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Master of Malt Blog

Eight beers you have to try in 2019

Explore the endless possibilities found in the brilliant world of beer with this super selection. It boggles the mind why anyone would want to live in a state of booze-based…

Explore the endless possibilities found in the brilliant world of beer with this super selection.

It boggles the mind why anyone would want to live in a state of booze-based monogamy when choices have never been wider and more intriguing in all categories. There’s no excuse to squander the opportunity to taste and explore with so much great stuff just waiting to be appreciated.

Take beer, for example. It’s been produced, sold and enjoyed all over the world for generations and boasts an incredible range of varieties. There are bitters, blondes, APAs, IPAs, fruit beers, low-alcohol bottlings, lagers and pilsners, and porters and stouts among others, so there’s sure to be something for everyone. Variety is very much the spice (or should that be hop?) of life, after all.

So, make 2019 all about playing the field. We’ve listed a beer from each of the aforementioned categories so there’s no excuse not to broaden your beer-based horizons. It’s our round-up of eight beers you have to try in 2019!

Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta Earl Grey IPA Can

The Yeastie Boys’ award-winning new world IPA with an old-world influence, Gunnamatta Earl Grey, was inspired by the pale ales that travelled from England to the East Indies but also by all that precious tea that returned on those same ships. That’s why it features a healthy dose of Earl Grey Blue Flower. It was also influenced by the instrumental surf rock opening track of Paul Kelly’s 2004 album ‘Ways and Means’. There’s just so much going on here.

Style:

Indian Pale Ale (IPA).

What does it taste like?:

Jasmine, lots of bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, ice tea, herbal, late overripe tropical fruit and leafiness.

Troubadour Blonde

For some, Belgium is the greatest beer-brewing nation in the world. Many of its styles were copied and modified as part of the craft revolution, and the country is renowned for its vast array of traditional and modern beers. This from the excellent Troubadour range is a classic Belgian Blonde, a subtle, light, and dry style of beer that pairs really with spicy food, cheese and summer days.

Style:

Blonde.

What does it taste like?:

Well balanced, with citrus fruit at the fore (think grapefruit and lemon for this one) and grassy hops playing around in the background. Hearty yeast influence too.

Beavertown Gamma Ray American Pale Ale

London-based brewery Beavertown was founded by Logan Plant, the son of legendary Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, but the company has very much forged its own identity with innovative brews and its brightly-coloured, graphic novel-style label designs. This American pale ale was made with best pale, caragold and caramel malts as well as Columbus, Bravo, Amarillo, Citra and Calypso hops (dry-hopped for days). It’s a big, hoppy and fresh beer with a deliciously drinkable juicy, tropical character, and thankfully no radioactive side effects.

Style:

American Pale Ale (APA)

What does it taste like?:

Golden tropical notes, grapefruit, integrated malt and gorgeous hoppiness.

Moritz Can

Moritz is something of an iconic name in beer; the brewery’s first release was way back in 1856. After period of obscurity, the company resurfaced in 2004, thanks to the descendants of the Moritz family, who relaunched the brand to much success. This is its core release, a pale Pilsner made with mineral water from the Font d’Or, pale malts and Saaz hops. It’s a clean, crisp and delightfully malty beer from the brand behind Barcelona’s original beer.

Style:

Lager/Pilsner

What does it taste like?:

Refreshing lemon and crisp grains, with pepper hops coming alongside subtle bready hints.

Wild Beer Sleeping Lemons

You don’t have to travel to Belgium to get your hands on a decent fruit beer anymore. The fun and refreshing take on the classic pint is represented brilliantly here from The Wild Beer Co., who boast quite a range of vibrantly-flavoured beers. Lemons that were first preserved in salt were used here in a beer that packs a tart, acidic bite and pleasant salinity without compromising the character of its malt and hops.

Style:

Fruit beer

What does it taste like?:

Tart lemons, apple and hay before the introduction of the sea salt notes, with a hint of flint too.

Einstök Icelandic Toasted Porter

In what is almost certainly the finest way to share Iceland’s amazing water with the world, this toasted porter from Einstök Ölgerð in Iceland was brewed with Icelandic roasted coffee, lager malt, Munich malt, chocolate malt, Bavarian hops and pure Icelandic water. The result is a robust, supple and very drinkable porter.

Style:

Porter

What does it taste like?:

Roasty and toasty with dark mocha and bitter treacle.

Adnams Broadside

Adnams Broadside was first brewed in 1972 to commemorate the battle of Sole Bay fought against the Dutch Republic in 1672 just off the Southwold coast, close to the brewery. There’s not just history to be enjoyed here, however, Broadside is a delightfully dark and rich bitter that was brewed with pale and chocolate malt and First Gold hops. Pair with good, hearty home-cooked food (think stews, pies etc.) to make the most of it.

Style:

Bitter

What does it taste like?:

Full-bodied and rich, notes of fruitcake, red berries, warming malt and dark caramel. A touch of almonds lingers on the finish.

BrewDog Nanny State

Low-alcohol tipples are becoming all the rage, so it’s worth seeing what all the fuss is about. This is Nanny State, BrewDog’s take on the category, weighing in at a mighty 0.5% ABV. However, a hearty helping of hops, including Centennial, Amarillo, Columbus, Cascade and Simcoe, as well as plenty of dry hops means this is still a flavoursome brew.

Style:

Low-Alcohol Beer.

What does it taste like?:

Yep, this is well-hopped indeed – loads of orange, grapefruit, mango and pine, with a little bit of biscuit-y malt shining through.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Brandy Sour

This week we’re making a drink that appears simple but needs precision to pull off successfully, plus having a look at brandy’s rich cocktail history. When mixing drinks, most of…

This week we’re making a drink that appears simple but needs precision to pull off successfully, plus having a look at brandy’s rich cocktail history.

When mixing drinks, most of us reach for gin, rum or whisky, and forget about Cognac and Armagnac. Which is a shame because not only can these two brandies be great cocktail ingredients but in many cases, they were the original ingredient. The Sazerac, for example, according to Eric Felten in How’s Your Drink, gets its name from “a brand of Cognac popular in New Orleans in the 19th century”.

Brandy was also massive on the other side of Atlantic. But its premience among spirits was destroyed by phylloxera, the vine-eating louse that wrecked Europe’s vineyards. By the 1890s, there was panic in the gentleman’s clubs of Britain as they were running out of brandy. Blended Scotch was specifically designed to fill this gap. Whisky merchants borrowed from Cognac the technique of blending heavier and lighter spirits to create a consistent product. In America, cocktail lovers moved over to rye and bourbon where they have remained ever since.

Armagnac vineyards

The beautiful vineyards of Armagnac (credit: BNIA)

Nowadays, however, brandy is back on the cocktail menu. Amanda Garnham from the Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac (BNIA) told me that bartenders love Armagnac because “of its multifaceted nature and depth of flavour”. But, she also warned that it was important not to lose that complexity when making your drink. So keep it simple. To educate the hospitality industry, the BNIA has just taken on Hannah Lanfear, recently crowned Educator of the Year at the Imbibe Personality of the Year Awards. I asked her for some recommendations.

“Armagnac offers the bartender incredible complexity and depth, with a structured flavour profile that gives a wealth of possibility for flavour combinations,” she said. “A classic sour makes for a perfect showcase for the picture painted by the distiller.”

So I decided to take her advice. A sour requires just three ingredients: something boozy, something sweet and something sour (obviously). It’s part of a family of cocktails based on these principles that includes the Daiquiri. This very simplicity, however, means that there is no room for error. You have to get the ratio of booze, sour and sugar exactly right. You also must take care when shaking not to dilute it too much.

It is a supremely adaptable drink. You could add an egg white to give it a gorgeous silky texture (in which case it will need to be shaken for longer), or finish it off with a couple of drops of Angostura bitters. Add triple sec or Grand Marnier, and you have a Sidecar (5 parts brandy, 2 lemon juice, 2 triple sec). Hell, you don’t even have to use brandy: you could use pisco, gin, rum, amaretto, bourbon, or Metaxa (a Greek brandy flavoured with Muscat grape juice) though you may have to play around with the ratios. But today, we’re using Armagnac.

So, which one to use? Garnham recommends not using anything too old or delicate. On the other hand, you do want something that can take centre stage, so don’t use something that you’d put on your Christmas pudding. The perfect choice is Baron de Sigognac VSOP. Not only is it an excellent affordable Armagnac, but I’d say it is one of the best-value spirits on the market. With its tropical fruit and crème brûlée character, it’s as smooth as David Niven’s smoking jacket.

Sold? Right, let’s get mixing!

Armagnac sour BINA

Armagnac sour (credit: BNIA)

50ml Baron de Sigognac VSOP
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
Glass: coupe or Nick & Nora
Garnish: lemon slice

Shake all the ingredients hard and quickly with lots of ice (you don’t want too much dilution). Double strain to remove any ice crystals into a coupe, and garnish with a slice of lemon (or you could use an orange twist or a maraschino cherry).

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Master of Malt wins at the 2019 Drinks Retailing Awards

Exciting news just in as Master of Malt adds another gong to its already groaning trophy cabinet (we do actually have a trophy cabinet). Forget the Oscars, Baftas or Cigar…

Exciting news just in as Master of Malt adds another gong to its already groaning trophy cabinet (we do actually have a trophy cabinet).

Forget the Oscars, Baftas or Cigar Smoker of the Year, they cannot compare with the sheer glamour of the Drinks Retailing Awards which took place last night at The Dorchester in London. The great and good of the business were out in their best bib and tucker to celebrate excellence in flogging booze.

According to Martin Green at Drinks Retailing News, the judges looked at “retailers’ strengths and weaknesses in the digital sphere” as well as using data from Nielsen and polling 2,000 consumers through YouGov. Green went on to say: “To be nominated for a Drinks Retailing Award is a tremendous achievement, and to win one is a stamp of the ultimate quality.”

It was a hard-fought contest, but we are delighted to tell you that Master of Malt won Online Retailer of the Year beating off some tough competition. This is the first time we have won this category since 2013 five years of hurt, never stopped us dreaming. Presenting the prize was Joe Fattorini off ITV’s ‘The Wine Show’ and representing MoM were Nick Murden and Jake Mountain.

They partied responsibly long into the night.

 

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10 new Master of Malt Single Cask Series whiskies!

We’ve got a whole new batch of Master of Malt Single Cask Series whiskies, people! 10 of them, to be specific. Are you very excited? You should be. Whisky fans,…

We’ve got a whole new batch of Master of Malt Single Cask Series whiskies, people! 10 of them, to be specific. Are you very excited? You should be.

Whisky fans, rejoice. We’ve done it again! You know the drill by now. We introduce a brand new selection of Master of Malt Single Cask Series whiskies, you enjoy the spoils of our labour. What a system.

As always, we’ve managed to get our hands on some truly sublime single malts from a host of fantastic distilleries, including: Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Mortlach, Craigellachie and more. The single cask expressions range from 8 to 37 years matured and every single edition is presented at cask strength, without any chill-filtration or added colourings. All you find in these MoM-tastic bottles is very, very tasty whisky.

Now go check out our brand new selection below and enjoy!

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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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10 rules for running a successful bar

On the blog today we have UK brand ambassador for Disaronno Rod Eslamieh, a man who has had a chequered career in the drinks industry. He gives us the benefit…

On the blog today we have UK brand ambassador for Disaronno Rod Eslamieh, a man who has had a chequered career in the drinks industry. He gives us the benefit of his hard-won wisdom…

Eslamieh began working in drinks when his father bought an old fire station in Brentford, west London, which they turned into a bar and restaurant. It was an odd career move because up to this point Eslamieh didn’t drink alcohol. But he quickly fell in love with the bar culture, and the venue became very successful:

“We opened in 2003. In 2006, within three years, we won the Best Bar Team in the whole UK at the Class Bar Awards. In 2007 and 2008, I was shortlisted for Best Bar Manager at Class Awards. In 2009, I actually won the London heat of the Jack Daniel’s cocktail competition to go and represent (the bar) in Tennessee”, he said.

Rod Eslamieh

Rod Eslamieh!

Not everything went so smoothly, however. Eslamieh had to leave the Old Fire Station after problems with local residents (more on this below). Since 2014, he’s been a brand ambassador for William Grant & Sons looking after Disaronno Amaretto. With his wife Ellie, he runs Chapter 72, a coffee and cocktail bar near London Bridge. So, from a man who has tasted the highs but also felt the lows, here are some top tips for the budding bar owner:

Connect with the community

At the Old Fire Station, Eslamieh had problems when a small group of residents who didn’t like having a late bar in their neighbourhood concocted a case against him. They accused him of harassment and aggressive behaviour. Even though there was no evidence, Eslamieh ended up having to walk away from his own bar. He told me what he’d learned from what must have been a bruising experience, “I’d say the two top mistakes that people will make when opening up a bar is not understanding their community and engaging with them.” For his new bar in Bermondsey Street he made sure that this didn’t happen again by talking to local residents and businesses, and getting them on side.

Don’t try to be too perfect

Eslamieh said: “I think too many people wait for everything to be perfect, for the stars to align. Sometimes you should just get on with it rather than just think all the time. Because if you think a lot then you can easily talk your way out of something.”

Location, location, location

It was a complete accident finding the space that became Chapter 72 in Southwark. He was visiting his friend Simon Difford (from Difford’s Guide) and thought: “‘God, this is a really nice street’. So I called my wife and said, ‘there’s a lot of nice restaurants and bars here’. And then just outside I saw this shop with a To Let sign. I called the agent up and I said, ‘can I come and see it?’ and they said, ‘someone’s just pulled out, do you want to come and see it tomorrow?’.” The bar opened six weeks later (see rule above on not making it too perfect).

Rod Eslamieh Chapter 72

Rod Eslamieh at Chapter 72 in Bermondsey Street

Get the vibe right

This is perhaps a hard one to teach but we’ve all walked into bars and restaurants which you know just aren’t working. Eslamieh said, “I’m a great believer that sometimes you can go into somewhere and there’s a real positive feel and a real good connect, and sometimes there isn’t. And I think you can just see by the way the bartenders and the team move around, how the back bar looks, are the tables messy…”

Don’t micromanage

“Learning to step back and let your team have ownership of the business. Not micromanaging. But also finding out where their strengths and weaknesses are and how you can work on it,” Eslamieh told me.

Don’t let it go to your head

It’s not all glamour running a bar, according to Eslamieh. “So you’ve won Bacardi Legacy, you’ve won World Class, you’ve won Glenfiddich Experimental, you’re on the shoulders of bartenders, you’re on the magazines, you’re a superstar. Now I’m going to take this pin and I’m going to burst your bubble. Do you know who doesn’t care that you make the best Old Fashioned in the world? Your landlord. They want to get paid! Who doesn’t care that you make the best Mojito? The local council. If you’re going into opening up a bar thinking it’s all fun and glamorous then you’ve got to think again because at the end of the day, the buck stops with you. You’re the one that has to make sure everyone’s paid, everything is up to date, all licenses are compiled by, all health and safety. Make sure you have a good handyman!”

Look after your mental health

“When I first started in the industry I think there was this real kind of understanding that as a brand ambassador or a bartender you worked ten to 15 hours and then you’d go out drinking until four in the morning, you sleep all day and then you come out. I think that kind of lifestyle is starting to change. We’re seeing programmes like Healthy Hospo coming out. You’ve got more bartenders talking about how they’ve had to deal with alcohol issues and depression,” Eslamieh told me.


Making a Disaronno amaretto sour

Making a Disaronno amaretto sour

Have a USP

For Chapter 72, it’s coffee and cocktails. He said, “I always say that we’re a coffee shop that sells alcohol rather than a bar that sells coffee. So we’re trying to really demonstrate to people that as well as good coffee, we can do great cocktails here as well.  We’re the only place, I think, in London that does Espresso Martini masterclasses.”

Put out an A board

In all the noise about the importance of social media, it can be easy to forget that the old marketing methods can be the best. Eslamieh filled me in, “when we first opened, the coffee side was really busy for us, it was going really well, and the drinks side was a little bit quieter and we didn’t really understand it. So I spoke to a member of staff and said to her ‘just put on the blackboard ‘Best Espresso Martini in town right here’. . . that weekend we were full, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”

People like fun drinks

Finally, I asked Eslamieh about his predictions for the future: “I think nostalgia will come back. I think people just want something that brings them back to where they were happy, whether it was a disco drink but a disco drink made well. In my next cocktail list, I’m going to put the Screaming Orgasm. It’s a fun drink, it brings back memories! I go to so many bars now where I look at the menu and I don’t even know what those ingredients are, they’re so complicated. There’s all these infusions, there’s all these complicated drinks. Why is LCC knocking out 88,000 Pornstar Martinis a year? Because it’s got a fun name, it’s got vanilla vodka, it’s got passionfruit, people like it.. . . 95% of people out there in the world don’t really care, they just want to have a nice time and have a nice drink.” Amen to that!

So there you have, follow these simple rules, and with a little luck and some money, you could have a successful bar on your hands.

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Despite everything, American whiskey is booming in Britain

With the Super Bowl taking place this weekend, we take a look at how American whiskey sales are growing in the UK, and pick some of our favourites for you…

With the Super Bowl taking place this weekend, we take a look at how American whiskey sales are growing in the UK, and pick some of our favourites for you to enjoy in front of the big game.

Due to recent, ahem, disagreements between the European Commission and the current US administration, there’s currently a whopping 25% tariff imposed on American whiskey (you may have noticed how your favourite bourbon isn’t quite as good value as it once was). People were predicting catastrophe for American whiskey exports – and yet, the UK market is not only holding up, it is positively booming.

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How Australian whisky-makers harnessed the power of nature

In much the same way that Scotch whiskies are shaped by their location, so too is liquid down under – except Australia happens to be a gargantuan 98 times bigger…

In much the same way that Scotch whiskies are shaped by their location, so too is liquid down under – except Australia happens to be a gargantuan 98 times bigger than Scotland. In part two of our series, Australian distillers reveal how the country’s natural resources influence the taste of their whisky

Australia’s booze roots lie in spirits production, as we discovered on the blog last month. As modern day distillers flock to reignite its history, could Aussie whisky become the breakout category of the decade?

It certainly has the resources to do so. Australia is one of the largest malting-grade barley producers in the world, with many varieties unique to the country, says Dave Withers, master distiller at New South Wales distillery Archie Rose.

“We work with a number of New South Wales’ farmers to get hold of unique malts which demonstrate regional terroir,” he adds. “It also allows us to develop a relationship with the land and their custodians, exploring ancient and heirloom varieties”.

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The Nightcap: 1 February

We welcome February with stories of distillery reopening progress, new Glenmorangie deliciousness, and whisky coming to the big screen. Time for The Nightcap! Greetings to all from your favourite pals…

We welcome February with stories of distillery reopening progress, new Glenmorangie deliciousness, and whisky coming to the big screen. Time for The Nightcap!

Greetings to all from your favourite pals at Master of Malt, and welcome to another edition of The Nightcap – our weekly round-up of all the booze news from the week that was. It’s a bit like a neater version of someone taking all the interesting stories about all the tastiest drinks, loading them into a cannon and firing them at your PC/phone/tablet/eyeball computer. Is our lack of a cannon the only reason we aren’t doing this in that way? Maybe!

Here’s what’s been happening on the MoM Blog this week. Annie checked out some nutrient-rich (and protein-packed) serves from JJ Goodman and explored the ongoing rise of Japanese gins. Our newest writer Jess had a look at Allta, the most recent Private Edition bottling from Glenmorangie (more on that later). Adam helped you get prepared for Valentine’s Day with a selection of lovely treats. Kristy had a nose around Glenglassaugh, and then looked at the crucial training aspects of cocktail-making. Henry checked out Kingsbarn’s first commercial whisky launch, gave us the background on The Bramble cocktail, and offered up some tasty drinks recommendations for all of you watching the Super Bowl this weekend.

Now. On with the news!

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Cocktail of the Week: The Bramble

This week we show you how to make this modern classic inspired by a childhood spent foraging for blackberries. The origins of most great cocktails are lost in the mists…

This week we show you how to make this modern classic inspired by a childhood spent foraging for blackberries.

The origins of most great cocktails are lost in the mists of time. Not the Bramble though – it was invented in the mid-’80s by Dick Bradsell when he was working at a bar in Soho called Fred’s Club. Bradsell tended bar in some of London’s most notorious venues including Zanzibar in the ‘80s and the Atlantic Bar in the ‘90s. You might remember seeing photos of Noel Gallagher or Kate Moss falling out of the Atlantic. Ah, happy daze!

Bradsell wasn’t just barman to the stars. He pioneered a return to cocktails made from scratch with fresh ingredients when everyone else was making luridly coloured concoctions with syrups. Bradsell was an inspiration to a new generation of bartenders and put London on the cocktail map. As well as perfecting the classics, he invented dozens of cocktails including the Espresso Martini (coming soon to Cocktail of the Week) and this week’s cocktail, the Bramble. How many bartenders can say that they have invented two stone-cold classics? Sadly, Bradsell died in 2016 of brain cancer aged only 56.

The Bramble was inspired by the British pastime of brambling in late summer and early autumn when the blackberry bushes that grow like weeds in hedgerows and on wastelands come into fruit. Back in 2001, Bradsell wrote the following for Difford’s Guide:

“I wanted to invent a truly British drink for reasons that escape me now…. A bramble, by the way, is the bush where the blackberry grows, I know this as I spent an inordinate amount of time in my Isle of Wight childhood cutting and scratching myself on their jaggy thorns in attempts to capture those elusive berries that others had failed to harvest.”

Dick Bradsell

The late, great Dick Bradsell (credit: Diffordsguide.com)

The heart of the Bramble is a liqueur made from blackberries (or you can call them brambles, as they do in Scotland, according to my mother). It’s very easy to make your own: all you need are lots of brambles, some gin or vodka and caster sugar. Steep the fruit with the sugar in alcohol, shaking occasionally every couple of days. After three to six months, strain and bottle. Annoyingly this autumn was terrible for brambles. The intense summer heat meant they ripened too quickly. One day they were nice, the next they were shrivelled, and I had missed my moment. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Luckily, I still have some liqueur left over from the bumper harvest of 2017. But you can buy ready-made crème de mure (blackberry in French), or you can make variations on the Bramble by using cassis, Chambord, or even, Bradsell says, Ribena. Just remember to use the correct fruit to garnish. Next, you need crushed ice. If you don’t have an ice crusher at home, and honestly who does, then put the ice in a plastic bag and hit it with a rolling pin.

Then which gin to use? You could play around with fruit botanical gins (not liqueurs though, they have to be dry). I had a lovely Scottish gin from Darnley made with sloes, rosehips and brambles which would be ideal. But in this case, I used Chase Elegant Gin which is distilled from apples. You don’t get more evocative of a British childhood than blackberries and apples.

The Bramble Cocktail

The Bramble cocktail

Right, that’s enough nostalgia. Let’s make a bloody Bramble!

50ml Chase Elegant Gin
25ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup*
10ml crème de mure

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup with ice in a shaker, double-strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice. Drizzle crème de mure on the top and garnish with a lemon slice and a bramble that you have foraged yourself (or more likely bought from a supermarket as it’s January).

*Easy sugar syrup recipe: in a saucepan add 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, heat gently (do not boil) until the sugar dissolves. Decant into a jam jar or bottle. It lasts for months in the fridge.

 

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