Add anything but an umbrella

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The Independent Online
GORDON'S GIN may claim to be "the heart of a good cocktail" but it is nothing of the sort. Because of a "regeneration strategy" in 1995, the brand was reduced in strength from 40 per cent to 37.5 per cent alcohol by volume. No self-respecting mixologist should go near it with a 10- foot swizzle stick.

The whole point of a cocktail is that it should be strong. For a few minutes, the elegant cone-shaped glass should transform the sipper, if male, into a combination of Fred Astaire, Cole Porter and Cary Grant or, if female, Katharine Hepburn, Dorothy Parker and Grace Kelly.

Even full-strength gin is by no means de rigueur for a cocktail. A few purists may refuse to countenance anything but the classic dry martini - allegedly imparting precisely the correct infusion of vermouth by allowing the shadow from a bottle of Noilly Prat to fall on iced gin - but there is no limit to the variety of the cocktail.

In 1990, the US Bartenders Association listed more than 10,000 officially recognised recipes. In Paul Martin's authoritative World Encyclopedia of Cocktails, the leading UK mixologist includes 2,500 potent combinations with such tempting titles as Hairy Navel, Limp Dick, Windowlene, Paraffin, Prince Charles, Multiple Orgasm and Onion Breath (vodka, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, vinegar from a jar of cocktail onions).

You can't go far wrong by mixing one part fresh lime juice and one part Cointreau. Add two parts tequila, shake with ice, and you have a Margarita, the dangerously addictive blend of sweet and sour that rules America. Add white rum and you have a Beachcomber. Add vodka and it's a Kamikazi. Add bourbon, Green Chartreuse and Angostura and you have a Mad Man.

You can add more or less anything you like, but never, never, never, a paper umbrella. That's the way to Malibu and madness.