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Tag: Gin

Cocktail of the Week: The Gin and It

Last week we rounded up our favourite vermouth brands. Now we’ve got a deliciously simple cocktail to show them off in. Some call it the Sweet Martini but it’s better…

Last week we rounded up our favourite vermouth brands. Now we’ve got a deliciously simple cocktail to show them off in. Some call it the Sweet Martini but it’s better known as… the Gin and It!

When I think of the Gin and It, I always think of ‘It Girls’, upper class English party girls who appear in gossip columns and scandalise polite society with brazen antics in Mayfair nightclubs. But, prosaically the ‘It’ is simply short for Italian vermouth. 

The cocktail formerly known as a Sweet Martini

A simple mixture of gin and Italian vermouth, according to Dale de Groff in his The Craft of the Cocktail book (published 2008), the Gin and It was originally known as a Sweet Martini. Looking back through my old books, I found a reference to the Gin & It in David Embury’s 1948 book The Fine art of Mixing Drinks. He writes: “In Europe the proportions used are half and half and the drink is not iced.” His preferred ratio is three parts gin to one part vermouth, very much a sweet Martini.

Sounding like he was writing from 1957 not 1997 when the book was published, Salvatore Calabrase in Classic Cocktails describes the drink as a “perennially favourite lady’s drink sipped at around 5pm.” Or as Al Murray, aka the Pub Landlord, might put it: “pint for the fella, glass of white wine/ fruit-based drink for the lady.”

Even today, many old school boozers don’t really offer much beyond beer and spirits. There’s still a pub near my parents where wine comes in individually portioned plastic cups with peel off lids. I’ve never seen anyone order a second. Under such circumstances, if you’re not drinking beer, then the Gin & It is a great standby. Even the roughest place will have gin and a bottle of Martini Rosso. You might even get some ice. 

The heyday of the Gin and It was in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The only gin and vermouth drinker I can recall when I was growing up was the father of a friend of mine, a proper geezer, used to order something similar in his local. He called it a Gin and Mix, equal parts Italian and French vermouth, and gin. Such drinks went out of fashion in the ’80s as interest in gin and vermouth waned. It was all about vodka-based drinks. Now though, gin could not be more fashionable and vermouth too is having a moment with both sales and the choice of brands increasing.

El Bandarra Al fresco vermouth on a tray with snacks

Just add gin for the perfect Gin & It

Which vermouth to use

It’s one that you can just throw together, half and half over ice. Or you can up the gin quotient, stir and strain and make something that’s far closer to a Martini. A Gin & It is perfectly pleasant with Martini Rosso, that’s assuming the bottle hasn’t been gathering dust behind the bar for years, but it’s one that really warrants upgrading the vermouth. 

It’s where the same brand’s stunning Rubino Speciale Riserva comes into its own. It makes a lovely half and half. But instead I’m going for something from Spain, the deliciously light and orangey El Bandarra Al Fresco, which gives this a summer aperitif vibe. Don’t forget the olives and anchovies. 

As for the gin, well, a classic juniper and citrus led gin is going to work best here. I’ve had some bad experiences with gins with unconventional botanicals clashing with the vermouth. Beefeater would be ideal and is a reminder that this is very much a pub drink.

Today, however, I’m using Brighton Gin Seaside Strength. The citrus in the gin goes beautifully with the orange-forward vermouth and the extra alcohol cuts the sweetness of the vermouth. If I was using ordinary strength gin, I’d probably add an extra half measure to make it more refreshing. And finally because you can never have too much orange, I’ve added a dash of orange bitters.

Right, here’s how to make a Gin & It, Spanish style!

35ml Brighton Seaside Strength Gin
35ml El Bandarra Al Fresco Vermouth
Angostura Orange bitters

Add the gin and vermouth to an ice-filled tumbler. Stir, add a dash of bitters and garnish with a slice of orange. Cin cin!

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Brighton Gin: spirit of the seaside

Kathy Caton swapped the radio mic for the lab coat when she founded Brighton Gin with some local friends back in 2012. Since then the brand has gone from strength…

Kathy Caton swapped the radio mic for the lab coat when she founded Brighton Gin with some local friends back in 2012. Since then the brand has gone from strength to strength despite some early setbacks like exploding stills and botanicals disasters. 

Many of us have ideas after some drinks but few of us manage to turn them into a business.  The Brighton Gin story began when Kathy Caton was having a few gin-based cocktails with a friend one night. The following day, feeling surprisingly chipper while running around her home town of Brighton, she had the revelation to create her own brand of gin. She explained: “Gin is the one thing that lets me get away with it. Brighton is a place that needs to get away with it on a frequent basis. Boom! That’s it, I was going to make Brighton gin. It was just one of those proper lightbulb moments.”

This was in 2010 just before the gin boom. “Gin has always been my drink,” she said, “it’s hard to imagine how wildly unfashionable it used to be when I was at university.” But gin’s image was changing rapidly and it was now much easier for new distilleries thanks to Sipsmith and Sacred laying the groundwork with HMRC. “I thought there was going to be a moment. But I absolutely had no idea that that moment would be what gin is now. People with gin bars at home. Gin festivals. Gin tattoos!” she said.

Kathy Caton from Brighton Gin

Kathy Caton: gin lover (Photo by Liz Finlayson/Vervate)
Brighton Gin portraits on Brighton Beach

Easy does it

Caton had a strong vision for Brighton gin: “I wanted to make something that is of the best quality, that’s built on ethical and sustainable practices, made by a really diverse team,” she said. But her background in radio, with stints at BBC World Service, Radio 4 and Reverb Radio in Brighton, weren’t a lot of help for making gin. “I had very clear thoughts about how I wanted it to taste and the experience of it, but really bugger-all clue about how to do it,” she said. She realised that she would need the help of a scientist. The only one she knew was Dr Easy aka Ian Barry who is a physicist when she really needed a chemist, but beggars can’t be choosers. 

Their first still was a little unusual. It was a glass apparatus which was used in the not hugely successful Samuel L. Jackson film, The 51st State, and Caton picked it up for £100 on Ebay. “We set it up in Easy’s kitchen. Looking back now we were just really dangerous and clueless. But each time you make a mistake you’re like ‘well we won’t do that again!’ and you learn more and more from it,” she explained.

Then she had a lot of fun experimenting. She described the process as like Road Dahl’s book George’s Marvelous Medicine, “everything would go in.” Initial batches were not promising: “They were so overloaded with stuff, they tasted like Domestos. I’m still using that for cleaning around my flat!”

But gradually, through trial and error, she narrowed it down to what she wanted. “Licorice was one of the things that was very early on the list to be booted out, “ she said. She was looking for a classic profile, a gin that tasted like juniper and citrus. Along with Dr Easy, she also called on the palate of top wine writer Johnny Ray who became an investor in the business.

The Brighton Gin team

Oh, they do like to be beside the seaside! (photo by Liz Finlayson/Vervate)

The gin boom!

Horrible early batches weren’t the only problems they encountered. “I popped out for a bag of crisps, which again, I would now never do. I would never leave anything running and just pop out to the corner shop,” she said. “When I came back I discovered what happens when you have windows open, glass and mirrors and quite strong sunlight bouncing around. There was a lot of clearing up to do.” The Samuel L. Jackson still had exploded! Fortunately nobody was hurt.

“I then went down what I now realise is the more sensible route of getting a small copper alembic and really just learning the process of distillation,” Caton said. She found that running the stills slowly got the best results though achieving consistency in the early days was not easy. 

The final recipe uses a “super-smooth organic wheat spirit as the base,” she said, with juniper from Macedonia and coriander seed “from Ringmer just eight or nine miles from where I am at the moment and that’s got quite a lemony spice to it.” They use fresh lime and orange peels, meaning lots of hard peeling work, “but those fresh peels definitely bring a different spectrum of flavour to it really,” she said. They do a cold maceration and then a warm one before distillation with everything in together. Now, though, she has now handed over distilling duties to Paul Revell, “ a former riot copper and also a former prima ballerina.” So Brighton!

Brighton Gin

Strong branding

Brighton belles

Brighton gin hit the shelves in 2013 and had an immediate impact. A delicious product helps as well as a strong brand trading on the town’s image.There can be few more apt places to make gin than Brighton, sharing as they do a seedy sort of glamour. This dates back to when the town was a favourite haunt of the Prince Regent in the late 18th and early 19th century: “the Prince Regent’s favourite breakfast drink, which he called ‘cherry cordial’ was basically a pint of cherry gin. So maraschino liqueur and gin, by the pint.” Caton said.

From the early days, it developed a strong local following and from there it developed into a national brand. It helped having a journalist on board in the form of Johnny Ray who made sure Brighton Gin was served at the Spectator magazine’s famous parties.

Since those heady early days, the gin market has been transformed. Caton said: “There’s been a huge explosion in flavoured and sweetened gins,” which she hopes will get new drinkers into the market. Brighton gin, however, has just stuck to its classic expression with a Seaside Strength version at Navy ABV appearing a couple of years ago. She doesn’t want to release anything unless it is perfect and consistent nor go down the limited edition route. But she hinted that the team is working on a new product, “they’re not ready to shout about it yet but nearly.”

The standard bottling is a wonderful product that manages to be absolutely classic but highly distinctive with its strong orange note. It really is smooth enough to drink neat and so naturally it’s superb in a Dry Martini. Caton said: “Cocktail-wise, I absolutely love and have never really grown out of a Negroni”. It’s a great all round gin making a lovely G&T with a slice of orange to bring out the orange in the botanical mix

Brighton Gin and Tonic

Makes a great G&T

Then comes the lockdown

Their business has changed a lot since the pandemic with the shuttering of the on-trade and not having festivals to go to. She explained: “Our business has been able to change virtually overnight to focus on selling direct to consumers through our website and supporting the off-trade and various other online sellers”. They have been making hand sanitiser as well as making deliveries on their Brighton Gin bikes. “I did quite a lot of public crying delivering to people. I remember delivering to a lovely woman down in Hove who had ordered a couple of bottles and some hand sanitiser and her saying ‘actually I’ve already got five bottles of your gin in my cupboard but I really want to see you all survive and I love what you’re doing with the hand sanitiser’.”

But with things opening up from the 8 March, it looks like the worst will soon be over. “I know that summer is coming again, we will be on the beach again some time!’” Caton said. Amen to that.

Brighton Gin is available from Master of Malt

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Five minutes with… John McCarthy, head distiller at Adnams

We spoke with head distiller John McCarthy about Adnams’ the grain-to-glass process, being a pioneer British craft distiller and the crucial difference between wash and beer. Oh, and he has…

We spoke with head distiller John McCarthy about Adnams’ the grain-to-glass process, being a pioneer British craft distiller and the crucial difference between wash and beer. Oh, and he has some quite strong views on pink gin.

Created within the Adnams brewery grounds in the picturesque English seaside town of Southwold, the Adnams Copper House Distillery opened in 2010. According to Adnams, it was the first brewery to be legally allowed to install a distillery in the UK. Today, Adnams counts gin, vodka, whisky, cream liqueur and distilled Broadside beer among its spirits. Head distiller John McCarthy has been there since (before) the start so who better to explain the whole thing to us?

Master of Malt: How did you go from an engineer to a head distiller, John?

John McCarthy: I started at Adnams 20 years ago now, in 2001, as an engineer from an electrical background. I came here to look after the electrical stuff that keeps the brewery running. As an engineer, I run projects and a project came along to put a distillery in.

We started talking about it in 2009 and I was deemed the best engineer for the job because I had done some brewing exams. So, I looked into how a distillery works and what you need to do. I did a five-day course in the States, set up by the German stills company, Carl. They were pretty busy in the US at the time, because the craft distillery movement was really taking off. Jonathan Adnams came along with me because it was his idea for the distillery and on the plane home, I asked him who would run it. He said he hadn’t thought about it, so I said, ‘I’ll give it a go’. That was my job interview.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

The lavish stills set-up at the Copper House Distillery

MoM: What was the craft distilling scene in the UK like back then?

JMcC: It was new and exciting. The English Whisky Co. was going, Chase had started. There were very few of us and after that, distilleries were popping up everywhere, within a few years. A lot of people said to me at the time, ‘do you really like all these other distilleries popping up?’ And I thought it was great because the gin category exploded when there was an explosion of gin producers. If there hadn’t been 50 gin distillers, there wouldn’t have been the gin craze. It’s the variety of products that actually caused the craze to happen.

MoM: So, is that what you set out to make first? Gin?

JMcC: Gin first, but Jonathan’s angle, always, is that because we’re a brewer, it’s going to be grain to glass, we’re not going to buy neutral grain spirit. I have used NGS in the past, but only for contract gins, which we make for a couple of different people. We buy NGS for that because the vodka I make to make our gins is quite precious to us, it’s quite labour intensive to make.

MoM: Tell us about the grain to glass process…

With our grain to glass approach, the brewers had to learn to make a distillery wash. There are differences that happen in the brewhouse. When you mix your malted barley or whatever grains you’re using with warm water, you’re getting enzymes to break down the starches into sugars. When you brew beer, you want that to be at a certain temperature so you get a make-up of sugars that are fermentable and non-fermentable, you want long chain sugars like dextrin, because you want sweetness. And you want sugars that are smaller, like maltose and glucose, which will ferment into alcohol. You want alcohol, but you also need to retain some sugars that will not ferment. That’s beer. When you make a distillery wash, you want it all to be fermentable because you can’t distil sugar – you’re just wasting starch.

Barrels at Adnams Copper House Distillery

Wood experimentation in an important part of McCarthy’s job

MoM: Speaking of beer, how’s Spirit of Broadside doing? Have you made spirits from any of the other beer brands?

JMcC: We haven’t. Lots of people love Spirit of Broadside but the problem we have is it’s a hard sell. We basically did it as a stepping stone to making whisky. It helped us to have a brown spirit early on. We’ve still got some, we still make it. The big advantage of having our own shops is we can get people to try it before they buy it.

MoM: Rumour has it you use a pretty interesting yeast strain…

JMcC: Adnams yeast is two different strains, which we’ve had since about 1940. They are called class one and class three and we like to have 50% of each. If we have 50% of class one and class three, we get good, steady, vigorous fermentation – a good performance. We get the right amount of alcohol, everything’s lovely. If it gets out of 50/50, then we get problems: stuck fermentations, cloudy beer, all sorts. The problem we have is class one is a chain-forming yeast – it is very vigorous, and dominant. Class three (you can see the difference under a microscope) is ones and twos [as opposed to chains] and it is not so strong, it tends to get dominated by the other one. So, we have to propagate class three and do regular yeast counts. That’s the yeast we use for everything. And it’s free!

John McCarthy head distiller Adnams

John McCarthy in action at the Adnams Copper House Distillery

MoM: Adnams is also known for its wine business – are you doing anything exciting in the distillery with wine casks?

JMcC: We filled some Port and sherry casks with new make. They’ve been laid down for five years now. We have our three whiskies – our rye, a triple malt and a single malt. The single malt has gone into the sherry and Port casks, which I’m keeping. I’m into the idea that we need to do special releases. I want to do distiller’s choice-type releases, where I’ll just pick a single cask and bottle it. The sherry and Port might go for that.

I did buy some TGS (tight grain selection) barrels. They cost an awful lot of money but the tight grain, apparently, in the fine wine industry, gives a more refined wine, it just takes a lot longer to get there. So, I bought some of those to see what they did with spirits. I’ve got an experiment that’s been going with those for about seven years now. I’ve not even tried it. I will soon.

I’d say over 90% of the barrels I buy have never been used – freshly made and freshly toasted, straight from the cooperage in France. We do fill some ex-bourbon because our single malt is a blend of French oak and ex-bourbon, 66:33. If this distiller’s choice idea kicks off, I will buy some wine barrels to do some finishes in.

We’ve also made one barrel, about eight years ago now, of brandy from locally grown grapes. There’s a vineyard about 14 miles away from here and I bought a couple of thousand litres of wine off them and distilled that into brandy. Suffolk grapes making Suffolk brandy. It is a mix of Seyval Blanc and a bit of Müller-Thurgau.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

Southwold’s famous lighthouse reflected in a still window

MoM: Any other future plans you want to share?

JMcC: I’d like to grow whisky. I think English whisky is going to be a thing. There are around 20 people making whisky in England and Wales. So, it would be nice to get together and become a category. We’ll continue with gin, we’re doing seasonal gins. To come up with another great gin is always a good thing.

MoM: Do you think gin has still got legs?

JMcC: I think it’s on the wane. I don’t think that’s an issue, I think that’s probably a good thing. There are some gins that I don’t agree with – pink gin.  Hold my hands up, I make a pink gin but I try to make a pink gin that still tastes like a gin. There are a lot of gins out there that don’t. You can’t really call them gins but they’ve got gin on the label. I know the WSTA and the Gin Guild are working very hard to get rid of some of those.

MoM: Do you do any alcohol-free spirits?

I have played with it. I thought I ought to find out because someone is one day going to say, ‘John, make an alcohol-free spirit’, and I need to know how to do it. But we did some research and there really isn’t much money in it. It’s not a big category. There’s a lot of shouting about it, though.

MoM: What has been the biggest surprise when it comes to distillery life?

JMcC: How much fun it has been. When you’re an engineer, you just get called to install stuff and fix stuff. Going from that to actually being someone who makes something and gets good feedback for things I’ve made, or a recipe – that’s one of the highlights.

MoM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

JMcC: I’d probably still be an engineer. I’d be fixing someone else’s distillery, on my hands and knees in a puddle.

The Adnams spirits range is available from Master of Malt.

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What we’re treating our mums to this Mother’s Day

We know our mums are awesome all year round – but we still want to make them feel loved on Mother’s Day! This is what Team MoM is picking up…

We know our mums are awesome all year round – but we still want to make them feel loved on Mother’s Day! This is what Team MoM is picking up for their mas this 14 March.

Mum, mother, mom, mam, mama, amma, ma, The Mothership…  We all call our mums different things here at MoM Towers (heck, it’s even almost in our own name!). The mothers either in or represented across the building (ok, we’re largely working remotely right now) come in all forms, too: single mothers, adoptive mothers, working mothers, working-plus-homeschooling mothers, mothers raising children together, step mothers, cat mothers, dog mothers, even plant mothers. Maybe we’re desperately missing our mothers. Motherhood looks different for everyone, and we want to celebrate it all year round, not just on Mother’s Day (14 March, if you still need to mark the diary!).

This year we thought we’d widen the conversation around motherhood. We asked people from across Team MoM to pick out a pressie for their ma. But we also asked people for their favourite quotes about motherhood, from books and poetry to TV and film. Read on, enjoy, get some inspiration, but most of all, let’s celebrate mothers!

Mother’s Day gifts from Team MoM

Lauren Cremin, Fulfilment Assistant: Mór Irish Gin

Lauren and her Mother's Day recommendation, Mór Irish Gin

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be treating my mum to a bottle of Mór Irish Gin. My mum LOVES a good G&T, especially one that gives a nod to her Irish heritage and that she can sip whilst reminiscing about her own mum who was actually from Abbeydorney, also in County Kerry! 🥰 Luckily, we have been surviving lockdown together so I’m sure if I ask nicely she’ll let me have a glass or two!

“I’m not a regular mom, i’m a cool mom, right, Regina?” – June George, Mean Girls

Emma Symons, Customer Relations Advisor: Hermitage 2005 Chez Richon Grande Champagne Cognac

Emma and her Mother's Day recommendation, Hermitage Cognac

Mum’s not a big spirits drinker, but a few Christmases ago, I bought myself a bottle of Hermitage to open after dinner. Feeling festive, Mum had a taste and discovered out she absolutely loved it! She ended up buying a bottle herself to share with dinner guests, which I know went down very well and wrapped up many a successful gathering – so well that it ran out a long time ago. I think this will be a lovely reminder of happy get-togethers and something to look forward to sharing around a table again one day in the not too distant future!

Henry Jeffreys, Features Editor: Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus

Henry's mum (plus his daughter), who looks likely to get  Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus for Mother's Day!

My mother loves a glass of bubbly so I think she’s going to enjoy this Kentish sparkler. It’s made from Bacchus, a grape that when grown in England tastes distinctly of elderflowers, another one of my mother’s favourite things. Here’s to you mum, let’s hope you get to play with your grandchildren again soon.

“A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.” – Erin Kelly, The Burning Air

Holly Perchard, Customer Relations Advisor: Gin Mare Gift Pack with Lantern

Holly, her mum, and her Mother's Day gift recommendation, Gin Mare Gift Pack with Lantern

This Mother’s Day I’m definitely going to be getting my mum the Gin Mare gift pack with the gorgeous white lantern. Not only will the gin go down a treat, but we also get a nice lantern to put around the house! Daughter of the Year?

Kristiane Sherry, Editor: J.J. Corry The Sonas

Kristiane, her mother and Grandma with JJ Corry The Sonas for Mother's Day

I’m going to treat my mum to a bottle of The Sonas. It’s really deliciously soft Irish whiskey and its name means ‘happiness’ – which seems fitting for Mother’s Day! She’s in a bubble with my grandma too, so hopefully they can share a dram of happiness together.

“Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising.” – Nia Vardalos, Instant Mom 

James Ashby, Stock Control and Replenishment Coordinator: Lind & Lime Gin

James, his mum, and a Lind & Lime Mother's Day treat

I’ll probably get my mother a bottle of gin, like Lind & Lime, Twisted Nose or Mermaid Gin. She’ll enjoy the gin and then add some bottle lights to them to use as a lamp.

Abbie Green, Customer Relations Advisor: Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

Abbie and her mum will toast Mother's Day with Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

For Mother’s Day this year, I am going to buy my mum her absolute favourite bottle of Champagne: Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label. I chose it because this Champagne brings joy to everyone, just like my mum! It’s the perfect gift for any occasion.

“Mothers are all slightly insane” – J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Jess Williamson, Content Assistant: Bathtub Gin

Jess, her mum and a Mother's Day treat in the form of Bathtub Gin!

My mum adores Bathtub Gin, even more so after we both became obsessed with Negronis together! It’s the gin she always ends up going back to no matter what, so it’s a failsafe pressie that she’ll definitely love. I won’t be able to share a G&T (or Negroni) with her this year, but at least I’ll know she’ll be enjoying whatever she makes!

Guy Hodcroft, Buyer: Foursquare Spiced Rum

Mother Hodcroft will get Foursquare Spiced Rum for Mother's Day

During a trip to Barbados in the late 1990s (a trip to which, I should add, my brother and I were NOT invited), my mother developed a taste for the excellent spiced rum produced by Foursquare. Used as a tot in coffee for a winter warmer or a base for tropical cocktails in summer, it has become a firm favourite.

Whether you’re a mum yourself or celebrating yours (or both!), Happy Mother’s Day!


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Cocktail of the Week: The Queen Mother

Today, we’re making a cocktail with one of France’s greatest aperitifs, Dubonnet, and named after a departed member of the Royal family. It could only be the dear old Queen…

Today, we’re making a cocktail with one of France’s greatest aperitifs, Dubonnet, and named after a departed member of the Royal family. It could only be the dear old Queen Mother!

A few years ago I was planning to write something on Dubonnet and so asked on Twitter who looked after the marketing for the aperitif. I got some very funny replies along the lines of ‘two sleepy old men with a fax machine.’ It’s that sort of brand: globally famous but not a priority for its owners, Pernod Ricard. There’s no fancy marketing campaigns for poor old Dubonnet featuring beautiful young people responsibly partying the night away.

The American branch of the Dubonnet family, made in Bardstown, Kentucky by bourbon producer Heaven Hill, at least has its own website; the French-made original doesn’t appear to have one. 

The original recipe

Dubonnet was invented in 1846 Joseph Dubonnet. Reading the American website, he’s called Sir Joseph Dubonnet. There’s no explanation, however, of why or how he obtained a British title so we’re just going to stick with plain Joseph (His grandson Andre Dubonnet was made Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, a sort of French knighthood and sounds like a right character). Anyway, his invention is part of the great family of wine-based French aperitifs that get their bitterness from quinine, others include Byrrh and Kina Lillet. Apparently, it was originally meant as a malaria remedy for French legionnaires. 

Dubonnet advert

A lady enjoying Dubonnet responsibly with her cat

It’s still made from classic southern French grapes including Grenache, Macabeo, and Carignan which are fortified with grape spirit to prevent fermentation, and then aged for around three years. The process is quite similar to Pineau des Charentes. This alcoholic grape juice is flavoured with various botanicals including quinine, cacao, orange peel, cinnamon, green coffee and elderflower. As with many French aperitifs, the alcohol level has been reduced over the years and now sits at 14.8% ABV.

The US version formulated by Heaven Hill is quite different being made with Californian wine and flavoured with black currant and black tea as well as quinine. According to an article in Punch, it is in fact closer to the original but we have no way of corroborating this. 

The Royal connection

It might not be loved by Pernod Ricard but Dubonnet has an impressive fan club. It’s something of a cult drink among bartenders. Then there’s the royal connection: the Queen and her late mother were noted Dubonnet drinkers. A Gin & Dubonnet was the Queen Mother’s favourite drink so much so that when drunk in her favourite ratio, two parts Dubonnet to one part gin, it’s now named after her. Feel free to add a ‘God, bless ‘er,’ every time you say its name.

A few of these a day didn’t seem to do her any harm as she died in 2002 at an impressive 102 years old. I hope she got her letter from the Queen when she hit 100. Her cocktail is almost identical to something in The Savoy Cocktail Book called the Zaza except the Zaza uses a 1:1 ratio.

As the Queen Mother was a famous gin lover (in fact all the older Royals are, Prince Charles loves a Dry Martini), perhaps the Zaza should be the Queen Mother. Especially as Zaza is a diminutive of Isabella ie. Elizabeth. 

Whatever you want to call it, this is a great throw-it-together sort of cocktail. You can serve it straight up, or on the rocks, play around with the ratios as much as you like, add a dash of orange bitters, or mix things up by swapping the Dubonnet for sweet vermouth (when it becomes a Gin & It) or even sloe gin. It’s so versatile that you’d think someone at Pernod Ricard head office would do something with it. Perhaps a campaign to appeal to the long-neglected older drinker?

Queen Mother Cocktail with Dubonnet

Image courtesy of Dubonnet

Here’s how to make a Queen Mother:

60ml Dubonnet
30ml Bathtub Gin

Add the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, and stir for one minute. Strain into a chilled coupette and serve with an orange twist.

The Cocktail Dictionary by Henry Jeffreys is published by Mitchell Beazley and available from all good bookshops.

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Top 10 delicious drinks for Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Don’t forget to treat your mum with something tasty – luckily we’ve rounded up a whole range of gift-worthy tipples right here… This is your…

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Don’t forget to treat your mum with something tasty – luckily we’ve rounded up a whole range of gift-worthy tipples right here…

This is your friendly reminder to get your hands on something delicious for Mother’s Day (it’s on 14 March, FYI). Nothing beats cracking open a bottle together, though this year it’s probably going to be a little different – let the Zoom drinks commence! Nonetheless, you can rest easy knowing that you picked out a top bottle for her to enjoy for the occasion. 

Brilliant bottles await! 

Lind & Lime Gin

Lind & Lime Gin

Your mum will love a gorgeous bottle of delicious gin, and that’s exactly what we have here – Lind & Lime Gin is the first release from Edinburgh’s Port of Leith Distillery! The zesty spirit was inspired by Dr. James Lind of Edinburgh, who first made the link between citrus fruits and scurvy. Alongside a good dose of lime citrus there’s pink peppercorn and juniper spice, too. Plus, after it’s been drunk, you could use the bottle for all sorts of other purposes. Candle holder. Vase. Lamp. The list goes on!

What does it taste like? Bright citrus, fresh and authentic. Juniper is oily and subtly spicy, bolstered by pink pepper and cardamom warmth.

Jaffa Cake Rum

Jaffa Cake Rum

Orange and chocolate. A dynamic duo, and flavours you’ll often find in aged rum. The folks behind Jaffa Cake Rum went one step further, a blended Caribbean rum with real life Jaffa cakes, alongside oranges, fresh orange peel and cocoa powder! Make sure to whip your mum up a Rum Old Fashioned, garnished with a Jaffa cake – failing that, a ribbon of orange peel will do. Mother’s Day drinks, done!

What does it taste like? Zesty orange, cake-y vanilla, and tropical fruit tang, with dark chocolate and bittersweet coffee bringing balance.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Whether your mum is a seasoned sipper or looking to explore the world of whisky, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old is a superb choice. The delicate and flavoursome Highland single malt was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, with just a smidge of smoke running through it. Sublime stuff, and maybe she’ll even share a dram with you if you’re nice enough to give it to her!  

What does it taste like? Oily and nutty, with almond and butterscotch alongside heather honey, malt biscuits, and oaky vanilla. 

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019

Our Kentish neighbours at Chapel Down know exactly how to make the most out of their Bacchus grapes, and this sparkling wine is one such example! This is a wonderfully refreshing English wine, brimming with vibrant fruit and gentle vanilla notes, all carried by fine bubbles. The perfect bottle to pop open on 14 March!

What does it taste like? Elderflower, pineapple, mango, citrus, cut grass, and nectarine.

Mermaid Pink Gin

Mermaid Pink Gin

Remember what we said literally just now about beautiful bottles and delicious gin? Well, not to hammer the point home, but we’ve got another brilliant example here from the Isle of Wight Distillery! It’s a blushing variant of its gorgeous Mermaid Gin, infused with strawberries from the aforementioned isle. Think bright berry fruitiness balanced by savoury rock samphire and herbaceous Boadicea hops, and you’re there. Pair with a splash of elderflower tonic and handful of fresh strawberries, and serve it straight to your mum. A sure way to become the favourite!

What does it taste like? A burst of bright berries initially, with citrus and piney notes, balanced by subtly coastal samphire.

Starward (New) Old Fashioned

Starward (New) Old Fashioned

Mother’s Day calls for cocktails! Though if you’re not familiar with the ol’ shaker or stirrer, a pre-bottled serve might be the best option. This is the (New) Old Fashioned from Starward in Australia, made with its very own whisky, house-made bitters, and, for an extra Australian touch, wattleseed demerara syrup. If you have ice and a glass, then you’re ready to serve this tasty tipple!

What does it taste like? Sharp orange, stewed berries and strawberry jam, oak, a hint of mint leaf.

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

A tropical treat for you from the Project #173 range, made with a delicious top-quality rum base which has been flavoured with the tangy delights of pineapple! It’s totally gift-worthy too, because it’s presented in a bottle adorned with actual 23 karat gold leaf. Go on and make Mother’s Day Daiquiri with this. It’s like a normal Daiquiri, except you’ve made it on Mother’s Day without being asked!

What does it taste like? Vibrant pineapple, and tangy tropical fruit, with fried banana, runny caramel, and a crackle of peppery spice.

Dr. Squid Gin

Dr. Squid Gin

Yes, this is unusual, but that’s what makes this Cornish tipple amazing! Dr. Squid Gin is from the Pocketful of Stones Distillery in Penzance, and it’s made with real squid ink – we know you saw that one coming, you read the name, right? As such, there’s a coastal touch to the spirit, balanced by those classic notes of juniper, citrus, and spice. As if it wasn’t cool enough, it even turns bright pink when mixed with tonic water! And it’s presented in a copper flask! See? Cool!

What does it taste like? Juniper and citrus kick it off, with a subtly savoury sea breeze running through, along with a helping of sweeter florals.

Caoruun Gin

Caorunn Small Batch Gin

First things first, if you’re going to give Caorunn Gin to your mum, you’re going to have to know how to pronounce it. It’s ‘ka-roon’. You’ll also probably want to know what’s in the Scottish spirit, and it’s local botanicals galore! Hand-picked rowan berry, heather, coul blush apple, and dandelion feature in here, and its signature serve is with a good quality tonic and slice of apple to garnish.

What does it taste like? Floral heather, woody juniper, and green, leafy notes, with a burst of citrus and spice.

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Premium Gin Collection

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Premium Gin Collection

Drinks by the Dram has taken all the hard work out of choosing by doing it for you, rounding up 12 of its favourite gins in this gorgeous collection. Within you’ll find 12 wax-sealed 30ml drams from all over the world – we’re talking England, Australia, Finland, and more! It’s the perfect shape for easy wrapping (should you be so inclined), though covered in florals it’s pretty just as it is.

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The history of Beefeater gin

What stories lie behind famous drinks brands? In the first of a new series, Lucy Britner looks into the history of Beefeater gin from its foundation by James Burrough in…

What stories lie behind famous drinks brands? In the first of a new series, Lucy Britner looks into the history of Beefeater gin from its foundation by James Burrough in 1876 to the launch of a new 20% ABV light version earlier this year. 

The year is 1876. Tchaikovsky has just finished Swan Lake, Alexander G. Bell is applying for the telephone patent and James Burrough has created Beefeater gin.

Early days in Chelsea

Devon-born Burrough, a chemist by trade, purchased the Cale Street distillery in Chelsea for the princely sum of £400, back in 1863. He embarked on making liqueurs, fruit gins and punches and counted Fortnum & Mason among his customers.

About 13 years after he set up shop, the first mention of Beefeater, named after the Beefeaters at the Tower of London, is said to have been recorded in the company’s papers.

Burrough died in 1897, aged 62, leaving his sons to run the business.

James Burrough founder of Beefeater Gin

James Burrough founder of Beefeater Gin

Move to South London

The Burrough boys must’ve been doing a pretty good job because by 1908, the distillery had relocated to Lambeth. The new site, which retained the Cale Street name, was equipped with the very latest stills, allowing for increased production. According to local historians, the new site also gave the company access to a well, capable of supplying London water with the right taste profile for the company’s gins.  

Beefeater poured out of Lambeth for 50 years but by 1958, the distillery had outgrown its surrounds and the Burroughs sought new premises. They relocated to the old Haywards Military Pickle factory at Montford Place in Kennington – the same site the distillery occupies today.

Conquering America

Advertising campaigns from the late ‘50s show that Beefeater had established itself as a premium brand: “A little more to pay, a little more to enjoy”, reads a UK campaign from 1959. And the following decade, the gin was enjoying success Stateside. According to the company, Beefeater made up “three out of every four bottles of gin imported into the US”. Then, in 1963, it was the only gin selected to be on board the maiden voyage of the QEII to New York.

The Burrough family sold Beefeater to Whitbread, the brewing giant, in 1987. From there it went to another behemoth, Allied Domecq, before coming under the ownership of Pernod Ricard in 2005 – as part of Pernod’s £7.4bn acquisition of Allied Domecq. The purchase catapulted Pernod onto the world stage, as the second-largest global drinks company after Diageo.

Desmond Payne, Beefeater Gin

Master distiller Desmond Payne enjoying a Gibson (photo credit: Chivas Bros.)

Desmond Payne, gin royalty

Along with both Plymouth and Beefeater, Pernod also inherited a man who has come to be a bona fide gin legend – and synonymous with the Beefeater brand: Desmond Payne. After 24 years at Plymouth, Payne returned to London in 1995 to make Beefeater. And he’s still there today. In fact, Payne’s life in gin was recognised in the 2018 New Years Honours list, when the master distiller received an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to the British gin industry.

Payne and his team have created many expressions of Beefeater over the years, as the brand looks to keep up with the fashions.

London wet gin?

Before the gin boom really took hold, the company went against the ‘Dry’ terminology associated with its London Dry Gin, to launch Beefeater Wet, in 1999. The gin-based drink was described as “sweeter and more fruity” and flavoured with pear essence. Although I’ve never tried it (it was discontinued ages ago), I’ll wager it was designed to appeal to the vodka drinker.

Almost a decade later, by 2008, the gin movement was gathering pace and Beefeater’s ‘Forever London’ marketing campaign cemented the brand at the heart of the London gin scene. In the same year, Payne created Beefeater 24 – a super premium brand extension, named after the 24 hours it takes to steep the gin’s botanicals. 

The Burrough name has never been far away from Beefeater and in 2013, Payne released Burrough’s Reserve. The gin, which is designed for sipping, was “rested” in Jean de Lillet oak barrels, giving it a straw-coloured hue. (Incidentally, the Burrough name is also connected to another well-known London gin maker – James Burrough was the great grandfather of Christopher Hayman and the Hayman family have been distilling gin ever since.)

Beefeater Distillery in Kennington, South London

Beefeater Distillery in Kennington, South London

Beefeater becomes a tourist attraction

But back to our story, and in 2014, a multi-million pound visitor centre opened at the Kennington distillery, marking what Pernod Ricard claimed at the time was the first gin distillery in London to have a visitor centre attached. (How times have changed!) To coincide with the opening, Payne created Beefeater London Garden gin, which was available only at the distillery.

Constant innovation

The following year, Beefeater relaunched Crown Jewel as a “thank you” to bartenders who lobbied the company for the 50% ABV gin’s return. The gin, which first appeared in the early ’90s, featured the same botanicals as Beefeater, though with the addition of grapefruit.

Innovation marches hand-in-hand with consumer trends and in 2018, Beefeater blushed: the launch of Beefeater Pink saw the addition of natural strawberry flavour to citrus and classic juniper botanicals. “Beefeater Pink really captures what gin has become, a modern, vibrant, colourful and innovative category, where consumers are not afraid to challenge the classics and conventions,” said Beefeater brand director Eric Sampers at the time.

Since then, we’ve seen the likes of Blood Orange and Blackberry join the flavour ranks and in answer to the low- and no-alcohol trend, the company released Beefeater Light. The 20% ABV product was launched in Spain only earlier this year. So far, it hasn’t appeared in the UK but never say never.

In the most recent results announcement, for the six months to the end of 2020, the Beefeater brand saw sales decline 20% on the same period a year prior. It’s a tough comparison to make, though, given the world has changed so much in that time; this is almost entirely down to the collapse of the Spanish bar and restaurant market where the brand had a dominant position. 

The company did, however, say that flavours were proving popular. And as if by magic, Beefeater Peach & Raspberry has just joined the fold. According to Pernod, it is “inspired by two historic recipes from founder, James Burrough, who created Peach Liqueur and Raspberry Gin in the 1800s”.

Beefeater 24

Beefeater 24 premium gin

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Do augmented reality bottle labels have a future?

As McQueen Gin announces a revamp of its core range to include labels equipped with the technology of augmented reality we assess how much potential the interactive experience trend has….

As McQueen Gin announces a revamp of its core range to include labels equipped with the technology of augmented reality we assess how much potential the interactive experience trend has.

How does “taking a dive into a black cherry and vanilla gin pool” sound? Or venturing on the mountain of Ben Ledi to learn about its spirit? To be honest, most people would probably sign up for a tour of that box factory from The Simpsons just to get out of the house. But you don’t have to leave the comfort of your couch to witness the above. These are virtual experiences, housed in the label of a gin bottle.

McQueen Gin bottles, to be exact. The Scottish gin brand has announced today the launch of its revamped core range, complete with labels equipped with shiny new augmented reality technology (the new label bottles are exclusive to the brand’s website). Here’s how it works: you download the McQueen Gin app on your smartphone. You then select the function that scans your bottle’s label and voila! Animations will appear on your screen.

The app (available on the Apple and Android stores) also houses cocktails recipes, some brand info and exclusive McQueen rewards. In the bottle I have, the Black Cherry and Vanilla, a David Attenborough-inspired voiceover does a comedic take on the bottling process. You can also watch animated gin bottles jumping off a big slide into the aforementioned black cherry and vanilla gin pool. Which does look terrifically fun. Although I imagine it’s a health and safety minefield.

McQueen Gin pivots to augmented reality

Six months and £20,000 investment has led to this, what McQueen is calling the “world’s coolest labels”. MD Dale McQueen explained the motive behind the decision. “At its core, one of the fascinating sociable aspects of society can be found when we share a drink with our friends, either in the pub or in our homes. With that option being limited in the current climate, we have enhanced this experience by creating an engaging AR experience on our six core range bottles that people will enjoy sharing across social media. We wanted to make not just an enjoyable tasting gin but an experience which would bond people together and give them something other than great taste to talk about”

The pandemic hasn’t just prohibited the vast majority of people from socialising but has also provided drinks brands with plenty of time to decide how to work around the issue of not being able to promote and market products face-to-face. The absence of bars and festivals is keenly felt by all. For the McQueen founders, Dale and his wife, Vicky McQueen, the solution was this kind of innovation, achieved by partnering with a new digital marketing partner, Purple Imp from Dundee. 

The strategy to help the brand become better noticed included designing a new website, streamlining the range to a flagship six gins and giving each a new interactive label. “We love making a quality product in Scotland that’s enjoyed in all corners of the world, but who wants to be another gin company, another brand that’s just forgotten about,” Vicky explained. “We want people to not only drink McQueen (responsibly) but think McQueen. So we brought world-class augmented reality, an individual unique experience, to each of our gins.”

Can augmented reality labels make their mark?

McQueen Gin co-founder Dale McQueen believes in the future of AR

Will augmented reality labels take off this time?

The appeal is clear. Drinks brands are always keen to reach a wider audience and product packaging is one of the key spaces you can grab consumer’s attention. Opening up this space to engage consumers is a logical move and AR has the ability to create a bright and colourful world with just a small marker, like a QR code. Point your smartphone and unfurl a universe. The potential is there to use the technology to announce events, promote new expressions and share recipes, all while positioning your brand as innovative and advanced. After all, it’s better to establish a point of difference then to try and weave false notions of tradition or uniqueness into your story and consequently devalue it. Today’s consumer is inquisitive and has access to all kinds of info. A thin veneer is easily exposed.

So, why hasn’t everyone embraced AR? Well, the truth is, many have tried. Shackleton, Jack Daniel’s , Remy Martin and Jim Beam had a go. As did 19 Crimes Wine, while Chivas Regal tapped into the interest in AR back in 2011. Such go-getters. We even took a swing with our own MoMer’s Web Page Gin. But the technology has never built any momentum. There’s a perception in the industry that AR is popular with marketing departments as it seems cutting edge but people don’t actually engage with it. So far it doesn’t seem to have appealed to consumers beyond the first try and customary Instagram post. The apps become one of those that stay on your phone for months on end until you notice it one day and promptly delete it.  It can also come across as gimmicky to booze nerds who would rather have detailed breakdowns of production processes rather than flashy animations.

They won’t be the target audience that makes or breaks AR, though. Whether it becomes a technology that’s increasingly adopted or something we all look back on and say “oh yeah, I remember those” will be down to the average consumer. It will be interesting to see whether McQueen’s customers engage with it more than once and, more importantly, whether it helps shift gin. The jury is still out on whether augmented reality labels can be a useful marketing tool or a gimmick that’s already looks dated.

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Smoke on the water: The BeauFort Spirit story

Today we delve into the links between history, perfume and booze with Leo Crabtree, the force behind the BeauFort range of spirits, and learn that it’s not easy to get…

Today we delve into the links between history, perfume and booze with Leo Crabtree, the force behind the BeauFort range of spirits, and learn that it’s not easy to get the taste of real smoke into gin. 

Leo Crabtree has had some interesting jobs before launching his own drinks company BeauFort Spirits last year. There was the business selling moustache wax during the great moustache boom of the 00s, then there’s his perfumery that’s still going strong, oh and he also plays drums for a little-known beat combo called the Prodigy. It makes a change from many new spirits brands where the story starts with: made a packet in the city and built a state of the art distillery.

It began with a moustache

The BeauFort range consists of the navy strength Fifty-Seven Smoked Gin and Three Tides Smoked Rum. In a roundabout way it was moustache wax that led to these spirits. He explains: I had a big moustache and so this was back in the hipster days when I was living in London. I was stuck for moustache wax and the products you find are these crappy little tins that are always quite boring. So I started making my own in my kitchen in London. Then I needed some fragrance for it so I just started mucking about with essential oils.” 

Leo Crabtree BeauFort spirits relaxing in an armchair

As you can see, Leo Crabtree has moved on from his moustache days

This kicked off his interest in perfume. Crabtree says: “I looked at what was in the marketplace and I thought ‘this is all quite safe and pretty dull’ and that we could do something a bit different. So we did.” This led to the creation of BeauFort Perfumes in 2015

The name comes from the Beaufort scale in wind: “I was looking for a name that conjured up a lot of associations with a nautical past but also this idea of vacillations in strength. The wind is obviously always moving in terms of its power. That was quite a good idea, I thought, for a fragrance name: something that is invisible but powerful.”

Crabtree is a history obsessive particularly about the Georgian era, the most dynamic and colourful time in British history. He collects Hogarth prints and other Georgiana and that interest in history informs everything he does. 

From perfume to gin

They might seem very separate but historically the worlds of perfume and gin were linked. Making gin is a lot like making perfume, it’s about capturing flavours in alcohol. As Crabtree explains: “Distillation of essential oils is something that has been happening in perfume for millennia. Some of the early proto-wearable fragrances were drinks. They were distilled. There’s this one called ‘aqua mirabilis’ which was like an early eau de cologne, but it was basically gin!”

Initially, however, Crabtree wasn’t planning to make booze. He says: “The project began as an attempt to make a fragrance that was based around gin. The more I worked on that aspect the more interesting it became to do it the other way round. To make a gin that was based around fragrance ideas. And this weird discovery that the word ‘perfume’ is actually derived from the Latin, it means ‘through smoke’ – ‘per fumum’.” 

BeauFort 57 Smoked Gin

BeauFort Fifthy-Seven Smoked Gin, inspired by perfume

The idea for a smoked gin was born, but how to turn it into reality? By now living in the Cotswolds, Crabtree turned to help from Sion Edwards who he describes as “my recipe master”. At the time Edwards worked for Langley in the West Midlands; Crabtree was captivated by the company: “It’s not a show distillery, there’s nothing shiny about it,” he said, “it’s like walking into Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s workshop.” He worked with Edwards, Natalie Wallis and Rob Dorsett from Langley on the flavour profile that includes Szechuan pepper and liquorice. 

Smoke in the water

Then the challenge was to get the smoke in: “We did the first trial with oak and hickory chips that had been used so they had already been burnt – which didn’t really work. It didn’t bring the aroma, it didn’t bring the taste”, he says. “You could use liquid smoke but obviously part of this is to keep it as natural as possible. So we ended up going to a smokery in Wales and they produced us a water which was like a concentrated smoked water and we used that to cut the liquid.”

Edwards left Langley in 2018 and moved to Union Distillers in Market Harborough, and Crabtree went with him. So for the production process: “Langley distills the gin base. We add smoke and fun at Union” as Crabtree put it.

There is also a smoked botanical rum called Three Tides, which is also created at Union. Crabtree explained a little about the flavours used: “We have gorse, elderflower, cacao and oats.” The first two are collected from Edwards’ farm in Wales. “The rum was originally Guyanese from Demerara,” Crabtree told us but now they use blend. It’s heavy on the funky Jamaica pot still with some aged Dominican and some young Bajan rum.

BeauFort Land Rover

The currently underused BeauFort Land Rovers

He admits the rum is not an easy sell: “People will not pay more than, say, 35 quid for a bottle of rum. People will happily pay 40 quid for a bottle of gin – and it baffles me!” But then again nothing has been easy launching during a global pandemic. 

What a time to launch a brand

“When the news hit about COVID I was actually on the M6 headed north to a gin show in Glasgow. And I had a call from a friend and he said ‘I don’t think it is a good idea’ and I was like ‘I don’t think it is either!’ so we just turned around and came back. And that was going to be the first event in a series of about 40 different shows we were going to do last year, which obviously just got canned overnight. We didn’t ever really get around to launching officially,” Crabtree said.

He had planned to take his products on the road, “I’d just bought these bloody Land Rovers that we were going to be using for these shows!” he says. Instead, apart from a couple of events over the summer, it’s all been online. He started a brand website and “we haven’t seen a fall off of sales because we didn’t have them in the first place,” he jokes. COVID has also put his music career on hold.

Sales were helped by BeauFort 57 Smoked Gin winning a Gold Outstanding at the IWSC in 2020, scoring 98 points out of 100. There’s no doubt it’s a cracking drop, a real gin for all seasons. The punchy smoky juniper led taste makes it brilliant in a G&T cutting through even the sweetest of tonic waters. It also makes a fearsome Negoni and Martini. Crabtee recommends a Gimlet with a few drops of gunpowder tea or a Martinez

However you drink it, there’s that smokiness melding with the spice and juniper. Crabtree describes it as very different to an Islay whisky smoke, it’s woody rather than medicinal. And it’s so evocative: “To me, it’s historical, somehow, and you can’t really put a finger on why. Maybe it’s like going to Jorvik [famously smelly Viking museum in York] or something when I was a kid. There’s something really primal about the smoke, it’s elemental but also it smells like the past, because everything was smokey back in the past!”

The BeauFort range is available from Master of Malt.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Last Word

This week’s cocktail is a once-forgotten classic that’s made with one the world’s great liqueurs, the mighty Green Chartreuse.  The Last Word first appeared in print in Ted Saucier’s 1951…

This week’s cocktail is a once-forgotten classic that’s made with one the world’s great liqueurs, the mighty Green Chartreuse. 

The Last Word first appeared in print in Ted Saucier’s 1951 book Bottoms Up! Let’s just stop and reflect on what a great name Saucier is, especially for a bartender. ‘Who’s saucier than you, Ted?’ one can imagine his regulars saying. Though sadly the word doesn’t have quite the same connotations in the US. Anyway! The Last Word predates Saucier’s book by a good few years; it was the signature drink of the Detroit Athletic Club where members had been knocking it back since at least 1916. 

Unlike many of these social clubs that crop up in cocktail history, the DAC is still going strong in its beautiful Italianate building built in 1915 on Madison Avenue in downtown Detroit. I bet that building has seen some changes in its time.

Detroit Athletic Club

Detroit Athletic Club, the home of The Last Word (credit: Bnosnhoj)

Fittingly for a drink associated with clubland, it’s based on Green Chartreuse, one of those liqueurs like kummel that was particularly popular in British clubs in the early 20th century. It plays a cameo role in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Anthony Blanche (brilliantly played by Nikolas Grace in the ITV series) describes it with his trademark stammer: “Real g-g-Green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks, there are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It’s like swallowing a sp-spectrum.”

Blanche is referring to the fact that the original Chartreuse was made by monks who were expelled from France in 1904 during the Third Republic’s periodic bouts of anti-clericism. The property was nationalised but the monks refused to give up their secrets and moved production to Tarragona in Spain. So at one point there were two Chartreuses: one made to the original recipe in Spain, and one made at the original facility but to a new recipe. The latter fake Chartreuse went bust in 1927. 

The monks were allowed to return to France in 1929 though production continued in Spain until 1989. Original bottles of pre-1904 Chartreuse are very valuable and at 55% ABV will not only be drinkable but like Madeira, it improves with age while essentially being immortal. Today, Green Chartreuse is still made to the original monk’s recipe from a secret blend of herbs. A bit like Kentucky Fried Chicken.

It’s distinctive flavour means that it’s long been prized by bartenders. Like absinthe, just a little can transform a cocktail giving it depth. This means, however, that it doesn’t go with everything and mixing it with a distinctive liqueur as maraschino was certainly a brave move but combined with the other ingredients, lime juice and gin, it works wonderfully. The traditional recipe calls for equal parts of everything but that makes it rather sweet so I’ve gone with Simon Difford’s (his new book is invaluable for cocktail enthusiasts) recommendation and upped the gin level. I’m using Bathtub Gin because though The Last Word predates the Volstead Act by a few years, it was a popular choice during Prohibition.

The Last Word cocktail

Don’t attempt any athletics after one of these

Those challenging flavours might be why the drink disappeared from cocktail menus after the publication of Bottoms Up! It was revived when Murray Stenson came across an old copy of Saucier’s book and thought the Last Word would be just right for his new venture, the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle. It really found fame, however, when it was served at the Pegu Bar in New York which was opened in 2005 by Audrey Saunders. In an interview she described the cocktail like this: “I love the sharp, pungent drinks, and this has a good bite. It’s a great palate cleanser. And it’s perfectly balanced: A little sour, a little sweet, a little pungent.”

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Here’s how to make it.

30ml Bathtub Gin
20ml Green Chartreuse
20ml Luxardo Maraschino
20ml freshly-squeezed lime juice

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, shake hard and double strain into a chilled coupette.

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