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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: bars

The Nightcap: 17 January

In the Nightcap this week we’ve got reinvented bar tools, Dry January discounts and news of victors in the World’s Toughest Row.  We’re officially back into the swing of things….

In the Nightcap this week we’ve got reinvented bar tools, Dry January discounts and news of victors in the World’s Toughest Row. 

We’re officially back into the swing of things. Not simply in sense of The Nightcap, but just in general. Those first couple of weeks following that gift-giving occasion and that world-kept-spinning celebration can be somewhat rocky, but we are firmly back in the saddle, and the saddle is back on the horse, and the horse is back on track, and the track is… OK, actually, yeah, that sentence is over, but not because our ducks aren’t in a row, but really it just went on a bit long. Never-the-less, The Nightcap is ready!

On the blog this week announced the return of the Burns Night poetry competition, while also revealing the winner of our Starward competition. Elsewhere, Henry explored the effect of the iStill on distillation and enjoyed a distinctive beer for our New Arrival of the Week. Jess then talked to Reyka Vodka’s Fabiano Latham before Annie looked at how Australia’s wine industry is reacting to the recent bushfires and the new wave of no-and-low-alcohol drinks. Adam then learned the story behind the revival of James E. Pepper and rounded-up some of the finest new arrivals at MoM Towers, before enjoying a Cocktail of the Week that was both trendy and tropical.

The Nightcap

A very moody looking Monkey Shoulder ‘Trigger Jigger’

Monkey Shoulder gets jiggy with it with the ‘Trigger Jigger’

Monkey Shoulder has made a big claim this week by stating it has reinvented one of the most popular bar tools on the planet – the jigger. Coined ‘The Trigger Jigger’, the Scotch whisky brand has said it guarantees 100% accuracy per pour and will save every bartender an average 4 hours and 42 minutes per year. For those unfamiliar with the tool, the jigger is used to measure and pour spirits and you’ll be sure to find them in any good bar across the globe. However, Monkey Shoulder has commented that inferior jigger designs are inaccurate by as much as 20% because of the likelihood for spirits to spill whilst being measured. A statement that will have many a bartender nodding knowingly. Lab technicians at Monkey Shoulder have put this new tool to the test and the results show that while standard jiggers produce one pour per 0.86 seconds, the Trigger Jigger has recorded speeds of one pour per 0.789 seconds. The design is the brainchild of Monkey Shoulder global brand ambassador Joe Petch, who commented: “Some jiggers are just not good for business and can result in slower serving speeds. So inspired by a nickel- and silver-plated jigger from the late 1880s and through countless hours of research with bartenders around the world, I set about righting some wrongs.” He went onto explain that the key was to streamline the design to ensure maximum liquid velocity: “By engineering a piston valve mechanism, I’ve ensured an accurate cut start and stop flow rate. Pour in the liquid and apply some pressure on a trigger using a good old-fashioned finger. The spirit streams out at an optimum rate into the drinking vessel.” The launch of the Trigger Jigger follows previous Monkey Shoulder inventions such as the extendable ‘iSpoon’, cocktail mixer the Konga Shaker and The Claw ice tong. Bars such as The Artesian, Swift Bar, The Beaufort Bar and Callooh Callay have already started using The Trigger Jigger, and others who want to get in on the act can get their hands on the limited stock by getting in touch with either John Wayte (@BarMonkey_ ) or Jody Buchan (@JodySpiritual).

The Nightcap

Duvel Batch No. 4

Duvel launches Batch No. 4 aged in bourbon barrels 

Beer and whisk(e)y share many things, from the base materials, the fermentation process, and even that time those whiskies were put into an IPA cask. Well, now awesome Belgian beer Duvel Moortgat has released Batch No.4 which has been treated to a nine-month maturation in oak barrels which previously held delicious bourbon. And not just any bourbon either, but liquid from Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, George Dickel and Jack Daniels. The limited-edition brew was matured in more than three hundred barrels shipped over to Belgium, with 80,000 bottles released at a burly 11.5% ABV. “The Duvel brewers have not been sitting still in recent months, but our speciality beer has been doing just that,” says Hedwig Neven, brewmaster at Duvel Moortgat. “Lovers of beer, Duvel, and whiskey can once again enjoy Duvel Barrel Aged now that the barrels are opened after their long rest and the bottles have finally been filled!” With toasted flavours of toffee, vanilla and obvious bourbon influence, Batch No. 4 even stole a gold medal in the Brussels Beer Challenge. Said to be a great pairing with raw or smoked fish, sushi, grilled or smoked meat, cheeses, exotic fruit and chocolate, it’s hard to think of an occasion when it wouldn’t fit in!

The Nightcap

2020 looks like another big year for the family firm

Hayman Distillers launches spirit merchant arm, Symposium 

2019 was a big year for Hayman Distillers with the launch of its fiendishly clever Small Gin and Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum, and 2020 looks every bit as exciting as the London distiller has announced a new venture: Symposium, an independent spirits merchant. Named, no doubt, after the top 90s punk band, Symposium. This arm will involve a variety of spirit brands in categories including gin, vodka, Scotch whisky, rum, Tequila and sambuca. The portfolio will be divided into three parts. At the top is the Heritage range compromising of in-house products, Hayman’s Gin, Small Gin and Merser & Co rum; then the Challenger range with products like Bush Rum, Firean Scotch Whisky, Red Griffin Vodka and Half Crown Gin; and finally the House range. There is also talk of bringing in some agency brands in the future but nothing has been confirmed yet. James Hayman explained: ‘Our mission at Symposium is to create and to sell the finest range of spirits available.” He went on to say: “Symposium will operate at every level of the market with our Challenger brands, in particular, offering an exciting alternative for those who are no longer content to settle for ‘big-name’ brands from large producers and who seek a quality, independent option with a partner they can rely on for the long-term.” It’s all go at Hayman’s.

The Nightcap

We’ll certainly raise a glass to this good news!

The great pub and bar bounce-back is on!

After fifteen years of decline, we have some good news if you like pubs and bars (that’ll be all of us, then…). According to Office for National Statistics paper Economies of ale: changes in the UK pubs and bars sector, 2001 to 2019, the number of such drinking establishments in the UK is on the up once more! (Thumbs up to whoever came up with the name.) Sure, it’s just a 0.4% increase, but at the end of 2019, there were 85 more across the country than in 2018. Taking in larger sites (11+ employees) and chains, the total increase stood at 815. Cheers to that! Some of the trends behind the headline stats: we’re increasingly becoming a nation of foodies, with pubs and bars employing more people on the eating than drinking side of things as we all spend more on eating out than drinking out. But despite that, turnover is at the highest level since the financial crisis. Long live the pub!

The Nightcap

The beautiful original Bar Douro near London Bridge

Bar Douro to open branch in the City

Do you work in the City of London? Do you love Portuguese wine and food? Well, we have good news because Bar Douro is opening a branch in Finsbury Avenue on 28 January. The original opened in 2016 by Max Graham from the family that owns Churchill Port. It quickly picked up rave reviews from critics including Marina O’ Loughlin in the Guardian who wrote: “I have to restrain myself from licking the plate”. The new restaurant will offer food and wines from all over the country. Spirit lovers won’t be short-changed with a selection of specially imported Portuguese spirits including gins and Maven Aguardente aged brandy. And don’t forget, the best White Port & Tonics this side of Oporto. Graham commented: “We have only just scratched the surface of Portugal’s rich culinary traditions and with our second, larger space we are excited to further explore the wealth of Portuguese cuisine”. There will be a soft launch from 28 January until 11 February. Email city@bardouro.co.uk for a reservation. You won’t be disappointed. 

The Nightcap

The team of four Brits made it into safe harbour after winning the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019

Brits crowned champions in Talisker Atlantic Challenge

Remember when Talisker sent teams of intrepid sorts off across the Atlantic Ocean on the World’s Toughest RowWell… we have a victor! Or a team of four victors, to be precise. British team Fortitude IV was the first to make it from La Gomera in the Canary Island to Antigua in the Caribbean in an impressive time of 32 days 12 hours and 35 minutes! They braved 12-metre waves, a capsizing incident, broken oars, and “some of the scariest moments of [our] life”. Not for the faint-hearted, and especially impressive when you realise some teams expect to take eight more weeks to cross. Yikes. We raise our tasting glasses to Ollie Palmer (who also happens to work for Talisker parent company, Diageo), Tom Foley, Hugh Gillum and Max Breet, Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019 champions! “Being on the ocean in quite an extreme context, strips back all the noise and makes you realise what is really important to you,” said Gillum. “You have a lot of time to think out there – with no distractions – and that inspires you in different ways. It was an amazing thing to have done – we set off thinking it was a once in a lifetime thing and we can certainly maintain that position. The sum of all the parts is incredible – from seeing the shooting stars, to the arrival here tonight, and the support from all of our family and friends. There are tough times that we perhaps would wish away slightly but standing here now [in Antigua] we just think that the sum of all those parts is incredible.” Time for a well-earned dram, we think. Talisker, of course… 

The Nightcap

The Suntory Group will donate $500,000 AUD in support of those impacted by the bushfires

Suntory pledges AUD$500k to Australia bushfire relief

The devastating bushfires in Australia have broken hearts around the world – but individuals and companies are stepping forward to offer support in all kinds of ways. The latest to join the relief effort is Suntory Group, which makes the likes of Jim Beam bourbon, Hibiki Japanese whisky and Courvoisier Cognac. It’s committed to donating AU$500,000 (about £264,000) to the Australian Red Cross, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the New South Wales Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service. “We have all been deeply saddened by the spread of these immense fires, which have destroyed lives, towns, homes and wildlife,” said Andrea Parker, managing director at Beam Suntory Oceania. “We are committed to helping rebuild these communities along with the rest of the Suntory Group.” The pledge follows another AU$500k donation from Diageo-owned Bundaberg rum to the Australian Red Cross earlier this week. Want to know more about the bushfires and how you can help? Check out the blog right here for more.

The Nightcap

The new partnership is for those who manage a team behind the bar and want to boost wellbeing

Small Batch Learning and Healthy Hospo team up on wellbeing initiative

Bartenders, (or indeed, anyone who works in hospitality) listen up! Smart-learning company Small Batch Learning has partnered with Healthy Hospo, a non-profit wellness education provider, to offer bars, restaurants and hotels an online tool to promote mental and physical health. Level 1 content is totally free to access and will be inserted into existing Small Batch materials, while Level 2 plans are paid-for, with proceeds reinvested in Healthy Hospo. “A healthy mind, body and workplace should be a non-negotiable, and we’re proud to partner with Healthy Hospo to help address these topics,” says Duncan Campbell, COO of Small Batch Learning. “As we continue our mission to make hospitality training accessible and relevant, this partnership will shine a light on serious issues facing the industry that are often pushed aside or laughed off. We’re thrilled to support Healthy Hospo scale up and help further the impact of its crucial training.” Tim Etherington-Judge, Healthy Hospo founder, added: “From chronic rates of sleep deprivation and substance abuse, to sky-high issues with mental health, we are not a healthy industry – and we often suffer in silence. It’s time to change the conversation and stop putting our health, and that of our colleagues, at the bottom of the to-do list.” If you manage a team in hospitality, check out Small Batch Learning!

The Nightcap

The choice of headline sponsor at SXSW is an example of the rise of hard seltzer

White Claw lines up South by Southwest partnership

If you needed any more indicators that hard seltzers are going to be A Very Big Thing, here’s another for you. White Claw, the US’s best-seltzer brand, has just taken over ‘super sponsorship’ of South by Southwest (SXSW). The actual interesting bit? It’s binned off a beer brand to nab the top spot. All eyes will be on the music, film and tech event, which takes place in Austin, Texas, from 13-22 March, and to have a hard seltzer over a beer marks a shift indeed. “We’re thrilled to bring White Claw to life at SXSW,” said Phil Rosse, president, White Claw Seltzer Works. “This brand has been built through the great passion and celebration by our fans, connecting the brand to culture and sharing it through their social channels. We are excited to support SXSW, an event that has always been ground zero for innovation in culture and technology.” Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and co-founder, added: “SXSW is excited to work with White Claw. As one of the fastest-growing brands, their sponsorship of SXSW reflects the independent and innovative spirit that SXSW is known for.” Bring on the seltzers!

The Nightcap

Alain Ducasse opposes Dry January, and we salute him

And finally… Alain Ducasse fights Dry January with discount fine wine

Are you getting a bit bored of Dry January? The pious friends who won’t go to the pub, your favourite drinks website brimming with articles about non-alcoholic drinks instead of whisky and the dreaded word ‘mocktail.’ Well, Alain Ducasse feels your pain. He told the Guardian this week: “I’ve noted that trend but I don’t want to see or hear of it, I am opposed to it.” And so, he has put his money where his mouth is and slashed the prices of some of his best bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy in an effort to get diners drinking again. So get down to your local Ducasse restaurant, like Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London, order something fancy, and sip away those January blues.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: Leche de Panthera

Adding some tropical vibrancy to banish those January blues, our Cocktail of the Week is a twist on the Piña Colada from a certain recently opened Brazilian-fusion restaurant and bar… …

Adding some tropical vibrancy to banish those January blues, our Cocktail of the Week is a twist on the Piña Colada from a certain recently opened Brazilian-fusion restaurant and bar… 

Everybody’s had a bad Piña Colada. A fluffy, fruity frozen serve with festive paper parasols always sounds appealing in the summer months, in that garden bar or by the pool on holiday. Until you get a drink that’s borderline radioactive with chemicals and artificial sweeteners coupled with an oppressive amount of ice that means you end up feeling like you’re imbibing a colourful watery syrup.

But for Edoardo Casarotto, head of bars at Amazónico, a Piña Colada-style drink on the menu was a must. “We are a South American restaurant and I wanted to make a twist on South American classic drinks. The Piña Colada is one of the most iconic,” he says. “I love the flavour of coconut and the pineapple, but I wanted to make it a little bit more elegant so less creamy and less heavy”.  Some of you may know of a classic drink made with milk in Spain called ‘Leche de Pantera’, (milk of the panther, which is such a kickass name), a popular cocktail in Spain since the seventies predominantly made with milk, white spirit (gin or rum commonly) and cinnamon. It also served as an inspiration to Casarotto, who explained that the key to making his drink was “To create a combination of two classic drinks and make it a little bit more elegant while still retaining the intense flavour”. This is not a faithful recreation, folks. We’re experimenting today.

Leche de Panthera

At the beautiful Amazónico in London, where they really do love all things pineapple

As we learned in our review of Amazónico, Casarotto’s style is to make sensational drinks with the simplest ingredients possible. At the base of his cocktail is a mix of vodka, sherry, Agricole rum, lime juice and white chocolate liqueur. The star turn is the homemade spiced pineapple syrup, which he created in order to achieve that lighter and approachable style. “We use fresh pineapple which we cook with spices like star anise, cloves, cinnamon as well as coconut water,” Casarotto explains. A dash of turmeric powder is added for aesthetic, as is the dyed green coconut powder that serves as a garnish. The result is a finished cocktail that looks like a real pineapple.

Especially in that glass. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more striking glass than the one Leche de Panthera is served in.  The bespoke glassware was made to order Hundred Percent Barman and even requires a special gun in order to clean it properly. Casarotto says it’s having the desired effect: people see the glass and they want the drink. “It’s doing very well, to be honest, it’s one of the best sellers. When they see the drink on the table or on the bar, they want to know what it is, they want me to describe the drink. It’s very ‘Instagramable’,” he explains, laughing. “A lot of people love to take pictures of this drink, but it’s good to know that they are also getting a great drink inside the great glass”. 

Leche de Panthera

The Leche de Panthera

The Leche de Panthera is absolutely delicious. The balance of sour and sweet flavours is spot on and it avoids all the pitfalls of a poorly-made Piña Colada. It’s refined, it’s fruity and it’s going to wow company even without the signature glass.

Right, without further ado, here is Leche de Panthera!

35ml Belvedere Vodka
15ml Trois Rivières Agricole Rum
5ml Manzanilla sherry
10ml White chocolate liqueur
15ml of spiced pineapple syrup (If you’re not comfortable cooking your own, then try this an alternative)
10ml lime juice

Stir all the ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice for a minute or so. Strain into a chilled bespoke, made-to-order glass and add a dash of turmeric powder. Then garnish with a dehydrated pineapple slice and a maraschino cherry, then sprinkle some coconut powder (dyed green, of course) on the glass leaves of your pineapple. Or, you could just use a Poco Grande glass, a regular pineapple wedge and rim the glass with your coconut powder. Whatever works for you. 

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The next generation of no and low-alcohol drinks are here

With alcohol-free cocktails inching their way onto mainstay menus, and an ever-expanding selection of low- and no-alcohol spirits, beers and wines to choose from, it’s little wonder that 2020 is…

With alcohol-free cocktails inching their way onto mainstay menus, and an ever-expanding selection of low- and no-alcohol spirits, beers and wines to choose from, it’s little wonder that 2020 is forecast to be Dry January’s biggest year yet. From mood-altering plant tonics to low-alcohol gin-alikes, we take a look at the latest teetotal tipples on the market…

With 8.6 million Brits actively moderating their alcohol intake, according to Drinkaware, and a sizeable 20.9% of the UK adult population completely teetotal in the latest ONS survey, the low- and no-alcohol movement can no longer be seen as a passing fad. Driven by demand for a lower ABV lifestyle, the market for alternative adult drinks has transformed from a one-brand-band – led by pioneers Seedlip – into a full-blown drinks category. And it is brimming with innovative creations.

“People who are reducing their drinking still want to have a fun night out and enjoy the time they spend with friends and family, so they are looking for drinks that give them the experience – just without the booze,” says Richard Clark, founder and MD of alcohol-free craft beer and cider producer Drynks Unlimited. The challenge, he says, lies in developing liquids that taste, look and smell like their alcoholic counterparts.

Jukes

It’s only Matthew Jukes!

Non-alcoholic beer has integrated into social occasions with relative ease, and alcohol-free wine is well on its way, with the likes of Jukes Cordialities premiumising the arena. Created by the Daily Mail‘s wine writer Matthew Jukes, the non-alcoholic cordial range is designed to mirror the ‘length and build quality of a fine wine’, the website states, with ‘complex, aromatic characters as well as uncommon texture, flavour and richness on the palate’.

Booze-free spirits, meanwhile, have faced a greater challenge winning over drinkers, largely because it’s far more difficult to replicate the real stuff. “Texture is a big thing,” agrees Geyan Surendran, development scientist and botanical alchemist at Three Spirit. “Some of the earlier non-alcoholic spirits, once mixed out, can be a little bit insipid, they don’t have that mouth-coating ability. The cooling and heating elements alcohol has are pretty key to the experience; complex textures that don’t just feel like flavoured water.” From punchy Siberian ginseng to calming valerian root, the non-alcohol spirit brand harnesses the power of plants to stimulate the mind and body as well as the palate.

It’s an approach shared by adaptogenic plant spirits brand Senser, founded by plants alchemist Vanessa Jacoby. The three-strong range sees ‘functional botanicals’ combined and treated in a way that means each 50ml serve ‘delivers an effective botanical dosage’. The Love bottling, for example, contains rhodiola, caraway and passionflower – all known for their calming, anxiety-soothing effects. “It’s about addressing why people drink beyond the aesthetic part of it, that’s what we’re interested in,” Three Spirit’s Surendran adds.

Atopia, made by the master distiller behind Hendrick’s Gin

Physical elements aside, alcohol-free producers are also keen to tap into the social ritual associated with drinking and make their offerings as accessible and acceptable as other full-strength products. And not just to appease teetotallers, either. Increasingly, drinkers are mixing traditional spirits with low- and no- options during the same drinking occasion. Take William Grant & Sons’ ‘ultra low alcohol spirit’ Atopia, created by Lesley Gracie, the master distiller behind Hendrick’s Gin. If you’re looking for moderation, Atopia enables you to go out and stay out, according to the website an Atopia & Tonic contains 75 times less alcohol than a Gin & Tonic. 

“We see that people within an evening are having the ‘wedge drink’ – moderating by alternating between an alcoholic and then a non alcoholic drink through the night,” says Mark Livings, CEO of Lyre’s Spirits. “The challenge here is that it’s obvious to others what you are doing and it’s a compromise that ‘breaks’ the taste of what you’re drinking.” Lyre’s, which offers a wide array of non-alcoholic spirits including Absinthe, American Malt and Dark Cane Spirit, intends to closely match the flavours and appearance of classic spirits to give sober curious drinkers more freedom. 

It’s not the only producer to move into this space. Scotland’s first distilled alcohol-free spirit, Feragaia, is an amber-coloured liquid that wouldn’t look out of place in a Glencairn glass. Distilled in the Lowlands, the team combines 14 responsibly-sourced botanicals, including seaweed, bay leaf and chamomile, capturing the flavours through ‘multiple runs’. The delicate notes of flowers and leaves combine with the earthier elements of root botanicals and spices to create a taste of clean complexity, the website explains. Non-alcoholic spirit Amplify, meanwhile, has adopted a classic botanical recipe – juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, lemon peel, lemongrass and ginseng root – to emulate the flavours drinkers are used to.

Feragaia

Feragaia, no alcohol, no sugar, lots of flavour

“We developed a menu hack that assimilates the non-alcoholic offering into the existing cocktail menu which has been a huge hit and helped to drive our brand forwards,” says Alex Carlton, founder and CEO of alcohol-free spirits range Stryyk. “By simply offering a non-alcoholic version of a bars’ existing cocktail menu by swapping out rum, gin or vodka for our Not Rum, Not Gin or Not Vodka – denoted by our Strykk asterisk on menu – consumers who are looking for quality non-alcoholic drinks can do so without breaking ritual and also enjoying the same experience as their friends who are drinking.”

Of course, not every alcohol-free offering sets out to imitate the alcoholic aspect of the drink. Rather than recreate a classic booze category, sparkling botanical drinks producer Humble Warrior cold brews, distils and extracts various roots, leaves and spices to make healthful adult soft drinks. Regardless of whether you’re emulating the spirit or levelling up the mixer, when you want to bring no and low to the masses, familiarity is key. 

“Products that are already aligned to make-at-home drinks are extremely appealing as they can enjoy their very same rituals without having to learn new unique and overly complicated serves from non-category aligned brands,” Carlton adds. “They can easily pick up a bottle of Not Gin, Not Rum or Not Vodka on the shelf in the supermarket or online safe in the knowledge that it’s already going to do what they expect it to do.”

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Cocktail of the Week: The Apple Dog

This week’s Cocktail of the Week is a fruity little number created by Andy Huntley, Copper Dog whisky’s newly-appointed GB brand ambassador. A singer, songwriter and bartender by trade, here…

This week’s Cocktail of the Week is a fruity little number created by Andy Huntley, Copper Dog whisky’s newly-appointed GB brand ambassador. A singer, songwriter and bartender by trade, here Huntley delves into the curious history behind the blended malt Scotch bottling – and reveals how he orchestrated the first ever DJ set at Stonehenge…

The link between taste and sound is a connection few understand better than singer, songwriter, bartender and now Copper Dog whisky ambassador Andy Huntley. Having recently joined the Diageo Reserve team in the UK with 18 years’ experience in the bar and music industry, it’s safe to say the South Wales native knows a thing or two about the perfect soundscape for a dram. 

We took five with Huntley to find out how he’ll apply his pitch-perfect knowledge to the blended Speyside malt brand – and scored a simple recipe to try at home. Siri, open Spotify…

MoM: Huge congratulations on the new role, Andy! You’ve almost 20 years’ experience in the bar and music industry – could you share a handful of your career highlights so far? 

Andy Huntley: I first fell in love with the world of hospitality when I began my career as a barback in Australia. Before joining Diageo, I worked with a number of brands within large drinks companies where I headed up the portfolio of premium and luxury brands creating bespoke events for the on-trade. I was also the whisky and music ambassador for single grain whisky 8O8 where I created a Whisky and Music training and advocacy platform for the UK on-trade – this is mainly what led me to bring both my passions together of whisky and music and inspire bartenders nationwide. As GB brand ambassador for Copper Dog whisky, I’m thrilled to continue telling this story and help to bring together these two industries, sharing my knowledge of both scenes. I’ve been lucky enough to share a stage and work with some amazing artists from Snow Patrol to Ellie Goulding and played for Prince William and Harry a couple of times. A highlight for me as a whisky and music ambassador was partnering with Paul Oakenfold and Carl Cox for the first ever DJ set at Stonehenge – we had a VIP coach from London with the likes of Hollywood A-lister Andy Serkis. I made some drinks for them on the way down then we had a party inside the stone circle with Paul and Carl going back-to-back. It was a really moving experience to be that close to the stones with two of the biggest names in dance music.

Andy Copper Dog

Andy Huntley from Copper Dog pours Copper Dog into a Copper Dog

MoM: Could you talk about any common ground between the two industries and how you’ll be exploring those further in your new role?

AH: Music is intrinsically linked to both a great night in or out. It heightens the senses and can make everything from an intimate conversation to a fun night out even more enjoyable. It adds another dimension. Shared love of music – and great whisky – is also a brilliant way to break down barriers and bring people together. My new role will see me harness all this and raise brand awareness for Copper Dog in quite a unique way by hosting tastings, playing live shows, working with record labels, creating music events and brand activations. Music is an essential atmospheric ingredient in any bar or restaurant. Over the last few years I’ve developed and implemented a music and atmospherics programme educating bartenders to create the perfect playlist for their bar. I’m excited to continue this journey with Copper Dog.

MoM: For those who are new to the brand, could you share a little bit of the backstory?

AH: Copper Dog was originally founded by bar and nightclub tycoon Piers Adam, and the inspiration behind the creation of the whisky comes from the Craigellachie Hotel located in the heart of Speyside. The once run-down hotel was purchased by Piers in 2014 and has now been restored back to its former glory. The Copper Dog name comes from an old device made from copper tubing with a penny soldered to one end and cork in the other, which was used by distillery workers to smuggle whisky home in the 19th century. It’s also the name of the bar at the Craigellachie Hotel. The simple, bold honesty of the Copper Dog brand is also mirrored on-pack in the unique whisky dipper and dog emblems, designed by famed British illustrator Hugo Guinness, to grace every bottle.

MoM: What makes Copper Dog different to other blended Scotch whiskies – in terms of the liquid but also the philosophy behind the brand?

AH: Copper Dog is a truly modern whisky – familiar, inclusive, friendly and relaxed. It’s Scottish hospitality in a glass, without the stuffy conventions or dress codes and is always amplified by a soundtrack of friendly conversation. Bottled at 40% ABV, the liquid is a unique blend of no fewer than eight single malt whiskies, slowly married together in old oak casks. It’s an easy, accessible Scotch, with ripe fruit aromas, and a delicate, spicy finish. Simple enough to be approachable but complex enough to thrive when mixed. Each bottle really is bursting with the true spirit of those Speyside rascals who inspired it. The mischief-makers and opportunists who agree it’s enjoyed best when shared. What also makes it unique of course is that it is blended by master blender Stuart Morrison. The whiskies included in Copper Dog have been aged in a mixture of refill American and European oak casks, first fill bourbon casks and rejuvenated casks, before being married in hogsheads.

Apple Dog

Everyone loves an Apple Dog

MoM: And finally, could you talk us through the concept behind the Apple Dog cocktail?

AH: An Apple Dog is simply a 40ml measure of Copper Dog with one freshly-juiced Granny Smith Apple, served over ice. This drink brings the fresh orchard fruit flavours of Copper Dog to life and the acidity of a Granny Smith really cuts through the drink to add a delicious sourness. It’s always been a personal goal of mine to introduce new drinkers to the wonders of whisky. It’s such an exciting and vast category but it can also be quite intimidating or seen to be complicated to those new to this world. It definitely doesn’t need to be that way and we believe that simplicity is key. Copper Dog is a perfect introduction to whisky and can be enjoyed served with a quality mixer. We want to suggest serves that everyone can make at home and it doesn’t get much simpler than an Apple Dog. I always start my whisky tastings and brand trainings with a welcome Apple Dog. It’s a great way for consumers or industry friends to try Copper Dog for the first time. I guarantee that not many gin drinkers first tried their favourite tipple neat, in a snifter glass and at room temperature. It would have been in a G&T or a cocktail. I take this same approach to whisky and have had nothing but love for Apple Dog by those who have tried it.

So without further ado, here it is, the Apple Dog!

45ml Copper Dog whisky 
1 Granny Smith apple or 70ml of good quality apple juice

Juice one Granny Smith apple (or save yourself the trouble and use bought apple juice) . Combine apple juice with Copper Dog whisky in a rocks glass. Add cubed ice and serve.

 

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Five minutes with. . . Claire Warner of Aecorn

Continuing our Dry January coverage, we talk to Claire Warner, co-founder of Aecorn, the non-alcoholic aperitif from the people who brought you Seedlip, about the burgeoning category, medieval recipes and…

Continuing our Dry January coverage, we talk to Claire Warner, co-founder of Aecorn, the non-alcoholic aperitif from the people who brought you Seedlip, about the burgeoning category, medieval recipes and her views on the competition. 

We met with Claire Warner at the newest outpost of Soho Italian deli, Lina Stores, in the former goods yard behind King’s Cross station in London which is now bursting with bars and restaurants. It’s an appropriate choice of venue because Aecorn, a non-alcoholic drink from the people behind Seedlip, is designed to be drunk with food. Londoner born and bred, Warner is an industry veteran having spent 15 years at LVMH working with Belvedere vodka. Aecorn comes in three varieties, Dry, Aromatic and Bitter. The latter two varieties work something like amaro or vermouth, being designed to be mixed; you can make a so-called NOgroni (see what they did there?) with equal parts Seedlip and the two Aecorns. Dry, however, is particularly good drunk neat and chilled as a wine alternative. It’s far more delicious than any non-alcoholic wine that I’ve tried having great acidity, texture and depth of flavour. Over a few glasses, Warner told us a bit more about it. 

NOgroni

Is that a Negroni? No, it’s a NOgroni

Master of Malt: Where did the idea for Aecorn come from?

Claire Warner: I was really frustrated by how little there was to drink with food specifically when you’re not drinking. And having seen how well Seedlip really articulated that problem, we felt that there was a natural opportunity for us to create something that really was more than non-alcoholic wine. I joined 18 months ago to realise this new brand that would work specifically with food. So we spent some time looking in some old books, and found two things that were interesting: one was the use of verjus in the Middle Ages in the UK when we had lots of grapes, and then also this recipe for acorn wine that we found that was being used as a digestif as it aids digestion. And putting the two things together and thinking actually there’s a real opportunity for us to create a range of products that are inspired by European aperitifs, grape-based with the addition of botanicals to work with food.

MoM: How long did it take to develop? 

CW: It took about a year. The whole process. And the liquid development part in particular, I think we take for granted how alcohol works when it comes to stability and extraction and things like flavour profile. We really began with first of all finding English verjus, which was very difficult because there’s not a lot of excess grapes in England. We had to really work hard to find a grower that actually only grows grapes for verjus, so we’ve been very, very lucky. And the verjus gives us a lot of the same sort of mouth feel, structure the sensation of wine, perhaps in the mouth. 

MoM: Can you explain what verjus is?

CW: Verjus means ‘green juice’ and it is essentially the juice of unripened grapes. We use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier that grow in Sussex. And we press them before they change colour, so that we get a lot of beautiful acidity and quite a lot of tannins as well. And we press just before veraison when the grapes are just starting to change colour, so we get some sweetness too. So we get a nice balance between acidity and sweetness. And then we add the botanicals to give us the sort of flavour that you would expect from something that would work with food. In the case of this, we’ve got lots of green herbaceous notes, a little bit of salinity as well, lots of astringency from black tea and the grapes that we use, so all in all it’s a really sort of dry and fresh, green, herbaceous drink that you could have with food. And then the Aromatic is much more, aromatic, and it’s got vanilla and kola nut and clove and cassia, so really rich and indulgent flavours that work at the end of the meal.

The Aecorn range

The Aecorn range

MoM: There are three varieties aren’t there?

CW: There’s three and the third is bitter, which is bitter, and behaves much more like the traditional Italian bitter liqueur, so lots of orange, grapefruit, gentian. And then what runs through all of them is the eponymous acorns, so we do use acorns for some of the bitterness and some of the tannins as well. And tannins are super important for something that doesn’t have alcohol, because it creates that sort of same structure in the mouth as you would expect from wine. 

MoM: It’s quite a new category, do you think there’s masses of untapped potential here?

CW: I think we’ve just scratched the surface with what’s possible. Unlike many new innovations in the spirits world, it is really driven by consumer demand. It’s the consumer that’s really wanting something grown up, sophisticated, complex that they can have in a bar environment or in a restaurant. 

MoM: Do you think it’s more of a drink for the on-trade?

CW: I don’t. The demand has been driven by the consumer in the off-trade and that’s certainly where Seedlip started its journey, with it being launched in Selfridges and we also were launched in Selfridges. But I think as more bars and the on-trade really recognise that there’s a demand for great non-alcoholic options, we’re seeing the on trade adopt Aecorn. Of course, Seedlip has been around for four years now, so it started out with Seedlip and now there’s a proliferation of non-alc options, the on-trade are absolutely getting on board with this as something the consumer is looking for. I think in the future we want to become almost ambivalent about the alcohol content and really focussing on flavour as the key driver for people who are interested in food. So foodies are a really great target for us, people who just love food, love flavour, love eating out, love entertaining and yes if there’s something for those people who are not drinking, Aecorn is the solution. 

MoM: Have you been pleased to see how many rivals you have these days? Do you think that’s all good for the category

CW: There are a lot. And of course back to your earlier question, is there opening up an opportunity? I think that’s evidenced by how many new brands are being launched, it feels like there’s sort of one a second. I think now because the consumer’s demanding of new experiences, then absolutely, there’s new competitors coming into the marketplace. I would say that there are some great options and there are some ‘less than great’ options, and unfortunately for a very new category, you know what’s important for us is that we maintain our quality credentials because as the pioneers of this category we have a responsibility to ensure that the consumer gets a great experience every time they come to Seedlip or Aecorn. So that for us is super important, the stability factor, the consistency factor to make sure the liquid tastes as great as the day when you opened it to the day when you finish the bottle.

It’s Claire Warner!

MoM: Tell me a bit about Diageo, because they now have a majority stake in the business. That must give you a lot of muscle behind you?

To quote Ben, ‘it really puts the wind in our sails’ and you know, to have the world’s largest spirits company believe in this category also underscores your earlier question about the opportunity I feel, so yes, absolutely, it’s wonderful to work with them.

MoM: The price is quite high, considering you don’t have duty or anything like that on it. Is that a deliberate positioning thing?

CW: It’s interesting that it’s a question that is asked frequently. For us, we start with a very expensive base in verjus that’s pretty rare I mean there’s only one verjus producer in the UK. So our cost of goods are elevated and we use incredibly high quality ingredients because there’s no hiding place in something that’s non-alcoholic. The quality hopefully should shine through in the delivery of the flavours and all the ingredients that we’re using. We also, in order to extract in the best way, alcohol is used for some of the ingredients earlier on in the process, so there is a cost involved in the alcohol we use further up the supply chain. So all in all, it contributes to the price point. It’s not as though we’re deliberately elevating the price in order to take all of the margin. It’s actually that the costs of making something delicious, complex, non-alcoholic and stable has a cost. 

MoM: What next for Aecorn?

CW: It’s really just to kind of continue building the brand in the right way, working with people like Lina Stores and all the other kind of great bars and restaurants that we have in the UK, continuing to really work with our grocery partners such as Ocado and Waitrose, to ensure that the consumer can access Aecorn anywhere in the UK. And then to work collaboratively with Seedlip, so the NOgroni is a really great example of that sort of cross-brand collaboration which has been super successful. 

 

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How to use plant milk in cocktails

With bartender creativity at an all-time high, a bevy of plant-based ‘milks’ to play with, and Veganuary just around the corner, a question arises: how do you incorporate a dairy-free…

With bartender creativity at an all-time high, a bevy of plant-based ‘milks’ to play with, and Veganuary just around the corner, a question arises: how do you incorporate a dairy-free alternative, be it oat, almond, rice or otherwise, into a cocktail? Don’t have a cow, man – here, MoM unscrews the proverbial cap on alt-milk drinks…

Gone are the days when milk came only from mammals. Plant-based milks have become a coffee shop mainstay over the last decade, and now they’re finally beginning to edge their way onto cocktail menus. Spurred by demand from their customers, bartenders have started to draw a line under dairy and look to plant-based alternatives for their creamier serves. 

In some bars, the switch is spurred by physiological factors i.e. catering to intolerances and dietary preferences. For others, it’s driven by environmental concerns – dairy production doesn’t exactly fit into the sustainability narrative the bar world has so passionately adopted, plus it spoils quickly. Whether the motivation is practical or ethical, plant milks are here to stay.

“Using regular dairy products is challenging in the current climate because of intolerances, allergies or people just not wanting to include them in their diets,” confirms Peter Seabrook, bar manager at PS40 in Sydney, Australia. Doubling down on the points above, the team there don’t just use plant based milks in drinks – they even make their own.

Beyond appealing to a broader audience and saving the planet, two of the most compelling reasons to incorporate plant-based milks into a cocktail menu are texture and taste, Seabrook says. “There are so many applications you can do with plant-based milks based around soaking or infusions to get different combinations of flavour, as well as how much you want to dilute or fine them in terms of texture.”

PS40 Sydney

PS40 Syndey, swanky!

Does the rise of plant-milk spell the beginning of the end for traditional cocktails like the White Russian, Grasshopper, and Irish Coffee? No – quite the opposite, actually. It’s clear that plant-based milk has shaken off its reputation as being little more than insipid cream-coloured water, and these days the diversity in flavour – from brand to brand, let alone between raw ingredients – means the dairy-free market is bursting with potential.

Each variety, whether it’s nut-based, rice-based or something else entirely, tastes distinctly different, confirms JJ Goodman, founder and owner of London Cocktail Club. “A lot of these non-dairy alternatives have varying flavour profiles that can elevate and manipulate the characteristics you’d expect in classic cocktails,” he explains.

He points to a coconut drink alternative by London-based drinks company Rude Health. “It’s great in cocktails like the Piña Colada, as a substitute for milk and cream or even a, White Russian to add a different complexity to the drink,” Goodman says. Perhaps the rise of plant-based milks will pave the way for a milk cocktail revival? Personally, we’d love to see bartenders dig out forgotten recipes from the seventies and give them a plant-based makeover.Modern classics, too, stand to be elevated by the trend. Most recently, Goodman and his team made an Espresso Martini with coconut drink. “To be honest, it was more of an Espresso Martini Latte,” he elaborates, “but the addition of coconut worked well, we even swapped out vodka for medium dark rum. It went down very well as it was really light, silky almost, and the coffee was not too overpowering.”

So from the vast array of plant-based milks available, which works best when combined with alcohol? There’s no hard and fast rule, unfortunately – it really does depend entirely on the drink. The LCC team has experimented with several plant-based milk varieties at its Covent Garden Social Club outpost, including coconut, hazelnut, cashew nut, and brown rice, and found that each “brings its own characteristics,” Goodman says, “coconut milk has a nice light sweetness, while cashew milk has a rich roasted quality because cashews are roasted during production and have a touch of sea salt added.”

That is a French Coffee

Down under at PS40, meanwhile, the bar team is presently championing oat milk with the ‘Hoagie Nation’ cocktail, named after the unofficial Hall & Oates music festival in Philadelphia. “It contains oat milk, aquavit, Cynar and dry sherry with a few shavings of tonka bean,” Seabrook explains. “We then heat it up and stretch it, like a barista would with milk, to make it fluffy.” His all-time favourite dairy-free option? pandan milk, he says, “it’s green, fun and delicious”.

Ready to give plank milk-based cocktails a crack? We thought so. Below, you’ll find Goodman’s Irish Coffee recipe as referenced above. Instead of fresh cream and Irish whiskey, the drink is made with almond milk and Cognac. The ultimate winter warmer – enjoy!

 LCC French Coffee Social Club:

50ml Cognac
2 tsp Demerara sugar
2 tsp instant coffee
150ml hot water
60ml chilled Rude Health Almond Drink thickened with rice flour*

Add the Cognac, sugar, coffee and water to an Irish Coffee glass. If you don’t have one, a latte glass works too. Carefully layer the almond milk over the top and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

*Add 500ml almond drink, 100g rice flour and 10g caster sugar to a saucepan. Stir until it’s the texture of double cream. Keep refrigerated. 

 

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How to make alcohol-free classic cocktails

The classics may historically call for booze in those recipes of old, but there are ways to make your favourite timeless tipple sans-spirit. Here, MoM chats with three drinks experts…

The classics may historically call for booze in those recipes of old, but there are ways to make your favourite timeless tipple sans-spirit. Here, MoM chats with three drinks experts for tips on making a cracking alcohol-free classic cocktail (and a recipe for the non-alcoholic French 75)… 

Think about your favourite cocktail. What makes it so delicious? Is it the crisp, fresh notes associated with a Martini? The sweet, hot unctuousness of an Old Fashioned? Whatever it is, the drink is more than simply a platform for the base spirit with which it’s made. So it makes sense that there’s more to creating a alcohol-free classic cocktail than simply switching out the alcohol. After all, flavour is just one element of an alcoholic base spirit – there’s also a mouth-coating texture, a cooling effect, and later, a gentle, warming heat. 

“Alcohol is a fabulous tool for carrying flavour and without it, you do lack a certain amount of bite, so you have to be clever,” says William Borrell, owner low-alcohol spirit Willow, which contains 15mg of broad-spectrum CBD in each 700ml bottle. “I’ve seen a few startenders in the market use peppers and chilis for that reaction, that mouthfeel.”

The Nightcap

Ladies and Gentleman, Mr William Borrell!

Making a non-alcoholic serve that accounts for those factors without drastically changing the flavour (or tasting like flavoured water) really isn’t easy. Just like the greatness of a restaurant is often better measured by the deliciousness of its vegetable dishes rather than its steak, the world’s finest bars can be judged by the complexity and downright tastiness of their alcohol-free offering.

“It takes a good bartender to make a good cocktail with no alcohol,” acknowledges drinks expert Camille Vidalle, founder of mindful cocktail website La Maison Wellness. “You don’t have the structure of the spirit to give you the backbone of the cocktail. So, how can you use an alcohol-free spirit to make a sophisticated, grown up cocktail – and not like a juice straight from the kids menu?” 

The journey to a truly delicious alcohol-free classic starts in the supermarket. Before you even think about dusting off your shaker, choose your ingredients wisely. “You don’t have much to hide behind, so the quality and the taste of each and every ingredient is crucial – as it always should be,” Vidalle says. “Use fresh ingredients like you would in cooking. Fresh and in season is always the best.”

When it comes to methodology, construct your drink “from the aroma to start and the taste on the finish,” says Vidalle. “Layer the flavours of your drink so it doesn’t fall flat. Non-alcoholic spirits give structure and complexity to a cocktail – layering juices on juices won’t work.” She also advocates for incorporating high quality essential oils, herbs and spices, so long as you’re careful about the quantity. 

Let’s Get Fizzical

Let’s Get Fizzical (recipe below)

While creativity is always encouraged, a little technique (and a little bar know-how). “Know what’s in the glass and how it will react,” Vidalle suggests. “For example, if you’re using an essential oil, how are you incorporating it into the cocktail? If it’s shaken, shake it quick – most non-alcoholic spirits are water-based and you don’t want to over dilute your cocktail.”

Finally, don’t forget about presentation. Lots of lovely ice, an attractive and aromatic garnish, and a fancy glass can make a striking difference to a cocktail’s drinkability. “You drink with your eyes, the same way you eat with your eyes,” explains Vidalle. “Even if you aren’t aiming to make it the most Instagrammable cocktail in town, you do have to make it look like an appetising adult beverage and not a smoothie in a pint glass.”

When it comes to non-alcoholic cocktails, the texture, mouthfeel, and length of the experience is something that drinkers really do care about, attests Geyan Surendran, development scientist and botanical alchemist at non-alcoholic spirit brand Three Spirit. “What we do differently further to that is function, addressing why people drink in the first place,” he says. “To elevate them, to keep them going, to relax them.” As such, each Three Spirit bottling incorporates plant-based ingredients that interact with your nervous system to mimic some of the sensations brought about by alcohol.

These days there’s no shortage of choices, with bottlings and flavours inspired by rum, bourbon, amaro, vermouth and more, as Vidalle points out. A word of advice here: don’t assume you can always safely store those bottles in your spirits cabinet – check the label first. “You’ve got loads of options to choose from to build a mindful home bar, but remember that most of those ingredients are better kept in the fridge after opening,” she says.

Fizz The Season

Fizz The Season

Why not kick off your alcohol-free classics creativity with what’s said to be the world’s first no-alcohol ‘Champagne’ cocktail, the appropriately named Fizz The Season? Borrell has kindly shared the recipe below…

45ml Willow
5ml lemon citrus
15ml elderflower cordial
Eisberg Sparkling Blanc to top

Add the Willow, lemon citrus and elderflower cordial in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with Eisberg Sparkling Blanc.

Alternatively, you could try Let’s Get Fizzical – a booze-free take on a French 75.

45ml Willow
5ml citrus
7.5ml sugar syrup
Eisberg Sparkling Rosé to top.

Add the Willow, citrus and sugar syrup in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a  Champagne flute. Top with Eisberg Sparkling Rose.

 

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Did our 2019 drinks trends predictions come true?

As the year (nay, decade) draws to a close, it’s time to fire up the old MoM computer, look at the data and see whether our January 2019 forecasts for…

As the year (nay, decade) draws to a close, it’s time to fire up the old MoM computer, look at the data and see whether our January 2019 forecasts for all things booze came true…

One of our favourite January activities is to dust off the crystal ball (AND the fancy crystal tasting glasses) and have a bit of a think about what might make waves in drinks in the coming months. 2019’s trend musings were one of our most-read features on the site this year. But how accurate were they? 

Boom time for liqueurs

Our prediction that liqueurs were set for a bit of a boom certainly came to fruition. The number of bottles we sold soared by 30% year-on-year, and there were some interesting flavours going on. Three of our top 10 best-sellers try and replicate the essence of unicorn (if you know what unicorns are supposed to taste like, let us know. And we don’t mean in burger form…) while other popular variants were coffee, herbal, caramel and all kinds of other puddingy-type concoctions. Long live the liqueur!

Teeling aside, 2019 wasn’t the year when Ireland’s new distilleries took off

Irish whiskey

We predicted we would see a whole load of new expressions from Ireland’s shiniest distilleries hit the market and liquid came of age. Actually, this didn’t really happen – but we did see even more distilleries get the green light and/or start production. Could next year be the one where we start to taste the fruits of their labour?

Botanical spirits

Back in January we reckoned botanical spirits would be a ‘thing’ this year. And we think we were mostly right! One of the biggest launches to back this up was Ketel One’s Botanical series where the vodka was infused with natural botanicals, then re-distilled. Not a juniper berry in sight. Others started to play in this space, but really what we saw was the launch of even more gins with a questionable level of ‘predominant’ juniper. Perhaps it’s time for some actual legislation?

Category-defying ‘spirits’

Another prediction where we reckon we were sort-of right. Category-defying spirits are products that don’t neatly fit into the rules of one category – think a grain spirit made in Scotland but not from malted barley so it can’t be called a single malt, as one very simple example. But it literally could be anything. While we certainly saw new products from some fresh producers (Circumstantial Mixed Grain from Bristol’s Circumstance Distillery, we’re looking at you, and Affinity, Compass Box’s whisky/Calvados hybrid, too). But we weren’t overrun with these hard-to-define expressions. Another smaller trend set to bubble away in 2020, perhaps.

2019, however, was the year of low/zero products like Three Spirit

Alcohol-free imbibing

Here’s a trend where we were bang on the money. Low- and no-alcohol product sales soared by 89% year-on-year, and there were a whole host of new launches to delight those who for whatever reason are off the sauce (or looking to reduce their intake). At London Cocktail Week, revellers sipped on Nogronis alongside full-ABV serves, and Hayman’s made waves on social media and beyond with the launch of its Small Gin. Other launches that caught our eye? Nine Elms No. 18, Three Spirit, Whyte & Mackay Light (kind of another category-blurrer, too) and Atopia. There’s never been a more delicious time to eschew the booze.

Cognac and Armagnac

We were expecting a bit of a French resurgence this year, and while it wasn’t immediately perceptible, dig a bit deeper and we can see the big names all performed really well. As a whole, however, things weren’t quite as emphatic. Cognac bottle sales climbed 18% as a whole, while Armagnac saw 22% gains. The surprise French spirit to break through? Calvados! Sales soared by almost 40% year-on-year. Can newer players to the market, like Avallen, keep up the momentum? 2020 could be a stellar year for the lesser-known apple- and pear-based French spirit. 

Yeast conversations

After lots of chit chat in Scotch whisky about terroir and cask types, we thought the conversation would shift over the course of the year to the role yeast strains play in production. Apart from the launch of Glenmorangie’s Allta, we didn’t really see much of that. But what we did see in June was the Scotch Whisky Association relax its rules on permissible cask types in Scotch. This brought a new energy to how drinkers and makers think about maturation, and it’s a theme we could see continue on into 2020 as more esoteric finishes hit the market. 

Johnnie Walker highball collection

The Highball, still very much a drinks industry thing

Blended and blended malt Scotch

A tricky one to quantify, this. While we did see more conversation around good blended Scotches (and there was a LOT of lingo around the whisky Highball) we’re not sure it had any mega meaningful impact on what we’re buying. Perhaps it was a prediction too soon – but we do think Highballs rule. 

Could agave beat rum in the premiumisation stakes?

Here’s one where we can now say yes and no. How do you define premiumisation? Is it drinking less but better? Is it spending more on a product for better quality? In many ways, both rum and Tequila and mezcal all made great premiumisation strides this year. Then you factor in spiced and flavoured rums. While rum bottle sales literally skyrocketed (48%! It was emphatic!), so much of this came from spiced and flavoured rums. Now, this is no slight on the sub-category. Good expressions can be the absolute dream. But they tend to cost less per-bottle, and don’t represent meaningful premiumisation to most. In that regard, agave spirits win hands down, even if they represent a far smaller slice of the overall spirits pie. One to keep an eye on – it certainly looks like the race is on. 

Caution from the big players
Brexit, elections, trade tariffs… 2019 was a challenging year for the business types in booze. We predicted companies would operate with caution, and it’s a forecast that has come entirely true. Sizeable spirits acquisitions were few and far between (Diageo snapping up a ‘significant’ majority stake in Seedlip, Campari nabbing a trio of rhum agricole brands including Trois Rivières, and Hill House Capital taking over Loch Lomond were probably the biggest stories), and there weren’t really any huge new launches to shout about. With the exception of CBD-infused products, which while totally legal, still have a disruptive air about them, the drinks industry seemed to like it quiet in 2019. 

The verdict

We’d give ourselves a 6/10. In some areas, our trends forecast was completely spot-on. In other regards, some categories just weren’t quite ready yet. But we’re going to give it another go for 2020! Keep your eyes peeled for what we think could dominate all things booze in the coming months, live on the blog in the New Year. 

What did you think about 2019 in drinks? Were there any big surprises for you? Or did anything play out as planned. Perhaps we missed something entirely? Let us know in the comments below or on social

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A liquid history of Luxardo

We recently have the pleasure of being hosted by one of the world’s oldest and most intriguing distilleries, Luxardo, to hear its story of defiance, family and home. Also, booze….

We recently have the pleasure of being hosted by one of the world’s oldest and most intriguing distilleries, Luxardo, to hear its story of defiance, family and home. Also, booze.

Some say Venice is the most romantic destination in the world. The former capital of a maritime empire certainly features an enchanting combination of contemporary and ancient, quaint and grandiose. Our host, Nicolò Luxardo, appreciates its charm. But he’s quick to point out that Venice has no monopoly on beauty or heritage in these parts. 

Less than an hour’s drive away is Padua. The oldest university town in Italy is home to over 100,000 students, as well as bars and local markets that grapple for space in the charming town squares. It’s also the base for a family that has been making a considerable range of liqueurs and spirits, including its signature maraschino liqueur and cherries, for nearly two centuries: Luxardo. Family member and assistant export manager Nicolò was kind enough to show us around the family distillery and tell us the story behind the brand.

Luxardo

Nicolò Luxardo 

In 2021, Luxardo will turn 200 years old, but it’s still family-owned. “We are one of the few family-owned businesses in this industry and one of the oldest in the industry which is still family-owned. There is a family member at the top of each strategic line of the company,” Nicolò explains. “Eight Luxardo family members in total work together today, representing three different generations (one member of the fifth generation, five members of the sixth generation and two members of the seventh generation)”. 

The Luxardo brand was founded by Girolamo Luxardo, who came from a small village called Santa Margherita Ligure in the northwestern part of Italy. “He used to trade clothes and ropes, especially with the navy and during one of these trips he ended up in Zadar, which is now Croatia. There he fell in love with the traditional liqueur that was made by the housewives at that time from marasca cherries, which are smaller in size than regular cherries, darker in colour and very, very sour. They are almost impossible to eat raw,” explains Nicolò. “Housewives in those days used to pick these cherries and make a homemade cordial or liqueur which was then given to all the people who were coming over for lunch or for dinner”. 

Girolamo settled there with his wife, Maria Canevari, who started producing her own maraschino. “Girolamo, an entrepreneur, saw an opportunity after her maraschino was proclaimed the best you could find in the city by those who dined with them. The key was they added distillation to the creation process of maraschino,” says Nicolò. In 1821 Girolamo and Maria Canevari founded Girolamo Luxardo and it wasn’t long before they started to produce other classic Italian liqueurs, from limoncello, to triple sec and even new inventions such as the Sangue Morlacco. “We also started producing a juniper-based distillate back in 1835, which is essentially an ancestor of the more modern gin,” says Nicolò. 

Luxardo

The old distillery and Luxardo family home in Zadar

The innovation and quality of drink Luxardo produced made it one of the biggest distilleries in Europe by the early 1900s and one of the first Italian companies to export almost worldwide all of our products. “We began to feature in a lot of old-school classic cocktail books, like Jerry Thomas’ first books. As the bartending culture grew, we grew with it, and part of our success was definitely down to bar culture and the emergence of cocktail bartending,” says global brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin. By 1913, the third generation heir Michelangelo Luxardo had built a striking modern distillery on the harbour. “If you still go into Zadar today you can see a very big yellow building. That was ours. The house of the family was on the last two floors and the first two floors were the offices of the company. Production took place behind this building,” says Nicolò. 

The First World War inevitably halted progress, but by its end, Luxardo was able to recover and to become even more successful than before. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Dalmatian coast came under Italian rule. “At this time we were making all sorts of things, including gin, brandies, whisky, everything!” says Franklin. “But a lot of these recipes were lost due to the troubles of World War II.”

Troubles might be an understatement. The War was a complete disaster for the family. “Zadar was bombed 57 times in one year and the city was almost completely destroyed, as well as the company. Three members of the family were killed and the rest managed to escape,” explains Nicolò. “From the ashes of our company the Communist Party [the city was now part of Tito’s Yugoslavia] started a new company called The Marasca. Everything had been taken from us. In the beginning, they sold Luxardo Maraschino bottles and for 50 years we have fought them with lawsuits and won them all. But it has been very difficult for us.” 

Luxardo

The current Luxardo Distillery

The family could no longer call Zadar home or produce drinks so they relocated in 1947 to Torreglia in the Province of Padua, Italy, led by Giorgio, a fourth-generation Luxardo family member and Nicolò III (our host’s grandfather, who was from the fifth generation). “We started from scratch, from zero, with nothing,” says Nicolò. “The maraschino making process lasts roughly around four years. We could not just open the taps and have maraschino flowing out.”

The Luxardo way was not lost, however. The location of Torreglia was a strategic choice. The PH of the soil was very similar to that of Zadar, so it was particularly suitable for growing marasca cherries. What happened next was remarkable. The family got in touch with Professor Morettini, who worked at the University of Florence. In the 1930s-1940s they had sent some cherry tree samples from Zadar to Professor Morettini, so the family attempted to get some cherry tree plans from him so that they could plant them back again in Torreglia. It worked.

Luxardo has gone from strength to strength since. Today, every single Luxardo bottle is produced in Torreglia and the flagship maraschino is still made in the exact same way as it was made back in 1821. The brand has exported its products to over 87 different countries, with its sambuca proving to be the biggest selling bottling, followed by the Limoncello and then the Amaretto. The Maraschino liqueur, however, is the fastest-growing product in the last ten years, however, and Franklin reveals it is growing far faster than the others.

Luxardo

The marasca cherry trees in the scenic Torreglian hills

The marasca cherry is the heart of Luxardo. So much so that the firm cultivates a unique variety. “We’ve been growing these cherries for so long that they actually have their own genus. Our cherries are scientifically called the ‘Luxardo marasca cherry’”, says Franklin. In total there are more than 30,000 trees in the Torreglian hills that produce this type of cherry.

Luxardo does not own all those trees, however. “These plants are planted in soil which is not ours, but back when we started here in Torreglia we found farmers who were willing to cultivate them. We gave them the plants for free and they signed an exclusivity agreement to sell all the existing products at the end of the year to us, but at market price,” says Nicolò. “The farmers are very happy to work with us because they get the plant for free, they know they will sell all the existing product at the end of the season without having to go and find customers and they’ll get paid the market price of the cherries of that year. The only risk that they take is if the plants get ill or if there is a bad season for the fruits.” 

“We have two different souls in this company. One is more ancient, with more heritage, and the other one is modern and highly technological. Products like the sambuca and limoncello are made in a high-quality way that’s very fast and very modern. Products like the maraschino and the Sangue Morlacco could be done that way, but we’d rather still make them as they were made back in 1821,” says Nicolò. “We have been in business for almost 200 years because those products were made in the best possible way. We are the only producer of maraschino who still makes it in the traditional way.” Franklin agrees that the process has to be kept true to its roots, “We can do it faster, we have the technology, but we will be sacrificing integrity and taste”. 

Luxardo

The traditional copper pot stills. Distillation is a key part of Luxardo’s production of maraschino liqueur

It can take up to four years to produce a bottle of maraschino liqueur. The marasca cherries are harvested in late June/beginning of July. The pulp, the pits, the juice and the cherry are separated and the tree is also pruned as the leaves and branches are one of the most important ingredients. Inside larch wood vats neutral alcohol is added to this mixture of leaves, branches, pulp, skin, stem, the stones and a little bit of juice and it macerates for two to three years. 

Two of those larch wood vats are the original ones installed in 1947. “The older they get, the better they are because in this process the oxygen that comes in and out of these vats changes and matures the product,” says Nicolò. “That’s why we use larch wood, it’s a very porous wood, so this allows this oxidation to happen. We use dark wood as it has tannins inside which interact with the product that is contained inside the barrel.”

From here the liquid is distilled and the solid parts, the leaves, the branches, the pulp, are put inside bags and placed inside the traditional copper pot stills, which are heated with steam. “We only use the heart of the distillation for the maraschino. The heads and tails are separated and then reused in the next distillation,” says Nicolò, who then points to an array of machines around us that are used to make the other recipes for the other products. “The Amaro Abano is infused and is the only product for which they make a complete maceration. For the Bitter Bianco a small infuser is used to make separate infusions of each herb.” 

Luxardo

The Finnish ash wood butts

The blending process for the maraschino liqueur takes place in Finnish ash wood butts, complete with pores because oxygen is still required to interact with the product inside. The liqueur rests inside here for roughly six and 12 months. “This is where you get control. The Finnish ash wood butts are smaller and allow us to get more contact between the liquid and the wood. This is the step that allows us to get that consistent flavour and taste,” says Franklin.  “The whole process means we don’t make a regular cherry liqueur. What you get at the end is like a cross between a fortified wine and a cherry liqueur. So you get a big rich, bold cherry flavour but this has got a port-like richness to it as well.”

To finish, sugar and water are added in the mixing tanks, then the liqueur is stored in elliptical vats (shaped like this purely for storage reasons, they contain the same amount of liquid but they take away less space) until it is ready to be bottled. While there are mechanical bottling lines, built in 2013 and 2015 on-site, that can process 6000 bottles per hour, for all the technology the maraschino liqueur still has the same distinctive cardboard label produced by hand.

Nicolò finishes our tour by showing us the on-going construction of a whole new visitor centre and talks excitedly of the future. Franklin concurs, “The world of liqueurs is a funny world. It’s by far the biggest category there is. Mainly because liqueurs are all about flavours, so if you can think of a flavour, it has the ability to be a liqueur. But also if you can think of a combination of flavours then they also have abilities to be liqueurs as well. The possibilities are truly endless.” 

Luxardo

It’s been a long road for the Luxardo family, but there’s more to come from them…

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16 bartenders’ most reached-for bottles of 2019

Ever find yourself gazing at a backbar in total awe? Yeah, us too. With such tantalising spirits towering over them 24/7, how bartenders manage to peel their eyes away long…

Ever find yourself gazing at a backbar in total awe? Yeah, us too. With such tantalising spirits towering over them 24/7, how bartenders manage to peel their eyes away long enough to serve thirsty customers is beyond us. We asked 16 creative minds which bottling they’ve found themselves reaching for time and time again over the course of 2019…

Given that pouring delicious liquids is all in a day’s work for the world’s leading bartenders, finding out which bottles they’re getting excited about makes for fascinating reading. Perhaps their top pick comes from the emergence of a trend – the influx of agave distillates that have graced shelves, for example – or the arrival of a sustainable new product that has revolutionised the way they approach their drinks. Whatever it might be, we asked 16 bartenders to share an interesting bottling they’ve found themselves coming back to over the course of this year. Here’s what they had to say…

Oskar Kinberg, Hide Below, London

Bottle: Cocchi di Torino

Cocchi, or “Old Faithful”. It’s been my most reached for bottle for a number of years now and its mystical powers over me haven’t weakened. Recently it’s been Cocchi di Torino, but the Americano is also a firm favourite. Cocchi has this magic quality of bringing flavours together without intruding too much, and leaving the cocktail with real feng shui. A splash of either can fix pretty much any drink. They are all really nice on their own too, over ice or in a spritz. You really can’t go wrong with them. 

Sother Teague

Sother Teague and his amazing levitating glass

Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo, Williamsburg

Bottle: Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the item I’ve reached for the most this past year has been a bottle of bitters, specifically Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters. Pimento is the allspice berry, and that’s the genius of this expression – it simultaneously tastes of ginger, nutmeg and mace. It makes a stand-out Old Fashioned as well as finding itself right at home in a Buck or Mule. Combined with rum in your favourite Daiquiri, it elevates all the parts and creates a harmonious tipple. Don’t get me started on how easily it lends itself to tiki-influenced drinks. Cheers!

Will Meredith, Lyaness, London 

Bottle: Martell VSOP

Regarding my most picked up bottle of 2019, it must be Cognac. I know that may seem an odd choice, but Cognac has such a distinctive profile, and it actually lends itself perfectly to being both a base flavour as well as a modifier. I’ve spent a lot of this year drinking Cognac-based Sazeracs from around the continent and I think the diversity that Cognac brings to a cocktail is second to none. Due to its natural sweetness and full body, it lends itself perfectly as a product that is both malleable and distinctive. We use Martell VSOP at Lyaness but Cognac in general is what I’ve reached for the most. If you want to push the boat out then Armagnac offers even more diversity as a substitute for your traditional whisky base in cocktails.

Zoe Van Der Grinten, FAM Bar, London

Bottle: 8Brix Red Verjus

Throughout the year I’ve found myself constantly adding verjus to a good deal of cocktails. It’s delicious and versatile, as it works in stirred, shaken, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Whether a dash or a bit more of a hefty measure, this verjus imparts a unique mouthwatering acidity with full bodied tart fruit flavours that you can’t achieve by using just citrus or acids such as citric, malic, and tartaric. When in doubt, sometimes just a splash of verjus does the trick! 

Andrei Talapanescu, Pulitzer’s Bar, Amsterdam

Bottle: Muyu Chinotto Nero

When it comes to creating drinks off-menu or brainstorming for future serves, the bottles I kept reaching for were the new range of Muyu Liqueurs. Especially the Chinotto Nero. The reason behind this comes from a need to simplify the serves we build and also pack a punch in terms of flavour. When one ingredient can deliver the desired spectrum of aroma and taste, it allows us to downgrade the number of elements in set drinks and also takes away the hassle of creating a homemade ingredient to satisfy this need. So, the more complex and unique a commercially available product is the easiest it becomes for us to build a drink around it. This is my reason for constantly reaching for Muyu Liqueurs.

Bartenders love the Michter’s range

Ryan Gavin, Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar, New York 

Bottle: Michter’s US#1 Bourbon

This year I’ve found myself making a lot more Old Fashioned cocktails than usual. I strongly believed that the only way to create great cocktails is to use outstanding ingredients. Whenever I am asked for a recommendation about which spirit to use in an Old Fashioned, I find myself invariably reaching for the Michter’s US#1 Bourbon and Rye. I’ve been a long time supporter of Michter’s since my first taste. I love the rich flavour profile and versatility in a range of other classic cocktails. I love that they have an amazing ‘cost be damned’ approach to creating the best full-flavoured whiskies – due in part to the low barrel entry proof, which causes the entire liquid to mature to greater effect. I have the utmost respect for their master distillers. Their dedication to quality makes this one of my all time favourite whiskies.

George Austin, Blakes Hotel, London

Bottle: Everleaf and Cadello 88 

I feel 2019 has had both hands reaching in different directions to make for a really interesting change in the way we are drinking and what we are reaching for. On the one hand with the launch of products such as Everleaf we see an evolution in the rise of high quality and unique non-alcoholic drinks. There is a significant increase in the demand for complex and unique bottles such as Everleaf whether they are used in non-alcoholic or alcoholic cocktails. Equally with the other hand as the days get shorter and the nights colder bottles of new products such as Cadello 88 are being loved by clients and teams alike. Warm, wintery and well-balanced and, like Everleaf, a distinct spirit that fills a niche beautifully.

Simone Forconi, The Malt Lounge & Bar, London

Bottle: Kinahan‘s The Kasc Project

The Kasc Project pushes whiskey-making methods to the next level. I had the pleasure to meet Zak Oganian, managing director of Kinahan’s, and The Kasc Project surprised me a lot. The flavours are something like a mix of aromas from a candy store – very different whiskey flavours to anything I’d tried before. If you are a traditional whiskey drinker, this is not the whiskey for you. The makers told me that one of the oak types used to age this whiskey is a ‘dying species’. I really love this new release because it has an unconventional mix of flavours, the flavours are very unexpected. 

Michele Venturini, Cahoots, London

Bottle: Russian Standard Original Vodka 

Russian Standard Original vodka is my first choice as it is a spirit full of character with a bold flavour and smooth finish, that is easily recognisable within cocktails – so naturally I’ve found myself drawn to it when creating new cocktails at Cahoots this year. Not only do I love the versatility of the spirit, but the style of bottle and its history makes the product even more interesting, which I had the privilege of learning more about this year on a trip to Manchester, where I presented a masterclass. Because the taste is so pure and distinctive, I think it works best of classic cocktails, such as a Russian Standard Martini served very simply with a green olive, or in a fresh Russian Standard Gimlet, made with discarded lime, lemon and grapefruit peel.

Mr Paradise

Could you just pick one bottle from behind the bar at Mister Paradise?

Will Wyatt, Mister Paradise, New York 

Bottle: Suze

This past year I have found myself reliably coming back to Suze, whether it is for my own consumption or someone else’s. It is a very bright, citrusy French aperitif that is heavily bittered with gentian root. It can fit into the balance of a cocktail similarly to something such as Campari, but lends a very different type of bitterness. My personal favourite application is just a simple Suze and Tonic with a grapefruit twist. Both the Suze and the tonic water – either Fever Tree or Thomas Henry – balance their own bitterness very nicely with sweetness, and the flavour combination of the two is bright, complex, and refreshing.

Marshall Minaya, Valerie, New York

Bottle: Giffard Caribbean Pineapple

On our menu at Valerie, we have a cocktail called Ten Thousand Words – i.e. Bartenders Choice. We ask what spirit the guest prefers, and if they would like it stirred or shaken. I think the bottle(s) that I have been reaching for the most is the Giffard line of liqueurs, specifically their Caribbean Pineapple. Now that it is the season, and people still want a taste of tropical, this liqueur is perfect. I tend to pair it with 5 spice, fresh citrus, and really, one can make it work with any base spirit. We also utilize the Caribbean Pineapple Giffard Liqueur in our Meet & Greet cocktail where we pair it with London dry gin, amontillado sherry, Benedictine, and Angostura Bitters. 

Marcin Ciułkowski, Radisson BLU, Warsaw

Bottle: Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka

Żubrówka is the most recognisable and oldest vodka brand in the world – its history is over 500 years old, and it’s the third best-selling vodka across the globe. Its main flavour notes, vanilla, almonds and cinnamon, perfectly match the trends around the world. We’ve always been working with this vodka in our bar, it’s part of our history. We prepare drinks with it and combine it with dishes. The Scots have whisky, the French have Cognac, and Poles have the world’s best vodka. Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka is our reason to be proud.

Deano Moncreiffe, Hacha, London

Bottle: Don Julio 70

Don Julio 70 has the complexity of an aged spirit, having been aged for 18 months, so it can be used for a lot of classic cocktails that would normally be associated with a dark spirit – anything from an Old Fashioned to a Manhattan. It also has the youthful characteristics of a young unaged spirit or blanco Tequila which enables it to work well in a Negroni twist, such as the White Negroni we serve at Hacha, which has proved to be our second most popular cocktail. 

Manhattan Duke

My Friend Duke uses Michter’s Rye in his Manhattan

Zachary Pease, My Friend Duke, New York

Bottle: Michter’s US#1 Rye

For me it’s always Michter’s Rye. There are plenty of cheaper options but nothing anywhere close to the quality. I judge rye by how it holds up in a Manhattan, and Michter’s stands out against a bolder vermouth like Carpano Antica. It’s a bottle that belongs on every back bar.

Dan Garnell, Super Lyan, Amsterdam

Bottle: Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin

My go-to bottle on the back bar has to be Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin. For me, it balances perfectly between being fruity and rounded while still keeping the juniper backbone you look for in a gin. This makes it stand up in pretty much all styles of drink including Martinis, Tom Collins or you can really use it to elevate a new creation to the next level.

Giacomo Guarnera, The Churchill Bar & Terrace, London

Bottle: Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro

For me personally, Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro is coming back to the bar scene and is one of my most reached-for bottles, especially within cocktail creation. We used to use it in our cocktail The President from the summer menu which was called ‘Casa de Cuba’. It is one of the most reached-for bottles for me because it reminds me of when I first started my career behind the bar. 

Did your favourite get a mention? Do scroll down and let us know in the comments below – and share your personal top bottle of 2019 while you’re there…

 

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