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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: bars

Five minutes with… the Schofield brothers

Internationally-renowned bartenders Joe and Daniel Schofield have amassed more than 25 years’ experience tending the world’s best bars, including American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London, Singapore’s Tippling Club,…

Internationally-renowned bartenders Joe and Daniel Schofield have amassed more than 25 years’ experience tending the world’s best bars, including American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London, Singapore’s Tippling Club, and Little Red Door in Paris. Now, with the ink still drying on their first cocktail book, the brothers are gearing up to open a place of their own in their hometown of Manchester. We took five with the duo…

Bartending brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield have spent more than a quarter of a century working in some of the world’s top cocktail venues, and they have the industry accolades and acclaim to show for it. In 2018 alone, Joe was recognised as International Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards and Bartenders’ Bartender at The World’s 50 Best Bars. At the very same awards ceremonies, with Daniel as assistant bar manager, London’s Coupette scooped Best New International Bar at the former, and Best New Opening at the latter.

Since then, the Schofield’s have been busier than ever, launching their eponymous Schofield’s Dry Vermouth in collaboration with Asterley Bros – which sees 28 English botanicals blended into a British Bacchus, Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc base – traversing the globe doing guest shifts in bars, and speaking at seminars and masterclasses. Most recently, they released Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails: Celebrated Libations & Other Fancy Drinks, in which you’ll find out why you should ‘throw’ Bellinis, discover the perfect Spritz ratios, and update your classics repertoire using subtle tweaks and adjustments favoured by high-end bartenders.

The Schofield brothers, outstanding in their field

Now, the brothers have set their sights on what could quite possibly be their greatest challenge yet: the launch of Schofield’s Bar in their hometown of Manchester later this year. As we await news of the grand opening with baited breath, we took five with Joe and Daniel to find out more about the unique journey that brought them here. They were even kind enough to share a cocktail recipe (a Scotch libation called the William Wallace) for us to try out at home – scroll to the bottom for the recipe.

Master of Malt: Thanks for chatting with us, guys! As people who are constantly travelling for work, how has this year been from your perspective? 

Daniel: This is undeniably an incredibly tough time for our whole industry globally, but as with all situations like this, we always try and focus on the positives. We’ve both spent the last five to six months working on all the admin and logistical aspects ahead of our bar opening – time that we wouldn’t have had normally due to the travel. From a personal perspective, it’s actually been quite nice to spend so much time in our home city after living away for so many years! Even though we’ve been based here for the past two years, we have spent so much of that travelling.

MoM: You’ve amassed years of experience working in some of the best bars in the world. Which of your past cocktails – or menus – do you look back most fondly on, and why? 

Joe: For me, I have a couple of moments that really stand out. Placing a cocktail on the menu at The American Bar at The Savoy was very special to me. As were the Sensorium menus I created with chef Ryan [Clift] at Tippling Club in Singapore. We created two menus, the first was about triggering memory with aroma, and this was followed by a completely edible menu in the form of gummy bears. Each bear took on the main flavours of the cocktail and the dream or desire it represented.

The brothers out standing in the street

MoM: What would you say are your biggest creative influences?

Joe: Inspiration can be found anywhere! I love looking to different industries for inspiration. Food is a very obvious choice. Whenever I’m overseas, I love eating local street food and flavours.

MoM: Tell us more about the book. How would you describe it to someone who’s never read it?

Joe: Daniel and I have always loved classic cocktails and we wanted to create a book that a bartender and a home enthusiast could pick up and have the tools they need to make great drinks at home. Explaining why we do things, how we do things and featuring recipes from our collective 25 years in the industry.

MoM: Having worked independently in different venues across the globe for much of your careers, what’s it like when you get to work behind the bar together?

Daniel: Most of the different bars we have worked in have all had similar core values to hospitality, and we cut our teeth in several of the same bars, so we have the same attitude to hospitality. We both have slightly different strengths which lend themselves to different aspects of the operations, which we feel is going to be beneficial for the bar opening.

MoM: You’ve also worked with some key figures in the industry. What’s the best bartending advice you’ve ever been given? 

Daniel: We’ve both been very lucky to work with some hugely inspirational people in our industry, and I believe that we’ve definitely learnt something from every single person we’ve worked with. I think the most important thing to always remember is that good work ethic, a positive attitude, and being nice to people will get you very far in this industry.

MoM: Aside from being your hometown, are there any other reasons you chose to open a bar in Manchester?

Daniel: Not many people know this, but Manchester is currently the quickest-growing city in Europe, the rate that the city is expanding and developing is unlike anything I have seen before. There are many great operators moving here from other major cities in the UK such as Edinburgh or London, which makes us incredibly excited. The drinks scene is rapidly developing too, there are many great bars here and we both believe that Northerners have a natural sense of hospitality. For personal reasons, it’s great to be so close to our family. After so many years of living away, it’s good to make up for some lost time with them!

MoM: We’ve seen immense innovation in cocktail culture over recent years – are there any bars or bartenders that you feel have really pushed the scene forward, or whose work you admire?

Daniel: What Max and Noel Venning and the team at Three Sheets [in east London] are doing – and have been doing since they opened – has influenced a huge shift in the industry towards simplicity in drinks. I really respect that they make some of the best drinks in London, yet they have a fun, relaxed atmosphere. I have the utmost respect for the team at Satan’s Whiskers [in east London], there aren’t many bars that I go to and want to try every single drink on the menu.Now, here’s that cocktail from the book:

William Wallace 

50ml Blended Scotch (we love Hankey Bannister)
10ml Asterley Bros. Estate Vermouth (or Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino, if you can’t get hold of it)
10ml Gonzalez-Byass Pedro Ximenez Sherry
3 Dashes Orange Bitters

Method:

Stir all ingredients together with ice. Strain and pour into a frozen coupette, and garnish with an orange twist.

 

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Classic Bars – Coupette

Say hello to our shiny new Classic Bars blog series! Here we’ll be looking at… well, classic bars. What better time than now to shine a spotlight on these well-loved…

Say hello to our shiny new Classic Bars blog series! Here we’ll be looking at… well, classic bars. What better time than now to shine a spotlight on these well-loved haunts, just as we’re allowed to return to our favourite watering holes? (For now, anyway.) First up is Coupette over in Bethnal Green, which also just happens to have released its new cocktail menu.

Though Coupette only came onto the scene in the summer of 2017, it secured its place as a classic in no time. It’s ranked number 23 in The World’s 50 Best Bars, and while that may set some expectations, it doesn’t really tell you anything else about the bar itself. We’re here to do that. 

Coupette is the brainchild of bartender extraordinaire Chris Moore. Moore has been behind the bar since he was legally allowed, joining the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar in 2010. There he stayed until 2015, when he left to start working on opening Coupette. You may have guessed from its name that the bar has French ties (Coupette translates as “cheeky one”), inspired by France’s cocktail history. As such, it has an intense love affair with Calvados – well, Moore’s Instagram handle is literally @mr.calvados, so this was to be expected. 

Its modest front means you could easily walk past it, though once you’re inside, its charm is irresistible; the interior strikes the perfect balance between chic and rustic – an old ‘tabac’ neon sign sits between exposed brick walls above a luxurious leather armchair. Plus, you can even nibble on gratin dauphinoise or a croque monsieur while you sip. A whole new level of bar snack.

Anyway, let’s talk about the cocktails! “Coupette has a main concept, which is a French 5* neighbourhood bar,” bar manager Andrei Marcu explains. “Everything we do has to fall under that concept.” Coupette boasts three award-winning serves that withstand any menu change. The first ensures there is always Calvados on the menu, and that’s Apples, made with the brandy as well as pressed apples, carbonated on-site. There’s also Boardroom, a smoky, Don Draper-esque blend of Hennessy and Dubonnet, with walnut, cherry and coffee. And finally, the snazziest twist on a classic to grace our palates, the famed Champagne Piña Colada, boasting coconut sorbet (rather than cream) and a luxurious splash of fizz. The rest of the cocktails come and go with each drastic menu change. (More on that later.)

After a successful couple of years, Moore stepped away from his project in late 2019. So now Marcu is heading things up – and what a job he and the team have done throughout this crazy year. “We have a saying here at Coupette,” says Marcu. “‘Good is never good enough’.” That sets the tone for every drink that they serve.

Obviously this year has posed more challenges than usual, but crafting an entirely new cocktail menu in lockdown was one of them. Usually, Coupette changes its menu every three to six months. “We always liked the idea of a seasonal menu and that is exactly what we did so far. Yet, with the new menu we decided to create more of a conceptual menu that will last for almost a year or less. This is a bit due to the pandemic that made us feel insecure about launching a new menu every three or six months.”

So, how was it coming out of lockdown? “It was very hard to be honest,” Marcu tells me. “The fact that we went from five days a week work to nothing and back to five days a week after three months was very exhausting. But it is slowly getting better and we are happy to be able to open our door every single day and have guests visiting us.” 

We’re pretty happy about it too, because it meant we finally got to try the new menu! Dubbed Urban Legends & Their Uprising Tales, it launched on 10 September and explores  ‘the darker side of East London’. A jaw-dropping (and mouth-watering) 21 new serves have been created by the team, Marcu tells me it was over six months in the making. “We were meant to launch in April,” he says, but obviously you-know-what rather got in the way of that. “So then we had to go back and reformulate.” 

The menu illustration for the Watermelon Spritz

The six-chapter menu tells the (fictional) origin story of an East London gang through illicit rum deals, spirit smuggling and ingredient hustling. It’s grittier and darker than previous menus. The physical menu is gorgeous more of a hardback book as the team enlisted the help of illustrator Molly Rose for each cocktail. When I ask Marcu what his favourite new drink is (which is probably his least favourite question) he ends up naming half the menu. 

You start drinking a cocktail with your eyes, so it’s no surprise the presentation is always a delight – though never flamboyant. Dazzling glassware and simple garnishes showcase the liquid each serve, along with the most impressive ice cubes (or sometimes spheres) you’ve ever seen.

Chocolate & Red Wine, a firm favourite

“Every single drink has to be its perfect version,” Marcu says when I ask him if there were any new serves which were particularly challenging to get right. It was pretty much all of them, by the sound of it. “We have tried a tremendous amount of ingredients, recipes and drinks until we chose the one that we believe is perfect. For example, we have a drink called Chocolate & Red Wine for which we have tried 15 to 20 different recipes. But the hardest to get right was Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy, a Parmigiano-inspired drink that we wanted to turn into a pleasant flavour to everyone. We were looking into getting out fruity notes from one of the strongest flavoured cheeses one can find and we definitely managed to do so. But that one was a hustle.” 

Yes, that is a corn in my Gimlet

No doubt the hard work has more than paid off. There is truly something for everyone, from Rhubarb Bellinis and insanely refreshing Watermelon Spritzes to twists on Negronis (with carrot as an ingredient) and Manhattans (made with ale vermouth), and everything in between. While I didn’t get to try them all, there were two absolute stand-outs for me. First, was one Marcu has already mentioned, Chocolate & Red Wine. This short serve made with Flor de Caña 18 Year Old, chocolate wine and cacao manages to remain delicate and light, even though it packs a boozy, fruity, chocolatey punch. Second was the Corny Gimlet, with salted butter-distilled Plymouth Gin, home-made corn liqueur and sour popcorn tea, garnished with a charred baby corn. It was sweet, sour and slightly bitter, by far one of the strangest things I’ve ever tasted – and I loved every sip.

“We just launched Urban Legends & Their Uprising Tales but we already started thinking about the next one, and I have to tell you so far it sounds very exciting.” Luckily this 24-cocktail menu will keep us busy until the next one!

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The Nightcap: 11 September

Robot bartenders, enough whisky to buy a house and a tiki bar full of priests rescuing a drowning man. The Nightcap doesn’t get much better than this! We’re in that…

Robot bartenders, enough whisky to buy a house and a tiki bar full of priests rescuing a drowning man. The Nightcap doesn’t get much better than this!

We’re in that part of the year now where the weather is totally unpredictable. In a matter of minutes you could be made to look a fool by a cold snap, a sudden downpour or baking heat just as you’ve started an hour long walk in a woolly jumper (I’m not venting, why do you ask?). In such times, home comforts, familiar settings and dead certainties are needed. Like a weekly update of all the happenings from the world of booze. Good thing we’ve got you covered. Enjoy!

On the MoM blog this week Henry welcomed a wonderful new collection from The Character of Islay Whisky Company called The Stories of Wind and Wave and then enjoyed a cocktail named after the fanciest college in America, Jess demonstrated the delights of Irish single malt The Sexton and Adam sampled all kinds of delicious new whisky from Glengoyne. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton popped back in to explore how you can own a little bit of your own booze business through the magic of crowdfunding, while Annie cast a spotlight on Storywood Tequila, examined the evolution of cask ownership and then turned her attention to the history of the world’s first luxury whisky. We’d also like to say a big thank you to all who attended Scotch & Sofa and to remind those who missed it that the videos are still available to watch on Facebook!

The Nightcap

What whisky fan wouldn’t want their own cask? No wonder they’re fighting over it

SMWS offers members cask from Holyrood Distillery whisky

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is offering members the chance to win an entire cask of whisky from a partner distillery for the first time at its annual gathering this year. The prize, from Holyrood Distillery, is worth approximately £10k and includes all associated costs including the production of spirit, maturation for up to 10 years, bottling and duty. The distillery, which is Edinburgh’s first city centre single malt whisky distillery for nearly a century, runs a custom cask programme, which provides fully customisable options that you can read more about here. “Can you imagine owning your own full cask of single malt whisky? That’s the incredible prize that is up for grabs to all the members of the SMWS,” says Helen Stewart, head of marketing and membership at The SMWS. “Without a doubt it’s the biggest prize we’ve ever offered to our members and with our global festival The Gathering beginning on 31st August, it’s the perfect time to show the world what we do at SMWS – but you have to be in it to win it”. This year’s gathering, which is taking place throughout September, will unite a global community of over 27,000 SMWS members through a series of tastings (both virtual and in-person), whisky webinars, global ambassador at-home tastings, virtual pub sessions with global guests and a Twitter Tasting. The SMWS has also encouraged members to host their own gathering events at home, with home tasting kits available to download. The competition went live on Monday (7 September), which SMWS members can enter here, while tickets for the full calendar and info on all the gathering events can be found here.

The Nightcap

The 18-year-old Aberfeldy is finished in barriques from Pauillac, home of some of France’s greatest wines.

Aberfeldy launches ‘aristocratic’ 18 year old finished in Bordeaux wine casks 

Aberfeldy has gone right to the top with its new 18-year-old wine cask finish, Pauillac in the Medoc, home of some of Bordeaux’s greatest wines such as Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild. The whisky spent 18 years in first-fill bourbon barrels followed by 4-5 months in ex-Pauillac barriques. Those months weren’t wasted, we were given a little sample and it really smells distinctively of the Medoc. Think pencil shavings, blackcurrants and damp earth on the nose with tannin on the palate and an unctuous nutty texture, all wrapped up in the classic honey and toffee of Aberfeldy. The double cask ageing really works. Malt master (not to be confused with a Master of Malt) Stephanie MacLeod commented: “Pauillac casks are the aristocrats of the Médoc, they provide notes of black cherries, blackberries and a cedar wood spice. Aberfeldy’s wonderfully soft signature honey and creamy vanilla notes are invigorated with swathes of plush ripe fruits and lovely nutty aromas to create an incredibly elegant and fruitful whisky.” It’s bottled at 43% ABV and on sale for a very reasonable £95. It is, however, only available from the distillery which reopened in July. Later it will be on sale in certain markets including USA, China, Taiwan, Germany, and France but not, for some reason, Britain. We think a trip to Aberfeldy might be in order. 

The Nightcap

The project might have been delayed but it’s back on course now

Johnnie Walker Princes Street update

Diageo never seems to stop churning out boozy updates and this week is no different after it opened the online doors to the Johnnie Walker Princes Street global flagship visitor experience. The spirits giant had already reaffirmed its £185 million investment programme in Scotch whisky and tourism by resuming physical construction at the landmark building in the heart of Edinburgh in June (in compliance with all government COVID guidelines, naturally) following a three-month lockdown pause, but the new website for the attraction was launched this week on Tuesday (8 Sept). The Princes Street site is now expected to open in the summer of 2021. If you’re after detailed plans for inside the eight-story attraction then you’ll have to wait, but the website does provide pre-sale ticket opportunities and exclusive updates on the project. “The last few months have been so difficult and disruptive for everyone and we know there is still a long way to go, but we keep walking with confidence and we are looking to the future with positivity,” says managing director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Barbara Smith. “Johnnie Walker Princes Street is progressing well following the restart of construction and we are delighted to be launching our website so that our future guests can share in the excitement and anticipation we feel as we build towards opening our doors to visitors next year.” 

The Nightcap

Congrats to you Nate, any chance of a Nebula Negroni on the house…

Nate Brown opens a new bar

Hey, you guys know our friend Nate Brown, right? He’s contributed a fair few cracking articles on the MoM blog over the last year or so, but that’s not why he’s making headlines this week. It’s because tomorrow (Saturday 12 September), he’ll open the doors to Nebula, a new bar on the Hackney Road, London. The pizza, beer and cocktail joint, which is styled as a ‘neighbourhood oasis with cosmopolitan spirit’, was created in collaboration with Shane Long (not the Republic of Ireland international, but the founder and owner of the Franciscan Well Brew Pub Ltd), and will be led by Sam Morgan (ex-Star and MEAT). Heading the cocktail menu will be the bar’s signature Nebula Negroni, which has a ‘herbaceous twist’ and is available for take away in bottles or eco-friendly reusable pouches. There are also three Spritzes, three Highballs, and three Low-balls plus three straight-up, easy-drinking serves, all of which have an emphasis on local, with house gin and vodka made a stone’s throw away by 58 gin and East London Liquor Co. The wines, meanwhile, will be sourced from Renegade Winery in Bethnal Green and many of the beers are brewed in East London. Nebula will be open from midday until 11pm, seven days a week, and we’ll certainly be popping by for a Nebula Negroni, or two!

350 1960s will be released to celebrate 350 years of Warre’s

Warre’s celebrates 350 years with release of rare Port

Warre’s is celebrating its 350th birthday in style with the release of some seriously rare vintage Port. The company was founded in 1670, and while it doesn’t have any wine left from then, it is offering 350 bottles of 1960 Port from its cellars, the last bottles of this vintage that will be sold to the public. RRP around £320. More affordably, the company will be offering special anniversary editions of Warre’s Warrior and its LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) wines. The company is probably the oldest British Port firm and has a rich history in the region. Williams Warre fought with the Duke of Wellington to liberate the country from Napoleon. His descendant George Warre was one of the first British shippers to buy land in the Douro. One of his purchases, Quinta do Retiro, provides the fruit for the 1960 vintage. In the 1960s the firm was bought by the Symington family who still own it today. Chairman Johnny Symington commented: “We are extremely proud to be celebrating Warre’s 350th anniversary: three generations of my family worked alongside the Warres until the mid-1960s when they decided to return to the UK. We have continued a great tradition that dates back to 1670. This incredible milestone is a moment for us to reflect on our heritage and our uniqueness as a family business. We also celebrate the alliance between Portugal and England, the oldest in history, which has been such an important part of the history of Port.” That’s worth raising a glass to.

The Nightcap

This is how I die. And I’m OK with it.

The robot bartender is here!

The machines are taking over! We’ve just received information about a bar where the drinks are made by machine. Named Yanu, it’s described in the press bumf as “the world’s first contactless bar.” It’s the brainchild of Alan Adojaan who is working with top cocktailist Kristo Tomingas to make sure the drinks are tip-top. The machine costs 150,000 euros to buy outright or it can be rented. Adojaan is expecting to sell them to airports, casinos, shopping centres etc. with the current COVID-friendly sales angle that your drink will be untouched by human hands. The set-up consists of a round standalone bar that looks like something from Star Wars with a robot arm at the centre. Approach, state what you want, swipe your card and marvel as the arm makes the drink by pressing the glass to optics located in the ceiling of the bar. From the video, it looks quite basic, we were hoping for something along the lines of the octopus barkeep from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, It’s certainly much faster than any human, able to make around 100 drinks an hour and it won’t spend time admiring its muscly tattooed arms instead of serving customers. 

A load of these is worth a lot money

Son sells 28 years of birthday whisky to buy first home 

This week over in Taunton, Matthew Robson didn’t look to his savings account for his house deposit, but his whisky cabinet! Really though, it’s his father Pete who’s to thank. Matthew was born in 1992, and every birthday since his father bestowed upon him an 18-Year-Old Macallan. Now that Matthew is the ripe old age of 28, that adds up to… 28 Macallans! “I thought it would be interesting if I bought one every year,” Pete said, “and he’d end up with 18 bottles of 18-Year-Old whisky for his 18th birthday”. While Pete spent around £5,000 over the years on the pressies, the collection is now worth more than a cool £40,000. It may not surprise you to know that Pete is originally from Milnathort in Scotland, who bought the first bottle of 1974 vintage Macallan to “wet the baby’s head”. Matthew was “under strict instructions, never, never to open them,” and somehow he managed to resist temptation. Whisky broker Mark Littler is selling the “perfect set,” as he described it himself. “The value of Macallan has risen massively over the last five to 10 years,” he said. “To have such a vast collection of bottles is the real selling point of these.” Excuse us, we’re off to have a word with our parents… 

The Nightcap

This story has, quite literally, everything

And finally. . . . Drowning man saved by tiki bar full of priests

Now that’s a headline that sounds like it sprang from the mind of Chris Morris but it’s actually a true account of a recent incident on Lake George in New York. Jimmy MacDonald was out kayaking when he fell into the water with a badly put on life jacket. Within seconds, he was struggling to stay afloat and thought his days were numbered. Talking to the Catholic News Agency, he said: “I thought I was going to die. I was waving my hand and asked God to please help me.” And lo, his prayers were answered in the unlikely form of a tiki bar boat rented Paulist Fathers from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C. The seminarians and priests helped him onboard and saved his life. One, Noah Ismael, quipped that it was “a movement of the Holy Spirit”. The final twist to this almost too-good-to-be-true story is that MacDonald is a former alcoholic who has been sober for seven years. Truly, God moves in mysterious ways. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Harvard

This week we’re making a drink named after the fanciest college in America, the Sarah Lawrence! Sorry, no, it’s the Harvard. Plus there’s a shameless plug for a new book…

This week we’re making a drink named after the fanciest college in America, the Sarah Lawrence! Sorry, no, it’s the Harvard. Plus there’s a shameless plug for a new book called The Cocktail Dictionary

In January 2019, I started writing, with help from Adam and Annie, a weekly cocktail column for this blog. The first entry was the Brooklyn. Since then I was asked by Mitchell Beazley to do The Cocktail Dictionary, part of a series of booze books like The Whisky Dictionary, The Tequila Dictionary, you get the idea. And now it’s here! It’s an A-Z of drinks with entries on shaking, ice, equipment etc. Not only are the words top quality but it has witty illustrations by George Wyesol. 

Anyway, that’s enough shameless plugging. Let’s talk cocktails. This week we’re making the Harvard, part of a series of old time drinks named after Ivy League universities such as the Princeton, the Yale, and erm, the Brown. It’s rather like a Manhattan but made with Cognac instead of bourbon, and then diluted with a splash of soda. The Harvard may actually predate the Manhattan, however. Many cocktails were originally made with brandy. Cognac was king in the 19th century but its preeminence among spirits was destroyed by phylloxera, the vine-eating louse that wrecked Europe’s vineyards. British drinkers switched to blended Scotch whisky and American cocktail enthusiasts switched to bourbon or rye. So the Harvard is a little taste of what Americans were drinking in the 1880s.

Just one of the excellent illustrations by George Wyesol

As with all cocktails, there are lots of ways to make it. In some recipes, the Harvard is just a Manhattan but made with brandy instead of bourbon or rye, and very nice it is too made like that. According to David Embury in his Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948), if you use orange bitters it’s a Harvard but if you use Angostura, it’s a Delmonico try asking for that one in your local bar. Other versions call for sugar syrup, lemon juice and even grenadine (!) which sounds much too sweet. Harry Craddock in The Savoy Cocktail Book (1935) makes his with half brandy and half vermouth with a dash of sugar syrup and two dashes of Angostura. But earlier still, George J. Kappeler Modern American Drinks (1895) was adding a splash of soda which is how we’re going to do it today. It makes it more accessible than a Manhattan and the dilution brings out the fruit in the brandy. You could even, in the summer, up the soda quotient and serve it as a Highball-type thing. But the evenings are getting cold now, so we’re not going to do that.

Traditionally Cognac would have been used but I’m using Janneau VSOP Armagnac which is very fruity and with a wine-like tang. It’s a very superior brandy for the money. Instead of Italian vermouth, I’m using Gonzalez Byass La Copa from Spain. This is made with PX sherry so it’s really quite sweet. Too sweet, I find, to drink on its own but works beautifully in booze-heavy cocktails. You really don’t need any sugar syrup. After a bit of experimentation, I found that adding the soda in two stages kept some fizz without warming up the drink. Finally bitters, the recipe in the book doesn’t call for bitters, but it’s a nice addition. Angostura or orange, it’s up to you.

Are you a Harvard man?

Right, got your ingredients ready? Let’s Harvard! Oh, and here’s a final plug for the book: The Cocktail Dictionary: An A–Z of cocktail recipes, from Daiquiri and Negroni to Martini and Spritz by Henry Jeffreys is published by Mitchell Beazley, £15.99. Totally shameless.

60ml Janneau VSOP Armagnac
30ml Gonzalez-Byass La Copa vermouth
Two dashes of Angostura bitters (optional)
30ml soda water (ideally chilled)

Add the first three ingredients and half the soda, a splash, to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Stir for 30 seconds until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupette or Martini glass, add another splash of soda water and garnish with an orange twist.

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The Nightcap: 4 September

There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on……

There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on…

We hope you all enjoyed your Bank Holiday weekend. Whether you set off on an adventure, popped down to your local or enjoyed some well-earned R&R indoors, we’re sure you made the most of the opportunity to take a breath and enjoy a break. Fortunately for us, the world of booze never seems to stop churning out new products, projects and passions for us all to get all geeky and gleeful about so The Nightcap this week isn’t any lighter even with a day off. Take a look and see for yourself.

The MoM blog this week was also as busy as ever, and almost turned green thanks to the number of stories we had on Irish whiskey. First Ian Buxton examined its growing pains, then Annie learned why the progress of Sliabh Liag Distillers is proving cause for excitement. Certified organic distilleries also caught Annie’s eye, as Henry gave us a lesson in fortified wines casks to mark the arrival of The Epicurean Rivesaltes Finish. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed a gin-based delight and one of the finest prohibition-era cocktails in The Southside, before wishing That Boutique-y Whisky Company a happy birthday by announcing another terrific new MoM sale.

Arguably the biggest news of all, however, was our announcement of the launch of Pour & Sip, our all-new, kick-ass whisky subscription service. Check out the blog post for more details. We’re also issuing one last call for you to tune in to our virtual whisky extravaganza Scotch & Sofa, which is taking place tomorrow. Oh, and don’t forget, Drinks by the Dram’s incredible booze-filled Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now!

Right, on with the news!

The Nightcap

CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ didn’t mince his words for the Scottish government.

Chivas Bros. criticises Scottish government over COVID response

It was a difficult results time for Chivas Brothers, which we’ll get on to in a moment, but the most interesting thing from this week’s press conference was CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ strong words for the Scottish government. He talked about a “bumpy period in March/April when we were not so clear about the direction the Scottish government wanted us to take. We know that we were not seen as an essential business to the economy even though Scotch whisky is the second-largest export for Scotland.” Happily (for everyone, not least Master of Malt customers), Chivas Brothers managed to keep the whisky flowing. Coutures praised the workforce and the unions for their helpful attitudes, and now the company is “almost back to full operations”. He added: “I still believe that the Scottish government needs to back us up and they need to understand that keeping this category operating is absolutely critical not only to the Scottish government but as well to the people of Scotland.” Meanwhile, on to those results: total organic sales were down 11%, in large part due to the lack of travel retail, with Ballantine’s shrinking by 8% and Chivas declining 17%. But there are grounds for optimism, with The Glenlivet cementing its position as number one single malt in the US, up 16%, Royal Salute expanding in Taiwan and South Korea, and Chivas growing in 34 markets including Turkey, Russia and Germany. Overall, there was confidence that Pernod Ricard had weathered the COVID storm as well as could be expected. Coutures added: “Our business and brands have responded with agility and resilience in the face of unprecedented market conditions, in many instances outperforming the category. We remain confident in the strength of our portfolio and the Scotch category as a whole, especially in its ability to withstand and overcome external challenges.” Now, if only the Scottish government could be a little more helpful… 

Long-time master distiller Jeff Arnett is to step down from his role at Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s master distiller to step down

Big news from Tennessee this week. Jeff Arnett, the man at the production helm of Jack Daniel’s for a whopping 12 years, announced he was leaving his role. This is significant stuff for Jack Daniel’s, the world’s biggest selling American whiskey. Arnett oversaw milling, fermentation, distillation, charcoal filtration and maturation, so these are some pretty sizeable shoes to fill. Parent company Brown-Forman hasn’t said why he’s leaving, or given word of his replacement. But Jack Daniel’s senior vice president, Larry Combs, did say: “Jeff has worked tirelessly on behalf of the distillery and brought with him the creativity and the expertise that makes Jack Daniel’s the most valuable whiskey brand in the world.” Arnett said his time with the brand had been “an incredible chapter”, but didn’t say what he’d be up to next. We’re thoroughly intrigued by the proceedings, and wish Arnett all the best!

The Nightcap

Is there anything he can’t do?

Snoop Dogg announces his latest creation: INDOGGO Gin

Not content with being a hip-hop legend and all-round entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg has once again turned his attention to conquering the booze industry. The creator of the classic hip-hop anthem ‘Gin and Juice’ has founded his own gin brand: INDOGGO Gin. Following a partnership with Treasury Wine Estates to release a California red blend under the 19 Crimes brand called Snoop Cali Red earlier in the year, Snoop Dogg teamed up with his friend and spirits veteran, Keenan Towns of Trusted Spirits and spirits importer Prestige Beverage Group this time to release INDOGGO Gin. The expression, which is housed in a purple bottle features a white logo with upturned ‘G’s in a hat tip to the fruit-infused gin being a remix on the classic juniper-dominant style, was distilled five times and features seven botanicals, including orange, coriander and cassia and is infused with “all-natural strawberry flavour” with no added sugar. “I can’t wait for the world to taste my remix on gin! When I wrote Gin & Juice back in ’94 it was about good feelings and real experiences, it just naturally became an anthem,” Snoop Dogg said. “When creating Indoggo, I wanted to give those feelings new life with an approachable juicy gin that’s smooth like the D.O. Double G.” INDOGGO Gin will first launch in Snoop’s home state of California in late September before it’s released throughout the rest of US through 2021, so if you can’t get your hands on it you can at least pour yourself something delicious and sing those seminal words: “Rollin down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice/ Laid back (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”

The Nightcap

It’s rare to see Ardbeg of this age so it’s particularly exciting news!

The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is (nearly) here!

The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is here! Or nearly here, it will be arriving at MoM towers soon. We liked the first release so much that we travelled up to Edinburgh with a film crew to listen to Brendan McCarron wax lyrical about it, video link here. The series is named after the beaches of Traigh Bhan (pronounced tri-van) on Islay which are known locally as ‘the singing sands’ because the noise the tide makes on the sand. This latest batch was matured in American oak and oloroso sherry casks for 19 years and bottled at 46.2% ABV with an RRP of £199. There’s a higher proportion of first-fill bourbon casks in the blend alongside refills and sherry casks. Dr Bill Lumsden commented: “To me, this whisky is the epitome of an aged Ardbeg. It somehow manages to balance the complex with the classic. It’s a truly unique bottling and we hope Ardbeggians everywhere look forward to comparing notes with the previous batch. I know I did!” Not only is the whisky special but the packaging is innovative too: each Traigh Bhan whisky carries its own unique batch code, batch symbol and signature from one of the Ardbeg team; this year it’s Jackie Thomson, the visitor centre manager. She said: “the small quirks and originalities on the bottle itself make it highly collectable – something we know our Ardbeg fans love.” They certainly do. Watch the New Arrivals page of the MoM website. It should be with us soon. 

The Nightcap

We can’t wait for this book to come out in October

Johnnie Walker book is coming

Have you ever wanted to know more about the man behind the world’s best-selling whisky, Mr John Walker? No? Well, we do. And now our curiosity is about to be sated with the imminent arrival of a new book called Johnnie Walker: A Long Stride. Its author, historian and Diageo’s grandly-titled head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan, has been labouring in the company’s extensive archives for a good few years, and we can’t wait to find out what he has uncovered. It’s not just the story of the man, but also the brand up to the present day. According to the press release: “By doing things their own way, Johnnie Walker overturned the conventions of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, survived two world wars and flourished despite the Great Depression to become the first truly global whisky brand, revolutionising the world of advertising along the way.” And you thought they just made delicious whisky. We’re hoping to host Dr Nick on the blog sometime soon to tell us more. 

The Nightcap

We’re very jealous of whoever gets their hands on this 47-year-old single cask whisky

Gordon & MacPhail launches 47-year-old whisky to mark 125th anniversary

Gordon & MacPhail has announced that it will launch four rare bottlings of single malt Scotch whisky to commemorate the company’s 125-year history. The independent bottler and distiller has been doing its thing since 1895, releasing all kinds of delicious single malts from over 100 celebrated, little-known, or closed distilleries. Each exceptionally rare whisky will come from casks from a closed distillery or made on Lomond stills that are no longer in production and will be released periodically during the rest of 2020. The first of which is the Gordon & MacPhail 1972 from Coleburn Distillery in Speyside, which is particularly fitting given the distillery is situated just four miles from the company’s Elgin home. The 47-Year-Old single cask whisky is said to be sweet, intense and complex with notes of butterscotch, apricot, cooked apples and mint, a profile it attained after spending its entire maturation in a refill sherry puncheon (cask 3511) before it was bottled at cask strength, 62.4% ABV. “The whiskies we have chosen to commemorate our 125th Anniversary are all truly unique and seldom seen in the market,” says Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s director of prestige. “They are bottled from the last remaining casks we have from these distilleries, and marks an emotional moment for my family as they leave the Gordon & MacPhail warehouse after being left to mature by my grandfather many decades ago.”

The Nightcap

We’re delighted to see one of London’s finest bars return

Tayēr + Elementary opens its doors

Award-winning cocktail bar Tayēr + Elementary re-opened its doors following its closure during the lockdown period. Alex Kratena and Monica Berg will stagger the return in two phases, Tayēr will return in October and the venue’s front bar concept Elementary opening from at the beginning of this month from 3pm until midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, and 3pm-1am Thursday – Saturday. Its new outside terrace to help enable social distancing will make its debut and food from new chef partners Kitchen FM will be available, including the pig’s head croquette (mmmmm, pig’s head), served with kimchi and oyster mayo, deep fry chicken, with a smoked and spicy maple glaze and pickles and desserts such as the plum jam with ginger ice cream. Elementary’s drinks offering will feature the bar’s signature classics such as the One Sip Martini, Whey Sour and ēe Frozen Coffee alongside new highballs, beers, wines and seasonal cocktails. The Bottle Shop will be available for takeaway, serving all of the bar’s own ready-to-drink cocktails, which were launched by the team during lockdown, such as the Bergamot Margarita and Palo Santo Gimlet, as well as a selection of beers and wines to takeaway. 

The Nightcap

Congratulations Pierrick!

Lagavulin gets a new distillery manager

Big transfer news on Islay: Pierrick Guillaume is moving from Caol Ila to take up the role of distillery manager at Lagavulin. Frenchman Guillaume has been with Diageo for eight years with stints at Mortlach and Talisker before the move to Islay and Caol Ila in 2017. Having met and tasted with Guillaume we can vouch that not only is he a lovely chap but extremely knowledgeable. He commented: “It is a great honour to be asked to take on the role of Lagavulin distillery manager. Lagavulin is a whisky that is revered around the world and it’s a great privilege to be joining the outstanding team that makes this exceptional Scotch whisky and I can’t wait to get started.” Meanwhile, there are some big boots to fill at Caol Ila and stepping up is Samuel Hale who is currently the manager of Port Ellen Maltings. If you want to know more, why not tune into our Scotch and Sofa whisky festival tomorrow, 5 September? At 2pm both Guillaume and Hale will be taking a boat trip to Islay alongside Colin Dunn from Diageo and Henry Jeffreys from Master of Malt. 

The Nightcap

The Delevigne sisters are the latest celebs to embrace the world of booze

Celebrity booze continues with Pimm’s competition and Delevigne Prosecco

Celebrities and booze go together like caviar (the celebrity of the seafood world) and Champagne (the celebrity of the wine world). As such, we’ve got double trouble on the celebrity booze front for you this week. First up, we have the Delevigne sisters who have launched their own Prosecco! The sisters, Chloe, Poppy and Cara, called their creation Della Vite, which, although it sounds a lot like their last name, actually translates as ‘of the vine’. Having partnered with the Biasiotto family, two expressions are being launched this month, Della Vite Prosecco Superiore (DOCG) and Della Vite Prosecco Treviso (DOC). “Placing sustainability first and using agricultural methods that don’t rely heavily on the industry is at the core Della Vite’s values,” said Cara. “We spent four months looking for the perfect winery to align with our vision and are so proud to have created two exceptional Proseccos that are both sustainably produced and 100% certified vegan.” There’s no label, with the bottle sporting the brand signature created by Poppy Delevingne. Well, that’s one way of getting her autograph. From Prosecco to Pimm’s, the latter has launched a competition to try and make up for the strange summer Britain has had! Louise Redknapp is spearheading this one, giving the public the chance to win an afternoon with the Pimm’s O’Clock Truck! The winner will get to enjoy it at home for the day with a small gathering of friends and family (complying with COVID regulations, obviously). If you want to enter, snap a photo-sharing Pimm’s with your pals onto Instagram. Make sure you follow @Pimmsgb on Instagram, tag @Pimmsgb and use #TheOriginalTasteOfSummer. You have until 7 September to get your photos up, so get the pitcher out quick!

The Nightcap

Keep an eye out because this historic whisky is on its way to MoM Towers!

Isle of Raasay inaugural release sells out (yes, we will be getting some in)

If you were hoping to get your hands on a bottle of Isle of Raasay Distillery’s inaugural single malt, set to launch in November 2020, we have bad news. It’s already sold out. Before it’s even been bottled. Okay, let us explain. Out of its expected outturn of 7,500 bottles, the distillery set aside 4,350 bottles for an online pre-sale. Obviously these went like hotcakes, while the rest of the bottles have been snapped up by a selection of international markets, specialist retailers, restaurants and bars. It’s no wonder too, with the lightly peated whisky matured in first-fill American oak and set to be finished in 21 first fill Bordeaux red wine casks. “We are delighted to have sold out of our Isle of Raasay Single Malt Inaugural Release before it’s bottled in November,” said Isle of Raasay co-founder Alasdair Day. “This is the first legal whisky from an island rooted in centuries of illicit distilling, so it really is a piece of Scotch whisky history!” There is still hope for a bottle though! Make sure you keep an eye out on MoM new arrivals because we’ve got your back and will be stocking the historic whisky. Keep your other eye on its social channels (@RaasayDistillery), because we also heard that the distillery is launching a competition in October with the chance to win one of the prized bottles. 

The Nightcap

We recommend this tea made with whisky. It’s much nicer than it sounds.

And finally… WHISKY… TEA?

When we heard about Whisky Tea, we thought of the great Peter Kay and his cheesecake routine: “WHISKY…. TEA? Are my ears playing tricks on me?” Well, this is no joke, it’s the latest product from Edinburgh-based Pekotea. We were sent some samples and suitably impressed. These are quality teas, not a gimmick. One of the brains behind it, Jon Cooper, filled us in: “There are some close analogies between whisky and tea and we wanted to create something that would reflect this in tea blends. Just like the different regions of tea giving different flavours and aromas, we thought it would be great to make teas that reflected the main Scotch whisky regions. Each of the teas contains a different blend of base tea with added fruit and spices as well as the whisky and a little flavour oil to highlight the nose of each of the whiskies. We wanted to bring out the main aromas associated with each area.” For example, the Campbeltown expression is made from a blend of black tea with cacao nibs, currants and cornflower steeped in high strength whisky with essential oil and then dried. It tastes rich and fruity, the perfect after-dinner tea instead of coffee, or indeed a dram. 

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Bitters 101: a guide and history with Bob’s Bitters

Bitters are something of the salt and pepper of the cocktail world, but beyond Angostura and Peychaud, what’s the deal? We grabbed a minute with Bob Petrie of Bob’s Bitters…

Bitters are something of the salt and pepper of the cocktail world, but beyond Angostura and Peychaud, what’s the deal? We grabbed a minute with Bob Petrie of Bob’s Bitters to chat about the tasty, boozy seasonings.

“I’d never made bitters before,” Bob Petrie tells me of his career. He wasn’t always in the drinks world, despite his roaring success. Having said that, he began his career as a pastry chef in a Michelin star restaurant, so it may not surprise you that he was already very familiar with flavours.

Bob's Bitters

A whole flock of Bob’s Bitters

Bob’s Bitters

Cast your mind back to 2005. James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful was playing on every radio station (we can still hear it like it was yesterday), and it was long before the gin boom well and truly hit. It was this very year that the legendary Giuliano Morandin, bar manager of the Dorchester Hotel, asked Petrie to help him with an event. “We knew of each other and he approached me and asked if I could make some cocktail bitters, because they were looking at doing a Gin & Tonic experience where you had a gin of your choice, a tonic of your choice and bitters of your choice,” Petrie tells me. At this point in time, when only a handful of gins were available, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than one kind of tonic, let alone multiple niche single botanical bitters.

So, as it happens, Bob’s Bitters wasn’t initially created for consumers. In fact, it took Morandin quite a few months to convince Petrie that the bitters would even be popular. But this was one of those cases where the bar influenced the consumer, and though there was some resistance to these alien single botanical bitters Morandin told Petrie that behind the bar, things needed to change. 

Single botanical bitters had the advantage of being new and unusual, but the reason behind that wasn’t to give them a USP – it was one of practicality. “The only reason we decided to make single flavours was if we were making a complex bitter and something went wrong, we couldn’t identify where it was going wrong,” Petrie tells me. “That was the thought process. We never intended to be different!’”

bob's bitters

Bitters: small, but mighty

Petrie’s culinary background really shines through, because the idea was also to give mixologists behind the bar complete control over how they used them. “The thought was, if we do single flavours and we created enough of them, a barman would be able to mix and match and make their own complex bitters. A barman could have some theatre there with the glass bottle and the pipette, that he could make his own concoction, and that’s his concoction then, his little project so he’s got that ‘secret recipe’ using Bob’s Bitters.”

In 2020 it’s easy to see this as logical, but it wasn’t plain sailing back in 2005. “Barmen were saying to me ‘you’re a pastry chef, you’re not a barman so how can you make cocktail bitters?!’” Petrie recalls. Seeing as Peychaud’s and Angostura had dominated the back bar for years, people weren’t ready to accept bitters with just one flavour. “It took Giuliano quite a few months to convince me that these bitters will be popular,” Petrie recalls. But Giuliano persisted, and thank goodness because now we have all these wonderful cocktail seasonings to experiment with. 

A brief history of bitters

So that’s the story of Bob’s Bitters – but how about the history of bitters themselves? For that, we have to cast our minds back to the 18th century, specifically in India, when bitters and tonics initially started off as medicines. In India, you had bitter tonics full of quinine for its health benefits, and then Petrie tells me they added lime to prevent scurvy. Never mind the medicinal properties, that’s already sounding drinkable to me. To give some context, the well-known Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters weren’t established until the 19th century.

bob's bitters

Getting into the apothecary spirit

But how did bitters make the jump from medicine to cocktails? While Petrie was working for a chemist, they found some old manuscripts from days of yore that were rather illuminating. “Instead of going home and putting bitters in water they would put them in gin, because the water would have been not up to standard,” Petrie tells me. “Then cocktails have come from there because original cocktails were based on spirit, water, sugar and bitters, so it’s all sort of intertwined.” Perhaps the gin bubble has been going on for longer than we thought… 

It was this medicinal history that inspired the unique packaging of Bob’s Bitters. “The idea of the bottle with the pipette was to give us this Victorian feel that back in the Victorian era, the pharmacist or the chemist was the modern doctor of the day. You would go there and you would get your ginger tonic for your throat or peppermint for digestion, and then you’d go home and dilute it with water or gin or a spirit.” Though the pipette has more meanings than just one.

bob's bitters

One kiwi bird, so many meanings!

The kiwi bird on the label brings together so many aspects of the brand, it’s hard to know where to start. First off, Petrie is originally from New Zealand, so that’s a little nod. But the beak of the bird also mimics the pipette of the bottle, which nobody could have planned. It’s like it was meant to be – but there’s even a third way in which the plan comes together! “The kiwi itself has a high sense of smell. The bird is, well they’re not blind, but they have trouble with vision so it uses the beak to find food,” Petrie tells me. “And so we thought, well because the bitters are concentrated then you can smell the thing, so let’s put the kiwi on there with the pipette.” 

But don’t be expecting any kiwi bitters anytime soon… (The fruit, of course.)

You can find Bob’s Bitters on Master of Malt now!

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Our favourite specialist bars for specific spirits

Whether you have a certain spirit that you know you love above all others, or you want to jump in at the deep end of flavour discovery of a new…

Whether you have a certain spirit that you know you love above all others, or you want to jump in at the deep end of flavour discovery of a new tipple, we’ve rounded up a few awesome specialist bars that are pros in specific spirits!

They say variety is the spice of life, but on the flipside, there’s also the conundrum of being the jack of all trades and master of none. Well, these bars are each the master of one chosen spirit. In the words of Wham!, if you’re gonna do it, do it right.

When it’s safe to go back out to all the wonderful places the world has to offer, make sure you have this list to hand to guide you through the glorious world of spirits!

specialist bars

Hacha

What? Agave spirits
Where? London

Tequila and mezcal line the back bar of Hacha over in East London, which is also home to the legendary Mirror Margarita. Trust me, forget about any misgivings you’ve had about Tequila in the past, it’s like no other Margarita you’ve tried before. There’s a selection of 25 spirits behind the bar, and while you may have been expecting that number to be higher, when a bottle is finished a new one takes its place. Now you’ll never get bored of the same old choices! What’s pretty cool about this place is that owner Deano Moncrieffe (who was previously a Diageo Tequila ambassador) pairs different nibbles with the ever-changing selection of agave spirits. Some come with Monster Munch, others come with Toblerone. It’s all-round awesome. 

specialist bars

Smugglers Cove

What? Rum
Where? San Francisco

Opened in 2009, Smugglers Cove is everything you’d expect from a bar that specialises in rum. The three-story tiki bar boasts the largest rum selection in the country (over 550 behind the bar at one time), and it’s a place that really embraces part of rum’s identity with waterfalls, lots of nautical paraphernalia and an entirely wooden interior. Meanwhile, the cocktail list takes into account the centuries of history behind the spirit. You’ll find both classic and more contemporary serves, and one that has made quite the name for itself is the Smuggler’s Rum Barrel, a punch made with 15 different rums and 20 different juices!

(Smugglers Cove isn’t currently open because of COVID, but be sure to take a trip over there when it’s safe!)

specialist bars

Bobby Gin 

What? Gin
Where? Barcelona

Well, the clue is in the name here, and you’ll find Gin Club in the home of the Gin Tonica, Spain! Specifically, Barcelona. At Bobby Gin you’ll find those classic fishbowl glasses, with almost countless numbers of gins, tonics and garnishes to play with. With a sign on the wall stating ‘the perfect Gin & Tonic doesn’t exist’ (well, it actually says ‘el gintonic perfecto no existe’, but I thought I’d save you the trouble of translating), though you  may as well start here to try and find it!

specialist bars

Black Rock 

What? Whisky
Where? London

Now, choosing just one whisky bar was a near impossible mission. But, finally, Black Rock emerged as a winner, boasting both London and Bristol locations! Aside from the truly jaw-dropping selection of whiskies you’re faced with (over 250), the London site even has the city’s first whisky hotel, along with a blending room where you can take home your very own creation. It’s a brilliant place for people who want to explore the spirit more as well as seasoned drinkers, because each bottle is clearly labelled with one of five flavour profiles and its price. If you’re really stuck, the clever chaps behind the bar will certainly be able to help you out. Whisky for all!

specialist bars

Le Syndicat Paris 

What? Cognac
Where? Paris

Le Syndicat only stocks French spirits, so it’s not technically a Cognac bar per se, though you will be greeted with a lot of brandies among a scattering of absinthe and eau de vie. You’ll find DJs on the weekend playing mainly hip-hop (with half of the artists played probably sporting their own Cognac brand), French food and French twists on classic cocktails. If you don’t just want to try out the cocktails, you can treat your taste buds to a Cognac tasting, too!

specialist bars

Spirits Bar Sunface Tokyo

What? For when you’re feeling lucky
Where? Tokyo

Here’s a fun one. Over in Shinjuku, Spirits Bar Sunface doesn’t actually have a drinks menu. They serve brilliant cocktails, make no mistake, but instead of you choosing a drink (how normal that would be), you have a chat with the folks behind the bar and then your drink will be made to suit you. We’ve heard that it sports quite an extensive collection of Tequila, though its back bar spans quite a range of spirits! The place itself is just as unique, with its centrepiece a fabulous tree trunk which serves as the bar. It’s a bit like a tarot card reading, but with cocktails. Let us know what you get!

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Opening a bar during the COVID-19 pandemic

Last month, bars and restaurants across the UK  unlocked doors after nearly four long months. But for some venues, July meant planning a (socially-distanced) grand opening. What’s it like to…

Last month, bars and restaurants across the UK  unlocked doors after nearly four long months. But for some venues, July meant planning a (socially-distanced) grand opening. What’s it like to launch a new bar during the coronavirus pandemic? We spoke to Swift co-founder Bobby Hiddleston to find out. 

Ask anyone at team MoM and they’ll tell you that one of our favourite locations to imbibe at is the award-winning cocktail bar Swift in Soho. I frankly don’t even want to find out how much money I’ve spent on their lovely Irish Coffees. So when we heard that a second London venue would open in Shoreditch in late July 2020 at 93 Great Eastern Street, we were delighted. Brunch-style dining? The kind of apéritif-style cocktails we know and love from the Soho site? Even more Irish Coffees? It sounded perfect. 

However, the opening of this second location was anything but. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a severe toll on the global hotel industry, putting jobs and livelihoods on the line and many treasured bars and restaurants on the brink of collapse. For the husband-and-wife team, Mia Johansson and Bobby Hiddleston, who founded the Old Compton Street institution in 2016 with the backing of fellow couple and Nightjar and Oriole founders Rosie Stimpson and Edmund Weil, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Opening a bar brings enough challenges at the best of times, but trying to establish a new venue during the midst of a global pandemic adds a whole other level of difficulties and complications. 

We wanted to find out what the process was like for somebody who has been through it and Hiddleston was kind enough to join us to talk all about it. 

Opening a bar during the COVID-19 pandemic

Say hello to husband-and-wife team Mia Johansson and Bobby Hiddleston!

Master of Malt: How have you been affected by the impact of Covid-19?

Bobby Hiddleston: Like most businesses, we have been massively affected in almost every way. Things take longer to get done, people are more wary, and there is certainly no guarantee of trade. We’ve had to change our methods of service to keep everyone safe, but also make them comfortable enough to still enjoy themselves. It’s all a bit of a tightrope.

MoM: How does opening a bar now differ from opening a bar under typical circumstances?

BH: It’s difficult. Footfall on the street is way down so we’ve had to adjust all of our predictions. Being unable to fill the bar completely also means people’s first impressions are going to be different, so it’s too early to tell how that will play in the long run.

MoM: Was there enough support and guidance for the hospitality industry?

BH: The hospitality industry has been really good at supporting bartenders and owners alike. We all know how drastic this situation is worldwide, so it seems like petty differences have fallen by the wayside and everyone just wants to help each other out.

Opening a bar during the COVID-19 pandemic

The all-day drinking destination in Shoreditch opened in late July 2020

MoM: How did the opening day/night go?

BH: Really well – we had a lot of friends come and see us, a lot of whom were venturing outside for the first time in months, so I think it was good for them to see a bit of positivity.

MoM: What has been the response from customers?

BH: Fantastic, so far. We have had so many friends and acquaintances come to see us and wish us well. The few offices that are back to work have also peeked their heads in, so we’re excited to be able to cater to the general Shoreditch community as well.

MoM: How have consumer habits differed compared to pre-COVID?

BH: People are very respectful of social distancing and safety measures. It’s certainly a comfort knowing that people are following protocol. Going to a bar is a luxury and a risk at the moment, so if they don’t feel comfortable going to a venue then they won’t go, but at the same time, I think people are craving a little bit of normality in their lives.

Opening a bar during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Swift Shoreditch team have experienced probably the strangest bar opening of their lives.

MoM: How have the staff adjusted to the new normal?

BH: So quickly, I’m very proud of our team for getting to grips with what needs to be done so well.

MoM: What measures have worked? Are there any that haven’t?

BH: There aren’t really any measures that haven’t worked. Things that people would never do pre-COVID – taking names & details at the door, keeping safe distances, etc – everyone is following because everyone knows how important it is to follow.

MoM: What needs to change?

BH: For the industry to survive long-term, the 1m rule will need to be relaxed. Of course, that can only happen when it is safe to do so, but many venues simply cannot sustain themselves on 50-60% of regular turnover, like most bars are right now.

Opening a bar during the COVID-19 pandemic

Expect signature serves from the new Swift likes its Sgroppino and Irish Coffee

MoM: Why was it necessary for bars to open/reopen?

BH: Aside from the obvious attempt to restart the economy by opening private businesses again, it is essential to get hospitality workers back to work. The longer the bars are closed, the less likely they are to reopen at all, so to have an entire wave of people willing but unable to work is disastrous.

MoM: Can London’s world-class cocktail scene rebuild itself to come back stronger than ever?

BH: Yes, absolutely it will, but I also predict that this will also signal a new wave of smaller towns and cities improving their cocktail scenes. Every major city had talented bartenders from small towns go home for COVID and then realise they preferred it where they’re from, so there will be a whole new ecosystem of brilliant people wanting to use their skills more locally. In a few years, there will be many more great bars springing up outside of the capitals, which is a fantastic thing.

MoM: What should we expect from the new Swift?

BH: Swift Shoreditch is an all-day offering, we’re open from 8am for coffee and pastries, and go through to the evenings for our signature spritzes and Irish Coffees. But most importantly, the new Swift will have the same warm welcome as Swift Soho.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Grasshopper

Unapologetically sweet, refreshingly minty and positively viridescent, the Grasshopper is practically a dessert all on its own. Flavour-wise, it’s rather like liquifying an After Eight mint and drinking it –…

Unapologetically sweet, refreshingly minty and positively viridescent, the Grasshopper is practically a dessert all on its own. Flavour-wise, it’s rather like liquifying an After Eight mint and drinking it – but that’s precisely why it’s so delicious. Here, Robin Summer, general manager at London’s Coin Laundry, talks us through the serve…

Few drinks are as visually striking as the Grasshopper. It looks like a Flip wearing a Halloween outfit, but in a good way. The timeless combination of cool mint and velvety white chocolate have earned this after-dinner cocktail a place in the history books, thanks to a shouldn’t-work-but-it-does combination of crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and fresh cream.

The Grasshopper originates from New Orleans, specifically a bar in the French Quarter called Tujague’s – said to be America’s oldest stand-up bar*. It was invented in 1918 by then-owner Philip Guichet for a cocktail competition in New York City. The drink came in second place, ‘and has remained a winner at Tujague’s bar ever since’, according to the venue’s website.

The original recipe combined white and green crème de menthe, white and dark crème de cacao, heavy whipping cream and brandy. It was a massive hit, proving extremely popular during the 1950s and 1960s throughout the American South – and later across the globe – until eventually the Grasshopper and other similarly sweet, milky cocktails fell out of favour. 

Grasshopper cocktail

“Positively viridescent”

Long relegated to the bottom shelf of the back bar, crème liqueurs are now making their way into such cocktails once again, spurred on by a recent revival of seventies-style ‘disco’ drinks. The Grasshopper in particular has seen a resurgence for a number of reasons, says Robin Summer, general manager at London bar Coin Laundry.

“Primarily, it’s easy to riff on,” Summer explains. “All the ingredients can be changed or substituted and you can introduce a number of techniques and flavour combinations – as long as you serve it cold and it comes out green! I also think a lot of modern bartenders probably found old bottles of crème de menthe in their stock and needed approachable ways of using it.”

With so few ingredients required, and in such equal quantities, you can’t really go too far wrong where the recipe is concerned. However, with this serve, texture and temperature is everything. If you’ve never frozen your glassware before, the Grasshopper is a cocktail that’ll really benefit from it. 

“This drink is definitely all about the texture,” says Summer. “Smooth and creamy is equally important as the combination of mint and chocolate giving it a bitter-sweet, rich-fresh vibe. It also has to be cold and has to be green, and should be garnished with shaved chocolate or a mint leaf. Personally I enjoy a combination of Gabriel Boudier Creme de Cacao Blanc, Get 27 Mint Liqueur, and double cream.”

Coin Laundry, don’t bring your dirty undies cos it’s actually a bar. So confusing.

The Grasshopper is also easy to twist, and “lends itself to being fortified,” says Summer. “Add a splash of gin, Cognac or even a bitter or an amaro. Try it with a splash of Fernet Branca Menta.” You can also try coconut cream, he adds, by combining equal parts coconut water (or milk) and cream. Delicious.If you want to really go all-out on the ‘dessert’ aspect of the drink, swap the cream for ice cream and whizz the whole lot in a blender before serving; the traditional method of making a Grasshopper in Wisconsin. The drink has long been a supper club staple in the state – which is also said to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae FYI – so it’s safe to assume they know their stuff.

Whichever version takes your fancy, whipping up a Grasshopper at home is no trouble at all. “It’s really simple to make,” says Summer. “Start with equal parts in a shaker and serve in a Nick and Nora glass. It will definitely help use up the bottles you’ve never touched at the back of your drinks cabinet.” The pour sizes are ultimately your call, but if you’re after a little guidance, follow the recipe below:

25ml Gabriel Boudier crème de menthe
25ml Giffard white crème de cacao
25ml single cream

Combine crème de menthe, crème de cacao, cream, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake until chilled and the outside of the cocktail shaker is cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with a mint spring and chocolate shavings.

*Bar at which you stand rather than a bar that has stand-up comedy nights.

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The Nightcap: 24 July

Well, another week bites the dust. It’s time to put your feet up, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in some fresh booze news. This week, Ardbeg brings you the…

Well, another week bites the dust. It’s time to put your feet up, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in some fresh booze news. This week, Ardbeg brings you the thrill of the grill, Glen Moray unveils some single cask expressions, and Jose Cuervo debuts an automatic Tequila button.

Greetings, weary traveller. You have stumbled upon an everlasting tome of knowledge, one that is reborn anew once a week, refreshed, revitalised, brimming with new information. This rejuvenating opus tells tales of people who use the elements to create deliciousness where the once was none. These descriptions sound like myths and legends, but they are in fact true reports. What could this regularly regenerating work be?! Well, weary traveller, it’s The Nightcap!

We kicked off the week with an irresistible competition to win some sustainable booze from our neighbours at Greensand Ridge Distillery. Henry highlighted a rare single grain bottling from the now-demolished Port Dundas in Glasgow, before shaking up some sherry and cassis with Alex Williams from the Great Scotland Yard Hotel for our Cocktail of the Week. On Tuesday, we welcomed a new writer to our blog, Lucy Britner, who looked at pre-mixed cocktails. Welcome Lucy! Annie had a busy week, she spoke to a company looking at distillation from a molecular point of view, and interviewed Ron Welsh master blender and strategic inventory manager for distilleries including Bowmore, Laphroaig and Auchentoshan. Finally, Adam got all excited about cocktail bundles, and who can blame him? That was the week, now on with the news!

Ardbeg and DJ BBQ team up for online grill sessions

This summer you can experience the thrill of the grill online as Ardbeg teams up with diffident TV cook DJ BBQ for the Ardbeg Smoke Sessions. DJ BBQ (aka Christian Stevenson) will be hosting a series of online classes showing whisky lovers how to up their grill game as well as making delicious smoky drinks using Ardbeg 10, An Oa and Wee Beastie. Joining him will be everyone’s favourite head of maturing whisky stocks, Brendan McCarron, aka DJ PPM. Mr BBQ commented: “My smoky barbeque recipes share so many characteristics with the flavours of Ardbeg whisky, and they complement each other perfectly. The laws of wood, heat and smoke are so important to barbecue and single malt alike, and once mastered, you’ll become a barbeque boss! The taste of braided beef fillet alongside an Ardbeg 10 Old Fashioned is just awesome, and a sip of hot Wee Beastie punch with a slow smoked pork shoulder is unrivalled!” The series launched on 21 July on Ardbeg’s social channels (you can watch the first episode here), and there will be a special Instagram Live event on Friday 24 July (tonight!) at 8pm BST. Furthermore, things will be happening in the real world too, as you can order DJ BBQ’s Maple and Bacon Old Fashioned via Mothership on the Drinks At Home platform. Looks smoking!

Lovely wine cask whiskies are just a phone call away

Glen Moray releases three wine cask whiskies

She’s been at it again. Dr Kirstie McCallum has clearly been having a whale of a time in the warehouses of Glen Moray since she joined the distillery as head of whisky creation in 2019. Earlier this year, it was a 2006 Madeira cask, and now there are three new single casks Distillery Editions available: a 2004 Chenin Blanc, a 2003 Chardonnay, and a 2004 Burgundy. All have been fully matured in wine casks and bottled at cask strength. The team at Master of Malt was given a wee taste, and not only did we love these distinctive whiskies, we were impressed with the very reasonable pricing, £85 a bottle. They would normally be available only from the distillery which reopened last week. But if you can’t make it, you might still be able to get your hands on a bottle. Just give them a ring. Visitor centre manager Iain Allan commented: “Buying a bottle of Glen Moray from our annual Distillery Edition is as much about the experience of a visit to the distillery as it is about buying a wonderful new whisky. For the many people who would normally make the trip and take away one of these special bottles, we wanted to find a way to make the range available but avoid making it just a basic transaction over email or the internet. Everyone working at the distillery enjoys nothing more than talking about whisky with fellow enthusiasts, answering questions and sharing behind the scenes stories of how Glen Moray is made.” So dial Glen Moray for a nice blether about whisky. 

Totally fabulous, darling

Harrods opens luxurious basement Baccarat Bar 

News just in: swanky basement bar has just opened in Harrods. Though wouldn’t it be more newsworthy if a dingy pub opened in the Knightsbridge department store instead, offering £2 a pint Wednesdays and wall-to-wall football? Anyway, Harrods went for the more obvious swanky option: the new venue has been created in partnership with Baccarat, the crystal glass maker. It’s called… The Baccarat Bar! With social distancing in place, there’s room for 23 guests only, so it’s pretty exclusive. The totally fabulous interior, a symphony in glass and marble, was created by Fabled Studio and is inspired by Baccarat’s creations. The menu, put together by bar manager Cameron Attfield, is no slouch either, with 16 signature drinks made using state of the art techniques. He commented: “We have approached the drinks in a unique manner, with the design of the bar and its playful yet exquisite elegance and form setting the tone of our menu, but then applying multiple flavour extraction techniques, including fermentation, vacuum distillation, ultrasonic homogenisation and carbonation to make it a reality.” Each drink comes in its own special glass. You can probably guess the manufacturer.

Al fresco drinking will be all the rage this summer

It’s going to be the summer of the garden party, says Bacardi

Top drinks company Bacardi commissioned a survey of Britain’s plans for summer drinking, and you won’t be surprised to learn that it involves being outside… a lot. Out of a survey group of 1,000, 39% said that they will be socialising outdoors more than last year. You’d think, though, that it would be more like 100%. Much of this al fresco frolicking will be taking place at home, with 71% planning on attending or hosting a garden party, and 44% preferring their own gardens to outdoor spaces at venues. So some way to go before Britain’s pub-going returns to normal. But 59% did say that an outdoor space would entice them back to a pub or restaurant with socially-distanced tables (57%), hand sanitiser at the bar (53%), and contactless payments (52%) all cited as important. And what will we be drinking this summer according to the survey? Happily for rum giant Bacardi, the answer seemed to be rum-based cocktails with the most popular being the Mojito and Piña Colada (both picked by 24%). Let’s hope the weather holds up.

Safe and snazzy: Boë Gin’s masks

Boë Gin gives away face masks as coverings become law in the UK

If you’re reading this in the UK you’ll know that as of today, it’s a legal requirement to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces, including shops, banks, and public transport hubs. There are a number of options, from the surgical to the homemade, if you’re one of the craftier among us. But if, like us, you’d rather someone else puts the leg work in, then look no further than Boë Gin! The Scottish producer is giving away snazzy reusable face coverings to bartenders and hospitality workers around the country. The purple masks feature a floral pattern inspired by the brand’s violet gin, and can be washed and reused. “We hope these face masks can help people look great and stay safe at the same time,” said Andrew Richardson, Boë director. “The stylish masks are designed to be worn regardless of the occasion – whether that’s a trip to the shops or working behind a bar making some of our delicious signature cocktails. As always, we encourage everyone to stay safe – even while they are enjoying themselves.” Taken by the masks? Head to the Boë site and to see how you can get your mitts on your own! 

Aberlour is one of four Chivas Brothers distilleries welcoming visitors back

The Glenlivet, Aberlour, Scapa and Strathisla get set to reopen

Wonderful news reaches us! And it will be especially welcome if you’re planning on a spot of Scotch whisky tourism this summer. Chivas Brothers has announced it will reopen four of its Scotch brand homes as lockdown eases in the UK! The Glenlivet, Aberlour and Scapa will throw open their (highly sanitised) doors on 29 July, with Strathisla allowing visitors back in from 7 August. Pre-booking online is essential, your temperature will be zapped on arrival, social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, and you should bring your own face mask (although there will be supplies on-hand if you forget yours. But face coverings are the new normal, people. Get with the times.). “After four challenging months, we’re delighted to be able to reopen the doors to our brand homes to give visitors the chance to safely enjoy our whiskies and the beautiful surroundings in Speyside and Orkney,” said Gordon Buist, Chivas Brothers production director. We have had substantial best-in-class Safe System of Work processes in place across all of our operational sites over the last few months, and we have been working closely with our local Speyside and Orkney communities to enable us to take significant steps in implementing these strict social distancing and sanitation measures in our visitor centres as well, ensuring we’re able to welcome visitors safely, protect our colleagues and neighbours, and support Scottish tourism. Whether a discerning drinker or discovering drams for the first time, the team and I look forward to welcoming visitors safely back to our homes to uncover more about our rich Scotch heritage.” We can’t wait to get back inside a distillery – just no sharing drams, obvs.

Avallen Calvados

Avallen’s on a £250k crowd-funding drive

Calvados brand Avallen kicks off Seedrs crowdfunding drive

Every so often, the chance to own a little bit of a booze brand comes along. If you’ve fancied yourself as the next Cameron Diaz or Post Malone but without the singing, we have news for you. As of this week, Calvados brand Avallen is looking for investors! The sustainability-focused brand launched in spring 2019 and it’s notched up more than 1,000 case sales since launch. The brand’s philosophy is all about creating planet-positive drinks that taste delicious – and now we can be part of it, too. Avallen’s founders are looking to raise £250,000 through crowdfunding platform Seedrs, with the funds put towards hiring sales and marketing directors, and securing carbon-neutral certification. Fancy splashing out? Head over to Seedrs and check it out!

Certainly presses our buttons

And finally… press a button for Jose Cuervo Tequila

The best thing about being rich is being able to press a button and get exactly what you want. Who hasn’t dreamed of being Mr Burns from The Simpsons who, at the touch of a button, can summon a team of top lawyers, a flight of winged monkeys, or drop his enemies down into a bottomless pit? No? Just us? Well, top Tequila brand Jose Cuervo is about to make someone’s button-based dreams come true, though sadly it doesn’t involve bottomless pits or winged monkeys. Just in time for National Tequila Day on Friday 24 July (as in, today!), the company is launching a competition to win a ‘Push for Tequila’ button. One lucky person will win a button and a year’s supply of Tequila (one bottle per month). Simply press the button, and a bottle of Tequila will be sent to you to enjoy with your friends (responsibly, natch). You can enter via Jose Cuervo’s UK Instagram @josecuervouk and Facebook pages. Good luck!

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