on top of that icebox cake richly composed of chocolate wafers layered with whipped cream.

The Express recipes include these truly irresistible ideas:

Prescription-Strength Fudge Brownies

Nutty Cinnamon Elephant Ears

Warm Cinnamon-Spiced Blueberry Cake

Pecan-Crusted Pumpkin Squares

Minted Mango Fool with Lime

Cinnamon-Sugar Dumplings with Strawberry Sauce

Those Baking in Stages ideas include:

Three-Bite Whoopee Pies with Vanilla, Chocolate, and Peanut Butter Fillings

Apricot-Pistachio Biscotti

Rich Orange Butter Cake with Citrus Wedges

Crumble-Topped Pear-Rub Raisin Pie

The Production recipes are all-out, full-blown dessert marvels:

Chocolate-Dipped Macadamia Brittle

Mocha-Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate-Glazed Ricotta Cake

Overnight Brioche Braid

The Weekend Baker is written for us lovers of crust, crumb, chocolate and fruit. The recipe titles do give you some hint of the elegance you will find on these pages. And, to achieve that elegance, the recipes are presented in serious detail. These are two, three and four-page recipes where you are gently, authoritatively led by the hand. You start with flour and butter and more, you end up with a creation that deserves all pride you will feel.

There are recipes here to keep you very busy for a couple of years of weekends. And then, you’ll probably roll back to page 1 and happily do this book all over again.