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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Campari

The four pillars of mezcal 

With the news that Campari has just bought a controlling stake in Montelobos, it’s time to take a closer look at the brand and who better to talk to than…

With the news that Campari has just bought a controlling stake in Montelobos, it’s time to take a closer look at the brand and who better to talk to than the master of mezcal himself, Dr Iván Saldaña.

There can be no doubting Dr Saldaña’s commitment to agave. While doing his PhD in plant biology at the University of Sussex, he imported two tonnes of the stuff to study; “it made me think that perhaps Sussex wasn’t the best place to study agave”, he joked. The agave plant is genetically very similar to the lily and asparagus. One thing, it’s not related to is the cactus. Saldaña said that though they both have spikes and live in the desert: “the difference between cactus and agave is like the difference between a bird and a butterfly.”

In 2011, Saldaña founded Montelobos (meaning mountain of the wolves) to explore mezcal’s possibilities. What excites Saldaña about agave is its complexity of taste. These flavourful compounds are produced by the plant to protect itself from predators. Saldaña described agave as like a giant herb, “making mezcal is like making gin in a single step, you are trapping essential oils. Grains are very boring, you have to flavour the spirit, either like gin or through wood. Agave is more complex even than grape spirit.” That’s fighting talk, doc!

Montelobos

They call him el maestro

To make his case, Saldaña outlined what he called the four pillars of mezcal flavour:

1: Green agave: These are herbal flavours that comes from the plant itself, like basil, mint and orange peel. These function like the botanical flavours in gin. There are at least 30 different types of agave used to make mezcal all with distinct flavours like grape cultivars.

2: Sugar: A piña (the core of the agave plant) is around 38% sugar. “It’s basically a big ball of sugar and water sitting in the desert so everyone wants to eat you,” said Saldaña. To protect it, the plant has spikes and stores its sugar in an indigestible way. During the cooking process the sugars will be caramelised producing flavours of honey, toffee, and dried fruit. The slower the cooking, the more flavour.

3: Smoke: Also produced during the cooking process. You have to be careful as the sticky oily wood will ruin the flavour. The right wood gives you chocolate, chilli and black pepper which can give the mezcal an aged flavour if it is is a joven

4: Yeast: “The funky side comes from fermentation,” said Saldaña. Mezcal is made with wild rather than cultured yeasts. He explained that this is one of the things that most spirits have lost as production has been industrialised. “More yeasts equal more complexity but also more risk,” said Saldaña. There are also bacteria which produce different acids, such as lactic, acetic and malic as well as esters. Earthy, fruity (think high ester rum) and funky flavours come from fermentation.

Montelobos

The Montelobos range

We then tried three types of mezcal that show products from the range:

Black Label 43.2% ABV

Made from 100% espadin agave, apparently a particularly sweet one.
Nose: intensely aromatic nose with mint, basil and saline notes with smoky bacon fat.
Palate: sweet, pepper and lemon with a taste of cold ashes.
Finish: chilli pepper.

Ensamble 45.3% ABV

Use three types of agave: 55% artichoke, 35%, and 15% tobala.
Nose: much funkier than the Black Label, there’s a cereal note with liquorice.
Palate: thick texture, intense with green minty notes
Finish: savoury and briney, like a dirty Martini.

Tobala 47% ABV

Made from tobala, a particularly small type of agave.
Nose: cheesy nose, fatty, touch of wrong about this, like a particularly funky rum. Very little smoke.
Palate: aromatic, clean and fresh on the palate with earthy notes.
Finish: nutty and earthy.

Montelobos

That’s just what the doctor ordered

Montelobos also makes a pechuga. This is a traditional Mexican spirit where the spirit is flavoured with various fruits and types of meat for the Day of the Dead. Montelobos uses almonds, macadamia, orange peel, hibiscus, anise and cacao, and turkey. Not suitable for vegetarians. Though it is, oddly, fine for observant Jews. Two of Saldaña’s business partners are Jewish so this pechuga is certified kosher. Finding a rabbi in rural Mexico to supervise production was apparently not easy. The resulting is incredibly intense. Saldaña described it as “tasting of Christmas.”

Production at Montelobos is traditional. The team crush the agave with a tahona wheel (big stone thing) pulled by a mule. Fermentation is with wild yeasts and then distillation takes place in a small copper still which is direct fired. They put agave fibres in with fermented agave in the traditional manner. Mezcal is produced in eight tonne batches each producing around 1,000 litres of spirit. The agave comes only from cultivated fields, much better for the environment than using wild plants, according to Saldaña. They let some plants flower to aid biodiversity. 

I asked the doctor whether he thinks mezcal might be finally taking off outside Mexico. He was honest: “we are over-represented in the press compared with sales”. But he has had a great response from bartenders in the UK. He sees the growth of tequila as a good thing, as some customers will move from one to the other. “Tequila is like blended whisky and you progress to single malt, ie mezcal”, he said. 

A couple of weeks after I met with him, the news came through that Campari had bought a 51% stake in the company. His views on expansion were interesting: “We want to be a medium brand. We can use artisanal process but we can expand. We want to make more product but keep it honest and authentic”. With the might of Campari behind them, we’re likely to see a lot more of Montelobos.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Americano

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari and Martini Rosso, in one glass. It’s the Americano! The Americano used to be called the Milano-Torino because it contained…

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari and Martini Rosso, in one glass. It’s the Americano!

The Americano used to be called the Milano-Torino because it contained Campari from Milan and Martini Rosso vermouth from Turin. It was originally served at the Milan bar belonging to the creator of Campari, Gaspare Campari. The name changed when American tourists arrived in Italy in the 1920s. They were escaping Prohibition and with the strong dollar, continental Europe was their playground. It’s the decadent generation immortalised in the novels of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

And what did these louche Americans drink when they were in Italy splashing their cash around and upsetting the locals with their loose morals, hot jazz and enormous baggy trousers? Why, Campari and Martini, of course, with a splash of soda. Due to its ubiquity amongst expat Americans, the drink became known as an Americano. A similar thing happened with coffee. Espresso was a little too strong for the tourists so they asked for it diluted with hot water, the Americano coffee was born.

Americans were still causing trouble in the 1950s. There’s a song about their influence on Italian youth by Neapolitan musician Renato Carosone called Tu ‘Vuò Fà L’Americano’. You might recall it from the 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr Ripley (the film has its moments but the book is brilliant. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat). Carosone’s song is about an Italian boy trying to ape American fashions: smoking Camel cigarettes, dancing to rock n’ roll and playing baseball (though he drinks Whisky and Sodas, not Americanos). Despite his modish veneer, this wannabe Italian is still living off his parents. 

But it’s not just Americans and Italians who fell for the charms of the Americano. It crops up in Ian Fleming’s short story ‘From a View to a Kill’ where Bond recommends drinking it in hot weather where one of his more usual drinks like a vodka Martini would be too strong. It’s a great drink for when you really want a Negroni but plan to get some work done/ bump off a Smersh agent in the afternoon.

It’s one of those cocktails that requires very little thought. You could experiment with other amari but I’m keeping it traditional with Campari. Then for the vermouth, well, it really has to be Martini. I’m using Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino which is made with red wines from Piedmont, the flavour is more floral and complex than the classic Martini Rosso. 

Right, that’s enough preamble, it’s time to put on some appropriate music and let’s make an Americano!

35ml Campari
35ml Martini Rubino Riserva Speciale Rosso vermouth
Soda water

Fill a highball or tumbler with ice, add the Campari and Martini and give it a good stir. Top up with soda, stir gently and garnish with an orange slice.

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The Nightcap: 6 September

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap! When September rolls around, there’s something in the back…

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap!

When September rolls around, there’s something in the back of our heads that says we should be stockpiling things. Maybe it’s a leftover from when humans used to be squirrels (pretty sure that’s how evolution works), but the urge to stockpile summery gubbins is in the air – otherwise we won’t get to enjoy them until June next year! You should see the stack of flip-flops, salad that inexplicably contains more grapes than leaves, and those tiny paper cocktail umbrellas we have amassed at MoM Towers. What we’re not stockpiling is booze news – we share all the stories from the world of drink with you in The Nightcap each week! Let’s get to it!

On the blog this week we launched a new competition with Mackmyra that gives you chance to win your own maturing cask of soon-to-be-whisky! We then gave you an exclusive video tour around Glenfiddich Distillery, including the Robbie Dhu Spring water source, the still house, the bottling process, as well as the maltings and the role of copper at The Balvenie Distillery. Elsewhere, Kristy regaled us with tales from Kyrö Distillery, Ian Buxton put on his sceptic’s hat and pondered the future of Chinese single malt and Annie returned to give us five essential tips to make the most of our distillery tours. Henry, meanwhile, chose the intriguing Hayman’s Small Gin to be our New Arrival of the Week before doing his best Fancy Dan impression by making The Made in Chelsea Coupe our Cocktail of the Week. For Dram Club members, we also revealed what to expect from September 2019.

But there’s still more boozy news to cover, and there’s no time to lose! It’s The Nightcap…

The Nightcap

Dr Peter Morris and Dr Ross Alexander working on the potential miracle barley

Gene for drought-resistant cereal discovered in Scotland

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have uncovered a gene that helps drought resistance in crops which could be of huge benefit to the Scotch whisky industry. According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which funded the research, 90% of the barley used in Scotch whisky comes from Scotland. The results which were published in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry showed that a particular gene, HvMYB1, controls stress tolerance in barley. Dr Peter Morris from Heriot-Watt University said: “This is a significant finding that will allow more drought resistance crops to be bred in the future. Drought is already impacting yields with the European cereals harvest hit particularly hard in 2018. A prolonged, dry and hot summer significantly impacted yields and quality. As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential that we can maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key industries like Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s leading export items.” It was the result of over five years work, because, Morris went on to say, “barley has over 39,000 genes, almost double the number for humans, so characterising one particular gene which promotes drought resistance has been a considerable challenge.” Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry at the Scotch Whisky Association, commented: “The SWA works closely with specialists at Heriot-Watt University, and others in the sector, to ensure that the industry is equipped to adapt to any changes that may arise from a changing climate. We, therefore, welcome this research which helps to provide resilience against the effects of climate change and to sustain the diversity of barley varieties used for Scotch whisky.” So as the planet warms up, at least there will still be Scotch whisky, which is a comfort.

The Nightcap

Glenfiddich Grand Cru will be arriving at MoM Towers very soon!

Glenfiddich’s new premium malt has a sparkling heritage

Some companies launch a new whisky. Not Glenfiddich, its latest release “redefines celebrations.” How does it do that, you might ask? Well, it’s got pedigree, that’s for sure. Called Grand Cru, it is 23 years old, matured in European and American oak, and then finished in “rare French cuvée oak casks”. These casks “contained the liquid that goes on to become some of the world’s most extraordinary sparkling wines.” We think they mean Champagne. Only very few houses, including Bollinger, Roederer and Krug, still use oak so these casks are likely to have held some exceptional liquid. Why is Glenfidicch being so coy then? Well, the wine in the barrels was still and therefore not legally allowed to be called Champagne. Glenfiddich malt master, Brian Kinsman, commented: “Breaking category conventions once more, this unusual collaboration presented an exciting opportunity to create a spirit that further elevated our unique Glenfiddich style. We experimented with the maturation time and hand-selected the right balance of 23-year-old Glenfiddich casks out of our unique collection of old age malts. The further influence from the oak of the French cuvée casks added an extra layer of complexity thanks to the liquid they once held”. So this is a premium malt meets Grand Cru Champagne which, if not exactly “redefining celebrations”, certainly sounds swanky. RRP is £220; stock should be landing at your favourite online retailer 20 September.

The Nightcap

This geographical protection is huge for Irish whiskey and brands like Tullamore D.E.W.

Irish whiskey secures geographical protection for the Indian market.

Good news for Irish whiskey as it has secured geographical protection for the Indian market. This is the world’s largest whisky market with over 2.3 billion bottles sold last year (though much of what is called whisky would be labelled rum in Britain as it’s distilled from molasses). Thanks to this agreement, now only whiskeys from Ireland can bear the legend “Irish Whiskey” on the label. This is great news for the Indian whiskey drinker and, of course, for the rapidly-expanding Irish whiskey industry. Carleen Madigan, legal advisor to the Irish Whiskey Association said: “Securing the geographical indication for Irish Whiskey in India is another landmark for the Irish Whiskey category. Like similar registrations achieved earlier in the year in Australia and South Africa, this is another major success in our efforts to protect the integrity of Irish Whiskey on a worldwide basis. We will now be able to take much tougher enforcement action against fake Irish whiskey products on sale in India. This protection will also enable us to maximise opportunities to increase sales in this crucial whiskey market as it is an important selling point for the Indian consumer knowing they can enjoy Irish Whiskey confident in the quality and authenticity of the product”. India is still a relatively untapped market for Irish whiskey, only 34,000 cases were sold in India, double the previous year but a long way behind Scotland at nearly 10 million cases sold. This geographical protection should see sales take off.

The Nightcap

Larissa Marrichi, Finbarr Curran and the two new experimental whiskeys

This year’s Method and Madness whiskeys from Irish Distillers are the maddest yet

The Method and Madness series of releases from Irish Distillers is a chance for the team at Midleton to let their hair down and go a bit mad in the on-site microdistillery. This year’s two releases are particularly envelope-pushing, game-changing and mind-blowing as they are part-aged in wood that isn’t oak. Utter madness! Both are single pot still whiskeys, one finished in cherry wood and one in acacia. Cherry wood, sourced from France, is particularly porous resulting in some big bold flavours. Kevin O’Gorman, master of maturation at Midleton Distillery, commented: “The rare, porous wood is different to anything that we have handled before, so it has been a real achievement to create the perfect balance of flavour – the result is a world-first in Irish whiskey, with a nose of coconut fibre and ginger, a palate of fresh green herbs, black tea and unmistakable pot still spices and a long, fresh finish with prickly spice and hazelnut.” Acacia is quite the opposite, having a tight grain. Finbarr Curran, from the maturation research team explained: “The density of the acacia wood presented a challenge in contrast to the wild cherry wood as the maturation process was much slower and required a close eye and nose to achieve the perfect balance. But it was well worth the wait. This stunning single pot still Irish whiskey has a nose of sugared almonds and wood spice, a palate of coffee beans, dark chocolate and chilli and a finish with fading spice, charred wood and barley husk.”The releases will be on sale for RRP of €92. We’ll let you know when they come in.

The Nightcap

Trois Rivières and La Mauny are produced on the island paradise of Martinique

Campari purchases Trois Rivières and La Mauny

The Campari Group has signed an agreement with Chevrillon Group to buy French firm Rhumantilles for a cool $66 million USD. Rhumantilles owns 96.5% of Martinique-based Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs (BBS) Group, which produces the Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny brands, as well as Duquesne rum, which is made for the local market. The deal not only includes those brands, but also the landholdings, the distilleries, the visitor centres and the inventory of high-quality aged rum, adding to the Italian spirits giant’s already considerable rum portfolio which includes the fantastic Appleton Distillery in Jamaica. The company, who said the deal was expected to close during the fourth quarter of this year in a statement released this week, clearly believe in the future of rhum agricole, which already boasts a strong reputation among spirits fans, but still occupies a tiny share of global rum production. The injection of Campari’s financial and marketing could prove a huge boost for the category. Campari said the move would “add prestigious agricole rum brands to its offering and enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumizing category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture.”

The Nightcap

We sail, for rum and country more rum!

Captain Morgan brings the highs seas to Birmingham

Ahoy there rum lovers! We bring you news of a rather exciting nautical adventure. Over in Birmingham, Bompas & Parr has joined forces with Captain Morgan to curate the Lost Lagoon, an immersive and boozy treasure hunt inspired by none other than the buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan himself. Those who choose to explore this mysterious land (or sea) can expect cocktails while they sail through an indoor ocean past a series of islands. In true naval style, at each island they’ll be given rum rations and instructions on how to make a swashbuckling punch. The ultimate goal? To use your wits to eventually find Captain Morgan’s hidden bounty, which (spoiler) is a tiki bar full of delicious rum and nibbles. The aquatic adventure is based at Bullring & Grand Central, running from 26 September to 22 December. “Expect a mix between your best desert island fantasy with punch quests and neo-tiki party vibes,” says Bompas & Parr’s Harry Parr. We hope your nautical navigation skills are up to scratch.

The Nightcap

Littlemill 29 Year Old

Littlemill and Glencairn join forces for latest Private Cellar Collection bottling

Littlemill’s Private Cellar collection has produced some stellar expressions and this latest bottling should prove no exception. Littlemill 29 Year Old, the third release from the series, was crafted by master blender Michael Henry from liquid selected from some of the last remaining casks to be laid down at the Littlemill Distillery, which was recently recognised as the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland. The distillery fell silent in 1994 and was destroyed by fire in 2004, making this liquid rare and highly collectable. Only 600 bottles will be released across the world. The bottling, which is said to possess the traditional Lowland floral profile, is also notable for its presentation, a limited edition bespoke Glencairn decanter. Glencairn worked closely with Littlemill on every detail, which includes an etched illustration of the River Clyde and a silver star signifying the Littlemill distillery’s location. Each decanter is one of a kind and is individually-numbered. The presentation box also includes a 5cl miniature of the liquid, a piece of an original Littlemill cask, and a booklet sharing the history of the Littlemill distillery with tasting notes from Henry, who commented on the release: “The latest expression in the Private Cellar collection helps to tell another piece of the Littlemill story. Littlemill has always represented the traditional Lowland ‘floral’ style, and over the years the distillation and maturation processes evolved to maintain this flavour profile”. He added: “Littlemill 29 year old, our 2019 release, focuses on the influence of wood. The original liquid was laid down in refill bourbon casks in 1990. Seven of these were selected and combined, then finished in first-fill oloroso sherry and Limousin oak casks. The oloroso sherry adds further floral notes, similar to the traditional sherry casks used at the Littlemill distillery, while the Limousin oak provides the European oak influence. The result is unmistakably Littlemill, with delicious caramel sweetness layered with spice.”

The Nightcap

The Coral Room is celebrating Sete de Setembro in style!

The Coral Room celebrates Brazilian Independence Day with Capucana Cachaça

Brazilian Independence Day has made its way over to London, more specifically, The Coral Room! The Brazilian national holiday, commonly referred to as Sete de Setembro (for those of you who aren’t so familiar with Portuguese, also known as Seventh of September) commemorates Brazil’s independence, won in 1815 after three years of war against Portugal. Hence why, on 7 September, the bar has teamed up with Capucana Cachaça to put on a lavish celebration of cocktails, DJs and sambaing (yes, it’s a word). The selection of drinks takes its inspiration from the vibrant colours of the Brazilian flag, so expect a thoroughly colourful and delicious evening. It’s not all just fun and games, as The Coral Room will also be donating £1 from every Brazilian Independence Day cocktail to Rainforest Alliance. Good times and good causes. Make sure you don’t miss out on the after party at The Bloomsbury Club either. Dia Da Independence is sure to be a night to remember!

The Nightcap

Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee is the first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years

Introducing Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee

Jägermeister just can’t seem to keep itself away from caffeinated drinks! The latest release from the German brand is perhaps somewhat more refined than the iconic Jägerbomb, but also (hopefully) won’t be replacing your morning brew. Enter Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee. The first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years, the new liqueur sees the original secret Jägermeister recipe paired with cold-brewed Arabica coffee and a dash of cacao. In classic Jägermeister style, the recommended serve is straight from the freezer at a frosty -18°C. “Coffee has become such a huge part of everyday consumer culture,” says UK innovation controller (someone’s got to control the innovation, don’t want it getting out of hand), Tim Hawley. “Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee is perfect for moments of celebration in or out of the home, offering an intricate coffee flavour profile complemented by the classic Jägermeister taste – served perfectly as an ice-cold shot.” Did you know the translation of the Italian word ‘barista’ is ‘barman’? Seems pretty fitting!

The Nightcap

There is no caption that can do this picture justice. I retire.

And finally. . . . Brussels sprout-flavoured gin? Don’t all rush at once

We’ve seen some strange spirits here at MoM, like whiskey flavoured with beaver glands or vodka distilled from milk, but the latest release from Pickering’s Gin might be the strangest yet. Looking to cash in on the Christmas market the distillery has launched six festive gins including one flavoured with Brussels sprouts. Yes really, everyone’s least favourite part of Christmas (apart from the now traditional Brexit discussion) is one of the botanicals. Over 10,000 of the little blighters have been used to create this batch limited edition. Matt Gammell, head distiller and co-founder said: “It was an interesting challenge trying to balance the unmistakable flavour of Brussels sprouts to get the taste just right – and the distillery had a very distinct aroma while the gin was being distilled!” Apparently the resulting gin has a uniquely “sprouty” flavour. Gammel added: “We love the end result and it is the ideal tipple for friends and family to share together this Christmas”. Well perhaps, if you don’t want them to visit next year.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Montenegroni

As any fule kno, Negroni = Campari + sweet vermouth + gin. But not always, this week we’re mixing things up a little by chucking the Campari and using Amaro…

As any fule kno, Negroni = Campari + sweet vermouth + gin. But not always, this week we’re mixing things up a little by chucking the Campari and using Amaro Montenegro instead.

The constant factor in most Negronis is Campari, so much so that Campari has owned the 100 years of the Negroni celebrations that took place this year. Italy, however, is full of amari (bittersweet liqueurs) which you can use in place. One such is Amaro Montenegro from Bologna, named after Princess Elena of Montenegro who became Queen of Italy in 1900. It has an elaborate production process involving over 40 botanicals including vanilla, eucalyptus, orange and cinnamon. Some are macerated, other boiled or distilled to a recipe perfected in 1885 by Stanislao Cobianchi. Today master herbalist Dr. Matteo Bonoli is in charge with keeping things consistent.

The flavours are sweet, rich and round with a distinct chocolatey note. Back in Bologna, it’s usually drunk as a digestif alongside a cup of espresso but for a while now, it has been a liqueur revered by the drinks cognoscenti. Last year it won a gold medal at the IWSC.

Montenegroni

The Montenegroni: can people this photogenic be wrong?

As part of the plan to raise its profile, Amaro Montenegro is backing the Vero Bartender competition, where bartenders from around the country will compete to create a cocktail with a maximum of five ingredients (based on Amaro Montenegro, naturally). There will be northern and southern heats in September, with the UK final at the Punch Room at the London Edition Hotel on 20 October. But that’s not the end of it, because 12 finalists from around the world will then compete in the global final in Italy on 19 November! So if you fancy yourself behind the stick (to coin a phrase) then you should enter.

To kick things off in style, this special Negroni has been created by Rudi Carraro, UK brand ambassador for Amaro Montenegro. In a bold move, Carraro has not only chucked the Campari, but he’s not using vermouth either. He plays by his own rules. Instead he’s using Select Aperitivo, a low-ish alcohol amaro (17.5% ABV) from Venice, not dissimilar to Aperol. It’s what many Venetians prefer to use in a spritz in place of the mighty orange beverage. He didn’t specify the gin, so we’re using delicious, lemony Brooklyn Gin for no particular reason except we like it. The result is something mellower and more complex, but less boozy than the classic Negroni. It would be equally at home after dinner as before.

Carraro originally designed this recipe as a punch as a nod to the bar at the London edition, but we’ve domesticated it into a single-serve version. Right, let’s get stirring.

40ml Amaro Montenegro 
25ml Brooklyn Gin
20ml Select Aperitivo 

Add ingredients to an ice-filled tumbler, stir and garnish with a slice of orange.

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The Nightcap: 26 July

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the…

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the rise of the Tequila cocktail and even a Jack Daniel’s shoe.

Happy Friday, folks! But before we get into the thick of all the wonderful booze news of the week that was, we thought we’d have a quick chat about the weather. Because, we don’t know about you, but nobody has mentioned the weather this week. At all. Was it warm? Was there sun? We tried to enjoy a refreshing Spritz here at MoM Towers, but apparently the whole of the UK had run out of ice. All we know is that it’s now raining again and the quintessential British summer is back on. Thank goodness for that. It was a steamy few days. Step away from the SPF 50 and settle down with a drink, the Nightcap is here!

On the blog this week, we kicked off Monday with a recap of all the Fèis Ìle 2019 fun, while Kristy chose a sherry-tastic single malt for our New Arrival of the Week, took a peek at the mysterious 2019 Diageo Special Releases, and reported back on a magic trip to Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey Distillery! Meanwhile, Henry mixed up a Tequila Sunrise for his Cocktail of the Week, chatted rum with Alexandre Gabriel from Plantation, and found out what on earth Uncle’s Day is with Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver. Last but not least, Annie gave the 411 on where to grab a drink in Amsterdam, Nate Brown scooted over to Dublin’s Roe & Co, and our Jess carried on the Tequila and mezcal fun with a round up of agave spirits. Phew. But that’s not all – on with the news!

Beam Suntory

Behold, The Fred B. Noe Distillery!

Beam Suntory breaks ground James B. Beam distillery

In big American whiskey news, Beam Suntory announced this week that it’s investing a whopping $60 million to build a new craft distillery and bring back The James B. Beam Distilling Co. name to Clermont! The James B. Beam Distilling Co. was the company’s name immediately after Prohibition, and will now serve as the name of Beam Suntory’s Clermont operations, as well as encompassing the production operations for the Jim Beam brand and small-batch brands such as Booker’s and Knob Creek. This investment will also build the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery on the Clermont site, named after seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe, which will house the exploration of exciting new fermentation and distillation techniques. “Beam Suntory is excited to honour our roots by investing in the James B. Beam Distilling Co., and setting ourselves up for a bright future in Kentucky and around the world,” commented Albert Baladi, President and CEO for Beam Suntory. “With nearly 225 years behind us, we are proud of our history of entrepreneurialism, craftsmanship and innovation. As the world leader in bourbon, we are thrilled to be laying the foundation for the next 225 years.” Goodbye Beam Suntory, hello The James B. Beam Distilling Co.!

Campari Rum

Campari takes on rum/rhum

Campari Group eyes up Rhum Agricole brands

Got a taste for the vegetal pronouncedness of Rhum Agricole? You are not alone. Campari Group, one of the world’s biggest drinks players, wants in, too. This week it was announced that the owner of the likes of Campari (obvs), Aperol, Wild Turkey and Bulldog Gin entered into “exclusive negotiations” with the parent company of Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny (and Duquesne rum, too) to acquire the Martinique-based brands. While no price was revealed, the deal would include the brands themselves, the land they sit on, the distilleries and visitor centres, plus the aged rhum stocks. Yes please. In the press release, Campari Group said that if the deal goes through, it will “enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumising category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture”. It already owns Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew, so it would make Campari a significant force for all things rum (and rhum). Ready the Ti Punches, folks!

Diageo

Cheers to a bumper year for Diageo!

Tanqueray and Don Julio drive Diageo sales

It’s that time of year again – financial results are in! And for Diageo, they make for pretty buoyant reading. Sales for the full year to 30 June hit £12.9 billion, up 5.8%, with profits hitting £4bn, (+9.5%). Why such strong results? Two words: gin and Tequila. Gin as a whole grew by 23% in value, with Tequila soaring by a whopping 37%. Brand-wise, Don Julio was a total stand-out, with sales climbing by an incredible 30%, while Tanqueray posted 21% gains. Which brands didn’t do quite so well? The biggest name to see a drop was Cîroc Vodka (-5%), although vodka as a whole actually saw 4% growth, a big deal seeing as the category has fared pretty poorly in recent times. And Scotch? All-in-all, things are going well! The category grew by 6%, with Johnnie Walker seeing values climb 7% on the previous year, and the Scotch malts collectively making 12% gains. Winning!

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate, delicious and super popular

The Macallan unleashes home-grown Estate to the world

We had a thoroughly lovely Wednesday this week. Not only did The Macallan get its new Estate edition ready to ship, the brand also treated us to an utterly delightful lunch! We gathered at the incredible Hide in Piccadilly with Sarah Burgess, The Macallan’s whisky maker, and David Sinclair, brand ambassador to learn about (and of course, taste) the new expression. Burgess told us all about the production process – one week a year, mashing, fermentation and distillation is given over to barley grown exclusively on The Macallan estate. And the sensibly-named The Macallan Estate is the result! It’s an addition to the core range, and more bottles will be released each year (although Burgess stressed to us that she’s working to keep the flavour profile consistent over time). So, what’s it like? Tremendously autumnal, filled to the brim with appley, orchard fruit notes, plus lashings of marmalade on burnt toast, and a wash of sweet spices. Tasty.

Coupette Shimmer

Coupette’s mesmerising Shimmer cocktail

Coupette launches new menu ‘Summer’

Ah, Coupette. Something of a hole in the wall, to the uninitiated the award-winning bar may seem rather unsuspecting from the outside. We excitedly made our way down as just this week, founder Chris Moore launched the new menu in collaboration with local sign writer, Ged Palmer, titled ‘Summer’! One such epitome of the season was Strawberries & Cream, taking inspiration from Wimbledon and seasonal picnics. With strawberry eau de vie, rosé vermouth, wine and a vanilla-scented, clarified milk punch finish, served with a brush of white chocolate around the rim of the glass, it’s totally delicious without being overly sweet. This serve was just flying out from behind the bar, and no wonder in 34-degree heat! There’s a story behind each serve, and an intriguing one was Shimmer, marrying 30&40 Eau de Vie, green apple and sage, wine, genepi and sage soda, served in a mesmerising blue ceramic vessel on a blue geode coaster. Designed to be reminiscent of holidays and blue oceans it certainly accomplishes that, in flavour and aesthetic. Other delicious serves included the Bloody Martini with vodka, vin jaune, a clear tomato consommé and chive oil, part of a series of cocktails which mashes together two iconic drinks. There’s also a take on a Kir Royale, which sees a fabulous serving of blackcurrant sorbet in the cocktail glass. Slightly heavier serves include Obsidian, channelling a Rum Old Fashioned with the addition of cocoa and tangy passion fruit. We’ll certainly be back to try out the rest. Leave any expectations at the door, and prepare to be absolutely blown away with this stunningly complex and yet unpretentious menu. Bravo, Coupette.

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace has cocktails on tap… from a flower wall!

Dalloway Terrace unveils new look for summer ’19

On Wednesday, we got to visit what is described by Vogue as “one of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants”. The Dalloway Terrace is now offering a taste of summer with the launch of its Summer Estate, in partnership with Ramsbury Distillery. Master florist, Nikki Tibbles, recreated the English countryside, transforming the Terrace with wild meadow flowers, blending silk daisies, cosmos, larkspur, delphiniums and foliage with embellishments of coral quince blossom. Flower walls are massive right now, and she created possibly the best one ever for the occasion:  a flower wall complete with botanical cocktails on tap. There’s also a bar for G&T drinkers where they can garnish drinks themselves with produce fresh from Ramsbury Estate. The seasonal cocktail menu will offer a selection of summer serves priced at £13. No reservations allowed at the Terrace, so be sure to get in quick – it’s open from 08:00am to11:00pm every day until mid-September.

Slane Irish Whiskey

Delicious and sustainable Slane Whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey announces trio of winners in sustainable cocktail comp

Earlier this summer, Slane Distillery’s UK brand ambassador, Michael Brown, set a challenge to bartenders to create the most ‘suSLANEable’ cocktails. And this week, not one, not two but THREE winners were selected! Slane is located in the heart of Boyne Valley in Ireland and, inspired by Earth Day, had tasked bartenders across the UK to follow in its green footsteps. And they are big shoes to fill:  the distillery has already installed a “catchment system” to collect rainwater off the roofs of the distillery buildings to reduce the volume of water needed for production drawn from the Boyne River. Cool stuff! Joint winner Jack Riley from Present Company, Liverpool, says, “We should all be taking small steps to help the impact on the environment.” He worked with local coffee shops to create his nameless ‘suSLANEable’ cocktail: 45ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 20ml Spent Coffee-infused Martini Bitter, 15ml Tropical Cordial and 2 dash Bitter. Fellow champ Tom Sutton from H.M.S.S challenged himself to find and use leftover produce to create his “Castaway”, from just 40ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 30ml reclaimed cordial and stir into a frozen embassy. Simples. Finally, we have Leon Back and his recipe for “Little Winner”; 50ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 40ml ghetto cold brew (spent coffee grinds), coconut syrup, 10ml Martini ambrato, 10ml P.X. Sherry and 2 dashes Angostura bitter with some tonic water over ice.  Delicious. Evolving and improving every year, Slane is working to become one of the most environmentally-friendly whiskey distilleries in Europe… Check out this video for more inspo to make eco-friendly drinks.

Patron Tequila

Goodbye Tequila shots, hello Paloma!

Shots are out: Brits now prefer Tequila cocktails, according to Patrón

Step away from the salt and lime: Tequila is now officially preferred in cocktail form, rather than as a shot, in new research from Patrón. In a study that suggests Tequila has finally shaken off its hard-partying image, more than 65% of drinkers said they enjoy Tequila cocktails on a night out, over slammers. It makes sense: Tequila is the fastest growing spirit in the UK, according to Euromonitor. Despite the upgraded drinking habits, Tequila knowledge is at a bit of a low. Only 23% of those questioned knew Tequila was made from agave, while just 10% showed knowledge of aged Tequilas. One response? To get tasting! You can find an array of Tequila drams for that purpose right here. What’s your Tequila of choice? Let us know in the comments below!

Nelsons distillery

Nelson’s carbon neutral distillery from the skies

Nelson’s Distillery bags eco award

More green news! Word reached us this week that Nelson’s Distillery & School in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, won a Green Impact Award for its eye-popping efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. The award itself is the Signal 1 Radio Green Award, given out to recognise and celebrate local businesses making great strides in sustainability. Striving to be totally “off-grid” since 2016, Nelson’s is based at a flashy, futuristic and carbon neutral site with numerous green energy sources, including a wind turbine and super-snazzy anaerobic digester power plants. The site sells energy back to the grid, the team live in the local village to reduce traffic and pollution, they have their own natural water source, and use the reed beds to filter the water used in gin and rum. If this doesn’t sound amazeballs enough, then what about the 10% customer discount you get if you returning or repurposing the bottles?! More distilleries take note.  

Flor de Caña

No lunch, but lots of Flor de Caña!

Boisdale celebrates Nicaraguan rum

Last Friday, we were invited by Ranald MacDonald from Boisdale for an intimate lunch at his Belgravia restaurant with her excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in honour of Ron Flor de Caña. How could we refuse? When we arrived, the intimate lunch was a room heaving with dignitaries including the Bulgarian ambassador. So many ambassadors. It was like a Ferraro Roche advert. Only with less to eat. Of lunch there was no sign. We were whisked upstairs by Matro Ortiz Lima, the Chilean brand ambassador with a strong Scottish accent, to sample three rums, a 12 year old, 18 year old and a 25 year old. According to Lima, Flor de Caña these are minimum ages, as with Scotch whisky and indeed Jamaican rum. Apparently, the company has unparalleled stocks of mature spirit because during the revolutionary period from 1970 to 1990, the family who own the brand hid rum all over the country. We finished with the coffee and tobacco-scented 25 year old, which went beautifully with a big cigar. Something else this country does superbly. But of the promised lunch, there was no sign. 

Jack Daniel's Shoes

Jack Daniel’s takes on footwear

And finally… Jack Daniel’s-inspired… shoes?

Jack Daniel’s has made its first foray into the world of footwear! The whiskey giant has teamed up with the awesomely-named Shoe Surgeon, aka Dominic Chambrone, and together they’ve created seven Jack Daniel’s-inspired trainers (or rather, ‘sneakers’, as they’re calling them across the pond). “Craftsmanship is the ultimate common detonator between what I do and those who make Jack Daniel’s,” Chambrone commented. Each of the seven shoe designs was inspired by an iconic element of the Jack Daniel’s brand. These are grain, Cave Springs, the distillery, charcoal, the barrel, honey, and the Jack Daniel’s bottle. If you want in, then you’ll have to vote online in August, with only 10 lucky voters in to win a pair. We don’t like those odds… Our only question is, can you drink out of them?

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Cocktail of the Week: The Iceberg Slim

Gareth ‘G’ Franklin is on a mission to bring liqueurs out from the back of the drinks cupboard and put them centre stage. His creation, the Iceberg Slim, shines a…

Gareth ‘G’ Franklin is on a mission to bring liqueurs out from the back of the drinks cupboard and put them centre stage. His creation, the Iceberg Slim, shines a spotlight on Luxardo Bitter Bianco.

The first rule of cocktails is that they are built around spirits. First pick your spirit gin, vodka, rum or whiskey and then make a Sour, Martini or whatever you fancy. Liqueurs, vermouths, bitters etc. are there to provide seasoning. Luxardo, however, has other ideas. The Italian drinks firm has just launched an initiative to make liqueurs the star.

The company is probably best known for its Maraschino liqueur, a great friend behind the bar, but today’s cocktail, the Iceberg Slim, is based around Luxardo Bitter Bianco. Launched in 2016, Bitter Bianco has a flavour profile similar to Campari (try it in a White Negroni along with Dolin Dry vermouth and gin) but it’s less sweet with a higher ABV at 30%. I loved its clean, bright flavours of bitter orange, rosemary and peach blossom with a nice bite from bitter botanicals including wormwood.

luxardo

Brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin never leaves home without a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin told us a bit about the production process: Bitter Bianco is made by macerating all the botanicals separately, blending and then redistilling the resulting spirit. But, according to Franklin, “some things like wormwood when you distill them, they lose their bitterness so we do a separate maceration, and we add that to it.” Which is why Bitter Bianco isn’t actually white, it’s more of a pale yellow colour. Bitter Giallo Pallido doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Franklin was born and brought up near Cambridge, and, after a stint in Australia, is now working back in the city. He’s been with Luxardo for nearly six years now but his interest in liqueurs goes way back: “When I was growing up, my father and I used to go hiking”, he said, “I guess nowadays you’d call it ‘foraging’ but back then we used to just pick stuff. And we’d make liqueurs from it: all sorts of things, like rosehip liqueur, blackberries, greengages, stuff like that”.

He thinks that in Britain we have a prejudice against liqueurs. I certainly associate the word with sticky bottles at the back of my parents’ drinks cupboard. Franklin blames it on what he calls the ‘the Midori effect’. He elaborates: “don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating Midori. But in the late ‘70s everyone who was making liqueurs at that time just went ‘hey, we need to do this too!’ So what they did was they started synthesising flavours and then using big artificial colours. And I think that has just tarnished the category for most people”.

The Iceberg Slim

Behold, the Iceberg Slim!

To challenge these preconceptions, Luxardo and Franklin are doing a cocktail roadshow called ‘Modify This’ to show how versatile liqueurs can be. Franklin will be travelling around the country conducting liqueur masterclasses to bartenders. One of the cocktails he will be showing is the Iceberg Slim. Franklin explained how he invented it: “Luxardo Bianco is like a gin liqueur that contains no juniper”, he said, “And, for me, especially when it comes down to consumers that’s the easiest way for them to understand it because in England we don’t have this cultural association to the bitter palate, like Campari. So what do we understand? We do understand gin. So, essentially we’re just simply mixing it with the tonic and then we’re thinking about the different flavours which are quite reminiscent of an aquavit.  So I’ve added dill to accentuate those notes and lemon is always going to work with those sorts of fresh flavours. “

Franklin told he that it’s all about “synergy”, when the different flavours “marry together and kind of assimilate into one flavour.” And what about the name? He was surprised that his cocktail shares a name with a notorious American pimp turned author. According to Franklin, the name comes from the cocktail’s freshness and colour, or rather lack of it; “I did not realise it was the name of a famous pimp!”, he said.

Enough talking, let’s make this thing!

50ml Luxardo Bitter Bianco
200ml 1724 tonic water
Lemon twist
A sprig of fresh dill

Muddle fresh dill in the bottom of a collins glass or tumbler, fill with ice, add the Luxardo Bitter Bianco, top up with tonic water and stir. Express a piece of lemon peel over the glass, twist and drop in.

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The Nightcap: 12 April

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more! It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork,…

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more!

It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork, we’ve got another batch of news stories from the world of booze ready and waiting in The Nightcap. In fact, it’s almost as if we assembled a team of engineers and bribed them with the tastiest cocktails they could ever imagine to build us Nightcap-bot 3000 to produce these stories. Of course, that’s simply hogwash. We definitely have not done that, and we absolutely don’t disguise Nightcap-bot 3000 as a fridge when people visit the editorial team’s realm within MoM Towers to make it look like we’re very busy. We’re also not scared that Nightcap-bot 3000 will one day replace and potentially eat us all.

On the blog this week, guest writer Ian Buxton pondered whether whisky could crash in his first post for us, while Annie explored cocktails that have a way with words, then talked to Talisker about its new bartender competition Wild Spirit. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the classic Gin & Tonic in celebration of National Gin & Tonic Day, and Martini & Rossi’s new super fruity vermouth Fiero caught his eye for New Arrival of the Week. Kristy explored a fancy new Scotch from Glenmorangie, while Adam tasted a 47 Year Old Mortlach expression, then looked at Littlemill’s historical claim. If that wasn’t enough, here’s the rest of the week’s news!

The Nightcap

Take a look at Islay’s first new distillery for nearly 15 years!

New Islay distillery Ardnahoe opens its doors

The opening of a Scotch whisky distillery is always an event, but there’s something particularly special about a new one on Islay. Today Ardnahoe, the first new distillery on the island since 2005, was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, the family-owned company which has invested £12m in the project, commented: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location. We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.” The spirit should be full of character as it will be made using wooden washbacks, Scottish-made lamp glass stills and worm tub condensers (the only distillery on the island to use them), and it will be aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The great master distiller Jim McEwan advised on the project. With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that Hunter Laing has already pre-sold 400 casks of spirit. Team MoM is flying out to Islay on Monday to bring you the full story. Watch this space.

Jameson unveils new commercial for Taste, That’s Why campaign

Jameson Irish Whiskey unveiled the next instalment of its sassy Taste, That’s Why advertising platform this week. New commercial The Bartenders’ Gathering is set in Dublin in 2016, and tells the true story of 200 global bartenders at the brand’s annual three-day immersive and educational summit of the same name. It all looks very trendy and fun, with shots of distilleries, whiskey, bars, food, music and some lovely Irish countryside, as well as an unexpected twist. Some of the bartenders interrupt a distillery trip to go to a library (we’re just kidding, that isn’t it). “As we unveil the next chapter in the Taste, That’s Why story, we wanted to highlight Jameson’s revered position among bartenders as they have been instrumental to our success in the USA and around the world over the past 29 years,” said Simon Fay, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “The new spot conveys the true spirit of the annual Bartenders’ Gathering in a high octane but light-hearted manner with a twist of Irish humour – it’s exactly what you’d expect from Jameson, and will help us to further build the profile and personality of the brand supporting equity growth into the future.”

The Nightcap

The wonderful Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

Campari launches Meet the Master, bringing together four drinks luminaries

Where can you see the master distillers and blenders behind Wild Turkey, Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier and Glen Grant all in one place? At Carlton House Terrace in London’s Mayfair from 14-16 May, when Campari UK launches Meet the Masters. The event will bring together more than 140 combined years of talent and expertise in one location. The line-up includes Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the first woman master blender in the spirits industry; Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, the third generation Russell to work at the distillery; Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, whose family has been involved in the Cognac industry since 1627; and Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant, who has worked at the distillery for over five decades. The event will offer tasting sessions with each master, panel discussions, and an opportunity for guests from the drinks industry and beyond to get the masters’ view on the latest industry trends. “With over 140 years of shared experience in the spirits industry between them, Meet the Masters is a must-attend for those who are serious about spirits, the stories behind them, and hungry to know more, in a unique and intimate setting,” said Brad Madigan, managing director at Campari UK. Sounds enlightening!

The Nightcap

The Fèis Ìle 2019 Limited Edition!

Douglas Laing unveils 2019 Fèis Ìle Big Peat bottling

Here at MoM we’re getting very excited about Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt that runs from 24 May to 1 June. To celebrate this year’s bash, Douglas Laing will be releasing a very special whisky called Big Peat’s Pals. It’s a blended malt containing whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and even Port Ellen! So rare. Only 3,300 bottles will be available globally. It’s the 10th anniversary of the much-loved brand and so the packaging of this special edition features the photos of 400 “pals” from all over the world. “By marrying together a fine selection of our preferred single malts, only from Islay, we truly believe we have created the ultimate taste of Islay in Big Peat,” said Douglas Laing director of whisky Cara Laing. “His latest limited edition, the Fèis Ìle 2019 release, pays homage to his friends the world over, over 400 of whom feature proudly on the gift tube. This year, we celebrate 10 years since my father dreamed up Big Peat, and our extensive plans will ensure our Big Islay Pal celebrates in style all over the world!” These plans include a Facebook tasting during Fèis Ìle for members of the Big Peat community, so that fans who can’t get to the island can join in the festivities. Very modern.

The Nightcap

This man is basically Indiana Jones, as far as I’m concerned

Whisky distillery archaeology gets under way in Scotland!

It’s been quite the week when it comes to whisky history. First we heard evidence that Littlemill was Scotland’s ‘oldest’ distillery. Now we’ve got some archaeological goings on at Blackmiddens, an old steading on the border between Moray and Aberdeenshire. It was one of the first distilleries to nab a licence after the Excise Act of 1823. Now, The Cabrach Trust, which preserves the history of the area, is excavating the site to figure out exactly what went down when, with help from Forestry and Land Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. “For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this,” said Anna Brennand, Cabrach Trust chief exec. “Despite the fact that farms like this were famous for their fine quality spirit, whisky production at Blackmiddens stopped just eight years after it began and the farm fell into ruin. We hope to uncover some of the secrets of early whisky making in the Highlands with this exciting dig.” We can’t wait to see what they discover!

The Nightcap

Small-batch Serata Hall gin, anyone?

Serata Hall comes to Old Street

Just a stone’s throw away from Old Street station, a new establishment called Serata Hall opened its doors this week, which we know because we attended the launch party! The new site is Albion & East’s fourth offering alongside sister sites Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall and Cattivo, both in Brixton. Like its siblings, Serata Hall will make all of its food on-site (we can personally recommend the pizzas), serve tap wine (the biggest selection outside the United States), and provide guests the option to either create their own cocktails or ‘Book a Bartender’, where mixologists conjure up inventive cocktails. There’s also a DJ booth, a daily bakery and hot-desk spaces. But the thing that stands out most for us here at MoM Towers? The in-house distillery. That’s right. Serata Hall features a bespoke still, called ‘Agnes’, which makes small-batch Serata Hall gin, available for visitors to drink at the venue and buy on-site. You can even sign up to gin blending masterclasses, where the master distiller will show you how to blend, bottle and hand-wax two gins, which you then get to name and take away. You also learn how to make three gin cocktails, too. Sounds like a good time to us!

The Nightcap

Move over coffee machines, at-home booze machines have arrived!

Can this at-home booze machine change how we drink?

The future is now, folks. Smart Spirits – a company that produces different types of spirits by mixing water, ethyl alcohol and flavour – has come up with an at-home dispenser designed to make more than 30 different drinks spanning all the major spirits categories using capsules. A bit like those coffee tabs but with actual booze. How does it work? The so-called ‘Taste Of’ flavour capsules mix with neutral grain spirit and/or water to mimic the flavours of different whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas and liqueurs. You can choose the alcohol content (0-40% ABV), and there’s even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control the whole thing from your smartphone. “We’re delighted to introduce to the market an innovative new way to drink at home,” said Ian Smart, one of the Smart Spirits co-founders. “Smart Spirits taps into the desire of the increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumer to have control of the alcohol in their drinks, at the same time also choice and convenience.” On the one hand, you’ve got an entire drinks cabinet in one. But we reckon we’d miss the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle… the jury’s out on this one. Let us know what you think!

The Nightcap

This is a $1,000 Mint Julep. No, really.

Woodford Reserve unveils $1,000 Julep for the Kentucky Derby

What’s the most you would spend on a cocktail? £9? £15? £21? Well, Woodford Reserve is hoping some punters will be prepared to spend significantly more. To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby on 3 and 4 May, the bourbon producer, which is also the race’s official sponsor, has unveiled a $1,000 Mint Julep. Yes, one thousand clams. For that money you’d expect it to contain unicorn tears or at the very least powdered griffin beak. But in reality it’s made with standard Woodford Reserve, a honey syrup that was aged in oak for 145 days, and mint grown at Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby takes place. The packaging, however, is seriously swanky. For the money you get a silver cup alongside a flask of bourbon, and the whole thing is presented in a wooden box lined with jockey silks. If that’s not lavish enough, there’s a gold version available for $2,500. Only 125 silver and 20 gold will be made. You will be pleased to know that this is not just about conspicuous consumption, all the proceeds go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an education for deserving students at Western Kentucky University.

The Nightcap

I defy you not to imagine yourself drinking something wonderful and Japanese here

Nobu and Suntory team up for Hanami experience

How does a showcase of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and afternoon tea sound to you? Pretty great, right? Well, good, because that’s exactly what Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory have put together with Hanami. It’s a celebration of the annual bloom of the Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, inspired by the ancient practice of dining beneath the blossoming flower. Millions of people from all over the world travel to drink, dance and dine beneath the blossom, but Hanami will bring the spirit of this tradition to London at the newest Nobu restaurant. The bar team at Nobu, led by beverage manager Wilfried Rique, has worked closely with The House of Suntory to create an exciting original menu inspired by its range of premium Japanese spirits, including Toki and Chita Whisky, Roku Gin and the newly-launched Haku Vodka. These are presented with Japanese ingredients, teas and house-made infusions in a menu of seven bespoke cocktails, alongside Nobu-style bar snacks and world class sushi. Visitors to the terrace also have the opportunity to indulge in an exclusive Sakura-inspired Afternoon Tea menu, offering a twist on the classic British tradition. It’s open to the public now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.

The Nightcap

Marcos Ameneiros Zannone, who will presumably be looking to replace that sticky shaker…

And finally… Bartender gets stuck at Cointreau Margarita contest

There was a hairy moment at this week’s Cointreau Margarita competition at Century House in London, when one of the contestant’s cocktail shaker got stuck. Not an unusual occurrence when mixing cocktails, but after some frantic banging and jimmying from poor Marcos Ameneiros Zannone from Berners Tavern, it became clear that it was well and truly jammed. Meanwhile, the ice inside was slowly melting and diluting the cocktail. And so, the cream of British bartending stepped in and everyone in the room had a go at opening the bloody thing. But nobody could. It was like the sword in the stone from Arthurian Legend. Just in the nick of time, in stepped one of the barmen from Century who managed to prize the recalcitrant shaker open. Zannone poured out his Susanita (which was inspired by Crêpes Suzette), and won the competition. Our Henry was one of the judges, alongside Sandrae Lawrence from The Cocktail Lovers magazine, award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown, and Alfred Cointreau himself. The panel also picked a winner from outside London, with Nathan Larkin from Manchester’s plant-based bar Speak in Code taking the title with his Sicolo Mayahuel, a smoky complex drink with an Aztec twist. The two runners-up were Dean Railton from Feed in Leeds, and Leonardo Baggio from Mr Fogg’s Residence. The two winners won lots of Cointreau and a trip to Cannes. Congratulations to all who took part – the standard was sky high – and especially to Zannone for keeping his cool.

That’s it for The Nightcap this week, team. Have awesome weekends!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 12 April

New Arrival of the Week: Martini Fiero

Martini & Rossi have big plans for Martini Fiero, a new super fruity vermouth that the company hopes will be the drink of the summer. We take a closer look……

Martini & Rossi have big plans for Martini Fiero, a new super fruity vermouth that the company hopes will be the drink of the summer. We take a closer look…

The press bumf describes Fiero as “the biggest new product launch undertaken by Martini in years”. And there can be no doubt at the sizeable market Fiero is aimed at: Aperol drinkers. Those bright orange spritzes are so ubiquitous now it’s hard to remember that until 2009/10, Aperol had little presence outside Italy. I think like many Londoners I had my first taste of it at Polpo on Beak Street, which proved so influential when it opened in 2009. By 2014, the Aperol Spritz was everywhere from country pubs in Wiltshire to seaside towns in Spain. It was a stunning example of how to market a product.

Martini Fiero

Martini Fiero, looking very pretty

It’s easy to see the appeal because, though there is a certain amount of bitterness, with its sweet orangey taste and low alcohol (11% ABV), Aperol is almost Kia-Ora for grown-ups. Not that that’s a bad thing. I think it tastes particularly fine mixed with fizzy water and grapefruit juice. Aperol’s success has led to a vogue for spritzes. To my knowledge, however, there haven’t been any mainstream products aimed squarely at Aperol (though I did try a supermarket own-label version a couple of years ago which was pretty revolting). Until now…. 

Martini Fiero has been available on the continent for a couple of years now, but this month it is being officially released in Britain. It’s actually a very different product from Aperol. Though it doesn’t say so on the front label, it’s actually a vermouth, which means that it’s made from white wine rather than the neutral alcohol that goes into Aperol. It’s also higher in alcohol at 14.9% ABV. Martini informed us that it’s made from 100% natural flavours and colours, including orange and two types of wormwood (artemisia absinthium and artemisia pontica, for vermouth geeks).

Martini Fiero

“Go on, I dare you to ask for a beer”

So how does it taste? Rather delicious, I thought. It feels a lot less sugary than Campari or Aperol; the overwhelming flavour is of sweet oranges with some bitter orange peel notes at the end and a certain medicinal tang. You can also really taste the wine base. Perhaps it’s the  bright red colour, but it reminded me a bit of Panda cherryade which used to be sold at my local cinema in the 1980s (interestingly, the same local cinema has been poshed up and now sells Aperol Spritzes). I liked it mixed half and half with soda water, with grapefruit juice and soda, and it makes a cracking Gin and It. Martini recommends drinking Fiero with tonic water which worked beautifully, the bitterness in the tonic chiming with the subtle bitter notes in the vermouth (though I did add a splash of soda to lessen the sweetness).

Just as Campari lovers can be a bit sniffy about Aperol, I think some vermouth fans are going to turn their noses up at Fiero. The flavours are clean and simple, it doesn’t have the complexity of the Martini Riserva range or the power of the standard Martini Rosso (hard to beat in a Negroni). But, of course, it is not aimed at vermouth nuts. According to Martini, “Fiero & Tonic provides a younger adult audience with a refreshing new way to enjoy vermouth as part of the aperitivo occasion”. As a sweet, fruity drink with enough bite to keep it interesting, it’s the perfect uncomplicated drink for a summer’s day. Rather like another orangey Italian drink I could name.

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The Nightcap: 8 March

The weekend is almost here, and we wouldn’t want you to go into a wonderful Saturday without a whole heap of booze news – hence, The Nightcap! It has been…

The weekend is almost here, and we wouldn’t want you to go into a wonderful Saturday without a whole heap of booze news – hence, The Nightcap!

It has been a long ol’ week, despite being around the same number of hours as every other week for about… Well, since weeks were invented. Whoever did that should have made them shorter, because then you would get more editions of our weekly round-up of stories from the world of boozes. Maybe write a letter to the week inventor. See if they can get rid of a day or two somewhere. Thursday has always felt a bit extraneous.

Anyway, what’s been happening on the MoM Blog this week? Well, Kristy has been chatting to some of the amazing women who work here at MoM Towers in celebration of International Women’s Day (it’s today, by the way) – you can read all of those interviews right here. Annie once again did her best Mystic Meg impression and looked at the bars of the future that exist today. Henry watched whisky on the big screen, found out more about Israel’s Milk & Honey distillery and brewed up something tasty for Cocktail of the Week – the Espresso Martini. Adam greeted the new season with open arms and tasty garnishes as he looked at delicious spring spirits. We also did some more winning, this time at the UK eCommerce Awards.

Say hello to Diageo’s first women apprentice coopers

Diageo recruits first women apprentice coopers!

In case it had escaped your attention, today is International Women’s Day. And there was some exciting news from Diageo this week which makes a fitting top Nightcap post! The drinks group has recruited the world’s first female coopering apprentices at its Cambus Cooperage in Scotland. Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick are part of a 16-strong team of apprentices at the Coopering School, where traditional coopering skills are taught over the four-year course. Both women are in their 30s, not just shattering the stereotype that coopering is exclusively a career for men, but also that apprenticeships are only open to school-leavers. “I’ve never been put off by gender stereotypes,” said Cochrane. “I don’t think that should stop anyone from doing what they want to do. And knowing you’re contributing to the growing whisky industry is an amazing feeling.” Olychick added: “Coming into a male-dominated workplace didn’t put me off at all, in fact I found it really empowering to be one of the first women to take up the craft and make my mark in history. It’s such an exciting prospect to think that I’ll be contributing to the next generation of Scotch.” We’re raising a dram to them both – while hoping that at some point soon stories like this won’t be newsworthy as there will be genuine equal representation across the spirits industry.

We should celebrate, with some Aperol of course!

Aperol sales soar by 28% as Campari Group reports ‘strong’ results

Financial results time! And Campari’s full-year stats make for interesting reading. Vibrantly-hued Aperol continued its global charge, with sales soaring by more than 28% over the year, while Campari saw sales climb by 5.1% (Negronis are still ON). Wild Turkey (+7%), Grand Marnier (+5.2%), Bulldog Gin (+7.2%), and the Jamaican rum portfolio (+8.3%, includes the likes of Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew Overproof) all did very well. Not so good for Skyy vodka though, which saw 8.1% declines, blamed on weaknesses in the US, or Glen Grant, which saw sales fall by 5.7%. An agave price hike impacted profitability, although its Espolòn Tequila brand posted emphatic 26.1% gains. Overall, total group organic sales climbed by +5.3%, and CEO, Bob Kunze-Concewitz, is happy. “We remain confident in achieving a positive performance across the key underlying business indicators in 2019,” he said.

Meet Igor Boyadjian!

All change at the top: The Macallan names new MD

Single malt Scotch brand The Macallan is about to get a new managing director! Following news that Scott McCroskie, current MD, is off to lead parent company Edrington, Igor Boyadjian has been named as his successor. Boyadjian leads Asia Pacific & India at Edrington, and will take up his new post – and a spot on the Edrington executive team – from 1 April. He first joined Edrington in 2017 to lead the travel retail operations, but had partnered with the company for more than a decade before that as part of its Edrington-F.I.X. Middle East joint venture. “I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to help chart the next stage in the journey of The Macallan,” Boyadjian said. “Under Scott’s leadership, The Macallan has demonstrated a constant pursuit of excellence and dedication to creating the finest single malt Scotch whisky. It is both an honour and a privilege to work alongside a dedicated and talented group of people all over the world, whose mastery, creativity and pride for the brand have helped push the boundaries to make The Macallan what it is today.” Congrats, Igor!

These bourbon and rye whiskies were distilled before Prohibition.

Rare 1920s bourbon for sale in Kentucky

Lovers of good old time sippin’ whiskey should head to the Frazier Museum in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Thanks to a change in the state alcohol laws, the museum is now allowed to sell some of its collection of rare whiskeys. Known colloquially as “dusty bottles”, they are likely to get bourbon lovers salivating. The first releases of what will become a regular thing are pint bottles of Old Hickory Canadian Rye bottled in 1925, Old Jim Gore Bourbon, distilled 1912 and bottled in 1925, and John Poindexter Old Bourbon, distilled in 1916 and bottled in 1928. The last two were distilled by Wigglesworth Brothers of Harrison County, Kentucky. The bourbons are $2,000 a pop, with the rye a snip at $1,500. Andrew Treinen from the museum told us: “There was a guy waiting to buy one of all three when we opened the morning after the release. We have a small inventory of all brands still available and hopefully more on the way.” Readers will note that they were bottled during Prohibition. How was this even possible? Well, to get around the law forbidding the sale of alcohol, at the time they were sold for medicinal use only. We imagine that doctors were pretty popular people in 1920s America.

The value of rare Scotch whisky has increased by a staggering 600%.

Whisky now a better investment than art, cars or coins

If you’ve got some spare cash to invest, then you could do a lot worse than ploughing it into rare whisky, according to The Wealth Report 2019, released this week. Whisky currently tops the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index (KFLII) which tracks the value of assets including cars, art and rare coins. The whisky index, based on the auction values of 100 bottles of rare Scotch, has increased in value by 40% in the last 12 months. In the past ten years, prices have risen by nearly 600%! That’s a lot of moolah. Much of this growth is driven by the Asian market. “The stunning price growth of rare single malt whiskies shows that the appetite for new ‘alternative’ asset classes remains strong among high-net-worth investors,” said Andrew Shirley, editor of The Wealth Report and the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index. Andy Simpson, co-founder Rare Whisky 101 added: “While rare whisky remains a somewhat fledgling asset class compared to some other passion investments, the market for rare and vintage bottles has witnessed extraordinary growth over the past ten years.” We should point out, of course, that assets can go down in value as well as up. Nothing is guaranteed. However, the great thing about whisky is that if prices do collapse, at least you will have something to drown your sorrows with.

Even more Irish whiskey to come!

Ireland officially has another working distillery – welcome to the party, Clonakilty!

We all know Irish whiskey is booming, and now there’s another distillery to add to the must-visit list. On 5 March, the waterfront Clonakilty Distillery and Visitor Experience in West Cork opened its doors! In addition to its three-still stillhouse and whiskey and gin production, the site has a story room which tells the tale of Clonakilty town’s brewing and smuggling history, a gin school, a bistro, and a fancy gift shop. The distillery is open to the public from Tuesday through to Sunday, and tours can be booked on the distillery website. Clonakilty becomes Ireland’s 23rd operational distillery, and reckons it will attract as many as 35,000 visitors a year. Congrats, all!

Say hello to Tamdhu’s new 15 Year Old!

Raise a glass to Tamdhu’s new 15 Year Old

It wouldn’t be the Nightcap if there wasn’t news of delicious new whisky. Scotch single malt distillery Tamdhu has done the decent thing this week and launched a new limited edition 15-year-old annual release. Fans of the Speyside drop will be pleased to know it’s as sherry-tastic as ever, having been matured in American and European oloroso-seasoned casks for the full 15 years. Tamdhu 15 Year Old was bottled at 46% ABV without any chill-filtration or additional colouring, and is said to be a complex and rich dram that delivers notes of apple pastry, spiced currants, orange zest, juicy apricot, vibrant raspberry, almonds, malt biscuit, cream sherry and vanilla. The bespoke bottle sports Tamdhu’s new packaging, which tells the history of the distillery and highlights the significance of sherry casks in its maturation. “We’re extremely proud of our new Tamdhu 15 Year Old,” said Sandy McIntyre, Tamdhu distillery manager. “When you taste a dram of Tamdhu 15 Year Old, you can really taste the time and care that has gone into creating this incredible whisky. We hope Tamdhu drinkers around the world will savour it as much as we do.” You’ll be pleased to know that Tamdhu 15 Year Old is on its way to MoM Towers, so keep an eye out…

The Signature Range has arrived!

Glasgow Distillery Company to launch all kinds of new whisky!

The Glasgow Distillery Company, founded in 2014, has made the sort of announcement that makes us geek out in excitement here at MoM Towers. Glasgow’s first independent single malt whisky distillery since 1902 is poised to release not one but three new Scotch whiskies! Alongside the return of its 1770 Single Malt Scotch Whisky in the form a 2019 edition, meet peated and triple-distilled expressions, 1770 Peated and 1770 Triple Distilled. Most excitingly, these three together will form one awesome collective, like the Power Rangers, except this one is called the Signature Range. The first 1770 release sold out in 2018, so many will be delighted to welcome it back. Matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks, finished in virgin oak and non-chill filtered, the new 1770 Single Malt is available to pre-order now from the brand’s website. The first peated expression will follow in late 2019 and the triple-distilled bottling will appear in early 2020. “Innovation is very important to us, and the announcement of the 1770 Signature Range is no different,” said Liam Hughes, CEO and co-founder. “We’re proud to be one of a select few distilleries in Scotland to have three different styles of single malt as part of their core whisky offering.” Exciting stuff!

Congratulations to Hannah Lanfear!

Hannah Lanfear is the new Armagnac educator for the UK

The wonderful Hannah Lanfear (who we spoke to as part of last year’s International Woman’s Day series) now has another exciting role: she is the new Armagnac educator for the UK! Working closely with Amanda Garnham of the BNIA (Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac), Lanfear will present Armagnac masterclasses and training sessions over the next few months to take Armagnac to thrilling new brandy-based heights. The Mixing Class founder has a wealth of experience as a spirits educator for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) up her sleeve. She’s previously hosted WSET classes on Armagnac at Brooklyn Bar Convent in the US, and is an Armagnac judge at spirits competitions. There’s an ever-growing interest in the category, particularly within the bar community, and the versatile, complex brandy looks set for a bright future. “Since travelling to Gascony during distillation season I have completely fallen for this historic brandy,” said Lanfear. “Not only is it an immensely interesting spirit to study the production of, it has a wonderful depth of flavour and is utterly enigmatic in a cocktail. I am thrilled to be able to share the story of Armagnac in London.”

The London Classics

Bimber celebrates London with new drinks range!

Introducing The London Classics, a collection of spirits from Bimber Distillery featuring a London Vodka, a London Gin and a London Rum, all distilled, packaged and labelled by hand at the brand’s West London site. This means the London Classics are 100% made in London, which is very pleasing. The trio was created to offer an alternative to the standard house spirits found in the speed rail of many a bar, pub, restaurant and hotel. Bimber set itself the challenge of rallying against a perceived lack of creativity, individuality and value for money in these tipples. The plan was to create a new range based on character and flavour, housed in stylish, minimalist and convenient bottles that are easy to pour, while being affordable and fun. A lofty ambition, but seeing as we already stock the vodka, gin and rum, you can decide for yourself if these handcrafted, small-batch spirits live up to it.

The Winchester Collection Vintage 1967. The Glenlivet has wowed us.

The Glenlivet teams up with British designer for 50 year old(!) bottling

Today, just literally today, The Glenlivet unveiled The Winchester Collection Vintage 1967, a super-rare 50 year old limited-edition single malt whisky worth $25,000 (around £19,000), with a bottle and display case designed by award-winning British designer Bethan Gray. The whisky marries malts from a number of casks, the youngest of which was filled in December 1967. That’s right, the youngest. With whiskies this old, around 60-80% of the liquid has been lost to the angels’ share – what remains is like gold dust. Or liquid gold, perhaps. No wonder only 150 bottles have been released worldwide. Gray’s grandfather lived and worked in the Cairngorms, close to The Glenlivet, and the misty landscape around the valleys inspired the Dhow pattern that adorns the case. The glass bottle is hand-blown, while the ombré glass mirrors the ageing process of the whisky. The hand-stained maple case, decorated with mother-of-pearl, is made using solid copper overlays, reflecting The Glenlivet’s copper stills, crafted with a technique that was specially invented for this curved case – now try telling us that isn’t special! This is certainly a collector’s item, though beneath all of this is simply some truly outstanding whisky!

The launch of Rémy Martin’s cigar terrace at Dukes didn’t go entirely to plan… (It wasn’t us).

And finally… Rémy Martin smokes out Dukes Bar. Accidentally.

We try to make sure that there’s a Master of Malt representative at all the swankiest events, so naturally we sent someone to cover the opening of the Rémy Martin Cognac and Cigar Garden at Dukes London Mayfair. But while everyone was sipping Rémy XO and puffing on a Romeo Y Julieta, there was trouble brewing. Someone (not us, we hasten to add) had left the door to the terrace open. Consequently, the waft of fine cigar smoke was permeating the entire hotel, including the famous bar presided over by Alessandro Palazzi (winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent Class Bar Awards). He came striding through the hotel and told us firmly and politely to keep the door shut. Normally the most genial and relaxed of hosts, it’s the only time we have seen Palazzi looking the tiniest bit flappable. A newsworthy moment indeed. Everyone assumed the naughty schoolkid pose. Sorry, Alessandro!

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The great Negroni Bundle is here!

Need an excuse for festive Negronis? How about a whopping £20 off all three key ingredients and a fancy Riedel tumbler to sip from, with our super-duper Bathtub Gin, Martini…

Need an excuse for festive Negronis? How about a whopping £20 off all three key ingredients and a fancy Riedel tumbler to sip from, with our super-duper Bathtub Gin, Martini Rosso and Campari Negroni Bundle?!

This is the late great Anthony Bourdain on the pleasures of the Negroni: “I’m not a gin drinker. I don’t like sweet vermouth, I don’t like Campari, but together they form a sinister yet lovely and inspired hell broth. Like a marriage, it’s a true everlasting love. This is not a cheap date; this is not a one night stand.”

Bourdain is right, the Negroni is a drink that really shouldn’t work. Mixing three strongly-flavoured alcoholic drinks in equal proportions sounds like a recipe for disaster. But, somehow, something wonderful emerges from the wreckage. Or perhaps it’s not that strange after all. I’ve been reading Cocktail Codex, a new book by the team behind legendary New York bar, Death & Co. It shows how various drinks are related to each other. According to the Codex team, the Negroni fits into the Martini/ Manhattan family being spirit + vermouth + some sort of bittering agent (lemon peel, bitters, Campari.) The Negroni isn’t such a maverick after all.

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