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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Annie Hayes

Vodka: Ultra-premium is out, terroir is in

Serious spirits fans often consider vodka to be mass-produced and dull, with little to shout about other than questionable marketing fluff – but if you follow the liquid from field…

Serious spirits fans often consider vodka to be mass-produced and dull, with little to shout about other than questionable marketing fluff – but if you follow the liquid from field to bottle, what you find might surprise you. We speak to distillers championing the category’s flavour nuances…

Over the course of the 25 years Jan Woroniecki spent working in eastern European bars and restaurants, he reckons that he sampled almost every vodka known to man. The “crass marketing” and “desperate search for a point of difference” adopted by many brands had left a bitter taste in his mouth, and so a dejected Woroniecki sought to do better. And so Kavka Vodka was born.

Frozen Kavka

Frozen Kavka

“A number of factors have determined the direction that mainstream vodkas have taken over the last century – industrialisation of production, economies of scale, cartels of producers, a drive to satisfy the lower end of the market – where if you can’t have quality, at least you can make it as inoffensive as possible,” he says.

“The idea behind Kavka was to fight back against the idea that vodka should be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or colour – the American legal definition of vodka and to go back to the production methods popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, when each distillery would produce spirits that emphasised taste and individuality rather than trying to filter them out.

For many, this mission begins in the field. For, William Borrell, founder of Vestal Vodka (based in London but the liquid comes from Poland), his “eureka moment” occurred after tasting potatoes grown in different fields. “They tasted completely different when cooked, and had almost tropical notes when taken from the soil and lightly steamed immediately after picking,” he says. “By using ingredients grown in different fields during different yearly cycles, you have both terroir and vintage much like viticulture in wine production.”

Vodka has “a long history of outrageous marketing”, Borrell continues, “filtered through diamonds, crystal skull bottles and ‘P Diddy* is my best friend’”. But over the last few years, in vodka and spirits in general the T-word has becoming increasingly commonplace.

Polish vodka Belvedere took terroir to the next level with the launch of its Single Estate Series a few years back. The brand works with only eight local agricultural sources to create Belvedere Pure, and honed in on two of those for the series, global brand ambassador Michael Foster tells me “focusing on the lakeside Bartężek and forested Smogóry to illustrate the variation of terroir on Dankowskie Diamond rye”.

Lake Bartężek looking particularly beautiful

Smogóry Forest is made from rye grown at a single small estate deep in western Poland, he says; a region “known for its vast forests, short, continental weather fronts, mild winters and fertile soils”. Lake Bartężek, meanwhile, is crafted from the same rye strain grown at a single farm in northern Poland’s Mazury lake district, “renowned for its crystal-clear glacial lakes, weather shaped by Baltic winds and long, snowy winters”. The former creates a “bold and savoury” vodka, with notes of salted caramel, honey and white pepper; while the latter is “delicate and fresh”, with notes of black pepper, toasted nuts and cream.

“For many years, there has been a long-standing assumption that all vodka tastes the same, and is largely a neutral spirit,” says Foster. “Although the nuances between vodkas are much more subtle than other liquids, as demonstrated by the Smogóry Forest and Lake Bartężek, there is an ability to develop vodkas that reflect the environment in which they were created.”

Then there’s the small matter of distillation. Say what you like about vodka, but there’s no scope to improve behind a decade in wood or a wine cask finish. Every step counts. Column still distillation – how the vast majority of vodka is produced – creates a high quality base spirit, “so long as it’s not over-distilled or over-filtered”, says Woroniecki, but using a pot still allows more character to come through, “as you can control the purity levels of the spirit and accentuate the flavours of the raw materials whether it is potato, rye or grain”.

Kavka vodka Martini

Kavka vodka Martini

Then there’s flavoured vodka. It has a long and noble history: not the saccharine birthday cake or Parma Violet flavours that plagued the early 2,000s, but rather herbs and botanicals used to make what’s known as a “bitters” style vodka, says Woroniecki, “Zoladkowa being a classic, as well as Zubrowka, which is made with a wild bison grass”.

“Macerating fruit is a classic country method, cherry being the most well-known,” he continues. “There are, however, subtler variations; traditionally Zytnia was made with the addition of apple spirit, while Stolichnaya used caraway to add extra depth.”

Woroniecki adopted some of these methods to create Kavka, which contains a blend of rye and wheat spirits along with small quantities of aged pot-stilled fruit spirits: apple and plum. “The fruit flavours are very much in the background but they combine to create a vodka with length, depth and character,” he explains.

This reflects the taste preferences of a more discerning drinker, says Foster. “With the rise of the ‘craft’ movement particularly in gin people are becoming ever more interested about the provenance of products, production processes and the source of raw ingredients,” he says.

“Now that we’ve passed the ‘Disco Era’ of bartending, quality has become the topic of discussion rather than quantity, and people are looking to expand their horizons to drink better. In relation to vodka, this has led to an upturn in the super premium category, and a wider understanding that vodka can have taste, character and substance.”

*Apparently he goes by “Ciroc Obama” now.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Shallow Negroni

What do you get when you cross Bradley Cooper’s Oscar-winning box office tearjerker A Star Is Born with a quintessentially Italian cocktail invented in Milan back in the late 20th…

What do you get when you cross Bradley Cooper’s Oscar-winning box office tearjerker A Star Is Born with a quintessentially Italian cocktail invented in Milan back in the late 20th century? MoM headed down to 45 Park Lane in Mayfair to find out…

We’ve got a bit of a two-in-one for you this week. It’s a twist on a twist on a classic. You could take the drink a step further by modifying the recipe at the bottom to craft a twist on a twist on a twist on a classic, but what you do in your own time is up to you.

45 Park Lane

Swank city

We stumbled across this little number a couple of weeks ago, at Dorchester Collection’s contemporary Mayfair hotel, 45 Park Lane. The bar there is well-known for its knockout Negroni offering – there is even a trolley dedicated to the drink – so we were thrilled to attend Negroni Nights masterclass hosted by esteemed bar manager Francesco Orefici in honour of the drink’s 100-year anniversary.

“We are in the Seventies in Milan,” Campari Group brand ambassador Paolo Tonellotto announces as we take our seats. We’re no longer in a private room in Mayfair, but have instead been transported to Bar Basso, a Milanese institution. Bartender Mirko Stocchetto is making drinks, and a customer has approached the bar to order a Negroni. In goes the Campari, followed swiftly by vermouth. So far, so Italian.

“At that very moment, a blonde lady walks into the bar,” says Tonellotto, “she’s beautiful, everyone is staring at her. The bartender reaches for a bottle and starts pouring. At that very moment the customer turns around and says, ‘Ti stai sbagliando’ which means, ‘You are mistaken’. It was prosecco that he poured.”

“He says, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make another for you’,” Tonellotto continues. “The guy looks at him like, ‘by the time you do that, someone else will talk to that lady!’. So he takes the drink and off he goes to chat her up. Ten minutes later, the guy comes to the bar and says, ‘Can I have two sbagliato of yours?’. And that’s how the Sbagliato was born*.”

Shallow Negroni

Mixing a Negroni

So, what inspired the 45 Park Lane team to put a twist on the twist? “We had a phone call from our lovely chef [David McIntyre, executive chef at Cut], who asked us to come up with a lovely drink ahead of the Oscars,” Orefici explains; “We know that one of his favourite drinks is the Negroni. He said he will be cooking for several celebrities, including Bradley Cooper – so instead of prosecco we used Champagne, to celebrate the awards.”

A lovely touch. Incidentally the name isn’t a sly dig at actors but a nod to the title song of A Star is Born, ‘Shallow’, sung by Lady GaGa and Cooper himself. So, what does it taste like? Compared to the Negroni, the Sbagliato – and, indeed, the Shallow Negroni – will be slightly sweeter, says Tonellotto, making it great introduction to the bitter classic for the uninitiated Negroni drinker.

“If you’re taking gin away, you’re taking a 40% alcohol out of the equation, as well as the only ingredient that has got no sugar whatsoever,” he says. “Instead it’s prosecco or Champagne, which have bubbles and residual sugar.”

If there was a cocktail version of the Academy Awards, this drink would absolutely clean up. The Shallow Negroni has to be the Best Adapted Screenplay we’ve ever tasted. Lanson Champagne is honoured with Best Supporting Actress. Orange wheel walks away with Best Visual Effects, no question.

Until the drinks Oscars takes off, you’ll either have to take our word for it or make one for yourself. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, may we present to you: the Shallow Negroni…

Shallow Negroni

Voila! A Shallow Negroni

30ml Campari
30ml Antica Formula
Lanson Champagne to top

Add ice to a Burgundy wine glass. Add Campari, Antica Formula, and top with approximately 30ml Lanson Champagne. Garnish with a wheel of freshly cut orange. With tears in your eyes, thank your mum, dad and family pet for their love and support.

For the London locals among you, the Negroni Nights experience is running bi-monthly until Thursday 2 May. Priced at £125 per person, it includes three cocktails – the Classic Negroni, Vintage Negroni and Seasonal Negroni – each paired with canapes created by David McIntyre. For more information or to make a booking email CUT.45L@dorchestercollection.com, call 020 7493 4545 or visit dorchestercollection.com.

*You have to remember that the Negroni Sbagliato was invented long before social media and Fake News. There was no such thing as @DHOTYA in the Seventies (‘Didn’t Happen Of The Year Awards’, for the Twitter-less among you). You have been told that a delicious drink was invented completely by accident, and that is the tale that will be told until the end of time.

 

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Five minutes with… Knappogue Castle’s Tony Carroll

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we pinned down Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey global brand ambassador Tony Carroll to talk 15th century castles, defunct distilleries and fighting spirit….

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we pinned down Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey global brand ambassador Tony Carroll to talk 15th century castles, defunct distilleries and fighting spirit. Plus, three cracking Irish whiskey cocktail recipes from New York bar Pouring Ribbons…

When the Irish whiskey market collapsed in the early 20th century, distillers, blenders and bottlers on the Emerald Isle were plunged into a century-long decline they’ve only recently began to recover from. In the 1890s the island was home to more than 30 distilleries; by the 1990s, just three remained.

Today, the category is the fastest-growing spirit on the planet, but the after-effects of the bust linger. Today, Irish whiskey can be roughly split across three routes: distillers with mature stock; working distilleries bottling sourced whiskey, and traditional bonders. ‘Old’ and ‘rare’ whiskeys don’t appear too often.

For independent bottler Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey, however, those words are part of its DNA. In fact Knappogue Castle 1951, bottled by the brand’s founder Mark Edwin Andrews II, is one of the oldest and rarest commercially available Irish whiskies on the market.

If your palate is yet to be acquainted with Knappogue Castle’s portfolio, its whiskeys are triple distilled and aged for a minimum of 12 years in bourbon oak casks. This makes for a “smooth, mellow and well-balanced” dram, Carroll told MoM, with notes of “fruit, vanilla and peppery spice”. Here, he explains how the brand came to be…

Tony Carroll, Knappogue Castle

Tony Carroll, brand ambassador for Knappogue Castle

Master of Malt: Knappogue’s founder started ageing whiskey in his eponymous castle way back in the Sixties. Could you tell us how the whiskey became the brand it is today?

Tony Carroll: Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish Whiskey is named after Knappogue Castle, a 15th century castle in western Ireland, which was restored by Texas native Mark Edwin Andrews II and his wife – a prominent American architect – in 1966. A connoisseur and collector, Andrews amassed an impressive and rare collection of pure pot still Irish whiskey. Purchasing by the cask direct from distillers, primarily from B. Daly Distillery which ceased production in 1954, he aged and then bottled the product under the name Knappogue Castle after his beloved building. Andrews’ last bottling – Knappogue Castle 1951 – was made available to the public for the first time in 1998 by his son, Mark Edwin Andrews III, under Knappogue Castle Spirits – an homage to his father’s legacy. Today, the Knappogue Castle portfolio includes the 1951 and the 12, 14 and 16-year expressions along with a range of different limited releases.

MoM: Knappogue Castle 1951 caught our eye, being one of the oldest and rarest commercially available Irish whiskies on the market could you talk about the history behind it?

TC: The production of Knappogue Castle 1951 is very much intertwined with the history of Knappogue itself, being the last of Mark Edwin Andrews II’s original bottlings from the days he collected whiskey at Knappogue Castle. Made from malted and unmalted barley, Knappogue Castle 1951 was triple distilled in copper pot stills in 1951, aged in oloroso sherry casks for 36 years and then bottled in 1987.

MoM: Irish whiskey very much seems to be focused on innovation at the moment. Could you share some insight about Knappogue’s strapline, “Boldly daring to do things the way they’ve always been done”, and the intention behind it?

TC: The strapline very much reflects the ethos and direction that Knappogue has taken throughout its many years. It was bold and daring of Mark Andrews II to purchase the castle and bring it back to its present glory, and it was bold and daring for Mark Andrews III – our current Knappogue chairman – to take the whiskey to America. But that’s the way Knappogue has always been. It’s that simple.

MoM: We love a bit of history here at MoM towers. Could you tell us an interesting story about Knappogue Castle?

TC: In the early 20th century the castle served as the headquarters of General Michael Brennan and the Irish Free State army in Ireland’s fight for freedom. Maybe this is where Knappogue Castle gets its fighting spirit from.  

MoM: We’re dying to know where does Knappogue source its casks from today?

TC: Knappogue, like all Irish whiskey, is bound by the Irish whiskey technical file, which states that the best cask for ageing Irish whiskey is American white oak that has been maturing bourbon for two years and over. This provides beautiful balance and colouring. With regard to our finishes, we source barrels from Spain, France and Italy to name a few. All these casks have matured either port or wine and each contributes its own very unique taste profile to our Knappogue finishes. But trust me on one thing – they’re bloody lovely.  

Knappogue Castle 1951

Seriously rare, Knappogue Castle 1951

MoM: Could you talk about the most exciting or perhaps unusual projects you have done in the past? And any you have lined up?

KC: The new Cask Finish Series is the latest in Knappogue Castle’s history of successful speciality limited releases. With only 1,020 bottles in production, the latest release is The Château Pichon Baron, which is matured in bourbon barrels for a minimum of 12 years, then further aged in casks from the renowned Bordeaux winery. We also have plans for additional Barolo and Marsala wine cask finished expressions, which will find a home in America, Europe and Asia. Earlier this year we unveiled the 21 Year Old Single Malt edition, too.

MoM: Where is Irish whiskey headed – what do you predict the category will look like in a decade’s time, say?

TC: Right now the growth of Irish whiskey is phenomenal, and it’s down to a number of factors. Most of the growing Irish whiskey markets are well-established Scotch strongholds. Scotch has driven an appetite for high-end whiskey, but nowadays choice is king. Years ago, for example, America didn’t have too much choice… Scotch or beer was pretty much it, but these days with the plentiful supply of Irish whiskies, the consumer gets to choose. Secondly, the age demographic has changed, moving from middle aged men that like a snifter to young 28 to 40 year olds enjoying Irish whiskey in cocktails or on the rocks. The next 10 years will be very much ‘foot to the floor’ as we say here in Ireland, but Irish whiskey is a long game player. It takes 12 to 21 years to produce our current range of Knappogue whiskey, so we will stick to the principles that have served us well over the past years.

Thanks, Tony! Below, you’ll find three Knappogue Castle whiskey cocktails created by Joaquín Simó from Pouring Ribbons. Slainte!

Crossing Currents

Ingredients: 60ml Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey, 20ml Contratto Bianco, 1 tsp Kalani Coconut Liqueur, 1 dash Angostura Bitters
Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: Trimmed, expressed and inserted lemon peel
Method: Stir and strain

Sweater Weather

Ingredients: 60ml Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey, 1 tsp Grade B Maple Syrup, 1 tsp Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao, 1 tsp Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, 1 dash Angostura Bitters
Glass: Rocks
Ice: Cylinder
Garnish: Trimmed, expressed and inserted orange peel
Method: Build in glass

MacNamara Rose

Ingredients: 60ml Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey, 20ml Lillet Rosé, 15ml Aperol, 2 slices muddled cucumber, 1 pinch sea salt
Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: Skewered cucumber ribbon with 1 drop rose water
Method: Muddle lightly, stir and double strain

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The bars of the future are already here

Curious about what the cocktail bars of the future might look like? No need to gaze into crystal balls – the clues are all around you. Here, we take a…

Curious about what the cocktail bars of the future might look like? No need to gaze into crystal balls – the clues are all around you. Here, we take a look at the progressive venues re-shaping the modern bar landscape in 2019 (and beyond)…

“In 1986, there was a little boy at his first job in the Grand Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich who saw his first serious bartender with a huge moustache, tie and white jacket,” recalls Klaus St Rainer. “The coolest person in the whole building. ‘That must be the best job in the world,’ I thought to myself. And I was right.”

Since St Rainer, the owner of Munich’s Goldene Bar, had his life-changing encounter all those years ago, the industry has transformed. The legendary barman – who recently joined Jim Meehan for a guest shift during Banks Rums’ Please Do Tell tour – credits Charles Schumann’s 1992 book American Bar for painting bartending as serious profession: paving the way for what he calls “the new golden age of cocktails”.

Klaus St Reynier

Klaus St Reynier thinking about the future

But despite the incredible technological advancements we’ve witnessed over the course of the last few decades – using a rotovap to extract delicate aroma compounds, for example – very little has actually changed behind the bar. The industry is a stickler for tradition, and there’s an argument, I suppose, that until now, very little has had to.

At its heart, “a bar is a place for people to gather and escape from their daily lives,” says Simone Sanna, bar manager at Lyan Cub in Hoxton. But while the bar’s most basic function hasn’t changed, the attitudes and expectations held by its guests and owners have. As a ‘sustainable drinks-led dining experience’ that approaches food and drink as a ‘united entity’, Cub is a shining example.

“Our main focus is to educate guests about what you can get from your surroundings and take them on a flavour journey,” explains Sanna. “We have all become more conscious of the environmental cost of what we consume, and the ethics behind ingredients will only become more and more important.”

A new project with similar ideals, called Tayēr and Elementary, will join Cub in Old Street this Spring. The brainchild of Monica Berg and Alex Kratena; the venue features two bar concepts and a creative workspace called Outthink that “will encourage collaboration beyond the culinary arts’.

In Elementary, the menu will be dictated by available produce and drinks will be served via a bar system created in collaboration with Oslo bar Taptails for efficient service, while Tayēr – derived from the Spanish word ‘Taller’, meaning workshop – will, like Cub, focus on what is inside the glass and on the plate.

Tayēr’s bar will be stocked not only with selection of products from wine and sake producers, breweries and distillers, but spirits, beer and soft drinks of Berg and Kratena’s own creation. But more interesting is its adaptable station, which has been designed so that ‘the equipment, tools and produce can be placed anywhere based on concept, season, ingredients or any other individual needs’.

Together Berg and Kratena spent more than three years developing the concept, re-evaluating the efficiency and functionality of each aspect of the traditional bar set-up to refine the experience for both the bartender and the guest.

“Several things could be done to make [bartending] more viable [as a] long term profession,” says Berg. “It’s a physical job, so some wear and tear is to be expected, but at the same time, making sure the designs are more ergonomically suitable would help immensely.

“Our stations for example, are higher than what’s been the norm, because much of the bar station design has not been updated for decades. People today are taller than generations before, so it makes sense that they also need higher stations.”

While experience has surely shaped Berg and Kratena’s approach to Tayēr and Elementary – “we have both been very fortunate to work with great people along the way,” Berg says – a love of being behind the bar is the “single most important part”. Making drinks is fun, she adds, but the reward really lies in the interaction with guests. The one aspect of the bar, after all, that can’t be reimagined.

Cha-Chunker Genuine Liquorette

Ch-ch-ch-cha Chunker (sung to the tune of Changes by David Bowie) from Genuine Liquorette

With that said, some venues are certainly playing with the parameters of the ‘bartender’ role. Take bar-slash-off-license hybrid Genuine Liquorette which opened in Fitzrovia last year. It may be headed up by some of the capital’s finest bartenders, but the concept puts the power firmly in the hands of its guests.

You can craft your own bottled cocktail from a host of ingredients usually tucked away behind the bar, dispense one of six ready-made cocktails on tap, invent your own Cha-Chunker – a can of soft drink with a hole cut into the top and a miniature spirit upended into it – or create a personalised drink choosing from spirits labelled by price per gram (the bottle is weighed before and after).

Is this, perhaps, what we should expect from tomorrow’s venues? For the most part, today’s bartenders expect there will be change – but not too much. And maybe robots. “There will be still a mix of everything: high quality classic bars, experimental bars, dive bars, hotel bars, pubs and maybe some robot bars with bionic drinks,” St Rainer reckons.

“I sincerely hope bars will continue to be a social meeting place where strangers, friends, locals and travellers all meet up and have fun,” adds Berg. When it comes to what’s inside the glass, drinks will continue to evolve and adapt; “if we maintain our supply chains, producers, farmers and makers and ingredients, we will continue to drink great cocktails in the future.”

But as ingredient choices shift according to our palate preferences and societal necessities, Sanna remains “truly convinced that people will still order a Dry Martini even if they’re on Mars”. A Martian Martini sounds good to us.

 

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Introducing Muyu: Liqueurs, but not as you know them

Internationally-acclaimed bar stars Monica Berg, Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale have launched Amazon-inspired Muyu, a range of modern liqueurs made with a forager’s philosophy and a perfumer’s approach. Here, Berg…

Internationally-acclaimed bar stars Monica Berg, Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale have launched Amazon-inspired Muyu, a range of modern liqueurs made with a forager’s philosophy and a perfumer’s approach. Here, Berg explains how the trio sought to capture the essence of the rainforest – responsibly…

The story of Muyu – named for the word for ‘seed’ in Quechan languages – begins back in 2016, when Berg, Kratena and Caporale visited the Amazon to explore the potential of Amazonian produce in cocktails. In doing so, they realised not only how precious this part of the world is, but also how fragile, says Berg.

“We decided that we wanted to contribute to the preservation of the people, the biodiversity, and the area,” she explains, “but the worst thing you can do if you want to preserve something is take something away. We came home and thought about what we could do – and the only thing we really know how to do is make drinks.”

Muyu

The big three, from left, Kratena, Berg and Caporale

Together, the trio came up with a business plan, which they pitched to Dutch distiller De Kuyper Royal Distillers (the company dates back to 1695, making it one of the oldest family-owned distilleries in the world; irrelevant here but a good fact nonetheless).

“There were a few things that were very important for us,” says Berg. “Firstly, creative freedom, and secondly, that part of the profits would go to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to preserve the people, the area, and the biodiversity. [De Kuyper] said yes straight away, so it was the perfect match.”

Together with leading experts, the team sources aromatic substances from plants, flowers and fruits from Grasse, a French town known as the “perfume capital of the world”, and Schiedam, a Dutch city known for its historic distilleries – including De Kuyper.

The team combines production elements from both the perfume and cocktail world to create the Muyu range, which launched with three expressions: Jasmine Verte, made by Berg; Chinotto Nero, Caporale’s creation, and Vetiver Gris, from Kratena.

Each liquid begins a single note: the eponymous ingredient of each liqueur. Then, each adds secondary ingredients to build and blend their liquid. A number of different techniques – including steam distillation, maceration, tinctures, rotovap distillation, C02 extraction, and enfleurage – are used to extract the chosen flavours.

“Enfleurage is basically the fat-washing of the perfume world,” says Berg, as she talks us through her own bottling. “You take jasmine, steep it in fat and then remove the flowers. The fat is mixed with alcohol and distilled again. This way, you are able to extract only the fragile delicate notes of the flower.”

These extractions are the blended with alcohol, sugar, acids and water to create the final liquid. Muyu Jasmine Verte combines jasmine with neroli, yuzu, “patchouli to round it, a little bit of nettle leaf, and lastly iris”, which functions as the “backbone” of the liqueur.

Muyu

Muyu, booze inspired by the Amazon

Muyu Chinotto Nero pays homage to its namesake with a blend of cinchona, oak moss, curacao orange and cacao. “Anyone who grew up in Italy is quite familiar with chinotto as a soda, but those often have a lot of spices mixed into them,” says Berg, “Simone wanted to wanted to mimic the fruit”. One of its distinguishing features is added acidity, she explains. “A lot of citrus fruits have acidity, but a lot of citrus liqueurs don’t, which makes them very one-dimensional.”

Of all the liqueurs, Muyu Vetiver Gris has “probably the most perfume-y ingredients out of all of them,” says Berg, pointing to fashion brand Tom Ford, which has released some pretty heavy vetiver-based perfumes. Vetiver, typically “quite a heavy botanical in terms of aroma”, is matched with timur pepper, patchouli, petit grains and cedarwood. “The timor pepper has a lot of the same qualities, but it’s a little bit different – when you distil it, it gets all these bright top notes,” she adds.

The liqueurs are low in ABV (between 22% and 24%) as well as sugar, around “200 grams per litre, which is very low,” says Berg. “We feel that you can always add more alcohol and you can always add more sugar if you need. Our intention was always to give the bartender as much freedom as possible.”

Muyu is designed to be shared in highballs, mixed in cocktails and drunk on the rocks: simple, easy-to-follow serves. Muyu Jasmine Verte is paired with Champagne, Chinotto Nero with London Essence Company Tonic Water, and Vetiver Gris with Ting. Yes, Ting.

“The idea is, could your mother make this at home?,” explains Berg. “One liqueur and top it up with a mixer – yes, absolutely. My mother would never try anything more complex than that. She’d say no, I’ll have a glass of wine.”

Muyu

Great with Champagne, even better with Ting

 

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Five minutes with Jim Meehan, co-founder of Banks Rums

Empathy, urgency and grace are the three qualities that define an exceptional bartender, Jim Meehan believes. And as the owner of iconic New York cocktail bar Please Don’t Tell –…

Empathy, urgency and grace are the three qualities that define an exceptional bartender, Jim Meehan believes. And as the owner of iconic New York cocktail bar Please Don’t Tell – which this year opened its first international outpost in Hong Kong – and co-founder of Banks Rums, we’re inclined to take his word for it…

Over the last month or so Meehan has been hitting up European cities with his molasses hat on to present a series of bartender education workshops rather aptly named Please Do Tell. Having released his most recent cocktail tome last year – titled Meehan’s Bartender Manual – Meehan hosted bartenders in Berlin, Munich and Amsterdam at Fragrances, Les Fleurs du Mal and Roses respectively, sharing the brand’s story along with his bountiful bartending expertise together with European Banks ambassador Alison Bartrop.

The trip reaffirmed his affection for the bar communities of Germany and the Netherlands, “where I was welcomed like family,” says Meehan. “Amidst all the political turmoil these days, with news suggesting that the bonds between America and Europe are fraying, my experiences and interactions are quite the opposite. For this, I am grateful and optimistic about the future.”

At each venue, the bar manager – Peggy Ka at Fragrances, Henning Neufeld at Les Fleurs du Mal and Max Prins at Roses – prepared a selection of cocktails (one being a punch) with Banks 5 Island and Banks 7 Golden Blend, which were served during the sessions. I imagine there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing bartenders channel their creativity into a spirit you’ve built from the ground up.

Jim Meehan Banks Rum

Banks Rum with its creator, Jim Meehan

“Without, hopefully, sounding too sentimental or self-centred, it’s a huge thrill when people appreciate something you helped create,” says Meehan. “So whether you mix Banks into Charles Schumann’s Swimming Pool cocktail – which just turned 40 years old this year, but is new to me – or one of Peggy’s custom perfume-inspired cocktails, you’re going to have my interest and gratitude.”

In terms of his own personal evolution behind the bar, Meehan uses the same creative approach as influential bands such as Radiohead and the Beatles. “These bands and their sound changed and evolved dramatically from record to record as they changed personally and collectively,” he explains.

“I would say that I’ve changed and evolved through each bar and team I’ve worked with: I’ll always be a work in progress. Like other creatives, bartender’s craft is shaped by the people they surround themselves with, the environment, technology, art, music, fashion and other elements.”  

As well as the cultural, technical and historical aspects of drink-making, Meehan’s Bartender Manual also focuses on the practicalities of bartending. With the back-breaking labour and unsociable hours bartending demands, it’s hardly sustainable as a long-term career.

Jim Meehan

Empathy, urgency and grace, that’s Jim

“I tended bar full time for fifteen years, and found the physical and emotional fortitude required to perform the job at a high level grew exponentially in my late thirties, especially when my wife and I had our first child,” says Meehan. “We need to stop looking at people like Charles Schumann, Julio Cabrera or Murray Stenson as anything other than gifted outliers in our industry.

“With that said, in countries like Sweden, where the state takes care of health care, education, provides time off for parenting and recognises the need for vacation and reasonable numbers of hours in the work week, maybe more of us would stand a chance.”

So, how will bars 100 years from now look, feel, and operate compared to today? Meehan addresses this question the design chapter of his book. “The assets needed to operate a bar – tables, chairs, mirrors, a physical bar – haven’t changed much over the last century,” it reads. This should come as little surprise, as the primary function of a bar or restaurant – to sate thirst and hunger in a communal setting – hasn’t changed either.

What has changed, and continues to, is the way in which people interact in bars. Over time, the bar length has contracted to allow for more tables, booths, and stools, which allows guests to sit (whereas historically, bargoers preferred to stand). As the traditional elements the guests interface with evolve, the layout of workstations and machinery behind the bar must also be adapted to accommodate the food and drink fashions of the day.

When it comes to cocktails and their ingredients, “one could make a cogent argument that there’s no need to evolve,” Meehan says. “Every generation, a few new recipes become part of the canon, but I feel that each generation’s responsibility is to preserve tradition,” he continues. “Certainly improvements must be made – the Japanese term ‘kaizen’ comes to mind – but I’d be hard pressed to come up with a drink more perfect than a well-made Daiquiri.”

What’s on your bucket list for 2019, I ask, both professionally and personally? “Ten years into my journey with Banks, I’d like to see the brand continue to grow with punch leading the way in bars and at home as more cocktail lovers begin entertaining,” he says. “Personally, my bucket is already full with two young kids, a happy wife and our ten-year-old French bulldog Pearl still along for the ride.”

Jim Meehan

Jim Meehan, like the Beatles, only with drinks

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How J&B Scotch charmed Hollywood’s Rat Pack

Created by London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks, J&B Rare Scotch whisky was the drink of choice for world-famous casino crooners The Rat Pack, travelling more than 5,000 miles to…

Created by London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks, J&B Rare Scotch whisky was the drink of choice for world-famous casino crooners The Rat Pack, travelling more than 5,000 miles to make it into their tumblers. Here, writer Damian Barr explains just how Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and company got their mitts on the liquid…

Before tux-clad entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop took the Las Vegas casino scene by storm in the 1950s and ‘60s, the city was little more than “a patch in the Nevada Desert,” Barr explains, speaking at London bar Oriole during J&B’s Rat Pack Redistilled event.

“The Rat Pack turned it into what it is now – for better and for worse,” he continues. “They liked to gatecrash one another’s shows, and often if you were going to a show for one of the members it would say over the marquee, ‘Dean Martin, maybe Frank, maybe Sammy’, because they just never knew who was going to turn up.”

J&B and America, a special relationship

So, how did the high rollers of Hollywood wind up quaffing what was, in fact, a wine merchant’s whisky? It all started with the ‘J’ in J&B – an Italian master distiller, blender, and creator of what were then referred to as ‘foreign cordials’, Giacomo Justerini, when he arrived in London from Italy back in 1749.

“He didn’t have much money, but he had lots of charm and a recipe which he copied on the back of a notebook and brought from his uncle in Bologna,” says Barr. “He needed a business partner so he set about finding one, and found Dr Samuel Johnson.”

Justerini set up as a wine merchant with Johnson’s nephew, George, at 76 Haymarket – the business remains nearby today – until eventually George sold his share of the business to Albert Brooks, paving the way for the J&B recognisable today.

“By the early nineteenth century, a huge interest increased in the number of private members clubs and they all opened up around St James’s,” says Barr. “Great whisky barons like [creator of Old Vatted Glenlivet] Andrew Usher and Tommy Dewar noted the increased demand and decided to improve their recipes. Every other whisky maker on the block – including Justerini and Brooks – decided to up their game.”

Brooks approached Usher – the first person to commercially blend whisky – and tasked him with creating a smoother blend. Usher, together with his business partner James Anderson, developed J&B Club, the precursor to J&B Rare. The duo was so enamoured with it, they decided to buy the business from Justerini and Brooks.

The Duke of Windsor J&B

The Duke of Windsor enjoying a glass of J&B

Not long later, during world war one, Anderson’s son met a exceedingly charismatic young man called Eddie Tatham in the trenches. He joined the company immediately after the war ended, and soon became a director. With the advent of cinema, film actors became friends with Tatham, who was “very outgoing and well-dressed… a party boy”.

“Eddie was a charmer, he was the kind of man that you’d want to be on out with on a night that might take unexpected turns,” says Barr. “His tactic was to choose top restaurants, top bars, top hotels, what became known as the tip of the trade. He received a bonus not long after joining of £200, which equates to £12,000 in today’s money, and set sail for America.”

There he met blender Charlie Julian, who is responsible for creating Chivas Regal among other whiskies. Together, they begin the blending process for what would eventually become J&B Rare: a blend of at least 42 single malt and grain Speyside whiskies, including liquid from Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey. After Prohibition was repealed, Tatham set about “importing the good stuff from Scotland for the thirsty of America”.

With the help of distributor Abe Rosenberg, Tatham decided to target the national markets; Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Palm Beach, New Orleans, Newport. “Of these, the biggest was Las Vegas; big gamblers, big singers, big comedians, all playing the casinos,” says Barr. Performers like the Rat Pack, who he became very good friends with.

“Abe Rosenberg had this trick – he would send half a gallon of J&B to the dressing room of a star who had a show on and say, ‘I enjoyed your show very much, have one on me’,” says Barr. “Even if he was in New York or Rome or Paris! Apparently he was trying to give away up to 1,000 cases of Scotch every single year.”

The most loyal of J&B’s Rat Pack admirers was Dean Martin, the ‘amiable drunk’ persona, which he honed at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. “Introduced with the words ‘…and now, direct from the bar’, he would bound on stage, taking a Scotch from somebody’s table on the way,” says Barr. “There was often a bar on stage, and he’d ‘top-up’ his glass before launching into the final rendition of That’s Amore. He used to tell his audiences, “I don’t drink any more… I don’t drink any less, either’.”

Entertaining as it was, Martin’s intoxication was a little more than a stage act. “His son Ricky said that while it was true [his] Dad drank, the drunky routine was an act,” explains Barr. “On stage, and later on his TV show, he did have a J&B Scotch and soda but it was almost always a weak one – and sometimes it was just an apple juice.”

Dean Martin J&B

Dean Martin, that’s actually apple juice in his glass. No, really!

 

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Hack six classic cocktails with these at-home essentials

To help bars and pubs whip up everyone’s favourite whisky cocktail quickly and consistently, Woodford Reserve Bourbon has developed a cocktail syrup for the Old Fashioned. Don’t let bartenders hog…

To help bars and pubs whip up everyone’s favourite whisky cocktail quickly and consistently, Woodford Reserve Bourbon has developed a cocktail syrup for the Old Fashioned. Don’t let bartenders hog all the fun, though – cut corners at home with six bottlings that promise to create high quality cocktails in a flash…

If there’s one thing us Brits excel at, it’s waiting. We understand that it sometimes takes 15 years for whisky here to taste nice, and we can form an orderly queue like we were born to do it. But I’ll let you in on a secret – underneath that tight-lipped facade, we’re just as impatient as the rest of the world.

It’s a relief, then, that the good folks at Woodford Reserve Bourbon have been working with some of the UK’s best bartending talent to craft a bespoke cocktail syrup that balances the core flavours of this timeless serve – bitters, sugar and orange essence – because if there’s one thing for which we hate waiting for the most, it’s a cocktail.

“The Old Fashioned is a favourite with the public and bartenders alike, ranking as the world’s best selling classic cocktail and featuring on nine out of 10 of the world’s best bar menus,” Emily Richardson, head of super premium brands at Brown Forman, told Master of Malt.

“However it’s often seen as a complex and time-consuming serve to perfect. By using a pre-made syrup such as Woodford Reserve’s Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup, the recipe becomes more accessible, making it possible to recreate with ease and consistent quality.”

Oh, and to make the whole process even quicker, Woodford Reserve has launched a barrel programme that enables bartenders to pre-batch the drink on-site – so keep your eyes peeled for two-litre cask on the bar.

Now, efficiency isn’t really an issue when you’re making drinks for your pals at home, but following complicated bartender drinks specs can be. It’s often an exacting task that requires, skill, equipment, and multiple boozes and syrups that frankly, you might not use for another six months.

The solution? Stock your home bar with these bottles to serve six classics in a flash…

The Handmade Cocktail Company Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned in a bottle from The Handmade Cocktail Company

Old Fashioned

Use: The Old Fashioned Cocktail

It would be remiss to begin with any other cocktail, really. Put your faith in the trustworthy folks at The Handmade Cocktail Company and nab this pre-batched bottling to make serving this classic drink a doddle. Pour over ice, stir, and then garnish with a twist of fresh orange peel, it’s as easy as that. It won’t wash the glass up for you afterwards though – you have to do some of the legwork I’m afraid.

Bermondsey Tonic Syrup, just add sparkling water and gin

The G&T

Use: Bermondsey Tonic Syrup

Making a G&T is much like making a cup of tea – we’re super fussy about the ‘best way’ to make it (for the record, it goes tea bag then water then milk). This concentrated tonic syrup from the folks at London gin bar 214 Bermondsey is the solution to your flavour woes. Simply mix it with carbonated water to your taste, add gin, ice and a garnish if you feel fancy and voilà: the ultimate serve.

Tippleworth Espresso Martini,

Tippleworth Espresso Martini, mix with vodka and shake

Espresso Martini

Use: Tipplesworth Espresso Martini Cocktail Mixer

The Espresso Martini isn’t exactly the easiest (or cheapest, let’s face it) cocktail to replicate at home, especially on the fly. Thankfully, her good self Lady Tipplesworth has the remedy: a ready-made mixer made with cold brew coffee. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add 50ml vodka and 50ml mixer, then shake, strain, and serve. Coffee bean garnish optional, Instagram upload essential.

Mr Lyan’s Spotless Martini – nothing else required

Martini

Use: Mr Lyan’s Spotless Martini

Sometimes you’re better leaving it to the experts, amiright? And if there’s one guy who knows a thing or two about ready-made drinks, it’s the living legend that is bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana. What with him launching what was essentially the world’s first bottled cocktail bar back in 2013 and all that. Anyway, his mix of gin, citrus and olive distillates, and vermouth easily puts our amatuer Martini-making efforts to shame. Thanks to the citrus hit, you don’t even need to add a garnish just freeze, pour, and enjoy.

Jose Cuervo Classic Margarita-Mix

Jose Cuervo Classic Margarita Mix

Margarita

Use: Jose Cuervo Classic Margarita Mixer

Who wants to shell out on triple sec and fruit, when you could just crack the lid of this Margarita Mixer? To be clear, this is a BYO Tequila affair. Sure, the good folks Cuervo probably envisaged you using I don’t know Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver, or something, but if you choose to use another brand we promise we won’t dob you in. Just combine one part Tequila with three parts mixer, stir and serve over crushed ice.

Campari Negroni Cocktail

Campari Negroni Cocktail

Negroni

Use: Campari Negroni

As the saying goes, there’s “No Negroni without Campari” – something we imagine the Italian owners of that bitter red liquid continue to be absolutely delighted by, given the drink’s recent resurgence. When aperitif started attracting some serious bartender heat, the folks at Gruppo Campari went the whole hog and combined their beloved booze with London dry gin and (we can only assume) Cinzano Rosso vermouth. The most you’ll have to do is slice an orange.

 

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The Top 10 minimalist cocktail bars

When it comes to back bars, bigger isn’t inherently better. Quite the opposite – it takes the most creative and discerning of bar teams to work cocktail magic with a…

When it comes to back bars, bigger isn’t inherently better. Quite the opposite – it takes the most creative and discerning of bar teams to work cocktail magic with a pared-down selection of spirits. We’ve picked 10 of the world’s best minimalist cocktail bars…

While bumper booze inventories continue to draw admiration from thirsty fans (ourselves included), other venues have taken the opposite road; slimming their selection down to little more than a shelf’s worth of hand-picked spirits.

For some bar owners, eschewing established brands for a curated rail of favourites is simply a matter of personal taste. For others, it supports their ethos of sustainability: locally-sourced at all costs. Some want to make a stand against pouring deals born from corporate interest. Or, occasionally, it’s a mix of all three.

Whatever the reason may be, stripped back bars certainly don’t make for lacklustre drinks – as the 10 bars that follow attest:

Punch Room at The London Edition, London

Minimalist credentials: Just one cocktail style here – punch

Seasonal speciality punches are the name of the game at London’s Punch Room. While you delve into the menu – which offers single-person punches as well as sharing drinks for up to eight people – you’ll sip a welcome drink punch reinvented daily by the bar team. Don’t miss their classic Milk Punch, a clarified drink that combines Hennessy fine de Cognac, Havana Club 3 Year Old, Somerset Cider Brandy, green tea, lemon juice, pineapple, spices syrup and, yes, milk.

 

Punch Room, London Edition

You can have anything you want at Punch Room, as long as it’s punch

 

Obispo, San Francisco

Minimalist credentials: Single spirit bar with a sense of place

Recently-opened San Fran hangout Obispo is a single spirit bar with a difference. Rather than clamouring to own one of every single bottle going, owner Thad Vogler has stocked his bar with a limited inventory of speciality rums, many from distilleries he has personally visited. The concept? To champion truly unique spirits that taste like the places they come from: no additives here, thanks. One highlight of Obispo’s cocktail menu has to be the Mojito, made according to a 1934 recipe from Havana-based bar El Floridita with stirred mint and raw sugar.

A Rake’s Bar, Washington, DC

Minimalist credentials: Exclusively hyper-local cocktails

While championing locally-sourced ingredients is increasingly commonplace in bars these days, few can claim to exclusively do so. A Rake’s Bar, however, is one of them. You won’t find Scotch or Tequila (or even citrus!) here – each drink celebrates local distillers and ingredients, from locally-produced Curaçao to verjus from nearby vineyards. Everything from its antique glassware to the physical cocktail menu is the product of local collaboration.

 

A Rakes Bar, Washington

A Rake’s Bar, a hyper-local bar for hyper-local people

 

Buck and Breck, Berlin

Minimalist credentials: Small in size, stripped back cocktail list

Located in Berlin’s Mitte district, Buck and Breck seats just 14 people at a time, around a communal black wooden table that doubles as the bar station – the only furniture in the entire space. But the stripped-back interior is far from the speakeasy’s only minimalist draw. Cocktails are listed by name and base ingredient (no brands, here, all spirits bottles are colour-coded) and accompanied by a considered Champagne offering.

Native, Singapore

Minimalist credentials: Asian flavour profiles only – with a focus on foraging

Founded by Vijay Mudaliar, formerly of award-winning Singapore cocktail bar Operation Dagger, Native is committed to using local and regional produce: think flavours like mango, turmeric, cinnamon, and tapioca, paired with spirits like Sri Lankan arrak and Thai rice gin. Try Antz, which combines Thai rum, aged sugarcane vinegar, coconut yoghurt, salt-baked tapioca, soursop, and, yes, real ants served in a frozen basil leaf.

 

Native Bar Singapore

Native in Singapore offers cocktails made with ants, yes real ants

 

Three Sheets, London

Minimalist credentials: Small in size, stripped-back cocktail list

Made from just a single shelf of spirits, Three Sheets’ cocktail menu reflects its name: three pages with three cocktails on each. Aperitif-style cocktails decorate the first column, and get progressively punchier as the menu unfolds. Bartending brothers Max and Noel Venning are the brains behind this welcoming neighbourhood venue, which is big on pre-batched and bottled ingredients. All the stuff you want from a cocktail bar, and none of the stuff you don’t. Head there during the day for a dynamite flat white.

 

Three Sheets Dalston

Three Sheets, Venning Bros’ bar in Dalston, East London

Bar Gen Yamamoto, Tokyo

Minimalist credentials: Small in size, just two menu options available

Tiny eight-seater Japanese bar Gen Yamamoto is a drinking den unlike any other in the world. There’s no cocktail list, just a tasting menu crafted to reflect ‘shiki’, which means Japanese seasonality. Your options are minimal: choose from either a four-drink or six-drink menu, and sit back as solo bartender Yamamoto takes your taste buds on a veritable flavour journey. FYI, the bar is carved out of a 500-year-old Mizunara tree.

Backdoor 43, Milan

Minimalist credentials: Small in size

Is Backdoor 43 the smallest bar in the world? At the grand total of four square foot in size, it’s certainly up there. There’s only space for four (plus one Guy Fawkes mask-wearing bartender) at the tiny bar, for which the menu changes on a monthly basis. If you can’t get a reservation, fret not – a small selection of classic cocktails can be ordered to-go via a small slot window to the street.

 

Backdoor 43, Milan

Backdoor 43, Milan, probably the smallest bar in the world

 

Above Board, Melbourne

Minimalist credentials: Exacting cocktail list with no off-menu orders

Owned by award-winning bartender Hayden Lambert, Above Board is the minimalist bar blueprint both in terms of drinks and design aesthetics. A sleek grey 12-seater island bar commands the softly-lit room; hand-picked spirits are decanted into crystal bottles and stored out of sight. The menu boasts 25 cocktails, split across signatures and twists on classics, with minimal garnishes. Glasses are thin and beautifully chilled, the ice is hand-stamped, and the hospitality is second to none.

Bisou, Paris

Minimalist credentials: There is no menu whatsoever

So minimalist is the vibe at seasonal Parisian hangout Bisou, they’ve done away with the menu altogether. Instead, you have a chat with the bartender about what you like – and, if you’re fussy, what you don’t – and he’ll whip up the craft cocktail of your dreams for a very reasonable €12 using 100% organic and locally-sourced ingredients. Sustainability is big here, with a focus on reducing waste; unused parts of fruits and vegetables are dehydrated and repurposed as garnishes.

 

Bisou, Paris

Bisou, Paris, so minimalist, it doesn’t even have a menu

 

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What’s the buzz about CBD cocktails?

At the moment you’re more likely to find CBD oil in your morning latte than a late-night tipple, but make no mistake, cannabidiol-laced cocktails are coming to a bar menu…

At the moment you’re more likely to find CBD oil in your morning latte than a late-night tipple, but make no mistake, cannabidiol-laced cocktails are coming to a bar menu near you. Here’s everything you need to know about the emerging trend…

The marijuana plant has enjoyed something of a rebrand over the last decade, as both scientists and medical professionals begin to deconstruct and attest to its various benefits. And while debate over cannabis decriminalisation rages on, the CBD market is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the UK.

CBD is a type of cannabinoid, which are chemicals naturally found in marijuana plants. It doesn’t make you feel “high” – that’s caused by another cannabinoid known as THC – instead, early scientific research suggests the oil may offer a range of benefits, such as reducing pain and inflammation, easing anxiety and boosting heart health.

You might wonder what any of that has to do with drinks, but the burgeoning trend reflects a change in the industry’s attitude to cocktail hour over the last few years. Now more than ever, bartenders are prioritising responsible drinking, sustainability and quality over quantity, explains Joe Brayford, brand ambassador at City of London Distillery.

“CBD fits in perfectly with the idea of responsible drinking and is certainly one of many fresh tools in any bartender’s arsenal,” he says. Flavour-wise, it’s “earthy and a little vegetal, definite cannabis notes along with damp grass; think walking through a field on a damp morning. This can vary slightly depending on the oil base of the extract – water-soluble versions are also available, but they seem to have a milder flavour and thinner texture.”

Plant-based eatery Farmacy was the first venue to serve London a CBD-laced cocktail back in 2016. Called There’s Something About Mary, the drink combines vanilla vodka, CBD oil, homemade hemp and bay leaf syrup, mango puree and a dash of chilli sauce. “It’s a powerful antioxidant with many healing qualities, such as anti-inflammatory,” says founder Camilla Fayed. “It’s also said to boost brain function, and acts as a great mood-enhancer.”

CBD Marqueen Moon Far Radish

Marquee Moon CBD cocktail from The Fat Radish, NYC (recipe below)

Others soon followed in Famarcy’s footsteps. Hackney bar Behind This Wall brought together Drum & Black spiced rum, Akashi-Tai Honjozo Genshu sake, CBD-infused honey and ginger syrup, lime juice, Birds Weissbrand, Bittermens Burlesque Bitters and kenaf leaf for its Fo’ Sizzle Dizzle Swizzle – while gourmet kebab house Maison Bab introduced the Gin and Chronic (we see what you did there), which combines CBD oil, Bombay Sapphire and lemon.

Beyond its purported health benefits, the ingredient is a useful flavour and texture-enhancing tool. Brayford has mostly been experimenting with low-ABV serves – “the more alcohol in the drink, the less pronounced it seems to become,” he explains – with a particular focus on vermouth and sherry.

“Certain Amaro pair beautifully with it,” he attests, “as do fermented drinks – the funky vinegar-like qualities of kefir, tepache or kombucha work nicely with the vegetal notes. I’ve been trying to develop drinks with a strong focus on texture and mouthfeel – oil-washed spirits go great with it for a super silky drink.”

So, say you want to whip up a CBD-laced cocktail at home. What style of drink should you go for? Flavour-wise, Brayford recommends spirits “that lean toward an earthy or vegetal profile. Mezcals or Agricole rhums work great, but equally a crisp clean vodka or classic dry gin can create an interesting balance if done well,” he says.

Or you could channel your inner barista and go for a CBD-laced coffee cocktail. “Its effects in coffee-based drinks are pretty interesting,” Brayford continues; the industry is already adding it to lattes. “Blending CBD oil with coffee not only helps to mellow the adverse effects of caffeine but also provides a silky texture and mouthfeel.”

Green Monkey CBD

Green Monkey CBD-infused carbonated drink.

Coffee houses aren’t the only businesses to capitalise on the trend. UK-based brewery Green Times Brewing specialises in craft beers infused with Cannabis Sativa oil extract, while Green Monkey CBD is catering to soft drinks with the UK’s first CBD-infused carbonated drink. As far as the production element of the drinks industry is concerned, where’s the market headed?

“The sky’s the limit really,” says Serge Davies, Green Monkey’s CEO. “We already know that some big beer brewers are experimenting with CBD in their drinks, and other competitors are definitely popping up. There will definitely be a range of flavours and styles – perhaps even strengths – as the industry develops.”

And in our favourite bars? “Like any trend, people will catch on and want to put it in anything,” Brayford predicts. “I’m sure there will be a period of every menu having CBD thrown in somewhere for the novelty value. But I hope to see it go the way of other trends that lean toward more responsible drinking.”

He points to the launch of non-alcoholic botanical drink Three Spirit late last year, followed by low-ABV spirit Willow at the end of January. “People are excited about the idea of drinking quality drinks and experiencing some pleasurable effects but without crazy-high ABVs and a rough head the next day,” he adds. To that we say, cheers! Here’s one to try at home:

Marquee Moon:

60ml Seedlip Spice
20ml Red rooibos honey cordial*
1 barspoon D’Anjou pear vinegar
A few drops of CBD oil to your taste
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Honeycomb
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into glass, garnish with honeycomb and serve with an anecdote about Tom Verlaine.
*Red rooibos honey cordial: brew 4 cups strong red rooibos tea and combine with 4 cups honey

 

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