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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Annie Hayes

The new faces of alcohol-free

The alcohol-free category is evolving, shaped by growing interest in sustainability, natural, ethically-sourced ingredients, and a penchant for pre- and post-dinner cocktails. We take a look at the new wave…

The alcohol-free category is evolving, shaped by growing interest in sustainability, natural, ethically-sourced ingredients, and a penchant for pre- and post-dinner cocktails. We take a look at the new wave of booze-free botanical aperitifs…

“Sustainability is fascinating because it can mean so many things,” observes bar owner, bartender and conservation biologist Paul Mathew. “Two of our bars, The Hide and The Arbitrager, only serve things brewed, fermented or distilled in London – so the concept of sustainability there is about locally-sourced. Whether it’s reducing the amount of single-use plastics in the bar, switching to sustainable energy, using wonky fruit and veg, or upcycling citrus husks for a zero-waste approach to ingredients, it’s great that sustainability is such an integral part of the conversation we’re having in the industry now.”

Paul Mathew

The man himself, Mr Paul Matthew!

When Mathew embarked on the project that would eventually become responsibly-sourced aperitif Everleaf, he set out to create a non-alcoholic drink with body and texture, something he felt other booze-free brands were missing. “Whenever we talk about wine, beer, spirits and cocktails, we talk about mouthfeel and texture in the same way as the colour, aroma and flavour, so for me it was an important missing part,” he says. “I wanted to make something that has a beginning, middle and end – from light and aromatic through to bitter and long.”

A hot, creamy drink traditional to Turkey and the Middle East made with herbs and spices, and thickened with powdered orchid root drew Mathew’s attention. Salep was popular in London centuries ago, he says, but fell out of favour when tea and coffee became popular. “I dug up some test orchids from Dad’s garden – he’s a botanist – dehydrated and ground them, before mixing with herbs and spices until I got the texture and flavour I was looking for,” he says. “When I tried to scale it, I couldn’t find any sustainable sources for orchid tubers. With a little more research, I found the same thickening components in voodoo lily, so it seemed the perfect solution.”

He spent a year researching, sourcing, dehydrating, macerating and extracting various plants to perfect the final recipe, which contains vanilla from the north-east of Madagascar, saffron from Spain, cassia from south-east Asia, iris from Italy, vetiver from Haiti, angelica and liquorice from Europe, quassia from Central America, gum arabic from Senegal, Peruvian pepper from Peru, and voodoo lily from China, among others – 18 botanicals in total.

Everleaf, looking very classy

“There were a few ingredients I really wanted in there,” Mathew says. “My father wrote two of the definitive works on iris and crocus while I was growing up, so the smell of saffron and orris root are really emotive for me. I wanted vanilla for mid-palate sweetness and gentian for bitterness at the finish. Most of the other ingredients filled the gaps between the beginning-middle-end parts of the flavour profile, making it a journey across your palate rather than start-stop. The flavours should develop like they do in a good wine.”

To make Everleaf, Mathew heats voodoo lily and gum arabic, to make a textured base, to which he adds the botanicals. The resulting mix is rested before bottling. “Each of the botanical ingredients is made in the best way to obtain the natural characters I’m looking for from the plant,” he says. “The saffron is a maceration, for example, as is the vanilla. The orris is a tincture, the fennel seed a vacuum distillate, and vetiver an essential oil distillation – as it is made for perfumery.”

There’s no question that Mathew’s travels as a conservation biologist shaped his vision. Much of his work focused on “conservation through adding value” – making natural ecosystems work for people so that they want to look after them. “If you can find a high-value crop that makes a forest worth more in the long-term rather than as timber in the short term, people will want to look after it,” he explains. “Similar to Fairtrade principles, if you pay a higher price for vanilla grown under natural forest shade rather than under netting after the forest has been cleared, hopefully more will be protected.”

For Everleaf, sourcing is key. His vetiver, for example, hails from a Haitian project that protects communities and their livelihoods through reforestation, food security and empowering local women. “We’re trying to ensure that everything we get for Everleaf leaves a positive impact on the people and places it comes from,” Mathew explains. “We’re also working out how to offset the carbon produced in the supply chain so that we can be carbon positive – in a way that benefits biodiversity as well as emissions.”

Aecorn Bitter Spritz

Aecorn Bitter Spritz

A huge part of the sustainability focus echoing throughout the industry has been the burgeoning trend for locally-sourced ingredients – something newcomer Aecorn Aperitifs is channeling with its range of alcohol-free aperitifs made from English grapes. As the sister brand of alcohol-free spirit Seedlip, which was launched by Ben Branson back in 2015, the ethos behind Aecorn is to “work within the realms of what’s familiar”, says co-founder Clare Warner, “but create our own rules about what you can do with something non-alcoholic”.  

Inspired by the trend for low-abv drinking, aromatised wines and the rise of the aperitif, the duo set about creating a range of alcohol-free cocktail modifiers. When Bransen created Seedlip, he took inspiration from a 17th century manuscript called the Art of Distillation. “We went back into that book and found a recipe for acorn wine,” says Warner. “The recipe read exactly like an aromatised wine. It contained all the ingredients you would expect in a vermouth, plus acorns.”

Many traditional European aperitifs had a wine base, she adds. “Looking back at the 16th and 17th century we were consuming a lot of verjus in the UK, before we had citrus, and also when we had a lot of grapes”. Today, the supply is not quite so abundant – sourcing an English verjus was tricky to say the least, but eventually the duo found a producer who grows grapes specifically to make the acidic, complex juice, and foraged acorns from oak trees across the UK.

Aecorn range

The complete Aecorn range

Together, Warner and Bransen set about aromatising the verjus and acorns along with other herbs, roots and bitter botanicals to create the three-strong range: Dry, which embodies a dry vermouth; Aromatic, which resembles a sweet vermouth; and Bitter, in the style of a classic bitter aperitif.

While bartenders have been busy experimenting with Aecorn in weird and wonderful ways – the range features in both low- and no-alcohol drinks at London’s Lyaness – Warner recognises the desire to create complex, great-tasting drinks at home. “If you’re a bartender you’ve got all the tools at your disposal, if you’re a chef you’ve got the kitchen, but at home you’re limited in terms of what you can do,” she says. “We wanted to create a range of aperitif-style products that opens up the possibilities for [alcohol-free] classic cocktails but equally if you’re at home and just want to add ice and soda to create a spritz, then you can do that too.”

 

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Where to drink in… Berlin

David Bowie once deemed Berlin “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine”, and his words still carry weight decades later. Here, we champion five of the German capital city’s…

David Bowie once deemed Berlin “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine”, and his words still carry weight decades later. Here, we champion five of the German capital city’s standout bars – and find out what happens when you age rye whiskey on volcanic stone from a vineyard…

Berlin has long boasted a thriving creative scene, and its cocktail culture is no exception. Ageing spirits in former wine casks is cool, sure, but ageing spirits using the very material that cultivated the vine? Ingenuity on another level. The idea was the brainchild of Australian native Matt Boswell, bar chef at stylish and sustainable cocktail haunt Tiger Bar, which lies across the courtyard from its pioneering sister, Panama Restaurant.

“I really wanted to figure out how we could add extra minerality and a little bit more depth and complexity into the cocktails we were making,” Boswell explains. He contacted German wine producers and asked them to send whatever they could from their vineyards. Three out of 30 responded, sending cases of rocks.

Tiger Bar Berlin

Get your rocks off in Berlin

Working closely with the sommelier team at Panama, Boswell determined which wine characteristics were common across certain soils and set about pairing spirits with each stone. “It was very much a matching game,” he explains. “If we got laser focus and really clear minerality and tropical notes from blue slate, we’d pair it with gin. If we got extra tropicality and spice from red slate-grown wines, we’d try mezcal. Based on that intuition, they all paired pretty well.”

The ageing period varies according to spirit variety and ABV – lighter spirits like vodka evolve far quicker than a big, bold mezcal, for example – but there are variables between the stones, too. “Some of them are porous, some of them are really dense,” explains Boswell, “we’ve been resting white dog rye whiskey on volcanic stone and it can take more than two weeks before it starts to develop any specific flavour or character.”

The first menu combined rhum agricole with limestone, gin with blue slate, mezcal on red slate and pisco on phyllite. “We were really shocked at the development and character changes that happened,” Boswell adds. “Not only was there extra minerality and nuanced flavours; often it changed the character of the spirit entirely.” Once aged, the team create two cocktails with each spirit: a lighter highball serve and a shorter stirred drink.

Tiger Bar is a great place to start, but Boswell and his team are not the only bartenders drinking outside the box. Whether it’s through ingredient selection, menu style or spirits stock, we’ve championed the must-visit Berlin bars that aren’t afraid to do things a little differently….

TIger bar Berlin

On the rocks has a whole new meaning at Tiger bar

Tiger Bar

Potsdamer Straße 91, 10785 Berlin, Germany
Where? Tiergarten
Why? Terroir-based cocktails
What? Four base spirits aged on German terroir, with one long and one short cocktail created from each. Take the black basalt-aged rye – it can be ordered as Rye & Dry, which sees it mixed with smoked tea and Moroccan soda, or combined with small batch vermouth and vintage cherry wine in a Boulevardier.

Velvet bar Berlin

Seasonal cocktail at Velvet bar

Velvet

Ganghoferstraße 1, 12043 Berlin, Germany
Where? Neukölln
Why? Seasonality taken seriously
What? An intimate cocktail bar in hipster district Neukölln, which forages ingredients “from Berlin and the surrounding nature”. Cocktails are named according to the main seasonal ingredient within, processed on a weekly basis. On the current menu? Sorrel, Young Pine Cone, Strawberry and White Asparagus.

Lebbensstern Berlin

They have comfy sofas at Lebbensstern

Lebensstern

58 Kurfürstenstraße, 10785 Berlin, Germany
Where? Schöneberg
Why? Mind-boggling spirits selection
What? Aside from the fact it used to be an illegal casino for Berlin’s most boujie residents, it stocks more than 600 kinds of rum, 400 whiskies, 150 gin bottlings and a plethora of other boozes that brings the total spirits count over 1,500. Oh, and Quentin Tarantino filmed Inglourious Basterds there.

Stairs bar in Berlin

Stairs bar in Berlin

Stairs Bar

Uhlandstraße 133, 10717 Berlin, Germany
Where? Charlottenburg
Why? Sustainable cocktails made three ways
What? Six cocktails are on the menu, split down into three variants: classic, twist, and in-house creation. Take the Manhattan, traditionally made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, the twist, Brooklyn, sees the addition of maraschino and bitter aperitif, while the in-house version Womanhattan uses Scotch, sherry and plum liqueur.

Stagger Lee

You’ll be pleased to hear that they also take euros

Stagger Lee

Nollendorfstraße 27, 10777 Berlin, Germany
Where? Schöneberg
Why? The home of American whiskey in Berlin
What? Named after the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song, Stagger Lee is a Wild West-themed 19th century saloon bar, complete with old-school cash till and rustic-looking piano. Don’t get distracted by the decor – the menu is where the magic truly happens, with the likes of Greek yoghurt-washed rum and banana-infused Campari.

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Sweden’s High Coast Distillery

Few spirits categories have the power to capture a sense of place like single malt whisky, from the wind-ravaged Scottish Highlands to the sweltering heat of Texas – and the…

Few spirits categories have the power to capture a sense of place like single malt whisky, from the wind-ravaged Scottish Highlands to the sweltering heat of Texas – and the climatic extremes of northern Sweden. As High Coast Distillery’s environmental Origin Series hits the UK, distillery manager Roger Melander talks us through the unique conditions that shape the liquid…

“There are about 17 distilleries making whisky in Sweden, and most of them are really small,” says Melander, addressing the room in the beautiful vaulted cellars of Berry Bros. & Rudd in London. The historic wine and spirits merchants has started importing High Coast’s liquid through its trade arm, Fields, Morris & Verdin, and we’re here for a private tasting. “I would say there are three that are big enough to be commercial, and just two of them have whisky on the market – Mackmyra, and us.”

High Coast has come a long way since it began distilling in November 2010, creating Box Single Malt Whisky under the brand Box Destilleri, so named because of the distillery’s location by Ångermanälven river in a former wooden box factory power plant. The brand name changed last summer, “because of a small conflict with another company that had Box in the name,” says Melander, and now refers to the High Coast – or Höga Kasten – region of Sweden it calls home.

High Coast casks

Casks at High Coast distillery in Sweden

Initially, the team started distilling with two pot stills and three washbacks, aiming for about 90,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, he says. Last summer, High Coast expanded its capacity to about 350,000 litres, with current production sitting at around 200,000 litres. Melander’s three-strong production team distills seven days a week – on average one or two batches per day – following two new-make recipes: unpeated and heavily peated.

“For the unpeated recipe, we had a lot of inspiration from Japanese style flavours,” he says. “I wanted to create a fruity, clean malted spirit. For the peated recipe – well, you can’t make a peated whisky without looking at the west coast and islands of Scotland. Sometimes I feel it’s more like the Islay style, and sometimes a bit more Campbeltown.”

Finalised in just two weeks, the unpeated recipe is made with a Pilsner malt hailing from the south of Sweden. Creating the peated style was a far longer process, with the base ingredients proving trickier to source. “The only producer making peated malt in Sweden is on the island of Gotland,” says Melander, “but he is making peated malt for home brewers that want to have 250g in an envelope. I want 25 tonnes each time, it’s a bloody big envelope.” Instead, he must buy from Belgium or Scotland. A French strain of distillery yeast fills the resulting mashes with fruity esters, aldehydes and ketones during an unusually long fermentation time of around 82 hours.

While Melander and his team have experimented with “different malts, yeast strains, fermentation time and so on” throughout the production process, their key focus is on cask variables: oak species, treatment, size, and maturation environment. It’s the latter that makes High Coast’s location northern Sweden, around 500km north of Stockholm, unlike any other whisky region in the world.

High Coast

Swedish winters are COLD!

In winter, the mercury is known to drop below -30 degrees celsius, in the height of summer the region records +30 degrees or higher. “So there could be like 70 degrees difference between a cold winter day and warm summers day, says Melander, “compared to Highland Park on Orkney where they have maybe seven or eight degrees difference between those seasons.”

This see-saw effect causes pressure changes in the cask, increasing the interaction between the oak and liquid and creating some marvellously fruity esters. “Small variations during day and night and big changes during seasons creates a unique maturation profile in our warehouses,” he continues. “You can taste the difference between casks matured on floor level and casks matured just below the ceiling.”

There’s also the small matter of water. Every distiller says they have special water, Melander acknowledges, but the charcoal and sand-filtered water they source from Bålsjön, a spring lake northeast of Kramfors, is exceptionally so. “The quality of the tap water in a normal house in northern Sweden is much better than you can buy in a bottle in England,” he says, adding that in fact, it might even be too clean. “In a perfect world I would have a bit more salt, magnesium and so on, to increase the power of the yeast during fermentation.”

While there’s usually plenty of chatter about water purity, few producers discuss the relationship between cool water and a characterful distillate. The ice-cool waters of the nearby river Ångermanälven is a huge asset for Melander, who taps the liquid to cool his condensers. “In the winter our new make temperature is two and a half degrees celsius,” he says. Your average Scotch distiller would be “extremely happy” if the temperature falls below 20 degrees at any point of the year, he adds, so it’s quite unique.

All these variables empower the team to create more than 1,000 different products every year, Melander says, including their latest range, called Origin Series. We tasted three out of the four bottlings – the final whisky, Berg, will launch in September 2019 – plus a rather unique special edition, detailed below…

Still at High Coast

Stills at High Coast

Älv, Delicate Vanilla  – High Coast Single Malt Whisky

Älv means ‘River’, and is named after the nearby Ångermanälven River. Made from 100% unpeated malt, the whisky has been matured in first fill bourbon casks for between five and seven years. “The first three batches will be mixed between 130 litre casks, called quarter casks, and 200 litre first-fill bourbon,” says Melander. “In two years I won’t have any quarter casks left, so it will be just bourbon barrels.”

Hav, Oak Spice – High Coast Single Malt Whisky

Translated as ‘ocean’ in English, Hav is a blend of 25% peated and 75% non-peated malt whisky. The whisky was pre-matured in 40-litre virgin Hungarian and Swedish oak casks for between three and four months before it was transferred into bourbon barrels for between three and four years. American oak will feature in future batches. “[Ångermanälven] is about 2,000 metres wide so it’s technically part of the ocean, but it’s still called a river,” says  Melander. “My house is located on the other side. Sometimes in summer I take the canoe to work, in the winter I have a snowmobile and that’s a bit quicker.”

Timmer, Peat Smoke  – High Coast Single Malt Whisky

Meaning ‘timber’ in English, Timmer is made from 100% peated malt whisky with a phenol level of around 46 PPM. The liquid is matured in first fill bourbon casks in a combination of 130-litre and 200-litre casks for between five and six years. “About 500 metres upstream there was a big timber assorting place in the seventies with about 700 people working there,” says Melander. “If you dive down, the bottom of the river is completely covered in timber that has sunk.”

High Coast distillery

More cold weather at High Coast

And finally. . . .

Projekt 63 – High Coast Single Malt Whisky

A fan of geocaching, Melander soon discovered that the distillery lies 63 degrees north of the Earth’s equatorial plane. “The latitude crosses through the whole warehouse, so I painted a black line on the floor as a fun thing to show visitors,” he says. “Then I thought, ‘We can do something more with this’.” Melander bought 63 PPM malt from Scotland at the price of 6.3 Swedish kr per kilo. It was mashed in 63-hectolitre batches with a fermentation time of 63 hours. “I would say at 63 degrees celcius, but that would be a lie,” he says, “because it was 64”. Each cask – made by a Swedish cooper who was born in 1963 – was filled with 63 litres of liquid and stored at 63 parallel, precisely 63 decimetres from the floor. It was matured for (you guessed it)  63 months and bottled at 63% ABV. “I would really like to have 63cl bottles but… if you take 63 plus 6.3 plus 0.63 plus 0.063 and carry on that, you end up exactly at 70,” says Melander. “And that is the bottle size”. The goal is to make 16,063 bottles.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary is a cocktail for the ages. Here, Dennis Tamse, brand ambassador for Schiedam-based Nolet Distillery – home to Ketel One Vodka – talks us through the recipe…

The Bloody Mary is a cocktail for the ages. Here, Dennis Tamse, brand ambassador for Schiedam-based Nolet Distillery – home to Ketel One Vodka – talks us through the recipe format no brunch menu worth its (celery) salt would be seen without…

Brunch may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, but it was first invented by English writer Guy Beringer, who coined the phrase back in 1895. In his essay, ‘Brunch: A Plea’, Beringer sought a Sunday mid-morning meal occasion to sate Saturday night revellers with sore heads, a “cheerful, sociable and inciting” affair where friends discuss tales of debauchery from the previous evening.

While the spirit of brunch is very much alive today, these days more and more of us are focusing on ‘the morning after’ and doing away with the Beringer’s booze-soaked ‘night before’. “Everywhere – definitely in the Netherlands but it’s a global phenomenon – there are more and more daytime brunch and early dinner places,” says Tamse. “We used to go out until really late at night, but now the world is changing a little bit and we’re losing that nightlife situation. The numbers in late-night [service] are going down.”

Sad news for the Jägerbomb, perhaps; great news for the Bloody Mary. But where did it all begin? Truth be told, there are more fables about the origin of the drink then there are recipe variations (and for a drink as versatile as the ‘Mary, that’s saying something), with various people claiming to be the true creator of this savoury serve.

Like most classic cocktails, the original name and official recipe has been disputed along the way, but it’s generally accepted that the drink as we know it today was honed at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s by a bartender named Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot. He combined American canned tomato juice, with vodka and seasonings, first naming his creation Bucket of Blood in honour of the blood-red water pails bar owners would empty into the street after a particularly nasty brawl, before settling on Bloody Mary*.

Historically, the Bloody Mary was a terrible cocktail, Tamse admits. “Tomato juice, thick liquid, they would throw in some spice, maybe if you’re lucky herbs, and then some vodka – that was it,” he says. “But we have a different way of thinking about the Bloody Mary.” When building the drink, you should follow four pillars.

“Pillar number one is Ketel One Vodka,” Tamse says, “The second pillar is lemon, or actually citrus – lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit, any citrus that you can think of, but there is always some in your drink.” Number three is juice, “but it’s not just tomato juice”, he clarifies, “it’s any freshly-squeezed juice”. And the fourth? Seasoning, specifically Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.

These may be foundations of a great Bloody Mary, but the deliciousness is in the detail. Experiment with your spice mix – try nutmeg, turmeric, coriander or even tandoori masala – and swap your favourite condiment in: think sriracha, soy sauce, or even (dare we say it) Marmite. When it comes to garnishing, feel at liberty to stray from the cracked salt and pepper rim and fresh celery stick combination. Bacon, lobster, cheese burgers and even Brussels sprouts have made been spotted on the ‘grams of seasoned brunch lovers.

Still struggling for creative inspiration? No matter whether you prefer to kick it old school and sip a classic Mary or drink outside the box with a vegetal twist, we’ve got you covered. Here are five recipes to whet your whistle…

Classic Bloody Mary

Ingredients: 35ml Ketel One Vodka, 100ml tomato juice, 20ml lemon juice, 1 teaspoon horseradish, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 pinch black pepper, 1 pinch rock salt

Method: Add all ingredients to a tall glass, stir well, and add ice. Garnish with a celery stick, cherry tomato and lemon wedge with cracked black pepper.

Ketel One Bloody Mary

Ingredients: 50ml Ketel One Vodka, 90ml tomato juice, 20ml Harveys Bristol Cream, 8 drops of Tabasco, 4 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce, 2 pinches of celery salt, 2 grinds black pepper, 2 rings chopped yellow bell pepper

Method: Muddle pepper in base of shaker. Add other ingredients, rock rather than shake with ice and fine strain into ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with a stick of celery.

Carrot Mary

Ingredients: 35ml Ketel One Vodka, 100ml equals parts carrot juice, apple juice, and pear juice, 30ml freshly squeezed orange, 1 pinch of rock salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and dried chilli flakes, 1/2 teaspoon tamarind, 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

Method: Add all ingredients to the glass, stir well, add ice. Garnish with long flat slice of ginger and fresh red chilli.

All Spice Mary

Ingredients: 50ml Ketel One Vodka, 120ml freshly pressed tomato juice, 1 teaspoon horseradish, 1 pinch salt, ground pepper and allspice, 1 teaspoon olive oil

Method: Rim your glass with smoked paprika and salt before adding all the ingredients to your glass, stir vigorously and fill with ice. Garnish with a celery stalk, long cucumber slice and a float of sherry.

Beetroot Banger Mary

Ingredients: 50ml Ketel One Vodka, 10ml Lemon Juice, 90ml beetroot and tomato juice, pinch of ground cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, small pile of smashed cloves

Method: Take a whole beetroot and two ripe tomatoes, and cut into quarters, then put them through a juicer. Add all the ingredients to your glass, stir vigorously and fill with ice. Garnish with a pickled cucumber and beetroot.

*Perhaps in honour of Queen Mary I of England , known as Bloody Mary because of all the Protestants she had burned at the stake during her short reign (1553-58). 

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Five of the world’s most sustainable bars

Have you ever considered the carbon footprint of your favourite cocktail? Between its exotic ingredients and region-specific spirits, needless to say it’s probably racked up more air miles than you…

Have you ever considered the carbon footprint of your favourite cocktail? Between its exotic ingredients and region-specific spirits, needless to say it’s probably racked up more air miles than you have this year. But not to worry – we’ve championed five environmentally-savvy bars that encourage their customers to sip and savour without destroying the planet… 

We hate to break it to you, but your average bar is far from eco-friendly. Between the throwaway lime wedge in your G&T to the bucketfuls of water it takes to craft each drink (from the excess ice that dilutes the liquid or the dishwasher that cleans the glass), few of us consider just how wasteful the average night out can be.

However, an increasing number of bars are taking steps to lessen their impact on the environment, and making some incredibly creative and unique drinks while they’re at it. Thanks to a few daring industry trailblazers, conscious imbibing is now more than just a trend – it’s a movement.

So, what else makes a bar ‘sustainable’? The Sustainable Restaurant Association, an independent collective that champions sustainability in the food service industry, suggests that environmentally-conscious venues ought to consider the following steps…

  • Talk to suppliers to reduce or eliminate single-use packaging
  • Switch to reusable coasters and reconsider napkins
  • Water is a valuable commodity so use every last drop of ice
  • Review which drinks need straws, reduce and consider non-plastic alternatives like metal, bamboo, pasta and paper
  • Look into using seasonal non-citrus fruits and when using citrus, think sharp and use the whole fruit, juice peel and all
  • Promote local: discover spirits and mixers produced by smaller producers nearby

Sounds like a pretty good place to start. Here are five eco-friendly hangouts to encourage you to drink more sustainably. We could all do with taking a (nature-friendly) leaf out of their book…

Himkok, Oslo

Himkok, Oslo

Himkok, Oslo

Where? Storgata 27, 0184 Oslo, Norway

Why? The energy and resources used to ship spirits across the globe is surely one of the most prominent issues faced by the drinks industry. Oslo hangout Himkok houses a micro-distillery powered by hydro-energy which produces around 80% of their spirits requirements, with a focus on aquavit, gin and vodka. This means zero air miles and very little waste from glass bottles because they are constantly re-used. When it comes to sourcing ingredients, the team gives ‘ugly’ produce – misshapen carrots and unconventional strawberries  – a second chance at life, and make their own in-house soft drinks and mixers. Himkok is also big on the ‘sustainability of people’, offering pensions and paid holiday as well as capping shift length at eight hours.

Akedemi, Bali,

Akedemi Bar, Bali

Akademi Bar, Bali

Where? Jl. Petitenget No.51B, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Why? With venues across Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta, lifestyle and hospitality brand Potato Head’s ‘good times, do good’ ethos echoes throughout its bars, restaurants and pop-ups (most recently, the team fashioned an entire bar out of discarded coconuts). The Akademi Bar menu celebrates tropical flavours native to Bali, featuring seasonal ingredients from local farmers and producers according to a ‘root-to-flower’ philosophy that extends to the design – plastic has been ditched in favour of locally-sourced degradable or reusable materials such as bamboo, metal, glass and paper. Akademi doubles as a bartender school and research lab for Indonesia’s native botanical ingredients, and hosts monthly workshops focusing on the region’s indigenous materials.

Operation Dagger, Singapore,

Operation Dagger, Singapore

Operation Dagger, Singapore

Where? 7 Ann Siang Hill, #B1-01, Singapore 069791

Why? Ethical practice is the name of the game at avant-garde cocktail spot Operation Dagger in Singapore. The bar, which opened in 2013, has never used plastic straws; boozes are re-distilled, stored in recycled brown apothecary bottles and marked with handcrafted labels made from recycled receipts. The team are conscious of food miles and packaging too, cutting down their use of citrus – lemons, limes and so on aren’t native to the region and instead have to be imported from California and Australia – and subbing in vinegars and shrubs instead, which are often made from leftover, unused wines. Modern culinary methods and traditional fermentation techniques inform the recipes to make seriously striking drinks occasionally garnished with oddities from the bar’s in-house herb garden.

Charlie Parker’s, Sydney

Charlie Parker’s, Sydney

Charlie Parker’s, Sydney

Where? Basement/380 Oxford St, Paddington NSW 2021, Australia

Why? Closed-loop cocktails are the central focus at Charlie Parker’s, which breaks its menu down according to plant anatomy – from the delicate flavours of the flower to the earthier, vegetal root. The skins, seeds and leftover flesh from whatever available produce happens to be season is preserved, fermented, infused and sometimes even re-distilled to create a unique selection of shrubs, bitters, tinctures and garnishes. Soda is made in-house using recycled citrus, even the straws break down after two weeks’ composting. And this sustainable ethos extends beyond ingredients to the space-saving design of the physical bar as well as the staff recruitment process. There are no hosts, no pot wash, no waiting staff; everyone who works there is a bartender first and foremost to ensure a seamless experience from the first sip to the last. Economical bartending at its finest.

Scout, London

The ice cubes at Scout remind you where you are. Clever

Scout, London

Where? 224 Graham Rd, London E8 1BP, UK

Why? East London’s Scout with its daily-changing menu is about as close to zero-waste as you can possibly get. Every ingredient in the bar is either sourced from British producers, farmers and growers, foraged locally – bay leaf and wood sorrel from Hackney, for example  – or grown on-site; each part of the plant finds a function, whether through drying, brewing, distilling or more advanced cocktail alchemy. Perishables are fermented and pickled when they’re at their prime to make bespoke wines that last year-round. The place even makes its own yeast. Scout’s second outpost in Sydney is equally brilliant, crafting drinks with quandong, sandalwood and even locally-sourced ants.

 

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Move over Moscato – ice cider is this summer’s sipper

Don’t underestimate the humble apple – well-made cider can have the depth, complexity and nuanced quality as your favourite glass of vino. Here, we chat with Andreas Sundgren, founder and…

Don’t underestimate the humble apple – well-made cider can have the depth, complexity and nuanced quality as your favourite glass of vino. Here, we chat with Andreas Sundgren, founder and CEO of Brännland Cider, who has made it his mission to change the face of the category with his sweet-sipping ice cider…

“When I talk about cider, I talk about cider which is made as a wine,” says Sundgren, addressing the table at London’s M Victoria over a four-course paired menu created by executive chef Mike Reid. “And what we’ve seen with wine is that which seems simple is often much more complex.”

Sundgren speaks from experience. The route he took setting up Swedish cider business Brännland – which specialises in ice cider; the apple-based cousin of ice wine – has been far from linear. Today, the range is made from 100% freshly pressed fruit grown in the often sub-zero temperatures of Västerbotten, located on northern Sweden’s Baltic seaboard, as well as produce sourced from a select grower in the south of the country.

Andreas Sundgren

Andreas Sundgren supervising the planting of an orchard

Which makes it all the more comical that his artisanal business was very nearly a goat farm. Like many white males in their early 40s, I had a midlife crisis, but just went further in mine than maybe others,” he jokes. Disenchanted with the music software industry, Sundgren woke up on midsummer’s day 2008 in Long Island, New York and decided to “jump ship” on the business he’d built from the ground up.

“First I thought about buying a goat farm because there was one for sale in the mountains where I live,” says Sundgren. “I thought, ‘I’ll move there with my gun dogs and write novels and make artisanal goats cheese’. And then I thought about prospect of milking goats at four in the morning every day for the rest of my life in all weathers, and I went, ‘maybe that’s not me’.”

A beer brewery would be fun, but his real passion lay in wine. But how do you make wine in northern Sweden? Having travelled through France in the final stages of his former career, Sundgren had an epiphany. “I thought, ‘I’ll pick the apples from the gardens around my village, make a real simple cider, and sell that to local restaurants’,” he explains. When he started a Facebook group to recruit apple-pickers, Sundgren expected perhaps two or three friends to join him in support. When 40 people turned up on the first day, it was clear he was onto something. The blueprint for what would later become Brännland was born.

There was just one small problem. Sundgren had never made a drop of cider in his life and was, by his own admittance, a little naive about the process. “I thought if you pick the apples, press them and ferment the juice you get cider,” he says. “I did that, and it turned out really really bad. It was undrinkable. Not only because I didn’t know what I was doing, but because the apples weren’t right to make the best cider.” Unlike the UK or France, Sweden doesn’t grow cider apples and in the same way you wouldn’t use supermarket grapes to make wine, Granny Smith’s aren’t quite going to cut the mustard in cider-making.

“We only have table apples in Sweden,” Sundgren says. “They’re characterised by high acid and high sugar. If you ferment all the sugar out of them, you get a cider that’s completely undrinkable because of the high acid. But when I tasted the cider while it was fermenting and still had residual sugar, it was fantastic.” It was a lightbulb moment. “Rather than go, ‘you can’t make cider from Swedish apples’, I turned the problem around: ‘You can’t make French or English cider from Swedish apples so what is a Swedish cider?’.”

Ice cider

Ice ice cider

Sundgren embarked on a solo mission to find a cider with natural residual sugars. Established cider-makers told him it was impossible, since the liquid would continue to ferment after bottling. “But I thought, ‘that’s weird, because wine has residual sugar, and I don’t think they pasteurise Sauternes’.” His apples were no good for a dry cider, that was for sure. But perhaps they would be better suited to a sweet cider?

He came across ice cider, an ice wine made using apples instead of grapes. It was first developed in Canada in the early 90s, and in 2005 a denomination of quality was established in Quebec, stating that the apple juice used to make ice cider must be concentrated with ‘natural cold’. Sundgren found a mentor in a Vermont-based producer who taught him the production  process over the internet, adhering to the rules of the appellation. In 2012, he released the first 500 bottles to the Swedish market.

The production process Brännland follows is called cryoconcentration. The apples are picked in October and kept in chilled storage until December. Then they’re pressed, and the juice is transferred into 1,000-litre tanks, which are kept outside to freeze. The region experiences temperatures as low as -35 in January, says Sundgren. “Just like in a frozen grape, the water freezes, and the relative sugar level of the remaining juice goes up,” he explains. “The juice drops to the bottom because it’s heavier due to the higher density. Once we’ve extracted [the juice] there’s nothing left but water.

To make one bottle of ice cider, you need around 4kg of apples, says Sundgren. After extraction, the raw juice contains around 500-600 grams of sugar per litre. “As we’ve grown our ice cider production, we’ve more and more variations in flavour,” he adds. “We have harvest variation, we have extraction season variation, the vintage is different, the apple variety is different, and we’ve also found that fermentations differ very much.”

Brännland is made exclusively using Swedish-grown apples across a handful of different varieties. In Just Cider, the brand’s flagship product, there are “two or three”, while the ice cider contains “a core base of about five apple varieties”, says Sundgren. “On top of that we’re planting apples in what is the northernmost orchards in the world for cider-making.”

Located at Röbäcksdalen outside of Umeå in northern Sweden – the same latitude as southern Iceland – the orchard contains more than 1,000 trees spanning heirloom Russian, Finnish and Swedish apple varieties. Over the coming years, Sundgren and his team will plant orchards in a variety of parcels all over Västerbotten, from the inland forest country to the Baltic coast. As trailblazers of Swedish cider, Brännland isn’t afraid to experiment with its liquid; every year, the team set aside a portion of liquid for barrel ageing. At the end of the meal we’re treated to a dram-sized solera system-aged ice cider that contains blends from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. A slow sipper, it’s thick and syrupy with the flavour profile and body of an XO Cognac. Truly mind-blowing stuff. But at its heart, Brännland is winery that happens to use apples instead of grapes.

Everyone said we had to pasteurise or put sorbates in our cider, and we didn’t want to do that,” says Sundgren. “So where do you gain the knowledge to make a low-alcohol wine with residual sugar? You go to Asti in northern Italy and ask how they make Moscato d’Asti*, and they’ll tell you. We try to emulate wine producers rather than cider producers, because the wealth of knowledge and tradition is so much bigger.”

Brannland Cider

It’s proper fancy

* The Moscato winemaking process involves chilling the stop fermentation which leaves a very sweet wine of less than 5.5F% ABV. This is then filtered the remove yeasts to make sure it doesn’t start fermenting again.

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Sustainable cocktails with Patrón Tequila

Protect the planet *and* enjoy a delicious drink? Newsflash: it can be done. To celebrate Earth Day, Patrón Tequila demonstrates how to level up your kitchen leftovers and create ‘cocktails…

Protect the planet *and* enjoy a delicious drink? Newsflash: it can be done. To celebrate Earth Day, Patrón Tequila demonstrates how to level up your kitchen leftovers and create ‘cocktails with a conscience’…

Earth is pretty cool, so it’s a terrible shame that collectively we suck at taking care of it. Things aren’t shaping up too great right about now – the world’s natural ecosystems are more fragile than ever, and the entire human race could well be extinct within a couple of hundred years. But perhaps worst of all is that our recklessness is upsetting David Attenborough. And he isn’t even angry, just disappointed.

In times like these, we could all do with channelling a little more of Sir David and his environmental savviness in our everyday lives. And, well, should the world’s most beloved broadcaster ever trek through the uncharted wilderness of my kitchen in search of a Tequila tipple, I imagine he’d like the liquid he happens upon to be as planet-friendly as possible. This is where Patrón comes in.

The veritable hipsters of spirits sustainability, Patrón’s production team adopted green practices long before it was cool or ‘on-trend’ to do so. Patrón was the first Tequila distillery to install a natural gas pipeline as its main energy source, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and improving air quality.

It composts 100% of its leftover agave fibres from distillation, which creates more than 5,500 tons of natural fertiliser a year for Hacienda Patrón’s vegetable garden – in turn providing food for its 1,200 staff. The Tequila giant even developed a water treatment system that turns residues from distillation known as stillage into clean water.

Safe to say, the folks at Patrón are doing their bit for the planet, and they’d quite like us to follow suit – all while having a bit of fun doing so. Which is why the brand has partnered with The Conduit, a London-based members’ club with a social and environmental purpose, to host  Cocktails with a Conscience.

As well as learning the tricks to transforming regular kitchen waste into high-quality cocktail ingredients, masterclass attendees will enjoy a three-course dinner designed by the venue’s executive chef, Merlin Labron-Johnson, paired with Patrón drinks featuring leftovers from the preparation of each dish.

Patron

Sustainable can be beautiful

“Reducing waste and repurposing leftovers to create cocktail ingredients is not just an ethical commitment for the industry, but also a creative and enjoyable challenge”, explains Walter Pintus, bars operations manager at The Conduit, adding that it gives bartenders the opportunity to create “distinctive and bespoke syrups and infusions”.

Take the coffee infusion for his cocktail, Salt of the Earth, the recipe for which can be found below. “When your bar serves around 500 coffees a day, you end up with tons of coffee grounds to bin, but these still offer amazing tasting notes,” Pintus explains. “By infusing coffee grounds with salt and vanilla for 24 hours before filtering it with boiling water, we have created a captivating saline coffee solution that pairs very well with the smoky notes of Patrón Añejo.”

Can’t make it? Live too far? No worries. Patrón has partnered with some of the most progressive bars in the world to give their locals a taste of cocktails with a conscience. Cub, Eve, and Scout in London will be showcasing a specially-created sustainable serve, as is Stairs Bar in Berlin, Dr Stravinsky in Barcelona, Himkok in Oslo, Dogma in Antwerp, Laurels Bar at Caesar’s Palace in Dubai, Yes Please Bar in Manila, Martini Bar in Singapore, Ends and Means in Melbourne, Cannery & Rye Co in Shanghai, Hope & Sesame in Guangzhou, and Trunk Hotel in Tokyo.

Or you could just stay at home. Here, Pintus shares his top tips for DIY bartending with sustainability in mind…

Swot up

Before you start experimenting, do a bit of research and homework, he says. “As easy as it might sound, making cocktails using kitchen leftovers requires a little understanding of the natural properties and tasting profile of your ingredients as well as of some chemical and cooking processes”. When creating Earth Apple, the recipe for which is below, Pintus wanted to reduce the milk waste from cappuccinos. “By reheating this milk and adding vinegar, you drive a separation of the lactose, and the remaining milk whey can be used to convey roundness and a kick of acidity to this Patrón-based white Negroni,” he explains.

Save skin

Reutilising the skin of fruit and vegetables is always a great idea, says Pintus. “Peels are the most flavoursome part on top of being rich in nutrients and when properly utilised and paired with the right spirit can deliver brilliant flavour combinations”, he explains, pointing to the oranges The Conduit team use to make vinaigrette or the Jerusalem artichoke skin used to make puree. “The peels of these items contain some great essential oils which offer a true explosion of aromas and it would be a shame to miss out on these”, he says.

Start simple

Unleash your imagination and creativity just as you would do when cooking, he adds. “Creating cocktails using otherwise discarded ingredients can be easily achievable for cocktail lovers at home, as well as bartenders and drinks enthusiasts,” Pintus continues. “Try, mix and taste, and you’ll be surprised at what you can create – the key is to start simple, and work from there”.

If you’re ready to get stirring, try the following recipes out for size. It’s what Attenborough would want.

Patron Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

Ingredients: 20ml Patrón Añejo, 5 dashes coffee grounds solution*, 40ml amontillado sherry, 2 dashes orange blossom, 10ml Agave water
Method: stir and serve over a cube of ice in a coupette glass.

*Coffee ground solution: blend salt with leftover coffee grounds and vanilla pods, put in a jar and leave 24h to infuse. Add 20% boiling water to dissolve salt, filter and you will obtain the saline coffee solution.

Patrón Orangerie cocktail

Orangerie

Ingredients: 30ml Patrón Silver, 30ml blood orange peels sherbet*, 20ml fino sherry, 10ml saffron syrup
Method: shake all ingredients and serve in a chilled flute.

*Blood orange peels sherbet: Infuse blood orange peels and squeezed orange juice leftovers with sugar for 24h. Add water and the liquid and filter the product to obtain this sweet and sour sherbet.

Earth Apple

Ingredients: 20ml Patrón Silver, 45ml Jerusalem artichoke skins-infused vermouth*, 10ml Luxardo Bitter Bianco, 10ml of milk whey*
Method: stir and serve over an ice chunk in an old-fashioned glass.

*Leftover Jerusalem artichokes skins are added to Martini Ambrato for 5h to infuse the vermouth. Heated milk left unused for cappuccinos is heated up again, vinegar is added to separate lactose and the remaining liquid used to convey roundness and acidity to the cocktail.

Patrón’s Cocktails with a Conscience will take place at The Conduit in Mayfair on Wednesday 24 April from 7pm – 10.30pm. Tickets cost £55 and include a welcome drink and canapés, cocktail masterclass, three-course dinner and paired cocktails. Buy yours here.

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A first look at Super Lyan Amsterdam

You might remember Super Lyan’s London outpost, which closed in late 2018 to make way for Cub’s in-house fermentation lab. Well, now the bar has risen from the ashes in…

You might remember Super Lyan’s London outpost, which closed in late 2018 to make way for Cub’s in-house fermentation lab. Well, now the bar has risen from the ashes in the form of an eclectic neighbourhood hangout a stone’s throw from Amsterdam’s central station in the Kimpton De Witt Hotel. We nipped across the water to preview Ryan Chetiyawardana’s first international outpost – and pet the bar’s resident house cat, Robin…

Set within a 17th century Dutch house, the bar is described as the “playful sibling” of White Lyan, Dandelyan, Lyaness et al, with the team drawing from years of Lyan experimentation and know-how to assemble a stable of familiar serves expanded upon in an inventive way – for example, the Bay Cosmo, a bay leaf-tinged draught cocktail that riffs on the classic Cosmopolitan.

Super Lyan Garden Bar

The garden bar area

“The overriding theme throughout the bar, through the drinks, through the dishes, is to take something that’s grounded in the everyday and explode it out,” explains Chetiyawardana. “Being able to borrow from everything we’ve been able to do in the past – sometimes quite literally, going, ‘how can we use the different techniques we had at White Lyan? How can we use some of the different ingredient manipulations we had at Dandelyan?’ – and transform it into something that’s very ownable for us.”

There are cocktails on tap – the first in Amsterdam – and a range of mouthwatering non-alcoholic drinks and shakes that are readily spiked with booze on request. The Millionaire Shake, for example, made with soy milk, chocolate sorbet and pomegranate, is transformed with the addition of Bulleit Bourbon, curaçao and fennel pollen. As well as reimagining classics and revisiting Lyan geekery, the menu encourages guests to “reimagine what a fruity drink can be, or what sourness tastes like in a cocktail,” Chetiyawardana adds, “without making it too heavy – it’s not as geeky as what we do in Lyaness, for sure”.

This is reflective of how Amsterdam’s drinkers like to imbibe – while building the project, the team “did a lot of research” about the ways Dutch people socialise to inform the personality of the venue. “People don’t just go out late at night and drink cocktails, there’s a very different socialisation around it,” Chetiyawardana explains, “that was fun for us, even down to folding savoury flavours into some of the cocktails.” The house Negroni, made with Bombay Sapphire, Rutte Celery Gin, Martini Bitter, Martini Rubino, and olive vermouth, is a standout example. “We used black olive as a nod towards the bites you might have alongside your drinks and had fun making that one and the same.”

Negroni Super Lyan

Negroni made with olive vermouth

There are cultural differences, too. “Cocktails are still seen as a little flashy, and the Dutch don’t really do flashy,” he continues. “People think it’s going to take too long, it’s going to be too expensive, it’s going to be too fancy. We wanted to show that actually cocktails can be for everybody, and they can work at lots of different times of the day. Being able to intersect this with teas, coffees, beers, wine and food has also been super fun for us.”

Super Lyan consists of three connected spaces; the Super Lyan living room, the Super Lyan garden and the Super Lyan bar, and real emphasis is placed on the all-day nature of the venue. It’s as much of a destination for someone who wants to wake up with a coffee and a few bites of bacon bao as it is for the post-work beer and bitterballen crew.

I envisioned myself spending all day there; conducting meetings in the brightly-lit garden with a cuppa or two, sailing through the mid-afternoon slump with a vegan donut or shake, toasting twilight with a long drink and sipping my way through the menu until after dark – accompanied by a tiny, fluffy ginger cat called Robin who resides there; a nod to the city’s historic ‘brown bars’.

Super Lyan food

The food looks good too

While locally-made spirits do feature on the menu – Rutte Sloe Gin, Ketel One Vodka, Bols Corenwyn – the menu isn’t crowded with genever. “We didn’t want to just include it for the sake of it,” says Chetiyawardana, “but in a way that would make sense and we could do a very different take on it. We did a highball using a local vermouth instead, and it’s got a really different profile to it. That’s partly down to using local products [in production], but it’s also tailored to local taste preferences.”

With so many projects on the go, how does the Lyan family find time to be creative? Weekly meetings keep everyone on the same page, he explains, and the team work to an open brief, rather than “throwing flavours” together; “an inefficient way of creating because it’s really wasteful and actually it doesn’t tend to come up with something as interesting”. Instead, the process is made up of research and refinement. “We’ve got a massive team now with people from very different backgrounds,” Chetiyawardana says. “They look at things in a really different way, and that, to me, keeps it fresh for everyone.”

Super Lyan can be found on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 3, 1012 RC, Amsterdam

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Dream Drams… with Joe Hall of Satan’s Whiskers

You miraculously find yourself on a desert island equipped with a beach hut bar and eight spirits of your choosing. What are you sipping? For Joe Hall, general manager at…

You miraculously find yourself on a desert island equipped with a beach hut bar and eight spirits of your choosing. What are you sipping? For Joe Hall, general manager at London bar Satan’s Whiskers, survival sustenance means frozen Cognac shots, amontillado Sherry and Piña Colada pineapple goodness…

It’s a dilemma we’ve all pondered at one point or another. If you should find yourself stranded on a remote island with little more than a selection of handpicked bottles to call company, which particular boozes would fill your glass?

We put the question to Joe Hall, general manager at laid-back neighbourhood hangout Satan’s Whiskers. For the unacquainted, Satan’s serves up some of Bethnal Green’s finest cocktails to a formidable hip hop soundtrack. The daily-changing menu is packed with riffs on classics so killer, the man himself would patently approve.

Satan’s Whiskers

Say hello to Joe Hall!

No stranger to the back bar, Hall’s career started at former north London bar Wax Jambu at the age of 18. After a few years he moved to Bristol – “a place that I still think has one of the best cocktail scenes in the country, with Hyde & Co, Redlight and Filthy XIII leading the charge at the moment,” he says before returning to London to Beaufort Bar at The Savoy, which won Best International Hotel Bar at The Spirited Awards 2015 during his tenure. Hall left The Savoy for a junior bartender position at Satan’s Whiskers, which almost four years on, he now runs.

“During my time at Satan’s I’ve learnt a lot, taken a great sense of ownership over the place and won a few competitions,” he continues namely Belvedere’s Grain to Glass 2019 and the Diplomatico World Tournament 2017, for which he was crowned the European winner “nowadays I’m much more settled and focused on the advancement and training of the staff at the bar. In my limited spare time, I’m also a certified Cognac educator on behalf of the BNIC.”

Being the first to tackle our ever-so-slightly shameless homage to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs is a pretty big undertaking, but Hall did not disappoint. After raiding his metaphorical suitcase Border Patrol-style, MoM asked him to talk us through the contents. Here’s what we found…

Martell VSOP

Why? The perfect mixing Cognac. Clean, Borderies-only and lees-less liquid amazing in Harvards, French 75s, and Cognac and Tonics. Also, perfect for those frozen Cognac shots we all love right?

Cognac Frapin Fontpinot XO

Why? This is the Cognac you want to drink neat. Unbelievably flavourful product of single vineyard Grand Champagne grapes, aged for a long time in dry cellars. It’s rich and complex, but has remarkably distinct tropical notes passionfruit and pineapple. This is an amazing example of what, for me, makes Cognac stand out amongst other spirits.

Hidalgo Amontillado Napoleón

Why? Pleasant, accessible amontillado Sherry. Maybe too light for the ultra-serious sherry heads of this world but it’s perfect for clean, crisp mixed drinks. Makes my favourite [version of the cocktail] Adonis, and Sherry and Tonic or a Sobremesa, a drink of mine that contains sherry, sweet vermouth, cucumber and a touch of mezcal.

Satan’s Whiskers

Satan’s Whiskers, which we hear is a hell of a night…

Potocki Vodka

Why? Why isn’t everyone aware of this stuff?! It’s through distilling only twice with no filtration during the production process that creates this beautifully-flavoured and textured rye vodka from Poland. It makes Martinis that are absolutely out of this world.

Compass Box Hedonism

Why? I knew I wanted to include something from Compass Box, but picking which bottle is a real challenge. They have such a fantastic range, with some unbelievable blends on offer. As far as pushing the envelope and mind expansion goes, Hedonism has it all, showing that grain whisky can be 100% delicious too.

Kahlua

Why? You wouldn’t be able to make any White Russians without this.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum

Why? The fondest memories in my entire career are of my time in Venezuela with Diplomatico and the rest of the European competitors. Such wonderful hosting, food, country, weather and… rum. This is the kind of rum you can drink in cocktails during the day, on ice in the evening, and straight out the bottle at night. And that’s just what we did.

Virginia Black

Why? As if I could do any kind of Desert Island Discs piece from a cocktail bar that only plays hip hop without referencing Drake. I like to think we’re the only small, curated industry cocktail bar that stocks it, let alone has it taking pride of place in the centre of the back bar. Tastes 100% acceptable.

Satan’s Whiskers

From frozen Cognac shots to Sobremesas, Hall serves up some of Bethnal Green’s finest

In-keeping with the theme, if you could take one book with you, which would you choose?

Champagne Cocktails by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller. Apart from being an informative and succinct list of fancy drinks, this book does a fantastic job of evoking the convivial fun that drinking Champagne should be. Having this on a desert island would get some good celebratory nostalgia going!

And your luxury item?

My phone. Just for the Instagram. Can you imagine the photo opportunities? Coconut shell cocktails and banana leaves… My stories would go viral.

Finally, if you could only drink one cocktail there, what would it be?

On a desert island I’m going to need all the sustenance and nutrition I can get. So, out of necessity more than anything else, I’m going to pick the humble Piña Colada. Plenty of fresh pineapple goodness and calories to sustain me. If you’re going to get stranded on a desert island, you may as well get into it…

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Talisker’s top five ways to bring Wild Spirit to your cocktail

Remember Talisker’s maritime-inspired Race to Skye competition? Well, this year the single malt Scotch whisky distillery’s annual cocktail challenge has transcended the tumultuous Skye shoreline to encompass Britain’s fields, forests,…

Remember Talisker’s maritime-inspired Race to Skye competition? Well, this year the single malt Scotch whisky distillery’s annual cocktail challenge has transcended the tumultuous Skye shoreline to encompass Britain’s fields, forests, and farmer’s markets. Here, brand ambassador Jason Clark shared tips for crafting a drink inspired by the wilderness…

If there’s one thing the Isle of Skye’s only distillery excels at, it’s crafting a bold, smoky, spicy, maritime dram. And if there’s one thing the UK’s bartenders know how to do, it’s make a damn fine cocktail with the stuff. So, it’s with great anticipation that we welcome back Talisker’s bartender training programme and competition for a third year. And this time, it’s evolved.

Wild Spirit Whisky Tour

To spread this fine news, Talisker brand ambassador and double World Class Global Finalist Jason Clark has embarked on a UK-wide tour of 16 seaside locations and other cities to chat about the brand’s history, production and characteristics, and share a few Wild Spirit cocktail techniques. Oh, and he’s doing the whole thing in a Talisker Land Rover Highland Defender – camping in each location and documenting his journey along the way.

After his tour is over, bartenders across the UK will be invited to submit a Talisker Wild Spirit serve and add it to the menu in their bar for eight weeks to be in with the chance of bagging a Talisker Wild Spirit adventure for themselves and two of their colleagues. We’re a curious bunch, so we decided to sneak into Clark’s first session, which was hosted in London-based subterranean whisky den Black Rock. Here’s what we learned about crafting cocktails with a touch of Wild Spirit…

  1. Test your palate

Experiment with “seasonal, natural flavours that are different to the classic flavours you find in a bar”, Clark suggests. Things like different mushroom varieties, toasted nuts, pine needles, olives, beetroot, tomato, different blossoms and flowers, salt, different types of honey, different types of apples, pears, weeds, roots, cured meats, samphire, rhubarb, figs, nettles, tangerines, stone fruits, dandelion, and seaweed varieties.

  1. Consider homegrown

“These flavours may be grown in your garden or on your windowsill,” Clark suggests – indeed, garden centres sell all-in-one kits for mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and various herbs. Otherwise, “they might be foraged from a local park or coastline, they might be purchased from a local farmers market, or even from the supermarket,” he adds.

  1. Forage with care

Our neighbourhoods, parks, reserves, and coastline are all abundant with forageable produce, you just need to know what you’re looking at, suggests Clark. However, “you need to know that the area you’re sourcing from is natural, clean and safe,” he says. For example, don’t pick blackberries from a graveyard, a dog park, or an industrial area.

  1. Utilise the ingredients

If you forage something, and simple use it as a garnish or muddle it in the drink, you’re missing a trick. “It’s going to be gone in a day or three,” says Clark. “But if you look at ways of preserving it, you can use it on an ongoing basis for, potentially, the remainder of the season.” Syrups, infusions, shrubs, bitters, tinctures, pickling and cooking all bring out flavour in different ways. “You could do something as simple as infusing ginger bitters with magnolia flowers,” he adds.

  1. Give it a fancy name

When someone opens a menu and sees the name of a cocktail, it instantly creates a mental image, says Clark. Think: Winter Waves, Spring Orchard, Shackleton Toddy, Highland Fire, Campfire Tales, and so on. Take it a step further by creating a little story about that as well.

Foraging not your forte? Here are three pre-approved Talisker cocktails you can whip up from the comfort of your own home…

Talisker Sea Sour

Talisker Sea Sour

Sea Sour

Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Skye or Storm), 30ml lemon juice, 1 egg white, 15ml honey syrup, 3 dashes celery bitters
Glass: Old fashioned or tumbler
Garnish: Fennel or samphire
Method: Shake and double strain then garnish.

Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate

Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate

Campfire Hot Chocolate

Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Skye or Storm), 50ml boiling water, 45g dark chocolate (60%), 150ml milk (dairy or oat), 10ml golden syrup
Garnish: Toasted marshmallow and spice dust
Method: Mix chocolate with water and stir. Add other ingredients and steam on a coffee machine milk wand. Pour into mug and garnish.

Talisker Hot Todday

Talisker Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy

Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Storm, or Port Ruighe), 10ml ginger liqueur, 15ml heather honey syrup, 25ml lemon juice, 25ml apple juice, 100ml boiling water
Garnish: Cinnamon-spiced honeycomb
Method: Build in a pre-heated mug and garnish.

The Talisker Wild Spirit Whisky Tour will run until 20 April. To see the full schedule and sign up, bartenders should visit https://taliskerwildspirit.events.idloom.com.

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