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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Martini

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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Five minutes with… Simon Difford

We talk about mentors, how to make the perfect Daiquiri and the greatest skill that a bartender can have with a stalwart of the London bar scene, Simon Difford. Oh,…

We talk about mentors, how to make the perfect Daiquiri and the greatest skill that a bartender can have with a stalwart of the London bar scene, Simon Difford. Oh, and he also tells us about the new edition of the magisterial Simon Difford’s Guide to Cocktails.

Anyone who has ever Googled a cocktail recipe will know Simon Difford’s work. He’s the man behind that invaluable drinks resource Difford’s Guide. What makes Difford so trustworthy is you know that he has made and tinkered with every recipe many many times. As well as being good at making them, he’s also obsessive about uncovering the history of classics like the Negroni and the Martini. Not easy when there are so many layers of myth attached to them. When we’re researching drinks for our Cocktail of the Week slot, Difford’s Guide is often our first port of call. 

Now, he’s just launched the 15th edition of Simon Difford’s Guide to Cocktails, which contains over 3,000 recipes with 600 of them new. Yes, he really is a cocktail perfectionist. But he’s also one of the most approachable, friendly people in the business; always keen to talk and offer a word of advice. So here he is, and he’s shared with us three of his favourite cocktails including the outlandishly-named Psychopathia Sexualis, with some top tips on how you too can be a cocktail perfectionist.

It’s Simon Difford!

Master of Malt: How did you get into the drinks business?

Simon Difford: In 1989, I put an advert in the Grocer Magazine saying ‘young agent seeks agencies’ or something along those lines, and this guy called Stan Sklar telephoned me and told me he imported spirits and liqueurs. I said that I knew nothing about the products he sold and I only had contacts with food buyers. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted I went and saw him. So late that Friday afternoon I left the meeting after he filled my car boot with weird and wonderful samples, from mezcal with a worm in the bottle, vampire wine packed in a coffin, and Black Death Vodka with a skeleton on the label. I went home and worked my way through these products with my friends. They were a lot more fun than jars of gherkins and tins of artichoke hearts so I started selling his products, including a lot of J. Wray & Nephew overproof rum.

Stan Sklar offered me a large parcel of miniatures he wanted to clear at a very attractive price. They were under bond in boxes of 12 dozen that couldn’t be split and were all esoteric so difficult to sell. However, the prices were great, so I bought the lot and set up a business called Little Tipple selling those and other miniature bottles by the dozen and half dozen to off-licences. Then I opened an off licence called Tipples [in Bromley] and also started wholesaling full-size bottles to bars and restaurants. Booze took over and food became something I only ate rather than sold.

MoM: How did you become a cocktail expert? Was it a deliberate decision or did you fall into it?

SD: Whether I’m a “cocktail expert” will be debatable by many, but I do believe I have made and drunk more different cocktails than anybody else alive or dead. How, did I get into cocktails? When I had my off-licence, there was a restaurant a few doors down called Dillinger’s. The owner, Malcolm, often came into my shop and he started asking for more and more unusual cocktail ingredients to make cocktails in his diner. So I started stocking more liqueurs, syrups and things like cream of coconut for Malcolm. I bought a cocktail book called The Bartender’s Cherry and I started working my way through the cocktails in the book at home. I still have the book which is full of my notes.

My wholesale business grew to specialise in selling these ingredients to bars and restaurants and so I became more and more interested in cocktails and cocktail culture. Then I dreamt up CLASS Magazine, (an acronym of Cocktails Liqueurs And Speciality Spirits) aimed at bartenders, but before I could do that, I thought I ought to experience bartending, so I started working shifts at Café Sol in Greenwich. I made loads of blended Daiquiris and Margaritas!

Tipples in Bromley back in the 1990s

MoM: When did you set up the Difford’s Guide website?

SD: Around 2005.

MoM: Who in the industry, past or present, or both, has been an inspiration to you?

SD: David Embury – a long way in the past – I love the attitude he expresses in his The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks book. Many of my recipes from vintage cocktails are based on his. Dick Bradsell was also a very influential friend. He’d come round to my flat and we’d make drinks. He had the greatest influence on how I seek to balance in cocktails, including dilution.

MoM: What’s been the biggest change in the drinks industry since you started out?

SD: The incredibly wide availability of products and the number of products available. When I started, Chambord was rare and hard to get in the UK. And products like absinthe weren’t available at all. I think there are more brands of gin available now than the total number of brands of spirits available back then.

MoM: How can the industry adapt to Covid?

I think we have to hope that enough people will be vaccinated, and the vaccine will prove effective enough that the bars can go back to how they were. However, we can see from our website that home cocktail making has dramatically picked up in popularity and even when bars return to normal there will still be a lot of people making cocktails at home. Hopefully, the rise in home cocktail making will not be at the expense of bars but will become an occasional alternative to a glass of beer or wine in front of the television and will play a big part in dinner parties.

MoM: What skill above all others does a bartender need?

SD: To be a good host.

MoM: What’s the hardest drink to get right in your book?

SD: I’ve always tested other bartenders on how they make a Daiquiri, I believe I was the first to do this. It’s a cocktail that requires a good recipe and the accurate measurement of each ingredient. A Ramos Gin Fizz requires knowledge of how to make it, not just a good recipe. And it took me a long time to nail a Clarified Milk Punch.

No cocktail enthusiast should be without one of these beauties

MoM: What kit do you need to make basic cocktails?

If you have good ice, a shaker, an Easy Jigger [a special transparent jigger with graduations for exact measurement] and a bar spoon, you can pretty much make any cocktail.

SD: If you could give one tip to aspirant home bartenders what would it be?

Buy an easy jigger and follow my recipes! Measuring ingredients is key to achieving the right balance, hence I created the Easy Jigger.

MoM: How has Instagram changed cocktails?

SD: I’m not so sure Instagram has changed cocktails. It may have changed people’s perceptions of them and helped bring back the blue drink. However, I don’t much use Instaspam or social media.

MoM: Do you have a least favourite cocktail?

SD: Shots. Whether they’re layered or neat, or mixed cocktail shots, I’m not into shots.

MoM: Which bottle do you reach for more than any others?

SD: The most truthful answer is sugar syrup, as it’s used in so many cocktail recipes. I’m very promiscuous when it comes to alcohol.

MoM: What’s your favourite bar (or pick a few) and why?

SD: The bar I’ve had the most memorable times in is The Cabinet Room in London, now sadly up for sale.

Daiquiri Naturale

The Daiquiri, one of the simplest but hardest to get right cocktails

MoM: What are your three favourite cocktails and why?

SD: My Daiquiri recipe, because it’s the cocktail I’ve spent more time trying to perfect than any other.
Psychopathia Sexualis, it’s the best-named cocktail, and the most fun to order in a bar.
Negroni, I’ve even managed to order a Negroni at our local, the Rose and Crown. They’ve all three ingredients and it’s just a shot of each in a glass over ice and then stirred by the drinker’s finger. The only issue is, the recipe is equal parts and their minimum serve for vermouth is 50ml, so it ends up being a huge Negroni.

Simon Difford’s Guide to Cocktails is available to buy direct from Difford’s Guide

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Shaken vs stirred: the science behind mixing a cocktail

Margaritas are shaken, Martinis are stirred, and that’s pretty much the way it’s been since time immemorial. The question is: why? For the definitive on when cocktails should be stirred…

Margaritas are shaken, Martinis are stirred, and that’s pretty much the way it’s been since time immemorial. The question is: why? For the definitive on when cocktails should be stirred versus shaken, we asked two bartenders to divulge the ‘rules’ behind each method, offer technique tips, and share four lip-smacking recipes to try at home…

Chances are, unless you’re a bartender – or James Bond – you’ve rarely given much thought to the technicalities of cocktail methodology. If the recipe instructs you to “shake”, you shake, and if it says “stir”, you stir, without ever really pausing to consider what the process brings to the drink, or why you’re doing one rather than the other. 

“Both shaking and stirring will ensure the individual ingredients are well-mixed, and so the overall cocktail has the right balance from start to finish,” says Patrick Pistolesi, founder of Drink Kong in Rome – one of the World’s 50 Best Bars – and head of mixology at NIO Cocktails.

Opening a bar during the COVID-19 pandemic

The team from Swift in Shoreditch

Both processes also cool the cocktail, Pistolesi continues, although shaking gets the job done slightly quicker. “Shards of ice break off and melt faster as the surface area of the ice is increased,” he explains. “Aside from cooling, the other main purpose of either shaking or stirring with ice is to dilute the cocktail to deliver the perfect drink.”

If both approaches mix the ingredients, dilute the drink, and cool the liquid – albeit at different speeds – when does one method take precedence over the other? It’s all to do with the tiny air bubbles that form during the shaking process.  “Shaking aerates the cocktail, which changes both its texture and its taste,” says Pistolesi.

Those bubbles are the reason a stirred drink will be crystal-clear, while a shaken drink will be cloudy, or at least opaque. Therefore, drinks made with ‘clear’ ingredients, like neat spirits and liqueurs, are typically stirred, while those with already ‘cloudy’ ingredients – such as citrus, syrup, fresh juice, egg whites, cream or milk – ought to be shaken. 

One of the most important (and oft-forgotten) ingredients? Ice. “Put simply, high quality ice delivers a better-tasting cocktail,” says Pistolesi. “Experience with different types of ice is important, as the quality of the ice can also affect the time required to shake or stir.” Good ice (very good blog post on the subject) starts with quality filtered water. You don’t want your ice to melt too quickly or it will have too much dilution, so use it straight from the freezer and avoid that ready-made ice with holes in.

The shake

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you’re going to need a shaker. But which one? “The Boston shaker is the classic two-piece, one part usually stainless steel and the other glass,” says Pistolesi. “This is really great for a sour drink that needs a lot of froth, as the shaker is pretty large and can contain more liquid.”

Alternatively, you could opt for the classic three-piece or ‘continental’ shaker. “This holds a smaller amount of liquid than the Boston shaker, will cool faster and deliver the right amount of air in the drink,” he continues. “I use it mostly for three-ingredient cocktails, for example a White Lady or a Daiquiri.”

In terms of technique: add ice into the shaker first, don’t overfill the vessel with liquid, and opt for a longer, harder shake when using viscous ingredients or those that don’t mix easily, Pistolesi says. Remember, you don’t need to shake as long you would stir – “anywhere between 15 and 20 seconds should be about right,” he adds.

Whatever you do, don’t risk an overshake. “It could make your cocktail watery and gritty with ice shards,” explains Mia Johansson, managing partner of London’s Bar Swift – also one of the World’s 50 Best Bars – and creator of cocktail delivery platform Speakeasy At Home.

“There is no way of perfectly timing it because it has to do with what is in your tin – and how much, more precisely,” she continues. “Make sure you fill your tin with plenty of ice and try to listen to the sound of the shake, when it goes from clunky to broken up it should be just perfect.” 

Ready to give it a crack? You’ll find two shaken classics from Johansson below:

Adnams Rye Malt Whisky Sour cocktail

A Whisky Sour made with Adnams Rye Malt and served on the rocks

Whiskey Sour 

3 parts whiskey (Black & Gold bourbon)
1 part lemon
1 part simple syrup or honey
1 egg white (or 25ml aquafaba)

Give it a good shake with plenty of ice in your tin. Serve straight up in a glass or over ice if you prefer. Garnish with a lemon wedge or cherry. For an extra touch, try adding a dash of Amaretto – 0.5 parts is enough.

French

The French 75!

French 75: 

3 parts Bathtub gin
1 part lemon
2 parts simple syrup
Sparkling wine to top

Shake in a tin with plenty ice, double strain into a coupe or flute and top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with cherry or lemon twist. For a twist, add 0.5 parts of elderflower cordial.

The stir

For this method, you can use your cocktail shaker or a stirring glass – either works fine. “Again, make sure you have plenty of ice, as you want to be able to control the dilution,” says Johansson. “The more ice you have, the more time you’ve got.” Give it “a good stir until you feel the ice has lost its edges and feels smoother,” she says, “usually around 20 to 30 seconds”. Pause and taste it to see if it is cold enough. Texture-wise, it should be “silky but still packed with flavour.”

Pistolesi, meanwhile, advocates for a longer stir. “You’d need to spend upwards of a minute and a half stirring a cocktail to achieve the same cooling and dilution as 15 to 20 seconds of shaking,” he says. In terms of method, “the simplest way is to dunk the spoon in and out of the drink – once the ice and ingredients have been added – while twirling the spoon.” Alternatively, you could use a Japanese method called the Kaykan stir. “The objective is to move the ice and the liquid as a single body and hence to avoid aerating the drink,” Pistolesi explains.

The perfect stir requires a little common sense, so keep an eye on the drink to make sure it doesn’t dilute too much. Get your stir on with the recipes below, again from Johansson:

The classic Boulevardier

Boulevardier

2 parts whiskey (Black & Gold bourbon)
1 part Campari
1 part sweet vermouth 

Stir over ice and serve on the rocks. Garnish with an orange peel. For an extra touch, add a dash of cherry brandy, no more than 0.5 parts.

Stinger made with H by Hine Cognac

Stinger

4 parts H by Hine Cognac
1 part Giffard crème de menthe 

Stir and serve straight up in a coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist. Perfect classic for a Christmas tipple. 

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Master of Malt tastes… Fifty/50/Gin

This week we’re tasting a gin that spent 10 years in virgin oak casks before spending another 10 years in used whisky casks. 20 year old gin! It’s then mixed…

This week we’re tasting a gin that spent 10 years in virgin oak casks before spending another 10 years in used whisky casks. 20 year old gin! It’s then mixed with fresh gin to create Fifty/ 50/ Gin. We were intrigued so thought it was worth giving it a thorough tasting.

Cask-aged gins are not that unusual these days. We’ve written about Durham Gin which spends between nine and 18 months in cask, Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Solera Reserve, and the Batch Gin Rummy partly aged in PX casks. Today, however, we’re trying a gin that spent 20 years in cask. 20 years!

It’s produced by a firm of whisky bottlers based in Renfrew near Glasgow called the House of MacDuff. The firm dates back to the 1950s in the form of the Cumbrae Supply Company specialising in whisky miniatures and novelty bottlings before being bought by the MacDuff family in 1987. In the ‘90s the firm began bottling single cask whiskies as well as a blended malt under the Selkie brand name.

Jane MacDuff, managing director, with her son Iain MacDuff, head of product development, © Martin Shields

About 20 years ago, the family acquired a cask of gin from Langley Distillers in the West Midlands and decided that they would age it in Scotland. For a really long time. It started life in virgin American oak casks and then after 10 years was transferred to ex-Scotch whisky bourbon casks where it spent another 10 years. They then mixed the oaked gin with newly-distilled London Dry Gin made by Langley to the same specifications; botanicals include juniper berries, coriander, cassia bark, cinnamon, angelica, orris root, liquorice, lemon and sweet orange peel. The blend is 50% aged and 50% new gin, and bottled at 50% ABV in a 50cl bottle. Which is where the gin got its name from. This is what the company said about it: 

“As a result of these 20 years the aged gin has now turned a deep golden colour and lost its juniper dominance. To bring back the juniper and complementary botanicals, we have chosen to combine our aged gin with new gin at a ratio of 1:1. After many experiments we decided this gave the best of both worlds, new and old, light and dark, deep and fresh.”

© Martin Shields

So, does it work? Well, here’s what we thought of it:

Colour: Yellow gold

Nose: Lots of cask influence, vanilla, custard, orange peel initially, but it’s interesting because there’s no shortage of sharp juniper, pine and citrus too. It smells much more ginny than I thought it would; I’d read some reviews that said it smelt just like whisky but it doesn’t.

Palate: Creamy texture, feels like a fine single grain whisky, lovely mouthfeel, now the cask really comes through like crème brûlée. But again, there’s no shortage of gin character, with red chillies, black pepper, and juniper. You really notice the high ABV. Very complex, one moment the cask leads, then the juniper but always in harmony. 

Finish: Creamy vanilla continues mingling with the fiery spices and a some wood tannin.

Overall: Not what I expected, the cask influence is pronounced by not unsubtle; it is definitely a gin rather than a whisky. The cask brings more texture than flavour.

So what do you do with it? Well it’s very nice neat out of a tasting glass and on the rocks. We think it would be wasted with tonic as you would lose that extraordinary texture. Chilling it right down brings out the wood tannin so if you’re using it in a Martini, make it quite wet with a good vermouth like Noilly Prat or perhaps something with sherry like our Palo Cortado Martini. Sweet vermouth works even better, like in a Martinez or you could make something like a ginny Rob Roy/ Manhattan/ Bobby Burns. But best of all is a Negroni that thinks it’s a Boulevardier because essentially what you have is a gin with the texture of whisky. Whatever you do, don’t dilute it too much as you want to enjoy that texture, so no tonic, fruit juice or soda water.

Fifty/50/Gin is available from Master of Malt.

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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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