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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: bars

Master of Malt bucket list

With the world tentatively opening up, we asked some of the team here at Master of Malt where they would go if they could go anywhere. Some picked exotic locations,…

With the world tentatively opening up, we asked some of the team here at Master of Malt where they would go if they could go anywhere. Some picked exotic locations, others went for their local boozer. Horses for courses.

Like most of the world, we at Master of Malt have not been moving around much recently. Some of us have barely left the house. The little matter of a global pandemic put the kibosh on all our plans for the year: trips were cancelled, festivals postponed and even our locals were closed. But as the world slowly gets back on its feet, we’ve been talking about the first place we’d like to visit. As this is a drinks website, most of our answers involve booze. This could be a dream destination, a much-loved distillery or even just a favourite bar. Being near people is quite exciting enough, thank you very much. We’d love to hear from readers about places they want to visit and what they’ll drink when they are there.

Master of Malt bucket list

Getting to Islay has proved a long road for Adam.

Who: Adam O’Connell, writer

Where: Islay

My post-pandemic dream is Islay. In nearly three years of being a drinks writer I’ve come close to making it to The Queen of the Hebrides but a cancelled flight here or change of plans there has always thwarted me. Going to Fèis Ìle next year would be a great way to scratch my Islay itch (#FèisÌle2021), but frankly, I’d be just as happy to spend a few days there myself getting to know the place and the people as well as all the whiskies and distilleries. There’s history, community and sights to see beyond the peat and spirit. Although, rest assured, I will make sure I have a dram in hand as often as possible.

Master of Malt bucket list

Henry has visions of imbibing funky, tropical rum at Hampden Estate

Who: Henry Jeffreys, features editor

Where: Jamaica

For my first post-COVID drinks trip, I want to go on a rum-soaked tour of Jamaica. When I see the names of distilleries like Long Pond, Clarendon and Hampden Estate on bottles, my mind drifts into thoughts of fields of sugar cane, clanking, steaming Heath Robinson-esque stills and fearsome-looking dunder pits. Then my mouth begins to salivate in anticipation of a taste of pungent, tropical-fruit laden, funky as hell high ester rum. If the Jamaica Tourist Board can’t make my dreams come true then I will have to make do with a tour of Trailer Happiness, a specialist rum bar in London. 

Master of Malt bucket list

Charlotte wants to relive good memories at Verdigris. Looking at that food, I’ll be booking a table myself.

Who: Charlotte Gorzelak, social media and email assistant

Where: Verdigris, Tonbridge

The first place I’m going to post-lockdown is Verdigris in Tonbridge. Not only a fab wine bar with a fantastic cocktail menu (looking at you Giggle Juice) but also a restaurant. Many an evening I’ve sat on the terrace by the river sipping a glass of wine with my friend watching boats go by. I’m looking forward to sitting there whiling away the hours in the evening sun again. During the lockdown, Verdigris turned part-bakery, part-take away cocktail bar to help keep afloat and they also did an amazing 80 day-aged rib to have at home. It’s not anywhere abroad and it’s actually pretty much on my doorstep, but I will never take being able to pop for impromptu drinks for granted again.

Master of Malt bucket list

Can’t imagine why Mariella would want to go to Oaxaca. Nope. It’s beyond me.

Who: Mariella Salerno, PR manager

Where: Oaxaca

Once the Covid-19 crisis is over, the first country I would like to visit is Mexico! Ever since I took part at the EBS (European Bartenders School) annual convention in Barcelona last year, I have been fascinated with all things agave and so I would very much like to visit Oaxaca and get the real mezcal experience. This will include a visit to the Siete Misterios Distillery for the following reasons: firstly, the distillery seems to be working almost entirely in a sustainable way, so I will be curious to see how that works; second, how cool is the name? (Seven Mysteries Distillery!); and finally, have you seen a better bottle label? I don’t think so. I will then attempt to master the perfect Margarita cocktail and maybe sip it on my own or in some good company on a terrace of one of the local bars. 

Master of Malt bucket list

The scenery, the culture, the history and lots of delicious whiskies. Ben has his priorities in order.

Who: Ben Pender, digital media assistant 

Where: Yoichi, Japan 

Yoichi, while sounding like the lovable Mario character ‘Yoshi’, is also a distillery, famous for Nikka Whisky. It was founded by Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky. He picked a perfect location: like many of the best Highland distilleries, it’s close to the sea, surrounded by mountains, has a cold, crisp climate with the appropriate humidity and lots of fresh water, all the essential comforts whisky needs to feel at home. What I’m most curious to see are the coal-fired pot stills. This traditional method of coal-fired distillation is rarely seen today because of how difficult it is to control temperature and requires highly skilled craftsmen to operate them. 

Master of Malt bucket list

Jess craves whisky-soaked adventures in the land down under. Starward Distillery is a great place to start…

Who: Jess Williamson, content assistant

Where: Australia

Once I’m officially allowed, you can be sure I’m getting as far away from my house as possible. The other side of the world, specifically. Having only got round to trying Australian whisky in lockdown (specifically Starward Solera), now I just can’t get enough. But to actually drink the good stuff in its home country? Now that would be something else! Truth be told my imagination has run ridiculously wild and I’m imagining sipping on a single malt while riding a kangaroo, but that seems almost as far-fetched as getting through customs at this point…

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The Nightcap: 3 July

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about The Macallan, Diageo, competition winners, the artist formerly known as Plantation rum and a new Swift bar. Lovely stuff. It’s…

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about The Macallan, Diageo, competition winners, the artist formerly known as Plantation rum and a new Swift bar. Lovely stuff.

It’s been another busy week and a whole heap of boozy news has occurred. With so many stories floating around it can be hard to keep up. It’s not as if you have some kind of contraption to corral it up into one place to hand, like a big booze news net or one of those massive gloves they have in that American sport with the baseball hats. Lucky for you, we’ve got just the thing. Our delightful round-up of all the drinks industry happenings from the last seven days – it’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week Kristy recalled her trip to Texas distillery Balcones as our exclusive Balcones Barrel Pick landed at MoM Towers, Adam spoke to John Quinn about the journey to restore Tullamore D.E.W Distillery and Jess broke down why garnishes are so great with the help of some industry experts. Annie then shone our MoM-branded spotlight on Cornwall’s first distillery and then had some advice on how you can upgrade your BBQ beverages, while Henry asks what it takes for a Cognac to be singled out for the vintage treatment while enjoying a new Frapin expression, made one of the world’s most delicious cocktails the way it should be made and celebrated some of our favourite places in London to drink whisky.

For the very last time, we’d like to thank all of you who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz. It’s been a pleasure teasing you with all kinds of weird and wonderful boozy trivia and hopefully, you all had fun. Thomas Knockaert certainly enjoyed himself, as he has the distinction of being the final winner! You can check out the answers to the last quiz (*sob*) below.

The Nightcap

The rum formerly known as Plantation

Maison Ferrand rename Plantation Rum brand 

Plantation Rum announced this week that its brand name will change. While we don’t know what the new name will be yet, we do know that its production methods and the liquid inside the bottle will remain the same. It’s also clear that the move was prompted by the global protests for social justice and racial equality spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. “As the dialogue on racial equality continues globally, we understand the hurtful connotation the word plantation can evoke to some people, especially in its association with much graver images and dark realities of the past,” says Alexandre Gabriel, Plantation Rum master blender. “We look to grow in our understanding of these difficult issues and while we don’t currently have all the details of what our brand name evolution will involve, we want to let everyone know that we are working to make fitting changes.” Global brand manager Stephanie Simbo added that the rum brand “wants to be on the side of actions and solutions”. This case is a reminder of rum’s complex history and the fact that it is inextricably linked to slavery. But this is so rarely acknowledged, which is why we think this is great news and a meaningful step in the right direction.

The Nightcap

The full Double Cask range. It’s a beautiful sight.

The Macallan adds to Double Cask range

The Macallan has bolstered its Double Cask range with two new aged expressions, the Double Cask 15 Years Old and Double Cask 18 Years Old. The former is said to impart aromas of dried fruit, toffee and vanilla, and delivers a warming finish with a creamy mouthfeel, while the latter is said to be filled with notes of dried fruits, ginger, toffee and a warm oak spice finish that’s balanced by sweet orange. Fans of the distillery will remember The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old was first introduced in 2016 as part of a series that celebrates the union of American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks. The Speyside distillery sources its European oak in northern Spain and the French Pyrenees, and American oak from Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky. Both types are transported to Spain, where they are made into casks, seasoned with sherry and then shipped to The Macallan Estate where they are filled. “Bringing together American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks to achieve the perfect balance of flavours is incredibly exciting for the whisky mastery team, and we are proud to offer two new expressions to this distinctive range for The Macallan Double Cask fans to explore,” says Kirsteen Campbell, master whisky maker of The Macallan. “Oak influence is the single greatest contributor to the quality, natural colour and distinctive aromas and flavours at the heart of The Macallan’s single malts.”

The Nightcap

Each expression is the ‘first and last of its kind’, according to Diageo.

Diageo launches Prima & Ultima and plans carbon-neutral distillery in Kentucky

Diageo has had a busy week! First up is its shiny new whisky alert, announcing the launch of a very luxurious set of single malts, named Prima & Ultima. The first and last. Because each is the ‘first and last of its kind’, according to the press release. See what they did there? There are eight cask strength whiskies in the series selected by none other than Dr Jim Beveridge OBE. “Each of the eight whiskies I’ve selected for Prima & Ultima tells a tale of heritage and craftsmanship and I’ve chosen them from distillers of great personal importance to me,” says Dr Beveridge. You’ll find whisky from Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Mortlach, Port Ellen, Clynelish, Caol Ila, Talisker, and The Singleton of Dufftown, and each bottling marks a significant period of whisky-making for its distillery, with each one accompanied by a limited edition book of personal stories from Dr Beveridge himself, along with a 20ml sample. If you have a spare £20,000 you can get your hands on the entire set, though you’ll have to register first (which opens on 22 July). There are only 238 sets though, so better be snappy! 


The other big news is physically much bigger, because Diageo has revealed its plans to construct Bulleit Bourbon brand’s new Kentucky whiskey distillery, and it’s going to be carbon neutral! It’ll run on 100% renewable electricity (even the on site vehicles), using electrode boilers and a combination of renewable energy sources. It’s costing a cool $130 million and is set to be up and running by 2021, with the capacity to produce just over 34 million litres each year. Get ready to say hello to one of the largest carbon-neutral distilleries in North America!

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you, Stephanie Macleod!

International Whisky Competition 2020 winners announced

The results are in. The 11th edition of the International Whisky Competition whiskies has concluded after drams from around the world were judged side by side at the event in Estes Park, Colorado from 10-14 June. The top recognition, Whisky of the Year, was awarded to John Dewar and Sons – Double Double 32 Year Old (Blended Scotch), which scored 96.4 points, the highest-scoring whisky of the competition. This meant Stephanie Macleod, the brand’s master blender, became the first woman to win this prize and it was also the second year running that Macleod has won the accolade of Master Blender Of The Year, after she made history in 2019 as the first woman to win the award. John Dewar and Sons also won the Golden Barrel Trophy. “At Dewar’s we aim to push the boundaries of what is expected from the whisky category and have a long-standing commitment to innovation, so we are delighted with our success in the 2020 competition and it is an honour to be named Master Blender of the Year,” says Macleod. “I accept this award on behalf of the whole team at Dewar’s who have shown relentless hard work and dedication to achieving the very best quality and taste for our beautifully crafted whisky, despite the challenges this year has held. It is incredibly rewarding indeed to see these efforts appreciated.” Other winners were Glenmorangie’s Dr Bill Lumsden who won Master Distiller of the Year, while Ardbeg won Distillery of the Year. You can check out the full list here.

The Nightcap

How Soho may look as it goes pedestrian-only in the evenings this summer.

Soho gets a pedestrian makeover

As Britain wakes up from its lockdown slumber, bars, pubs and restaurants have been working out how to reopen safety. Westminster Council has hit on a great way to help, pedestrianise Soho. So this summer from 5pm to 11pm, London’s original nightlife capital will be out of bounds to motor vehicles as part of the new Summer Street Festival. The pedestrian-only area covers Dean Street, Frith Street, Greek Street and Old Compton Street (map including street closure timings and details can be found here.) We spoke with Simo from Milroy’s yesterday about his plans for reopening which includes 16 tables outside the whisky shop on Greek Street. Other famous venues due to reopen include Cafe Boheme, Dean Street Townhouse, and Bar Italia. Many places are also offering incentives to visit such as one free drink with dinner bookings and discounts for NHS workers. The best thing is, that if this experiment is judged a success, then there’s potential for full or part pedestrianisation to become permanent. So no more diesel fumes in your al fresco cocktail.

The Nightcap

We can’t wait to have those delicious Irish coffees at the new venue…

Swift to open all-day venue in Shoreditch 

Swift, you are really spoiling us! Not only will the award-winning Old Compton Street institution be opening again on Saturday 4 July but the couple behind it, Mia Johansson and husband Bobby Hiddleston, have announced a new location to open at the end of the month. Located on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, it will serve from 8am during the week and 11am on weekends, offering breakfast, coffee etc. alongside the sort of cocktails that made the original Swift such a destination (though not at 8am presumably.) The team issued a statement saying: “Whilst we’re all still in uncertain times and have a long road ahead of us on our way to recovery, we have faith in the British public’s love of coming together for great food and drink and are hopeful that London’s world-class cocktail scene will rebuild itself to come back stronger than ever. Sticking to our plan to open our second site is just the embodiment of our faith in this and we are so excited to start hosting guests again.” A bit of optimism, that’s what we like to hear. 

The Nightcap

Gordon & MacPhail has gone for the classic Teletubbies look with its new distillery

Gordon & MacPhail distillery gets the green light

Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) is edging ever closer to having a shiny new multi-million-pound distillery near Grantown. The whisky distiller and bottler has given the contractors, Morrison Construction, the green light to begin contruction at the site on the banks of the River Spey in Craggan in Scotland’s Cairngorm National Park. The facility will be the first new malt whisky distillery to be built in the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) area since its creation in 2003. The building was supposed to be already well underway by now, but because of Covid-19 crisis restrictions, the project had to be pushed back. The distillery, which G&M has said will become a “significant local employer,” will have the capacity to produce around 440,000 gallons of whisky a year. Forsyths of Rothes will supply and install the distilling equipment, while the visitor centre, tasting rooms, retail space and coffee shop are projected to attract 50,000 tourists annually. “These appointments are the next major milestone in delivering this long-term project for the company. We look forward to working with these established businesses who are both highly experienced in their own field,” says Ewen Mackintosh, managing director of Elgin-based G&M. “We’ve been really heartened by the warm welcome we have received locally. As a family-owned business located in the north of Scotland, we are very much rooted in our communities, and we are keen to develop strong relationships in Grantown and the surrounding area.”

The Nightcap

Why pour beer down the drain when you can feed it to cattle?

And finally. . . .  Wimbledon Brewery feeds cows with beer

Some of the most heartbreaking stories to come out of lockdown were about pubs having to pour beer that was going out of date down the drain. Oh, the humanity! When Wimbledon Brewery found itself with a lot of unsaleable beer destined for pubs, however, someone had a brainwave: why not feed it to cows? And not just any cows, the excess stock went to the beer-loving cattle at Trenchmore Wagyu Beef Farm in Sussex. The beer helps make Wagyu the tenderest and sweetest-tasting beef on the planet. In return, the brewery will receive its very own Wagyu burgers. This is not the only way the brewery has adapted. According to founder Mark Gordon, the company lost 90% of business when the hospitality industry closed but managed to survive by concentrating on “local home deliveries and increased sales to supermarkets and bottle shops. This went from a very low base to the equivalent of 80% of our pre-lockdown turnover.” He went on to say: “Soon after the lockdown was announced, we initially closed the brewery but quickly took the decision to reopen because beer can be very good for morale.” It certainly is, and that reminds us, it’s probably time for beer. Have a great weekend everyone!

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) In ‘Diary of a Nobody’, what brand of Champagne does Charles Pooter order from his local shop?

Answer: Jackson Freres

2) What’s the nearest single malt distillery to Edinburgh?

Answer: Holyrood

3) What’s the name of the famous copperworks at Rothes?

Answer: Forsyths

4) Who invented the spirit safe?

Answer: Septimus Fox

5) Which brand of whisky does Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) smuggle into prison for her husband (Ray Liotta) in ‘Goodfellas’?

Answer: J&B

6) Which cocktail was supposedly named after Zelda Fitzgerald?

Answer: White Lady

7) In the Jeeves & Wooster stories, what is the “secret” ingredient of the former’s hangover remedy?

Answer: Worcestershire Sauce

8) Which gin does Amy Whitehouse mention in the song ‘You Know I’m No Good’?

Answer: Tanqueray

9) Bernard de Voto’s book ‘The Hour’ is a paean to which cocktail?

Answer: Martini

10) In which of Shakespeare’s history plays is one of the characters drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine?

Answer: Richard III


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Five of London’s best whisky bars

With the capital’s venues tentatively opening up again on the 4 July, we thought it as good a time as any to celebrate some of our favourite places in London…

With the capital’s venues tentatively opening up again on the 4 July, we thought it as good a time as any to celebrate some of our favourite places in London to drink whisky.

It’s happening, it’s finally happening! Soon, when you want to have a drink with a friend it won’t mean dropped connections and unflattering camera angles on Zoom, or sitting two metres apart in your garden wondering whether using the loo would break government guidelines on social distancing. No, we’re talking about sitting at a table under a roof while someone brings you a drink, and then you pay for it. Sounds bananas, but it could catch on. So, we’ve rounded up five of our favourite places to drink whisky. Where we know, we’ve put when the venue will be opening again and whether booking is required. Please do contact the bar first though. Right, without further ado, here they are. Let us know about your favourites in the comments or on social media.

The Boisdale buzz

Boisdale, Belgravia

Almost every day, Boisdale owner, the magnificently-monickered Ranald Macdonald, is to be found enjoying lunch in the Belgravia branch. Always a good sign. This first Boisdale specialising in Macdonald’s three favourite things steak, cigars and whisky, opened in 1988, and has since been joined by three other venues, Mayfair, Bishopsgate and a mammoth venue at Canary Wharf. Macdonald also loves music and so there are regular jazz, soul and reggae gigs with some serious talent on offer like Courtney Pine or Horace Andy. The Mayfair branch has a special vinyl and cocktail bar in the basement whereas in Belgravia you can indulge your inner plutocrat on the cigar terrace where Glen Collins will suggest the perfect malt to go with your Montecristo. During lockdown, MacDonald has kept the wolf from the door issuing Boisdale War Bonds where one can buy fine whisky, wine, food and music in advance at a massive discount. The Belgravia branch will open from 8 July. 

You could spend a lot of time and money at Bull in a China Shop

Bull in a China Shop, Shoreditch

This amazing bar in London by Old Street roundabout is a booze wonderland especially for lovers of Japanese whisky. It was founded by brothers Simon and Stephen Chan who created the Drunken Monkey dim sum bar also in Shoreditch. Bull in a China Shop has been open since 2015, and offers an incredible range of Japanese whisky including some Karuizawa at £55 a glass and the biggest bottle of Nikka from the Barrel you have ever seen, plus whiskies from smaller producers like Mars. There’s plenty of Scotch too. Stephen Chan told me he had a soft spot for Tomatin, in particular. There’s Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean bar snacks to wash down with your single malt. 

Milroy’s has been a whisky destination since the ’60s

Milroy’s, Soho

Milroy’s is a Soho institution that was revived and revitalised when Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson took over in 2014. There’s a cocktail bar in the basement and a whisky bar on the ground floor with over 1,000 bottles to try; they claim it’s the largest selection outside Scotland. Simo buys and bottles his own rare casks so there are things here that you can’t find anywhere else. During lockdown, the team kept busy by selling rare casks, offering Zoom tastings and selling bottled cocktails. “We will come out of this stronger than we went in,” he said.  He opened a three story Spitalfields outpost last year which contains a whisky-focused private members club. This will be selling drams to take away while the Soho branch will open up next week with seating at the whisky bar and 16 tables outside as part of Soho’s evening pedestrianisation transformation. He’s taking the opening slowly “we’ll be fully open in September, no one is going to rush back to central London yet.”

Homeboy, a little bit of Ireland in North London

Homeboy, Islington

The aim with Homeboy was to bring a bit of Dublin to Islington, according to founders Aaron Wall and Ciaran Smith. As you’d expect there’s a remarkably range of Irish whiskeys alongside some excellent cocktails along with simple food like toasties or, sure to bring back childhood memories, a crisp sandwich made with Tayto’s cheese and onion. One of London’s smallest bars, it will be reopening on 4 July; Wall told us: “we are just doing table service and blocking off every second table for distancing. We are happy to take walks too and also takeaway. Bookings have been really good for Saturday but really quiet for after that.” Wall has kept busy experimenting with Home Boy Irish Coffee Bitters (why has no one done this before?), which should be coming soon, bottled cocktails and “our own limited release top secret finished Irish Whiskey.” Sounds exciting. 

Unusual whiskeys at Sibin

Sibin, Westminster

We love a bit of theatre here at Master of Malt, and there’s theatre a-plenty at the secret Sibin bar at the recently-opened Great Scotland Yard Hotel. It was so secret that we struggled to find it until a helpful member of staff pressed a discreet button and, James Bond villain-style, a section of bookcase opened to reveal a secret bar. It’s called Sibín, as in an Irish drinking den (sometimes spelt shebeen). The drinks menu takes a turn for the unexpected too with old classics given a tune-up. The Rusty Nail is made with two types of Talisker, and Drambuie, and then left to oxidise for two days to mellow. Bars manager Michal Mariarz adds a little PX to his Smokey Cokey, Lagavulin 16 year old and Coke. For the more classically-inclined there are unusual whiskies like a 2005 Caol Ila part-matured in Hermitage red wine casks. Please note, opening date for Sibin is still TBC.

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Garnish 101: what are they and how to use them

We chat to some industry greats about all things garnishes, from what actually counts as a garnish to their weirdest and wackiest creations, and even some handy home tips. Consider…

We chat to some industry greats about all things garnishes, from what actually counts as a garnish to their weirdest and wackiest creations, and even some handy home tips.

Consider the garnish. It can be anything from a single olive in a Martini to lavish leaves in Tiki cocktails. It can also make or break a drink – I’m sure we’ve all been to a bar with an unwelcome limp mint leaf or mangy strawberry in your drink.  

But lemon peels and olives aside, what exactly is as a garnish, what is its purpose, and how important are they? The aesthetics of a cocktail were important long before the ‘gram, to tell the story of the drink you’re about to savour. We managed to get some words from some industry experts who know exactly how it’s done.

What even is a garnish? 

The first and most important question for anyone looking to jazz up their serves. First up is Ryan Chetiyawardana, of Lyaness (formerly known as Dandelyan), Super Lyan and White Lyan fame, who manages to invent futuristic and simultaneously minimalist cocktails. “To me, it has to be functional, adding a different dimension to something you want in the drink” he tells us, though he doesn’t believe you have to be able to consume it. “A spray, a paint, physical garnish, vessel, theatre, are all things we’ve employed over the years.”

For Belgium’s Matthias Soberon of social media cocktail wizardry @ServedBySoberon, “a garnish is anything that’s added to the drink that elevates it in any sensory way, whether it be visual, auditive, tactile, gustatory or olfactory.” If you can sense it, it’s a garnish.

cocktail garnish

Coupette’s minimalist Shimmer cocktail from last summer’s menu, complete with geode coaster.

As we ask our final expert, it looks like everyone is in agreement. “A garnish can have multiple forms,” adds Andrei Marcu, of Bethnal Green’s wonderful Coupette. “It’s the final touch added to the drink, there to complement the drink and boost certain flavours or aromas.” 

So in a nutshell, what our talented trio are saying is that a garnish can be almost anything that enhances a serve in some way. The bad news is that’s pretty vague, but the good news is that it allows for a whole load of creativity.

Does every drink need one?

“I want an olive in my Martini!” says Chetiyawardana. “But only if it’s a decent one – I’ll go sans if it’s a sad, old olive.” We’d have to agree. Having said that, he also acknowledges that sometimes “the confidence to leave it bare is sometimes the best thing to do.” It looks like Chetiyawardana and Soberon are on the same page, who adds “don’t overcomplicate it just for the sake of it. Sometimes the liquid in the glass absolutely needs 100% of the focus.” Be bold, believe in your serve and go bare.

garnish cocktail

Chetiyawardana keeping it simple at Lyaness with the Rook Pool Sazerac

But as we turn to Marcu, he reminds us of the importance of certain garnishes. “A standard Martini would have a lemon twist or an olive as a garnish. But if you add a pickled onion instead, it will be a Gibson Martini which means it becomes a completely different drink.” Now, whether to put an orange or lime with your G&T may not be quite as important as this example, but what you choose to accompany your spirits with does make a big difference.

Some garnishes are integral to the formation of the drink, becoming more of a core ingredient as opposed to a garnish, because as Marcu notes, “an Old Fashioned without orange peel would be just whiskey and sugar.” Easy to make, but not what you’re looking for. While you don’t mess with some garnishes, others are totally divisive, such as “the ‘issue’ with the salt-rim on the Margarita,” Soberon points out. “Some people love the salt, others despise it, that’s why most bartenders will serve the drink with half a rim salted, to make sure that you have the option to either go for it or not.”


So far, everything we’ve talked about has altered the taste or smell of the drink in some way, But is there any point in a purely aesthetic garnish? Our industry minds were divided on this one. Marcu takes the view that “drinks are very sensorial, and everything influences the taste. I would only use an aesthetic garnish when we have a conceptual drink.” A bed of sand for a drink inspired by the sea, for example, to enhance the storytelling aspect of the serve, or a colourful geode coaster to imitate the look of the sea (as shown in Shimmer above) have both been used at Coupette.  

garnish cocktail

Soberon’s flamboyant Tiki cocktail!

For Soberon, it’s a yes. “For Tiki drinks, a single orchid doesn’t make any difference to the drink’s flavour profile, but it makes all the difference in how the drink is perceived.” Plus, he’s not going to ignore the fact that social media has a huge part to play in the formation of many drinks these days. “In this day and age where everyone is walking around with their smartphones (and all bars requiring to have social media presence), everything just needs to be prettier.”

Each to their own, and aesthetic garnishes aren’t for Chetiyawardana. “I see what they add, but it’s just not my style.”

Weird and wacky

Now, we couldn’t possibly chat to all these awesome bartenders without getting the garnish gossip. Classic cocktails and olives are one thing, but we want to know about the weird and wacky, the ones that make it onto the ‘gram and into our memories.

For Chetiyawardana, his wildest garnish is the truly awesome whisky Mousetrap contraption at what was formerly known as Dandelyan. Two years in the making, everyone’s favourite childhood game had a few boozy changes; the ball was swapped for ice, and you get whisky at the end! This is definitely taking the notion of a garnish to a whole new level, and you can see it in action here.

Marcu recalls the time he channelled his green finger into his mixology, creating a mini greenhouse with micro herbs planted inside. “Sitting in the middle of that green house was the drink. Every time you had a sip you could pick one of the herbs that were growing and surrounding the drinks and eat it.” It’s a bit like a choose-your-own-ending version of a cocktail. “Every single different micro herb was putting the drink in a different light and bringing out different aromas and flavours.” No surprise this one made it to Instagram fame right here.

garnish cocktail

Soberon’s zaniest creation, octopus arms and all…

Soberon can’t pick just one finest serve, with his cocktail portfolio showcasing squirt guns filled with booze, octopus arms, and veins of blood in the form of dehydrated beetroot powder on top of drinks for Halloween. Sometimes he even adds “small ornaments that people could take home afterwards, as little gifts.” A cocktail with a party bag? We’re in.

Let’s get garnishing!

After all this talk, I’m sure we’re all fancying a drink! But without our own professional contraptions, most of us are going to have to make do with what we have in our homes already. Our industry pals are back to guide us towards what to use, simply reaching for the cupboard rather than the stars. 

So citrus peels are probably the go to garnish for most people, someone always has a lemon or lime laying about. “Citrus peels are obvious, and often you don’t need as much citrus peel as you think,” Chetiyawardana tells us. “Sometimes a big swathe is wonderful, but the oils can also overpower and can become bitter. A small ‘coin’ expressed over a drink can give just the right brightness and lift you need.” Soberon adds, “make sure there’s as little pith as possible,” leading us onto some handy slicing tips from Marcu: “Peel the fruit on a diagonal line and cut the edges into a nice square shape,” to help you to twist it over the drink. Don’t forget to save a slice of your morning orange for that Old Fashioned.

garnish cocktail

Express yourself!

But what about when we leave the fruit bowl? “Everyone should definitely have a little look in their spice racks,” Soberon suggests. “A single star anise or cardamom pod is hugely aromatic. Or maybe dust (sparingly!) some ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, Chinese five spice powder, pepper.” If you’re looking to try out a handful of different spirits, then Soberon recommends keeping the strongest aromatic spices for darker spirits, such as rum and whisky, and the lighter ones for gin, vodka and Tequila. Though heed his warning: “Just make sure you don’t dust every drink!”

And Marcu’s home suggestions? Pair your Calvados with apple, your tropical drinks with pineapple (or lime, if it’s rum-based), and grate some chocolate for those cream liqueurs.

Happy mixing! Though seeing as bars are back open this weekend, perhaps you could get somebody else to do all the hard work for you…

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Easy guide to blender cocktails

Your kitchen blender is a lean, mean cocktail machine, and it’s time you started treating it as such. Quit churning out bland hummus and flavourless smoothies – below, you’ll find…

Your kitchen blender is a lean, mean cocktail machine, and it’s time you started treating it as such. Quit churning out bland hummus and flavourless smoothies – below, you’ll find eight blender cocktail recipes to make at home, plus bartender-approved tips and tricks to help you master those slushie-style serves…

The blender cocktail isn’t the technicolor toothache it once was. With artificial flavours swapped for fresh produce, lurid liqueurs replaced with natural syrups, and all from-concentrate juices ditched for freshly-squeezed, these (often) slushie-style drinks have been reimagined and premiumised by modern bartenders, with their sense of fun very much intact. 

“Nothing says ‘summer in a glass’ better than a frozen tipple,” says Sebastian Stefan, head bartender at London’s Jim and Tonic. “Rising alongside the craft cocktail movement, frozen drinks have merged into gastronomy. These fun concoctions have made their way not only onto cocktail bar menus but in fine-dining establishments as well as a multitude of boozy desserts and sorbets.” 

There’s some debate about the origin of the first blender cocktails – as there is about most aspects of booze history – depending on how you define them. However, it was the introduction of the Waring blender in 1937 that really brought mechanically blended drinks to the masses for the first time, with the Daiquiri and Piña Colada among the first to receive the frozen treatment.

By the time the seventies rolled around, Frozen Margaritas were iconic; even spawning the creation of the Margarita Machine, a purpose-designed blender, says Stefan. “It was around this time that merchants started adding bright colourings as a marketing strategy,” he says. This sparked a surge in “sugary, almost glow-in-the-dark drinks”, that eventually saw frozen cocktails fall out of favour.

This is not what you’re aiming for

Today, bartenders across the globe are looking beyond those founding frozen trio to create new blender drinks. As well as experimenting with blender versions of other classic serves (G&Ts, Negronis, Sazeracs), they’re also “playing about with less common spirits such as herb liqueurs, amaro and eaux de vie to create a new palate of flavour,” says Stefan. 

“There are no clear rules on what to mix and not, so this is where a bartender’s skill and knowledge can shine through,” he says. “Tiki drinks can easily be turned into a frozen, as the packed fruity flavour allows a lot of water dilution – but with the right adjustments you can twist any classic cocktail.”

Before you wipe down the blades and give the jug a rinse, read through the following five tips for making top-notch blender cocktails at home:

1. Start from scratch

Avoid pre-mixed products and choose fresh ingredients where possible. “Make your recipe from scratch instead of buying a ready-made option from the supermarket,” Stefan says. “This way you avoid using stabilisers, colouring, preservatives and it also allows you to calculate and control the amount of sugar that goes into your drink.” And try to only use fresh fruits, ideally in season, as they tend to have more flavour and aroma, he adds.

2. Be picky

Even though you’re blending it with other flavours, be sure to choose a high-quality base spirit. “This will give body and influence the character of your drink,” Stefan says. “Don’t think you can get away with cheaper options by masking the flavour.”

3. Lay the foundations

“Pre-chill your ingredients beforehand, as this will slow down water dilution in your glass,” Stefan says. You could also rinse your glasses and pop them in the freezer (or fill them with ice and leave them to stand) for a few minutes before you make your drink.

4. Don’t fear DIY

“Make your own sugar syrup,” Stefan says. “Most cocktails require a sweet element to balance out the acidity. If you want to avoid sugar altogether, you can use honey or agave nectar.” 

5. A word on ice

Most – but not all – blender cocktails are made with ice. Avoid using large cubes, and opt for crushed if you can, suggests David Indrak of The Cocktail Service. If you are using crushed ice, don’t blend for too long. “The final drink should be blended into a fine vortex of liquid folding over itself and not sloshing,” he says.

When it comes to ice quantity, as a rule of thumb, double the amount of the serve, he says. “For example, the Margarita contains 75ml of liquid in total, therefore you need 150g of ice.” But you should always add ice slowly.

Here, we’ve picked out eight blender cocktail recipes to take for a spin, from frozen classics to brand new serves:

Frozen Daiquiri

By David Indrak of The Cocktail Service

50ml Mount Gay Eclipse gold rum
25ml lime juice
20ml simple syrup

Method: Blend all ingredients with 190g cubed ice. Serve in a coupe glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

The Pineapple Express

By David Indrak of The Cocktail Service

50ml Jamaica Cove pineapple rum
25ml lime juice
40ml pineapple juice
10ml simple syrup

Method: Blend all ingredients with 250g crushed ice. Serve in coupe glass, garnish with pineapple leaf and pineapple wedge.

Frozen Braemble 

By Glasshouse Whisky

40ml Glasshouse Whisky
10ml Braemble Liqueur (sic)
5ml honey
10ml lemon juice
100ml ginger beer

Method: Blend with 4 ice cubes. Garnish with star anise.

Cherry-Boozy Milkshake 

By Remy Savage, of Bar Nouveau and Le Syndicat, in association with Love Fresh Cherries

30ml Ephemeral vodka
5 fresh cherries (pitted)
30ml milk
1 large scoop of vanilla ice cream 

Method: Blend all ingredients in a home blender for 30 seconds or until thick. Pour milkshake into a tall glass, and garnish with a cherry.

Strawberry & Watermelon Slushie

By Black Cow Vodka

180ml Black Cow Vodka & English Strawberries
1 small watermelon
1 punnet of strawberries
Juice from 2 limes
Half a chilli (optional)

Method: Cut watermelon into cube sized pieces, taking care to remove the seeds. Remove the stems off the strawberries and cut in half. If adding chili, deseed it first. Add all ingredients to the blender with 1 cup of ice and blend. Garnish with 1 sprig of mint.

Tin Can Cocktail

By The Highland Liquor Company

50ml Seven Crofts gin
1 tin of peaches
Tonic water

Method: Chill all the ingredients. Blitz half the can of peaches (with syrup) to form a puree. In a large wine glass, combine 25ml peach puree with gin. Top with tonic water and garnish with a mint sprig and orange slice.

Frosé 18

By Timeless Drinks Ventures

1 bottle of Nine Elms No. 18
1 punnet of strawberries
2 teaspoons of sugar or sugar syrup (optional)

Method: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Fill a shallow, wide pan with the liquid and place in the freezer for 1 hour. Break up the freezing liquid with a fork, and refreeze for another 20 minutes (up to 1 hour if necessary). Break up the contents again with a fork to achieve a slushy granita consistency, and spoon into a glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry.

Frozen Cosmopolitan

By David Indrak of The Cocktail Service

35ml Ephemeral vodka
15ml Cointreau triple sec
40ml cranberry juice
5ml simple syrup
5ml lime juice

Method: Blend all ingredients with 200g crushed ice. Serve in a coupe glass and garnish with expressed orange peel.

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Showcasing the value of vermouth with Vermò

What’s the best way to champion the vermouth category to a new audience? Make your own delicious vermouth, of course. Like Vermò. A once sidelined drink is having a moment….

What’s the best way to champion the vermouth category to a new audience? Make your own delicious vermouth, of course. Like Vermò.

A once sidelined drink is having a moment. New producers are emerging. Vermò is one of them. The brand’s name is a combination of the word vermouth and the Roman expression ‘Mò’, which means ‘now’ and was said as a call to take advantage of every moment to the fullest. Which is apt, because while vermouth has a rich history and is a versatile drink, it’s only recently that consumers are gradually becoming aware of its delights and potential. For the creators of Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso, Ettore Velluto and Jorge Ferrer, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Like many drink businesses, Vermò started with friends who asked “why not?! Velluto and Ferrer became close while studying in Barcelona together, eventually becoming flatmates as Ferrer worked with Jack Daniels and Velluto plied his trade at a consulting company. But they began to notice that vermouth was becoming increasingly popular in the city. Sharing a love of the drink and a desire to found their own brand, they decided to take a leap of faith. “In the beginning, it was just for fun. We were thinking of something we could do together and we were passionate about this industry. We started dedicating our weekends to writing a business plan and trying Italian, Spanish and French vermouth,” Velluto explains. 

Growing up in Spain and Italy respectively, Ferrer and Velutto recall a time when it was commonplace to see their grandparents’ generation drinking vermouth. But they both also felt that they witnessed it skip a generation. “I remember my grandmother always having either a bottle of vermouth in the house. It used to be in the culture of the Spanish people, when we said we were having an aperitivo, we meant vermouth,” says Ferrer. “In Spain, we are now seeing the revival of the category and young people are drinking vermouth more. But the first time my parents had vermouth at home was when we started the brand”. “It’s the same for Italy”, adds Velluto. “It’s a product that was rooted in tradition. My grandfather and people his age would meet to drink vermouth. Everybody had a bottle at their place. But it jumped a generation. The product almost disappeared”. 


Vermò founders Ettore Velluto and Jorge Ferrer

While Ferrer and Velutto shared a romantic connection with vermouth, they understood that Italy and Spain had different approaches to creating and drinking vermouth. Instead of simply picking one, they were motivated to create a drink that brought together Italy and Spain.“We wanted to create a vermouth brand that was different from the ones already in the market. We liked the characteristics of Italian vermouth and the relaxed and more easy-drinking approach of Spanish vermouth, which is enjoying a new wave of aperitivo culture,” says Velluto. “Many vermouths had a really classic look and feel, and also a classic taste. We wanted to break away from this with a more contemporary approach and design,” Ferrer comments. “We felt that the image and the identity of the brands were really old fashioned. The label reminds of a 200 year ago origin story or a different time and we didn’t think that was appealing for a younger generation”. 

After a period of researching and working on a business plan, Ferrer and Velutto decided against distilling their own vermouth. This would have proved too costly and difficult, so instead, they chose to build a brand and work with an established producer. While they chased down leads across Italy, from Rome to Tuscany, the duo experimented. This process of trial and error was educational as Ferrer and Velutto understood exactly what they wanted. They knew they needed a distinctive brand that would appeal to their generation. They also knew that their ideal vermouth was fresh and acidic and not overly sweet. However, Ferrer and Velutto also came to realise that creating the best possible product meant being loyal to the traditions and origins of vermouth and embracing the classic side of the production. They wanted to make Vermouth di Torino.

Commercial production of vermouth in Turin dates back to the end of the 18th century, but while Vermouth di Torino as a style has possessed a geographical denomination since 1991, it wasn’t until 2017 that a law was created by The Vermouth di Torino Institute (an alliance of 15 brands) to define its production parameters. It states that Vermouth di Torino is “an aromatised wine obtained in Piedmont using Italian wine only, with the addition of alcohol, flavoured mainly with artemisia from Piedmont together with other herbs and spices’. “When you are Italian, vermouth is from Turin. If you want to make respectable vermouth, it has to be a Vermouth di Torino. We were nobody, the power of having that status and being produced by a great vermouth producer was so important,” says Velluto. “A great brand without a great product is nothing,” adds Ferrer.


Vermò is made at the family-owned La Canellese distillery

While researching for the perfect partner, Velutto found La Canellese, a distillery in the heart of the Piedmont region that dates back to 1890 and has been owned and run by the four generations of the Sconfienza since 1957. “It was in a book by Fulvio Piccinino, a major expert on vermouth worldwide, and he talks extensively about the different brands and also different producers,” says Velluto. “We went there and bought the sample we had and explained extensively how we saw the product and that we wanted to take what we had and make it lighter and fresher”. 

An array of samples were sent to La Canellese with differing levels of alcohol, sugar and spices before a tasting was held and a winner picked. The relationship was good but not without pushback. “They accommodated us a lot. They let us play, but they are traditional to the point that they did block some of our ideas! We respect them and always take their advice into consideration because they are one of the key players in the world for vermouth. But if they feel uncomfortable we know that we are doing something right; because if they feel too comfortable, we are not on the right path,” says Ferrer.  

All this experimentation, collaboration and hard work turned into Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso. Velutto explains that the process of creating it all starts from the spices. “We buy spices that are already dried but still intact which La Canellese grind in an old hammer mill they have always used. The traditional method of infusion calls for cold extraction. Hot extraction is faster but more aggressive on the spices so we prefer to take things slowly. An alcohol solution is dripped on the spices and subsequently drained away in a continuous cycle for twenty days,” he explains. “The infused solution then sits for a further ten days to allow all of the sediment to settle, which is then filtered so you can mix it together with wine, sugar and alcohol in a huge iron silo. We cool the silo which makes all the sediments that were not already filtered go to the bottom of the silo and then after 20 days in the silo, you filter it again with a hydro filter to get a clear liquid solution. We bottle it and wait for 20, 30 days more to let the liquid rest and settle in the bottle. So the whole process is three to four months”.


Vermò is a Vermouth di Torino Rosso, a historic style of vermouth

Wine must be at least 75% of the total volume of vermouth and typically this consists of white wine or a mistelle, a  partially-fermented white wine to which brandy has been added to retain sweetness from unfermented sugar. Vermò was made using the former, all Italian white wine and always with a percentage of Trebbiano and Chardonnay because these wines have the profile that Ferrer and Velluto desired. “We wanted a product that was less sweet and had more acidity and fresh delivery. La Canellese had a lot of recommendations for the types of grapes we should use to create the product that we wanted to have, We agreed with La Canellese that Chardonnay was a good choice as it gives the product these characteristics” says Velluto. “We also settled on Trebbiano because it is a classic vermouth wine and the grapes grow in the on-site vineyards”.

You’ll have noticed there’s a recurring theme here, that Ferrer and Velutto were very resistant to making saccharine vermouth. Naturally, Vermò has got quite a low sugar content. This was always an important issue for Ferrer and Velluto as they felt this was the key to create a more accessible type of vermouth. “We found too many vermouths were too sweet or thick. People like vermouth because of the low ABV, the flavour profile, the aperitivo culture, and that you can pair it with food, but they would have just one glass because it was too heavy. We wanted to do something fresher,” says Ferrer. “We wanted to focus on deriving the most amount of flavour from the botanicals to make vermouth that goes down quite easy – which is good for us and good for the consumer as well!

Arguably the most interesting aspect of the Vermò recipe is its botanical content. A total of 31 botanicals were used, a blend of ingredients that was decided upon after much experimentation. “We knew the kind of taste we wanted and initially went to La Canellese with 15 or 16 botanicals in mind. But to balance our recipe we added many things, including spices that we didn’t know about at first!” says Velluto. “Obviously our recipe is a secret so we can’t reveal all of it, but we can say there are spices like cinnamon, galangal, white pepper, elements like vanilla, some great citric freshness from lemon and some lovely bitterness from botanicals like aloe, as well as three different kinds of wormwood, Roman wormwood (artemisia pontica), Alpine wormwood (artemisia vallesiaca) and absinthe wormwood (artemisia absinthium), all grown in the Piedmont region as is required for a Vermouth di Torino”.


Vermò has worked extensively with bartenders to create bespoke serves

When it is ready, Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso is bottled at 17% ABV and is ready to be consumed. The question is, how? Historically, vermouth in Italy was consumed with soda and in cocktails, like Negronis and Americanos. In Spain, the culture of cocktails is less strong and a lot of people drink vermouth neat. So, what should you do with Vermò? Easy: both. “We wanted to make vermouth that people would appreciate and often the best way to do that is to serve it neat or with some ice. Vermò really changes when you serve it this way, it opens up some other flavours, usually the fresher ones like the cardamom or lemon,” Ferrer explains. “But we also knew that we needed to have a product that was suitable and that worked really well with cocktails because, in the end, half of your advocacy is going to come from bartenders”.

It should come as no surprise then to learn that the brand has worked extensively with bartenders to create bespoke serves such as the El Don, Vermò Cobbler and Mary Anne. But if you’re intrigued by Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso and want to give it a try, a good place to start would be with the drinks you already know. It’s hard to go wrong with the classics. “It’s great in Negroni because it gives Vermò a fresher and citric taste and with whisky, it’s a really good match the lower sugar content gives more space for the spirit to be at its best. So we would especially recommend you try it in a Manhattan and Americano,” says Velutto. “A lot of cocktail bars go for the Americano and we never complain about it!” adds Ferrer.

While the early signs are promising and vermouth is reaching a wider audience with every passing year, there is still a lot of work to be done for brands like Vermò to reach its potential, something Ferrer and Velutto know all too well. “Bartenders are interested, but vermouth is still not at the stage where there’s a consistent premium consumer. There’s been growth and a lot of new brands coming in, but so many will disappear because there’s too much competition,” Ferrer admits. “What’s against us is that most consumers don’t really request a specific vermouth. When people order a gin and tonic, often they will say a brand of gin they want. It’s the same for whisky. With vermouth, you ask for a cocktail or a style, but not necessarily a brand name. There’s a lot of education to do with the consumer”. 


Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso is available at MoM Towers.

For now, Ferrer and Velutto are doing what they can to spread the word . “We’re trying to grow in different countries. In January we reached the US. Unfortunately, everything stopped with Covid,” Velluto says. “We were doing a competition that would elect the best under 30 bartender of Italy, so we approached that side of marketing and are trying to engage younger bartenders as we are a younger product”. The approach was certainly working prior to the lockdown, with the UK pleasingly registering as Vermò’s biggest market. Velluto and Ferrer agree that the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “Nobody has said ‘no’ to the product in two years!” Ferrer remarks. “In the beginning, the expectations weren’t high because nobody knew who we were and we didn’t have a big company behind us, so we surprised a lot of people. They could see that we were passionate about how it is made and that we had to risk our money and time to bring the product to the market. The industry thankfully is very kind and helped us a lot, but our rationale was always that the product will stand by itself”. 

You can purchase Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso here.

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The Nightcap: 12 June

On The Nightcap this week we’ve got news of gin’s big 2019, why 2,000 weddings will be getting free Aperol Spritzes and Campari’s virtual reopening of three of the world’s…

On The Nightcap this week we’ve got news of gin’s big 2019, why 2,000 weddings will be getting free Aperol Spritzes and Campari’s virtual reopening of three of the world’s best bars.

It’s World Gin Day tomorrow, folks. We’ll be seeing in the global celebration of all things gin by making a host of cocktails like The Hanky Panky, The Clover Club and The Gimlet. Or we may end up just making some G&Ts, though, because it has just come to our attention that tomorrow is also International Axe Throwing Day and we’ll need to dedicate some time to this historical pasttime (how could that go wrong?). Then Sunday is somehow both Juggling Day (luckily not on the same day as International Axe Throwing Day, that could have got messy) and Cupcake Day. That’s a lot of daily celebrations to keep up with. We don’t know how we’re going to juggle them all. Might be an idea just to do a little light reading and catch up on what’s going in the world of booze. Yes, it’s time for. . . The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we reminded you that Deals of the Day are back for the weekend before Kristy introduced Bathtub Gin 2020, a Master of Malt exclusive that we’ll donate £20.20 for every bottle sold to help those affected by Covid-19. For Annie, this week meant reporting on modern gin according to ye olde recipes and then provided handy instructions for how to add some sweetness to your serves, while Henry spoke to Logan Plant from Beavertown about beer, and yes, his famous dad, before asking a selection of people from Master of Malt and the wider Atom family what they will be buying their fathers for Father’s Day 2020. Adam then broke the news that Midleton Distillery had announced a new master distiller, Kevin O’Gorman, tried some particularly delicious Panamanian rum and a Cosmopolitan, which was our Cocktail of the Week. Just a reminder that you can still win a VIP trip to Tobermory Distillery.

We’d also love to give Susan Callander a virtual high-five because she’s the winner of last week’s virtual pub quiz! Once again thank you to all who entered. You can check out the answers to last Friday’s quiz below and this week’s edition of MoM pub quiz will be on our blog from 5pm as always. Get those drams poured and those thinking caps on!

The Nightcap

Record gin sales in 2019? Cheers to that!

UK toasts record gin sales in 2019 

If you’re looking to raise a glass to World Gin Day tomorrow, the chances are you’ve already got a bottle of delicious juniper-based goodness to hand, at least according to the WSTA’s latest insights (if you haven’t, go and treat yourself here). The organisation has reported that Brits bought a record-breaking 83 million bottles of gin last year worth over £2.6 billion, almost doubling in value in just two years from 42m bottles in 2016. The WSTA report details that gin sales have been rising since 2013 and that the biggest change in a single year was 2017 to 2018, as we went from buying 51m bottles to 73m, a 42% increase in volume. This trend, unsurprisingly, has led to a huge increase in distillers, from 152 in 2013 to 441 by 2019. The WSTA points to this increased interest in gin as being key in helping cocktail culture grow which in turn helps other branches of the great British distilling family like English and Welsh whisky. Perhaps most impressive of all is that the latest HMRC figures indicate that we exported £672 million worth British gin in 2019, taking total gin sales, at home and abroad, to over £3.2 billion. “Gin sales continued to grow throughout 2019 despite a number of predictions that the bubble will have to burst soon,” said Nightcap legend Miles Beale. “We knew that growth in the gin category would slow eventually, it was always inevitable given the incredible numbers we were seeing from 2016 onwards. We remain optimistic that British gin will continue to create a stir at home and abroad as our innovative distillers continue to produce new colours, creations and botanical masterpieces”. While we don’t know yet how Coronavirus pandemic will affect this, we do know even in lockdown, we still can’t get enough gin. It’s become Britain’s best-selling spirit across online platforms since March. Beale added that, provided spirit makers can survive the ongoing economic uncertainty, “it’s clear that gin’s success can be maintained at home and replicated abroad as our distillers look to export”. If you’d like to buy gin from an online retailer, might we be so bold to recommend… ourselves?

The Nightcap

You’ll be able to take a seat at Rome’s fabulous Drink Kong

Campari reopens the World’s Best Bars online

Campari must have read our minds because the drinks giant has spent this week bringing back boozers. And not just any boozers. Three of the world’s best bars, all virtually reopened – and you are invited. On the list is Rome’s fabulous Drink Kong, Edinburgh’s sublime Panda & Sons and Dante in New York, which you might have heard of. Y’know, given it was the number one bar in the world in 2019. Each session let’s you take a virtual seat at the bar and spend time with the likes of Linden Pride (Dante), Patrick Pistolesi (Drink Kong) and Iain McPherson (Panda & Sons), who will show you how to mix classic cocktails such as the Negroni and Sbagliato, as well as some signature creations. Two pre-made Campari cocktails from the bars’ menus will even be delivered to guests’ homes ahead of the night, along with the ingredients to mix another cocktail alongside the bartender. A different bar will open each weekend, beginning with Dante (12-13 June), Drink Kong (18-20 June) then Panda & Sons (25-27 June) and guests will be able to choose from one of three slots – 6pm, 7.30pm or 9pm – each lasting an hour. There’s just an intimate eight places per slot and the experiences, including drinks, are priced at £20 per person. “The closure of bars across the UK has had a profound effect on the industry and the livelihoods of those working in it,” says Nick Williamson, marketing director at Campari UK, said: “There are also many of us who are missing the experience of going to our favourite venues to enjoy a drink with friends. Although we can’t, yet, open the doors in real life, this is the next best thing to being there”. If you want to secure your slot, click here

The Nightcap

Seriously fancy

The Kyoto Distillery opens luxurious brand home

This week the Kyoto Distillery, Japanese gin pioneers, opened its brand home called ‘The House of KI NO BI’. No this isn’t on Zoom, Instagram or Facebook, this is an actual real-life place that you can visit now, assuming you can get to Japan. It’s located, as you might have guessed, in the ancient city of Kyoto in a traditional machiya townhouse. Though much of the classic look has been preserved, as you can see from the photo, no expense has been spared in its refurbishment with interior design by Douglas Kakuda Croll (us neither, but apparently he’s really prestigious) using classic Japanese woodwork and fabrics. The house is divided into a series of rooms or ‘ma’. These include a bar offering cocktails, local beers and wines, a shop, an exhibition space, a gin museum and a tasting room, as well as a member’s only bar overlooking a Japanese garden. For the moment, the bar will have limited opening times. For more information visit the websiteWe reckon no trip to Japan will be complete without a visit to ‘The House of KI NO BI.’

The Nightcap

The distillery’s celebrating its 20th anniversary and recently added Siddiqui Rum to its award-winning portfolio

Penderyn lands former Diageo man Simon Roffe

The Welsh Whisky Company, also known as Penderyn Distillery, has landed quite the coup this week by appointing Simon Roffe as its new director of business development. Roffe brings almost 35 years of commercial and general management in the drinks industry to the table, having worked for Guinness, Diageo, the Fairtrade Foundation and Remy Cointreau. Most recently, Roffe played a key role in launching the travel retail business at Halewood Wines & Spirits, and in the spectacular rise of Whitley Neill Gin. “We are excited to work with someone as experienced and as specialised as Simon. We are all naturally looking forward to seeing where we can take Penderyn with his drive and experience in the months and years to come,” says Stephen Davies, chief executive for Penderyn Distillery. “It has been a whirlwind year for our distillery, and with whisky fans far and wide sampling our latest tastes and bottles, there really is no limit to our global progression. Simon has the insight and the passion to really push Penderyn to the next stage of our export plan. Our recent awards successes show that people all over the world are still thirsty for authentic Welsh whisky”. Roffe added that he was thrilled to be joining the Penderyn Distillery brand and that it is “already making huge leaps and bounds on the global spirits markets. They are a brand driven by enormous ambition. It’s exciting to be working with such an innovative team delivering success after success.”

The Nightcap

And you get a spritz, and you get a spritz… Everybody gets an Aperol spritz!

And finally… Aperol’s Aperitivo upgrade to 2,000 weddings

If your wedding has been postponed because of the dreaded C-word, you can rest easy knowing that a certain Italian aperitivo has got your back! Aperol is doing what it knows best and giving 2,000 weddings that were postponed at the fate of COVID-19 a free Aperol Spritz for each guest. This is the result of a competition that was initially launched back on Valentine’s Day (when you could go out for dinner and drinks, remember that?) for 500 couples, but then the year’s events unfolded and Aperol decided to grant the wishes of all 2,000 people who entered! Whether your special day is postponed to later in 2020 or in 2021, you can be sure that you’ll have a spritz in your hand and all of this will (hopefully) feel like a distant bad dream. Though if everyone is guaranteed a free spritz, perhaps you’d better bump up that guest list…

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) In ‘Pulp Fiction’, when Vincent Vega asks “You don’t put bourbon in or nothin’?” about Mia Wallace’s order, what drink is he talking about?

Answer: Milkshake

2) Which of these grape varieties is not allowed in ChâteauneufduPape

Answer: Grenache

3) What was Robert Louis Steveson’s favourite whisky? 

Answer: Talisker.

4) In which country does Château Musar make wine? 

Answer: Lebanon

5) Angostura bitters was invented in which modern-day country? 

Answer: Venezuela

6) What was Al Capone’s favourite cocktail? 

Answer: Southside

7) What is ordered “on the rocks with a twist” in the 1993 film ‘Groundhog Day’?

Answer: Sweet Vermouth

8) In ‘Ghostbusters II’ which wine do Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver drink when they have dinner in a fancy restaurant? 

Answer: Château Haut-Brion

9) Which fictional whisky does Gotham City’s Commissioner Loeb keep in his desk in ‘The Dark Knight’? 

Answer: Clyburn

10) Traditionally, how many ‘Men of Tain’ made Glenmorangie whisky? 

Answer: 16 


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Bartender 101: simple syrups

If you’ve ever found yourself Googling ‘how to make sugar syrup’ halfway through a cocktail recipe, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll find instructions for six home-made ingredients, from…

If you’ve ever found yourself Googling ‘how to make sugar syrup’ halfway through a cocktail recipe, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll find instructions for six home-made ingredients, from sour mix to orgeat…

For every fruit, vegetable, spice, herb or unassuming shrub, there’s a potential syrup to be made. Beets, celery, allspice, mint, ginger, blackberry, fig, rose, pine – whatever it may be, bartenders have the skills to capture their essence in liquid form, and we applaud them for it.

As amateur bartenders, however, we prefer to leave the balsamic vinegar-laced tinctures to the pros – partly out of respect for the craft, but mostly because we’ll use them once and leave them lingering at the back of the fridge until we notice they’ve turned mouldy. Whoops.

With some recipes, though, there’s no skirting around the basics. Below, you’ll find the prep time, ingredients, method, storage and suggested cocktails for six well-known cocktail syrups and tinctures. The ingredients are measured in parts, so you can make as much or as little as you need.

Sugar syrup

Also known as simple syrup, this staple cocktail sweetener is found in a huge array of cocktail serves, and it couldn’t be easier to make at home. Pro tip: The longer you boil it, the thicker the resulting syrup will be. For a richer syrup, use a 2:1 ratio of caster sugar to water.

Prep time: 5 mins

Ingredients: 1 part caster sugar, 1 part water 

Method: Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to the boil. Then turn the heat low and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid turns clear. Leave to cool before bottling.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately one month.

Suggested cocktails: There are so many to choose from – light, fresh serves such as the Tom Collins and Mojito, as well as richer cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

Honey syrup

Similar to simple syrup, this process allows you to add honey to cocktails with ease. For a vegan-friendly version, switch the honey out for agave nectar.

Prep time: 5 mins

Ingredients: 1 part honey, 1 part water

Method: Bring the water to the boil, either in a saucepan, taking care to remove it from the heat afterwards, or just by boiling the kettle. Then add the honey and stir until it dissolves. Leave to cool before bottling.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately one month.

Suggested cocktails: Try the Bees Knees, Penicillin, or AirMail.

You’ll need orgeat if you want to make a Mai Tai


A Tiki cocktail staple, orgeat tastes like liquid marzipan. You can make orgeat by steeping raw almonds in water if you’d prefer – the process is a little laborious and requires more kitchen kit – but we’ve chosen to use almond milk for ease.

Prep time: 5 mins

Ingredients: 2 parts unsweetened almond milk, 1 part caster sugar, orange flower water to taste

Method: Heat the almond milk and sugar in a saucepan over a low to medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the orange flower water. The amount you add really depends on the quantity of syrup you’re making, but you won’t need much – 1/2 tsp per 250ml water. Allow to cool before bottling.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately one week; longer if you add brandy.

Suggested cocktails: The Mai Tai is a classic, but there are a whole host of contemporary recipes that rely on orgeat’s almond deliciousness.

Sour mix

Citrus is a key ingredient in a huge array of cocktails, but squeezing fresh lemons and limes for every drink takes time. Homemade sour mix is essentially simple syrup cut with lemon and lime juices, and it’s super handy to have in a pinch.

Prep time: 10 mins

Ingredients: 2 parts sugar, 2 parts water, 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method: Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to the boil. Then turn the heat low and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid turns clear. Leave to cool before adding your freshly squeezed citrus juice. Shake to combine.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately one week.

Suggested cocktails: Amaretto Sour, Whisky Sour, Margarita, Sidecar… They’re all a breeze with home-made sour mix.

The Nightcap

Upgrade your Espresso Martini with vanilla syrup

Vanilla syrup

Super easy to make and a dream addition to dessert-style cocktails, vanilla syrup is worth adding to your bar basics arsenal. It’s also delicious in your morning coffee. For a warming spice kick, try adding cinnamon sticks to the saucepan.

Prep time: 5 mins

Ingredients: 1 part caster sugar, 1 part water, vanilla extract to taste

Method: Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to the boil. Then turn the heat low and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid turns clear. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract, and then leave to cool. The amount you add really depends on the quantity of syrup you’re making – a handy guideline is 1 tbsp per 200ml water.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately one month.

Suggested cocktails: Add to dessert-style serves, such as the Espresso Martini and Irish Coffee.


Possibly the most widely-recognisable cocktail syrup – although not always for the tastiest of reasons (cough, Tequila Sunrise, cough) – grenadine is made from the juice of pomegranates. It’s a tart, sweet, red syrup that forms the backbone of a host of classic serves.

Prep time: 5 mins

Ingredients: 1 part pomegranate juice, 1 part caster sugar

Method: Add the pomegranate juice and caster sugar to a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Wait to cool before bottling.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately three weeks; longer if you add vodka.

Suggested cocktails: Endless options – from the punchy El Presidente to the tart-sweet Pink Lady, (and that retro non-alc classic, the Shirley Temple).

The Tequila Sunrise,

Nothing wrong with a Tequila Sunrise

Oleo Saccharum

You can make oleo-saccharum with nearly any citrus fruit; lemons, grapefruit, oranges, take your pick. Don’t be put off by the fancy name, it’s just a way of accessing the intense flavour locked inside the peel. Pro tip: avoid the pith when zesting, or it’ll turn bitter.

Prep time: Min 4 hours

Ingredients: 2 parts citrus peels, 1 part caster sugar

Method: Remove the zest from your citrus in wide strips using a vegetable peeler. Add the sugar and mash well with a muddler. Leave for between 4 and 24 hours – the longer you leave it, the stronger it’ll be – and then ‘strain’ the peels by pressing down on them with a sieve to extract the oil. Bottle and chill in the fridge.

How to store it: Store in the fridge. It’ll last approximately one week.

Suggested cocktails: Perfect for Punches, such as the Milk Punch and Fish House Punch. 

And if this all sounds like far too much work, you can always buy syrups from Master of Malt

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The Rum with No Name needs you

After a record-breaking nine months circumnavigating the world on a tandem bicycle, George Agate created a spiced white rum inspired by flavours he came across on the historic Silk Road….

After a record-breaking nine months circumnavigating the world on a tandem bicycle, George Agate created a spiced white rum inspired by flavours he came across on the historic Silk Road. Unfortunately, a trademark conflict forced Agate to abandon the brand name – Silk Road Distillers – mere months after launching. Now, he needs your help choosing a new one…

Having designed his rum specifically to pair with tonic, Agate’s intention behind Silk Road Spiced Rum – temporarily dubbed Rum with No Name – was to breathe new life into white rum. It’s a category he knows plenty about; prior to setting off on the ride that would raise more than £13,000 for charity and earn him a Guinness World Record, Agate worked as a bar manager.

George Agate resplendent in lycra

Around that time, the gin boom was kicking off. “It started off with Hendrick’s as a premium and Gordon’s as a house, and then you started getting your Silent Pools and your Sipsmiths,” he recalls. “And I was watching that and thinking, ‘Wait a second… There’s nothing happening for rum, especially white rum’. We had Koko Kanu and a few cachaças, maybe a bottle of Wray & Nephew. The rest was mainly dark spirits.”

Not long after, Agate set out on the bike trip with cycling buddy John Whybrow, covering 18,000 miles over nine months. Unassisted and carrying all their equipment, they started in Canterbury and headed to Istanbul through Europe. “From there we took the Black Sea and headed to Georgia, and then through Azerbaijan,” he says. “We couldn’t get visas for Iran, so we had to fly down to India.”

The duo cycled the coast of India, through south-east Asia and onto Australia and New Zealand. “One of the rules is that you have to go through opposite points on the planet,” he explains. “Two cities where, if you were to drill through the earth’s core, you’d come out at the other city. And so ours were Wellington in New Zealand and Madrid in Spain.” 

They flew to San Francisco and cycled through central America and Mexico to Panama. A flight to Morocco saw them cycle back up to Canterbury for the final stretch. Back home, Agate began working on his rum, inspired by the journey the duo had taken following the Silk Road eastwards from Istanbul.

Rum & Tonic coming right up

“That was my favourite part of the journey,” he says. “Everyone was so friendly. Locals put us up in mosques some nights, they would take us in and allow us to camp in their gardens. You go through a town and the locals would call you over to have tea with them and play dominoes. It was endless.”

Agate travelled the UK speaking to craft distillers – about 50 in total – before he found a partner that shared his vision for bringing the botanical elements of gin together with the flavours found in traditional spiced rum to create a spiced white rum that pairs beautifully with tonic. “Drinking rum with Coca-Cola as a standard mixer can really drown out the flavour and depending on what ginger drink you drink, that can hide the rum, too,” he explains. “But tonic works really well.”

Together, they imported rum from Guyana to be redistilled and vapour-infused with spices commonly found along the Silk Road trading route: lemongrass, ginger, pink peppercorns, rosehip, hibiscus and cinnamon. “Our rum is 42% ABV, so it’s got a little bit of heat afterwards if you drink it neat,” says Agate. “When we serve it with tonic, we add a little bit of lemon or hibiscus as a garnish. They both work really well. It’s a really refreshing drink.”

Less than six months after applying for the British trademark and launching the brand as Silk Road, the European trademark holder got in touch. Due to Brexit, European trademarks are being converted into British trademarks, so the two businesses faced a battle over who would retain the rights. Reluctantly, Agate decided to change the name – and he’s asking rum fans to rename the brand. 

There are only three rules. Firstly, it has to be three syllables or shorter. This is for simplicity, but also because the signature serve is tonic, so it needs an ‘and tonic’ bar call e.g. Silk Road and Tonic. The second rule is that it can’t be rude in another language or offensive in another culture, for fairly obvious reasons. And the third rule? “It can’t be Rummy McRumFace,” says Agate. 

Got a great idea for a name? To submit yours, all you need to do is donate between £5 and £500 on the Rum with No Name crowdfunding page – and you’ll even bag some rum goodies in return. Be quick, the campaign ends on Monday 8th June at the oddly specific time of 9:24am.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Dark ‘n’ Stormy

It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we…

It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we delve into the cocktail’s history and show you how to make the perfect one, with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, naturally.

Cocktail history can be pretty hard to get to the bottom of. Think of all the competing stories about the origins of the Margarita. Mix tall stories with alcohol and you get a whole world of confusion. To be honest, with most cocktails, we don’t know for certain when they were invented, by whom, how and even why. The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is different as there’s actually a foundation date, 9 June 1980, that’s 40 years ago this week. This was the date that Gosling’s trademarked its signature cocktail. 

As Malcolm Gosling puts it: “While in Europe, food and drink products can be granted Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication accreditation to stop them being appropriated, abused and misused, Bermuda has no such thing. With the popularity of Bermuda and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy® growing in the late ’70s, we felt it was vital that we started the process of protecting our heritage around this special drink.”

Gets our seal of approval, arff, arff

It’s been something of a mixed blessing for the firm ever since because on the plus point, it has its very own cocktail, no other rum brand has that. But at the same time, the family has to decide whether to send in the lawyers whenever someone advertises its cocktail with a different rum or creates a ‘Dark and Stormzy’ or suchlike. What would be in a Dark and Stormzy? The mind boggles.

Anyway, I digress. According to the press bumf, the name of the drinks comes from: “when an old salt observed that the rum floating on top of the ginger beer was the ‘colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under’”. Mmmm, well maybe, or perhaps it came from the timeless opening line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford: “it was a dark and stormy night.” A line that has become the classic way to open a shaggy dog story, so apt for delving into cocktail history.

According to Gosling’s lore, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy was invented in the early 1920s by the British officer’s mess in Bermuda. They added Gosling’s Black Seal to their own homemade ginger beer and thus a classic was born. Now, rum and ginger have a rich history together, think of punches. And whisky and ginger has been drunk for years so it seems unlikely that nobody had ever mixed rum with ginger beer before those British officers. But of course,  Gosling’s is trademarking the name, not the drink. Any rum can be in a rum and ginger, but only Gosling’s Black Seal can be in a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. As Malcolm Gosling eloquently puts it: “Fair enough, mix any rum and ginger beer you want but if it doesn’t have Gosling’s, don’t call it Dark ‘n’ Stormy®!”

The Gosling’s begins in 1806 when English merchant James Gosling left for America. He stopped in Bermuda and liked it so much that he decided to stay on to sell wines and spirits. The family has been there ever since. His rum blend dates back to the 1850s when it was sold from the barrel. Around the time of the first world war, it began to be bottled for sale, in used Champagne bottles from the officer’s mess, and sealed with black wax, hence the name. The business is run by the seventh generation of the Gosling family.

A pretty two-layered effect

Luckily for cocktail lovers, Gosling’s Black Seal is an extremely nice rum. It’s a classic navy-style blend made with a mixture of pot and continuous still rums from around the Caribbean. There’s plenty of proper aged rum and the sweetness is the perfect foil to. . .  yes, you’ve guessed it. . . ginger beer. And happily, Gosling’s makes its own special version (there’s even a premixed can for when you want a Dark ‘n’ Stormy on the move.) The final ingredient is lime. In the classic recipe, below, it’s just a wedge but some versions call from lime juice as well and even Angostura bitters. Heresy! A nice upgrade, however, if you’re feeling lively, is a tablespoon full of overproof rum on the top. Gosling’s, naturally. 

Right, here’s how to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Don’t forget the ®!

50ml Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
75ml Gosling’s ginger beer

Fill a Highball glass with ice and add the ginger beer. Pour the Gosling’s Black Seal over the top for a pretty two-level effect and garnish with a lime wedge.

Everything you need including the glass is in this special Dark ‘n’ Stormy bundle from Master of Malt.

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