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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Cognac

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

 

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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.

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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”. 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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What we learned at Armagnac Academy

We were lucky enough to be invited over to the fourth London Armagnac Academy, a yearly one day masterclass telling all about the somewhat-overlooked brandy. Here’s what we learned… We…

We were lucky enough to be invited over to the fourth London Armagnac Academy, a yearly one day masterclass telling all about the somewhat-overlooked brandy. Here’s what we learned…

We popped up to London for an entire day of deliciously educational Armagnac fun. Our hosts were Hannah Lanfear, founder of The Mixing Class and UK Armagnac educator, and Amanda Garnham, who has spent more than 16 years as press attachée and educator for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac (B.N.I.A.). Together, the dynamic duo taught us (nearly) everything there is to know, and, best of all, we tasted more than 40 Armagnacs. But there was a serious side too, at the end of the day there was a 100 question exam, with the highest scorer winning a trip to Armagnac itself as a reward. Talk about motivation! Spoiler, it wasn’t me…

Armagnac Academy

All of the wonderful Armagnacs we tasted during the day! We may have lost count.

Garnham, who lives in the region, jokily bestows upon herself the title of ‘the granny of Armagnac’, sets the scene of what Armagnac is like as a place before we delve into the details of the spirit. It is a region in Gascony, south-west France, filled with vineyards, castles and geese. Lots of geese. Which also means lots of foie gras. In Gascon, the average life expectancy is five years longer than that of the rest of France, despite all the decadent food and brandy. This phenomenon even has a name: the Gascon paradox. While recounting her travels over to the region, Lanfear nostalgically tells us that “Armagnac melts away the London mindset.” I have to admit, it does sound wonderfully romantic, and I already feel warmer in our little room in a fairly gloomy London.

The basics

Armagnac has had quite the time of it. There’s evidence of production as far back as the 14th century, though it was by the end of the 16th century that it became commonplace at local French markets. Back in the 17th and 18th century, Armagnac was originally exported through Bordeaux, with the aim to then blend it with water to rehydrate it after. We know, imagine that! Madness. Soon enough, the consumers realised that it was delicious without dilution, and the rest is history.

Armagnac Academy

A sunny shot of Armagnac. Spot the foie gras…

Armagnac is understandably often talked about in the same circles as Cognac, though culturally they couldn’t be more different. For one, the difference in the size of each region and, consequently, its market, is huge. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this is by pointing out that, over the course of a year, Cognac loses more to the angel’s share than Armagnac produces in the entire year, which is around 6.6 million bottles.

Armagnac vineyards cover just 2,420 hectares, while Cognac has 75,000 hectares. Because it is much smaller, Armagnac isn’t commercial in the same way, and has no desire to compete with Cognac. Success of that level would lose what makes it unique. Garnham tells us that, though the word is banded around without meaning these days, “Armagnac has always been craft, but never really talked about it.” It stays small because of the size of the AOC, and even at its maximum production it couldn’t satisfy a market anywhere near the size of Cognac.

Armagnac Academy

A big ol’ bottle of Armagnac

Thanks to its smaller size, Armagnac has kept its biodiversity. There are ten main grape varieties that can be used to make it, whereas almost all Cognac is made from only one, Ugni Blanc. There are trees and shrubs surrounding the vineyards which encourage insects and bats, and other crops breaking up what would otherwise be a monoculture.

Distillation season

Garnham notes that, although the region is charming all year round, distillation is the most romantic time of year, called La Flamme de l’Armagnac. Producers will hold parties for entire villages (though sometimes that’s only 50 or so people), and traditionally children will light the alembic still. The still becomes the social hub of the community thanks to its warmth, and also because it must be tended to 24 hours a day. Although, only 48 houses in Armagnac own their own copper still, so to support the rest of the houses, there are five travelling distillers. Essentially, this is a large tractor with a copper still on the back of it, going from house to house over the course of distillation, which runs from harvest in October until 31 March, though generally distillation is completed by the end of January. You wouldn’t want to get stuck behind one of those on a single track road.

Armagnac Academy

Check it out, it’s a still on wheels!

Though some houses use double distillation as with Cognac, most Armagnac producers use the region’s traditional alembic. This is a simple continuous still, sometimes with as few as four plates, very different to the sort of high efficiency columns used to make grain whisky. They are often wood-fired and the spirit comes off at between 60 and 70% ABV so there are lots of congeners.

In Armagnac, the spirit is almost like a form of currency. Traditionally, Garnham tells us, a family will distil Armagnac each year and keep it in the cellar, much like money in a bank though with better rates of interest. Over time as it gets older it becomes more valuable, and say the family needs a new car, or has to prep for a wedding, they’ll dig out the Armagnac and sell it. Ditch your savings account and start investing in brandy, though if our lack of self-restraint with a contactless card is anything to go by, not drinking our savings would be even harder.

Armagnac Academy

Straight from the barrel to the glass

How do I drink it?

The mystery that surrounds Armagnac means that people aren’t quite sure how to drink it. Garnham notes that it doesn’t make much sense to add water or ice to your Armagnac, the reason being that the blend has been married and balanced to (hopefully) perfection before bottling, and water will undo that balancing act. Like with an older whisky, older Armagnacs are designed for sipping. However, younger Armagnacs are totally delicious with tonic and ice, or even alongside desserts. Armagnac-stewed prunes is a particularly tasty combo, and pair this with foie gras to live like a real Gascon local. Armagnac suffers from the same holdbacks as many aged spirits (looking at you, whisky), and mixing it shouldn’t be seen as a sin. Cocktails are a fun way to introduce people to the brandy.

Garnham leaves each of us a Gascon oak acorn on our table, so we can take a bit of Armagnac with us. Though, after a day of learning and tasting this delicious spirit, I’m pining to visit in person…

Pop over to the Armagnac Academy website for all the latest updates!

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How to use plant milk in cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS40 Sydney

PS40 Syndey, swanky!

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

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

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

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

That is a French Coffee

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

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

 LCC French Coffee Social Club:

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

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

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

 

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Did our 2019 drinks trends predictions come true?

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

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

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

Boom time for liqueurs

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

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

Irish whiskey

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

Botanical spirits

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

Category-defying ‘spirits’

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

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

Alcohol-free imbibing

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

Cognac and Armagnac

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

Yeast conversations

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

Johnnie Walker highball collection

The Highball, still very much a drinks industry thing

Blended and blended malt Scotch

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

Could agave beat rum in the premiumisation stakes?

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

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

The verdict

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

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

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16 bartenders’ most reached-for bottles of 2019

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

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

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

Oskar Kinberg, Hide Below, London

Bottle: Cocchi di Torino

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

Sother Teague

Sother Teague and his amazing levitating glass

Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo, Williamsburg

Bottle: Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

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

Will Meredith, Lyaness, London 

Bottle: Martell VSOP

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

Zoe Van Der Grinten, FAM Bar, London

Bottle: 8Brix Red Verjus

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

Andrei Talapanescu, Pulitzer’s Bar, Amsterdam

Bottle: Muyu Chinotto Nero

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

Bartenders love the Michter’s range

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

Bottle: Michter’s US#1 Bourbon

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

George Austin, Blakes Hotel, London

Bottle: Everleaf and Cadello 88 

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

Simone Forconi, The Malt Lounge & Bar, London

Bottle: Kinahan‘s The Kasc Project

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

Michele Venturini, Cahoots, London

Bottle: Russian Standard Original Vodka 

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

Mr Paradise

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

Will Wyatt, Mister Paradise, New York 

Bottle: Suze

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

Marshall Minaya, Valerie, New York

Bottle: Giffard Caribbean Pineapple

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

Marcin Ciułkowski, Radisson BLU, Warsaw

Bottle: Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka

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

Deano Moncreiffe, Hacha, London

Bottle: Don Julio 70

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

Manhattan Duke

My Friend Duke uses Michter’s Rye in his Manhattan

Zachary Pease, My Friend Duke, New York

Bottle: Michter’s US#1 Rye

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

Dan Garnell, Super Lyan, Amsterdam

Bottle: Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin

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

Giacomo Guarnera, The Churchill Bar & Terrace, London

Bottle: Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro

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

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

 

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