Offering your hipflask around is the perfect ice-breaker on the hunting field. And who doesn’t get braver after a swig of booze on an empty stomach? But what’s the perfect hunting tipple?
I have to admit I started young — my mother considered cherry brandy (which does, after all, taste like high-quality cough medicine) completely acceptable from about the age of 10 onwards.
No point ringing Childline now, but probably safer to stick to Ribena for the younger generation… The standards are port, whisky, sloe gin and cherry brandy. But there are almost infinite variations of hipflask recipes, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
H&H canvassed some hardcore hunting people for their opinions:
Hannah Vowles: plum gin or rhubarb vodka. “Jumping juice for the Portman vale.”
George Bowyer: Percy Special (one part whisky to one part cherry brandy), or Rusty Nail (Drambuie and Scotch)
Ruth Edge: orange gin
Jo Geddes: Skittles vodka (put Skittles and vodka in a bottle through a cycle in the dishwasher to shake it all up)
Flora Watkins: sloe and blackberry gin, or toffee vodka (Werthers Originals and vodka) — the latter is also a favourite of FEI vet Ali Butler’s
Belinda Sparey: blackberry whisky
Jane Starkey: ‘Singing Johnny’ – blackcurrants and whisky
Simon Hodgkinson: cherry gin
Harry Wallace: Percy Special
Daniel Crane: Kentucky Lucky (50% Kentucky bourbon, 50% port. “Try it if you dare!” he says.
Max Douglas: plum rum (damsons and Bacardi)
William Fox Grant: damson gin with almonds
Carrie Tucker: raspberry vodka
Netty Higgins: Damson brandy
Jane Hedley: one part gin to two parts peach schnapps
Charles Landless: mixture of sloe brandy, port and ginger wine
Charlie and Clare Gundry: Stroh ‘80’ or Spiritus Rektyfikowany. Clare says: “Will put you in hospital, but by God you will cross the country first…” (ed — don’t try this at home unless you are a Gundry).
Other votes went to gooseberry gin, rhubarb gin, greengage gin — you get the gist.
Both Matthew Wright and Emily MacMahon suggested poitin, a spirit distilled from potatoes and for a long time illegal… “You become as brave as a lion and can’t feel the cold — but after a few gulps you can’t feel anything!” says Emily. Matthew adds a drop of crème de cassis, so you can enjoy the taste while going blind…
And Sophie Wythe suggested Killepitsch, apparently a blood-red herb liqueur from Germany. “Its taste is verging on medicinal, but it gives you bravery, warmth and the courage to kiss the most handsome chap around!” Bottle for the hunting editor, please.
But beware. Oliver Blackwell keeps it simple. “Neat gin. I say it is port and enjoy watching the reactions…” And in a similar vein Ginny Gilmore says: “Whisky every time. Hardly anyone likes it so you get to have it all to yourself.” No wonder she’s so brave over a Wynnstay hedge.
And, lest some readers worry that all hunting people are serious alcoholics, Cottesmore hunt secretary Clare Bell allayed fears when she did sober October. “I took a Bottlegreen ginger and lemongrass presse in my hipflask to the opening meets of the Quorn and Cottesmore. It was 17ºC and my flask was much in demand!”
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Hannah Vowles’ rhubarb vodka and plum gin recipes:
“Cheap vodka, ripe rhubarb. Slice rhubarb into long, thin strips and take off tough outer skin. Put into half a bottle of vodka. Add a few big spoons of caster sugar and leave. Turn once a week. Leave as long as you — I do nine months minimum — and it goes a really lovely pink colour. Extra sugar to taste as the rhubarb can be a bit tart.”
“For plum gin, use a quarter of plums to three-quarters cheap gin. Leave skin on and shove into gin with a few spoons of sugar and leave. Give a good shake once a week and taste often. Decant when it tastes right!”
Don’t miss the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (25 October), for the hunting special