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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cocktail of the Week

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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Cocktail of the Week: The Irish Coffee

Now that the nights are drawing in, and summer is a distant memory, it’s time to get out those woolen socks, fire up your wood-burning stove and make some Irish…

Now that the nights are drawing in, and summer is a distant memory, it’s time to get out those woolen socks, fire up your wood-burning stove and make some Irish Coffee. John Quinn from Tullamore DEW is on hand to explain everything.

It would be hard to think of a more incongruous setting for a talk on Irish Coffee. We were by a swimming pool in a villa in the hills above the Catalan resort of Sitges. It was May and the temperature was already in the high 20s (degrees centigrade). Oh, and almost everyone had had very little sleep. This didn’t deter John Quinn, brand ambassador for Tullamore DEW, who gave us an amusing history of the drink, and then, naturally, served up the hot, boozy, creamy concoction.

We were there for the annual conference of the European Bartenders School (EBS). Quinn is something of a legend in Irish whiskey. Indeed he was greeted by the team from EBS with great reverence. He’s been with Tullamore DEW since 1974 and in December was voted vice chair of the Irish Whiskey Association. 

John Quinn

John Quinn, on brand since 1974

Before showing us how to make the perfect Irish Coffee, Quinn admitted that he had a bit of an ambivalent relationship with the drink because until recently many bars only kept Irish whiskey for this purpose. But at the same time, he noted how important Irish Coffee was in the survival of Irish whiskey during the dark times. Its popularity meant that (nearly) every bar and restaurant in the world had to have a bottle of Jameson or Tullamore for when the inevitable call for a postprandial boozy coffee came in.

Interestingly, according to Quinn, the drinks creator, Joe Sheridan, also got a bit sick of his creation. Quinn’s version of the story goes a bit like this: some time in the 1950s a planeload of Americans had to land at Foynes Airport in the west of Ireland (in some versions it’s Shannon). It was freezing cold so the bartender there, Sheridan, made some coffee with whiskey and cream to warm up the stranded passengers. A classic was born. Then an unlikely-monikered American journalist called Stanton Delaplane tried Sheridan’s invention, and brought it back to the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco where it became the house speciality. Sheridan later emigrated to America and worked at the Buena Vista but quickly became bored with having to make his creation all day every day; he left after three months and was never heard from again. Nevertheless, the Irish coffee proved a lifeline to the Irish whiskey industry which was struggling at the time.

As you’d expect from such a ubiquitous drink, it’s often made very badly with stale or even instant coffee, and aerosol cream. To make it properly, always use freshly-brewed coffee, from a cafetiere or filter, and proper whipped cream. And then which whiskey to use? Well, Quinn used Tullamore DEW obviously but any smooth, sweet Irish whiskey will do – like Jameson, Powers or Black Bush. Under the burning Catalan, it tasted damn good.

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee, tastes even better served with denim napkins

Here’s our recipe:

50ml Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey
150ml freshly-brewed hot coffee
Two tablespoons of lightly-whipped double cream
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

First whip your cream, not too thick because you want to pour it so that it settles on top of the coffee. In a large toddy glass add the whisky, the coffee (and sugar if you’re using it) and stir. Warm the cream very gently and then pour it over the bowl of the spoon into the coffee. You can garnish with some chocolate flakes or a grating of nutmeg. Serve immediately. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Hemp Highball

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the…

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the base of this week’s cocktail.

You may have read a few things recently (here, here and here, for example) about the rise of CBD-infused spirits. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis, not the one that gets you all confused and hungry (that’s THC, apparently), but may have some generally groovy effects. Or it might not. By law producers aren’t allowed to make any claims for general grooviness. We tried CBD rum Dead Man’s Fingers at Imbibe this year (very nice it was too though we can’t report any unusual effects), now we’re delighted to speak to the man behind it, William Borrell.

“The idea was first conceived at the Ladies and Gentlemen bar distillery and working kitchen in Camden. This is where we try new ideas during the day before the hoards of punters descend,” he told us. The process involved, according to Borrell “a lot of trial and error”. Things moved very quickly: “we had begun experimenting with the flavours you get from a basic hemp in May and then quickly moved to a range of specialist CBD hemp strains,” he said. We tried the finished version in July. It wasn’t all plain sailing though: Borrell was worried that “we would never be able to replicate the exciting flavours we stumbled on to at the beginning of the journey when it was just our team in the Ladies & Gentlemen bar but I think we got there in the end.”

William Borrell

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr William Borrell!

Borrell has been working in the booze business for nearly ten years now. His first venture was with a series of “terroir-focused” potato Polish vodkas, Vestal. A bar followed, Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, and then earlier this year he opened a new venue down the road in Camden Town. Both are housed in converted Victorian toilets, hence the name. Don’t worry, Borrell and the team gave them a good clean first. This summer, a new non-lavatorial venture set sail, a Ladies & Gentlemen rum boat for cruisin’ n’ boozin’ on the Regent’s Canal.

Back to this week’s cocktail: the Hemp Highball, according to Borrell was inspired by “Joerg Meyer who at his highly acclaimed bars in Germany is reclaiming the Highball as the go-to drink at the moment.” And finally, the big question is which sort of music should you listen to while sipping your CBD drink. Borrell recommends: Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (on vinyl, natch). He went on to tell us that at his bar, “we have a BYOV night every Sunday where customers receive a taste of Dead Man’s Fingers for free if they bring their own vinyl, why not pop down.” Why not, indeed. Or you can make a Hemp Highball at home. Here’s how:

40ml Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum
20ml Giffard Triple Sec 
20ml Lime Juice
5ml sugar syrup
100ml Sekforde Rum Mixer (or tonic water if you can’t get hold of it) 

Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass. Give them a good stir, top up with Sekforde Rum Mixer, stir again gently and garnish with a lemon wedge, a mint sprig and a basil leaf. Now take it away Bill Withers!

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Cocktail of the Week: The Rum Punch

This week in honour of International Punch Day on the 20th September, we delve into the history of a drink that truly spans the world.  Before the cocktail was even…

This week in honour of International Punch Day on the 20th September, we delve into the history of a drink that truly spans the world. 

Before the cocktail was even a gleam in the eye of its inventor, Dr. Jeff Cocktail*, there was punch. Punch was the drink of the 18th century. It was usually made with rum as its base, but Cognac, sherry,  whisky or even Champagne would do. Punches could be served hot, cold or somewhere in the middle. In Britain, no home was complete without a punch bowl with matching cups. 

Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defines punch as “a liquor made by mixing spirit with water, sugar and the juice of lemons and formerly with spice”, which is as good a description as any. As an aside, James Boswell, writing in his Life of Johnson describes how his subject’s Lichfield accent (think Brummie) was mocked at the time: “Garrick [the actor] sometimes used to take him off, squeezing a lemon into a punch bowl … looking round the company, and calling out, ‘Who’s for Poonsh?’” So cruel.

Punch was a global drink but it’s thought to have its origins in India where the ingredients were using to disguise the taste of rough arrak (a crude kind of rum made from date palms or sugar cane). In 1707 there were said to be over 700 punch houses in Calcutta alone. According to Johnson, the word punch is derived from ‘panch’, meaning five in Marathi or, as Johnson puts it, “an Indian word expressing the number of ingredients”. This is the generally accepted derivation of the word though top cocktail historian David Wondrich, the man who literally wrote the book on punch, has his doubts about this etymology.

Whatever the true story, five ingredients, booze, sweet, sour, spice and water, is still a good way of organising your drinking today. Nowadays, punch is mainly associated with the Caribbean where they have a saying to help you remember how to make it: ‘one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak’. The spice element could be provided with a dash of Angostura bitters. You don’t have to stick to that ratio, though. Whereas a cocktail is based on exact measurement, a punch is a rather more laissez-faire drink. Add some more ice, some more booze, and make an afternoon of it. 

There are lavish punch recipes using different types of rum, fruit and Champagne, but it’s also the drink drunk by revellers at Jamaican sound systems, always made with J. Wray & Nephew overproof rum. The important thing is to use something with a bit of flavour, though perhaps not your Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary 25. You could mix it up with some funky rhum agricole or a the magnificent Plantation pineapple rum. Here, I’m keeping it simple with some Mount Gay Eclipse from Barbados. You’ll notice that the ratios don’t quite match the saying but after dilution from the ice, they should do, roughly. We’ve provided a single service recipe but what a punch really loves is company. So get a bowl or even a bin, and invite your friends over. 

Here’s the basic recipe:

60ml Mount Gay Eclipse rum
60ml chilled still water
30ml sugar syrup
15ml lime juice
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Put the rum, bitters, lime juice, water and sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker and add some ice cubes. Shake and strain into two ice-filled Collins glasses or tumblers. Decorate with whatever you have to hand, orange, pineapple or lime slices, and perhaps a sprig of mint.

*This is a joke. Nobody quite knows where the word cocktail comes from though there are lots of theories. 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The 1796 Spritz

Today we’re taking a rum-tastic spin on a classic cocktail made with a certain Venezuelan rum. “The secret behind creating a great rum cocktail begins in the same way that…

Today we’re taking a rum-tastic spin on a classic cocktail made with a certain Venezuelan rum.

“The secret behind creating a great rum cocktail begins in the same way that creating any great cocktail should – with a thoughtful balance of carefully-selected, quality ingredients,” says Geoff Robinson, UK brand ambassador for Santa Teresa. “To make a great rum cocktail, specifically, I would encourage one to delve a little deeper into what makes that rum in particular unique – as it is such a broad category, there is so much diversity to play with – and then find a way to elevate or complement those special characteristics.”

There’s plenty that makes Santa Teresa 1796 unique. The single estate Venezuelan rum, which is made using the solera method (most notably used in the production of sherry) from a blend of rums aged between five and 35 years in former American whiskey barrels, has gained as much of a reputation for its smooth, dry and balanced spirit as it has for community outreach programs like Project Alcatraz, which uses rugby to rehabilitate criminal gang members in Venezuela.

1796 Spritz

Say hello to Geoff Robinson!

This initiative has provided a platform for the brand’s Alcatraz Cocktail Challenge, in which bartenders from across London, Manchester and Edinburgh are challenged to create and list an innovative Santa Teresa 1796 cocktail on their menu. The only rules were each cocktail should be inspired by Alberto Vollmer’s highly successful initiative, Project Alcatraz and £1 from every sale would be donated to charity. “The creations we saw were outstanding, with winning cocktails including the London Edition’s Yoann Tarditi’s banana bread flavoured ‘The Third Half’ and Three Sheet’s Max Venning’s ‘Alcatraz Old Fashioned’ served in two different iterations – a lighter expression with lemon, orange and kaffir and a darker version with vanilla and oak moss,” says Robinson. “This experimentation ultimately works to help improve the understanding of the rum category, and in doing so we managed to raise significant funds for the School of Hard Knocks, a charity that uses rugby to teach positive values and behaviours to give a sense of self-worth and hopefulness for the future.”

Robinson, who originally hails from Vancouver, Canada, worked as a professional bartender there at some of the city’s best bars before moving to London to establish himself in the UK bar scene. In 2018 he became involved with Santa Teresa, at a time where the industry was anticipating the premiumisation of rum. It’s been a long road, however, as Robinson explains: “There is definitely a lack of knowledge about rum, along with a great many misconceptions – and it is completely understandable why! Rum was born out of a long history of adventure, exploration and, indeed, naval imperialism and piracy, and has never had an overarching set of regulations about how it can or should be produced, nor how we define and label it. As such, it is no surprise that people on both sides of the bar are confused!”

1796 Spritz

Innovative cocktails have a huge part to play in rum’s future success

The key for rum may well lie in its noted ability to be utilised in a number of cocktails, from classic serves to original creations. “Consumers and bar professionals alike are starting to realize that rum is not singular, and so consists of far more than the general associations that we make,” says Robinson. They are starting to understand that rum is more than just light rum, Daiquiris and tiki, all wonderful things, but also encompasses aged, sipping rums that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any other old-world aged spirits in terms of provenance and craftsmanship that are equally at home in a Manhattan, Negroni or Old Fashioned. Innovative craft cocktails certainly do help rum as a category because they demand the cocktail-maker or bartender has a deeper understanding of their ingredients, and then that they showcase them in unique ways. The future of rum is bright.”

Which brings us to this week’s serve, the 1796 Spritz. It’s simple to make and elegantly presented, but the most interesting aspect is that it takes a powerful, complex rum and uses it to make something light and refreshing, creating a pleasant contrast in style. “I chose this particular cocktail as it is a light and fragrant serve that highlights the flavour of the rum itself,” explains Robinson.

The inspiration is Santa Teresa’s Club 1796 event, a series of dinners with the on-trade that Robinson reveals was started to celebrate each other’s company in a family-style environment, but also to learn more about rum and the rich history of Santa Teresa. “The 1796 Spritz is always the first cocktail we serve at dinner, and it is the perfect introduction for any imbiber, be they a seasoned rum aficionado, or somebody diving a little deeper into the category for the first time,” says Robinson. “We present this cocktail alongside a range of exquisite seafood and sushi, with the umami flavours bought in by the umeshu (Japanese fruit liqueur) complementing the fresh savoury taste of the fish.”

1796 Spritz

The 1796 Spritz

To make it yourself, simply follow Robinson’s instructions:

35ml Santa Teresa 1796
5ml Shoya Extra Shiso Umeshu
30ml soda water
30ml tonic water

Mix 1796 and umeshu in a spritz or wine glass over ice and give a brief stir, then top with the soda and tonic. Stir again and garnish with a purple shiso leaf (if you have one, if not a twist of orange peel will do).

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Cocktail of the Week: The Made in Chelsea Coupe

This week we’re sipping The Made in Chelsea Coupe, an indulgent yet refreshing cocktail created by the clever folks at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. The occasion? Toasting the launch of…

This week we’re sipping The Made in Chelsea Coupe, an indulgent yet refreshing cocktail created by the clever folks at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. The occasion? Toasting the launch of Broken Clock Lingering Vodka, which takes botanical inspiration from England’s idyllic country gardens…

If there’s one thing us Brits delight in, it’s the sanctuary of a garden. Our very own tiny little bit of green space in which to do, well, whatever the hell we fancy. From manicured lawn obsessives and elaborate bird fountain fanatics to green-fingered allotment fans, few can resist tending to their personal piece of the great outdoors. And the truth is, you don’t even need your own ‘outdoors’ to get involved, as we discovered at a terrarium-building masterclass hosted by Broken Clock Lingering Vodka.

Infused with slow-ripened apples from the orchards of Yorkshire’s historic Shandy Hall estate and botanicals typically found growing wild in country gardens, this copper pot-distilled wheat vodka is about as quintessentially English as it gets. The liquid has an interesting literary link, which unfolded as we decorated our indoor gardens under the watchful eye and expertise of east London’s Botanical Boys. When founder Andrew Kuhajewski set about establishing Broken Clock, his biggest hurdle was refining the recipe. And after three years and more than 100 trial samples, he still wasn’t any closer to bottling his vodka. “I knew what kind of flavour profile I wanted to achieve, but it was very difficult to find the right balance of ingredients,” he explains. Add too much of any botanical and it’ll dominate the liquid; too little and it’ll get lost. 

Broken Clock vodka

Broken Clock vodka in its natural habitat

As Kuhajewski continued making adjustments, he began to draw parallels between Project Broken Clock and his choice of reading: a series called The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by 18th-century novelist Laurence Sterne. If you’re unacquainted, we’ll bring you up to speed: pretty much nothing happens. In fact, by the time you make it to the third volume (there are nine in total) the protagonist – Tristram Shandy – still hasn’t been born. Every night, before he gets busy with his missus, Shandy’s dad winds his clock. One night, he forgets, so the story goes, and this is the night baby Shandy is conceived. 

Reading between the lines somewhat, Kuhajewski “decided to change the approach, step away from infinite planning and instead allow the project to grow organically.” He took a trip to the picturesque Shandy Hall, located in the village of Coxwold, and met the team behind the Laurence Sterne Trust. There, he says, everything clicked into place. “One of the custodians of the foundation, Patrick, took me around the village,” Kuhajewski says. “It’s a quiet place rather like a time warp. I spotted a broken clock atop a house neighbouring Shandy Hall. 

“I explained my predicament with the recipe, and the Trust came up with the idea of donating apples from their garden to the vodka,” he adds. Basketfuls of bitter-sweet apples were taken to the distillery in Cheshire, cut in half, and added to the copper pot still for the final distillation, along with bergamot, Angelica root and the rest of the botanicals. Upon tasting the resulting liquid, “I suddenly understood that [those] apples were the missing flavour,” Kuhajewski says.

The Made in Chelsea Coupe

The Made in Chelsea Coupe

In-keeping with the Georgian style, the bottle label is clad with typefaces dating back to the 18th century; in fact, ‘lingering’ is written in the original version of the Sans Serif font, while ‘Broken Clock’ is styled on old clock faces and Roman italics. The stopper features an engraving from British design legend (and poet, novelist and socialist) William Morris

And as for the liquid within? On the nose, there’s dewy grass, dried fruits, angelica and citrus, while the palate reveals rose petal, bramley apples and baking spices, with a “touch of earthiness” and a long, bitter-sweet finish. Sip Broken Clock on the rocks, stir it into your Martini or mix it with tonic or soda and top with a freshly-foraged garden garnish: think pears, blackberries, rosemary, and lavender. 

Alternatively, you could try your hand at the Made in Chelsea Coupe, below. Garden in a glass? Don’t mind if we do…

50ml Broken Clock Lingering Vodka
25ml lychee juice
10ml rose syrup
10ml lemon juice
Egg white
Pinch sea salt

Add all ingredients to a Boston shaker. Dry shake for 30 seconds, add ice, short shake, then double strain and garnish with a slice of dehydrated lemon.

 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Mai Tai

Today we’re delving into the history of the most exotic cocktail of all, the Mai Tai, and tasting a version made with a recreation of a legendary Jamaican pot still…

Today we’re delving into the history of the most exotic cocktail of all, the Mai Tai, and tasting a version made with a recreation of a legendary Jamaican pot still rum.

Trader Vic’s might be the most incongruous bar in London. Descend the steps beneath the 1960s hideousness of the Park Lane Hilton and you’re suddenly in a tropical wonderland surrounded by bamboo, Polynesian masks and more rum than you can shake a stick at. I was there to learn about the Mai Tai with Paul McFadyen from Plantation Rum, who also runs his own tiki bar in Notting Hill called Trailer Happiness.

McFadyen said, “every bar should be about escapism, but escapism is central to tiki.” He described Trader Vic’s in London as “hallowed ground”, the first one built outside America. The original Trader Vic’s opened in Oakland, California, in 1934, and quickly spread across first the US and then the world. McFadyen described the tiki style, a peculiar mash-up of Caribbean, Polynesian and Californian cultures, as “going on holiday without having to leave the US.”

Tiki and indeed Trader Vic’s have had some hard times since then: the legendary Beverly Hills branch closed its doors in 2007. And, according to McFadyen, the London one was unloved as recently as four years ago. With badly-made drinks and a poor selection of rums, it was mainly frequented by insalubrious figures. 

Trade Vic's in London

Hallowed ground, Trader Vic’s in London

The Mai Tai too has seen some hard times. It was created by the Trader Vic aka, Victor Jules Bergeron Jr. in the 1940s. McFadyen described it as, “the most bastardised cocktail in the world, it became a synonym for tropical.” Your Mai Tai might be red or blue, made from a pre-made mix and tooth-rottingly sweet. So it was with some trepidation that I tried one knocked up by one of the team at Vic’s, Enzo, resplendent in a Hawaiin shirt. I was surprised by how fresh and clean it tasted with the quality of the rum shining through. “The original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai was very paired down. It’s basically a glorified Daiquiri with Curaçao and orgeat syrup in place of sugar”, said McFadyen. The Mai Tai and Trader Vic’s are back!

Enzo used Plantation Xaymaca rum. Vic’s original would have used another Jamaican rum, J. Wray & Nephew 17 year old. It is no longer made and much in demand from collectors; an original bottle went at auction in 2007 for £26,000! Both McFadyen and Ian Burrell, the rum expert who was also there, have tried the original rum but it’s very unlikely us mere mortals will ever get a sniff of it. 

Alexandre Gabriel from Maison Ferrand (the company behind Plantation Rum) has come up with the next best thing: a limited edition Jamaican rum blended to taste like the original called The Collector. It’s an 18-year-old pot still aged in bourbon casks and Cognac barrels. Only 999 bottles have been filled and you can only buy one (customers are limited to one each) from  Maison Ferrand HQ, Château de Bonbonnet in Cognac, for a very reasonable £143. I tried a little of it neat and it was not quite what I expected, not a high ester bruiser but more like an old expression from Appleton Estate. Very elegant.

Plantation the Collector Rum

Tiki cocktails with the Collector rum on the left

Enzo then mixed a special Mai Tai using The Collector and a special syrup made from cooked sugar and Barbados rum aged in Cognac casks. How did it taste? Superb: richer and fuller than the standard Mai Tai with that rum taking centre stage. There are apparently only two bottles of this special rum in the country. You can get a chance to try what Plantation has dubbed: ‘world’s most authentic Mai Tai’ on Friday 30th August (that’s World Mai Tai Day) at a special ticketed event at Trader Vic’s. Tickets are £25 and the limited edition Mai Tai costs £44 (in addition to the ticket fee).Tickets can be booked here.

Or you can buy a bottle of Plantation Xaymaca and make a Mai Tai as per McFadyen’s instructions:

40ml Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum
25ml lime juice
10ml orgeat syrup
10ml orange Curaçao

Shake the ingredients with ice until a frost forms on the outside of the shaker. Fill a tiki cup (or Old Fashioned glass) with ice cubes and strain the mixture over. Garnish with a lime quarter and a sprig of mint. 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Whisky Sour

Sunday 25 August is National Whiskey Sour Day over in America. So, in honour of this auspicious occasion we’re looking at how to make the perfect Whisky Sour. Eagle-eyed readers…

Sunday 25 August is National Whiskey Sour Day over in America. So, in honour of this auspicious occasion we’re looking at how to make the perfect Whisky Sour. Eagle-eyed readers will note the missing ‘e’, that’s because we are using an English rye from Adnams. Good gravy!

Brewing towns like Southwold in Suffolk, home of Adnams, are wonderful places, the air alive with the smell of fermentation. Drive around Speyside, and you catch the same smell, yeasts working away to create alcohol. What whisky distillers call wash is just unhopped beer. Why then do beer and whisky production so rarely happen side by side?

In England it turns out there’s a very good reason for this, an old law dating back to the 19th century states that it is illegal for a brewery and a distillery to operate on the same site. So when Jonathan Adnams from the brewing family wanted to move into distilling, things turned out to be a bit more complicated than he had originally anticipated. He had the premises, but would he be allowed to open a distillery next to the brewery? Eventually, in 2010, he was granted a distiller’s licence and work could begin.

Adnams Copper House Distillery_1

The Copper House distillery with Southwold’s famous lighthouse visible through the window

Now the company produces a range of spirits at the Copper House Distillery including gin, vodka and some whiskies. The same yeast is used to make Adnams’ ales and the washes that will be distilled. Which brings us onto Adnams Rye Malt Whisky. This is made from rye grown on Jonathan Adnams’ own farm in Reydon, just outside Southwold. In fact the town’s name means rye (rey) hill (don) in Old English. How perfect is that? 

We tend to think of rye as a typically North American grain but it grows all over Britain and was used in the 19th century to produce grain whisky for Scotch. Now we are seeing a revival in its fortunes in the old country with St. George’s in Norfolk, the East London Liquor Company, and Arbikie in Scotland, not to mention Kyrö in Finland all turning out excellent rye-heavy whiskies. 

Adnams Rye Malt Whisky is made from a mixture of 75% malted rye and 25% malted barley, aged for at least five years in new French oak casks and bottled at 47%. The marriage of a high rye mash bill and high alcohol with virgin French oak means the spice levels are off the scale. American whiskey fans are going to love it. It’s good neat but those pungent flavours cry out for a little sweetness which means that it is a great mixing whisky (it’s particularly good in a Boulevardier). 

The classic cocktails of the golden age – the Manhattan, the Brooklyn and the Old Fashioned – would originally have been made with rye, not bourbon (though not an English rye of course). And then there’s the sour, that most versatile of cocktails: any spirit, be it gin, pisco, Grand Marnier or what have you can go into a sour. What is a Daiquiri but a rum sour? And indeed what is a Mai Tai (coming soon to Cocktail of the Week) but a souped-up Daiquiri? It all comes back to the sour. Get the balance between strong, sour and sweet right and the Sour is tremendously satisfying.

Adnams Rye Malt Whisky Sour cocktail

An English twist on an American classic

This recipe is a little unusual as rather than sugar syrup, it uses marmalade and maple syrup to sweeten it, like a sort of Canadian/British mash-up. We’re using an egg white to give it texture and fizz but feel free to leave it out.

So without further ado, here’s a Suffolk take on an American classic, the Whisky Sour:

50ml Adnams Rye Malt
25ml lemon juice
2 tsp orange marmalade
2 tsp maple syrup
1 egg white

Add all the ingredients to the shaker and dry shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Fill with ice and shake hard again, then double strain into a chilled tumbler and garnish with a piece of orange zest.

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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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Cocktail of the Week: The Pink Lady

This week we’re shaking up the pinkest thing in the known universe. Pinker than the Pink Panther, pinker than a pink shirt from Thomas Pink, Pinker even than the Pink…

This week we’re shaking up the pinkest thing in the known universe. Pinker than the Pink Panther, pinker than a pink shirt from Thomas Pink, Pinker even than the Pink herself, it’s the Pink Lady!

It has nothing to do with the Pink Ladies from Grease, but the Pink Lady is named after a musical. A show called The Pink Lady ran on Broadway before the First World War and it must have been a hit to have a cocktail named after it. The Pink Lady cocktail, however, would have to wait until Prohibition before is became a certifiable hit. The key ingredient, grenadine, is not only a pinking agent but it’s useful for disguising the taste of bad gin. Since its 1920s heyday, the Pink Lady has has fallen out of fashion. It’s seen as a rather kitsch drink. Jayne Mansfield, famous for her luridly decorated Los Angeles home known as the Pink Palace, was a fan. 

Originally, a Pink Lady would have been a very gin heavy cocktail. In Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, it’s basically neat gin (he specifies Plymouth) shaken with a tablespoon of grenadine and an egg white. Fierce! But by the 1940 and ‘50s it had evolved into something extremely sweet and somehow cream had crept into the recipe. That’s a step too far but nevertheless a properly-made Pink Lady should slip down a little too easily.

The Pink Lady

None more pink

The perfect version should fall between Craddock’s (too) basic recipe, and the more baroque constructions that came later. In David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Pink Lady comes under variations of the sour. The key thing is the lemon juice which freshens it up and stops the grenadine becoming cloying. Embury includes applejack (American apple brandy sometimes made with the addition of neutral alcohol) in his recipe, something taken up by later drinks writers including Eric Felten and Richard Godwin. Very nice but today I’m just sticking with gin. In this case Bathtub to give it a bit of Prohibition glamour. If you want to do a light Charleston while shaking, then that’s all to the good. 

The results are absolutely delicious. Pink is having a bit of a moment, what with pink gins, pink wines and, err, all the other pink things. If it’s pink, it sells. So, I think the Pink Lady is long overdue a revival, don’t you? Here’s how to make it. 

50ml Bathtub Gin
15ml lemon juice
10ml grenadine

1 egg white

Dry shake all the components hard, add ice and then shake again. Double strain into a chilled coupe or Martini glass and serve with a maraschino cherry or a raspberry.

You can always make your own grenadine, see this recipe.

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