Thursday, 19 December 2013

Cocktail Hour

Quince Two Times..

It seems fitting that my last post before the Christmas hiatus is booze related.

As observant readers will already know I recently ended up with rather a lot of home-made quince cordial (after a rather less than successful attempt at making jelly.)

As nice as cordial is mixed with water, the mind naturally drifted to how I might more pleasantly imbibe some of this blasted stuff. Cocktails, that's how.
After much experimentation (well, a pleasant gin-soaked afternoon) I came up with the following:-

The Quince Regent.

The Quince Regent

This first cocktail is a variant of last week's Gin Fizz. I simply swapped the simple syrup for the quince cordial. Taste wise a hit of aromatic quince gives way to a very zesty finish, the soda water making for a refreshing winter bracer. 

Essentially you end up a rather enjoyable gin & quince laced lemonade - giving you a deceptively strong highball that it's all to easy to gulp down quickly!

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 40ml Dry Gin
  • 20ml Quince Cordial
  • 20ml Lemon Juice
  • Bottle, Fever Tree Soda Water
  • Lemon wedge, to garnish
  • Highball glass
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Ice


  • Add the gin, cordial and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and, well, shake.
  • Pour over ice in to a highball glass.
  • Top with the soda water and stir.
  • Garnish with the lemon wedge

The Quinclet.

The Quinclet

Essentially the bastard child of a pink gin and a Gimlet this one. Despite the fact it is inescapably pink, this drink will put hairs on your chest. Don't let anyone tell you different.

The quince gives the finished article a more rounded flavour than a straight gimlet, however the lime juice and bitters lend a pleasing bite to the finish.

Ingredients & Equipment:

40ml Dry Gin
20ml Quince Cordial
20ml Lime juice
Liberal dash, Angostura Bitters
Lime zest, to garnish
Cocktail shaker
Martini glass, chilled


Pour a couple of drops of bitters in to the martini glass.
Give the gin, cordial and lemon juice a jolt in a shaker with a couple of ice cubes.
Strain in to the martini glass and garnish with a strip of lime zest.
Sit down before drinking!

I am now retreating to darkest rural Sweden for the duration of the Festivities, but will be back with more drink and fashion related ramblings in the New Year. 

I wish you all a very merry Christmas. Tinkerty-tonk!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How To Avoid Gortex...

Restoring a Vintage Swedish Army Rucksack...

... Or at least pepping it up a bit.

1950's Swedish Army Rucksack
Not a stitch of technical fabric in sight.
The search had been on for a while for a decent vintage or reproduction rucksack or day sack. The Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven make fantastic retro inspired, and very durable, trekking kit. However, their price point is rather high - at nearly 1,800 Swedish kronor (approx £200) for a 40 litre bag I decided to look elsewhere.

It's clear that Fjallraven have taken as their inspiration the original Swedish and British Army commando rucksacks from WW2.

1950's Swedish Army Rucksack1950's Swedish Army Rucksack

So I set about finding one. This example was £20. According to the seller the pack is post war. Metal framed and made from thick field grey canvas and heavy leather, 60 odd years on the rucksack was still in pretty good condition.

A few minor repairs have been done on the canvas and the leather was a little tired, but that's it.
The stitching was all in good condition, with no repairs needing doing.

I set about washing the canvas first. I scrubbed the lot with a hard brush in warm water. No soap. This supposedly expands the canvas fibres, and as they re dry they become even tighter - hence more water resistant.

As this was drying I turned to the leather, applying a liberal coat of Leder Gris leather grease to all of the harness and straps. Leder Gris is made of entirely natural ingredients, with none of the degrading chemicals you find in normal polishes like Kiwi. This helped to moisten the quite dry leather fixings after what presumably had been long years of storage.

1950's Swedish Army Rucksack
Despite years in storage the dry leather responded wonderfully to a working over with some leather grease.
I was in two minds as to whether it needed waxing. There are separate schools of thought here. The first says just wash the canvas - the wet fibres will expand and then shrink tighter with drying. To wax a vintage item will only push the dirt you could not wash out deeper in to the fabric, shortening its lifespan.

The second argues that a coat of wax will obviously increase the waterproofing - more important on something designed to spend its working life outdoors.
There was a district whiff of paraffin prior to the wash, so the pack had clearly been waxed previously.

Fjallraven Greenland Wax
You can try making your own with a mix of bees wax and paraffin, but I had some Fjallraven Greenland wax to hand anyway.

I applied a thin layer all over, but paid particular attention to the seams, bottom and lid - all points that get the most wear / exposure.

You simply warm the wax and rub it in to the canvas as evenly as possible. Once that's done the wax needs drying - I stole the wife's hairdryer and just worked over the pack panel by panel.

It should be good for quite a few Danish winter downpours now.

However you choose to treat your pack, if you're going to be out in inclement weather you'd use a dry bag inside the pack anyway.
When the pack next needs waterproofing, I might try making my own wax and applying it melted with a brush - this is supposed to give a much more even finish.

1950's Swedish Army Rucksack
Tool attachment loops. Not that I have an ice axe, but if I did these would be most useful.

1950's Swedish Army Rucksack
A simple top loading pack with heavy duty draw string closure.
To wear the pack is surprisingly comfortable, and at 40 litres, is perfect as a overnight or weekend bag. There are loops for a bed roll and an ice axe / entrenching tool, so it is definitely still functional in it's original role. I'm not sure I'd want to take it on a long trek though.

With minimal expense, time and effort you can easily bring one of these bags back to life. Why waste money on modern branded examples?

1950's Swedish Army Rucksack
Bed roll or sleeping mat straps .

If you're tempted they are still readily available from Ebay and various surplus stores.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Cocktail Hour

Sloe Gin Fizz

Amidst the countless Egg-nog recipes that pop up when researching festive cocktail options one alternative that caught my eye was the Sloe Gin Fizz.

The Gin Fizz, essentially a sour with added soda water, dates all the way back to the 1862 tome How To Mix Your Drinks by Jerry Thomas. It is important to distinguish between a Gin Fizz and a Tom Collins - the former is made with dry gin, the latter with sweeter Old Tom gin. 

If we're being strict about things a gin fizz should not be served with ice, whereas a Tom Collins is poured over rocks. I've ignored that here. 
You should really use a soda syphon too, if you don't have one just pour the soda vigorously to create lots of bubbles.

My dear old mother makes a batch of sloe gin every autumn, bottles of which are generously donated to yours truly.
I normally drink it straight or on the rocks, with only a single ice cube. But sloe gin also makes for a fantastic cocktail ingredient. In this case it turns a refreshing summer high-ball in to a pleasing winter treat.

I've not tried the commercially available sloe gins, though I suspect they are rather less sweet than the family home brew. I have upped the lemon juice content accordingly. If using shop bought gin use 10cl less lemon juice. I've also sharpened things up with a jolt of Tanquary, but feel free to experiment.

Ingredients / Equpment

  • 30cl Tanquary Gin
  • 30cl Sloe Gin
  • 30cl Simple Syrup
  • 30cl Lemon Juice
  • Bottle, Fever Tree Soda water
  • Cocktail shaker
  • High-ball glass
  • Ice
  • Lemon wedge to garnish


  • Mix the gins, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker
  • Fill a high-ball glass with ice and pour over contents
  • Top up with soda water
  • Stir and serve with the lemon wedge
As ever, if anyone has any variants of this recipe that might be of interest do let me know.

Cheers chaps!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Chaps Can Bake Too.

Swedish Saffron Buns.

No Swedish Christmas is complete without buns... 

Saffransbullar, traditionally made for Sankta Lucia on 13th December, are eaten over the course of Advent. Most Swedish families will have their own recipe, however there are umpteen available online.

Along with pepparkakor (ginger-snaps) the smell of them baking, for me, is about as Swedish as it gets. For Swedes, these two things signify Christmas and the mere thought of a yuletide without them would provoke social collapse. (Well, people might start openly disregarding traffic laws or not retuning library books on time, which amounts to the same thing.)

By weight saffron, derived from dried stigmas of the Saffron Crocus, is the world's most expensive spice, so it is no surprise it's used only for high days and holidays. Your supermarket will generally have small sachets of the stuff available.

Interestingly, Cornwall has a long tradition of baking with saffron too, both in bun and cake form. As with Sweden this was only done on special occasions, as the name Revel or Tea Treat buns would suggest. The Cornish tradition is to spice things up with cinnamon and / or cardamon. A fantastically moist spiced saffron fruit cake we tried in St Ives lives on in the memory. (Alas the name of the bakery escapes me.)

The Swedes keep things simple, just adding raisins to the mix. (Well, they do consume cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) for the rest of the year, so advent probably comes as a welcome break.)
We've taken the liberty of adding a dash of rum - this intensifies the flavour and deepens the golden yellow colour of the finished buns.

Easy to make, saffron buns really are a treat, especially when washed down with lots of glögg. (Female Swedish helper optional.)


  • 1g saffron
  • 2tbsp rum
  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 175g butter, room temp
  • 500ml milk, room temp
  • 200ml sugar
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 800g white flour
  • 100ml rasins
  • 1 beaten egg, for glazing


  • Mix the rum and saffron together in a glass and leave for a half hour to infuse
  • Cube the butter
  • Crumble the yeast and mix with the milk, butter and the saffron rum in a bowl or mixer
  • Add the sugar, salt & flour and work together for 15 mins in a mixer, or 20 mins by hand
  • Cover & leave to rise for an hour at least (or over night somewhere cool - some say this improves the flavour)
  • Soak the raisins in water for 30 mins. (This way they won't rob the buns of any moisture when baked)
  • Take the dough out of the bowl and, with a little flour, work in to shapes. (The S shape called Julgalt is most common, but there are several others)
  • Place them on a baking tray, lined with paper, and leave to rise for 30 mins
  • Pre heat oven to 225°C
  • Plonk two raisins at the tips of the S and glaze with the egg
  • Bake for 8 to 10 mins.
  • Leave to cool on rack under a tea towel
Perfect for a boozy elvakaffe!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Old Town Clothing.

A Brilliant Little World Of Its Own - Interview with Will Brown

The Norfolk based brand Old Town Clothing have been long standing favourite of mine - the Navy twill suit I bought from them years ago is still in regular service.

On behalf of Denim Hunters* I recently caught up with Old Town's co-founder, Will Brown, for an interview. (Read an edited version there and see Matt Hind's fantastic Piccadilly Pleasures images used for the article.)
The Marshalsea in Khaki canvas. This slightly fitted 4 button jacket has a district 1890's feel to it.
(I've been wearing a Navy version for 7 years now.)
High Rise trousers in the same canvas. They have a pleasingly high waist and wide leg.
 Originally based in London, Will has been making clothes for over 30 years. 
Old Town got its start in the mid 1980’s, “I opened a shop in Shoreditch in 1980 when there was little other than the last remnants of the furniture making industry in the area. It wasn’t very successful, but I was supplying a few garments to a boutique called ‘Demob’ in Soho. I was given the run of a spin-off shop, then called ‘Demobilization’ and by rearranging some of the nice fabricated letters on the facia it became ‘Old Town’.”
At first Norfolk might seem like an odd change of location. But it is consistent with Old Town’s desire to plough their own furrow. Indeed, the name “Tin House” was inspired by a local property they restored. 
Will was frank about the reasons for moving there, “My partner Miss Willey and I were living on a pretty grim estate in South London, but we found an old caravan on a bizarre plot in north Norfolk. We became attached to the area and found a shop with a flat in a 17th century street in Norwich. So, it seemed a good swap for Kennington. We opened Old Town so long ago the word ‘vintage’ hadn’t been invented (except when referring to wine or cars.)
The Marshalsea again - in Tin  House striped "Pantry Denim."
All patterns are modern in that they were designed by Will, but have a strict aesthetic firmly rooted in early 20th century utility clothing. 
Discussing what informs Tin House designs he said simply, “Historical imagery, costume and design reference. How to get the essence of a style with the least strokes? That’s what interests me most.”
 Old Town have developed a loyal following over the last few years. This rigorous aesthetic is part of their appeal. In the ever changing fashion world Old Town offer a simple continuity. 
Work wear is becoming increasingly popular, with many brands claiming to produce “heritage" or “authentic” items - something that Old Town stand against, “We never intended Old Town to be either of these. I don’t know at what stage designing and making something stopped being quite sufficient. 
The Short DB Jacket in 12oz Denim
It does rather feel that things have to have some sort of provenance today, however spurious. It’s quite a bloke-ish thing about spec and authenticity. I think that Old Town is more in the tradition of the early boutiques from the sixties and seventies like ‘Biba’ and ‘Let it Rock’ which were brilliant little worlds of their own.”
Old Town prefer to focus on quality and craftsmanship - all garments are hand made to order in and around the small village of Holt. With an average of 70 garments produced a week, the work is done by both Will himself and local artisans. Quality clothes take time. There is no web shop. You make your selection on a printed order form and post it off to Miss Willey. Turn around time for a garment is 4 to 6 weeks.
Orfords - a pattern of rugged seafaring jean much favoured on the Suffolk coast between the wars.
As Will says, “That’s how long it takes. Now just say that we were on a TV show like Challenge Anneka (remember that?) I dare say we could have a pair of trousers cut, sewn, buttonholed, buttoned, laundered, pressed and packed within a few hours. In practice trousers are cut as a group, the sewing ladies take their work on a weekly basis, the laundry similarly and so on. You can see how the days add up.
Also, I suppose customers do warm to the notion of the service and the necessary wait.”
All of Old Town’s material is UK sourced too. With so many labels looking for cheaper options abroad it is fantastic to see a brand do this. 
However, asked what Old Town look for when choosing fabric Will was quite direct, “Availability. We have been very fortunate with woollen cloths as they are woven in Britain and the minimum quantities are small (200 metres or so).
Cottons are tricky, even good old navy or khaki 3111 cotton drills aren’t that easy; we have to have the khaki dyed.
I would love to find interesting and obscure denims such as the old fashioned ‘salt and pepper’ effect that one used to see on warehouse coats. We would be laughed off trade stands at fabric fairs with the rather modest quantities that we could commit to. If anyone knows of interesting denims sold in less than a shipping containers worth I would love to know.”
A small range of ladies clothing also includes these, the no.5's - here in 12oz denim
Will may have very set ideas on what Old Town are, but not at the expense of the brand developing, “I hope it will continue to evolve, my instinct is towards a more modernist feel but I don’t know if customers would like it or not so I try to slip a bit in here and there.
What I’d really like to do is get off the buttonhole machine and have time to experiment, design clothes… in fact, just the nice bits but who wouldn’t?”
 Given that “a more modernist feel” probably equates to post 1930 die hard fans need not worry. Refreshingly un-fussed by the vagaries of fashion, Old Town simply focus on doing what they love. There is no empty marketing rhetoric here. Such integrity is sadly a rare thing these days.
Old Town is indeed a brilliant little world of its own, and whilst it’s clear that any brand has to evolve to survive, one hopes that Old Town keep doing what they do best - minimal yet beautiful clothes made by people with a profound love of what they do. If only more people thought this way. I urge you to check out
*Unsurprisingly DHs preoccupation is with all things selvedge denim related. It is worth stressing that selvedge does not necessarily equal quality. By the same token not all non selvedge denim is bad.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Cocktail Hour

A Short History of the Old Fashioned.

This classic bourbon based cocktail has seen something of a revival in recent years. A good thing in our view.
Paul Henreid & Bette Davis being served  an Old Fashioned in Now, Voyager (1942)
The Old Fashioned goes back a while.

The mixture of spirits, water, sugar and bitters originally came in to being as a morning bracer circa 1800. Often referred to as a Bittered Sling, gin, rum, bourbon or whiskey were freely interchanged. One argument is that spirits at the time were not of as high a quality as today, thus ways were found to flavour or sweeten them.
The addition of bitters, with its medicinal botanicals, technically makes the Old Fashioned an aperitif, served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. We're fond of a drink here at NU, however, hitting the hard stuff prior to our morning Weetabix is a bit much!

It is generally accepted that the Old Fashioned proper was invented around 1881 in Kentucky by the barman at The Pendennis Club in honour of a Colonel Pepper.

There are a multitude of differing recipes out there, specifying all sorts of bells and whistles. Ignore them.
The best cocktails are classics for a reason - they have been kept simple. Resist the urge to garnish with large wedges of fruit, cherries and so forth. You are not making a fruit salad.
Friday is here at last!

Ingredients / Equipment:

  • 60ml Bourbon or Rye
  • 20ml Simple Syrup*
  • Dash, Angostura Bitters
  • Strip of orange zest
  • I large ice cube*
  • Old Fashioned glass*


  • Pour the simple syrup in to the glass. 
  • Add the bitters
  • Pour in the bourbon 
  • Rub the strip of orange zest over the glass to release the oils and throw in
  • Muddle contents
  • Add ice cube.

A word on sugar - too many recipes specify using a sugar cube. If you do so make sure you work the sugar in to a syrup with a little water before you add the spirits. If not you'll end up with an unsweetened drink and a load of undissolved sugary clag at the bottom of your glass.
Trust us, we've been experimenting with this!

Some recipes suggest using orange bitters, this supposedly works better with a rye based Old Fashioned, though we have not tried this yet. One school of thought holds that one should use rye only, the argument being that most modern bourbons are sweet enough.

Rye whiskey is a little difficult to get hold of now, but once some is procured we shall further our researches.+

If anyone has experimented further please do report in your findings.

Bottoms up!

*For a Simple Syrup recipe see our post on The Gimlet.
*Not sure what came first, the glass or the cocktail. Any small tumbler or rocks glass will do.
*Don't over do the ice, why dilute all that bourbon?
+If you do want to experiment, but can't find a true rye whiskey, have a go with Canadian Club as it has a high rye content.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Ladies. And How to Keep Them Happy Over The Festive Period.

Ladies Underpinnings

Let me just say what we're all thinking, "Ooooooh!" Thank-you Kiss Me Deadly.

Yuletide is upon us. 

For chaps this presents the vexed question of what to buy one's Dearly Beloved for a present.

We're not at our best in this area of endeavour. It is safe to say that what you regard as an excellent gift, a cricket bat or an iron for example, might well result in domestic violence on Christmas morning.

Fear not, New Utility is hear to help manhood in its hour of need.

This brings us to the delicate topic of Ladies Underpinnings. Get it right and they make the perfect gift. Nothing is more guaranteed to make the little Fru shower your face with grateful kisses. Get it wrong and you'll be stumbling sheepishly in to some ghastly shop asking for a refund.

In this regard the inter-web is your ally.

Rudolf never knew what hit him...
However, a certain amount of preparation is needed first. Namely, measurements. Ask the half-portion to strip to her undergarments - aside from giving the measurer a pleasing eyeful this aides accurate readings. Measure around the, erm, Upper Leisure Areas* at their fullest point, the natural waist, the hips, and the inside leg. (This last is not vital unless planning a trouser purchase, but it helps not to give the game away too much.) For further assistance see here.

Thus equipped you are ready for the off.

Our unstinting research led to a couple of retro women's lingerie emporia. Kiss Me Deadly produce some really beautiful, but rather blood pressure threatening, under-garments. (As demonstrated here by the lovely Miss Tilda.) For a more strictly vintage silhouette have a look at What Katie Did - they specialise in fantastic 1950's reproduction unmentionables. (Though I have not had a chance to road test the latter...)

Helpfully for us gents they both have size charts against which you can check the aforementioned measurements.

For those leg men amongst you, why not treat your young lady to a pair of seamed stockings? Nothing quite sets off the Lower Leisure Areas as pair of seamed nylons....

This could be you on Christmas morning!
If you are unable to measure the female in question, or are simply too terrified, Kiss Me Deadly do have gift vouchers.

All that remains to add is a warning to not burn the goose - Ladies Underpinnings really are the gift that, ah, keeps on giving. For the sake of propriety we'll leave it at that.

A quick thank-you to the following:

Miss Tilda - general Swedish loveliness.
Mr Oliver Welwood Morrisson Esq - Tweed & nerves.
Kiss Me Deadly - unmentionables.
Christian Louboutin - sensible shoes.

Photography & constant thoughts of The Queen Mother - Mark Larner

See the full shoot here.

*It's worth having a peak at the bra she's wearing to confirm cup size.