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Tag: Martini

Top ten gins for 2021

We’ve picked some of our favourite new gins and some classics to drink this summer, with tips on how to enjoy them. So, whether you’re a Martini lover or adore…

We’ve picked some of our favourite new gins and some classics to drink this summer, with tips on how to enjoy them. So, whether you’re a Martini lover or adore a G&T, here are our top ten gins for 2021.

The gin world does not stand still. Every week, we are inundated with great offerings from new producers and new offerings from great producers. It’s an exciting time to be a gin lover. But all that choice can be a bit daunting. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite gins both new and classic to enjoy in the sun this summer.

There’s everything here from vibrant Mediterranean-style gins to complex port cask-aged spirits; we’ve included tiny producers and global brands. If it’s delicious and contains juniper, then it’s a contender. So without further ado, here are our top ten gins for 2021.

Top Ten gins for 2021

hyke-gin-very-special-gin

Hyke Very Special Gin

We loved everything from Foxhole Spirits. The team uses leftovers from wine production in their distinctive gins. This gives the base spirit an unmistakable floral character. Combine that with other botanicals including grapefruit and Earl Grey tea and you have a gin of great elegance and smoothness that’s worth treating with a bit of care.

What does it taste like?

A well-rounded, luxurious spirit carries notes of delicate citrus, herbal tea, crisp juniper leading into warming cubeb and ginger spiciness. Perfect Martini gin.

portobello-road-savoury-gin

Portobello Road Savoury Gin

If you like your gin to taste like gin, then you’ll love this latest release from London’s Portobello Road. It majors on the juniper which combined with Calabrian bergamot peel, Seville green gordal olives, rosemary and sea salt produces a deeply dry gin that positively reeks of Mediterranean. It’s the next best thing to going on holiday. Gorgeous bottle too.

What does it taste like?

Powerful juniper, pungent herbs and refreshingly bitter citrus notes. This might be the ultimate G&T gin but it’s a great all-rounder. 

port-barrelled-pink-gin-salcombe-distilling-co-that-boutiquey-gin-company-gin

Port-Barrelled Pink Gin – Salcombe Distilling Co (TBGC)

And now for something completely different. This was produced by Devon’s Salcombe Distilling Company in collaboration with Port house Niepoort and bottled by That Boutique-y Gin Company. The base spirit is a pink gin, steeped with sloes, damsons, rose and orange peel post-distillation. It’s then aged in a cask which once held a 1997 Colheita Port to produce something of great complexity and deliciousness.

How does it taste?

Fragrant and fruity with plum and orange oil. Lovely sipped neat on ice or with fresh raspberries in a seriously fancy G&T.

bathtub-gin

Bathtub Gin

Alongside all the exciting new products, we’ve included a few old favourites like the mighty Bathtub Gin. It’s made with a very high quality copper pot-still spirit infused with ingredients including juniper, orange peel, coriander, cassia, cloves and cardamom to produce a powerful gin with a creamy viscous mouthfeel. 

How does it taste?

The initial focus is juniper, but the earthier botanicals make themselves known in the initial palate too with the most gorgeously thick mouthfeel. Negroni time!

dyfi-original-gin

Dyfi Original Gin

Dyfi gin was set up in Wales by two brothers, Pete Cameron, a farmer and beekeeper, and Danny Cameron, a wine trade professional, in 2016. It took them two years of research and tasting to come up with the recipe which includes bog myrtle, Scots pine tips, lemon peel, coriander, juniper and more. A very special gin. 

How does it taste?

Drying juniper and coriander spiciness, powerful pine notes with a touch of oiliness, bright bursts of citrus keep it fresh and light.

cotswolds-no-2-wildflower-gin

Cotswolds No.2 Wildflower Gin

The Cotswolds Distillery was set up to make whisky but the team began making gin to help with cash flow. And they turned out to be rather good at it. This is based on the distillery’s classic dry gin which is then steeped with botanicals including elderflower and chamomile to create a floral flavoured gin inspired by the wild flowers of the Cotswolds. 

How does it taste? 

Earthy liquorice, a crackle of peppery juniper, softly sweet with candied peels, just a hint of clean eucalyptus lasts. This would make a splendid Tom Collins.

fords-london-dry-gin

Fords Gin

Created by bartender Simon Ford in conjunction with Thames Distillers in London to be the ultimate all-rounder gin. For the botanical selection, they use a varied selection from around the world, including grapefruit peel from Turkey, jasmine from China, angelica from Poland, lemon peel from Spain, as well as juniper from Italy.

What does it taste like?

Herbal rosemary and thyme meet floral heather and juniper, pink peppercorns, and grapefruit pith. Try it in a freezer door Martini

gin-mare-gin

Gin Mare

No, the name is not a reference to the bad dreams you have after a night on the sauce. It’s the Spanish word for sea, pronounced something like ‘mar re’, and it’s another Mediterranean stunner featuring rosemary, thyme, basil with lots of zest, and the start product, arbequina olive. This is the gin of Barcelona. 

What does it taste like?

A fragrant, perfume-like gin majoring, very herbal and aromatic with notes of coriander, juniper and citrus zest. 

dingle-original-gin

Dingle Original Gin

It’s another ‘while we wait for the whiskey’ gin, but it’s no afterthought. Containing rowan berry, fuschia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather, this gin from the Dingle Distillery in Kerry won World’s Best Gin at the 2019 World Gin Awards. And when you taste it, you’ll understand why. 

What does it taste like?

Juicy and sweet with authentic summer berry notes, followed by fresh herbs (think mint leaf and fennel).

finders-fruits-of-the-forest-gin

Finders Fruits of the Forest Gin

Made by the the Finders team just outside York in a town that rejoices in the name Barton-le-Willows, this Fruits of the Forest Gin provides a burst of berry sweetness alongside juniper, orange peel, lavender and sage. A fruity, floral treat, which should shine when paired with a Mediterranean tonic.

How does it taste?

Prominent violet and lavender florals, alongside summer berries and leafy sage. Could there be a more perfect gin to make a Bramble?

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Five great gins from around the world

We’re having a gin festival at Master of Malt this week so on the blog we’re highlighting five great gins that show the sheer diversity that can be found in…

We’re having a gin festival at Master of Malt this week so on the blog we’re highlighting five great gins that show the sheer diversity that can be found in those three simple letters, ‘g’, ‘i’ and ‘n.’

This week it’s gin festival time over on the Master of Malt website. Gin’s beauty is in its versatility. All it needs to be is a spirit flavoured with juniper and you can go from there. You might favour a classic London dry gin, or something flavoured with sweet oranges, or aged in oak. 

It is made all over the world so to celebrate the wondrous diversity of gin, we’ve chosen three very different interpretations of juniper from England, South Africa, Venezuela, Scotland and Cornwall. Plus we’ve included some tips on the best ways to enjoy them.

Fords Gin Cocktail shaker

Fords London Dry Gin

When you have a vision for the kind of gin you want, you could spend thousands on a distillery and spend years learning how to be a gin master. Or you could go to the best. Like Charles Maxwell master distiller at Thames Distillers in South London. Maxwell is the source behind dozens of gin brands and probably knows more than anyone alive about turning someone’s gin dreams into juniper-scented reality.

Ford, an industry stalwart who was involved with bars such as Koba in Brighton before a stint as brand ambassador at Pernod Ricard, wanted to create a gin for all seasons. He explained: “I wanted to take elements from all of my favourite gins and put them into one, well-rounded gin.” To create that weighty profile, Maxwell steeped the nine botanicals for 15 hours to soften them and get them to release their oils before distilling in two John Dore stills, Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. 

The profile is juniper dominated, supported by other flavours including jasmine, cassia and grapefruit. The result is a weighty thick gin with a classic profile, bottled at a useful 45% ABV. It’s a great all-rounder but that viscosity makes it an obvious choice for a Martini.

Ford doesn’t just make gin, his business the 86 Co. (since 2019 part of Brown Forman) also makes Caña Brava rum, Tequila Cabeza, and Aylesbury Duck Vodka.

How to drink it

Ford suggests something called a freezer door Martini. Remove 200ml from your bottle, add 100ml of dry vermouth, and 100ml of filtered water. Shake, put in your freezer and it’ll always be ready when you want an instant Martini.

Inverroche Amber in a Negroni

Inverroche Amber Gin

This distillery was founded in 2007 by mother and son duo, Lorna and Rohan Scott. Their secret weapons are native South African plants called fynbos native to the Cape’s wine growing region. These are colourful shrubs and bushes that grow wild in a special area known as the Cape Floral Kingdom

The Scotts work with local botanists to preserve fynbos and harvest them sustainably. To make the gin they use between 20 and 30 different varieties of fynbos alongside more usually botanicals including of course juniper.  

These are distilled in a  tiny 1.7 litre copper pot still known as Mini Meg using vapour distillation so the botanicals sit above the sugar cane spirit. This is how the Scotts produce their classic gin but they also make two others which are the result of post-distillation infusion.

The Verdant is infused with “late summer blooms”, fynbos from mountainous areas, while the Amber gets its gorgeous colour from coastal fynbos. The result is a gin with a woody spice character with tobacco leaf and a nutty texture. It’s bottled at 43%ABV.

How to drink it

That texture and woodiness makes it a great sipper but it also adds a whole new layer of complexity to a Negroni: just add one part Amber Gin, one part Campari and one part sweet vermouth to an ice filled tumbler, stir thoroughly, and express an orange twist over and drop in.

We love Canaïma Small Batch Gin!

Canaïma Small Batch Gin

And finally a gin all the way from Venezuela. It’s called Canaïma and it’s the creation of bartender Simon Carporale who wanted to do something to help preserve the Amazon’s rainforest’s fragile ecology. 

These plans came to fruition when he met the founder of Diplomatico rum and the two came up with the idea to make a gin with a difference. For a start, the botanical mix is quite something with over 19 involved. 10 of them are sustainably-sourced Amazonian botanicals harvested by indigenous people. This includes açaí berries (a purple fruit known for its regenerative qualities), uve de palma (red fruit harvested from a palm tree), copoazú (related to the cacao tree), túpiro (an orange fruit known for its pleasant taste), merey (a kidney-shaped fruit that produces just one cashew nut), seje (a palm fruit that has oily flesh and a very delicate, chocolate-like flavour) and semeruco (a fruit foraged from the Andean foothills where Canaïma’s distillery is based). 

Alongside native botanicals, the team at Diplomatico also use more traditional botanicals such as juniper, grapefruit, and orange. They distill each one separately in a 500 litre copper pot still before they blend them into the final gin

Canaïma doesn’t just taste good, it does good too. It provides over 250 jobs for indigenous Amazonian people at its distillery. 10% of the sales go to Saving the Amazon charity and  Tierra Viva, a foundation that helps preserve native crafts such as 

woven baskets and coasters used by the brand.

How to drink it

The brand recommends something called a G&G which consists of 40ml Canaïma Gin, 150ml grapefruit soda and two lime wedges. Squeeze the lime wedges and drop them into a Highball glass, add ice, gin and grapefruit soda, give it a stir and garnish with a grapefruit twist.  

Hendrick's Lunar Gin

Hendrick’s Lunar

Hendrick’s really shook up the gin category when William Grant & Sons launched it back in 1999. That’s ten years BS (before Sipsmith) in gin terminology, ie. centuries in gin years which are longer than even dog years.

Anway, it was created by  distiller Lesley Gracie at the Girvan distillery in Scotland. Hendrick’s was unusual for a number of reasons. Gin was not fashionable in 1999, yet here was a new brand in distinctive medicine bottle packaging and then there was the taste! With it’s cucumber and rose petal profile, it didn’t taste like any other gin around at the time. It had some gin traditionalists harrumphing into their G&Ts. But quickly, a Hendrick’s and Tonic became a thing, always with a slice of cucumber rather than citrus fruit.

Hendrick’s Lunar is a little bit different from the classic bottling. Gracie was inspired by moonlit evenings tending botanicals in her hothouse. It’s a citrus-led gin with subtle peppery and floral notes to it, and it’s proved quite a hit with Master of Malt customers with lots of five star reviews. 

How to drink it

It’s a nice one to sip neat but also makes a splendid Lunar and Tonic with a slice of cucumber, naturally, and also a grind of black pepper.

Elemental Cornish Gin on a beach

Elemental Cornish Gin

And finally, from Cornwall, a part of England that’s not really English, we have Elemental Cornish Gin. It was one of the very first Cornish gins, founded back in 2013. Only eight years ago, but, as we mentioned above, a long time in gin years.

There seems to be some sort of connection between the pandemic and distilling as our very own Ian Buxton noted recently, and that’s certainly the case here with Cornish Gin. In early 2020, Nick and Joe Woolley moved to Cornwall with their toddler and took over the distillery, just before the entire country was locked down. Not great timing, but they have survived and thrived, turning out lots of high quality gin.

Their classic Cornish Gin is made in a copper pot still from 12 botanicals including lemon and orange peel, chamomile, cassia, cassia, cinnamon, cardamom and, of course, juniper.  It’s diluted with spring water from Bodmin moor before bottling at 42% ABV.

How to drink it

Elemental recommends a Martini or a G&T, but we can’t help thinking with those citrus notes it would make a cracking French 75, a blend of lemon juice, Champagne, gin and bitters (full recipe here.)

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10 bars and drinks to celebrate the great reopening

Today’s the day when England’s bars, pubs and restaurants open up properly for the first time since last year’s lockdown. So we asked 10 drinks industry experts which bars they…

Today’s the day when England’s bars, pubs and restaurants open up properly for the first time since last year’s lockdown. So we asked 10 drinks industry experts which bars they will be visiting first and the cocktail they’ll be ordering to celebrate the great reopening.

Well, it’s been a long wait since the third (or was it the fourth?) lockdown came into effect in December and once again the country’s hospitality industry was put into cold storage. There was a chink of light in April as pubs began serving again but let’s face it the weather hasn’t exactly been conducive to al fresco imbibing. Now, however, in England we can once drink inside, in the warmth, away from the freezing May weather. We’re calling it the great reopening. It’s a wonderful moment but what will your first drink be and where will you have it? We ask 10 industry types for their advice. There are some great suggestions here.

Bentley at Little Bat

  1. Little Bat: Bentley

Chosen by: Gergő Muráth, bar manager of Trailer Happiness

The bar: Thom Sohlberg and a team of talented bartenders bring the well-honed drinks concept of its overarching Callooh Callay group to Islington.

The drink: Based on the classic serve which featured in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book, Little’s Bat’s Bentley combines 35ml Calvados, 35ml Dubonnet and two dashes of Peychaud bitters, stirred, strained over ice and garnished with orange zest.

“Anyone who has made drinks for me knows I’m a super picky drinker with a fondness for rare ‘classics’ that deserve more love. Manhattan variations happen to be my absolute favourite style of drink (apart from tiki of course), and one of the first I’m getting is a Bentley. It uses Calvados and Dubonnet to create a unique, rich, fruity, and complex profile that will immediately make you feel like you’re sat in some 19th century high society club. The illusion will only be broken by the fact that the world’s jolliest Norwegian is cracking jokes at you about the fact that for the first time in forever, somebody apart from me has ordered the drink.”

Dukes Martini served by Alessandro Palazzi

  1. Dukes Bar: Dukes Martini

Chosen by: Sasha Filimonov, UK ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin

The bar: Anyone partial to a Martini will have Dukes on their bucket list. Headed up for the last 15 years by the indomitable Alessandro Palazzi, Ian Fleming’s favourite spot sees Martinis made and served table-side at the Dukes Hotel’s unassuming but beautiful bar.

The drink: Not for the faint-hearted, the house Martini features five parts of the drinker’s premium gin of choice, wash of vermouth, Amalfi lemon and a side of snacks, all for £22.

It’s so, so hard to just choose one bar, but I often love to start my London cocktail tours at Dukes. It’s such a singularly special place — and experiencing Alessandro (above) and the team’s superb hospitality with a trolley-side martini is always so special and memorable. When I go to Dukes, I have a frozen Hendrick’s Gin Martini, with a vermouth rinse on the glass, garnished with a bright Amalfi lemon twist.”

The Del Monte Heads and Tails

  1. Heads + Tails: The Del Monte

Chosen by: Mario Sandgren, UK brand development manager for Indie Brands

The bar: This both destination and local bar in West Hampstead has two faces: Heads, a bright, airy, slick and greenery-filled space on its ground floor; and Tails, a cosy, dimly lit nook in its basement. The former specialises in spritzes and lighter-style drinks, while downstairs, Tails is where you will find headier, shorter serves. Bar stalwarts Chris Dennis and Will Partridge are at the helm. 

The drink: This apple-forward serve mixes Calvados, 30&40 Double Jus, rose vermouth and crème de banana.

“Heads + Tails as a concept brought together Chris Dennis’s two masterpieces in Disrepute and Sovereign Loss under one roof. One bar, light, bright, aperitif and white spirits; the other, dim, dark, aged spirits, more party. Together they make a full-spectrum venue catering to all your needs. The Del Monte speaks to my love of apple-based spirits and bananas. It’s light and fun and sophisticated but with enough body and kick for you to realise you’re drinking a cocktail. It’s everything I ask for in a cocktail.”

Trailer Happiness Daiquiri

  1. Trailer Happiness: Daiquiri (beer and a shot)

Chosen by: Sophie Bratt, assistant bar manager at Sexy Fish

The bar: Probably London’s most revered (and fun) rum bar, award-winning Trailer Happiness is headed up by Sly Augustin, who brings a big hit of Tiki to the melting pot that is Portobello Road.

The drink: Taking centre stage, the house daiquiri mixes 50ml Don Q Cristal rum, 25ml of lime juice and 20ml of sugar syrup, shaken over ice and served in a chilled coup. Beer and rum shot are drinkers’ choice.

I can’t wait to sit at the bar in Trailer Happiness because it feels like home to me… so the obvious choice of drink – a Daiquiri, a shot of rum and a beer – is the equivalent of having a cuppa Yorkshire tea and milk chocolate Hobnob with my slippers on with my mum.”

Voodoo Lily at Natural Philosopher Bar in London

  1. Natural Philosopher: Voodoo Lily

Chosen by: Philip David, co-founder of Distill and Fill

The bar: E2’s Natural Philosopher, owned by Josh Powell, takes inspiration from its surroundings, using foraged ingredients and creating drinks inspired by herbal medicines.

The drink: The Voodoo Lily is one of the bar’s lower ABV numbers with smoky Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Everleaf non-alcoholic aperitif, pineapple, lemon and soda.

I really can’t wait to get back to the Natural Philosopher: the ambience and design are fantastic, and Josh is a phenomenal host. As everyone knows I absolutely adore pineapples, so the Voodoo Lily ticks all the right boxes. As a nice fruity, smoky highball with the complexity from Everleaf it’s right up my alley!”

Connaught Martini with lemon.

  1. Connaught Bar: Connaught Martini

Chosen by: Neil Ridley, spirits communicator, author and co-founder of World’s Best Spirits

The bar: Headed up by director of mixology Ago Perrone, the cubist-style Connaught Bar – hidden within the Connaught Hotel – is synonymous with the Martini (and plenty of World’s Best Bar titles).

The drink: The Connaught Martini is a spectacle to see. Perrone and head mixologist Giorgio Bargiani make them table-side with guests able to choose their gin and an array of homemade essences. Then, they can sit back and watch the duo pour them from a seemingly impossible height.

“Walking into the Connaught Bar always makes me feel like I’m in the presence of greatness: the team’s attention to detail is absolutely seamless, from that warmest of welcomes to the fondest of goodbyes.  I’ll order a Martini: straight up with a twist from the trolley, using No.3 or the Connaught-own gin, and maybe a dash of cardamom essence, theatrically poured from such a great height. I’ll never, ever tire of how effortless the boys make it look, yet how utterly perfect it tastes. Cin cin, maestros!”

City of Plain cocktail at Oriole London

  1. Oriole: Cities of the Plain

Chosen by: Jenna Ba, world whisky brand ambassador for Diageo

The bar: Farringdon’s Oriole Bar combines the flavours and visuals of Europe and Africa in its cocktails with aplomb. It’s owned by Edmund Weil of other favourites, Swift and Nightjar, and features some of the best-looking drinks in town.

The drink: Boozy and smoky, this serve combines Bulleit Rye, Bruxo X Mezcal, bitter cherry liqueur, cedarwood vermouth and nougat amaro.

Live music, Nikkei bar food and whimsical cocktails are three things that bring jubilation to my life. I cannot wait to sit at the bar with my whiskey kin Kirsten Jarin and travel around the world through the flavours that Mihai Ostafi and Ali Ali’s team conjure together. Oriole is the best rendition of elegantly curated escapism.”

Banana Ramos at Murder Inc.

  1. Murder Inc: Frozen Banana Ramos

Chosen by: Liam Broom, freelance drinks consultant

The bar: The newest offering from the team at The Cocktail Trading Co, Soho’s Murder Inc. is a gloriously reimagined dive bar that serves delicious, playful drinks in some seriously fun environs.

The drink: A no-holds-barred mix of Jagermeister, banana milk, coconut cream, citrus, egg white and stout make the bar’s signature Frozen Banana Ramos an unsurprising favourite.

Being one of the lucky few to be able to call Murder Inc ‘my local’, living but a stone’s throw away from the little basement bar, gives me the opportunity to visit more often than I probably should. This is fine as they epitomise casual hospitality, with warm service and an electric atmosphere. One of their signature drinks, the Banana Ramos, is the cherry (banana?) on the proverbial cake, giving you the opportunity to pretend you’re a sophisticated grown up whilst simultaneously drinking a Jagermeister-based hardshake.

Jerezano at Happiness Forgets

  1. Happiness Forgets: Jerezana

Chosen by: Lorcan O’Duffy, brand manager at Speciality Drinks

The bar: Hoxton’s Happiness Forgets is one of the industry’s favourites. Headed up by general manager Chelsie Bailey and owned by Alistair Burgess, this tiny basement space has plenty of accolades to its name and serves up big flavours with relaxed and effortless charm.

The drink: Mixing Manzanilla and Amontillado sherries with sweet and dry vermouth, vanilla and orange bitters, the Jerezana can be served straight up or lengthened with tonic.

From the first time I popped into Happiness Forgets (after looking very suspiciously at the staircase…) I just felt at home. I felt relaxed and that I could just enjoy the atmosphere, the bubbling conversations jumping over each other and most importantly some bloody banging drinks. The Jerezana is one of those drinks that showed me what sherry and vermouth could do. Often underrated but never understated, I can’t wait to stride back into that basement again.”

A ready-made Pornstar Martini

  1. London Cocktail Club, Clapham: Pornstar Martini

Chosen by: Jenny Griffiths, co-founder Distill and Fill

The bar: One of London Cocktail Clubs myriad venues, its Clapham destination takes inspiration from nostalgic and cult-classic icons of cinema, tucked off Clapham High Street.

The drink: One of the most popular cocktails in recent years, the LCC’s version of a Pornstar Martini combines 35ml Finland vodka, 15ml passion fruit liqueur, 20ml passionfruit syrup, 20ml apple juice and 15ml vanilla sugar syrup – with, of course, a side shot of prosecco.

“The Clapham LCC was my local when I lived there and the welcome we got was always second to none. Their bars have always been my favourite because you know you are guaranteed a warm welcome, a great drink and a party as soon as you walk in! It’s also pretty wonderful when a Pornstar Martini is in front of you before you’ve sat down, and the second is close behind because the first one disappeared so quickly. I don’t care what everyone says about the drink, it’s vanilla-y passion fruit heaven and I love it.”

Do call to check that these places are indeed open this week.

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Classic Bars – The Gibson

In the second part of our occasional series on classic bars, we head to a listed, Edwardian ex-pub in Old Street, that specialises in a certain pickle-adorned cocktail. Welcome to…

In the second part of our occasional series on classic bars, we head to a listed, Edwardian ex-pub in Old Street, that specialises in a certain pickle-adorned cocktail. Welcome to The Gibson.

Head to 44 Old Street and you’d be forgiven for thinking the petite Edwardian building is a natty little boozer, complete with a hanging pub sign and green-tiled exterior walls. Venture inside, however, and you’ll find one of London’s most lauded bars.

The Gibson was opened by bartender Marian Beke in 2016 and won sixth place in the World’s 50 Best Bars soon after. Since then this 1930s-style tribute to the glamour and ceremony of cocktail culture has drawn visitors on the search for Beke’s famous Gibson Martinis (incidentally, my favourite cocktail), cigar collection, stellar service, treasure-trove decor and nightly changing live music.

It’s an industry favourite too, attracting bartenders from around the world wanting to get behind its uplit, copper bar to take advantage of Beke’s many homemade ingredients, house pickles and one-of-a-kind glassware. So, where did it all begin?

The Gibson Bar London

It looks like an ordinary boozer in Old Street

Pickle me this

“I used to work at Nightjar which is a great place, and I think it was just the next step,” explains Beke of his decision to set up shop solo. “In our industry you work 18/19 hours a day and I was thinking, I’m 30/31 now, if I wait until I’m 36 or 37, it might just be too difficult.”

To find the perfect spot, Beke had to have three or four ideas for his bar in the bag to account for the unknowns of location, size and licensing laws of his new venture. And then he found an 1870s listed building off the crossroads of Old Street and Clerkenwell Road, and the rest fell into place.

“When you look at the outside, it looks like a pub, it’s very English and with gin being very British, we asked what drink was the king of gin – the Martini.” Back in 2016, although some bars were championing the famous cocktail, Beke found that there was a distinct lack of Gibson culture (a gin Martini with a pickled onion).

The original cocktail is thought to be named after Charles Dana Gibson, a turn-of-the-20th-century American illustrator. He created the Gibson Girl, a pictorial representation of an independent Euro-American woman which Beke adopted as his logo, hung her image outside his bar, and The Gibson bar was born.

Gibson Girl

It’s a Gibson Girl!

Drinking time

The 50-odd-strong cocktail menu starts, of course with three iterations of the famous Gibson Martini. Its signature, inspired by William Boothby’s 1908 book The World’s Drinks, combines Copperhead Gin, pickling spice, Martini Ambrato Riserva, house double-pickled onion and a twist of lemon. This is followed by the Redistilled Gibson which macerates its ingredients for 72 hours; while the Aged Gibson Martini is aged in ex-balsamic barrels for six months.

The rest of the menu doesn’t escape Charles Gibson’s influence either. “I was looking for something different,” says Beke of what he wanted to create back in 2016. He found inspiration in Gibson’s 1901 Life’s Gibson Calendar. “The calendar concept is interesting, because people do relate to different months,” says Beke. “January has its own flavours, slowly moving through to June, July and August relating to summer with more fruity flavours, and then to December with the likes of whisky cocktails.”

Described as a ‘time machine’ the menu includes cocktails with names such as Gnome Alone, Royal Warrant, Jaffa Cakes and Bread & Butter with each month having four cocktails, one for each week of the month, and drinks comprising up to as many as 10 ingredients. As with his homemade pickles, Beke has also introduced some standout additions into his drinks. The house Red Snapper includes lobster broth and horseradish squid ink; the Shanghai Sling uses a duck fat-washed rum; you’ll find cannabis syrup in your Lindo Gaucho; and if you’ve ever wanted to try preserved salty duck egg Advocaat, do yourself a favour and order The Frying Dutchman.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention the tiki-esque glassware. Think cocktails served in a golden foot, an open hippo mouth, as a lightbulb, swimming in a paper hat and hanging from a monkey’s tail. Of course, what’s inside the glass is most important for Beke, but he’s been clever to recognise the role that social media can play in a bar’s success. He also saw first-hand guests’ reactions when he took those visuals away: “For the first time after five years, we decided to do something simple, seasonal and served in the likes of Champagne flutes with 30% off. So many people were like ‘no, no where is the proper glass?’ – it was so funny to see what happens when you take the glass or garnish away.”

Inside the Gibson

Inside the Gibson

Gibson on wheels

Thankfully, Covid hasn’t stopped Beke turning out his creations and the Gibson Boutique is a one-stop shop for all of our home drinking needs. Cigars, cocktail art and even pieces from the back bar (Gibson Lager, Electric Bitters, The Gibson’s Del Professore Pickled Vermouth) can be purchased, as well as a selection of garnishes – beer lego jellies, porcupine quills *add to cart*.

Drinks include Gibson Martini sets, all three signature Gibsons, Buttered Old Fashioneds, a Pink Death in the Afternoon and the three-pepper Kiss of a Scorpion.

It goes without saying though that I and the bars many other fans can’t wait to get back inside (or outside) the building. Beke’s focus on service is one of The Gibson’s most defining features, with seated only service, side pickles to nibble on, live music, and digestif shots and chocolate arriving with the bill, the whole experience of drinking at 44 Old Street is a memorable and unexpected one. “I always prefer it when people don’t know us and are passing by and imagine they’re walking into a pub,” explains Beke of what he hopes guests feel when they visit, “I want them to think this is the best experience they’ve had in a long time.”

The Gibson bar

I just popped in for a pint, and now this…

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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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Top ten: Vermouths 

Forget the old days of just French or Italian, vermouth is now a broad church with examples from Spain, Australia, and England joining the old counties in a celebration of…

Forget the old days of just French or Italian, vermouth is now a broad church with examples from Spain, Australia, and England joining the old counties in a celebration of all things bitter. Here are ten of our favourite vermouths with tips on the best ways to mix them.

Vermouth sales have been booming since the various lockdowns came into effect. Hasn’t that year just flown by? Still, at least we’ve got pretty good at making cocktails, especially with all these exciting vermouth brands around. So we thought it a good idea to round-up some of our favourites. We’ve included some stone cold classics, some recently-arrived brands and some innovative new vermouths from established producers. Something for everyone. 

What is vermouth?

Vermouth is simply wine flavoured with wormwood, the word is derived from the German for wormwood, and other botanicals, fortified with alcohol and sweetened. The EU rules state that it  has to be flavoured with wormwood, made with at least 75% wine and between 14.5% and 22.5% ABV. The wine can be red, white or even pink. Colours vary from straw yellow to deep red, sweetness levels from extra dry (around 30g of sugar per litre) to extremely sweet (130g per litre or more). 

So, welcome to the wide world of vermouth. Your cocktail cabinet isn’t complete without a couple of these:

Noilly Prat Vermouth

Noilly Prat Original Dry

One of the great originals. This is still made in the south of France from Picpoul and Clairette grapes, steeped with botanicals, fortified and then left out in barrels in the sun where it acquires a nutty cooked taste not unlike Madeira.

How to drink it?

For many this is the ultimate Martini vermouth, but it’s also great in a long drink with tonic and a slice of lemon. 

Regal Rogue Daring Dry vermouth

Regal Rogue Daring Dry Vermouth

A vermouth with a distinctive Australian twist using organic wines from New South Wales alongside native botanicals such as anise myrtle, quandong and native thyme. It’s bottled with less sugar than a normal dry so you can really appreciate the quality of the wine.

How to drink it?

Mark Ward from Regal Rogue recommends having it in a very wet Dry Martini in a 1:1 ratio and served straight up.

Sacred English Dry Vermouth

Sacred English Dry Vermouth

This is made using English wines from Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire by one of England’s craft gin pioneers. It’s the vermouth of choice for Alessandro Palazzi at Duke’s Bar in London. Say no more. 

How to drink it?

Well, it has to be a Dry Martini but made a little wetter than Palazzi does. We love a 5:1 gin to vermouth ratio especially with a brand this good.

Gonzalez Byass La Copa vermouth extra seco

Gonzalez Byass Vermouth La Copa Blanco Extra Seco 

Spanish vermouth is really having a moment at the moment and some of the most exciting bottlings are coming from sherry producers. This extra dry is crisp and refreshing and you can really taste that nutty fino sherry on the finish.

How to drink it?

Try it in Nate Brown’s favourite, a Bamboo. Half Tio Pepe fino sherry, half vermouth, stirred with ice and served straight up with a dash of orange bitters.

Scarpa Extra Dry vermouth

Scarpa Vermouth Di Torino Extra Dry

This is a very special bottling, made with Cortese grapes (like Gavi) from Piedmont, native Italian botanicals including chamomile and elderflower, only 30g of sugar per litre and, most unusually, bottled unfiltered. This is vermouth at its finest.

How to drink it?

The flavour is intense so a little makes a great Spritz with Prosecco and fizzy water. Or sip it chilled with snacks like you would a manzanilla sherry.

El Bandarra al fresco

El Bandarra Al Fresco

Just part of the new wave of Spanish vermouths that we reported on last year. The brand was started by twin brothers Albert and Alex Virgili. The Al Fresco version is made from Garnacha wines with botanicals including liquorice, rose, citrus fruits and mint.

How to drink it?

In a Spritz with cava, fizzy water and a slice of orange. Or just mixed with tonic.

Lustau vermut rojo

Lustau Vermut Rojo

Another great sherry vermouth made by one of Spain’s most prestigious producers, Lustau. This sweet vermouth is made from high quality sherry wines steeped with flavours including gentian, coriander and orange peel. You will love the long nutty finish.

How to drink it?

We recommend drinking it in a Palmetto. Stir 50ml good Jamaican rum like Plantation Xaymaca with 50ml Lustau Rojo with ice and serve straight up with a twist of orange.

Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino

Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino

Made by the largest vermouth producer in the world but this is very different to its standard rosso. For a start, it gets its colour from red Nebbiolo wines and the result is something perfumed, elegant and packed full of flavour.

How to drink it:

Lighter than most rosso vermouths, this makes the freshest Negroni you’ve ever had. Also irresistible in a Gin & It.

Hotel Starlino Rosso vermouth

Hotel Starlino Rosso Vermouth

A new Italian vermouth brand from the team who brought your Malfy gin so you can bet the branding is strong. The contents are great too. Made by the experts at Torino Distillati, this is a fairly trad rosso except that it’s aged in bourbon casks. 

How to drink it?

With those whiskey casks there’s one cocktail in which it particularly shines, the Manhattan, but it’s great with all dark spirits. 

Casa Mariol black vermouth

Casa Mariol

This is made by a winery in the Terra Alta region of Catalonia. Outside Jerez, this place is the heartland of Spanish vermouth. The wines are local, naturally, and botanicals include orange peel, rosemary and cardamom. 

How to drink it?

Gin and It, or rather, a Gin & Span. Take one measure of gin, Sacred Cardamom would be superb, one measure of vermouth and serve on ice with a twist of orange. 

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Easy cocktails to make at home

From the Negroni to the Old Fashioned, here are five easy cocktails to make at home without any equipment more elaborate than a shaker and a jigger. Once you’ve mastered the…

From the Negroni to the Old Fashioned, here are five easy cocktails to make at home without any equipment more elaborate than a shaker and a jigger. Once you’ve mastered the basics, we’ve included tips for how you can upgrade your drink.

Since the strange events of the past year, we’ve become quite proficient home bartenders here at Master of Malt, able to whip up a fairly passable Martini in no time at all. It might not look quite as fancy as one at the Savoy but it certainly hits the spot. That’s the great thing about the classic cocktails, you don’t need a lot of elaborate equipment to make them. In fact, just turn to our home bar essentials page for a good list of bottles you can make pretty much everything with. A proper shaker is worth having and a jigger, and then you’re ready to go. Cocktail nirvana awaits.

Dry Martini with olive easy cocktails to make at home

How to make a Dry Martini:

The king of cocktails! Probably more has been written about the Dry Martini than any other cocktail. The big question is: how strong do you like yours? Some people just like a splash of vermouth, but we like it a little wetter. It’s really up to you. However you like it, use top-quality gin, plenty of ice and whatever you do, don’t shake it!

Basic recipe:

60ml Bathtub Gin
10ml Dolin dry vermouth

First, chill your Martini glass, then fill a shaker with ice and add the ingredients and stir for 30 seconds. Pour into the glass and garnish with an olive. 

Top tip: Keep your gin in the freezer and vermouth in the fridge and your Martini will come out extra cold with less dilution.

The upgrade: Use new make spirit or unaged Armagnac instead of gin for a spicy alternative. 

Old Fashioned - easy cocktails to make at home

How to make an Old Fashioned:

The original cocktail. In the olden timey days a cocktail simply meant a mixture of spirit with water, sugar, ice and bitters. Rye whiskey or bourbon are the most common spirits used but the Old Fashioned can be made with pretty much anything under the sun such as rum, single malt Scotch whisky, mezcal, Tequila, or gin. 

Basic recipe:

60ml Black & Gold 11 Year Old Bourbon
1 tablespoon sugar syrup
Angostura Bitters to taste

Fill a tumbler with ice, add all the ingredients and stir thoroughly for 30 seconds. Taste, add more bitters of sugar syrup if you want. Express a piece of orange peel over the top, drop it in and serve.

Top tip: Don’t bother mucking about with sugar cubes like Don Draper in Mad Men, just use a simple syrup.

Upgrade: Use sweet sherry-like a cream or PX instead of sugar syrup. This works particularly well if you’re using a sherry cask whisky.

Negroni easy cocktails to make at home

How to make a Negroni:

Probably the easiest of easy cocktails, the bitter complex Negroni was once a trade secret, beloved by bartenders but thought a little too much for your average customer. Well, not any more, the Negroni is very much mainstream. Part of the appeal is it’s so easy to make. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of good cold ice and you’re ready to go.

Basic recipe:

30ml Campari
30ml Martini Rosso
30ml Beefeater London Dry Gin

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled tumbler. Still well, express a piece of orange peel and drop it in.

Top tip: A trad juniper-forward London Dry works best. We’ve had some Negroni disasters with liquorice-heavy and other unusual gins.

Upgrade: Everything is up for grabs with a Negroni. Try swapping the gin for mezcal, play around with different vermouths or even use something else like Amaro Montenegro instead of Campari.

Daiquiri Naturale easy cocktails to make at home

How to make a Daiquiri:

Nowadays when you order a Daiquiri in Havana, you tend to get the frozen version. What we have here is what’s known in Cuba as a Daiquiri Naturale. There are so many different ratios out there, this one comes from Simon Difford and it works beautifully.

Basic recipe:

50ml Havana Club Añejo 3 Year Old
15ml lime juice
10ml sugar syrup

Shake ingredients with plenty of ice and double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Serve with a wedge of lime

Top tip: Be carefully when squeezing the limes that you don’t get any oils from the skin in as this can make your Daiquiri bitter.

Upgrade: Use dark rum and a little coffee liqueur to make a rich Daiquiri Mulata, a great after-dinner sipper. 

Manhattan cocktail with orange peel, easy cocktails to make at home

How to make a Manhattan:

A good way to think of a Manhattan is that it’s a sweet Martini made with dark spirits instead of gin. Rye is traditional but there’s a whole family of similar drinks such as the Rob Roy, made with Scotch, the Emerald, with Irish whiskey, and the Harvard, using Cognac. 

Basic recipe:

50ml Michter’s US*1 Rye
25ml Cinzano Rosso 1757
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients with lots of ice in a shaker and strain into a cold coupe or a Nick & Nora. Express a piece of orange zest over and drop into the glass. 

Top tip: Though the Manhattan is traditionally served straight up, it’s also excellent on the rocks for when you want your easy cocktail fix quick.

Upgrade: Add a tablespoon of Fernet Branca to your Manhattan to give it a powerful menthol breeze. It’s like cough medicine for grown-ups. 

 

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The influence of films and TV on what we drink

With a new season of Sex and the City about to go into production, Lucy Britner looks at some of film & TV’s most celebrated drinks and drinkers and asks…

With a new season of Sex and the City about to go into production, Lucy Britner looks at some of film & TV’s most celebrated drinks and drinkers and asks just how much influence they have had on what we order at the bar.

“Why did we ever stop drinking these?” Miranda asks Carrie of the Cosmopolitan at the end of the first Sex and the City film. “Because everyone else started,” she replies.

From SATC to Mad Men, James Bond, Entourage and all the way back to The Thin Man in the 1930s, the world of TV and film has given us some famous drinks – and some infamous drinkers. But exactly how much sway do films and TV shows have over what we drink? And were some of these trends destined to happen anyway?

“I had to learn how to make a Cosmopolitan because of Sex and the City,” says bartending legend Salvatore ‘The Maestro’ Calabrese, who, in usual circumstances can be found at The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in London. “I’d never heard of it but people started asking for it.” 

Sex and the City

Does anyone fancy a pint? (photo courtesy of HBO)

Calabrese explains that in the US, serves usually featured more cranberry juice, whereas in Europe, just enough was added to give the drink, which is “basically a twist on a Kamikaze”, a pink hue.  

The Maestro says that in the late 90s and early 2000s, when SATC was airing, more women took an interest in bars, cocktails, Cosmos and twists on Martinis. He also points out that it was the era when London’s bar scene was really coming to life. LAB in Soho opened its doors in 1999 and Match around the same time.

Calabrese says until the 90s, bars were “taboo” and media coverage centred around chefs and wine. “These shows helped to bring bars and bartending to peoples’ attention,” he says.

Which came first?

There is, however, a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. New York-based cocktail historian David Wondrich (author of Punch) says that both SATC and Mad Men were influential, “but not to the extent touted by their fans”. “The Cosmopolitan/drinks in Martini glasses and Old-Fashioned trends were already growing before the shows,” he says, “but they certainly did give them each a boost.”

And as for rye whiskey (a key component in Don Draper’s Old Fashioned), it was already a thing. “Rye was in all the cocktail bars and had been a thing since about 2003,” says Wondrich. “But again, the show worked like a booster rocket that kicked in just in time to put the spirit to escape velocity.”

Mad Men also did great things for Canadian Club sales, according to brand marketing agency Hollywood Branded, which was responsible for the placement. The agency says on its site that after seven consecutive years of declining sales, Canadian Club obtained 4.3% annual sales growth since it debuted on the show. “While Beam does not attribute all the sales growth to the TV exposure, the company believes it has reinvigorated popular perceptions of the product,” Hollywood Branded notes.

Indeed, product placement is important and John Gakuru, who used to manage LAB in the early 2000s and is now US director of sales & marketing for specialist drinks agency Sweet&Chilli, describes a “never ending merry-go-round of alcohol brand sponsorships in TV and movies”. He used the example of Avión Tequila which launched itself, with great success, in HBO’s comedy-drama series Entourage.

One of Avión’s founders is a childhood friend of the show’s creator and it’s widely reported that not a penny changed hands to get Avión into the script. Gakuru says the show even “goes so far as to have a scene where Patrón was rejected in favour of Avión”. “This is a very, very powerful part of the marketing mix,” he adds. The show did wonders for the brand and the owners eventually sold it to global drinks giant Pernod Ricard.

Gakuru says it is clear that movies, TV and music can significantly move the needle when it comes to brands and cocktails.

Sean Connery as James Bond making a vodka Martini

Sean Connery as James Bond making a vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred

No shakes

And none have consistently attracted as much attention as James Bond and the Martini.

“Ian Fleming not only changed the spirit but he changed the method,” says Calabrese, pointing out that before Bond, a Martini was always gin and never shaken. Gakuru also highlights the James Bond effect. “Unfortunately anyone ordering a shaken vodka Martini in my bar in London in the early 2000s would elicit the largest, slowest and most obvious of eye rolls,” he says. “I mean, is the customer always right?!”

This departure from the original recipe caused a stir in the bar world – and a missed opportunity for Calabrese. In 2005, the Maestro was hosting a Casino Royale party at his bar at the time, Salvatore at Fifty. He served a Martini to the film’s director Martin Campbell, who was so impressed he said Calabrese should appear in the film. The Maestro refused: “I said I would not go on a movie and demonstrate the wrong way to make a Martini.” That’s dedication to the cause.

And though Gakuru wasn’t a fan either, he concedes that James Bond’s ‘vodka Martini, shaken not stirred’ is the cocktail that was the most ordered in his tenure behind the bar.

Though according to Gakura, the trend has since died away, “as Bond has shifted his drinking habits around, in line with the franchise’s sponsorship deals”.

The Thin Man

Sadly in this poster they’re drinking out of coupettes not Nick & Noras

Beyond Bond

Of course, the role of TV and film in drinking culture didn’t start with 007,  Wondrich used the example of The Thin Man, which was released the year after Prohibition ended in the US. “The Thin Man was early and very influential on setting up the idea of the cocktail as glamorous, progressive and fun,” he says. “Of course, that was in the 1930s, and a lot has happened since.” It was so influential that the glass frequently used during the film’s copious cocktail drinking became known after the lead characters, Nick and Nora.  

Meanwhile, the jury is out on whether a single show or movie is likely to have such influence again. Speaking about The Thin Man and Bond, Wondrich points out that “both of those things were before cable TV and the internet fragmented audiences. Modern things can be influential, but it’s harder for them to push across demographics.”

Calabrese concurs, suggesting that today it is the power of social media that helps to spread drinks trends. So, if the Cosmo makes a comeback with the new season of SATC, it’ll probably be down to Instagram.

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10 classic cocktails, served two ways

Thinking of going dry this January, or living with someone who is? We’ve pulled together 10 of our favourite classic cocktail recipes, presented with both boozy ingredients and non-alcoholic spirit…

Thinking of going dry this January, or living with someone who is? We’ve pulled together 10 of our favourite classic cocktail recipes, presented with both boozy ingredients and non-alcoholic spirit alternatives. No matter whether you’re swerving the sauce or in need of a stiff drink over the coming weeks, this guide is for you…

More than four million people signed up to Dry January at the start of 2020, skipping alcohol for 31 sober days to put some sober space between the unfettered indulgence of the festive season and their hopeful new year’s resolutions. While this year’s yuletide has been far from normal, once again many are looking to undertake the challenge and take a welcome break from booze. 

However, going teetotal doesn’t mean ditching your favourite drinks. There have never been more non-alcoholic spirits options available to choose from, with booze-free amarettos, aperitivos, whiskies and gins making flavourful substitutes for the ‘real’ thing. And if you’re not going alcohol-free for a month? You’ll find the original punchy recipe alongside in all its boozy glory…

1. Amaretto Sour

Amaretto is a sweet Italian liqueur traditionally flavoured with almonds or apricot kernels, and with an ABV of around 25 to 28%. Up until recently, there was no way of recreating this classic Sour serve sans booze – then Lyre’s stepped in and changed the game with their Amaretti.

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 50ml Disaronno, 25ml fresh lemon juice, 5ml sugar syrup, egg white

Method: Shake all the ingredients with ice. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Amaretto Sour

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 75ml Lyre’s Amaretti, 15ml lemon juice, 5ml sugar syrup, 10ml egg white, 3 dashes aromatic bitters

Method: Rapid shake with ice. Strain into glass and fill with fresh cubed ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

2. Old Fashioned

There are few ingredients in an Old Fashioned, making it particularly hard to nail a non-alc version. Three Spirit’s woody, aromatic Nightcap bottling makes a worthy whisky substitute in this drink.

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 35ml Bulleit Bourbon, 2 bar spoons simple syrup, 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method: Add two bar spoons of simple syrup, three dashes of bitters and Bulleit Bourbon to a large rocks glass. Add ice. Stir gently until the level of the ice and liquid equalise. Zest an orange peel over the glass then add the peel to the drink as a garnish.

Old Fashioned

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 50ml Three Spirit The Nightcap, 5 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Method: Combine all ingredients in a whisky-style glass and fill with ice. Stir until ice-cold, garnish with an orange slice, and top with a maraschino cherry.

3. Dirty Martini

With its saline quality and cloudy appearance, the Dirty Martini is a world away from the traditional variation. Pentire’s herbaceous, fresh, coastal flavours really lend themselves to the brininess of the olives. 

THE ORIGINAL

Ingredients: 50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin, 10-15ml Noilly Prat dry vermouth, 2 barspoons olive brine

Method: Combine Sipsmith Gin, dry vermouth and olive brine in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir for approximately 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a few olives. 

Dirty Martini

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 50ml Pentire Adrift, 3 Nocellara olives in brine, 5ml olive brine, 3 black peppercorns, 5ml maple syrup, grapefruit wedge (squeeze)

Method: Shake, strain, and serve over a block of ice. Garnish with an olive.

4. Basil Smash

This classic modern cocktail features a delightful green tinge that’s easily replicated in a non-alc version. Amplify’s lemon, bittersweet orange, earthy juniper and lemongrass notes really set the drink off.

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 50ml Martin Miller’s Gin, 1 bunch of basil leaves, 25 ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml sugar syrup

Method: Place basil and lemon juice into cocktail shaker. Gentle muddle the basil and lemon juice, ‘smashing’ the ingredients. Add sugar syrup and gin and then top up with ice. Shake and double strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with basil leaves.

Basil Smash

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 50ml Amplify, 10ml lemongrass syrup, 10ml lemon juice, soda water, handful of basil leaves

Method: Shake all the ingredients together, strain into a highball glass and top with soda. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf if you’re feeling fancy.

5. Margarita

Bright and tangy, the classic Margarita is simple to make and super refreshing. The same goes for Seedlip’s variant, made with its citrus-forward Grove 42 (featuring blood orange, bitter orange and mandarin) as a substitute for the sweet orange liqueur.

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 2 parts Espolòn Blanco Tequila, ¾ part Grand Marnier, 1 part fresh lime juice, ½ part agave nectar

Method: Shake over ice and strain into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Margarita

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 50ml Seedlip Grove 42, 1 tbsp agave syrup, 20ml fresh lime juice

Method: Prepare your glass by running a lime wedge around the outside of the rim then roll the rim in salt. Add all the ingredients with ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over fresh cubes of ice into a tumbler. Garnish with a lime wheel.

6. Manhattan

Non-alcoholic bourbon? It’s a real thing, thanks to the innovative folks at Lyre’s. Rustle up a Manhattan – which is traditionally built around rye (but you can use bourbon) – using their American Malt and Apéritif Rosso for a startlingly similar booze-free serve. 

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 2 parts Knob Creek Bourbon, ½ part Gonzalez Byass La Copa sweet vermouth, 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method: Stir and strain into a coupe cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Manhattan

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 60ml Lyre’s American Malt, 15ml Lyre’s Apéritif Rosso, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method: Stir briefly with ice, strain into a small coupette. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

7. Negroni

Given that it’s made entirely from alcoholic ingredients, you’d think it would be impossible to recreate the Negroni. Not so – often dubbed the ‘Nogroni’ when presented without booze, this version combines three non-alc spirits to create the same deliciously bitter effect. 

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 30ml Campari, 30ml Bathtub Gin, 30ml Martini Rosso vermouth

Ingredients: Pour all ingredients directly into a rock glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Negroni

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 25ml Seedlip Spice 94, 25ml Æcorn Bitter, 25ml Æcorn Aromatic

Method: Build over ice, garnish with a slice of citrus.

8. Bramble

Another contemporary cocktail that lends itself to experimentation, the classic Bramble’s blackberry liqueur and dry gin can easily be subbed for boozeless alternatives – such as blackberry syrup and Stryyk Not Gin (a distilled non-alcoholic alternative to London dry gin). 

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 20ml fresh lemon juice, 12.5ml sugar syrup, 45ml Portobello Road London Dry Gin, 25ml Braemble Liqueur

Method: Add lemon juice, sugar syrup and gin to an Old Fashioned glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice, garnish with a blackberry and a mint sprig and then dust with icing sugar. Finish by pouring a measure of Braemble Gin Liqueur over the ice.

The Bramble Cocktail

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 50ml Stryyk Not Gin, 20ml lemon juice, 15ml blackberry syrup

Method: Combine all the ingredients together in a shaker. Shake well before straining into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon slice and a blackberry.

9. Tom Collins

First memorialised in writing in the late 19th century by pioneering bartender Jerry Thomas, the simple, refreshing Tom Collins has stood the test of time. Make yours without booze by swapping the gin for floral Fluère Original, with botanicals including juniper, lavender, lime peel and coriander.

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 50ml Langley’s Old Tom, 20ml lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup, soda to top

Method: Fill Collins glass with ice. Add Langley’s Old Tom Gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda to glass and stir. Garnish with lemon wedge and cherry.

Tom Collins

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 60ml Fluère, 30ml lemon juice, 20ml simple syrup, soda to top

Method: Build in a Collins glass. Pour all the ingredients over ice cubes until the glass is 3/4 full. Top it off with crushed ice. Garnish with lemon wedge and maraschino cherry, or lemon wedge and a sprig of mint.

10. Aperol Spritz

A well-balanced Spritz has become synonymous with summertime sipping – but did you know you can enjoy the serve sans-booze? Switch the Aperol for Lyre’s Italian Spritz, which combines sweet orange and tangy rhubarb to bring a bright, bittersweet kick to the drink.

THE ORIGINAL 

Ingredients: 1 part Aperol, 1 part Prosecco DOC, soda to top

Method: Fill a wine glass with ice. Add the Prosecco followed by the Aperol. Add a dash of soda and garnish with an orange slice.

Aperol Spritz

THE NON-ALC VERSION

Ingredients: 60ml Lyre’s Italian Spritz, 60ml premium alcohol free ‘Prosecco’, 30ml soda water

Method: Add all ingredients to a large wine glass. Stir, and fill with fresh cubed ice. Garnish with an orange slice.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Gibson

Combining gin, dry vermouth and a pickled pearl onion garnish, the Gibson is an umami-rich, edgy alternative to the traditional Martini. This week, we’re dialling the umami-factor up a notch…

Combining gin, dry vermouth and a pickled pearl onion garnish, the Gibson is an umami-rich, edgy alternative to the traditional Martini. This week, we’re dialling the umami-factor up a notch with the Roku Gibson, a Japanese twist on the serve featuring fresh ginger and sushi vinegar. Here’s how to make the drink… 

The question of ‘who invented the Gibson?’ is best answered with, ‘who didn’t?’. Like many classic cocktails, there are differing theories about its genesis, with almost any influential urbanite with the surname Gibson receiving credit. One theory states the Gibson was invented by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson in the early 1900s, when he asked for an improvement on a Martini at The Players club in New York, while another claims stockbroker Walter Campbell Gibson first ordered the drink at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

American diplomat and teetotaller Hugh S. Gibson is also implicated in its conception, and is said to have asked for a Martini glass filled with cold water and garnished with an onion to distinguish his drink from the rest at the Metropolitan Club in Washington. Another unnamed Gibson – an investment banker – is said to have ordered the same non-alcoholic iteration during the ‘three-Martini lunch’ phenomenon to stay sober and level-headed as his clients became increasingly sozzled. 

These are just a handful of historic Gibsons who have laid claim to the serve. As it stands, the most widely-accepted origin story involves San Francisco businessman Walter D. K. Gibson, who is said to have created the drink at the Bohemian Club in the 1890s, some 40 years before Charles Dana Gibson propped up the bar at The Players. According to the descendants of this particular Gibson, he preferred his Martini with an onion, as he believed the root vegetable would prevent colds. 

Whatever the true history of the drink may be, the first published reference to the Gibson recipe is in William Boothby’s 1908 book The World’s Drinks And How To Mix Them, as follows: “Into a small mixing-glass place some cracked ice, half a jigger of French vermouth and half a jigger of dry English gin; stir thoroughly until cold, strain into a cocktail glass and serve. NOTE.- no bitters should ever be used in making this drink, but an olive is sometimes added.”

At this time, it was customary to add a dash or two of bitters to a Martini, hence the clarification at the end for the recipe. However,  there’s no mention of an onion garnish, it would be several decades before this aspect of the serve would become a staple part of the Gibson’s recipe. Eventually, the Martini dropped its bitters, and the Gibson’s savoury garnish came to distinguish the drink from its cocktail cousin in all its earthy, sour glory. 

Where the onion brings an umami undertone to the classic Martini, this twist from Japan’s Roku Gin takes the savoury flavours one step further with the addition of fresh ginger and sushi vinegar (also known as rice vinegar). Interestingly, umami – the fifth taste, joining sweet, sour, salty and bitter – was scientifically identified by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda back in 1907. Ikeda, a professor at  Tokyo Imperial University, noticed that the taste of kombu dashi was distinct from the existing flavour categories, and named his discovery umami, meaning “pleasant savoury taste”. So it’s a fitting twist.

“When combined with dry vermouth in a Martini-style serve, Roku Gin is beautifully balanced with floral notes and citrus, which we have taken to the next level with the addition of flavours reminiscent of Japanese pickled ginger,” says James Bowker, UK brand ambassador for House of Suntory. “Using fresh ginger with sushi vinegar provides both the vibrancy of ginger alongside the gentle sweet and sour acidity of the vinegar, creating a perfectly Japanese expression of the classic Gibson.”

When it comes to garnishing the drink, rather than reaching for a jar of limp pre-pickled onions, try pickling your own at home with salt, malt vinegar and honey (plus fresh herbs and chillies, if you feel adventurous). Not only will they be fresher and crunchier, but they’ll bring a level of depth and complexity to the drink that the shop-bought versions lack. 

As home cocktails go, the Roku Gibson is as straightforward and stylish as they come. “It is an incredibly simple serve which utilises ingredients found in most supermarkets,” says Bowker. “Yet, for such an easy to make drink it has a complexity that demonstrates the best of both British and Japanese bartending traditions.”

50ml Roku Gin
10ml Dolin dry vermouth
1 slice fresh ginger
1 drop sushi vinegar

Add the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a pickled onion. 

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