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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: bars

Cocktail of the Week: The Singapore Sling

This week’s cocktail was invented at one of the world’s great hotels, Raffles Hotel in Singapore.  Well, probably, the Singapore Sling has a convoluted and fascinating history as Lauren Eads…

This week’s cocktail was invented at one of the world’s great hotels, Raffles Hotel in Singapore.  Well, probably, the Singapore Sling has a convoluted and fascinating history as Lauren Eads finds out. 

There’s few cocktails more famous than the Singapore Sling. Born at the turn of the century in colonial Singapore, it screams frivolity with its luminous pink hue, foamy top, lemon slice (sometimes pineapple) and glacé cherry garnish. In the hands of some, it can be a dangerously garish cocktail that would be tacky if it weren’t such a classic. But there is method to its madness, amid a convoluted history.

The Raffles Hotel story

It’s widely reported that the Singapore Sling was created in 1915 (or thereabouts) by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon at Raffles Hotel in Singapore. At that time the hotel’s Long Bar had become a popular gathering spot, positioned near the newly improved rail and road systems that brought rubber and palm oil plantation owners over to Singapore from Malaya every weekend. So much so that it had become known as ‘the ‘Rendezvous of Planters’.

Men were a firm fixture, of course, but what’s more curious is a twist that would see the Singapore Sling intertwined with (some kind of) feminism. At the time, women were not allowed to consume alcohol in public. Instead they were reduced to drinking only juices and teas to “save their modesty”. What a drab way to spend an afternoon.

Raffles Singapore Sling

Where it all began, probably, Raffles Hotel in Singapore

A man ahead of his time

Tong Boon, who was either a feminist or a capitalist, saw an opportunity to create a beverage that appeared non-alcoholic (hence the juicy appearance and bright colour), but was actually infused with a kick of gin.

Today, Raffles lists the recipe as being made with gin, pineapple juice, lime juice, Triple Sec and Bénédictine D.O.M. Tong Boon is said to have added grenadine and cherry liqueur to turn the serve pink, supposedly chosen to give it a “feminine flair”. 

The clandestine cocktail became a hit with women and men alike, and so it is to this day. That’s how the Raffles story goes, but where cocktails lead, controversy often follows.

The Pink Sling

In 2011, journalist and cocktail historian David Wondrich found contradictions to the Raffles tale having trawled through old newspapers, unearthing references to ‘Slings’ throughout the late 1890s, twenty years before Tong Boon’s invention.

The Sling cocktail is well documented with origins in North America (spirit, soda water and sweetened with sugar). But he also unearthed references to ‘Pink Slings for pale people’ as early as 1903 – still a decade or so before Raffles lays claim to the pink drink.

By the time Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book was published we find three similar yet distinct cocktails; the Gin Sling, the Singapore Sling and the Straits Sling.

The Straits Sling is the closest to Tong Boon’s Singapore Sling, calling for gin, Benedictine, cherry brandy, lemon juice, angostura bitters and orange bitters, topped up with soda water. (The Straits Sling was also popularised by Robert Vermeire’s 1922 Cocktails and How to Mix Them, though his version called for clear kirschwasser and was not pink).  Craddock describes the Singapore Sling as dry gin, cherry brandy and lemon, topped with soda water, a minimalist version of both a Straits Sling and the Raffles’ Singapore Sling recipe.

Fear and loathing - Singapore Sling

Hunter S. Thompson (Johnny Depp) enjoying a Singapore Sling or two in the film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

So who added the grenadine?

But neither call for pineapple juice or grenadine like the Raffles’ ‘classic’ recipe. So, how did they come into the mix? Simon Difford from Difford’s Guide posits that they were added in the 1970s to appease a growing taste for sweeter, tiki-style drinks, while also making use of the abundance of pineapples in Singapore. This is a likely assumption – the Singapore Sling’s heyday was no doubt the ‘70s. 

Hedonist and literary legend Hunter S. Thomson might have helped raise its cool. Thought to be one of his favourite cocktails, he makes reference to a session of drinking Singapore Slings “with mescal on the side and beer chasers” in his 1971 classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (though admittedly Thompson referenced a lot of drinks throughout his literary career).

The Singapore Sling has had a confusing journey, full of mystery and misnomers. My take? Tong Boon’s drink most likely began as a Gin Sling at Raffles (sugar, gin, ice, topped up with soda), probably transformed into a Straits ‘pink’ Sling (with the addition of Benedictine, cherry brandy and bitters), and later gained the name ‘Singapore’, which had a more internationally-appealing ring to it. Pineapple and grenadine were completely arbitrary additions, which ironically is what most now associate with a Singapore Sling…

So, while variations exist, I see two closely related versions of this classic; the sweeter Raffles ‘Singapore Sling’, and the pared back drier ‘Straits Sling’. Here’s how to make them both.

Singapore Sling credit: Raffles Hotel

Singapore Sling credit: Raffles Hotel

Singapore Sling (according to Raffles Hotel)

30ml gin
15ml Heering cherry brandy liqueur
7.5ml Cointreau triple sec
7.5ml Benedictine D.O.M
15ml fresh lime juice
120ml pineapple juice
10ml grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Soda water

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a Hurricane (Sling) glass. Top up with soda and garnish with a lemon slice and cherry on a stick.

Straits Sling (according to Harry Craddock in 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, made for six)

4oz (120ml) dry gin
1oz (30ml) Benedictine D.O.M
1oz (30ml) cherry brandy
Juice of two lemons
1tsp Angostura bitters
1tsp orange bitters
Soda water

Shake well and strain into a glass. Top with soda water and ice.

 

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Celebrating our favourite bars for National Hospitality Day

The Drinks Trust, Hospitality Action, Licensed Trade Charity, and Springboard have come together to create National Hospitality Day. We think it’s a great idea, so we decided we’d shout about…

The Drinks Trust, Hospitality Action, Licensed Trade Charity, and Springboard have come together to create National Hospitality Day. We think it’s a great idea, so we decided we’d shout about some of our favourite establishments. 

Good news everyone, National Hospitality Day is on the horizon (18 September)! 

Ok, so you might not know what that is. In your defence, it is new. On Saturday the very first one launches as a nationwide celebration of pubs, bars, restaurants, operators, and suppliers in the UK. It was founded by four charities, The Drinks Trust, Hospitality Action, Licensed Trade Charity, and Springboard, to mark the resilience of an industry which has been brought to its knees by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. 

While they had a devastating effect on the industry, they did also serve as an invaluable reminder of how much richer our lives are for having great bars, pubs, restaurants, hotels, and more in them. No more taking our favourite destinations for granted. Now they’re back, they need our support to survive and National Hospitality Day is a chance to say “welcome back – we’ve missed you” and celebrate all that’s great about UK hospitality.

The charities behind the initiative are asking brands, distributors, bars, pubs, restaurants, or any operator up and down the land to pull out all the stops to come up with a fundraising and sponsorship activity. And we’re doing our bit by championing some of the fantastic venues at the heart of our communities. Here are some great destinations we think you should head to from various people throughout Master of Malt.

National Hospitality Day

You will not be disappointed

The Prince of Greenwich, London – Henry, features editor 

We stumbled upon this place in 2018 when we heard jazz music as we were walking up Royal Hill in Greenwich. We poked our heads in and the place was packed, so we were about to turn around and go home when we were collared by a jolly bearded man who greeted us like old friends, and somehow found space for my wife, daughter, and me to sit. Delicious pizzas on long wooden boards were going by so it seemed silly not to order one. The beer was nice, Harvey’s Best, and the house wine was tasty and Sicilian. The man who greeted us turned out to be Sicilian as well, Pietro la Rosa, and he ran the pub with his family. The whole room was stacked top to bottom with bric-a-brac including a lifesize plastic rhinoceros head sticking out of the wall. The music was great, and we ended up spending most of the afternoon there. Pietro brought over colouring books for our daughter. Since that day, we went at least once a month for the music, the pizza, a few drinks but mainly for the welcome. During lockdown, we avidly followed the Prince’s Instagram account, worried that Pietro was going to throw in the towel. Thankfully he didn’t and the place is as wonderful as ever. It’s the best pub in London, if not England, as far as I’m concerned.  Here’s to you Pietro, the Prince of Greenwich!

National Hospitality Day

London’s best-kept secret? It just might be.

The Discount Suit Company, London – Adam, writer

For one of the East Ends must-visit bars, it’s not exactly easy to find The Discount Suit Company. Down a narrow staircase past an unmarked black door and behind a heavy black curtain is a former suit tailor’s store room that was turned into a ridiculously cool London bar in January 2014. Stumble on in and you’ll be greeted by a blend of Northern soul and vintage rock’n’roll in a space that evokes its 1970’s suit shop heritage with original brickwork and low hanging ceiling rafters. A bar top chiseled from a large cutting table is the centrepiece, manned by a really friendly staff making delicious classic cocktails with minimum fuss. It was one of the first places I visited once we were all allowed to go to a bar properly again and the cosy atmosphere, quality drink and conversation with the bartenders really underlined just how much I missed it. If you’re looking for somewhere a little off the beaten track to settle back into the world of high-end cocktails without all the return-to-normality mayhem, this is the place.

National Hospitality Day

Old-school charm in the beautiful Sussex countryside. Perfect.

The Six Bells, Chiddingly, Sussex – Emily, marketing campaigns executive

What do you look for on a night out? If your answer is any of the following: cracking and varied live music acts, cheap and cheerful food served in big portions, a super friendly atmosphere, and/or plenty of cute reading nooks, then I haven’t found anywhere better than The Six Bells in Chiddingly, Sussex. In the heart of a quaint, but energetic village, there’s loads of great walks to go on in the area if you’ve eaten too much (which you probably will) and the pub is patronised by lots of charming locals who appreciate the no-fuss, old-school nature of the place. Some have been going there since the 70s, which says an awful lot about The Six Bells.

National Hospitality Day

The cocktail menu sounds too good to not give it a try, to be honest

Mother Mercy, Newcastle – Luke, UK market manager for Samson and Surrey

Mother Mercy is one of those places that just makes me happy. Housed in an intimate basement cocktail bar in the heart of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the bar managed to pull through lockdown with the help of 750ml bottled cocktails, which are full of fizz, full of flavour, and available for home delivery across the UK. Now that you can visit, however, you should check out the modern classic cocktails (think East 8 Hold Up, Espresso Martini, and Gin Basil Smash) as well as original creations like the Bananabread Punch, Marshmallow Fizz 2.0, and Pinwheel. All made with fresh ingredients, great spirits, and skill. Couple that with a hip-hop playlist, bring pink decor, and the friendliest staff in town… what’s not to love?! 

National Hospitality Day

A sight many of us here at MoM Towers are pleasantly familiar with

The Ragged Trousers, Tunbridge Wells (and more!) – Emma, content executive

A staple stop off on many a Master of Malt night out, The Ragged Trousers in Tunbridge Wells has been fully independent since opening its doors almost 16 years ago. Located on the historic Pantiles which, to be honest, was all looking a bit neglected before The Ragged came along – when a few local folk decided enough was enough and they needed a good, indie local pub. These days, you’ll struggle to find a seat on a sunny weekend, with exceptional food during the day, a well-procured list of wines, spirits, and guest beers, throw in some of the friendliest staff in town and their Spotify playlists and I’ll stay all day! An impressive testament to its popularity and success, the team behind the Ragged has expanded its franchise to include sister pubs The Sussex Arms which will forever hold a soft spot in my heart – great people, great music, a basement for gigs downstairs, fires in winter… check it out! And The George, which is up the hill (usually a no-no for someone based in downtown Tunbridge Wells), but does brew its own beer, making it an ideal safe haven for Pantiles people who have ventured to the dreaded “top of town”.

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Negroni Week: Seven twists on a classic

It’s finally here – Negroni Week (13-19 September) has officially begun. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up seven of the best twists out there and asked their creators for the inspiration…

It’s finally here – Negroni Week (13-19 September) has officially begun. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up seven of the best twists out there and asked their creators for the inspiration behind them. And you can get involved too – scroll to the bottom to learn about our Negroni Week competition. 

Count Camillo Negroni or General Pascal Oliver Comte de Negroni? Who invented the classic cocktail, the Negroni? It’s a question that has been posed by drinks historians, writers and Master of Malt’s own Henry Jeffreys with opposing – or non-committal – views.

What we do know though is that the vibrant, bitter aperitif – classically made using equal measures gin, vermouth and Campari – has been enjoying a prolonged revival in the UK since 2009. Step inside any bar or restaurant in the UK and you’d do well to find one that doesn’t serve a Negroni. 

Twelve years since the great Negroni revival and it shows no signs of waning. The Guardian called it “the cocktail of 2021” and you can even buy them ready-made in a bottle, a can or a pouch. And while we love the original, we thought we’d celebrate 2021’s Negroni Week, 13-19 September, with some of the best twists on the classic being served in bars across town.

From swapping gin for Tequila, infusing mixes with herbs and giving them a fruity component, we asked the makers and shakers for the story behind their creations. They even gave us the full recipes so you can try your hand at home*.

*Though some of them are pretty involved, so we’ve divided them up into ones to attempt and ones that should be left to the professionals. 

You’ve been warned.

Ones to try at home

Credit: Shots London

“Wanky” Negroni, FAM Bar

7.5ml Fords Gin
17.5ml Singani 63
25ml Londinio Aperitivo
12.5ml Punt e Mes
12.5ml Londinio Rosé Vermouth
15ml water

Build and serve over ice with an orange slice garnish.

“I wanted to play on the idea of the multiple ingredient “Wanky” Negroni and create something that actually wasn’t that wanky and satisfied both hardcore bitter drinks fans like myself and people just edging into that bitter realm with a twist on a Negroni that will fulfil both varying palates.” Tatjana Sendzimir, bar manager.

Sbagliato Carafe

Sbagliato carafe, Tayer + Elementary

200ml Campari
200ml Martini Rosso
200ml Pago de Tharsys cava (or another sparkling wine)

Combine all ingredients in a carafe with ice and share.

“We love it because it’s delicious, and it’s a fizzy and low-abv alternative.” Monica Berg, bar co-owner.

Nebula Negroni

Nebula Negroni, Nebula

25ml East London Liquor Gin
25ml Carpano Bitter
25ml Punt E Mes Sweet Vermouth

Combine ingredients and infuse with basil until you have the flavour you want. You can store it in a bottle. When serving, garnish with orange slice and basil leaf.

“At Nebula, we’re proud of our awesome pizzas, so we wanted to pay homage to their Italian birthplace and really cement the link with our Negronis by infusing our blend with dried basil. We use East London Liquor Co gin not just because it’s awesome, but because it’s made just down the road (neighbourhoods are the future!). We finish our blend with Carpano bitter and the powerfully herbaceous Punt E Mes vermouth, so all things sing together in a herby take on the classic that pairs perfectly with our pizzas.” Nate Brown, bar owner

Heads and Tails - Rose Negroni

Rosé Negroni, Heads + Tails

40ml La Vie en Rosé or another Provence rosé
20ml Lillet Rose Vermouth
15ml Campari

Stir down, strain into a rocks glass and garnish with grapefruit. 

“It’s a Negroni, in the south of France and it’s sunny. I made the drink for a festival in Nice where we needed a bitter drink that had a slightly lower abv yet had the feel of the area. Using a Campari to follow the brief but pull the bitterness for the beverage paired with a Provence rosé allowed for the elegance of the area. Finished off with slight fruity and aroma of Lillet Rose gave a Negroni that you could drink throughout the summer days at a festival.” Callum Dunne, bar manager 

Leave it to the professionals:

Pandan Negroni - Nomad

Pandan Negroni, Nomad Hotel

45ml Pandan-infused Tapatio Reposado Tequila
22.5ml Campari
22.5ml Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
15ml coconut water
7.5ml cold-brew coffee

Build in rocks glass with a large ice cube, stir and serve.

“The Pandan Negroni was created after we discovered how delicious Reposado Tequila incorporates with pandan [a herbaceous tropical plant]. The pandan brings out all the green aspects of the Tequila while enhancing the barrel spice notes and softening the acidity. The almond flavour coming from the leaf also plays off the coconut water, which is the only component which dilutes the cocktail, giving it more body and a rounder finish.” Pietro Collina, bar director.

Rhubarb & Tarragon Negroni..jpg RS

Rhubarb and Tarragon Negroni, Publiq

22.5ml Belvedere Heritage 176 malt spirit
2.5ml Tarragon-infused Sipsmith VJOP
25ml Rhubarb-cooked bitter blend
25ml Vermouth rosso blend
25ml Mineral water

Have all ingredients stored cold in the fridge. Pour all ingredients in a rock glass over an ice block. Garnish with an orange slice.

“When looking for a new flavour for our seasonal Negroni, rhubarb was at the peak of its flavour, with lovely fruity and earthy notes, making it an obvious choice for us. Tarragon, with its fresh menthol and anise aroma, brought freshness to this favourite of the summer.” Greg Almeida, bar co-owner.

LITTLE MERCIES FINAL JULY 2021 @lateef.photography-155

Passionfruit Negroni, Little Mercies

20ml passion fruit vermouth
20ml Victory house gin
12.5ml Campari
2.5ml passion berry vodka
0.08ml MSK passionfruit flavour drops

Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass with block ice and garnish with an orange wedge.

“We have had a house Negroni on our menu since the day we opened. We decided that we would make a sweet vermouth in house, from a seasonal fruit rather than from grapes. The passion fruit was the latest in the line of fruits we chose to work on, more as a challenge as they don’t contain much in the way of juice, and they are high in acid so hard to ferment. We actually ended up soaking the fruits in a mixture of water and sugar, and then letting that ferment. We also made an Oleo Saccharum with sugar and the spare fruit, so that ended up being the sweetness in the vermouth. We also add a passion berry infusion to this Negroni, as it brings some extra complexity and aroma that ties nicely to passionfruit.” Alan Sherwood, bar owner.

Show us your Negroni with a twist recipe, for a chance to win a Jaffa Cake Gin Negroni bundle! Post a video or image on your Instagram feed (not Instagram Story), showcasing your creative “Negroni with a twist” cocktail recipe; and include the hashtag #momnegronitwist (so we can locate your entry)!  Comp opens 12:00:00 BST on 13 September 2021 and closes at 23:59:59 BST on 26 September 2021. Full T&Cs below. Open to 18+ or legal drinking age only. The best and most creative entry wins.

 

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Shannon Tebay: an American at the American Bar

Last month the American Bar at the Savoy in London welcomed its first ever real actual American head bartender, Shannon Tebay, formerly of Death & Co. in New York. We took…

Last month the American Bar at the Savoy in London welcomed its first ever real actual American head bartender, Shannon Tebay, formerly of Death & Co. in New York. We took some time with her to find out how she’s enjoying one of the most high profile jobs in the business.

Dill and coconut. Passionfruit and fennel. Carrot eau de vie? These are some of the flavour combinations set to appear (word has it) on the new cocktail menu at The Savoy’s American Bar in London.

The iconic bar first opened its doors in the 1890s and was one of the first places to introduce American-style cocktails to Europe. Famous patrons include Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill. While head bartender Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, has been a bartending bible for nearly a century.

An American at the American Bar

After a temporary closure it is finally set to reopen this month (walk-ins only) and with a new head bartender at the helm: Shannon Tebay. She brings with her a decade’s worth of experience bartending in New York, including seven at one of the city’s must-go cocktail bars, Death & Co.

Yes, she’s an American and a woman; the first American to ever hold the title and only the second woman since the inimitable Ada Coleman, who filled the role from 1903-1926. She’s also an acclaimed bartender with a penchant for painting and pastry who is crazy about coconuts.

Shannon Tebay

An American at the American Bar, whatever next?

Precision and consistency

Tebay, originally from New Mexico, first moved to New York in 2010 to pursue a masters degree in painting and drawing but instead fell in love with the epicurean delights of the city. No sooner had she put down her paint brush, she picked up a palette knife, signing up for a course in French pastry at the French Culinary institute. While studying pastry she took a serving job at the Death & Co. cocktail bar. Ultimately, the allure of mixology proved too great and, realising the parallels between the two crafts, decided to pursue a career in cocktails.

“People often ask me if I use my pastry skills in cocktails. I think they picture me brulée-ing drinks but that’s not really the case. What I apply is the craft of precision and consistency, because it comes down to chemistry for it to be successful.”

In 2012 she left Death & Co. to join one of its original bartenders, Joaquín Simó, on the opening of his own bar, Pouring Ribbons. Tebay became head bartender and later general manager. It was during this time that she perfected The Faultline – a Negroni variation comprising aquavit, sweet vermouth, amaro and carrot eau de vie. She later returned to Death & Co., rising to head bartender.

Her approach to cocktails is one of minimalism, working to find ways to “do more with less”, being innovative and taking away “necessary bells and whistles”. That’s evident in her own choice of favourite cocktail (Gin Martini with a lemon twist, if you are curious). So don’t expect any elaborate garnishes.

“I think it requires more creativity to come up with an idea that’s new and unusual using ingredients directly out of the bottle and letting the flavour speak for itself, rather than doll it up with unnecessary elements. I’ve had cocktails where the presentation is elaborate but the drink falls flat. First of all the drink has to be delicious, and then we can build on that, rather than the other way around,” she explained.

Nuts about coconut

So, what can we expect from the American Bar’s new menu? Tebay’s minimalistic approach will be evident, as well as a few signature ingredients that are never far from her reach.

“I like to combine unexpected pairings between fruity and savoury or fruity and herbal. For example coconut and dill is a combo I love, passionfruit and fennel are great together too. I gravitate towards combos that on the surface seem surprising but have an unexpected harmony. I’m always going to have a bottle of pear eau de vie within arms reach. I use it in a lot of things and I adore it on it’s own. And I love love love coconut in any form, coconut liqueur, coconut cream, toasted coconut,” she said.

One of Tebay’s signature drinks is the Catamaran, a gin-based coconut cocktail crafted for Death & Co. It calls for a combination of Bimini  gin and navy strength gin, Aperol, Don’s Mix (a blend of two parts grapefruit juice and one part cinnamon-infused simple syrup), Coco Lopez (cream coconut) and lemon juice, served over crushed ice. Essentially a Grapefruit Colada, she explains.

American Bar at the Savoy

But will she be upstaged by the carpets?

No one should ever feel unwelcome at a bar

She’s also adamant that the new menu will be approachable and innovative, stamping out any pretentiousness, paying homage to the bar’s history but paving the way for a new generation of clientele and staff. This includes a modernisation of bartending culture, with Tebay placing particular emphasis on sustainability and building a diverse workforce.

“The fact is no one should ever feel unwelcome at a bar – it doesn’t matter if it’s a dive bar or the fanciest cocktail bar in the world. I want the menu to reflect that. I want it to be approachable yet interesting and the cocktails delicious but not off-putting in their construction or concept,” she said.

The magnitude of the role she’s taking on is not lost on Tebay. How is she feeling about joining one of the most historic bars in London? “You can pick any emotion and I’m feeling it – I am absolutely all of it. Excited, nervous, honoured, humbled and terrified. I know the anticipation for the reopening of the bar is high, and I want to make sure that when we reopen we are delivering at the standard people expect,” she said.

The American Bar is a revered cocktail institution so steeped in history and grandeur that it can seem intimidating. This feels like a new chapter – one that’s starting with a fresh, female and (for the first time) an American, lead. And that’s pretty exciting.

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Cocktails in the City celebrates its 10th birthday

Cocktails in the City celebrates its 10th birthday this year with an event 20/21 August at Bedford Square Gardens in London. We talk to founder Andrew Scutts about putting on…

Cocktails in the City celebrates its 10th birthday this year with an event 20/21 August at Bedford Square Gardens in London. We talk to founder Andrew Scutts about putting on a festival in a big city, weathering Covid, and the future of cocktails.

During the upheavals of 2020/1, for some businesses the difference between trading and bankruptcy was having a sympathetic landlord. According to Andrew Scutts, founder of Cocktails in the City: “the reason we could get back on our feet was with the help of Bedford Estates, they changed our payment structure.” The group that owns a large chunk of Bloomsbury saw the value in attracting people safely back to central London.

Scutts managed to put on an outdoor Cocktails in the City event in Bedford Square Gardens in September last year to raise money for the hospitality industry. This was followed up by three ‘Summer Series’ events this year in June, July and now this 20/21 August. Overall this summer’s activities will feature around 50 bars serving over over 7,000 visitors.

Andrew Scutts

Fun for all the family, Andrew Scutts is on the left

The ultimate cocktail festival

Running from 12 noon to 10pm this Friday and Saturday, it’s billed as ‘The Ultimate Cocktail Festival.’ Indeed, Scutts sees Cocktails in the City as offering all the fun of a music festival, dancing, music and partying, but without the drawbacks like crap drinks, camping, and dodgy toilets. “And you can get the tube home at the end of the night,” he said.

Scutts is clearly passionate about bars and drinks, and yet what he originally wanted to be was… a PE teacher! Yes, really. That was the plan following a degree in sports science at Birmingham University. And you can see, even via Zoom, that unlike some of us in the drinks industry, he still takes his fitness seriously.

Following a stint working at Mint Leaf in London, he planned to do his PGCE teacher training but he had to go home to Newcastle when his father became ill. So while he was there he got in touch with Blackwoods Gin who he knew from his time behind the bar and suggested that he become the firm’s North East rep.

A bar show with a difference

From there, all thoughts of the Adidas tracksuit and whistle were forgotten, as he moved back to London in 2003 to continue working in bars. It was at the mammoth Bar Show at Olympia that he had the idea for creating a small scale independent version. 

The Boutique Bar Show was born in 2005. The ethos was that every brand had a stand the same size so “the liquid took centre stage, not marketing spend,” Scutts said. Brands such as Sipsmith, Chase and Maverick Drinks were involved from the start.

Cocktails in the City

It’s the lads from Trailer Happiness who appeared at CitC this summer

Why not put on an event for consumers?

It was a trade-only show but Scutts had a brainwave: he had a venue and he had dozens of bartenders in town, why not put on an event for customers? So Cocktails in the City was born where “bars and brands would stand shoulder to shoulder and speak directly to consumers,” Scutts said. The first one took place in the grandeur of the Manchester Town Hall in 2011, followed by an Edinburgh event. The first London one was in 2014. 

According to Scutts, it proved a much better business model than the Boutique Bar Show (which he hasn’t put on for two years), and has run in different venues around the country ever since. This year, however, he is “playing it safe” and just putting events on in one venue, Bedford Square Gardens in London.

This Friday and Saturday’s event includes such famous bars as Callooh Callay, London Cocktail Club and the Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel. Scutts is particularly excited about a bar that hasn’t even opened yet called Boiler & Co, coming soon on Bankside, which will be working with Johnnie Walker on cocktails. This includes a delicious-sounding Rockstar Martini, a whisky-based riff on the Pornstar Martini, whose inventor Douglas Ankrah sadly died this week.

Rockstar Martini - Cocktails in the City

It’s a Rockstar Martini!

Every cloud

Finally, I asked Scutts how Covid has changed the hospitality trade. Apparently, it’s not all been negative in the way it has changed customer behaviour. People are now far more used to “booking ahead so operators know how many people will be coming through the business,” he said

It has also changed the theatre of cocktails with more action happening at the table rather than the bar, where cocktails are increasingly batched. Plus he thinks the “massive move to drinks at home” will continue. During the Pandemic, he launched his own range of batched cocktails so you can get the bar experience at home.

As good as these may be, it’s much more fun to go out. So, “fingers crossed for the weather,” Scutts said, though surely it wouldn’t be the ultimate cocktail festival without a classic Glastonbury downpour.

To buy tickets go here.

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The Nightcap: 13 August

Jameson adds some more flavour to its range, Código 1530 releases one of the most expensive Tequilas in the world, and there’s bubbly panic among the NYC elite. The Nightcap…

Jameson adds some more flavour to its range, Código 1530 releases one of the most expensive Tequilas in the world, and there’s bubbly panic among the NYC elite. The Nightcap returns!

It’s Friday! This is very good news. But it’s also Friday the 13th, which is less so. Bad luck, you see. If you’re not familiar with this, according to Western superstition every Friday that falls on the 13th of a month is considered a cursed day. Why? All kinds of nonsense reasons. It’s a superstition. Black cats are considered evil too. And that can’t be right. Because cats are excellent. We all know this. Still, if you are wary of the dreaded day, then perhaps you’ll enjoy the safe and familiar ramblings of The Nightcap. No harm can come to you just reading a boozy blog… right? 

The MoM blog was home to all kinds of wonderful content once again, like Ian Buxton’s review of the intriguing new book Drunk by Edward Slingerland, or the journey through shochu our in-house educator Richard Legg’s took us on, or Millie’s look at the seven new international bars that are giving us the travel bug. Elsewhere, Henry enjoyed a rare Balvenie, the simple pleasures of the Highball and an outrageously old Port, while Adam recommended some interesting cask-finished whiskies and celebrated a drinks brand making a difference on World Elephant Day. Oh, and we’re hiring if anyone fancies working for the greatest company in the world. We have t-shirts (sometimes). 

Now on with the Nightcap: 13 August edition!

The Nightcap: 13 August

Look! It’s Jameson Orange. Just like actual Jameson. But with orange.

Jameson introduces orange whiskey

The world’s biggest Irish whiskey is introducing a new flavoured bottling Jameson Orange (at 30%), which combines Irish Distillers’ classic expression with natural orange flavouring. The intention was to make a modern, low sugar and still whiskey-focused twist that exploits the popularity of flavoured whiskeys and spirits as well as building on the success of Jameson Cold Brew. “The concept behind Jameson Orange was to create a product which would appeal to a growing audience of flavoured spirits fans, that draws on the quality and integrity of our award-winning triple distilled Irish whiskey,” says Brendan Buckley, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “Jameson Orange’s flavours are inspired by a classic whiskey cocktail, and we’re confident that this focus on taste and quality will appeal to a broad audience of whiskey fans, bartenders, and curious spirit drinkers.” Jameson Orange will be on its way to MoM Towers soon, while a second flavour variant, Jameson Lime & Ginger, inspired by the signature Jameson serve, will follow soon after. 

The Nightcap: 13 August

At $3,300 a bottle, this is one of the most pricey Tequilas we’ve ever seen

Código 1530 releases one of the most expensive Tequilas in the world

Código 1530 is no stranger to extravagant Tequilas (check out this Extra Añejo!), but the brand has really outdone itself with its latest expression. The new release has a price tag of $3,300 a bottle, making it one of the most expensive Tequilas on the market. And with only 350 bottles of the spirit available, it’s also one of the rarest. Why is it so special? Well for a start it’s a 13-year-old extra añejo Tequila, which is remarkably old. Most añejos on the market are matured for one-to-three years and the aforementioned Extra Añejo spent six years in cask, which would typically be seen as a huge amount of time. This bottling, however, blows it out of the water. Plus, it was finished for six months in a Cognac cask, which again is not common and certainly not the cheapest way to mature your Tequila. Federico Vaughan summarised the bottling by saying “our 13-year Añejo is in its own category”. It was bottled with no other sugars, colours or flavourings, and the tasting notes tell us to expect sweet vanilla with cocoa powder and cinnamon, followed by earthy peat and exotic spices. Bottles will be available through Código 1530’s website but it’s a shame so few will get to taste it. That’s the world of rare and pricey booze for you. You can at least head to the distillery page and pick up another Añejo to get an idea of what you’re missing.

The Nightcap: 13 August

Max Macfarlane’s expertise will be put to good use in the new venture

Distil invests £5m into new Ardgowan Distillery 

Distil UK (not to be confused with Distell) has announced that it will be investing up to £5m into the new eco-friendly Ardgowan Distillery in Inverkip, Scotland, which hopes to be producing spirit in 2023, as well as welcoming tourists. The owner of premium drinks brands including RedLeg Spiced Rum, Blackwoods Gin, and newly launched TRØVE Botanical Spirit, will provide an initial tranche of £3m, with the potential of an additional loan of up to £2m to follow. The investment will see Distil build a permanent home for Blackwoods Scottish Gin on the site, including stills, a gin school, and visitor centre, while the company will also gain access to Ardgowan’s master whisky maker, Max Macfarlane (formerly of Highland Park, Glengoyne, Bunnahabhain, and Tamdhu fame), to develop a separate Distil blended malt whisky brand yet to be revealed. Martin McAdam, CEO Ardgowan Distillery, says “We welcome this investment and are excited that Distil has chosen Ardgowan as the home for Blackwoods Gin. The Distil team is knowledgeable, passionate and very much aligned with our vision for the project. We welcome their investment and look forward to working together in an ongoing partnership to help both sides achieve ambitious goals.”

The Nightcap: 13 August

We’re impressed by what we’ve seen from Torabhaig so far

Torabhaig Distillery releases second single malt

Torabhaig Distillery is all set to release the second expression from its Legacy Series of single malt Scotch whiskies. Following the sold-out success of the first ever expression from Torabhaig Distillery in February this year, Legacy Series 2017, the second expression of Torabhaig single malt will be Allt Gleann – The Legacy Series. Named after the burn (stream) that flows down the side of the distillery in Teangue on the Isle of Skye, this eagerly-awaited release will be bottled in small batches at 46%, and drawn from no more than 30 casks. Allt Gleann is the second of four expressions to be released under the Torabhaig Legacy Series, which will chart the process of developing the style and character of the eventual core bottling, Torabhaig Single Malt Whisky 10 Year Old, due to be released in 2028. For those who missed out on the first expression, Allt Gleann will be released in larger quantities, in four separate batches throughout 2021 and 2022. Neil Mathieson, chief executive at Mossburn Distillers, told us after the first launch that the “next two releases are looking like they will be heavier in peat” and that’s certainly the case with this one, which is more robust and full-bodied than the first expression. The fruity new make character is still present too, and it’s another promising dram that suggests this is a distillery worth keeping an eye on.

The Nightcap: 13 August

The first round is on the good folk of Inverness it seems!

How cheap is your city’s pint? Study reveals all

Holidu.co.uk has released a study about the price of beer in a number of UK cities and popular holiday destinations for Brits. Inspired by the desire to give travellers as much information as possible, the search engine for holiday rentals set out to establish how much a pint of beer costs at home and abroad. It compared beer prices in top rated UK pubs, capturing both ends of the UK market by studying the price of beer in top-rated pubs and Wetherspoons pubs to give insight into how much a tourist is likely to pay compared to a local. To view the results and full methodology of the study just here, but these are the headlines: London is really expensive. Shocking. In fact, the top three most expensive are London (£4.50), Edinburgh (£4.40) and Birmingham (£4.40), which is pretty much what you’d expect. On average, the cheapest place to buy a pint of beer in the UK is Inverness (£3.10), followed by Swansea (£3.60) and Glasgow (£3.70). Book your staycations accordingly. Of course, if you did want to venture abroad, avoid Dubai (£10.00) or Sydney (£6.50) and instead head to Krakow (£1.30) or Bali (£1.60), as the study worked out the cost in the top 50 tourist destinations for Brits as well. So, assuming you’re basing holiday destinations on beer prices, you’re now good to go. Which is what we all do. Right? 

The Nightcap: 13 August

Can this combo fail? No. No it cannot.

Dewar’s Highballs and Truffle burgers? Yes, please!

If there’s two things we love at Master of Malt, they are Highballs and burgers. So as you can imagine we were pretty excited to hear about a partnership between Dewar’s and fancy London burger joint Truffle. The special Dewar’s X Truffle London menu runs from 19-21 August at Truffle London Soho (go here to book). It features delicious Highballs created by Mark Low from Mr Lyan Studio using Dewar’s new Caribbean Smooth and Ilegal Smooth whiskies, alongside delicious meaty hamburgers. For example, a Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth Highball, made with Ilegal mezcal cask whisky, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur and soda, goes with Truffle London classic burger, “a classic beef & smoked bacon patty in a brioche bun, topped with sweet fig jam, crispy onions, gooey raclette cheese and smothered in their favourite truffle mayonnaise”, according to the press release. Isn’t your mouth watering just thinking about this? But what’s even better is prices start from £10 for a burger and a Highball. We are so there. 

The Nightcap: 13 August

Get your tickets now!

Pergola Paddington to host Oktoberfest celebration: Wunderbar!

Who’s in need of a good horn-blaring, stein-sloshing Bavarian knees up? Everyone? Great, because West London’s largest alfresco drinking and dining destination will be transformed into a beer hall reminiscent of those on the Theresienwiese in Munich, serving up real German beers, delicious Bavarian food, and a hearty helping of ‘Gemütlichkeit’ in celebration of Oktoberfest. Tonight (well, for six weeks), Matthew, Pergola Paddington will be Wunderbar, a spin on the traditional festival. Expect live DJ sets, a Bavarian Oom-pah band, ‘Wunderbrunch’ bottomless brunches, gingerbread house building, a ‘Pink’ LGBT+ Oktoberfest party, as well as the chance to be crowned Beer King & Queen of Wunderbar, with a prize of free beer for a year. Pergola Paddington has even teamed up with Camden Town Brewery to create an exclusive Oktoberfest Lager which will only be available at Wunderbar for a limited time only. Wunderbar will run from 18 September – 31 October. Tickets, which start from £10 and include a stein of beer or a beer cocktail, are now available here. It’s recommended you book in advance, particularly as we might do a big MoM office outing…  Now, where are my lederhosen?

The Nightcap: 13 August

Congratulations to you, Lorenza!

Lorenza Pezzetta takes over at the Artesian 

It’s all go in London’s most prestigious hotel bars. Last week the American Bar at The Savoy announced a new head bartender, an actual American, Shannon Tebay. Now the much-garlanded Artesian Bar at the Langham has a new lady in charge, Lorenza Pezzetta. She joins the Artesian, consistently in World’s 50 Best, from a spell working in private members clubs including the legendary Annabel’s. Originally from Italy, she has worked at Cipriani Downtown Ibiza, The Berkeley, and The Connaught Bar before taking the role of bar manager at Artesian. “It is such an honour to be joining the team at Artesian, not only an iconic bar but part of Langham Hotels & Resorts, a hospitality brand I have always admired. Artesian is the perfect place for me to home in on my experience and bring the knowledge I have acquired whilst working at London’s most prestigious private members clubs and five-star establishments. It’s quite easy to see why the bar is beloved by all, it’s a privilege to be a part of such an incredible team, to be part of Artesian’s next chapter and most importantly to welcome guests back in!”, she commented.

The Nightcap: 13 August

The sun sets on a troubled Hampton Beach. You’re in our thoughts and prayers.

And finally… Panic among NYC elite as Hamptons runs out of Champagne 

The Hamptons are the playground for New York’s elite. Think Saint Tropez, Ibiza and Southwold all rolled into one. But there’s panic on the immaculate beaches because there’s a shortage of Champagne. Yes, according to The New York Post, desperate millionaires and billionaires are having to make do with Prosecco or even cava! Ian Duke from Southampton Social Club said: “The most popular nightclub items —  the high-end champagnes from Moet Chandon or Dom Perignon —  can’t be found.” How are people meant to live without such staples? Another club owner Zach Erdem is using his private plane to fly in Champagne for his wife’s birthday party. Inevitably, some are blaming Covid but this isn’t the first wine shortage to hit the Hamptons, those with long memories will remember the two Great Rosé Crises of 2012 and 2014. America’s elite is nothing if not resilient, however. They pulled through then, and they’ll pull through again. 

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The seven new international bars giving us wanderlust

As the world begins to reopen for travel, we’ve scouted out some of the new bars that are opening abroad to add to our bucket lists – when we can…

As the world begins to reopen for travel, we’ve scouted out some of the new bars that are opening abroad to add to our bucket lists – when we can finally visit them. Here are seven new international bars with mouthwatering menus. 

Is it just me or is your Instagram feed currently full of other people jetting off to far-flung places for their first dose of international travel in the last 18 months? #Outofofficeon has never been more triggering. There has also been a slew of bar openings around the world as their respective homes have reopened for tourists and locals alike.

From Barcelona to Hong Kong, Madrid to Singapore, our favourite holiday spots have just added some new spots to bar fans’ bucket lists. And while we’ve had some exciting new additions to the drinking scene here at home, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited to get off British soil. Green, amber or red list (vaccine passports or no), we’ve rounded up some of the best you should visit when you can.

Fat Schmucks, Barcelona

Long drinks are the speciality at Fat Schmucks, Barcelona

Fat Schmuck, Barcelona

From the award-winning team behind Two Schmuck (which sits just two doors down) is Fat Schmuck, a new all-day restaurant and bar serving American food with pan-Asian influences and long drinks. Originally a six-month pop up, this now permanent new destination venue will give fans of Two Schmuck’s stirred down and classic cocktails something a bit different, with long drinks and spritzes taking centre stage, alongside 12 cocktails on tap.

We like the sound of the Not a Paloma: a carbonated cocktail built around buttered Tequila, mezcal, pear eau-de-vie and grapefruit with a rim of seasoned tajin (a well-known Mexican condiment comprising mainly lime, chilli and salt). Judging by the antics at the venue a couple of weeks ago (Flamenco dancers, seafood-strewn tables and Mariachi bands) Fat Schmuck is going to go off!

ARGO - Yvonne Chan, head bartender mood

Yvonne Chan, head bartender at Argo

Argo, Hong Kong

Behold: the ground floor of Hong Kong’s Four Seasons has a new drinking hole in place of its Blue Bar. Argo – headed up by Lorenzo Antinori whose previous tenures have included Dandelyan and the American Bar at The Savoy – looks over the city’s Victoria Harbour and takes its name from the ship that appears in the Jason and the Argonauts myth on the hunt for the Golden Fleece. That sense of discovery is mirrored by the drinks menu which offers spirits flights, bottlings that have never been seen before in Hong Kong, as well as the bar’s own gin and the world’s first AI-produced gin too.

Drinkers will discover some intriguing homemade ingredients in their cocktails too: think Longan shell & ivy leaf tea, sake lees cream and aged rice. Our pick of the bunch? Holy Grains which comprises Mackintosh whisky, sake lees cream, fried peanuts, tumugi koji and banana. Amen.

Isa, Madrid

Another country, another Four Seasons, this time the hotel group’s new outpost in Madrid where gastrobar Isa is soon to open. Managing the bar will be Sophie Larrouture, a bartender from Paris who, during a stint in Switzerland, was named the countries Best Bartender of the Year in 2016 at Diageo’s World Class competition.

While you wait for Isa to open (and we wait for more intel on the cocktail offering) the hotel’s El Patio and Dani dining spots are already turning out inventive drinks offerings like vermouths straight from the barrel as well as Madrid-inspired cocktails: La Mariblanca pays homage to the goddess Venus who is a symbol in the city and combines Verdejo white wine, Ketel One vodka, Italicus, Appletizer, Chinchon and Supasawa.

Drinks at Philomena in New York

Drinks at Philomena’s in New York

Philomena’s, New York City

Speciality ice is the order of the day at this new Williamsburg joint (see photo in header) from brothers Kyle and Sean O’Brien. And they won’t just be carving them beautifully – they’re infusing them too. Its namesake cocktail, the Philomena, features a watermelon-rose ice cube in Prosecco; then there’s the Felix with a cucumber, lime and tajin (there it is again) ice cube in mezcal and expressed orange; while the Aileen sees a habanero ice cube in Tequila blanco, guava, lime and Cointreau.

Dean & Nancy, Sydney

From the brains behind everyone’s favourite Maybe Sammy, comes Dean & Nancy atop Sydney’s new A by Adina hotel. Mid-century surrounds are juxtaposed with playful cocktails. Guests who pick the Rolling a Double (Havana 3, pineapple shrub, coconut water and rum Agricole) will be given a pair of dice – roll, you guessed it, a double and they’ll get a complimentary glass of Champagne. 

For a more sensory experience, the Coffee Champagne (Mr Black, vodka, peach wine, vanilla, orange blossom and Champagne) comes with a vanilla and coffee-infused hand cream meaning drinker will get a hit of its aroma with every raise of the glass. We also like the sound of the mini food and drink combos, specifically the mini vodka Martini and oyster nam jim (a spicy chilli, garlic and ginger dressing).

The Fed

The Fed is inspired by the great British pub, apparently

The Fed, Boston

There’s a new British pub-inspired drinking destination at Boston’s The Langham. The Fed mixes British pub touches with New England influences on the hotel’s ground floor, although those more familiar with an actual British pub may not see it reflected in the slick and marble-topped bar that dominates this new space.

There is (unsurprisingly) a strong draught beer selection, from Harpoon Irish Stout and Cambridge Brewing Company’s Flower Child to a Von Trapp Bohemian Pilsner, while cocktails include Spice Up Your Life which mixes tequila with cardamom, passionfruit and lemon and Deja-Brew with vodka, green tea, blueberry and lemon.

Firangi Superstar, Singapore

This new Indian restaurant in Singapore has been gaining traction with foodies but its drinks menu has also caught our eye. Showcasing some of Indian cuisine’s most popular flavours, the 12 cocktails at Firangi explore twists on traditional mango lassis, play with flavours of chai and experiment with spices, while also explaining cocktail strength and the drinking vessel guests can expect their libations to arrive in.

The Chai Masala Milk Punch stands out, with vodka, gin, chai masala, lemon, pineapple, coconut water and milk; while the Saffron Vodka Sour sounds simple but complex, combining saffron vodka, peach, lemon and jaggery.

 

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The ten best bitter liqueurs

Amari (plural of amaro) are traditional Italian bitter liqueurs. The most famous being Campari. But they’re not just made in Italy, Britain, Denmark, Germany, America and others all make delicious…

Amari (plural of amaro) are traditional Italian bitter liqueurs. The most famous being Campari. But they’re not just made in Italy, Britain, Denmark, Germany, America and others all make delicious bitter concoctions. So we thought it would be a good idea to round up the ten best bitter liqueurs from Italy and beyond!

Italians love bitterness. You can taste it in the coffee, in the wine (there’s a Puglian grape called negroamaro – black and bitter) and, most notably, in a class of liqueurs called Amari, meaning ‘bitter’. They are made all over the peninsula by steeping herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables in alcohol, then sweetening and diluting the concoction. The best known is Campari but each part of Italy has its own amaro, like Fernet Branca from Milan, or Amaro Montenegro from Bologna. These brands have their roots in the 19th century, though Italian families and monasteries have been making versions for much longer. 

Until recently, they were seen as a bit old-fashioned, the sort of things drunk by old men in cafes alongside an espresso. But in recent years they have become fashionable with bartenders all over the world. This has inspired people outside Italy to make their own. There are now a number of boutique producers in America, Britain and other countries. Plus countries in central and northern Europe also have their own bitter liquor traditions. 

Amari balance their high levels of bitterness with sugar and alcohol, which varies between 16.5% ABV for Cynar and 39% ABV for Fernet Branca. The mighty Fernet is also the bitterest of the big names. So what should I do with these fearsome concoctions? We’ve got some cocktail suggestions below.

So, here are the ten best bitter liqueurs:

Home bar essentials

Campari

The king of Amari! No home should be without a bottle. Campari was invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari (you can read the full story here). It used to get its famous red colour from cochineal beetles but no longer, so it’s suitable for vegetarians. I like to drink it simply with ice, soda and a slice of orange but for many, a Negroni simply isn’t a Negroni without Campari.

ten best bitter liqueurs

Stambecco Maraschino Cherry Amaro

From Stambecco comes this classic Italian amaro liqueur! Maraschino cherries are the star here, along with sweet and bitter oranges, spices, herbs and wormwood among the 30 botanicals used. But despite being made from cherries, the flavour is closer to almond so this would make a great less sweet alternative to Amaretto especially shaken with lemon juice and an egg white to make a Fizz. 

ten best bitter liqueurs

Gammel Dansk Bitter Dram

Central and northern Europe also have a long tradition of making bitter highly-flavoured liqueurs. This one means ‘Old Danish’ and it blends star anise, nutmeg, ginger, laurel, gentian, Seville orange, cinnamon and others to create something like a less sweet Jägermeister. The Danes drink it to keep out the chill north wind, but in warmer months it makes a great digestif alongside an espresso.

ten best bitter liqueurs

Asterley Bros. Britannica London Fernet

The Asterley Bros. have been hard at work in South London creating Britannica Fernet, a bitter spirit made with 14 botanicals including roasted hazelnuts, cacao nibs, rosemary, chocolate malt myrrh and even London Porter. Although bitter, this liqueur is full of approachable notes and is ideal for sipping neat as a digestif, or as a complex addition to cocktails such as the Hanky Panky.

ten best bitter liqueurs

Sweetdram Whisky Amaro

This is made with a whisky base consisting of two single malts, Ardmore from first-fill bourbon casks, and Invergordon matured in refill sherry casks, blended with single grain from the North British distillery aged in virgin oak casks. The Sweetdram team then infuses the base with allspice, hibiscus, coriander, lovage, kola, quassia, rhubarb, lemon and lingonberry, and sweetens it with honey from Sussex and Edinburgh. Pretty cool, eh?

Italian bitter liqueurs

Martini Riserva Bitter

This is delicate and orangey, though with plenty of bitterness. The flavour profile is somewhere between Aperol and Campari. Ingredients include saffron, angostura, columba, Italian artemisia and more (including cochineal to give it the traditional ruby hue). It makes a cracking Americano: equal measures of Riserva Bitter and Martini Riserva Ambrato vermouth, ice, orange and splash of soda. Class. 

ten best bitter liqueurs

Mondino Amaro

And amaro from Germany? You better believe it. Mondino Amaro is made in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps to a classic recipe that includes bitter orange, rhubarb and yellow gentian, among other locally sourced ingredients. It makes a mighty fine Spritz, but it wouldn’t look out of place in a Negroni or served with tonic water and a slice of orange.

Italian bitter liqueurs

Sacred Rosehip Cup

Made by Sacred in Highgate in London, Sacred Rosehip Cup was designed as a punchy alternative to Pimm’s but it works equally well as a thoroughly English Campari substitute. The bitterness comes from rosehips, rhubarb and ginger. Sacred suggests mixing one part Rosehip Cup to three parts sparkling wine or Champagne, although soda can also be used. Alternatively, mix it with gin and vermouth for a British-accented Negroni.

Italian bitter liqueurs

Fernet Branca

The mighty Fernet Branca! A cult drink among bartenders, this is probably the bitterest thing known to humanity. It’s so bitter that it’s unlikely to topple Campari as most people’s Amari of choice. Then again, some people love it: Fernet and Coca-Cola is the national drink of Argentina. But the world capital of Fernet consumption is San Francisco, California.

ten best bitter liqueurs

Select Aperitivo

Aperol and Campari might be better known, but you can’t beat a drop of Select Aperitivo when you want some Italian magic. Select is the choice of Venetians, it’s been made in the city since the 1920s. The flavour profile is bitter and grown-up but a bit more delicate than Campari. We love drinking it in a Bicicletta – a mixture of ice, white wine and fizzy water. It’s the perfect lazing in the sun kind of drink.

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Hidden stems: The joys of collecting glassware

From bric-a-brac finds to new ergonomic pieces, glassware collections and their owners come in many guises. How do you start? We asked some of the drinks industry’s most avid collectors….

From bric-a-brac finds to new ergonomic pieces, glassware collections and their owners come in many guises. How do you start? We asked some of the drinks industry’s most avid collectors.

“I think it’s over 1,000 in this house, at least,” Remy Savage tells me when I ask him how vast his famous glassware collection is. The man behind bars including London’s A Bar with Shapes for a Name, Floraison, and Paris’ Le Syndicat is known for his love of drinking vessels and has even got his own range on the market as part of a collaboration with ‘simple is beautiful’ glassware specialist, Nude.

So, it comes as no surprise that Savage is about to launch The Glassware Archive, an Instagram account where every day, a different piece of glassware is featured complete with specs and where to buy it from.

Like any self-respected bon vivant, my own glassware collection is a who’s who (or a what’s what) of antique and second-hand shop escapades, and the trophies of surviving perilous tube journeys and rental car rides to the safety of my home. It includes a now odd number of Babycham coupes, a pair of Raffles Martini glasses, some Port sippers complete with four little feet and sipping tubes, obligatory cut glass whisky tumblers, a pair of kitsch Irish coffee glasses with ingredient measurements and illustrations marked up the side, and many, many more (see header).

There are myriad joys to be had from collecting glassware: so, where do you start – and why?

remy-savage Credit Remy Savage/ Bombay Sapphire

Remy Savage behind the bar Credit: Remy Savage/ Bombay Sapphire

Finding your groove

When Henrietta Lovell, founder of Rare Tea Company, started her collection, she embarked on it using a singular approach. “I started by thinking ‘this is going to be my favourite glass for water, and one for drinking sake, one for wine…’ I don’t have many sets, occasionally they come into my life but it was really about every single piece being special to me.”

Lovell acquires her pieces from bric-a-brac stories and second-hand shops she might be passing, rarely buying brand new pieces, bar a recent clear-crystal sake cup shaped a little like a tea bowl.

Go to any of Savage’s bars and it’s hard not to notice the attention that’s gone into their glassware. He’s been an avid collector for the last 15 or so years, even keeping Guinness pint glasses when the opportunity presents itself. He reckons he’s the largest collector in the world of Bimini glasses. Founded in Austria in 1923 by Fritz Lampl, Bimini Glass was known for producing glass sculptures of figures and animals, and Savage’s collection includes glassware with stems in the shape of nude women.

When it comes to more contemporary glassware, he is a big fan of Japanese company Kimura which specialises in beautiful, premium, delicate pieces of varying designs, from a crumple effect wine glass to its signature engraved Kikatsu range – “they do very cool stuff”.

Bimini glass from Remy Savage's collection

Bimini glass from Remy Savage’s collection

What’s in the glass?

While the variety of glassware for drinking cocktails may be one of the broadest – Highball, Hurricane, coupe, Martini, etc – whisky isn’t short of options either, although its drinkers are usually more fanatical about their choices.

Micky Plummer, UK brand ambassador in the north for Mackmyra Swedish Whisky, has an impressive collection of dramware at his disposal and is swayed by practicality and nuance over trends or aesthetics. But, there is one style of glass that is his go-to for drinking whisky – the copita. “I just like the feel of a stemmed glass and what you can do with it,” he says of his preference. “You can pick one up for £8-£11 and they’re used by about nine out of 10 blenders to analyse their liquids… they’re great, whether it’s for a comfort dram in front of the telly or getting to grips with something in the [whisky] collection.”

Of course, the choices in glassware of whisky drinkers spans pieces far more complicated – and expensive – than the humble copita. Plummer points to his Norlan whisky glass, designed to look like a tumbler from the outside, while the inside is shaped like industry standard Glencairn whisky glass.

He also gives good airtime to the Norlan Rauk (‘rocks’) glass which has some clever fin-like grooves at its interior’s bottom, to “allow the ice to sit on top of the fins and the liquid to be able to move underneath it.” While Plummer likes his Norlan, he admits he doesn’t use it as much as a Glengairn and, in fact, thinks the latter is probably the “bullet-proof” go to glass for whisky drinkers looking to invest in glassware. There’s even a cut-glass version.  

Plummer’s preference for certain styles of glassware for drinking certain styles of drinks is matched by Lovell, who’s opinion was only strengthened while working on a project at the Victoria & Albert Museum. “I was working on a project at the V&A about how we taste things and we were looking at the collection of tea and glassware. We tried the same tea out of many different vessels, tried it on the public, and they had a different reaction depending on the [vessel]. Fineness of the lip-feel was a really important one – if you put something very fine to the lip, …the flavour is much more nuanced.” 

She’s also a huge advocate of antique glasses due to them usually being smaller than more modern glassware. “If you drink out of a smaller glass you appreciate it a little bit more – it certainly helps me to sip. I spent some time in Copenhagen and bought old schnapps glasses; if I put whisky in a schnapps glass I sip my whisky in a completely different way.”

Savage even goes as far as being inspired by glassware when it comes to creating certain cocktails: “the visuals come first, the drink after.” He’s also an advocate of thin and delicate glassware – “if I have the most extraordinary eau-de-vie I want there to be as little between the consumer and the liquids as possible.” But when it comes to drinking certains liquids out of certain vessels, the most obvious piece isn’t always the way – sometimes, he says, it’s the bartender’s job to break those rules.

Micky Plummer glassware

Micky Plummer glassware, Norlan glass is on the middle row, second left

Putting your money where your mouth is

Collecting glassware can be as cheap or as expensive as you want – whether it’s an off the shelf lone purchase in a charity shop or a rare antique online – but it’s always important to watch out for seller’s spiel. “Try not to be dumbfounded or befuddled by the marketing bullshit,” advises Plummer, who between his £50 Norlan and £6 Glencairn, prefers the latter. When he does invest, the science behind the design and the uniqueness play a decent part in how much money he parts with. And if you can, try before you buy, he suggests.

For Savage, of course well-made, new glassware is definitely worth investing in, but he’s also using a £1 Ikea glass at his new bar, Florian – sometimes it’s just as important to buy the pieces you actually enjoy using. Lovell agrees, telling me she uses her favourite glassware every day – whereas most people only use it for special occasions: “The things you touch every day should be lovely things”.

And it’s always worth remembering that, inevitably, some of your glassware will become victims to slippery fingers or an overly rambunctious dishwasher. Having been widowed many times, this is often more traumatic with something that was second hand. But both Lovell and Savage see this is the glass version of the circle of life. For Lovell it’s practical (“it just makes room for new glasses”) while Savage has a slightly more philosophical approach: “Glasses are meant to be touched and enjoyed, and I have a five-year-old daughter so glassware breaks in this house… sometimes glasses are meant to be broken.”

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The Nightcap: 16 July

Friday means one thing around these parts: The Nightcap. Settle in for another jam-packed week of boozy news.  Good afternoon, folks. Or, we should say, good afternoon to anybody who…

Friday means one thing around these parts: The Nightcap. Settle in for another jam-packed week of boozy news. 

Good afternoon, folks. Or, we should say, good afternoon to anybody who has managed to avoid melting into a puddle on their desk chair/couch/novelty racing car bed. It’s a scorcher today, isn’t it? It’s probably about time we acknowledged that the UK is in dire need of a mass installation of air conditioning units in its residences. It can get legitimately warm here in the summer now and frankly, none of us are prepared for it. Although, you just know the moment those units were fitted the sun would run off down under again. So probably best to not tempt fate. Instead, let’s pour a cold drink, settle down and enjoy another edition of The Nightcap. 

The blog was lively as ever this week as we announced a new competition that offers you the chance to win a virtual cocktail party with a guest appearance from Phil Tufnell (hell yeah). Millie then explored the phenomenon of infinity bottles, Lucy explained what gin botanicals do, and Jess found out why ice is the vital element in your drink. Henry was then in a very helpful mood, sharing a recipe for our drink of the summer, running the rule on Glenmorangie’s new mixable malt, and letting you know where to holiday in boozy style without having to travel. 

Meanwhile, our Clubhouse room today will see us delve into the murky world of cask investment as we discuss the rapidly expanding market and its potential pitfalls with our guests Blair Bowman, Louise McGuane, and Kristiane Sherry. Do check it out at 3pm today.

Now, it’s on with the Nightcap: 16 July edition!

The Nightcap

London and Kent beer writer Johnny Homer, who sadly passed away at 56

London and Kent beer historian Johnny Homer dies

We received some really sad news this week as we learned that beer writer and radio personality Johnny Homer died suddenly at the age of 56. Homer will be familiar to Londoners as a regular guest on the Robert Elms show on BBC London talking about beer and history. He was born in Clerkenwell and worked as a music journalist contributing to publications including The Face, NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, and Vox, as well as writing seven books on beer and pubs. Later he moved to Whitstable in Kent with his wife and daughter, and became head of media at Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham. Chief executive Jonathan Neame commented: “Johnny was a most valued member of our team. He was a fantastic ambassador for the company, for our beers and pubs, and played a significant role in promoting Shepherd Neame. He will be greatly missed. His loss is a great shock to us all, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time.” We were very fortunate enough to have been shown around the brewery by Johnny himself and marveled at his knowledge of beer and Shepherd Neame’s rich history. He also seemed like a thoroughly nice chap as the tributes on Twitter attest. 

The Nightcap

Nc’nean continues to impress with its approach to sustainability.

Nc’nean is first UK whisky distillery to reach net-zero Co2 emissions

Nc’nean has always placed environmental responsibility at the core of its business, but this week the business announced it ramped things up a notch by becoming the first UK whisky distillery to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its production. Beating the official Scotch whisky industry target by a staggering 20 years, distillery founder Annabel Thomas says the move “feels like our greatest achievement so far”. The Highland distillery is 100% powered by renewable energy, and is one of the few Scotch whisky distilleries that uses only certified organic Scottish barley. A biomass boiler is powered by wood chips that heats the stills, and residual carbon emissions are offset through a sustainable tree-planting program. In an industry first, all of Nc’nean’s whisky bottles are made of recycled glass, which reduces the typical carbon footprint of a whisky bottle by 40%. The cooling water is continuously recycled via a natural pond, meaning Nc’nean uses 80% less water than a traditional distillery, and reduces energy use to cool it down. It’s an impressive operation and a great example to others on how to make meaningful change.

The Nightcap

The new look MacNair’s, including Exploration Rum

GlenAllachie Distillery unveils first rum

The GlenAllachie Distillers Company is no longer just home to whisky thanks to its latest innovation. For the first time, the brand has branched into rum with a range of small-batch expressions called Exploration Rum. The three bottlings will be released under The GlenAllachie’s MacNair’s brand, which has been repositioned as a Boutique House of Spirits, complete with a new-look design for its Lum Reek whisky brand. The first rums in the series are a 7 Year Old Peated, a 7 Year Old, and a 15 Year Old made with liquids sourced from Panama. Each expression was initially matured in American oak in Panama before being transported to the GlenAllachie Distillery in Speyside, and is presented at 46% ABV. The peated rum underwent secondary maturation in casks that previously held heavily peated whisky distilled at GlenAllachie, while the 7 Year Old and 15 Year Old were filled into ex-red wine, virgin oak, and ex-bourbon casks for more than two years. The process was overseen by GlenAllachie master blender Billy Walker, who says he is fulfilling a “long-held desire to explore and apply my expertise to a new spirit category”, having already made a sizeable impact in Scotch whisky. He explains that rum was a natural choice for him as, like whisky, “it allows for greater scope of innovation and experimentation, particularly in regard to maturation” and that this trio of rums will “explore the influence of wood, but also the impact of maturation in a cooler climate.” We look forward to seeing the results, which you’ll be able to taste for yourself very soon as Exploration Rum is on its way to MoM Towers as we speak…

The Nightcap

La Bandera, the new bar’s signature cocktail

Award-winning Hacha bar announces second site

Why have one excellent agave-focused bar when you can have two? This is the question industry veterans Deano Moncrieffe and Emma Murphy presumably asked themselves recently, as the duo have excitedly announced they are opening a second Hacha location in Brixton’s Market Row. The original location in Dalston opened in 2019 and now Moncrieffe and Murphy are bringing their unique brand of agave-based drinks and authentic Mexican food to South London. Hacha has garnered acclaim for its striking signature serve, the Mirror Margarita, and its comprehensive list of Tequilas, mezcals, and other distillates. Set to launch next month, the new venue sprawls over two floors, with a bottle shop on the ground floor, and a 50-cover bar and an open kitchen upstairs – the latter will be run by Maiz Azul, the residency behind the food at Hacha Dalston. Moncrieffe has also developed a new drink that will act as the bar’s signature: La Bandera, a twist on the classic Mexican three-shot drink. The serve features three mini cocktails, each with a different agave spirit base, in the colours of the Mexican flag. The duo also plan on contributing beyond spirits and cocktails, closing Hacha Brixton once a week to host a ‘community day’ in partnership with Equal Measures. “Community Day is all about providing opportunities for people who want to grow, learn, share and help others,” said Moncrieffe. “We will run seminars, educational courses, workshops, cooking lessons, spirits masterclasses, mentorship sessions, networking events as well as providing a venue for other Black businesses to showcase their businesses.”

The Nightcap

The distillery edges ever closer after the latest round of investment

Uist Distilling Co gains £2m for low-carbon distillery

It just wouldn’t be The Nightcap without news on an upcoming distillery project, and we’ve received good word this week from the Uist Distilling Co regarding its planned low-carbon distillery. The proposed £12.5 million site in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides has received a £1.99m funding boost from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Scottish government’s economic and community development agency. The Uist Distilling Company also secured more than £80,000 (US$110,000) in funding from the UK government’s Green Distilleries scheme. The reason for all this support is that the distillery, which will be located on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, is that it promises to pioneer innovative low-carbon technology across its design, build, and distillation process. The company has invested £1.25m in building a green energy centre, including a high-temperature heat pump system, which will provide hot water to the distillation process. The distillery, which is the brainchild of South Uist businessman Angus A Macmillan and his son, Angus E Macmillan, plans to produce spirits with a ‘Hebridean flavour’ including single malt whisky, rum, and gin. Production is expected to start in early 2022. “The new distillery aims to be a champion of all things Hebridean and Scottish and will provide a huge boost to tourism in the area,” says Angus A Macmillan. “We want to produce whisky, rum, and gin that will put Benbecula and the Hebrides firmly on the whisky tourist trail while introducing the products we make to a national and international clientele.”

The Nightcap

Cocktails and theatre are coming together in London soon!

Coming soon: an immersive cocktail experience from Mr Tipsy

There’s an immersive cocktail experience coming to London in August. We have visions of being lowered into a giant Negroni or diving into an Olympic swimming pool-sized Martini, but the truth is slightly more prosaic. Instead, ‘Mr. Tipsy’s Down the Hatch!’ will be a combination of a bar and theatre taking place at One America Square in the City of London. So for example, you’ll sip Margaritas on a Mexican beach. It’s the creation of Nick A. Olivero, the man behind Roaring ‘20s experience ‘The Speakeasy”. He explains: “‘Mr. Tipsy’s sprung from my passion of fine spirits and meaningful social interactions. It blends theatre with multiple themed bars and is crafted specifically for post-lockdown groups looking to reconnect with friends in a fun, safe environment. I think it is going to put a lot of smiles on people’s faces and we can’t wait for the spectacle to begin!” The experience costs £39.50 including drinks and lasts approximately 70 minutes (tickets available here). There’s a soft launch on 19 August with the full opening on 9 September. So what are you waiting for? It’s theatre but with cocktails!

The Nightcap

Cheers to your success, Roger!

Dad sells casks of whisky for incredible £225,000

Retirement is coming early for one savvy/lucky 59-year-old bank manager, who has turned an astonishing profit on two casks of whisky. Roger Parfitt, who hails from Coventry, paid £4,700 for the casks 30 years ago and revealed this week that he’s sold them for a remarkable £225,000. In 1994, Parfitt, 59, spent £3,200 on a cask of single malt Macallan and £1,500 on a cask of Tobermory, essentially in the vague hope they might be worth a few quid someday. Parfitt does not consider himself an expert in whisky. However, his gamble worked and he plans to use the profit to pay off his mortgage and retire three years earlier than planned. According to the Daily Record, since whisky casks are categorised as a ‘wasting asset’ by HMRC, the money he has made is also tax-free. “I remember thinking, if it doesn’t appreciate in value, the worst that could happen is that you would have to get it out of the warehouse, bottle it and drink it,” Parfitt says. “It always had that fallback for me – you could drown your sorrows if it didn’t work out financially.” He now plans to buy a cask each for his children, hoping for a similar result. But the market is very different nowadays, as we’ll discuss on Clubhouse later…

The Nightcap

All this will soon be heading China’s way

And finally… Entire whisky distillery ships out to China

We’ve spoken plenty about China making moves in the whisky world. One thing we weren’t exactly expecting to write about, however, was an entire distillery being shipped out from Scotland. Today, more than 35 tonnes of equipment, including stills, flooring, control valves, and pipework, is leaving Buckie in Moray for the port of Tianjin. The shipment is part of a £3 million “design and build” deal signed between Forfar firm Valentine International and China’s Mengtai Group in 2019. The equipment will be assembled at a facility being built in Ordos in Inner Mongolia, becoming its first whisky distillery when it opens, which is expected to be at the end of this year. All of the distillery equipment was built by Forsyths in Rothes, and the firm will send a team of five engineers to supervise assembly, with a team in Hong Kong to provide after-sales back-up and services. Valentine International chairman and managing director David Valentine said the project was the brainchild of Mengtai chairman Ao Fengting, who planned to create a “globally award-winning whisky”. In a separate development, Valentine International also revealed that it has signed a “strategic agreement” with Mengtai to supply bulk whiskies for China. The whisky distiller has not been named, but Valentine did say that it is a “long-established” firm.

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