fbpx
Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cognac

Rémy Martin trials climate change-ready grapes

The house of Rémy Martin has long been dedicated to sustainable agriculture, having pioneered green practices in Cognac for well over a decade, and a huge part of its commitment…

The house of Rémy Martin has long been dedicated to sustainable agriculture, having pioneered green practices in Cognac for well over a decade, and a huge part of its commitment involves tackling the threat posed by climate change. Here, cellar master Baptiste Loiseau explains how robust new grape varieties are being trialled across the estate – and what this might mean for the future of the Charente…

“Climate change is already here,” says Loiseau. “It started, let’s say, more than 20 years ago, but we really faced this change during the 2003 vintage. It was a really difficult vintage in the region of Cognac.” An intensely hot summer caused the grapes to grow “in an erratic way that was really new for all the growers of the region,” he explains, “and it was really at that time that we understood that we needed to be focusing on and adapting to climate change.”

The first decision Rémy Martin made was to harvest earlier, in an effort to preserve the freshness and acidity of its grapes. “We are facing quite the same characteristic this year,” says Loiseau. “We had a really hot spring and the ripeness of the grapes is arriving much more rapidly.” This year’s harvest could take place at the beginning of September, potentially even the end of August. By contrast, it typically takes place during the third week of September.

Baptiste Loiseau in the vineyard

An earlier harvest is a temporary solution – an elastoplast – over a far bigger issue, something Rémy Martin was quick to recognise. The best way to preserve the future of the Cognac appellation, Loiseau says, is by experimenting with new grape varieties for the next generation of winegrowers. “We are making some trials on two new cultivars that maybe in the next decades, maybe in 40 or 50 years, will replace the classical cultivar that we are using, called Ugni Blanc.”

The first is an older grape variety called Monbadon which, though native to the Charente, is now mainly found in California. In decades gone by, it didn’t quite fit the bill for Cognac-making in terms of ripeness and aromas, says Loiseau, “but because of climate change, it’s now much more suitable and adapted to the region”. In 2015, the house took an approximately 1.5 hectare plot on its estate and divided it into two, designating 0.8 hectares for Monbadon – equivalent to around 3,000 vines – and the rest for Ugni Blanc. Rémy Martin made its first harvest three years later in September 2018.

For three to four weeks prior, the team conducted analysis and taste testing. Every Monday, the team would go to the field to taste and analyse the grapes, looking at acidity – which needs to be high, since Rémy does not use sulphur – nitrogen levels, and the health of the vine, says Loiseau. “It’s really a combination between the senses, the taste, the shape of the grapes and their weight also, because it’s a question of quantity and a question of quality,” he explains.

Flowering, a crucial time in the development of healthy grapes

When it’s time to pick the grapes, the field is harvested the same day. “We will preserve one press for the Monbadon and one press for the Ugni Blanc, to compare the two cultivars,” says Loiseau. “We do the winemaking and the distillation the same way. The only difference is based on the cultivar itself.” The team analyses both wines and eaux de vies and tastes them both blind, before ageing them in the cellar. 

“We need between five to 10 years of cask ageing to [assess] the evolution of the aromas of Monbadon in comparison to the classical Ugni Blanc,” says Loiseau. And then, given how remarkably each vintage can be, the experiment needs to be conducted over multiple harvests to provide a true picture. “So in fact, we will not have the answer to our questions before 2030,” he says. 

Naturally, Monbadon isn’t the only cultivar under trial at Rémy Martin. There’s another alternative for the future of the appellation, currently under wraps. “We have another plot that is not corresponding to a variety that is known now in the region,” says Loiseau. “It’s a code with a figure, a letter, and a figure – I’m not going to disclose it, because it’s quite secret right now. We have a high expectation on this one. And just besides, we have another four rows of vineyards that are planted with two other secret codes.”

Cover crops between vines

Little is known about the second cultivar, other than it has “this characteristic corresponding to climate change,” says Loiseau. “It’s also a cultivar that is much more resistant, less sensitive, to diseases,” requiring less fertilisation. This helps Rémy fulfil the former – “that is to say, to have less impact because of practises on the environment,” he says.

Despite the decision to keep the cultivar under wraps for now, Loiseau says the research – conducted in partnership with the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) and the French National Institute for Agronomic Research – is for the benefit of the appellation. “When we decide to go in a direction, we have to be sure that it’s the right one and not only for ourselves, but for the next generation to come,” he says.

No Comments on Rémy Martin trials climate change-ready grapes

New Arrival of the Week: Frapin Millésime 26 Year Old 1992

Today we talk to cellar master at Frapin, Patrice Piveteau, about what it takes for a Cognac to be singled out for the vintage treatment, and taste the very special…

Today we talk to cellar master at Frapin, Patrice Piveteau, about what it takes for a Cognac to be singled out for the vintage treatment, and taste the very special 26 year old 1992 release.

It can be something of a culture clash when British journalists talk to French drink producers. Journalists asking increasingly specific empirical questions, will often make Gallic producers become more abstract. Our recent Zoom chat with Patrice Piveteau, cellar master at Frapin, conducted for the launch of a 26 year old vintage Cognac from 1992, is a good example. Everyone wanted to know what makes a vintage good enough to be bottled separately, is it a specific quality of the grapes? But Piveteau refused to be drawn. Yes, you need ripe grapes with plenty of acidity but he does not know for sure until they have been fermented and distilled. “I decide to make a vintage not from the grape, I have an idea during harvest, I have an idea after vinification but the real decision is after distillation. It’s not during the harvest,” he said. 

To ensure that his spirits have the necessary structure for long ageing, he distills with the lees from yeast and with some of the pulp. “We are really artisan,” he said “there is no computer to tell you where to cut. From picking grapes to bottling, the main decision is only through the tasting.” Frapin produces vintages in most years. Even in years that are generally thought of as difficult like the frost-affected 1991, he found parcels of vines that made exceptional spirit: “1991 is not a good year on paper, but Frapin is on a slope, and part of the slope had no damage. It’s not a good year in general, but it is possible to find a vat from a year with a special characteristic,” he said. As the man said, it’s all in the tasting.

Patrice Piveteau in the vineyard

According to Piveteau: “We have a window between harvest and March to decide, then we call the authorities and they come and put a seal on it [cask of vintage wine].” This is to ensure against fraud so that only casks with the official seal can be sold as vintage. Such releases are rare in Cognac, “vintages tend to either be luxury releases from big brands or from small producers”, Piveteau said. “Frapin is small in Cognac but big for an independent grower in Grand Champagne.” It only uses grapes from its own vineyards. The 240 hectare property has been in the family for 22 generations, and is currently run by Jean‐Pierre Cointreau whose grandmother was a Frapin.

It’s a compact domaine entirely within the Grand Champagne region with a consistent chalky top soil with clay subsoil throughout, planted with Ugni Blanc (there is also a little experimental Folignan, a Folle Blanche/ Ugni Blanc cross planted 12 years ago so it is too early to speak about the quality). Vintage expressions, however, come only from the vineyard around Château Fontpinot. When asked why Piveteau replied: “I think the answer is in the question. . . . It’s the specificity of the terroir.” Thrillingly French! 

Piveteau then explained a bit about the aging process. For the vintages, he uses 350 litre Limousin oak casks. Larger casks impart less wood flavour. The spirit spends only six months in new oak to pick up the tannins (and colour) needed for long ageing before transferring to 5-15 year old casks for one year before moving to old casks which have no oak flavour. 

Château Fontpinot

Frapin has two types of cellar, dry and humid. Interestingly, vintage Cognacs are only ever taken from the dry cellar. This ageing gives: “more evaporation, more concentration, you lose more water than alcohol,” Piveteau said. Apparently dry cellars are unique to Frapin. Again, he refused to be drawn on what the specific differences in flavour are between dry and humid cellars. “Humid cellars are smoother and more round,” he said, “but it is possible to find the same flavours in dry cellars. In dry cellars things mature more slowly. We don’t sell Cognac from dry cellars at less than 20 years. All the vintages come from the dry cellar, every time I prefer when I have to make the choice. But humid is also possible. . . .” he added just to complicate things. When deciding whether to bottle a Cognac as a vintage, he’s not just looking for quality but difference: “During ageing if a vintage is the same as the rest of range then I put it in a blend,” he said. 

“What is interesting is not what I say, it’s the result in the glass,” Piveteau explained. And what is in the glass is very good indeed: the 1992 is rich but it’s also fresh and fruity, the flavour changing in the glass over the course of the day. Piveteau described it as: “like a firework, bof!” He went on to say: “It’s fine, fruity and elegant. You can find the rancio but it’s not heavy, that’s a real characteristic of Frapin. It’s a Cognac with purity, it’s not too woody. I’m really keen on complexity.” Sometimes you have to stop asking why, and just let the quality of the Cognac speak for itself.

Tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: So fruity and fresh, fresh apricots not dried, strawberry, floral, dark chocolate and toffee, plus aromatic notes of tobacco and orange peel.

Palate: Super zingy: citrus, grassy, peppery, lots of eau de vie character, with that strawberry fruity note coming through. In the background some toffee lurking.

Finish: Very very long, lingering toffee, tobacco and citrus peel. 

Frapin Millésime 26 Year Old 1992 Grand Champagne Cognac is now available from Master of Malt.

No Comments on New Arrival of the Week: Frapin Millésime 26 Year Old 1992

Citadelle: Cognac’s renegade gin

We cast our MoM-branded spotlight on Citadelle Gin, an expression created at a Cognac house, that predates the craft gin boom. Its founder Alexandre Gabriel explains why he created a…

We cast our MoM-branded spotlight on Citadelle Gin, an expression created at a Cognac house, that predates the craft gin boom. Its founder Alexandre Gabriel explains why he created a gin in the first place, the 18th-century recipe he based it on and his patented brand of gin distillation.

Given that he runs his own Cognac, rum and gin brands, you might think it’s hard to pin down Alexandre Gabriel. But, in my experience, the restless innovator is always happy to make time to chat about booze. Before I ask a question, he informs me he’s just spent the morning planting juniper trees at the Bonbonnet Estate and that he hopes the juniper and lemon supply for Citadelle Gin will be totally self-sustainable within five years. He’s been planting juniper berries since September 2017, inspired by the fact that the south west of France was known for its juniper berries during medieval times. He then explains that as someone one grew up on a farm he’s attached to the idea of growing what he needs, organically, of course. He already grows his own grapes for his Cognac.

In the midst of this discussion, Gabriel moves onto the topic of expansion, explaining that his other hobby is architecture. “We are expanding the distillery at the old estate at Bonbonnet. We do everything ourselves. The stonemasons are the guys who fill the barrels at Maison Ferrand. We’re putting nine pot stills in, old Cognac stills that I found that date back to the 1950s and ’60s and we are refurbishing them as we speak. Right now we are using our Cognac stills off-season to distil Citadelle,” he explains. I still haven’t actually asked a question at this point. “We are going to be able to use an economical system for our cooling water. Instead of using an inverter to cool it down and waste energy, we’re going to use warmer water and install long pipes so that we reuse that water in our greenhouse to grow the lemons that we need for Citadelle. More juniper berries, more stills, more experiments”. 

We’re ten minutes in and I already know this is going to be a productive interview. But you don’t expect any less from Gabriel, as you’ll know if you’ve read our previous features on Pierre Ferrand and Plantation Rum. Today, however, the focus is on Citadelle Gin. In my opinion, it’s his most intriguing brand. Why? Because it’s a premium French gin brand that was released back in the ’90s. It’s hard to put into context now given gin’s boom in the last decade how crazy you would have sounded pitching this idea. Gabriel remembers the feeling well. “It was like a moon landing! There was nobody on the gin planet. In 1996 I thought the world was waiting for an artisanal delicious gin. It was not!”

Citadelle Gin

Drinks maverick Alexandre Gabriel and his locally-grown juniper berries

In the early days of Citadelle, Gabriel recalls a group of students proposing to do a business case on the brand. Naturally, Gabriel accepted, hoping their acumen would provide some insight. Their analysis? “There is no way this can work,” Gabriel says, laughing at his own expense. “This kept happening. I remember our importer in America looking at me like I must have gone mad. A French gin?! This decision was made purely out of passion and it was almost disastrous to our business. I have made many mistakes and I hope I am going to make less,” he says. “It looked like Citadelle wouldn’t work because it was out of time and it was financially painful. But, in the end, the two wrongs became a right. Now there is a new gin every week, right!?”

Citadelle Gin didn’t thrive so much as survive in the early days, slowly building a reputation and fan base for its fresh, clean and delightfully mixable profile. Gabriel is particularly grateful to the influence of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. “In about 1997/98 Adrià was on TV. He said that Gin and Tonic is a gastronomic act and a beautiful aperitif and that you should use a great gin. He whipped out a bottle of Citadelle. We were like ‘wow’. That made a difference,” Gabriel recalls. “This guy is the one that put the Spanish Gin and Tonic, which conquered the world, on the map. He really did, I was there and I saw it, and he never took credit for it but he really did. Then in the US, the New York Times wrote a beautiful piece in 1999 called something like ‘Citadelle storms the gate’. It was half a page and that was a big push for New York. Every bit counted for us”. 

But before the days of trying to convince customers to give French gin a try, Gabriel had a much bigger stumbling block. He had to convince the authorities to give French gin a try. The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) regulations stated that the brandy can only be distilled between November and March. After that stills must be locked up and put into hibernation for seven months. From the outside, that might seem perfect.  The region’s copper alembic stills and distillers have six months of the year free to distil something else and you don’t have to waste money creating a new distillery. But nothing’s ever that simple, as Gabriel found out quickly. Distilling gin in Cognac stills wasn’t simply frowned upon, it was outright banned. The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) had never received a request for this to change and probably never thought anybody would ask. But Gabriel is not one to follow conventional wisdom or pay much heed to what he believed were antiquated laws.

Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Gin was ahead of its time and its creation was plagued with roadblocks

What followed was a struggle in which Gabriel lobbied to make his gin, arguing that there was historical precedent for this act. Extensive research uncovered that historically gin was produced in pot stills over a naked flame, which is exactly how Cognac pot stills were designed. “I don’t know about you but when I am pissed at something I work even harder! France is a very bureaucratic country. I was told there’s no rule that allows me to do this, but I was much younger and rebellious in nature and I said there’s no rule that says I cannot”, he said. Eventually, “after five long years, I finally received the AOC approval to distil gin in Cognac in 1995!” 

Gabriel’s keen interest in history also led him to an 18th-century French distillery that inspired the Citadelle name and influenced the profile of the gin he would eventually make. “I tried to absorb everything I could about gin. I’ve always been attached to the idea of revitalising artisanal spirits that are a part of French heritage. We know the ancestor of gin was inspired by the Dutch, but at the time the Netherlands was a huge area that included parts of France and Belgium. I hired interns, I still do this a lot, to go through all the archives in the main cities. One day they discovered in a church an archive with a whole documented history of every parchment about the first official genever distillery in France,” Gabriel says. “I still have all the copies. It was established in the citadel of Dunkirk in 1775 on Louis XVI’s authorisation to smuggle gin to the UK. The distillers, Carpeau and Stival, used 12 copper pot stills to distil their gin and multiple botanicals like exotic spices alongside juniper berries. It was actually transported in barrels too. We uncovered some of their recipes. It was an inspiration and I thought the name was cool. Luckily it was not patented anymore!”

While some inspiration for Citadelle Gin came from this historical booze, Gabriel already had a style in mind: a classic profile that was fresh, thirst-quenching and most importantly juniper-forward. Good thing he’s growing so many of his own. “I wanted Citadelle to be fully integrated with many other elements that give it a rich mouth-feel and a great complexity. The apex of the triangle would be the juniper berries, the second element being citrus, lemon with a little bit of orange in our case and then the third element is the warm wind of exoticism, in our case nutmeg, that true gins should have,” says Gabriel. “We’re lucky because the Cognac stills have a very low swan neck which extracts a lot of the essential oils of the botanicals and it gives you a viscosity effect that balances the freshness of the product and the citrus-feel. I knew I would get that luscious effect from the distillation methods, it’s very slow, that’s the only downside to it”.

Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Gin is created thanks to progressive infusion, a patented technique

Citadelle Gin is crafted using a unique technique called progressive infusion, which Gabriel describes as being a similar process to making tea, except you brew different elements at different times in the teapot. In the case of Citadelle Gin, the elements refer to the botanicals: French juniper berries, orris root, French violet root, Moroccan coriander, almonds, Spanish lemon peel, Mexican orange peel, angelica from North Germany, Indian cardamom, Indian nutmeg, cassia bark, Sri Lankan cinnamon, Mediterranean fennel, African grains of paradise, cubeb from Java, Chinese liquorice, cumin, French anise, and savory. “Each botanical is infused in neutral alcohol of French wheat for different lengths of proof and time, according to its aromatic function,” Gabriel explains. “While some require a strong degree of alcohol and a long infusion such as juniper berries, others infuse better in a weaker degree of alcohol, in a shorter time like star anise”. 

The infusion process lasts three to four days, during which the botanicals are added in successive steps while the degree of alcohol diminishes. “We lower the ABV with pure water, the same water that we use to bring down the ABV for Cognac, in which all the mineral elements have been eliminated through the reverse osmosis process. At the end, once the 19 botanicals have been infused, the ABV is about 30-35%. We set 20% of the infused spirit aside before sending it to the distillery and we infuse three extra botanicals, yuzu, cornflower and genepi from the Alps,” Gabriel says. “We then take the infused spirit to the distillery and we distil. Since the spirit has already been distilled at least three times, we only have to do one distillation. We do not keep the heads, we keep the heart and a large part of the seconds as well”. 

This atypical process of progressive infusion is actually a patented technique, something which Gabriel had never thought of doing until a figure within the government recommended it. “There’s a lot of pride in the French gastronomy and we were told our process should be recorded as a French method. Also, if we did it we could be involved in the French research and development programme,” he explains. “This afforded me the chance to hire a young guy from my village, Nicolas, who did a PhD thesis on the terroir of the Cognac. We’ve given this guy training and it’s been great to have him on my side since then. By the way, the patent is fully open, I’m not gathering any money from it. If you want to use it, it’s Patent No. 17 58092”.

Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Réserve was one of the first aged gins of the modern era

The process of creating gin clearly still excites Gabriel more than two decades later. The potential to explore an array of aromatics that were different from the ones I grew up with is very attractive. But also, look at the regulations on how Cognac is made. It’s 23 pages long. With gin, it’s more like a page or half a page, so the only real limit is your imagination which is very exciting when you come from the Cognac world. I am trained classically in Cognac so I am playing Bach, if you will, so when I make gin it’s like getting to play rock’n’roll or jazz instead. That freedom is wonderful,” Gabriel explains. “When we made Citadelle Réserve we aged it in acacia barrels, a style my grandfather taught me. But if I do that in Cognac… I’d be looking at five months! Yet, we know that classic Cognacs from the 1900s were aged in chestnut barrels thanks to English archives. It’s illegal now. Crazy right?”

He first released Citadelle Réserve back in 2008. Once again, this puts him ahead of the curve in the craft gin game, as there weren’t many aged gins around back then. But Gabriel is quick to clarify that it wasn’t his idea. Instead, it was inspired by another round of research into the history of gin. “I’m ashamed to say, it didn’t come to my mind until I was reading this old document from the archives about gin being shipped gin in barrels. It was really late at night and I immediately ran to our barrels and started pouring gin in a Cognac barrel,” he explains. “It was the first revival of the yellow gins that I know of. Some people followed suit, but it’s still very niche as a category”. 

Acacia wood was just a starting point for Gabriel’s cask experimentations. At Maison Ferrand, you’ll find barrels of wild cherry woods, chataignier (chestnut) and murier (mulberry), as well as French oak having contained Pineau de Charentes or Cognac. All have been used to make editions of Citadelle Réserve, and spirit from all these wood types have been blended in the egg. What egg? The huge wooden egg on site. No, seriously. It’s a patented wood receptacle in which aged Citadelle Gins are blended, making it the first and only gin in the world to use this method. “We call it ‘the ovum’. When I saw this egg I fell in love. It’s a slow and constant blending process designed to integrate the different wood essences,” Gabriel explains. “At 2.45 meters high and with the help of natural convection, the gin inside is in a state of perpetual motion, reducing oxygenation, and preserving the palette of aromas and evaporating volatile aromatic components”.

Citadelle Gin

All hail ‘the ovum’

Gabriel’s desire to explore and test the limits of gin led to the creation of the limited edition Extreme Collection. The first was Citadelle No Mistake Old Tom Gin, made with caramelised Caribbean brown sugar that was aged in the barrel with its cask-aged Citadelle Réserve. Wild Blossom followed, a gin inspired by his mother’s love of herbal infusions that was distilled wild cherry blossom petals and aged in cherrywood casks for five months. “They keep me sane. Take ‘Saisons of the Witch’, which I made by roasting my juniper berries and distilled it with the other botanicals to create a slightly smoky, roasted pepper gin. We sell it only on the estate and we made a few hundred bottles, but I love it,” Gabriel says. “Right now I can tease that we’ve got a new aged gin expression on the way and, also some breaking news, we have a gin maturing in 100-litre vats made from juniper berry tree. All this crazy stuff that I’m having fun with is all part of that new frontier of gin! Then 2021 will be the 25th anniversary of the launching of Citadelle, so the 25th anniversary will come with some surprises as well”. 

The freedom of distilling gin does have its drawbacks for Gabriel, who’s very passionate about gin being a juniper-forward spirit in profile. “I disagree with people just adding the flavour of fruit into a gin. I am older now, I have learned to be respectful. I know the flavoured and coloured gins are growing extremely well, but that’s a direction that I’m not interested in. To me, it is to gin what the marshmallow-flavoured vodka was to that category. We have to be careful as producers because it can dirty the name of gin,” Gabriel reasons. “I’m a purist that way. I have been cautious of exploring and pushing boundaries, even though I am usually considered the guy who is always pushing things. But an approach that is motivated by purely commercial goals is a problem. We are confusing people. We have to be careful that gin isn’t looked at as a different category. The real definition is that gin is a spirit with the dominant flavour of juniper berries”.

Despite his reservations about the flavoured category, Gabriel remains optimistic that gin has got a very exciting future. “Gin has been around for a long time and has gone through a renaissance, a revival that I would never have expected in 1996. But there is still a great interest in gin that’s not going away too quickly. I know England and Spain were the precursor and have been crazy about it for a while but the French are just getting started,” Gabriel says. “People are really excited about gin because of the possibilities that the producer, and therefore the drinker, can explore. That’s the beauty of gin”.

Citadelle Gin

So how to use Citadelle Gin? Gabriel has a few thoughts: “I love a G&T and with Citadelle it’s incredible, but my little sin is actually a Gin Reserve with just a glassful of dry Curaçao,” he says. “Not the blue stuff, we make an original curacao made with real orange. I also love a gin martini with a great vermouth like Dolin and of course I love a French 75”. My advice would be to explore and experiment. It’s what Alexandre Gabriel would do. 

Citadelle Gin Tasting Note:

Nose: Bright, piney juniper is at the forefront, with warm citrus from orange and coriander in support alongside some green cardamom and fresh flowers. In the backdrop, there are deeper, spicy notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and grains of paradise, which are joined by a slight nutty quality and the sticky sweetness of liquorice. 

Palate: The juniper is front and centre once more, but it’s joined by spice from cracked black pepper, the floral sweetness of Parma Violets and a savoury, woody quality. It’s a rich and full-bodied palate that features orange peel, cumin, star anise and cardamom throughout. 

Finish: Dry and a little peppery at first, the finish then develops with plenty of aromatic baking spices, fennel, more liquorice and a sweet hint of angelica.

Overall: A complex, intriguing and well-integrated gin that does a particularly good job of balancing floral and spicy notes.

Citadelle gin is available from Master of Malt.

No Comments on Citadelle: Cognac’s renegade gin

Cocktail masterclass with Moët Hennessy

With the promise of warmer weekends ahead, now’s the time to pin down a selection of light, refreshing and unfussy al-fresco drinks. Here, American Bar at The Savoy’s bartender Jake…

With the promise of warmer weekends ahead, now’s the time to pin down a selection of light, refreshing and unfussy al-fresco drinks. Here, American Bar at The Savoy’s bartender Jake O’Brien Murphy and Belvedere vodka brand ambassador Mark Tracey share four simple and delicious Scotch whisky, Cognac and vodka-based cocktails…

Stock up on choc ices and fire up the BBQ – summer might look a little different this year, but it’s so close, we can almost taste it. Technically, we’ve already tasted it, having attended a virtual cocktail masterclass hosted by Moët Hennessy (the French company behind Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Hennessy and Belvedere). 

Guided by Jake O’Brien Murphy, bartender at American Bar at The Savoy, and Mark Tracey, Belvedere brand ambassador, we re-created four quintessential summer serves designed to make the most out of everyday ingredients you might find in your kitchen. And now we’re sharing the recipes with you, because we’re nice like that. Before you slap that sunscreen on, though, a few words of advice. 

The American Bar at the Savoy

First of all, ready your workspace. Or to paraphrase nineties rapper Ice Cube, prep yourself before your wreck yourself. It only takes a few minutes to make syrups, lay out garnishes and squeeze lemons and limes, and it’ll make assembling your cocktail far easier. “I would always encourage using fresh produce, squeezed as close to making the drink as you can,” says Tracey.

Should your chosen cocktail require shaking – as several below do – don’t skimp on the ice. Fill the shaker as full as you possibly can. Aim to shake for between eight and 10 seconds, or until condensation forms on the outside of the shaker. “You just want to tie everything together and add a load of tiny little micro-bubbles into [the drink],” says O’Brien Murphy. “That’s the idea of shaking: We’re trying to get it cold, dilute it, and alter the texture.”

The same goes for your glassware, too. “If you pour the drink over one cube of ice, that cube of ice will lose its thermal integrity quicker than a big glass full of ice,” O’Brien Murphy continues. It might help to think of ice as an ingredient that makes your drink more consistent from start to finish. “The less ice, the more dilution,” says Tracey, “which means the drink is going to change, it’ll heat up and it’s not going to be as palatable.” 

Finally, use a fine strainer if you have one. Not only will it catch citrus remnants and pulp from other fruits (if you’re shaking with berries, for example) but it’ll also capture smaller shards of ice, potentially affecting the dilution, and nobody wants that. 

Well, we’ve done our bit. You’re free to get cracking on the cocktails below – but if you fancy watching the professionals do it first, Tracey and O’Brien Murphy are hosting this very masterclass live on Moët Hennessy’s Clos19 Instagram account this Wednesday, 20 May at 5pm.

Belvedere Almond Milk Punch

Tell me more… A light and silky take on the traditional milk punch.

Ingredients: 40ml Belvedere, 25ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml honey water*, 60ml almond milk, mint to garnish

Method: Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into ice filled highball glass. Garnish with sprigs of mint.

*Honey water: combine 3 parts honey and 1 part boiling water (3:1)

Ardbeg Shortie’s Dirty Daiquiri

Tell me more… A smoky twist on popular summertime classic, the Daiquiri.

Ingredients: 50ml Ardbeg Ten Year Old, 20ml apple juice, 20ml fresh lime juice, 10ml vanilla syrup*

Method: Shake all ingredients over ice before straining into a chilled coupe.

*Vanilla Syrup: combine 1 part caster sugar and 1 part boiling water (1:1). Stir until clear and then simply add a dash of vanilla essence or vanilla paste.  

Glenmorangie Ginger & Honey Highball

Tell me more… Fresh and light, combining the fruity notes of Glenmorangie with sweet citrus.

Ingredients: 50ml Glenmorangie Original, 15ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml honey water*, sparkling water to top, lemon wedge, slices of raw ginger

Method: Mix all ingredients together (excluding the sparkling water) and strain into an ice-filled Highball glass. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with a lemon wedge and thin ginger slices.

*Honey water: combine 3 parts honey and 1 part water (3:1)

Hennessy & Ginger

Tell me more… A perfectly-balanced sweet and spicy highball.

Ingredients: 50ml Hennessy VS, ginger ale, fresh lime to garnish

Method: Pour Hennessy VS into a tall glass. Add ice cubes, top with ginger ale and stir with a bar spoon. Garnish with fresh lime.

 

No Comments on Cocktail masterclass with Moët Hennessy

The Nightcap: 15 May

It’s the eve of World Whisky Day and there’s no better way to prepare yourself for all its boozy brilliance than with a read of another fantastic edition of The…

It’s the eve of World Whisky Day and there’s no better way to prepare yourself for all its boozy brilliance than with a read of another fantastic edition of The Nightcap…

It’s another Friday, and that means another edition of The Nightcap! Tomorrow is World Whisky Day, so if you’re looking to go into it with a brain full of booze news, you’ve come to the right place. Your internet browser. It’s also a good place to go if you’re looking to find out facts about rare species of birds or get into arguments with strangers about what counts as a soup. Of course, you’ll have to visit other websites for that – although we will say that people who think chilli con carne is a soup should reconsider their stance because it’s absolutely not a soup and they’re wrong.

On the MoM blog this week we announced the good news that That Boutique-y Whisky Company has ensured we can still enjoy World Whisky Day together thanks to its World Whisky Summit, which is sponsored by us! We also launched a flash sale (which ended this morning) containing booze from England’s largest wine producer, Chapel Down, before Annie took a peek behind the scenes at Two Drifters’ planet-friendly production process, Adam learned the story behind the Pearse Lyons Distillery and Ian Buxton returned to deliver the second part of his investigation on private cask sales. Elsewhere, Henry enjoyed five minutes in the company of John Little, of Smooth Ambler fame, a deliciously herbaceous Cachaça-based concoction and a bitter bottling from top vermouth producer Carpano.

Once again we’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who entered our virtual pub quiz last Friday and salute the winner, Conal Wright. We sincerely hope you enjoy your £25 gift voucher! The answers to last week’s edition are listed below and for those who want a chance to get their hands on the prize or just test their boozy knowledge, the MoM pub quiz will be on our blog from 5pm as always.

The Nightcap

Whisky makers Tomer Goren, Dhavall Gandhi and Michael D’Souza – what a trio!

What’s happening on World Whisky Day…

Wondering how to celebrate World Whisky Day tomorrow (Saturday 16 May)? Well, luckily you’re spoilt for choice, as there’s all sort of fun to get involved with! We’re pretty stoked to be involved with the rather exciting Boutique-y Whisky World Whisky Summit, with quite the lineup of industry greats kicking off at 7pm. Then, if you want to gain some worldwide whisky knowledge, England’s Lakes Distillery has partnered up with Israel’s Milk & Honey and India’s Paul John Distilleries for another virtual celebration at 5pm! You’ll be greeted by Dhavall Gandhi, Tomer Goren and Michael D’Souza,  distillers at each respective distillery, exploring the influence of location on whisky maturation. What a trio! Tune into the Lakes Facebook page for all the goods. Royal Salute has also got in on the act with a series called ‘Behind the Kingdom Doors’, a live stream series that discusses three different topics in style and luxury, taking place over the three weeks. It kicked off this week with a live whisky tasting hosted by master blender Sandy Hyslop and whisky blogger Alex Robertson on Wednesday. Coming up next is a Polo & Lifestyle session hosted by Hyslop and polo star Malcolm Borwick on the 20 May, followed by Around The World With Royal Salute, hosted again by Hyslop and Nathan Wood, prestige whiskies brand ambassador, on the 1 June. What’s more, if it’s a challenge you’re looking for, Whyte and Mackay are hosting a series of online events featuring Jura whisky, and special guests including World Whisky Day founder, Blair Bowman! Head over to the Big Fat Online Whisky Quiz at 7:30pm where none other than Gregg Glass will make an appearance, if you want to test your knowledge. Happy World Whisky Day, folks!

The Nightcap

Cocktail hour is back, but this time it’s virtual!

The Cocktail Hour is back… and it’s virtual 

Though the circumstances that have led to this are less than ideal, we bring you cheerful news: the cocktail hour is back! The last time the cocktail hour was at its peak in Britain was the roaring ‘20s, so it looks like we’ve come full circle. We’ve got some fun cocktail facts for you from a survey by Bacardi for World Cocktail Day (which was this Wednesday, 13 May), which revealed that more than half (53%, if you want numbers) of the Britons asked believe that the cocktail hour has made a comeback in recent weeks, though this time, of course, it’s online. What’s more, it’s not just any old tipple they’re whipping up, with 43% revealed to be experimenting with drinks, and the Mojito taking first place as the number one lockdown serve. Nearly a third are getting real fancy and fishing out their cocktail glasses and shakers, too! Could we be expecting another cocktail renaissance? The good news is that over a quarter of those surveyed said that they will continue hosting virtual cocktail hours with friends and family beyond lockdown. Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Congratulations on your double win, Dave!

Double win for Dave Broom at the Fortnum and Mason awards

In what will be a popular move in the world of booze, it was announced last night that Dave Broom has won Drinks Writer of the year at the annual Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink awards for his words on whiskymanual.uk. Rather than the usual riot of B list celebs, A-grade champagne and Claudia Winkleman, that normally makes up the awards, it was done online, though still with Claudia Winkleman, obviously. It was a double celebration for Broom as his film, The Amber Light, won the best programme too. Well done Dave! Other winners include the nicest man in food Tom Parker-Bowles as Restaurant Writer of the ear for his column in the Mail on Sunday, Rachel Roddy got the Cookery Writer gong for her mouth-watering Italian food column in the Guardian and we were particularly pleased to see Just the Tonic by Kim Walker and Mark Nesbitt pick up Best Debut Drink book. Congratulations to all the winners and fingers crossed that next year we will be allowed near enough to other people to have a proper party.

The Nightcap

The vineyard features a small quantity of a ‘secret experimental variety’…

Pig hotel man plants vineyard in the South Downs

Imagine you have founded a group of acclaimed upmarket country hotels around England. What’s the next challenge? A racehorse? A football team? A crack at the America’s Cup? Well, the choice was easy for Robin Hutson, he’s long championed English wines in his Pig hotels, so rather than any of the above, he’s just planted his first vineyard in the South Downs. It’s located by Madehurst Lodge which will be the next Pig to open sometime next year. This two-acre south-west-facing site has been planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and a small quantity of a ‘secret experimental variety’. Oooh, mysterious! Hutson enlisted the help of some of his winemaking chums including Ian Kellett from Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire and Charles Simpson from Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent. He’s unlikely to see any fruit until 2022 and wine may take even longer depending on whether he makes still or sparkling. Apparently he hasn’t decided yet. Hutson commented: “I can’t wait to taste that first glass, albeit a couple of years away yet. The investment further endorses our complete commitment to home-grown, to local produce and to local contractors.  We will post regular updates from the vineyard as we progress. Wish us luck!” Good luck!

The Nightcap

Gautier Cognac 1762

And finally… Sotheby’s auctions one of the world’s oldest surviving Cognacs

Sotheby’s certainly know how to put together an auction and it’s latest online sale is no exception. The auction, titled Distilled – Iconic Samaroli, Dalmore 62 and The World’s Oldest Cognac, comprises of 216 lots and is estimated to bring a combined total in the region of £1.1 million. The headline item has to be the oldest vintage Cognac ever to be sold at auction, a bottle of Gautier Cognac 1762. Only three bottles of this vintage still exist, having been held in the same family for generations with their original labels attached. It’s the last and largest of these remaining bottles, known as ‘Grand Frère’, or the ‘Big Brother’, that will feature in Distilled and is expected to fetch between £80,000-160,000. Should your bid prove victorious, you’ll also get to enjoy a bespoke experience at Maison Gautier, courtesy of the distillery. Some people have it all. “The Gautier 1762 is renowned and revered across the world as a Cognac that transcends the world of spirits collecting. This bottle represents not only an example of pre-phylloxera viticulture but also of early cask maturation from the dawn of Gautier’s production and even precedes the French Revolution. This bottle contains a distillation not only of superb brandy, but also of Cognac’s history,” commented Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist. Alongside one of the world’s oldest surviving Cognacs, there’s the aforementioned collection of Samaroli goodies, which comprises of 55 bottles, including three of the legendary Bowmore Bouquet 1966 (estimated at £40,000-55,000 per bottle). Sotheby’s also has two bottles of The Dalmore 62 Year Old which are estimated to fetch £75,000-100,000 each and its first-ever collaboration with a rum distillery. A cask of Dictador’s 1980 single vintage rum will go on sale with the bidding starting at £50 with the proceeds being donated to the Dictador Art Masters Charity Fund to develop an art gallery within the Colombian Jungle, an anchor point for the conservation of the area. The Distilled auction is open for bidding from the 14 to 28 May.

The Nightcap

Pub quiz answers

1) Which classic cocktail is mixed up on a train in Some Like It Hot?

Answer: Manhattan

2) Where was the inventor of the modern carbonation process, whose name is on bottles to this day, born?

Answer: Germany

3) What does Kesha brush her teeth with in the song Tik Tok?

Answer: Jack Daniels

4) In the Friends episode “The One Where Ross is Fine”, which cocktail is Ross drinking?

Answer: Margaritas

5) The founder of which distillery was famous for packing a pair of pistols to deter criminal distillers?

Answer: Glenlivet

6) In the film Sideways, Miles says, “I am not drinking any f**king —–”. What wine does he say?

Answer: Merlot

7) Which fictional character said “I love Scotch. Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly.”? 

Answer: Ron Burgundy

8) What is Captain Jack Sparrow’s favourite drink?

Answer: Rum

9) Which whisk(e)y does Rihanna drink in her song Cheers (Drink to That)?

Answer: Jameson

10)  This year which Champagne house opened some recently-discovered bottles of wine that were buried when a cellar collapsed in 1900?

Answer: Pol Roger

 

No Comments on The Nightcap: 15 May

Cocktail of the Week: The Dalgona Martini

Obscenely fluffy, deliciously creamy and super simple to make, Dalgona coffee has swiftly become the internet’s isolation drink of choice. If you thought this whipped beverage couldn’t get any better,…

Obscenely fluffy, deliciously creamy and super simple to make, Dalgona coffee has swiftly become the internet’s isolation drink of choice. If you thought this whipped beverage couldn’t get any better, cocktail specialist Lucy Morton has created a delightfully boozy upgrade in the form of the Courvoisier Dalgona Martini. Here, the spirits and cocktail specialist shares how to make her indulgent creation…

If you’re one of the many people who has adopted an obscure hobby in the throes of lockdown, I applaud you. These are testing times – to put it lightly – and frankly, the world needs all the wholesome, morale-boosting activity it can muster. With that said, you can keep your banana breads and your home-made kombuchas. You don’t know it yet, but what you really, truly need is an adult version of the internet-famous Dalgona coffee recipe – and you need it stat.

Named after the Korean sweet it supposedly resembles, this foamy drink is made by whipping equal proportions of instant coffee powder, sugar, and hot water until it becomes creamy and then adding it to cold or hot milk for an immensely Instagrammable morning treat. Though the trend started in Korea, the drink is also said to closely resemble an Indian beverage known as ‘phenti hui’ or ‘beaten’ coffee, says Morton – the former sees milk poured on top of the whipped mixture (rather than spooning the whipped mixture over the milk). 

So, why is the world going mad for whipped coffee? Morton explains: “People are fascinated by trying Dalgona coffee themselves because it’s simple to do, it has ASMR-like qualities when watching videos of it being made, and of course, it’s something to do whilst we’re not allowed out to coffee shops.” Ah, coffee shops. If you’re yearning for that barista latte art, prepare to have all desires well and truly satisfied as you whip up a Dalgona. (Side note: It’s tough work, so ideally you should use a hand blender. Or not, if you need to work on your biceps at the moment.)

So fluffy. . .

Better yet, the recipe pairs especially well with Cognac, as Morton discovered. “Two icons of French culture are coffee and Cognac, with Courvoisier being served at the highest tables since 1889. We’ve made waves across the nation with our Courvoisier Espresso Martini over the years, now felt like the time to elevate it with upcoming trends.” See Morton’s video here.

What is it about the flavour notes found in Cognac – and Courvoisier especially – that works well with the other ingredients? “Cognac, in general, has wonderful tasting notes of dried fruits, very floral aromas and caramel moving into chocolate tones on the palate, all wonderful to pair with coffee,” Morton explains. “Courvoisier VSOP has all of the above, but with heightened aromas of jasmine and toasted almonds, meaning that we add complexity into what is essentially quite a simple drink, without losing any of that lovely raisin and oak flavours within the coffee and milk.”

Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? If you’re not on board by now, there’s simply no pleasing you. For those who are nodding ‘yes’, take note: you can’t make Dalgona coffee using ground coffee, it has to be instant coffee. Apparently it’s entirely responsible for that irresistibly dense and foamy topping, something to do with the drying process of the coffee granules. A surefire blow for the coffee connoisseurs out there, but fret not – once you taste this Courvoisier-spiked Dalgona, you won’t miss the fresh-brewed stuff one bit.

Right, are you ready to get whipping?

50ml Courvoisier VSOP
50ml milk
25ml vanilla syrup*
2 tbsp instant coffee
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp hot water

Whisk the coffee, sugar and water together until light brown in colour and peaks form when you remove the whisk. In a cocktail shaker (or protein shaker, if needed) add the milk, Courvoisier VSOP, and vanilla syrup. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Spoon over Dalgona mixture and top with powdered coffee or chocolate. Instagram with gusto, then sip and savour.

*No vanilla syrup? No worries! Use 12.5 ml vanilla essence and 12.5ml sugar syrup. Alternatively, Morton says either 25ml caramel syrup or 25ml butterscotch syrup work wonderfully too.

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The Dalgona Martini

Five minutes with… Courvoisier’s Patrice Pinet

What can we expect from Cognac in 2020? We asked Patrice Pinet, master blender at Courvoisier, to fill us in. Cognac had an interesting 2019, with encouraging sales and increasing…

What can we expect from Cognac in 2020? We asked Patrice Pinet, master blender at Courvoisier, to fill us in.

Cognac had an interesting 2019, with encouraging sales and increasing interest in the category offset by poor harvests. Bad weather conditions from 2017 and 2019 resulted in harvest reduced by 25% which led to shortages for most brands, including Courvoisier. “It’s difficult to have a perfect harvest without any trouble. We had big hails in 2017 which had an impact on the crops that year. Last year we had some frost in April and this affected part of the vineyard. The year before was a good crop, but some areas of the Cognac, in general, were still affected,” Pinet explains. “It makes it difficult to have enough liquid to provide to all our markets because we don’t have a big product reserve, especially for the younger expressions like Courvoisier VS, because we use the recent crops to prepare the VS.”

Pinet concedes that the scarcity of VS may mean a little bit less availability than Courvoisier has had in the past. The increase in demand and reduction supply also dictates that there could be an increase in the price. However, he’s optimistic that major repercussions, especially for the consumer, are unlikely and Cognac as an industry should be able to deal with this setback. “We organise the region here to face such events. We implemented a new way of working in the Cognac region more than ten years ago now, to build what we call our ‘climatic reserve’, to face the weather conditions and to take advantage of good harvests,” Pinet explains. “We work with our winegrowers to increase crops when the years are good, like 2018”. 

Patrice Pinet

Courvoisier, like many Cognac brands, have been affected by poor weather conditions

Courvoisier has been working with Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) on research into new varieties of grapes which can be harvested earlier a month earlier. “In order to have enough Cognac in the future to face climate change we are always organising new research here in the Cognac region. For instance, we’re trying to find new grape varieties more resistant to climate change and more resistant to frost,” Pinet explains. “We’re also always working on how we can perfect our approach to cultivating a whole vineyard. Some, I would say in the north of France like the Loire Valley, or Champagne, or Barsac have a level of organisation in place to deal with the frost. We haven’t always had this in this region, but step by step we are organising and working to lessen the impact of climate on the harvest”. 

It’s encouraging because the demand for Cognac is certainly there. In 2019, Courvoisier returned to growth in the on-trade and the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis predict that over the next three years Cognac sales will increase by 12% in volume and 14% in value. Premiumisation has been the key, with Courvoisier VSOP and XO excelling in recent times. In fact, 76% of consumers now say they’re willing to pay extra for a better quality Cognac. “We are very conscious and very attentive to the trend of premiumisation. What we can see is that people are enjoying Cognac differently, when they are drinking Cognac in the afternoon, in the early beginning of the night, or in the night, or the day and evenings. It’s important as a company that we can provide a large range of Cognac that people can drink neat or in long drinks or in cocktails”, says Pinet. “In 2019 the good news was that VSOP and XO are performing very well, especially in the on-trade now which is very important to capture. Consumers’ interest in the category can be explained because they are styles that can be drunk neat or in cocktails at a good price.

Patrice Pinet

As master blender of Courvoisier, Patrice Pinet knows a thing or two about Cognac

The consumption of Courvoisier and of Cognac has evolved over the past few years. The US and Chinese markets, in particular, have been significant. “The growth we had from them has a big impact on the global category. The growth in China was more significant in 2018 but in 2019 it became more stable, which will likely happen with the US as well. In the US, what we had to last year was very, very high and will not be sustainable so growth will return at a more reasonable pace,” says Pinet. “But the increase was enough to make us adapt and that’s why we have decided to plant some new vineyards in the Cognac region. We had the authorisation of the French government last year to plant about 3000 acres more and we expect to have the same authorisation this year. With this new plantation, we’ll be able to match this sustainable growth”. 

From a strategy point of view, Pinet is optimistic about the appeal of Cognac to new markets and customers. “It’s true that in some markets Cognac has been a macho market and appealed to a certain generation of people, but in other markets, it is very young people who are drinking Cognac, like in America for instance,” says Pinet. “That’s why we try to educate the consumer on what the differences between VS, VSOP and XO and then create new experiences for consumers to enjoy their Cognac differently. The marvellous cocktail bars that are in cities like London are a good way to attract young consumers.”

Patrice Pinet

Courvoisier’s VSOP and XO performed strongly in 2019

The balancing act for Courvoisier will be to ensure that it can still champion the rich history of the brand and spirit while being innovative For Pinet, one can inform the other. “We know that our history is important and that people are always interested to learn about it, but we also appreciate that we know how we can change and evolve because we have done so throughout the decades until now,” he explains. “History is important for the roots, but continuous improvement comes from understanding the trends of the market, how we adapt our packaging, our ways of welcoming people here and the importance of eCommerce. We are very creative and are confident that we will develop to succeed in the market in the future”. 

 

No Comments on Five minutes with… Courvoisier’s Patrice Pinet

Cocktail of the Week: The 45th Parallel 

Drawing inspiration from Europe’s best-loved wine regions, The K Bar at The Kensington Hotel has captured terroir in cocktail form with a 16-strong menu unlike any other. Here, bar manager…

Drawing inspiration from Europe’s best-loved wine regions, The K Bar at The Kensington Hotel has captured terroir in cocktail form with a 16-strong menu unlike any other. Here, bar manager Salvatore Maggio divulges the recipe for 45th Parallel – a brooding, tannic, fruity number reminiscent of Bordeaux…

Do I fancy a glass of wine or would I rather have a cocktail? It’s a complex decision you’ll frequently find us pondering come aperitivo hour. Ordering both is extreme – not to mention a chaotic mix of flavours  – so ultimately there’s only ever going to be one solution. But now, thanks to bar manager Salvatore Maggio in collaboration with Master of Wine Anne McHale, we can have both at the same time (and without raising any eyebrows).

Their menu – aptly named Terroir – explores Europe’s most illustrious regions, including Jerez, Rioja, and Rias Baixas in Spain; Bordeaux, Chablis, Provence, Beaujolais, Alsace, Bordeaux, and Champagne in France; Piedmont in Italy; Porto in Portugal; and Mosel in Germany.

“People often order a glass of wine in a bar,” Maggio explains. “Our idea was to create a concept based on the regions of those wines. If you go into the bar and ask for a glass of Chablis, we can introduce to you a cocktail based on the Chablis region. It has the complexity and taste of the wine, but it’s a cocktail.”

Ah, le terroir! That’s Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes

Terroir, the menu explains, refers to “the complete set of environmental factors which create an unparalleled sense of character and place in wine from unique and different regions” such as the soil, weather, and local micro-climate. First, Maggio and McHale delved into the intricacies of each region and identified the key flavours and textures. 

Then, the team set about recreating their findings in cocktail form, often using local ingredients to achieve the desired effect – for example, Piedmont-inspired Foot of the Mountain, which combines Amaro di Angostura, hazelnut-infused Ketel One vodka, La Penca mezcal and rose. The Italian region has been cultivating its fine Nocciola del Piemonte (Piedmonte hazelnuts to you and I) for centuries, and is renowned for its vermouth and amaro.

On occasion, a small amount of wine has even been incorporated into the recipe. In Rioja-inspired Float On, for example, Bulleit Bourbon, Carpano Antica Formula, grapefruit, cranberry, blackberry and almond are combined to make a long golden cocktail that features a measure of Rioja wine floated on top.

“People [in London] are more familiar with French, Italian, Spanish and German wines, so we looked at each region and created something unique with the European style,” Maggio explains. “Let’s say, a glass of Champagne – we identified the taste of the Champagne, and we create a cocktail with similar flavours and complexity.”

Each cocktail on the menu has an accompanying fact box that explores the fundamentals of the associated terroir in detail, from the characteristics and composition of the region to the tasting notes and prominent flavours of the wines produced there, along with key grape varietals and surrounding production.

Our Cocktail of the Week is inspired by Bordeaux, which is positioned halfway between the Equator and North Pole on the ‘45th parallel’, hence the name. The combination of a ‘humid maritime climate’, ‘extraction of tannins during fermentation’ and ‘extended cellaring in new French oak barrels’ imparts tannic, oak-aged, savoury notes to the region’s wines.

The 45th Parallel

The 45th Parallel

Bordeaux’s main grape varieties are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and noted for dry reds known as claret, whites and heavenly sweet wines like Sauternes – but as the foodies among you will know all too well, the region is also renowned for its ceps (wild mushrooms), oysters and fois gras. 

Presented in a rocks glass with a mint sprig garnish, 45th Parallel combines Remy Martin VSOP, Evangelista Ratafia, Syrah juice, blackberry, and citrus. “Like having a glass of Merlot, there’s a natural fruity flavour – blueberry, blackcurrant, those sorts of tastes – a bit of light citrus coming through, with length and complexity from the Syrah jus,” says Maggio. It might seem off to use a variety not planted in Bordeaux but apparently that’s what tasted the best. 

Fancy whipping up this delightful tipple from the comfort of your own home? MoM has you covered – keep scrolling for the ingredients and methodology…

35ml Remy Martin VSOP
10ml Evangelista Ratafia liqueur
20ml Syrah juice (good quality juice from European grape varieties would work in place like this Merlot version)
3 blackberries
10ml lime juice
10ml sugar syrup

Muddle the blackberries in a Boston shaker before adding the rest of the ingredients. Shake and double strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

 

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The 45th Parallel 

New Arrival of the Week: Seven Tails XO Brandy

It’s common for whisky and rum to be blended across different regions, even different countries, but it’s practically unheard of when it comes to French brandy. Until now, that is,…

It’s common for whisky and rum to be blended across different regions, even different countries, but it’s practically unheard of when it comes to French brandy. Until now, that is, as a new brand called Seven Tails has just launched that is looking to shake up the category. We’re all ears.

Seven Tails XO came about because partners in booze Joel Fraser and Arnaud de Trabuc saw a gap in the market. There are cheap brandies like Three Barrels or E&J Gallo, and then there are VS Cognacs with very little in-between. Fraser, originally from Manchester, made a name for himself with bars in Singapore, Vasco and the Cufflink Club, while Frenchman Trabuc founded Banks Rum which he sold to Bacardi in 2015. 

Originally, Seven Tails was going to be a French country brandy but they couldn’t find anything that got them excited. “We had some good stuff but nothing exceptional”, Fraser said. That was until they had the brilliant idea to add aged Armagnac ( some 12 year old, some 20 year old and some vintage Armagnac from 1988 to be precise) to a young brandy. Suddenly they had something delicious on their hands and they thought, why not add some Cognac too? And lo, Seven Tails XO was born.

Seven Tails brandy

Seven Tails, the perfect mixer

As it contains brandy from three regions, it can’t be called Cognac or Armagnac. This first batch is bottled at 41.8% ABV and is made up of spirits aged between three and 30 years, all from south west France from three grape varieties, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche. Here are the ingredients:

– French brandy, aged 3 years
– Armagnac Ténarèze, no age statement
– Armagnac, aged 4 years
– Armagnac, aged 20 years
– Armagnac, aged 30 years
– Cognac, aged 8 years
– Cognac, aged 10 years

The backbone is the non-AC (appellation contrôlée) French brandy but, according to Fraser, there are “has to be a substantial amount of the older brandies or you won’t taste them.” The blend is then aged for 30 days in 220 litre Port casks. This is partly to pick up some colour and richness but also, Fraser said, “to be a point of difference from traditional French brandies. It shows that we are innovative by doing something that you can’t do in Cognac [though Alexandre Gabriel might disagree].” There are plans for a bourbon cask finish. 

The name, Seven Tails, is a nod to the seven component parts and to alchemy, “taking base materials to create something bigger than the sum of the parts”, as Fraser put it. The stylish packaging is a world away from the staid Cognac norm. “Don’t have the heritage, so we have to innovate. The brandy category is a bit old, we wanted to do something eye-catching,” Fraser said. Seven Tails XO has already been picked up by some of London’s top bars including the Savoy, Annabel’s, Soho House and the Ned. According to Fraser, the response has been great: “bartenders told me ‘we hadn’t thought about brandy for years, we just poured Hennessy VS.’” 

Seven Tails

Pretty label

Fraser sees it as a supremely adaptable liquid, not just useful in the obvious cocktails like a Sidecar or an Old Fashioned, but in a traditional gin or vodka drink like an Espresso Martini, Clover Club or even a Pornstar Martini. Apparently, at the London Cocktail Club they shake it up with pineapple juice and Aperol. To show off his brandy’s versatility, Fraser is organising a cocktail competition in conjunction with the Ned. The only rule is that entries have to be pink. We like the sound of that. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Toasted and slightly burnt fruitcake, with oily walnut, peppery oak, ground almond and a hint of savoury umami, with lingering Black Forest gateaux.

Seven Tails XO Brandy is available from Master of Malt.

No Comments on New Arrival of the Week: Seven Tails XO Brandy

Cocktail of the Week: The All Jazzed Up

Today’s drink was created by Pamela Wiznitzer, one of New York’s top bartenders. She took some Frapin Cognac and then just sort of jazzed it up a bit to create…

Today’s drink was created by Pamela Wiznitzer, one of New York’s top bartenders. She took some Frapin Cognac and then just sort of jazzed it up a bit to create a disco cocktail for grown-ups. The name took care of itself.

Like many in the drinks industry, Pamela Wiznitzer fell into working in bars more by necessity than any sense of vocation: “I started to work behind bars full-time in 2009 during the recession (I lost my job and needed to make rent),” she told us. But since then she has become one of New York City’s top bartenders, winning 2014 Bartender of the Year in Village Voice. Following a stint as creative director for Seamstress on the Upper East Side (which closed in 2018), she currently writes for a number of publications and runs a consultancy called The Cocktail Guru with Jonathan Pogash, and works with brands such as Frapin Cognac. Which brings us neatly on to this week’s cocktail.

Wiznitzer has been a long time fan of Cognac. She said: “Brandy is one of my favourite spirit categories and Cognac is truly one of my favourite things to sip. It’s often overlooked on menus for cocktails, but I have always found ways to highlight it on my menus and to bring Cognac cocktails to life in an exciting way for guests. I love the versatility, the way it can easily play with other ingredients, and brings its own set of complexities to a drink.” So when Frapin came knocking with its latest release, called 1270, it was pushing at an open door. 

1270 is a Cognac specifically designed for cocktails. The cellar master at Frapin, Patrice Piveteau, said, “it will become the bartender’s best friend as it makes the perfect base for the finest Cognac cocktails.” That doesn’t mean that Frapin has stinted on quality. It’s a single estate Cognac made from fruit grown entirely in Grand Champagne, distilled on the fine lees, which gives it the body for ageing. 

Frapin Cognac cocktail

A disco cocktail for grown-ups

It’s delicious neat or in Bertie Wooster’s favourite drink, the B & S (Brandy & Soda). Wiznitzer, however, has come up with something rather special blending it with triple sec, amaro and coffee. It’s like having all your after dinner drinks at once. She calls it the All Jazzed Up: “Using coffee in cocktails means that there is going to be a bit of a ‘kick’ from the caffeine”, she said. “I wanted to have a fun play on that idea while keeping the idea of the drink really classy (which it is!)” She’s right, it is totally classy, while also being a great disco drink. Wiznitzer serves it over ice but it’s actually very nice served straight up like an Espresso Martini. 

Here’s how to make it:

45ml Frapin 1270
15ml Triple Sec
15ml Amaro Meletti
15ml Demerara syrup*
30ml Cold-brewed coffee** 

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add all the ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled drinking glass and garnish with a slice of orange.

* In a saucepan, mix equals quantities of water and demerara sugar over a low heat. Put in a sterilised jam jar when cool and it will keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

**Brew coffee with cold water and steep in the fridge for a few hours. Or purchase ready-made.

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The All Jazzed Up

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search