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Master of Malt Blog

Distell unveils super-local Tobermory Hebridean Gin!

Are you a gin magpie with an eye for shiny, new juniper-based concoctions? Then listen up. Mull-based distillery Tobermory is in the process of releasing its first gin expression. Behold –…

Are you a gin magpie with an eye for shiny, new juniper-based concoctions? Then listen up. Mull-based distillery Tobermory is in the process of releasing its first gin expression. Behold – Tobermory Hebridean Gin!

Tobermory Distillery has been closed for a two-year renovation period, and the first fruits of that investment were on display at an event in London last night (27 March).

Not only did the distillery reveal its new Tobermory 12 Year Old, an unpeated bourbon cask-matured, virgin oak-finished Scotch whisky expression, but it surprised guests with a sneak peek at the new gin, too.

Tobermory Hebridean Gin

Tobermory Hebridean Gin – Tobermory’s first gin!

Tobermory Hebridean Gin is a 46.3% ABV small-batch-distilled gin made with local botanicals including elderflower, tea and wild heather, and a dash of Tobermory new-make spirit.

The new-make is used more as another botanical rather than the full base. The result means the oily, cereal character is a flavour contributor, rather than overwhelming the whole expression.

We were particularly impressed by the bottle, which showcases the iconic, colourful houses that border the shore in Tobermory, the island’s biggest town. The clear glass and label design are in line with a sleek brand refresh for the wider spirits range. 

Dr Kirstie McCallum, Distell’s master blender, told us that the gin release was the result of the investment in the distillery. It’s currently being produced in 60-litre still named Wee Betty, with a larger dedicated gin still set to be installed in the new spirits stillhouse (separate from the existing whisky-producing space) later this summer.

Once the larger still is in situ, the gin will be released more widely.

Tobermory 12 Year Old

The shiny new Tobermory 12 Year Old!

McCallum also confirmed Tobermory 10 Year Old has been discontinued with the launch of the 12 Year Old expression, and that we can expect to see more changes to the distillery’s core Scotch whisky range soon. In addition to the unpeated Tobermory range, the site also produces heavily-peated Scotch whisky under the Ledaig name.

Keep an eye on the blog for our full interview with McCallum, including further details on Tobermory Hebridean Gin and Tobermory 12 Year Old, coming soon!

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Cocktail of the Week: French 75

For Mother’s Day we have a special cocktail that combines mummy’s two favourite things: gin and Champagne. Yeah, it sounds a bit odd but we can assure you the French…

For Mother’s Day we have a special cocktail that combines mummy’s two favourite things: gin and Champagne. Yeah, it sounds a bit odd but we can assure you the French 75 tastes delicious.

It might seem heretical to our modern tastes to add sugar and lemon juice let alone gin to Champagne but the Victorians were less precious. Dickens (who was a keen cocktail and punch enthusiast) would entertain guests with a mixture of gin and Champagne; and Queen Victoria’s drink of choice was whisky combined half-and-half with red Bordeaux. Sounds revolting but when you’re the Empress of India, who’s going to tell you you’re doing it wrong?

While I wouldn’t recommend going the full Queen Vic, we can learn from Dickens’ attitude to alcohol. I had a wonderful experience at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel a few years ago courtesy of Joe Stockoe of drinks company Heads, Hearts and Tails. First he made a chilled fruit punch in a large silver bowl and then for the pièce de résistance, poured in a magnum of Veuve Clicquot to finish it off. The sparkling wine made the contents of the bowl fizz and froth like a magic potion. It tasted pretty magic too.

The result was not dissimilar to this week’s cocktail. The French 75, or as they call it in France the Soixante-quinze, is named after a French artillery gun, the 75 millimetre. It (the cocktail not the gun) was invented by Harry MacElhone at Harry’s Bar in Paris just after World War One. Perhaps hoping to make a point about diminished French military might, one of the German officers in the film Casablanca orders it at Rick’s Bar. The French, however, get their revenge later by beating the Germans in a singing contest.

So, which Champagne to use in your Soixante-quinze? It’s probably a waste to use anything too expensive like Krug or Dom Pérignon (unless you’re feeling particularly swanky) but at the same time you do need a sparkling wine with the body to stand up to all those additions. I find Veuve Clicquot ideal for this purpose. After some experimentation I think it works best with a good amount of lemon juice, and the orange bitters really lifts the whole thing and brings out orangey notes in the Champagne. For the gin, I’ve chosen Barentz, a lavender-heavy little number named after a Dutch explorer (but distilled in Britain). 


It should look at bit like this

I can’t think of a better cocktail to make your mother feel appreciated, though some flowers too wouldn’t go amiss. . . and would it hurt to call once in a while?

35ml Willem Barentsz Premium Gin
15ml fresh lemon juice
5ml sugar syrup
100ml Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label
Dash of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a Champagne flute. Top up with chilled Champagne, stir, add a dash of bitters and garnish with a lemon twist. Some of the creative types at Master of Malt have created a snazzy little film (above) to show you exactly how it should be done.

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Top-notch new releases!

Love being in the loop with all things new and delightful in the drinks world? We’re here to help! Eagle-eyed MoM users may have noticed that on our site we…

Love being in the loop with all things new and delightful in the drinks world? We’re here to help!

Eagle-eyed MoM users may have noticed that on our site we have a New Arrivals page, where we list all the shiny new booze that comes to MoM Towers. From beer, Cognac, gin, rum, Tequila, vodka, whisky and more, it’s the place to be to find the latest and greatest drinks.

Fans of our blog will also have seen that we’ve started a weekly series: New Arrival of the Week, where we take an in-depth look at an interesting and tasty new products from the previous week that caught our eye. On Monday we talked all things HYKE Gin, for example.

But we decided that this week, just to make things even easier on you, we’d round-up some of the most intriguing, original and downright delicious drinks to be released recently. So whether you want to see what’s new in the world of gin, whisky, liqueur or rum, we’re sure you’ll find something in this list to suit your needs. Enjoy!

Listoke 1777 Gin

Irish whiskey isn’t the only spirit category on the Emerald Isle that’s enjoying a boom in popularity, Irish gin is making its mark also. Listoke 1777 Gin, one of the most recent additions to the bourgeing scene, was distilled at what is said to be Ireland’s largest gin distillery with a botanical selection including juniper, rowan berries, cardamom and orange. Try this in a G&T with a sprig of rosemary and you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about.

What does it taste like?:

Pronounced piney juniper, bursts of citrus throughout and herbaceous notes, with warming spice lingering on the finish.

Nikka Days

It would appear that legendary Japanese whisky producer Nikka has created another winner here in Nikka Days. A blended whisky featuring spirits from the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries, this dram is fruity, bright, slightly peated and thoroughly tasty.

What does it taste like?:

Fresh and fruity apples, pears, honeydew melon and strawberry, orange oil, malt sweetness, roasted nuts, toffee apple, vanilla fudge alongside a hint of barrel char.

Big Peat 10 Year Old

A celebration of Big Peat’s 10th birthday, this limited 10-year-old expression of Douglas Laing’s tribute to the feisty Ileach fisherman is a very welcome new addition to MoM Towers. Bottled at 46% ABV without chill filtration or colouring, this popular Islay blended malt Scotch whisky packs plenty of those classic smoky flavours the brand’s followers love. It’s the perfect way to toast the familiar face on the bottle’s label.

What does it taste like?:

Roasted peanuts, petrichor, fresh pear, meaty malt, BBQ char, toffee, new leather, tobacco, honey on toast and plenty of peat smoke.

Milk & Honey Levantine Gin

Milk & Honey may have stolen the headlines as Israel’s first whisky distillery, but the brand has certainly demonstrated it knows its way around all things juniper. Milk & Honey Levantine Gin was distilled with a base spirit made from 100% malted barley and locally-sourced botanicals such as cinnamon, chamomile, black pepper, lemon peel, verbena, coriander and hyssop. The botanicals were macerated for 24 hours before a third distillation in order to create a smooth profile. Anyone for Martinis?

What does it taste like?:

Prominent juniper and lemon citrus, with herbaceous notes and soft spices in the background.

Tamdhu 15 Year Old

Anybody who has followed Tamdhu since its welcome comeback knows that the Speyside distillery is all about sublime sherried whisky. The limited edition 15 Year Old is no exception. Matured in American and European oloroso-seasoned casks and bottled at 46% ABV without any chill-filtration or additional colouring, Tamdhu 15 Year Old makes for an intense, rich and rewarding dram.

What does it taste like?:

Strawberry boiled sweeties, heavy dried fruit notes, a hearty slice of dense fruitcake, toasty oak warmth, orange oil, earthy vanilla, waxy peels, clove, chocolate ice-cream and walnut.

Bimber Classic Rum

Making delicious rum that’s value for money is not an easy balance to strike, but that’s exactly what west London distillery Bimber has achieved here. Crafted using local ingredients, Bimber Classic Rum was distilled from molasses in both copper pot and column stills before it was also bottled and labelled on site. We recommend you put the fruits of Bimber’s labour to good use in a nice Daiquiri.

What does it taste like?:

Dried grass, caramel, vanilla, soft stone fruit, cracked black pepper, dark chocolate, banana foam sweets, more grassy malt and dark Muscovado sugar.

Cambridge Elderflower Liqueur

If you’re going to make a gin-based liqueur, you’ll want to make sure you at least start with a quality gin. That’s exactly what Cambridge Distillery did with this Elderflower Liqueur, which was distilled using its award-winning Cambridge Dry Gin. Made to be enjoyed over ice, splashed in a glass of fizz or in any number of cocktails, this liqueur should prove as versatile as it is terrifically tasty.

What does it taste like?:

Heady floral notes, wonderfully fragrant elderflower against a backdrop of juniper and herby botanicals.

Glengoyne The Legacy Series Chapter One

An expression that celebrates Cochrane Cartwright, the distillery manager in 1869 who famously introduced sherry casks to Glengoyne, Chapter One of The Legacy Series was fittingly matured in first fill European oak Oloroso sherry casks as well as refill casks. For those who enjoy the sherried and the sublime, this is one for you.

What does it taste like?:

Luxurious sticky toffee pudding, dried fruit, Christmas spices, vanilla custard, gentle oak, stewed pear and cinnamon spice.

Smoked Rosemary Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Smoked rosemary is no longer just a fixture in distinctively delicious cocktails thanks to That Boutique-y Gin Company and its latest release: Smoked Rosemary Gin. Evocative, intriguing and bold, I can only imagine the raucously good Red Snappers you could make with this gin.

What does it taste like?:

Strong herbal notes, plenty of juniper, saline seashore smells, smoked bacon, lemon, a big hit of rosemary and cracked black pepper.

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An evening of cocktails and perfume with Theodore Gin

We headed to London’s Eve Bar to check out the perfumery of Theodore Pictish Gin, the inaugural release from Greenwood Distillers. The wonderful folks from Greenwood Distillers hosted an evening…

We headed to London’s Eve Bar to check out the perfumery of Theodore Pictish Gin, the inaugural release from Greenwood Distillers.

The wonderful folks from Greenwood Distillers hosted an evening of gin, cocktails and perfume to celebrate their very first release, Theodore Pictish Gin. The brand was founded in 2018 by Barthelemy Brosseau, while the first Theodore gin expression was only released in February this year.

The gin takes its name from the Picts, an ancient tribe that once settled in Ardross in the Scotland’s Northern Highlands. Meanwhile, Theodore de Bry was a 16th century engraver who brought the Picts to life through his art, hence the gin’s name. The spirit was crafted with the help of olfactory expert and perfume designer Barnabé Fillion, so it made perfect sense for the brand to link the gin and perfume, and it was illuminating to understand how the botanicals and their scents interact together in order to fully grasp how the gin works.

Behold the Oud Gimlet!

We were welcomed through swirls of incense with a rather delicious cocktail that we found out was a ‘Celery Spritz’, a mix of Theodore Gin, celery cordial, salted honey and a dash of fizz. There were also three other cocktails which celebrated the botanicals in Theodore Gin, curated by the fabulous team at Eve:

Holy Collins: Theodore Gin, clear lemon, Makrut lime tincture, holy wood, and soda

Sakura Fizz: Theodore Gin, sakura blossom, lemon, and benzoin gum

Oud Gimlet: Theodore Gin, jasmine cordial, and oud essence.

Theodore Pictish Gin contains 16 botanicals including pine, lavender, pomelo and bourbon vetiver. As part of the sensory experience we were given each botanical to smell in its purest form, most of them as oils, as though the gin had been deconstructed into its key components. During this we also had a glass of the gin in hand, and it was fascinating to have the botanicals right in front of us as well as the finished product.

Now, these potent pure scents weren’t all sweet as roses (although we may note that Damask rose was in fact one of them!), some were downright weird and fairly unpleasant. Brand ambassador Keivan Nemati began to explain that “off-flavours are essential to composition”. If you were to separate out the compounds of let’s say, Makrut lime, remove the aromas that didn’t smell nice on their own and take all the ‘best’ or ‘nicest’ scents of, you would perhaps expect it to be some sort of extraordinary Makrut lime scent? You would be mistaken!

Scents that aren’t necessarily pleasant are still crucial when combined with other components. For example, in terms of the gin, bourbon vetiver is not the most alluring scent on its own, though it is exactly the addition of botanicals like vetiver that help others shine through and also bring balance.

Perfume and gin – an atmospheric combination

It was then time to enjoy the rest of the gin and have a chat with founder Barth Brosseau. Needless to say, the packaging of the gin is really quite something. The wonderful bespoke bottle is simultaneously refined and rustic, while the presentation tube is elaborately adorned with two strong and fierce Pictish warriors, surrounded by ornate drawings of the botanicals in the gin, drawn by the fabulous Carlotta Saracco. Brosseau mentioned that the male and female Picts are on opposite sides of the tube to reflect the same balance that is seen in every aspect of the gin.

It was fabulous to see Brosseau talk so passionately about the history that inspired him to create such a gin, as well as his vision for Greenwood Distillers’ future which is set to include Armagnac, mezcal and much more. Currently, half of the gin is produced in France and half is produced in the UK. But the brand is in the process of building its own distillery in Scotland, where it will be closer to the history which inspired Theodore Gin. Watch this space.

Wonderfully refreshing, this stuff…


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Mixable spirits: The rise of cocktail-specific boozes

In days gone by, the primary function of a cocktail was to mask the harshness of the spirit within and make the drink a little more palatable. Thanks, however, to…

In days gone by, the primary function of a cocktail was to mask the harshness of the spirit within and make the drink a little more palatable. Thanks, however, to improvements in distillery technology – and good old health and safety – cocktails evolved to show off the quality of the alcohol. Now, producers are turning everything on its head and creating spirits that serve the cocktail, rather than cocktails that serve the spirit.

“Following the explosion of the global cocktail scene in the early 1990s and the more recent renaissance of classic cocktails in the last five to 10 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the production of mixology-focused spirits,” observes Geoff Robinson, UK brand ambassador for Santa Teresa rum. A former bartender at London bars Happiness Forgets, Library, Seven Tales and Satan’s Whiskers, he has experienced – and experimented with – the burgeoning ‘cocktail spirits’ market first hand.

Geoff Robinson

Geoff Robinson thinking of new uses for Santa Teresa 1796 rum

“Bartenders are no longer afraid to take risks with premium spirits,” he continues. “The widespread trends for clarification, fat-washing and fermentation, amongst others, demonstrate the creativity of bartenders in the current climate and how they are leveraging the wealth of technology, and products, available to them to create truly ground-breaking innovations in cocktails.”

This nascent bartender ingenuity has prompted producers to follow a new path: distilling – and bottling – with mixed drinks in mind. And who better to inform their decisions than the very people who will be pouring the liquid? From brainstorming flavours to tapping into specific cocktail applications and testing early batches of product, bartenders have been increasingly involved at every stage. Some brands, like Auchentoshan, go a step further – making the process a competitive collaborative endeavour, such as its Bartenders’ Malt release.

So, what are bartenders looking for? The quality of the liquid is the most important element. “If you ask a bartender today what his or her impression of ‘base spirits’ for cocktails are, you’re likely to get a mixed response,” notes Giovanni Spezziga, general manager of The Coral Room in London. “Many of them will say their experiences have been disappointing. It’s as if they really wanted to like the products or brand but were let down by the actual liquid inside the bottle.”

Giovanni Spezziga

Giovanni Spezziga and one of his team at the Coral Room both resplendent in crushed velvet

The other key consideration, according to Robinson, when engineering a spirit specifically designed for mixing is to ensure that it brings something distinct to the back bar: “That need not be some esoteric or long-forgotten ingredient – it can be as simple as a much-loved spirit at a higher ABV, or a single distillate expression of a much sought-after botanical or flavour,” he explains. “Ultimately, the key is to add something of value to the existing conversation; ideally, you want bartenders to understand that spirit as uniquely able to offer a particular profile, thus allowing them – and simultaneously inspiring them – to use it in new creations or twists on classics.”

Flavour aside, there’s also the small matter of practical use when it comes to the cocktail-specific spirit. The packaging and bottle must be ergonomic – both in the hands of bartenders and atop the backbar – and depending on the venue, or perhaps even the cocktail, durable enough to protect the contents within. Flavours change over time, says Spezziga, depending on the style and size of the bottle as well as the liquid. Aged spirits like bourbon and Scotch can lose a significant amount of their colour due to exposure to both light and heat, he adds.

Some may think crafting spirits for cocktails is an easy endeavour after all, the liquid is going to be mixed (and potentially masked) with something else regardless but as Robinson and Spezziga attest, creating bartender-worthy booze is no walk in the park. Here, we’ve picked five spectacular spirits that were designed with cocktails in mind…

Monkey Shoulder

Monkey Shoulder

What is it?  Blended Scotch malt whisky from William Grant containing “a unique combination of small batches of three different Speyside single malts” according to team MS.

Cocktail credentials: First released in 2005, this easy-drinking malt was quite literally “made for mixing” according to its creator, master blender Brian Kinsman. Watch out for the Monkey Mixer, an 11,000-litre cocktail shaker made from a “pimped out cement mixer truck”, which tours around the globe.

How to serve it: Try a Monkey Splash – 30ml Monkey Shoulder, 45ml soda, orange wedge. Build the ingredients in a glass and garnish.

Fords London Dry Gin

Fords London Dry Gin

What is it? Created by Simon Ford of The 86 Company and Thames Distillers’ master distiller Charles Maxwell, Fords Gin combines juniper, coriander, lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit, cassia, angelica, jasmine and orris to produce a fresh, aromatic and floral gin.

Cocktail credentials: The brand’s strapline is ‘The Cocktail Gin’, and it’s not just fancy marketing. When deciding the recipe, Ford and Maxwell considered classic gin cocktails, broke them down by their flavour profiles, and paired those flavours with botanicals to craft the most versatile gin possible. The ergonomic bottle features a measuring scale on the side, so you can see how many serves are left…

How to serve it… In a 50/50 Martini: 45ml Fords Gin, 45ml Dolin Dry Vermouth, 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters, 1 lemon twist. Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass, add ice, stir for 40 counts, then strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish.

Olmeca Altos

Olmeca Altos Plata

What is it? Tequila made from 100% blue agave grown in the Los Altos highlands of Mexico.

Cocktail credentials: Olmeca was designed by bartenders – specifically industry legends Dre Masso and the late Henry Besant – for bartenders, with the help of Olmeca master distiller Jesús Hernández. It’s citric and sweet, with a fruity aroma.

How to serve it… Put a twist on a classic with the Negrete, Mexico’s answer to a Negroni. Combine 1 part Altos Plata Tequila, 1 part Campari, and 1 part red vermouth in a mixing glass. Stir with cubed ice, decant into a tumbler, and garnish with a slice of orange.

Pierre Ferrand 1840

Pierre Ferrand 1840 

What is it? A VS Cognac from the house of Pierre Ferrand, made from grapes grown in the Grande Champagne region.

Cocktail credentials: Made according to a recipe that dates back to 1840, the liquid is a collaboration between Pierre Ferrand owner Alexandre Gabriel, cellar master Christian Guerin, and cocktail historian Dave Wondrich.

How to serve it… No question – the Original Cognac Cocktail, as adapted from Jerry Thomas’ 1862 tome Bar-Tenders’ Guide. In a mixing glass, stir ½ teaspoon fine sugar with 5ml water until dissolved. Add 60ml Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula, 5ml orange liqueur and 2-3 dashes aromatic bitters. Fill the glass with ice, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. To garnish, twist lemon peel over the top.

Santa Teresa 1796

Santa Teresa 1796

What is it? Single estate Venezuelan rum aged according to the solera method commonly used in Spanish sherry.

Cocktail credentials: Five generations of rum-making poured into one bottle. Rum blends aged up to 35 years in bourbon barrels undergo solera-ageing resulting in a dry, smooth rum that can make any classic cocktail shine.

How to serve it: The Roseta. Pour 1 ½ parts Santa Teresa 1796 into a glass, top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange twist. Delightful.


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New Arrival of the Week: HYKE Gin

On the blog this week we showcase a grape-based drink that isn’t wine, brandy or even those purple cans of fizzy drink that used to be a fixture at school…

On the blog this week we showcase a grape-based drink that isn’t wine, brandy or even those purple cans of fizzy drink that used to be a fixture at school discos. It’s an intriguing new gin from Foxhole Spirits…

Sustainability is a good thing. This is something we can surely all agree on. From responsibly sourcing ingredients to using recyclable materials, it’s great to see a brand embrace the ethical and innovative.

It’s an approach that informs everything about our New Arrival of the Week: HYKE Gin. It’s made by Foxhole Spirits, a company that specialises in making drinks from excess produce, which you may know as the brand behind Foxhole Gin (which was made from the grape marc crafted by an English winery in Sussex).

The inspiration for HYKE actually came from one of the UK’s largest fruit importers, Richard Hochfeld Ltd, which is also one of Foxhole Spirits’ suppliers. The company noted that when British supermarkets packaged imported table grapes (these are the ones that you eat, not those used to make wine), the grapes are cut and trimmed to fit punnets. This leaves a surplus of loose grapes and tiny bunches that can’t be sold as fresh.

So, what do you do with all these excess grapes? Richard Hochfeld felt they could be put to good use making delicious gin. This is our kind of logic.


Introducing: HYKE Gin!

It approached Foxhole Spirits with this idea and, unsurprisingly, the brand was very much on board. James Oag-Cooper, MD and co-founder of Foxhole Spirits, explained: “We knew that there was something special that could and ‘should’ be done with this quality by-product, so we applied our expertise and craftsmanship to the challenge.”

The result? A base spirit made from 713 tonnes (about 1.4 million punnets-worth) of fresh grapes that would have previously gone to waste. Hurrah!

Foxhole Spirits distilled this grape spirit with a blend of botanicals inspired by the grapes’ African and South American origins, including juniper, myrrh, Nigella seed, rooibos, cumin, bay leaf, green cardamom, black cardamom, coriander, angelica root, angelica seed, orris root, liquorice root, aniseed and lemon zest. A hearty and exotic list if there ever was one.

The approach to sustainability extends to every element of HYKE Gin, including the bottle, which was made from recyclable material. The fact that it went on sale on Monday 18 March, Global Recycling Day, is no mistake.


HYKE Gin, in a classic G&T

But let’s get down to the thing you all want to know. How does it taste? Well, here’s a classic MoM Tasting Note to give you an idea of what to expect:

Tasting Note for HYKE Gin:

Nose: A lively, aromatic nose begins with plenty of rich baking spice, an underlying forest-air-freshness and a touch of flint. Warming citrus notes are present throughout, with soft aniseed, floral vanilla and piney juniper in support.

Palate: A full and silky palate begins with delicate juniper, a touch of liquorice and a little pink grapefruit bitterness. Earthy spice flickers away underneath, among plenty of fragrant cardamom and menthol herbaceousness.

Finish: The finish is long and peppered with dry, spicy citrus.

Overall: Luxurious, complex and very moreish stuff from Foxhole Spirits.

We’ve also included a couple of recipes of the brand’s recommended serves, featuring a refreshing Spritz or a sophisticated Martini, so you can make the most of this sublimely sustainable gin. Enjoy!


The HYKE Gin Spritz

Ingredients: HYKE Gin, rhubarb and ginger cordial, sparkling Rosé wine and soda water.

Garnish: A lemon twist and a sprig of thyme.

Method: Begin by filling a Copa glass with ice, then add 20ml of rhubarb and ginger cordial and 35ml of HYKE Gin. Then add 75ml of sparkling Rosé wine and 50ml of soda water before garnishing your cocktail with a lemon twist and a sprig of thyme.


The HYKE Gin Martini

Ingredients: HYKE Gin, Crème de Cacao Blanc and Amontillado Sherry.

Garnish: Lemon zest and a green olive.

Method: Combine 60ml of HYKE Gin, 15ml of Crème de Cacao Blanc and 15ml of Amontillado Sherry with ice and stir. Strain this mix into a chilled Martini glass, then squeeze lemon zest on top and garnish with a green olive.

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Are these Britain’s smallest gin distilleries?

Some people build a garden shed and store a lawnmower in it. Others think, ‘I could make gin in that’. We like those people. Here, we celebrate five of Britain’s…

Some people build a garden shed and store a lawnmower in it. Others think, ‘I could make gin in that’. We like those people. Here, we celebrate five of Britain’s smallest gin distilleries – proof (geddit?) that great things come in small packages.

What makes a distillery ‘small’? Still capacity in litres, perhaps, or the number of batches produced each week? Or do you judge each site quite literally, by floor space? These things don’t exist independently of course the folks at Beefeater aren’t running one of the world’s best-selling gin brands from a garden shed but they spark competition among small-scale operations that choose to use their size as a selling point.

For the sake of this listicle, we’ve considered a mix of the aforementioned factors to determine the ‘smallest’ all-round sites. It’s important to remember that we’re not Guinness World Records inspectors, we’re just a bunch of people who really, really like spirits. We did not traverse the UK with a clipboard questionnaire and a juniper-sensitive Basset hound. Nor did we break and enter any distilleries with a measuring tape and jug to confirm or dispel any claims about capacity.

Without further ado, here we’ve unearthed five of the UK’s smallest gin distilleries right now… well, the ones we know about, anyway. Have you noticed a curious juniper-y smell wafting out of your neighbour’s conservatory? Or perhaps your postie has started a side hustle? Share any fledgling distillers we’ve missed in the comments below!

Shed 1 Distillery

Andy and Zoe Arnold-Bennett with their shed

Shed 1 Distillery, Lake District, Cumbria

Peer inside Andy and Zoe Arnold-Bennett’s 7ft x 7ft garden shed on the outskirts of the Lake District and you won’t find a rusty tandem bicycle – you’ll unearth something far more interesting: bucketloads of gin. Established back in October, 2016, the Shed 1 range consists of three core bottlings: Giggle in the Ginnel, Fancy Frolic, and Cuckold’s Revenge, with 36 x 500ml bottles produced in every run. The duo is partial to a seasonal tipple too – their most recent limited edition bottling, Shed Loads of Love, combines “rose petals, lavender and strawberries with a delicate hint of chilli”.

Second Son Distillery

Second Son gin from Cheshire

Second Son Distillery, Norley, Cheshire

Established in 2016, Second Son Distillery which claims to be the smallest licensed distillery in the UK is the brainchild of former pub landlord John (depicted on the label) and graphic designer-slash-gin-aficionado Anna. Together the business partners distil, label and bottle their three creations – Cheshire Gin, Winter Spiced Gin, and Summer Edition Gin – in 250-year-old pub The Tigers Head on the edge of Delamere Forest, producing just 32 bottles per batch. You can bet the place serves a cracking G&T, too.

Duck and-Crutch Kensington

The tiny still at Duck and Crutch in Kensington

Duck and Crutch Distillery, Kensington, London

Such is the London property market that a Kensington shed could be marketed as a studio flat and no one would bat an eyelid. Instead, couple Hollie and George (and to a certain extent, their dachshund Meryl) kitted out their 6ft x 4ft space with a lovely shiny copper still and launched Duck and Crutch gin, featuring vanilla pod, fresh lemon, Darjeeling tea, fresh thyme, orange peel, cardamom pod and nutmeg botanicals. If you like a punchier gin, Duck and Crutch releases 33 bottles of Kensington Overproof Dry Gin each month, which comes in at a respectable 57% ABV.

Culpeper Gin

Culpeper Gin, serving suggestion

The Nicholas Culpeper Pub & Dining, North Terminal, Gatwick Airport

If you’re looking for an excuse to book your next holiday, we’ve found one. But you won’t need to travel thousands of miles to sample The Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin more or less straight off the still in fact, you need not even go through security. Named in honour of the 17th century English botanist, herbalist and physician who once lived nearby, this creation is produced in the world’s first airport gin distillery. The still is named Judith after Culpeper’s ill-fated fiancée, and makes just 12 bottles per run. N’aww.

Carnoustie Distillery

Note clan tartan

Carnoustie Distillery, Carnoustie, Scotland

At this point I’m starting to feel like the only person in Britain who doesn’t own a shed, but even if I did, I can’t promise I’d use the space as wisely as the father and son distilling team behind Carnoustie Distillery. From white chocolate-flavoured vodka to toffee apple rum liqueur (and, of course, gin) Billy Duncan and his son Jory create a variety of craft spirits in a 10 ft x 8 ft distillery in their back garden the bottles of which are bedecked with the Duncan family tartan and motto. At the age of 21, Jory is thought to be one of the UK’s youngest distillers.

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The Nightcap: 22 March

Looking for bite-sized bits of booze news? That’s exactly what The Nightcap is all about! This week we’ve got stories about distillery facelifts, trees and 47 year old whisky… It’s…

Looking for bite-sized bits of booze news? That’s exactly what The Nightcap is all about! This week we’ve got stories about distillery facelifts, trees and 47 year old whisky…

It’s time once again for the MoM editorial team to remove the selection of stylish toppers from our heads and don our snazzy newsy caps with the little bit of paper saying “PRESS” or “NEWS” sticking out of them. The Nightcap is back for another round of news stories from the booze world. You can wear whatever variety of hat you want as you read it. Perhaps a pillbox hat? A Stetson? A whoopee cap?! All headwear is allowed.

So what’s been going on here on the MoM Blog? Well, it kicked off with Henry looking at Graham’s Blend No. 5 Port, which he followed up with the Cocktail of the Week (it’s a Manhattan) and an overview of the last 20 years of the London cocktail scene. Annie explored the world of terroir and how it relates to vodka. Kristy took a look around the home of American craft distilling pioneer St. George Spirits in San Francisco. Adam collected together a bunch of suitable springtime treats that would make excellent Mother’s Day pressies. We also had a nose around Aberfeldy, and made it so you can use Apple Pay at the checkout!

That’s all well and good, but what about the rest of the news? Read on…


Clynelish, the Highland ‘home’ of Johnnie Walker, is set for a radical revamp

Clynelish and Cardhu set for fancy facelifts

Diageo has revealed the latest recipients as part of its £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism – Highland distillery Clynelish, and Speyside’s Cardhu! Local residents have been invited to check out yet-to-be-submitted plans for both sites, which will become outposts for blended Scotch brand Johnnie Walker. Clynelish, situated about an hour north of Inverness, will get a visitor centre on the upper floor, along with a new bar and tasting area, boasting stunning views of the Sutherland coast. As the Highland ‘home’ of Johnnie Walker, the distillery will share design cues with the major new visitor attraction in Edinburgh. Clynelish shares its site with Brora, a long-closed distillery that’s being brought back into production in a separate project. Meanwhile, over in Speyside, Cardhu is also set for a refurb. The distillery, just north of the River Spey near Knockando, will become Johnnie Walker’s Speyside home. It’s association with the brand dates back to 1893 when it became John Walker & Sons’ first distillery. The investment will see a visitor experience dedicated to Helen and Elizabeth Cumming, the two women who set up and ran the distillery in the 19th century, plus a new orchard space for people to enjoy. “Tourism is an increasingly important part of the Speyside economy, alongside distilling,” said Laura Sharp, Cardhu Distillery brand home manager. “The investment we are making here at Cardhu will add another jewel to Speyside’s whisky tourism crown and we look forward to working with the local community and stakeholders as we progress our plans.” Jacqueline James-Bow, her Clynelish counterpart, added: “Scotch whisky tourism is one of the major attractions driving economic growth in rural communities such as Brora. With the work we are already doing at Brora Distillery, and that we plan to do at Clynelish, we are bringing major investment and creating exciting new economic opportunities for the community.” Subject to planning permission, work is expected to get underway at both sites later this year.

Tres Agaves

Feast your eyes on the new Tres Agaves Distillery!

Tres Agaves opens new Tequila distillery

We’ve heard a lot about new distilleries across Scotland and Ireland recently, but this week we bring you news of a pristine Tequila distillery! San Francisco-based Tres Agaves has opened its first production site in Amatitán, Mexico, with Iliana Partida at the helm as its founding master distiller. Tequilera TAP has been custom-built and will continue to make Tres Agaves’ Blanco, Reposado and Añejo 100% agave range, only now with full organic certification. The set-up includes a 20-ton autoclave, a four-stage roller mill, shallow stainless-steel fermentation tanks, and copper coiled alembic distillation stills. As well as the shiny new kit, there’s also a traditional brick horno, a tahona wheel and shallow pine fermentation tanks, to provide time-honoured production options, too. Capacity will reach more than 600,000 litres of spirit per year. Visitors are welcome, and can take advantage of tours and private tastings, including single-barrel releases. The Tres Agaves team seem delighted with the developments. “Tres Agaves has always been about family, the local community and producing the finest quality authentic Tequila,” said Barry Augus, founder and CEO of Tres Agaves Tequila. “I’ve known Iliana’s family for twenty years and even purchased the land for the new distillery from her father, David. The opening of our state-of-the-art distillery with Iliana, whose family I have known since my start in the Tequila industry, marks a major milestone for us.” Congrats to all!

It seems appropriate to celebrate Cotswolds Dry Gin victory with a quick tipple…

ADI names Best of Class craft spirits

Remember when we headed out to San Francisco for the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits? Well, the winners have been announced! And they are a diverse bunch indeed. Those named Best in Class were deemed outstanding by the individual panels, and then re-tasted by the entire judging contingent – so you know they’re good. And leading the gin charge was England’s very own Cotswolds Distillery, which won the International Gin category with its Dry Gin! Other top tipples were NAUD’s VS Cognac, which won International Brandy; and Casa D’Aristi, which scooped International Liqueur with its Kalani Coconut offering. Kudos also goes to The Heart Distillery which won in the US gin category, Solar Spirits, which snapped up US vodka for its Eclipse Vodka, and Cutwater Spirits, which triumphed in the US Whiskey section with Devil’s Share American Whiskey. Overall, there were hundreds of medals awarded to all kinds of spirits across the category spectrum. Congratulations to all the winners!


Just look at this beauty. Wow

Mortlach releases 47 year old ‘Singing Still’ bottling

We love the meaty taste of Mortlach. It’s not known as the beast of Dufftown for nothing. So, we were particularly excited to learn about a new 47 year old expression from the single malt Scotch distillery. 47 years! Imagine the beastiness. This is the oldest expression ever released by the distillery. It’s the first to hit the market in a new series of single cask whiskies called The Singing Stills Series (can now picture Disney-esque stills actually singing) after Mortlach’s famously vocal distillation equipment. This one is from a refill American oak hogshead that was filled in 1971. “This bottling is exquisite for its age and is unmistakably Mortlach, with its intensely complex character and well-balanced flavour profile,” said master blender Dr. Craig Wilson. Global Scotch ambassador Ewan Gunn added: “The sound of the stills is as distinctive to the distillery as the taste of the whisky. Mortlach’s exceptionally bold and complex flavours effortlessly bridge the gap between mellow and smoky.” Mmmmmm, mellow and smoky. On 25 March one bottle will be auctioned by Bonhams of Singapore with the money going to Daughters of Tomorrow, a charity that supports underprivileged women. A further 94 will go on sale on 9 April for £10,000 apiece. Master of Malt will be given a wee taste soon; we will let you know ASAP whether it’s worth dipping into your wallet.

Barton 1792

You can enjoy bourbon and the Kentucky sunshine with Barreled And Bold

Kentucky distillers team up for free tours!

Great news if you’re Kentucky-bound – Buffalo Trace, Copper & Kings and Barton 1792 have partnered to offer complimentary (yes – free!) distillery tours! Known as Barreled And Bold, the experience takes in each of the three distilleries, based in Frankfort, Louisville and Bardstown respectively. To take part, visitors need to register at BarreledAndBold.com, and then collect their B&B pass at the first stop. The pass gives bearers access to a free tour at each site, and progressive discounts along the journey (10% at the first distillery, 15% at the second, 20% at the third). Visit all three, and get a commemorative gift! “This is not just serendipity, this is allowing for a partnership that can provide an exciting, adventurous window to the past, present and future of distilling in America, well beyond the borders of Kentucky,” said Mark Brown, Buffalo Trace Distillery and Barton 1792 Distillery president and chief executive officer. Copper & Kings founder Joe Heron added: “What a proposition! Bourbon Pompeii to Rock & Roll Brandy, Warehouse X, maybe not SpaceX, but it does feel like a rocket about to take off. Three completely unique perspectives of adventurous Kentucky spirits, Bourbon, American Brandy, Gins and Absinthe. From the barrel for the bold, bold from the barrel. It’s Kentucky hospitality distilled.” We’ve got it on the travel bucket list.

Cooper King Distillery

Cooper King Distillery, doing its bit for the environment

Cooper King marks International Day of Forests by planting hundreds of trees

Over in North Yorkshire, Cooper King Distillery has donated over £1,000 to the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) to mark International Day of Forests on 21 March. The donation will enable it to plant 115 trees! It comes as part of a wider distillery vision to plant 400 trees in its first year of operation. 335 are already in the ground, offsetting 167.5 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of 50kg of carbon dioxide for every bottle of Cooper King gin sold. Imagine if every distillery did that! It’s one of just a handful of distilleries in the UK to run on 100% green energy, and instead of relying on fresh water to supply the cooling system, the team uses a nifty closed loop system, saving an eye-watering 13 tonnes of fresh water every year. Cooper King is also the first distillery in England to launch a scheme encouraging people to bring their empty gin bottles back to be refilled. You’ll get 15% off if you do! Think of it as a much more rewarding supermarket plastic bag scheme. If a small distillery that’s been up and running for less than a year can do this, why aren’t others stepping up? As Michael Delvin, development manager at YDMT, commented: “Big businesses can learn a lot from passionate start-ups such as Cooper King Distillery.” Hopefully it will inspire many more to follow suit.

Near & Far

Near & Far comes to Camden!

Get a taste of California in Camden at the latest Near & Far

The Near & Far family of bars is growing once again! With locations already in Peckham and Angel, another bar has just opened in Camden. The third instalment spans four floors of Californian-inspired decor, with room for 180 happy guests. Prepare yourself for palm trees, pastel hues and a copious number of cacti. There’s even a roof terrace which, being in England and all that, is sure to get its fair share of use all year round. With a cocktail menu inspired global tastes and Mexican street food from Elote, there’s literally something for everyone. A few of the cocktails are old favourites from other bar locations, as well as some new blood on the scene (not literally). We’re sure a favourite is going to be The Benedict Cucumberbatch – though isn’t that just his regular name..? There’s also a fabulous range of non-alcoholic cocktails and beers. In even more good news, it’s open seven days a week! Now, near or far, you’ve no excuse not to go…

P(our) Symposium

P(our) Symposium will come to the English capital for the first time

P(our) Symposium heads to London

Listen up, bartenders and other booze folk: thought-provoking non-profit convention P(our) is coming to London for the first time! As well as revealing the location for the proceedings (Village Underground, 24 June), the team has also unveiled this year’s topic: Understanding. Speakers unpacking the theme through a variety of talks and collaborations include Isabella Dalla Ragione, and agronomist and expert on biodiversity; Brigitte Sossou Perenyi, a documentary producer and author; and bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. More names will be announced in due course. “We’re excited to bring to the fore this year’s theme of ‘Understanding’, looking at it from different perspectives – where it comes from, why it’s important, where more is needed and how it can be built,” said co-founder Monica Berg. Other P(our) founding members include Alex Kratena, Simone Caporale, Ryan Chetiyawardana, Jim Meehan, Joerg Meyer and Xavier Padovani, who united to bring and embrace change in drinks through discovering new ideas, sharing information, and exchanging inspiration. Tickets for P(our) are free, will be released in April through an application process. Fancy going along? keep your eyes peeled.

Highland Whisky Festival

Fancy Glen Ord? It will offer visitors a chance to operate the distillery themselves

Highland Whisky Festival reveals programme, complete with Game of Thrones tasting

The Highland Whisky Festival, Scotland’s newest whisky event, is really taking shape! Set to run from 10-17 May, the celebration takes in distilleries across one of Scotland’s most beautiful and varied, though often overlooked, regions. Programme highlights include a special Game of Thrones tasting at Clynelish on 12 May, and a peek inside the soon-to-be reborn Brora distillery. Balblair will screen Ken Loach’s film The Angel’s Share among the casks of Dunnage no. 3, while on 14 May Glenmorangie will host a special single cask dinner. Meanwhile, the brave team at Glen Ord will offer visitors a chance to operate the distillery themselves on 16 May (sounds potentially dangerous.) To round things off on 17 May, Tomatin will roll out the barrel with live coopering demonstrations and a dinner, just in case you need more feasting after a week of festivities. It all sounds brilliant!


Look at its little face. This is vitally important work

And Finally… Bacardi backs the bats in Puerto Rico

We are a bunch of animal lovers here at MoM Towers. From cat pictures to office dogs, we are fans of all things fluffy. And the not so fluffy too, it turns out. News reached us this week that Bacardi Limited, owner of Bacardi rum (makes sense), has been rewarded for its efforts to protect bats at its rum distillery in Cataño, Puerto Rico, and our hearts soared. Like a bat in flight. Bacardi picked up WHC Conservation Certification, becoming the first site on the island to do so. What’s all the fuss about? Well, the bat programme offers education to employees and locals alike, stressing the creature’s importance to the island’s ecosystem. The company is also working to restore the natural forest area near its campus, creating a better habitat for the local bats. “Bacardi is an environmental leader, voluntarily managing its lands to support sustainable ecosystems and the communities that surround them,” said Margaret O’Gorman, president, Wildlife Habitat Council. “Achieving certification at the Bacardi Corporation facility in Puerto Rico demonstrates the company’s commitment to the environment, employee engagement and community relations.” Hurrah for Bacardi! And actually, looking at that little dude above, we reckon bats fall into the fluffy animal category, after all…

That’s it for The Nightcap for this week, folks. Have a marvellous weekend!

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Explore 20 years of the London cocktail scene

Join us as we step inside the MoM time machine, back to the heady days of the late 1990s and the notorious Met Bar. We talk to Ben Reed about…

Join us as we step inside the MoM time machine, back to the heady days of the late 1990s and the notorious Met Bar. We talk to Ben Reed about the 20 defining moments of the London cocktail scene.

Don’t call Ben Reed a legend of the London bar world. He prefers the word ‘stalwart’. And at Gridiron (the site of the old Met Bar) on Park Lane last Wednesday night, the room was full of such stalwarts including Salvatore Calabrese, Ago Perrone, Erik Lorincz, Emily Weldon, Claire Smith-Warner, Peter Dorelli and Tristan Stephenson. They were all there sipping Pineapple Martinis and literally partying like it was 1999, only a little more sedately, and with more grey hairs.

Gridiron/ Met Bar

Gridiron, formerly the Met Bar, note brown spirits, and food. You didn’t get those in the ’90s

We were there to celebrate and discuss the ‘20 defining moments of the London cocktail scene’. It’s a look at the most important events in drinks culture over the last 20 or so years like the launch of CLASS magazine in 1997; the creation of the Match Bar group in 1998 with Dick Bradsell as head bartender; the opening of Milk & Honey in 2002, London’s first speakeasy-style bar; and the foundation of Sipsmith gin in 2009. It’s an initiative by Ben Reed, formerly head bartender at the Met who now runs a drinks consultancy firm, Cocktail Credentials. We caught up with Reed before the event where he explained the concept.

“We asked 30 of the top bartenders in London to submit three to five of their personal defining moments. And then we cross referenced that to see which ones were mentioned most often,” he explained. “There is an element of this being a work in progress, and us seeing where we go with this. This being a list that could be written again in another ten years because things are moving so fast in this industry.”

Reed began his career working in some rough pubs in Hackney before moving to the somewhat swankier PJ’s on Fulham Road. After that, there was a stint at Mezzo, Terence Conran’s gastrodome on Wardour Street, before he was, in his own words, “headhunted to head up the Met Bar”. “Whether by fortune or by destiny, it became the place where the glitterati of the London scene met,” he continued. “It was one of the seminal places where cocktails started to be taken a little bit more seriously.” The Met Bar was the epicentre of ‘90s and early ‘00s swinging London, frequented by Kate Moss, Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn.

It was a very different world back then. “In those days you were really only a bartender if you weren’t much good at anything else, there was no gravitas in the industry,” Reed recalled. “And then, piece-by-piece, through a number of pioneers like Dick Bradsell who stuck at it rather than getting a proper job, we developed an industry.”

Reed’s signature drink was the Pineapple Martini, which was tasting good (if extremely sweet) at the event last week. “We created a style of drink called ‘the fresh fruit Martini’ which involved using fresh and sometimes exotic ingredients. So exotic fruit as ingredients rather than garnishes,” he told me.

Ben Reed the Met Bar

‘If your name’s not down you’re not coming in’. Ben Reed (centre) and the Met Bar team.

Vodka was king in those days. If you look at the invite above it’s from the front cover of an early edition of CLASS, with Reed and the Met team looking very cool in all black DKNY. Now look behind the bar; it’s pretty much all vodka with only a couple of gins, and whisky nowhere to be seen. It’s not just the spirits that have changed; the role of the bartender is much more complicated, according to Reed. “Now we’re looking towards chefs, learning from them and understanding some of the tricks of their trade whether that be using sous vide machines or otherwise.”

Being a bartender is now a proper career. “20 years ago most bartenders were still trying to find a way of getting out from behind the bar to open consultancies, or work for brands,” Reed said. “Whereas now the trend is much more to stay in the industry, to stay ‘behind the stick’ by opening their own places. That is testament to how the industry has evolved.”

That’s not the only way it has changed. 2013’s ‘defining moment’ was the opening of the environmentally-friendly White Lyan bar in Hoxton Square. 2017’s was a focus on bartender wellbeing. The industry now has to look at “the bigger picture: diversity within the industry, gender and racial equality, wellbeing and sustainability,”Reed told me.

But not all recent developments have been quite so positive, he added. Another ‘defining moment’ was the 2010 appearance of Instagram, which Reed isn’t convinced has been entirely beneficial to the experience.

“It’s now less about the interaction with the bartender, and more about how instagrammable the drink is,” he reckoned. “So there’s an element, perhaps, in a rise in the quality of cocktails, and a dip in the standard of service. By service, I don’t mean how fast your drink comes, but how you are treated by your bartender. Some of the older guys such as Pete Dorelli, Salvatore Calabrese and Nick Strangeway were great raconteurs, people who could really give you the warm and fuzzies. I would rather go to a bar, get a good drink and my interaction with the bartender be the memorable part of things, than go to the bar and get an awesome drink but not really remember who has served it to me.”

Reed himself hasn’t worked ‘behind the stick’ for a long time. He started one of the first cocktail consultancies in Europe in 2001. Five years ago he set up Cocktail Credentials. “I think the difference between my consultancy and other consultancies is that I’m the only guy in my consultancy that’s ever stepped behind a bar. My other partners have marketing expertise and agency expertise. We can see the industry from outside of the bubble.” Reed and his team have come up with innovative ways to present brands, such as a taste experience with Absolut Vodka in its brand home in Åhus, Sweden. “We tried to find a new way for consumers to understand flavour differentials in vodka by creating a 360-degree taste experience.”

Pineapple Martini

Pineapple Martini, one sip and you can hear M People

The night wasn’t just about nostalgia. Alongside the ‘90s classic cocktails, we tried updated versions by Max and Noel Venning that were more attuned to less sweet modern palates. Looking to the future, Reed is very excited about some of the new talent in the business. He mentioned Joe Scofield, formerly of The Tippling Club in Singapore, and Jack McGarry, co-owner of The Dead Rabbit in New York, as young bartenders he admires. According to Reed, thanks to the internet, the cocktail business is international. “You’ll find guys who don’t really work in one bar anymore, they just traverse the world, doing guest shifts in different bars, learning and understanding from bartenders, bars and countries around the world.”

It will be interesting to see what the next 20 years has in store for London’s bar scene. But it’s fun to look back, too. What are your defining cocktail moments from the nineties, noughties and now? Let us know on social or in the comments below.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Manhattan

Today’s we’re looking at a cocktail named after the most famous island in the world. It could only be…  the Isle of Man! Oh no, hang on, it’s the Manhattan….

Today’s we’re looking at a cocktail named after the most famous island in the world. It could only be…  the Isle of Man! Oh no, hang on, it’s the Manhattan.

Whenever I’m making a Manhattan, which is often, I find myself involuntarily singing ‘Shattered’ by the Rolling Stones. It’s the closing track on their 1978 album Some Girls. On this record, perhaps their sleaziest and an ode to the highs and lows of New York City, the Stones not only embrace disco with the song ‘Miss You’ but on ‘Shattered’ Mick sort of raps and, surprisingly, it’s totally brilliant. It’s the lines, “my brain’s been battered/ splattered all over Manhattan”, I sing to myself as I cheerfully mix my drink.

From the ultimate song about New York (don’t @ me), to the ultimate Gotham cocktail. As the Martini is to gin, so the Manhattan is to whiskey, spirit flavoured with vermouth. But as Americans were drinking whiskey before gin, you could argue that the Martini is simply a gin Manhattan.


Go ahead, bite the big apple

The Manhattan has it origins in the mid-19th century when vermouth became all the rage. In fact, it was drinks like the Manhattan that made the original cocktail, the Old Fashioned, seem, well a bit, old fashioned (see article on the origins of the Old Fashioned.) So you could call a Manhattan a New Fashioned, though probably don’t try this next time you’re in New York or people will think you’re a bit of a dick.

The original Manhattan would have been made with rye whiskey rather than bourbon. Once rye was hard to get hold of, especially in Britain, but in recent years it has undergone something of a renaissance and we are now spoiled for choice. I’m using Michter’s because it’s absolutely delicious, totally over delivering on spice and depth of flavour for the money. If you’re using bourbon, find one with a high rye content like Four Roses Small Batch.

Like the Martini, the Manhattan has gradually become drier since its invention. Early recipes call for equal parts vermouth to whiskey as well as a sugar syrup. You can make your Manhattan ‘perfect’ by using half French and half Italian vermouth. Or ‘dry’ by using just French. To make a smoky Manhattan try rinsing the glass with a drop or two of Islay whisky before adding the bourbon and vermouth (if you go all the way and substitute the American whiskey for Scotch, then your Manhattan becomes a Rob Roy).

Manhattan cocktail

You can put an enormous ice cube your Manhattan if you’re in the mood

The next big question is whether to shake or stir. I am firmly in the stirring camp but, unlike in a Martini, I think a little dilution isn’t such a bad thing here so you don’t need to use cold whiskey or vermouth. Oh, and a Maraschino cherry is a nice touch if you have them.

Right, got your ingredients ready? Some Girls cued up? Then take it away Mick, “go ahead, bite the big apple, don’t mind the maggots.”

50ml Michter’s US*1 Rye
25ml Cinzano Rosso 1757
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients with lots of ice in a shaker and strain into a cold Martini glass (you can use a coupe or a Nick & Nora instead). Express a piece of orange zest over and drop into the glass. Add a cherry if you’re feeling hungry.


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