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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Martini

Brilliant bundles to help you up your cocktail game

We’ve taken the guesswork out of making some of your favourite cocktails with these brilliant bundles of booze. Everything you need to make the perfect serve is included. Well, almost…

We’ve taken the guesswork out of making some of your favourite cocktails with these brilliant bundles of booze. Everything you need to make the perfect serve is included. Well, almost everything, you’ll need to provide your own fresh ingredients. Lemons and oranges don’t post well, we’re afraid. And ice, you’ll need to provide that too. Bundles!

There’s nothing like sipping a perfectly prepared cocktail. But even though you love a good trip to the bar, it’s very tempting to try and mirror the magic a bartender whipped up for you at home. Sadly, making tasty cocktails is not easy. That’s not just something bartenders say to make you fork over your cash. What you don’t see on Instagram are all the attempts at making the perfect serve that ended up like Homer’s barbecue

We’re here to help. We did the decent thing and bundled together kits that have all the ingredients and instructions you need to make some of your favourite classic cocktails. We’ve got all kinds of delightful bundles for you to check out and experiment with, but just to give you a taster of what to expect we’ve rounded up a few examples in this handy little blog. Did I mention that these bundles also save you cold hard cash compared to buying each ingredient separately? I should have mentioned that earlier. 

Gin Martini Cocktail Bundle

Arguably the most famous cocktail of all is a good place to start. Now, while nobody can agree on what the definitive Martini recipe is, we can give you a good place to start and from there you can incorporate your preferred amount of vermouth. It’s your drink, after all. Oh, and you’ll also get a snazzy Retro Fizz 1910 glass to serve it. We really did think of everything.

How to make it:

Add 60ml of Bathtub Gin and 10ml of Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds. Then strain into your nice new glass (ideally chilled) and garnish with a lemon twist. The ratio of gin to vermouth is all about personal preference. The greater the proportion of gin, the ‘drier’ your Martini is. The greater the proportion of vermouth, the ‘wetter’ it is. Try 6:1, 5:1, 10:3, even 15:1. Have fun with it!

Dirty Martini Cocktail Bundle

If you like your Martinis like I do, you’ll have looked at the last bundle and been aghast at the lack of olives. Never fear, my link-minded friend. The Dirty Martini Bundle features all of the ingredients of the previous collection, (the same superb gin, dry vermouth and Retro Fizz 1910 glass) as well as a jar of Jack Rudy Vermouth Brined Olives to bring all that savoury, salty goodness you so adore. 

How to make it:

Add 60ml of Bathtub Gin, 7.5ml of Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth and 1-2 bar spoons/teaspoons of the vermouth brine from the Jack Rudy Olives into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds. Then strain into a chilled retro stemmed glass and garnish with three olives.

Espresso Martini Cocktail Bundle

The dark and delicious spin on the traditional that’s proven immensely popular since the legendary Dick Bradsell concocted it back in the 1980s, the Espresso Martini is deceptively simple to make. All you need to add to this bundle is some ice and a shot of freshly-made espresso and you’re there, with a tasty saving to boot!

How to make it:

Fill a shaker with ice, 30ml of Wyborowa Vodka and 30ml of St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur and stir. Then add 30ml of a freshly-made espresso shot (you can let it cool a bit, but don’t lose that crema!) and hard shake! Shake it for over half a minute, you should sweat a little by the end of it, and strain into your complementary Retro Fizz 1910 glass. Garnish with a coffee bean or three if you have them and are feeling swanky.

Jaffa Cake Gin Negroni Cocktail Bundle

Forget everything Stanley Tucci told you, this is how you make the true holy trinity in cocktail form. Campari? Check. Martini Rosso? Check. Riedel crystal tumbler to serve it in? Check and check. All this bundle needs to make a tasty Negroni is gin. In this case, we’ve gone with Jaffa Cake Gin. Imagine serving one of these bad boys to your guests. All the brilliance of the classic Negroni combined with a gin made with actual, no-foolin’ jaffa cakes.

How to make it:

We’re sticking with the tried and tested 1:1:1 recipe. Add 25ml of Jaffa Cake Gin, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso sweet vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds. Stir over ice and strain into your ice-filled Riedel tumbler. Garnish with an orange peel if you have an orange to hand (‘express’ over top by giving it a little squeeze, and then simply plonk it in), or whack a jaffa cake on the edge of your glass like a citrus wheel. The latter won’t exactly add to the drink, but it’s undeniably cool.

The Independent Spritz Cocktail Bundle

It’s summer and that means it’s Spritz o’clock. Saving you the hassle (and a fair chunk of change), we’ve put together a trio of incredible ingredients that will make a seriously sublime Spritz. This bundle contains a bottle of Audemus’s Pink Pepper Gin, Sassy’s La Sulfureuse Cidre and Sacred’s English Amber Vermouth – all fantastic in their own right. But, follow the recipe below, and you’ll make a serve that will impress friends, family and even yourself.

How to make it:

Fill a glass with plenty of ice, and pour in 30ml of Audemus Pink Pepper Gin and 30ml of Sacred English Amber Vermouth. Top up your glass with roughly 100ml of Sassy La Sulfureuse Cidre and give it a stir. Garnish with a good slice of fresh orange.

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The American Bar at the Savoy, where the magic happens

The American Bar at the Savoy with its roster of famous alumni and groaning trophy cabinet has been making cocktail magic for 100 years. But it’s not resting on its…

The American Bar at the Savoy with its roster of famous alumni and groaning trophy cabinet has been making cocktail magic for 100 years. But it’s not resting on its laurels; Bartender Nate Brown looks at all the little things that come together to create perfection.

There’s no such thing as magic. It’s a trick. I don’t like tricks. Fool me once and I’ll hold it against you for an eternity. Similarly, I don’t like surprises. I’m not one for pomp. I don’t take kindly to those who show off. I’m not an attention seeker. Nor do I handle compliments well. I don’t like it when people make an effort for me, nor for themselves. Least of all, I hate it when people believe that different equals better. Difference for the sake of difference gets no stars from me. 

I don’t like the showmanship, the frills. I’m a sucker for the understated, the details. To me, it’s obvious that a table should be kept clean, cocktails should arrive subito, and the wine should arrive before the meal. On the whole, a well functioning bar is a case of simple mechanics. I want a bartender to know more about the products they’re selling than the guests do. I want the lighting to make me feel something other than self-conscious. The music in lounge bars should be there, providing a welcome function, noticeable only by its absence. Like a belt.

Basically, there are component parts to hospitality propositions. And these can be executed well or poorly, accounting for subjectivity. Nevertheless, when these things are all in alignment, they form something greater than the sum of their parts. A great bar, by doing the simple things well, can do something special.

That carpet!

Picture, if you will, the Mona Lisa. What do you see? Some see a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, others see an intriguing lady, others see colours, others see a story. But almost no one sees the hundreds of thousands of imperceptible brushstrokes that make up the whole. On their own, each brushstroke, each mark on the canvas is insignificant, irrelevant, unskilled, and inconsequential. But you only have to look at the whole to understand the power achieved when each one is executed perfectly. 

And it’s much the same when we enter an excellent bar. London is blessed with a prudent handful of these masterpieces. Homeboy’s jovial conviviality is a masterpiece. The drinks at Mint Gun Club too (hurry back please MGC).

Yet, for me, there is none more so masterly than the American Bar at the Savoy. There is no place I’d rather be. It’s fancy, but not it’s not the frills that excite me. This is the place where the team enact a supernatural ability to blend the familiar with the formal. They are the ultimate creators of their environment, here to lord over us guests with benevolent charm and intoxicating potions.  

This place is a true masterpiece. It’s a place where guests like me can feel special without being special. It’s a place where the bartenders, in their fancy dress, know your name. I’ve always said (borrowed) that guests don’t return to the bars that they know best, they return to the bars that know them best. With the American Bar, not only is this true, but it’s probably the only place where I want them to know me best. 

Cocktail perfection

This is the place where a cocktail of guests from all over the world, existing on all time zones, with all manner of agendas, come together to have a Sazerac, or a Hanky Panky, or a beer, or a vino. Where else can a grumpy introvert like me freely engage in a conversation with the guest at the next stool over, not knowing if they’re a Sheik or a shopkeeper, a millionaire, or just a bartender on his night off? This is a bar where Hemingway and Sinatra drank, and where I take my Dad. It’s a place where I can host, or be hosted, where I can entertain and be entertained. That’s a thought worth savouring.

I could (and did) try to break the bar down to its component parts. The canvas, for example, isn’t the best. As fabulous as the lobby entrance is, the carpet in the bar (I have a thing about carpets) is all kinds of wrong. Likewise, the bar itself is tucked away in the corner of the room. It shouldn’t be. The music is bordering on cliche. But how I wish I was there right now, listening to ‘My Way’ again, sipping on my Martini, expertly made my way: painting my palate brilliantly cold, all gin and spice and steel. How refreshing it is to see some not just take my order, but understand it. So simple. So powerful.

I want to be there now, having oysters, drinking pastis, chatting to the bartenders and the hosts, seeing familiar faces and close friends, hearing the ice rattle in the shaker, and the popping of corks table-side. I want to wander out at the end of the night, half-elated, half-skint, all happy. 

Trying to analyse what makes this bar so darn good is like looking at the brush strokes on the Mona Lisa. I’m not down for that. Instead, I’ll hurry back to this place, this, dare I say it, magical masterpiece. 

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Out of Africa, Procera Gin

Where do you think the world’s best Martini gin (probably) comes from? England? America? France? Wrong, it’s Kenya. We meet Guy Brennan, the man behind Procera, the ultra-premium gin made…

Where do you think the world’s best Martini gin (probably) comes from? England? America? France? Wrong, it’s Kenya. We meet Guy Brennan, the man behind Procera, the ultra-premium gin made with African botanicals. 

Ex-banking people are ten a penny in the drinks world; it’s not unusual to make a fortune in the City and then put that money in a distillery or vineyard. The man behind Procera gin, Guy Brennan, had a slightly different career in finance. He worked for a micro-finance company in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, generally considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries. “I got robbed at gunpoint on day seven”, he told me. Yet, he lasted for three years before moving to the comparative peace of Uganda. “I fell in love with Africa”, he said. He met his American wife in Nairobi where he now lives.

Guy Brennan

Guy Brennan in front of his Mueller still

The idea for Procera gin came when he was enjoying sundowners in Kenya with three friends. “We’re looking at those botanicals on the bottle and a large majority of them come from Africa and we said ‘why are we sending all these botanicals to London for some guys to distill it, to put it in this bottle, to send it back here for us to drink. Why don’t we make a gin?’” he said. “And we looked around and we said ‘because we don’t know how to make gin’”. Most friends would have left it there but Brennan and his friends, one of whom owns a brewery in Kenya and raises cattle, the other runs a restaurant, are some of life’s doers, so they decided to do something. 

Brennan took a trip to meet one of Africa’s greatest distillers, Roger Jorgensen, on his farm in the Western Cape. That was in August 2017. Jorgensen has won more awards than you can shake a stick at and has become a guru for the continent’s distillers: Brennan described the visit as “going to the Dagobah system to visit Yoda.” In his baggage was an illicit substance, Kenyan green juniper, juniperus procera (hence the name of the gin). Almost every gin in the world uses European juniper, juniperus communis. Brennan picked up the story: “When I took a handful of these juniper berries I’d collected myself in the forest in Nairobi to him, and we distilled them, he looked at me and said ‘Guy, this is going to change gin’. And since then, that was two and a half years ago, Roger’s sold his farm in Capetown and he’s moved to Kenya.”

It took a while, however, to get the recipe right. The finished gin uses a little Macedonian juniper, about one third. Brennan said it just didn’t taste as good with pure juniperus procera. Apart from that everything else is African. The neutral spirit comes from Kenyan sugar cane, there’s Somali acacia honey (incredible on its own), cardamom and mace from Zanzibar (see film above) among the botanical mix. They go out and collect the juniper themselves, the only competition are baboons. 

They started out using a “hillbilly still” but now have a state of the art Mueller, the “Rolls-Royce of stills” as Brennan put it. Mueller father and son even came out to set it up, the first one they had sold in Africa. Jorgensen has a special technique for preserving the freshness of the botanicals. “They are put in a pillow case and steeped in the spirit, a warm maceration at 40°C. That extracts a lot of the essential oils. But then he would take out the pillowcase, so there was no organic matter in the pot”, said Brennan. This avoids heavy flavours and gives a freshness which makes Procera particularly good drunk neat or in a Martini.  

Team Procera, Jorgensen is the man in the middle

Procera struck a chord right away winning a Michelangelo Award (important spirits competition in South Africa). In June 2018, they took some gin made on the basic still to Junipalooza in London. Brennan said: “We didn’t even have bottles ready. We had some sampling ones, but we decided to start selling them at £60 and we sold more than any of the other 75 exhibitors as the most expensive gin at Junipalooza.” It’s been a massive hit behind the bar too. Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London is a particular fan offering a super pricey Procera Martini. Brennan continued: “as of April last year there was not an African product on the back bar of any of the top hotels in London. Now the most expensive gin from the Connaught, to the Savoy’s American Bar, to Dukes, to Claridge’s, to Annabel’s is African.”

Brennan fizzes with boyish enthusiasm, not just about his product but about being a good news story from Africa. “It’s not a disaster narrative, it’s not corruption, it’s not famine,” he said, “something that is the best in its class can come from Africa.” You don’t buy Procera because you want to help Africa, you buy it for the same reason people buy Balvenie or Hine, because of the quality. The packaging reflects the excellence of African craftsmanship too: hand-blown Kitengela glass, the stopper produced by Rampel Designs, a high end furniture company, and the leatherwork by Sandstorm, a Kenyan brand that makes handbags worn by Kate Middleton, no less. It’s stylish, resolutely non-blingy, and the used bottle makes a great carafe.

Fancy packaging

There’s no doubt that it’s one of the world’s finest gins. I tried it at Imbibe Live last year and the freshness and intensity blew me away. As Brennan put it: “Green juniper makes a huge difference. That’s what you smell, you smell that fresh brightness, you know? Fresh citrus? It just pops, right? Dried citrus is lovely, but it’s a different, more caramelised nuance.” Meeting with Brennan in February he took me through the Procera taste test. First I tried it neat and it’s superb, fresh and spicy, with not a hint of harshness. Also very long. There’s a real beginning, middle and end. But the real magic happens when you add ice, it brings out a creaminess, the texture thickens, it’s a joy to swill around your mouth. No wonder it’s proved such a hit with Palazzi at Dukes Bar.

Because Procera doesn’t have those heavy flavours you get in a classic London Dry Gin, it’s actually not that good in a G&T. The tonic water overpowers it. Brennan and team are working on a new version gin, which will be labelled with a red dot, the current version has a blue one. It will have a heavier botanical presence to go with tonic. It was due to appear later in the year though that is certain to be delayed because of you know what. But in the meantime, he has produced a botanical salt, a sprinkle of which provides the oomph needed to take on Fever Tree tonic water. Clever stuff. It’s also nice on chips. 

There are also plans for an African 55 gin, with one botanical from each of the African countries. Meanwhile, the best way to enjoy Procera is in a very dry Martini: just a touch of Sacred Vermouth, a little dilution and I wouldn’t use any lemon peel, you really want to savour the taste of Africa.

Procera gin is available now from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Scarpa Vermouth di Torino Extra Dry Unfiltered

Today we’re highlighting a very special dry vermouth from Piedmont made using grapes from a top wine producer and bottled unfiltered to preserve flavour.  Alfredo Sconfienza from vermouth producer La…

Today we’re highlighting a very special dry vermouth from Piedmont made using grapes from a top wine producer and bottled unfiltered to preserve flavour. 

Alfredo Sconfienza from vermouth producer La Canellese was nonplussed when Riikka Sukula from Scarpa approached him about bottling an unfiltered product: ““I’ve never tried an unfiltered. Nobody has ever asked me to do an unfiltered, what would be the point?”, he said, according to Sukula. But Sukula went on to say: “In the process of trying samples, he grew really excited. He is now as proud as we are.”

Scarpa has been going for over 100 years and owns vineyards in Piedmont producing a highly-regarded range of wines including Barbaresco, Barbera d’Asti, Barolo and many others. The company had produced a Vermouth di Torino since the 1930s but stopped in the ‘70s due to lack of interest in the category. According to Sukula, the managing director, the rise of the mega producers saw most of the small operations die out. When interest revived in the 2000s, Scarpa turned to a specialist La Canellese to make its vermouth to the old family recipe because of rules about allowing alcohol and sugar in a winery. 

The regulations for Vermouth di Torino are much stricter than normal vermouth, grapes have to come from Piedmont as opposed to the EU wine lake, but Scarpa takes things a lot further. The company uses naturally sweet Moscato grapes from its own vineyards and all the botanicals are Piedmontese. According to Michael Palij from UK importers Winetraders, “nothing but fresh botanicals using only cold extraction. All done with a coffee grinder thing. Nobody does that anymore, they use essences or hot extraction. It’s expensive and time consuming but it preserves aromatic intensity.” Its two bottlings, a Rosso (made from white grapes and coloured with caramel) and a Bianco are superb but seeing the traditional production process Palij had the idea to go one step further and produce an unfiltered version. He said: “You can only do this if you’re making it in this old style. If you use essences, there’s nothing to filter out.”

Rikkala, who is originally from Finland, went into more detail about the process. They start with 38 botanicals including gentian and artemisia (woodwood) which are steeped in neutral alcohol for between 32 and 41 days depending on the time of year. No heat is used in the extraction process because, she said, “heat gives a jammy cooked flavour”. Moscato grapes give too much sweetness so they use Cortese (as used in Gavi) from Scarpa’s vineyards in Monferrato. The quality of the base wine is very important. Some beet sugar is added at the end, there is 30g per litre of sugar compared with 70g in the standard. It is then bottled at 18% ABV unfiltered so it is naturally cloudy. Palij suggests that you shake the bottle before use. 

It tastes gorgeous neat, with chamomile, elderflower and menthol notes on the nose. On the palate, it’s almost crisp, you barely notice the sugar with gentle grapefruit-like bitterness and the quality of the base wine really shines through. Drunk chilled like this, it serves much the same role as a manzanilla sherry, tasting delicious and complex with salted almonds and olives.

Then we tried it in some cocktails. First a spritz made with just 50ml of vermouth, the flavour is so intense you don’t need so much, rather as you might use a white Port. But the ultimate serve was in a wet Martini. Edmund Skinner-Smith from Winetraders joked that the only people who drank their Martinis with such a high vermouth content were bartenders but with this low sugar vermouth, suddenly it makes a lot of sense. Drunk with 50ml gin, Smeaton’s Bristol Method gin, to 15ml of vermouth, the delicate flavour of the Scarpa came through but without making the Martini too sweet. Edmund-Smith thinks the Scarpa Extra Dry could well bring the wetter style of Martini back into fashion. He might be right. It’s certainly one of the best vermouths on the market.

Scarpa Vermouth di Torino Extra Dry is available now from Master of Malt.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Foraged Martini

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three…

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three Sheets. Here, co-owner Noel Venning walks you through the drink…

Much like the wider cocktail menu at Three Sheets, the light, fresh Foraged Martini is proof that when it comes to ingredients, less really is more. Ever since Venning brothers Noel and Max first flung open the doors on Kingsland Road back in 2016, the bar has been known for its minimalist ethos – from the contents of the back bar to its marble-topped counters – and this is reflected not only in the way they developed each drink, but also in the design of their menu.

There are nine cocktails in total, split across three key sections. Three Sheets, if you will. While each sheet is characterised by strength and flavour, all of the drinks on the menu are designed to be approachable in nature. Over on the left, you’ll find the lightest cocktails – such as the Almond Flower Sour, which combines Bombay English Estate, almond flower, egg white and lemon. Heavier-going drinks – like Café Français, which combines Seven Tails XO Brandy, salted coffee butter and madeleine cream – tend towards the right of the menu. 

Three Sheets Dalston

Three Sheets, so minimalist

“At Three Sheets, we aim to put drinks on the menu that we think our guests will enjoy,” Noel Venning explains. “Moving away from using popular bartender products that might not be enjoyable for guests. This has led to a lighter style of drink and the Foraged Martini is a great example of that – taking a classic vodka Martini but making it more approachable for a wider audience.”

In the spirit of keeping things simple, the base structure is similar to that of a classic Martini, says Venning. Indeed, just three ingredients are required to make the Foraged Martini: Absolut Elyx, dry Italian vermouth, and Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle cordial. “The great thing about the Foraged Martini is that everything is available to buy in a shop,” he continues. “It is a wonderful example that making great drinks doesn’t necessarily have to come with fancy equipment or esoteric, obscure ingredients.”

It’s fair to say that one of the traditional Martini’s most defining features – its out-and-out ‘booziness’ in terms of flavour – is what tends to put most newcomers off. But you won’t find that brashness in the Venning brothers’ Foraged iteration. Thanks to the addition of the nettle cordial, this serve is made accessible for the non-Martini drinker, while packing enough of a punch to satisfy the drink’s usual devotees. 

“The idea behind this Martini was to have a lighter, more approachable version of a classic Martini that would appeal to a wider audience – while also being enjoyable for a guest who drinks Martinis all the time,” Venning adds. “The nettle cordial softens off the punchy nature of the Martini with some grassy, citrusy notes, and the vermouth ties it all together.”

That’s gypsophila (yes, we had to Google it)

Democratising the Martini is all in a day’s work for the Three Sheets duo. If you’re ready to take the Foraged Martini for a spin, you’ll find the recipe below. Now, aside from the liquid ingredients, you’ll also need ice, a twist of lemon (for the zest only), and a Nick and Nora, Coupette or Martini glass – the team usually opts for the latter, but at home you call the shots.

Oh, and if you really want to set the drink off in true Three Sheets style, source a small sprig of gypsophila for the garnish. Arty Instagram shots are not only welcomed but wholeheartedly encouraged.

Right, let’s forage up a Martini!

50ml Absolut Elyx
10ml Martini Extra Dry vermouth
5ml Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle Cordial

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to dilute and chill. Double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon zest (discard the twist afterwards) and garnish with a sprig of gypsophila (if you have one).

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20 pro tips to make bar-quality cocktails at home

Curious about how the professionals make cocktails at home? Wonder no longer. From pre-freezing glassware to emulsifying egg drinks, here’s 20 expert-backed tips, tricks and hacks you can adopt to…

Curious about how the professionals make cocktails at home? Wonder no longer. From pre-freezing glassware to emulsifying egg drinks, here’s 20 expert-backed tips, tricks and hacks you can adopt to make bar-standard drinks in your kitchen…

No matter how well-versed you are at knocking up an Old Fashioned or a Daiquiri from the comfort of your own home, nothing quite beats the finesse of a bar-side serve. The question is: why?

Turns out, there’s more to making a cracking cocktail than just combining measured liquids in the correct order. But you don’t need loads of fancy kit and obscure ingredients to achieve them – all you need is a little know-how. We asked bartenders, brand ambassadors, and other knowledgeable drinks industry folks to share their hacks for making the best possible cocktails at home. Here’s what they had to say…

You’ll need ice, lots and lots of ice

Ice

Use more than you think you need

“There is one rule that I always stick to when making cocktails at home: Use good ice, and a lot of it,” says Renaud de Bosredon, Bombay Sapphire UK brand ambassador. “Using just two ice cubes in a Gin & Tonic or to stir a Martini will only add water and won’t cool the drink down properly. Don’t hold back. The more ice, the better!”

Filter before you fill up

“Ice is often overlooked as an ingredient, but in certain cocktails it can add up to 50% of dilution, so you want to be using the best quality ice possible,” says No. 3 Gin brand ambassador Ross Bryant. “Water quality is different all over the country, so anyone making ice in a hard water area should filter their water first before freezing.” 

Freeze your own large format ice 

“You can do this by filling a take-away container full of ice and leaving it to freeze, use a serrated knife to then cut it into nice big blocks,” says Dan Garnell, head bartender at Super Lyan, Amsterdam. “This will help keep the drink cold but won’t add too much dilution.” 

Know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ ice

“If your ice is ‘wet’ – i.e. wet on every side, it has been out of the freezer for a while – it will dilute your drink quicker,” says Bryant, “whereas ice cubes taken straight from the freezer are ‘dry’ and will dilute your drink slightly slower.”

Manhattan Duke

Manhattan: 2 parts rye, 1 part vermouth, dash of bitters

Methodology

Resize drinks via ‘parts’

“Try transforming measurements in parts instead of ml or ounces,” says Andrei Talapanescu, head bartender at Pulitzer’s Bar in Amsterdam. “For example, a Manhattan will work with 2 parts base spirit, 1 part modifier and a couple dashes of bitters. Instead of 50ml/25ml or 60ml/30ml, there’s less to remember, and it’s easier to adjust according to the available glassware.” 

Introduce new flavours slowly

“You can always add more, but you can’t remove,” says Osvaldo Romito, bartender at the Megaro Hotel in London. “If you’re not sure, just start with a little bit and add more as you go.”

Look to physical cues

“Shake or stir until the temperature has reached an equilibrium,” says Talapanescu, “until you see condensation on the stirring glass or frost on the stainless steel shaker.”

Dry shake egg-based drinks

“When making drinks that contain egg, you must first ‘emulsify’ the egg,” says Bryant. “To do this, you must first shake all your ingredients without ice. Once shaken, open your shaker and add ice in order to chill and dilute your drink.”

Ask yourself, is that garnish really essential?

Garnish

Identify the essentials

“Garnishes can be divided into two: aromatic enhancers and aesthetic enhancers,” says Andrei Talapanescu, head bartender at Pulitzer’s Bar in Amsterdam. “Do not omit the aromatic ones such as citrus zest, mint, or a spray. The rest can be left out.”

Dehydrate wheels of fruit… 

“These are so easy,” says Karol Terejlis, bars manager at Baltic and Ognisko, both in London.  “Put your oven on 70 degrees celsius and dry slices of orange, mandarins, tangerines, lemons and limes for around 8 to 10 hours. I also dry out strawberries and raspberries for the same time, then blend them to make a powder. Good for garnishes with a strong colour!”

…Or alternatively, freeze them

“Pre-freeze fruit slices,” suggests Metinee Kongsrivilai, Bacardi rum UK brand ambassador. “This will help reduce food waste as it preserves the fruit, but it’s also great for chilling your drinks and it adds to the drink’s presentation. This would be most effective with perfectly diluted drinks.”

Utilise kitchen kit

“Potato peelers will cut you great citrus peel twists,” says David Eden-Sangwell, brand ambassador at Old J Rum. “The Y-shaped peelers are the best for this and will leave most of the bitter pith behind.”

Terri Brotherston in action

Prep

Chill the glass

“Making drinks without ice?,” says Eden-Sangwell. “Chill the glass with ice and water while you mix the drink and empty just before pouring the drink in. This will keep your drink cold for longer.” Alternatively, pop your glass in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Pre-batch your ingredients

“If you are making multiple drinks, prepare in advance,” says Terri Brotherston, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK. “You can make a small batch of sugar syrup in advance and store it in the fridge. You can juice two or three lemons or limes beforehand and keep it in a jug. It means your ingredients are already to hand and will make it a much smoother, more enjoyable process.”

Keep bottles in the freezer

“If you’re more of a stirred-down, spirit-forward – dry vodka Martini, for example – kind of person, whack that pre-diluted spirit in the freezer,” says Nicole Sykes, bartender at Satan’s Whiskers in London and Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition 2020 UK Winner. “That way you’ll get consistently ice cold Martinis with a great texture, straight from the bottle and you don’t have to panic if you don’t have any ice. Pour straight into a pre-frozen glass.”

Blend your cocktail

“Utilise that blender,” says Sykes. “For really quick, consistent and cold drinks, stick your favourite cocktails into a blender, add 10ml more sugar syrup – which you can also make in your blender using equal parts caster sugar and water by weight – and blend with supermarket ice to make a slush!”

Pre-batch your cocktails

“I’ve got bottles of pre-batched drinks ready to go,” says Bartender Paul Mathew, owner of Bermondsey bar The Hide and founder of Everleaf, “including a Negroni, a Last Word (just add lime and shake), and a Diplomat (my wife’s favourite) – plus plenty of Everleaf for non-drinking evenings and aperitifs.”

The Nightcap

Sometimes, the best tip is just to keep it simple

Creativity 

Create your own cordials

“Experiment with home cordials,” suggests Garnell. “For instance, after doing fresh orange juice in the morning, boil the husks in a mixture of water, orange juice and spices such as clove, cinnamon or nutmeg. Leave it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and strain – you have your own spiced orange cordial!”

Try a milk wash

“Add one part spirit to a bowl and one quarter of its volume in lemon juice,” says Adam Rog, senior bartender at The Four Sisters bar in Islington. “Pour your spirit and lemon mixture into milk and watch it curdle. Once split, usually after 10 minutes, run it through a filter – try a microfibre cloth or some kitchen towel, as you’ll want it to catch the curds but keep the lactose. After this, you can add whatever flavours you think best. We milk wash coffee liqueur and add vodka, sugar, vanilla essence and cacao to create a smoother take on a White Russian.”

Or, just keep it simple

“One of my favourite cocktails to make at home is a Negroni,” says Ben Flux, bartender at Merchant House in London. “It’s simple, but a bartender’s favourite! Add a sustainable twist with Discarded Cascara Vermouth and spent coffee grounds to create a cold brew Negroni.”

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 Introducing Martini’s alcohol-free aperitivo

Indulging in your typical Italian aperitivo hour is usually a lowish ABV affair – placing the Negroni firmly to one side – but it’s almost impossible to enjoy the drinking…

Indulging in your typical Italian aperitivo hour is usually a lowish ABV affair – placing the Negroni firmly to one side – but it’s almost impossible to enjoy the drinking occasion totally sans-booze. Until now, that is. Martini has just launched a duo of delectable non-alcoholic aperitivo, made with wines used in its classic vermouths. We take a look at the range…

Beloved by our Italian neighbours, aperitivo is that golden period – generally between 7pm and 9pm – to unwind from the day’s events over a glass of something satisfying and a few choice nibbles. Traditionally that glass has been filled with something boozy, be it a sparkling Sbagliato or an Aperol Spritz. When you’re taking a break from alcohol, be it for one night or one month, there aren’t many sundowner options. 

“In the past, deciding not to drink alcohol meant a fizzy water while everyone else enjoyed cocktails; or staying at home on a Friday while your friends go out and enjoy aperitivo time,” Nick Stringer, global vice president of Martini, explained in a press release. “But times are changing, and consumers don’t want to feel like they are missing out when they are being more mindful about their drinking.”

Try it on its own. . .

Too true. To remedy this terrible dilemma, Italian spirits behemoth Martini has very kindly released a two-strong range called Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo, which are made using the same white wines as its classic vermouths. Drawing on hundreds of years of distilling know-how, master herbalist Ivano Tonutti and master blender Beppe Musso remove the alcohol from the wine using vacuum distillation before infusing the resulting liquid with a special selection of botanicals.

“We always use a mix of botanicals – we’re never using one single botanical, because we’re really going for the complexity,” says global brand ambassador Roberta Mariani. “Artemesia is the main botanical for the production of vermouth, and it’s really the signature of Martini. Any of our products, from our bitters, to our amaros to vermouth, they all contain artemisia.”

Martini’s new fruity Vibrante variant is centred on Italian bergamot, while Floreale focuses on Roman chamomile to give a floral profile (as the name indeed suggests). Like with its regular alcoholic aperitivo range, the historic producer uses a variety of techniques to extract flavour from the botanicals. As Mariani explains, each part of the plant benefits from slightly different treatment. 

“You’ve got flowers, you’ve got leaves, seeds, barks, roots – so each item needs a different method to extract the flavours, such as infusion, maceration or distillation,” she says. “Usually there are three: one is a bitter extract, one is herbal, and one is a distillate.” Typically, herbal and bitter extracts deliver body and mouthfeel, while the distillate dictates the nose. “Most of the aroma comes from the distillate,” she continues. “Oranges, raspberries… Anything that has a big perfume is usually distilled.”

MARTINI NON-ALCOHOLIC VIBRANTE AND TONIC WINTER (WITH BOTTLE)

Or even better, with pizza

Removing alcohol from the equation was a pretty big challenge, Mariani admits. While a touch of sugar certainly goes some way towards carrying the flavours found in any vermouth, booze brings a certain texture and mouthfeel that’s especially hard to replicate in such a complex product. This is where the extra botanicals really came into their own. “It took a little bit of time to balance the aperitivo without alcohol, because it usually plays a big part in the production,” she says. Time well spent, we say.

You’re probably wondering how to drink the fruits of their labour. The essence of aperitivo boils down to creating a refreshingly simple serve – less time pouring over recipes, more time snacking on nocellara olives, amiright? – and the Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo range very much fits in with that philosophy. 

If long drinks are your bag, Martini suggests combining 75ml of Vibrante or Floreale with 75ml tonic over a generous serving of ice in a balloon glass before garnishing with an orange wheel. Alternatively, simply pour 75ml Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo over ice and sip slowly to appreciate the depth and complexity. 

If you’re a whizz behind the back bar, you could even pair a Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo bottling with any one of the many alcohol-free gins on the market and – can you see where we’re going with this? – attempt your own weeknight-safe Negroni with a touch of Martini Bitter (which comes in at a reasonable 25% ABV). Close your eyes, whack some Arancini in the oven and pretend you’re sipping cocktails in a vineyard as the sun sets over Sicily. Bellissimo!

Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo will be coming soon to Master of Malt.

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Cocktail of the Week: The French Martini

Today we’re rolling up the sleeves of our suit jacket à la Hall & Oates to make a cocktail that’s not particularly French and not really a Martini. It’s the…

Today we’re rolling up the sleeves of our suit jacket à la Hall & Oates to make a cocktail that’s not particularly French and not really a Martini. It’s the French Martini!

Often the word French is appended to things to make them seem more sophisticated or sexy than they really are. French fries are actually Belgian, French kisses were invented in Dunstable (fact!) and have you ever seen French toast (or eggy bread as we used to call it when I was growing up) in France? Which brings us on to this week’s cocktail, the French Martini. It is, like most cocktails, an American creation. It was invented or at least popularised in New York City by a man with possibly the least French name ever, Keith McNally.

McNally was a big noise in ‘80s and ‘90s New York (and still is). Such a big noise that The New York Times described him as: “The Restaurateur Who Invented Downtown.” Just as the French Martini isn’t very French, McNally isn’t American. He was born and raised in Bethnal Green. After a stint as a child actor in London, McNally came to New York in 1975 and opened a series of French-inspired restaurants such as Pastis, Cherche Midi and Augustine. His most famous venue, however, was Balthazar which became the hippest joint in town when it opened in 1997 and the French Martini was the trademark cocktail. It quickly crossed the Atlantic and found a home among the Cool Britannia crowd at the Met Bar in London. Balthazar itself arrived in 2013 with a branch in Covent Garden.

You don’t get more 90s than the French Martini, or rather, could it be any more ‘90s? It’s not only made with vodka but pineapple juice too. It’s part of the wave of so-called Martinis that were all the range back then like the Pineapple Martini, the Appletini, the Espresso Martini etc. etc. The French part comes from the addition of Chambord, a French raspberry liqueur with packaging so elaborate that it looks like a medieval incense burner, or, for Monty Python fans, the holy hand grenade of Antioch.

It’s a smoky French Martini (sung to the tune of Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc)

A squeeze of lemon helps temper the sweetness but still it might be a bit sugary for some so this week we’re using a fiery peaty whisky instead of vodka, Laphroaig 10 Year Old. According to Simon Difford, this variation is actually known as a Le Frog. See what they did there? Vodka or whisky, however you make it, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. We’re thinking baggy grey Armani suit like Richard Gere in his prime, and don’t be afraid to roll the sleeves up a little. Nice. Right, that’s enough preamble. Let’s make a smoky French Martini:

25ml Laphroaig 10 Year Old
25ml Chambord
10ml pineapple juice
A squeeze of lemon juice

Pour all of the ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake hard for eight seconds. Strain into a chilled coupette, garnish with a blackberry or raspberry and serve.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Tuxedo

Today we’re making the best-dressed cocktail in town: it’s a variation on the Martini made with gin and a brand of fino with a mission to make “sherry cool again”. …

Today we’re making the best-dressed cocktail in town: it’s a variation on the Martini made with gin and a brand of fino with a mission to make “sherry cool again”. 

There’s more than one way to make a Tuxedo. The cocktail is named after the Tuxedo Club, a swanky country club in upstate New York. And yes, it’s where the Americans get their name for the dinner jacket. What a place! The eponymous cocktail is a variation on the Martini. Flicking through the extensive MoM drinks book library, many recipes call for the addition of maraschino liqueur, absinthe or both. There’s not a sherry bottle in sight.

But in Old Waldorf Bar Days by Albert Stevens Crockett from 1931, there’s something quite different, made with two parts gin to one part dry sherry with a dash of orange bitters. Which is what we’re going to make today. Using sherry instead of vermouth in a Martini isn’t so unusual. Bernard de Voto in his book The Hour describes similar cocktails: “These drinks are not Martinis, they are only understudies but they damn no souls.” 

Equipo Xeco (from left, PAF, BGE and AK)

At MoM, we’ve all over sherry in cocktails, so we’re going for the Waldorf take on the Tux. But which sherry to use? It has to be a fino, and we’re rather taken with a newish brand called Xeco. It was launched in 2017 by three magnificently-monickered ladies, Beanie Geraedts-Espey, Polly Aylwin-Foster and Alexa Keymer. The three met in 2013 in Hong Kong and bonded over a shared love of Andalucia’s finest. All had studied sherry for WSET and Geraedts-Espey’s first job was doing marketing for Gonzalez-Byass. So, they knew their stuff.

They set about trying to convert their friends but encountered a number of obstacles, not least sherry’s vicars and aunts image. So began what they call project “let’s make sherry cool again” which became Xeco. The word is derived from Secco, meaning dry, and it’s pronounced something like Zecco. There are currently two wines in the range both bone dry: a fino with the emphasis on the fruit, and a rich nutty amontillado. They don’t make their own wines and instead source them from Bodega Diez Merito in Jerez.

The first thing you notice about Xeco is that the bottles don’t look like traditional sherry bottles. The shape is more like something that might hold a trendy new vodka and there are no pictures of alluring gyspy ladies on the labels as with some traditional brands. Instead, they have playful designs inspired by Anglo-Spanish history. The fino features Alfonso X of Spain and Henry III of England who concluded a treaty where the English got sherry and the Spanish wool. We know which we’d prefer. 

El Tuxedo!

Both Xecos are excellent drunk in the traditional manner, cold out of a copita, but the website is full of more different ways to serve these most versatile of wines. Which brings us back to the Tuxedo. As a fino is much drier than even a French dry vermouth, with almost zero grams of sugar, you need to use more to temper the gin. To compliment the fruitiness of the fino we’re using Foxhole Gin made with leftover grapes from making English wine. The bitters are optional, but we think one dash really brings out the citrus notes in the sherry.

Right, on with the old DJ, and let’s get stirring:

Ingredients:

50ml Foxhole London Dry Gin
25ml Xeco Fino
1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters (optional)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir well and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel, or an olive stuffed with an almond. 

 

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How to make alcohol-free classic cocktails

The classics may historically call for booze in those recipes of old, but there are ways to make your favourite timeless tipple sans-spirit. Here, MoM chats with three drinks experts…

The classics may historically call for booze in those recipes of old, but there are ways to make your favourite timeless tipple sans-spirit. Here, MoM chats with three drinks experts for tips on making a cracking alcohol-free classic cocktail (and a recipe for the non-alcoholic French 75)… 

Think about your favourite cocktail. What makes it so delicious? Is it the crisp, fresh notes associated with a Martini? The sweet, hot unctuousness of an Old Fashioned? Whatever it is, the drink is more than simply a platform for the base spirit with which it’s made. So it makes sense that there’s more to creating a alcohol-free classic cocktail than simply switching out the alcohol. After all, flavour is just one element of an alcoholic base spirit – there’s also a mouth-coating texture, a cooling effect, and later, a gentle, warming heat. 

“Alcohol is a fabulous tool for carrying flavour and without it, you do lack a certain amount of bite, so you have to be clever,” says William Borrell, owner low-alcohol spirit Willow, which contains 15mg of broad-spectrum CBD in each 700ml bottle. “I’ve seen a few startenders in the market use peppers and chilis for that reaction, that mouthfeel.”

The Nightcap

Ladies and Gentleman, Mr William Borrell!

Making a non-alcoholic serve that accounts for those factors without drastically changing the flavour (or tasting like flavoured water) really isn’t easy. Just like the greatness of a restaurant is often better measured by the deliciousness of its vegetable dishes rather than its steak, the world’s finest bars can be judged by the complexity and downright tastiness of their alcohol-free offering.

“It takes a good bartender to make a good cocktail with no alcohol,” acknowledges drinks expert Camille Vidalle, founder of mindful cocktail website La Maison Wellness. “You don’t have the structure of the spirit to give you the backbone of the cocktail. So, how can you use an alcohol-free spirit to make a sophisticated, grown up cocktail – and not like a juice straight from the kids menu?” 

The journey to a truly delicious alcohol-free classic starts in the supermarket. Before you even think about dusting off your shaker, choose your ingredients wisely. “You don’t have much to hide behind, so the quality and the taste of each and every ingredient is crucial – as it always should be,” Vidalle says. “Use fresh ingredients like you would in cooking. Fresh and in season is always the best.”

When it comes to methodology, construct your drink “from the aroma to start and the taste on the finish,” says Vidalle. “Layer the flavours of your drink so it doesn’t fall flat. Non-alcoholic spirits give structure and complexity to a cocktail – layering juices on juices won’t work.” She also advocates for incorporating high quality essential oils, herbs and spices, so long as you’re careful about the quantity. 

Let’s Get Fizzical

Let’s Get Fizzical (recipe below)

While creativity is always encouraged, a little technique (and a little bar know-how). “Know what’s in the glass and how it will react,” Vidalle suggests. “For example, if you’re using an essential oil, how are you incorporating it into the cocktail? If it’s shaken, shake it quick – most non-alcoholic spirits are water-based and you don’t want to over dilute your cocktail.”

Finally, don’t forget about presentation. Lots of lovely ice, an attractive and aromatic garnish, and a fancy glass can make a striking difference to a cocktail’s drinkability. “You drink with your eyes, the same way you eat with your eyes,” explains Vidalle. “Even if you aren’t aiming to make it the most Instagrammable cocktail in town, you do have to make it look like an appetising adult beverage and not a smoothie in a pint glass.”

When it comes to non-alcoholic cocktails, the texture, mouthfeel, and length of the experience is something that drinkers really do care about, attests Geyan Surendran, development scientist and botanical alchemist at non-alcoholic spirit brand Three Spirit. “What we do differently further to that is function, addressing why people drink in the first place,” he says. “To elevate them, to keep them going, to relax them.” As such, each Three Spirit bottling incorporates plant-based ingredients that interact with your nervous system to mimic some of the sensations brought about by alcohol.

These days there’s no shortage of choices, with bottlings and flavours inspired by rum, bourbon, amaro, vermouth and more, as Vidalle points out. A word of advice here: don’t assume you can always safely store those bottles in your spirits cabinet – check the label first. “You’ve got loads of options to choose from to build a mindful home bar, but remember that most of those ingredients are better kept in the fridge after opening,” she says.

Fizz The Season

Fizz The Season

Why not kick off your alcohol-free classics creativity with what’s said to be the world’s first no-alcohol ‘Champagne’ cocktail, the appropriately named Fizz The Season? Borrell has kindly shared the recipe below…

45ml Willow
5ml lemon citrus
15ml elderflower cordial
Eisberg Sparkling Blanc to top

Add the Willow, lemon citrus and elderflower cordial in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with Eisberg Sparkling Blanc.

Alternatively, you could try Let’s Get Fizzical – a booze-free take on a French 75.

45ml Willow
5ml citrus
7.5ml sugar syrup
Eisberg Sparkling Rosé to top.

Add the Willow, citrus and sugar syrup in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a  Champagne flute. Top with Eisberg Sparkling Rose.

 

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