fbpx
Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Martini

New Arrival of the Week: Willem Barentsz Mandarin and Jasmine Gin

This week we have been mostly drinking an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer. To learn more, we spoke with founder of Willem Barentsz gin, Michael Claessens. Barentsz…

This week we have been mostly drinking an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer. To learn more, we spoke with founder of Willem Barentsz gin, Michael Claessens.

Barentsz is named after a 16th century explorer Captain Willem Barentsz who attempted to find a way through the Arctic to China. He didn’t succeed but gave his name to the Barents Sea somewhere way up north between Norway and Russia. Barentsz’s intrepid nature and never-say-die attitude inspired Michael Claessens to create his own gin.

Drink runs in the family blood: “My father’s business, Claessens, is the foremost specialists for the development and creation of brands for the international beverage industry. It has been developing, re-positioning and creating brands for nearly 40 years,” he told us. So starting his own drinks brand was the most natural thing in the world. And with his Anglo-Dutch heritage, gin was the obvious choice: “Gin has clear ties with my two home countries – UK and Holland. My family’s Dutch roots, blended with my London upbringing, made it appropriate that the new brand should be a gin – which was born in Holland and perfected in London”, he said.

Michael Claessens.

It’s Michael Claessens!

Refreshingly, he is totally candid about where the gin is made, by Charles Maxwell at Thames Distillers in London. Claessens knew exactly what he was looking for when designing his own gin with Maxwell: “Barentsz is different in that we actually spent time looking at the concept of gin from the perspective of ‘mouth feel’. It was very important to us that the harsh and often bitter reputation of gin was overcome, in order that we could create a spirit foundation of the finest quality that was soft enough to allow for more delicate and fresh botanicals – and a gin that could actually be enjoyed neat over ice.” He went on to say: “I spent a long time playing with the formulation of our spirit foundation. I wanted it to be something that tasted smooth before the botanicals were added.” The result was a special spirit made from two grains, golden rye and winter wheat.

We are big fans of the standard bottling here at MoM. With its jasmine note, it’s very distinctive but this doesn’t stop it being extremely versatile. It achieves the gin triple crown of being superb in a G&T, a Martini and Negroni. It was honoured with a gold medal at the IWSC in 2018. This new version turns up the jasmine and adds mandarin to the mix. “Once again, we seek to honour the pioneering spirit of the Dutch Arctic explorer, Willem Barentsz,” Claessens said. “Our mandarin and jasmine botanicals are inspired by his quest for a northeastern trading route to China by way of the sea. Mandarin oranges symbolise luck at Chinese new year and our jasmine flowers are sourced from China.”

Willem Barentsz Mandarin and Jasmine Gin takes on some colour and sweetness from the mandarins but, according to Claessens, there is “no artificial colouring or sweeteners and no sugar. All sweetness is natural”. Claessens recommends drinking it neat over ice with a twist of orange but like its brother, it’s lovely with a decent tonic water. So let’s raise a glass to Williem Barentsz and the Anglo-Dutch alliance and himself. Proost!

1 Comment on New Arrival of the Week: Willem Barentsz Mandarin and Jasmine Gin

Cocktail of the Week: The Martinez

It’s not easy being a Martinez, watching your child, Martini, become the most famous drink in the world while you lay forgotten about in dusty old cocktail books. So this…

It’s not easy being a Martinez, watching your child, Martini, become the most famous drink in the world while you lay forgotten about in dusty old cocktail books. So this week, we’re resurrecting this classic with a special oak-aged gin from Martin Miller’s. 

Before anybody had thought to put the words ‘craft’ and ‘gin’ together, there was Martin Miller’s Gin. It was launched in 1999, that’s 10 years BS (Before Sipsmith), by Martin Miller of Miller’s Antiques guide fame. Craft gin years work rather like dog years, making Martin Miller’s 70 years old! It’s distilled at the Langley Distillery in the West Midlands before being shipped to Iceland where it’s blended with spring water. This makes it sound a bit gimmicky but Martin Miller’s quickly established itself as a favourite among bartenders and drinks writers. 

Martin Miller himself died in 2013 but the company goes from strength to strength. It produces a range of oak-aged gin called 9 Moons after the number of months the spirit is aged. The latest version has just been launched, called Solera Reserve – it uses French oak barrels and a solera process to ensure consistency. Some oak-aged gins can rather whack you around the head with oakiness but this is quite subtle, giving a creaminess, roundness and spice without overpowering the botanicals.

Martinez

A Martin Miller’s Martinez

The company recommends serving it in a Martinez. This 19th century classic is often thought of as the forerunner of the Martini. David Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks refers to the Martinez as “the original Martini.” The cocktail itself is probably named after a town in California called Martinez, the inhabitants of the town certainly think so as there’s a plaque saying as much in the town square. It’s essentially a Manhattan made with gin instead of rye or bourbon. An early recipe in O. Byron’s The Modern Bartender from 1884 specifies using Dutch gin which would have been oak-aged so this version from Martin Miller is a nod to the original Martinez, though the Dutch gin would have also been sweet. Other original versions call for another sweet gin, Old Tom.

For a long time, the Martinez lived in the shadow of its more famous off-spring. Ask for one and you might be given a blank look, but in recent years there’s been a mini-revival, helped by the return of sweeter styles of gin and the availability of exciting new vermouths. The Martinez is a very broad church running the gamut from very sweet, made with Old Tom gin and a high percentage of Italian vermouth, to almost Martini levels of dryness. Some versions call for a rinse of absinthe which certainly makes it distinctive. This one is at the drier end but still is very much a sweet cocktail as it uses Italian vermouth and Maraschino liqueur. The creaminess and spice of the oak-ageing takes this into Manhattan territory. One could use it as a gateway cocktail to tempt your gin-loving friend into brown spirits.

Anyway, here’s the Martinez. We hope you like it.

50ml Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Solera Reserve Gin (or another oak-aged gin)
20ml Martini Rubino vermouth
5ml Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir all the ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice for a minute or so. Strain into a chilled coupe or Martini glass and garnish with a piece of lemon peel.

 

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The Martinez

New Arrival of the Week: Batch Gin Rummy

This week we’re taking a look at a little distillery in Burnley which makes some seriously interesting spirits including a barrel-aged gin, a hopped vodka and breakfast rum. Because everyone…

This week we’re taking a look at a little distillery in Burnley which makes some seriously interesting spirits including a barrel-aged gin, a hopped vodka and breakfast rum. Because everyone enjoys rum with their breakfast, or is that just us?

Batch began as a brewery in Hampshire but founder Phil Whitwell got the gin bug inspired by visits to Spain where his mother lives. The only problem was that he didn’t have the space. So he ended up moving to Burnley in Lancashire, and building a distillery in a basement belonging to his nephew Ollie Sanderson who became head distiller. The Burnley basement was officially opened as a distillery, by the High Sheriff of Lancashire, no less. Their first release, called Batch Gin, won a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. Not bad for beginners. 

What began as a hobby with both Whitwell and Sanderson having full time jobs quickly got serious when northern supermarket chain, Booth’s, took them on, Suddenly that basement seemed awfully cramped so in 2016 they moved to a converted mill also in Burnley with a custom-built 165 litre still called Adrian. The success has continued: last year their 55% ABV Industrial Strength gin won a double gold in San Francisco. Then, earlier this year, the Batch boys were inducted into the Gin Guild so they get to wear little silver juniper branches to show how much they love gin. 

Head distiller Ollie Sanderson in action

Alongside a core range, the company produces ‘Batch Innovations’ which are a bit more far out. These include one that has just arrived with us called USA Breakfast Rum. No, it’s not designed to be drunk at breakfast, though you could, we won’t judge you. Instead, it’s inspired by the great American breakfast and flavoured with maple syrup, pecan nuts and blueberries.

But what the Batch team really love to do is age stuff in barrel. So much so that Whitwell somehow acquired a 3200 litre Cognac cask during a family holiday to France. Well, it makes a change from a beret and a tin of confit de canard. Operations manager Jodhi Didsdale told us that they got a surprise when a cask the size of six sherry butts turned up one day on the back of a lorry. This gigantic barrel is used to age a gin made with whinberries (aka bilberries). 

Barrel-aged gins are nothing new. In fact, in the olden days when most  liquids were transported in barrels, most gin would have been ‘cask-aged’ to some extent.  So-called yellow gins were produced in small quantities throughout the 20th century but nowadays are firmly back in vogue with many distilleries including Beefeater offering aged versions. 

What do you get if you cross gin with rum? Gin rummy!

Batch has combined its love of gin, rum, cask-ageing and bad puns in a product called Gin Rummy. First the team blended together the Signature and the Industrial Strength gin. The danger with aged gins is that the wood will overpower the ginniness of the gin so this only spent about a month in a PX sherry cask that had been used to age rum. Then it spent some time in a whisky cask before being bottled at 42% ABV. Operations manager Didsdale described it as “quite a playful one”. She recommends drinking it with cola which sounds a bit odd but according to her “the cola brings out the rum elements in the gin.” We think that barrel-aged note would work really well with barrel-aged vermouth so try it in a Martini, heavy on the Noilly Prat for the full cask effect.

1 Comment on New Arrival of the Week: Batch Gin Rummy

Cocktail of the Week: The Americano

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari and Martini Rosso, in one glass. It’s the Americano! The Americano used to be called the Milano-Torino because it contained…

This week’s cocktail unites two of Italy’s great aperitifs, Campari and Martini Rosso, in one glass. It’s the Americano!

The Americano used to be called the Milano-Torino because it contained Campari from Milan and Martini Rosso vermouth from Turin. It was originally served at the Milan bar belonging to the creator of Campari, Gaspare Campari. The name changed when American tourists arrived in Italy in the 1920s. They were escaping Prohibition and with the strong dollar, continental Europe was their playground. It’s the decadent generation immortalised in the novels of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

And what did these louche Americans drink when they were in Italy splashing their cash around and upsetting the locals with their loose morals, hot jazz and enormous baggy trousers? Why, Campari and Martini, of course, with a splash of soda. Due to its ubiquity amongst expat Americans, the drink became known as an Americano. A similar thing happened with coffee. Espresso was a little too strong for the tourists so they asked for it diluted with hot water, the Americano coffee was born.

Americans were still causing trouble in the 1950s. There’s a song about their influence on Italian youth by Neapolitan musician Renato Carosone called Tu ‘Vuò Fà L’Americano’. You might recall it from the 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr Ripley (the film has its moments but the book is brilliant. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat). Carosone’s song is about an Italian boy trying to ape American fashions: smoking Camel cigarettes, dancing to rock n’ roll and playing baseball (though he drinks Whisky and Sodas, not Americanos). Despite his modish veneer, this wannabe Italian is still living off his parents. 

But it’s not just Americans and Italians who fell for the charms of the Americano. It crops up in Ian Fleming’s short story ‘From a View to a Kill’ where Bond recommends drinking it in hot weather where one of his more usual drinks like a vodka Martini would be too strong. It’s a great drink for when you really want a Negroni but plan to get some work done/ bump off a Smersh agent in the afternoon.

It’s one of those cocktails that requires very little thought. You could experiment with other amari but I’m keeping it traditional with Campari. Then for the vermouth, well, it really has to be Martini. I’m using Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino which is made with red wines from Piedmont, the flavour is more floral and complex than the classic Martini Rosso. 

Right, that’s enough preamble, it’s time to put on some appropriate music and let’s make an Americano!

35ml Campari
35ml Martini Rubino Riserva Speciale Rosso vermouth
Soda water

Fill a highball or tumbler with ice, add the Campari and Martini and give it a good stir. Top up with soda, stir gently and garnish with an orange slice.

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The Americano

Christopher Hayman, a life in gin

After 50 years in distilling, Christopher Hayman of Hayman’s Gin has just been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week…

After 50 years in distilling, Christopher Hayman of Hayman’s Gin has just been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week to talk past, present and future of gin.

The Hayman family are gin royalty. Christopher Hayman is a fourth generation distiller, great grandson of James Burrough (the founder of Beefeater Gin.) Hayman himself has been distilling since 1969 but it was only in 2004 that the name ‘Hayman’s’ appeared on a bottle of gin. Since then, the family business, both Hayman’s children, James and Miranda are involved, has gone from strength to strength. The firm moved to a new distillery in Balham in south London in 2018 and are rarely out of the gin news with its ‘call time on fake gin’ campaign and innovative products like Small Gin. To celebrate Hayman senior’s 50 years in the business, a 50% ABV Rare Cut London Dry Gin will be released shortly. Then on Friday, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week, before he knew about the honour, to discuss 50 years in gin. 

Christopher Hayman next to Marjorie, the still named after his late mother

Master of Malt: In what ways has gin changed since you began distilling in 1969?

Christopher Hayman: I think one of the major changes is that back in the seventies gin was very much a lifestyle drink. Whereas today, which I’m delighted about, people actually want to understand the provenance and the authenticity of the gin you’re making, they want to know where the spirit is from, what grains are used in the spirit, where the botanicals come from, and how you make it. When I first joined the trade there were only a handful of brands where today, thanks to the recent gin craze, we’ve had hundreds of brands! But I think the main thing is the actual interest in gin and the renaissance in gin and people’s deep interest in how gin is made. 

MoM: When did you start to notice a change, that people are suddenly a lot more interested than they were?

CH: I think probably in the last ten to 12 years. It’s different in different markets but in the UK it’s around that time when people started to show an interest. And I think also with bartenders, vodka had been very strong back in the 1990s and I think gin was sleepy but still there, a little bit forgotten. And people suddenly, particularly bartenders, suddenly thought ‘actually, gin is quite an interesting flavour and quality’ and started to use it. So for them, for some bartenders, it’s been a new ingredient you might say! 

MoM: And do you think the boom in gin is slowing down or coming to an end? I mean it’s been predicted for a while…

CH: That’s something I’ve been asked so many times! I’ve just been to the Bar Convent Berlin and lots of people were asking that… My own feeling is that we’ve had incredibly strong growth in the last few years, at some stage or another it’s going to calm down and the rate of growth will slow down. I mean it’s very much a vibrant and thriving category at the moment but I’m sure it will calm down. 

MoM: Why did you launch the ‘call time on fake gin’ campaign?

CH: As a family we’re very committed to classic gin. And I think at that time, it’s a while ago now, we were very concerned that it was losing a little bit of its identity. And as a family we take a long term view and we’re absolutely passionate that the gin category retains its sort of status, not only today but in 15, 20 years time. We were just very concerned that gin retains its respect as a category and people understand what gin is and don’t get confused by some modern gin products.

We are family: Christopher Hayman with his children, James and Miranda

MoM: Do you think the category might need more regulation or more stricter definitions?

CH: That’s a lovely question! Sadly, my own opinion is that it’s a pity that gin wasn’t properly regulated back after the Second World War. Whisky, Scotch whisky did so. I mean there are regulations in operation in the UK and the EU and different ones around the world. I would love to see stronger regulation as such. I mean it is tightening up, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not as strong as I would like it to be. 

MoM: Is it important to you to be making a London dry gin in London?

CH: Very much so. That’s where my great grandfather started and he was very much a pioneer of London dry gin and he developed a two-day process for making our London Dry Gin, which we still use today. And so to us London is the natural home of gin and that’s why we want our gin to be distilled in London. And I often say if my great grandfather walked into our distillery today he would be so pleased to see we were still using his two-day process and maybe if we gave him a sample of our gin he would say ‘hm, that’s my gin!’ 

MoM: Can you tell me just a little bit more about this two-day process? 

CH: We only use English wheat neutral spirit, so we put that into our copper stills. We only use ten botanicals as a family and we put in our recipe, and allow it to steep overnight which allows the alcohol to start extracting some of the flavours from the various botanicals. And then after a day we do a normal distillation. We have tried doing it on the one day just for an experiment but it doesn’t produce the quality or the fuller flavour that we’re looking for in our London Dry. 

MoM: And tell me about this new gin you’re doing, Hayman’s Rare Cut?

CH: Rare Cut was thought up by Miranda and James. They said ‘what can we do to celebrate dad’s 50 years in the gin trade?’ And then had a good think about it and so they came up with the idea. It was a little bit of a secret, they decided to produce a London dry, cutting it at 50% rather than at other strength, and don’t ask me how they came up with the name of ‘Rare Cut’ I’m not sure I’m meant to be rare but 50 years is a rarity these days! I was in Canada with James a couple of weeks ago, it was one of the first times I’d tasted Rare Cut and I had it with a Rare Cut Martini, it was so good I had to have a second! 

Hayman's Small Gin and Tonic

Small gin, big flavour

MoM: Who came up with the idea for Small Gin? I thought that was very clever.

CH: It came up through the team, quite honestly. I don’t think it was only one person. We’ve obviously been very aware of what’s going in the lower, no alcohol sector of the market and a number of people have tried to produce a no alcohol ‘spirits’. And this germ of an idea came and we developed it. So it’s had a very interesting response in the trade. Very positive. Two of three people have said to me it’s one of the most exciting innovations in the gin trade for many years it means that you can get the taste of a full gin and tonic with 80% less alcohol and only 15 calories in the gin serve. So it’s got a huge amount of interest and once people understand how it works and we’ve done many comparison tastings and very few people can tell the difference between a regular strength gin and tonic and a Hayman’s Small Gin and tonic. 

MoM: Then finally I just wanted to ask about the new distillery in Balham. Has it become something of a tourist attraction?

CH: I think the answer is yes. We’re getting about 250 visitors a week. We do tours just about every day of the week and it’s great when you see on Trip Advisor that for London we’re number 20 and up with the Big Bens and the Buckingham Palaces of this world. Not only do we have them but we have a lot of trade visitors as well, as you can imagine. So the distillery, besides distilling all our gins, is pretty busy with business of one sort of another. And to celebrate my 50 years in the trade we had a special dinner in the distillery last Thursday evening, I had about 20 people, family, people I’ve known during the 50 years in my trade and had some lovely thank you letters and so on, so there wasn’t a better place to celebrate your 50 years in the gin trade. 

Thank you Christopher, and congratulations on your Lifetime Achievement Award!

No Comments on Christopher Hayman, a life in gin

Ce n’est pas un Martini

This week our contributing writer and bartender Nate Brown channels General Bosquet* following a disappointing Martini experience at a famous London bar. Stepping into the bar of this St. James…

This week our contributing writer and bartender Nate Brown channels General Bosquet* following a disappointing Martini experience at a famous London bar.

Stepping into the bar of this St. James hotel feels like stepping back in time. Not way back, not like centuries. More like decades. It has a bit of ‘50s feel at best. ‘80s at its worst. The carpet is so plush one does not walk as much as wade through the room. It’s eerily quiet, despite the two elderly men in a corner. 

Table for three, I whisper. Right this way sir, says the white-jacketed man. Why do they all wear these jackets? I ponder. It’s somewhere between a uniform and a suit of armour. They all look like they’re carrying concealed weapons. 

I reach my table through the heavy silence, and see that I am the first arrival in the back room which opens only for evening service. I stand to remove my raincoat. It’s been one of those awkward autumn days. The rain falls but the temperature is still high. I can’t tell if I’m sweating or damp from the rain. Both, probably. Double moisture to be soaked up by the depth of fabric underfoot.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, too scruffy for some London bars

“Excuse me, sir”, I’m interrupted. “But we do not allow tee shirts in here”.

“It’s boiling in here”, I protest.

“I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to keep your jacket on.”

I look incredulously around the empty room, wondering who I could possibly be offended by my wearing of a tee shirt. Perhaps the walls are of a certain sensibility, the chairs perhaps? No, it’s definitely the carpet. That bastard mangrove of a carpet hates the sight of flesh.

I have no choice but to relent. I’m meeting two friends, L & C, here for the signature Martini. Apparently nowhere does them quite like here. I’ve been before. I hadn’t rushed back, but the gents insisted. C’s gin is on the menu and he’s quite proud. The damp raincoat stays on. 

Apparently this where Ian Fleming came to write some of his Bond novels and allegedly create the Vesper cocktail a shaken, gin heavy Martini with a pointless measure of vodka. No shaken martinis are any good. The only decent thing about that drink is the Kina Lillet, and you can’t even get that anymore. Nevertheless, here we are, about to spend £20 a pop on the speciality of the house. 

The Vesper Martini, shaken, not stirred

When they arrive we order said Martinis. A generous amount of time later, a rickety wooden trolley is lugged through the carpet. On board are a few enormous frozen Martini glasses. The kind that feel like danger in the hand. We are asked how we like ours. A request for a dry Martini results in a few dashes of house vermouth bounced into the glass, before being discarded ceremoniously onto the carpet. Right, so I can’t wear tee shirt but you can playfully toss vermouth onto the floor? In fairness, I bet you could empty an entire bottle onto this spongy floor without so much as a damp patch. 

The quantities of frozen gin poured directly into the glass are colossal. No shaking here, that’s for damn sure. What an imagination that Fleming chap must have had then. I mean, who else could have dreamed up a Scotch-swilling, colonialist, oft-racist, mass-murderer in this place? I look back towards the bar where now a few elderly, straight-backed chaps in striped suits have gathered and are proudly guffawing.

After ten minutes drinking we still haven’t emptied our glasses and the gin is now warm. It’s a grin and bear it moment to finish. We order another, or rather the first bucket of gin does. After two we are cut off. I’ve heard stories of two gin ambassadors coming here and finishing six of these mammoth Martinis on a few occasions. That seems unbelievable. I know I’d be my unwelcome self after that sort of session. I’d probably be requesting Meatloaf on the bar stereo. The embarrassment would linger. But then again, maybe that’s why neither of those chaps live in London anymore. 

As we leave, I can understand the two Martini limit. The afternoon is still blindingly bright, it’s still raining, and, in the lingo of the location, we are a bit spiffy. I suggest a beer to bring us back to reality. Drinks here are indeed worthy of their notoriety. Only it’s not really a Martini, is it?

*Who following the Charge of Light Brigade said: “C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre, c‘est de la folie” – “It’s magnificent but it’s not war, it’s madness.”

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.

5 Comments on Ce n’est pas un Martini

A little learning can be a dangerous thing

In the drinks industry we talk a lot about the importance of education but what if the customer or bartender isn’t listening properly? Or just being badly taught? This week,…

In the drinks industry we talk a lot about the importance of education but what if the customer or bartender isn’t listening properly? Or just being badly taught? This week, Nate Brown has an issue with those who think they know best.

“Excuse me, but I ordered a Daiquiri. This is not Daiquiri”
“Uh yeah, I believe it is.”
“It’s not.”
“But… it is. I made it. Rum, lime, sugar. Bish bash bosh.”
“No. It isn’t. Trust me, I know.”
“I can assure you…”
“Have you ever been to Dylan’s. Do you know Sergio there? He’s the best, and he makes me the best daiquiris.”
“I have not. I do not. He does not.”
“Well, you obviously don’t know what a Daiquiri is, then. Some bartender you are.”
“Enlighten me.”
“It was red, and frozen, and the best.”
“See, what you had there was a frozen strawberry Daiquiri.  It’s not quite the same.”
“A frozen strawberry what….?”
“I can make that for you if that’s…”
“A frozen strawberry what…?”
“Daiquiri.”
“Exactly.”
“Fuck you, Sergio.”

Miseducation. Fake news. Arrogance, mismanaged expectations. Call it what you will, but that’s a toxic cocktail of ingredients right there. Stirred together and they help form the Dunning-Kruger effect, a sociological phenomenon whereby a person’s perceived competence is hugely over-inflated with the smallest amount of knowledge. Bad education, between peers or across the bar, is breeding a generation of rabid, jacked up on the power of knowledge fools. Dangerous, dangerous fools. 

A lot has been said about what we sell in our bars. Is it drinks? Is it atmosphere? Is it escapism? Is it experience? Maybe. But no matter your thoughts on the matter, one universal truth is that guests pay for value. Anything you can get in a bar or restaurant can be achieved in the home, albeit at such an extraordinary cost that the value evaporates. It is the value that keeps bums on seats. And this value is becoming eroded. The second a guest knows better than the host, the system is in trouble. And those guests with a little bit of knowledge are being created by us.

Daiquiri Naturale

That’s not a Daiquiri!

That guest that knows cucumber is the best garnish, or that Schweppes is the only tonic for that gin, or that gin should really be drunk from balloon shaped coppas for flavour, they know their gin. This is the guest that knows that a Manhattan should be stirred 30 times in 15 seconds in a clockwise motion, that water belongs nowhere near a Scotch, or that the cork of the vermouth should be waved over the Martini; the guest also knows that rum is sweet because it’s made from sugar and that Daiquiris come in passion fruit or raspberry. Well, that guest is Frankenstein’s monster.

Behind the stick is no better. The archetypical bartender who holds dearly the phrase “that’s not how we did it in my last bar”. That bartender that stirs a Negroni in a mixing glass because that’s what they did in the hotel he came from. You know the one, he’s the one describing every spirit as smooth and fruity, and uses polishing cloths to clean his bar top and discards his used tools in the sink for the long-suffering bar back to clean because that’s how he earned his stripes. This is the chap who knows, and I mean really knows, what whisky goes in a Rob Roy, because the brand ambassador himself bestowed the burden of knowledge upon poor Barry’s special shoulders. Well, I don’t give a fuck, Barry. Where I come from we used to meet disobedience with kneecapping, shall we return to the good old days you miss so much? Thought not.

We should be preaching understanding, not knowing. We should be placing learning above knowledge, even if a few egos have to suffer. Is it too clichéd to quote some old wise character here? Like that lunatic Gandhi: “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom,” or Socrates and his paradoxical “I know that I know nothing.” Humility is in short supply in our industry. To be seen to change one’s mind is perceived as weakness, which is a dangerous spiral. One of the theories of bartending I was taught was the ‘failure of success’, which decried that if you think you’ve made it, you’ve failed. Some of you may know this as ‘sharks don’t sleep’. Only progression and learning are worth praise, and that’s worth remembering.

We should be preaching understanding, not knowing. We should be placing learning above knowledge, even if a few egos have to suffer.  Look up the Dunning Kruger if you don’t know it already, for forewarned is forearmed. Just don’t go preaching it – a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

 

No Comments on A little learning can be a dangerous thing

The Nightcap: 9 August

Artificial tongues that can taste whisky? Vodka made from Chernobyl rye? The gin boom is still going?! These aren’t tales from 2054 – these stories all appear in this week’s…

Artificial tongues that can taste whisky? Vodka made from Chernobyl rye? The gin boom is still going?! These aren’t tales from 2054 these stories all appear in this week’s Nightcap!

Behind the scenes sneak peek at how The Nightcap comes together right here: sometimes this intro is written after the all the stories have been finished. Having a look at all the futuristic stuff in this edition of The Nightcap, you might think that time travel is real and MoM Towers has slipped through a dimensional rift and ended up in the year 2054. Stranded and working purely on instinct, we notice on the future calendar it’s a Friday, so we write up a new edition of The Nightcap, regaling the masses with tales of artificial tongues that can taste whisky and spirits made from crops in Chernobyl stories that these future folk see as perfectly normal, but to our minds are wildly out of this world. But it’s not. It’s today and stuff is just becoming more impressive by the day!

So, good people of 2019, what’s been happening on the MoM Blog? Henry kicked off the week with a gem of a rum from the Diamond Distillery for New Arrival of the Week, made a Pink Lady for Cocktail of the Week and spoke to Peter Lynch from WhistlePig about an oloroso-finished rye exclusive to MoM. Annie chatted to Bimber’s founder Dariusz Plazewski about where people can go wrong (and right) when starting a craft distillery, and then asked a very important question to us all: how do you make alcohol-free beer delicious? Guest columnist Nate Brown has opinions about drinks industry folk who RSVP for events then don’t turn up.

We also launched a new competition where you could win a trip down to Deven to visit Salcombe Distilling Co.! Take a look, pick up a bottle of excellent gin, and cross your fingers!

And now, the news of the future today!

Cardhu

How Cardhu will look when it’s been refurbished

Johnnie Walker gets the green light for Cardhu redevelopment

The final piece in the jigsaw is now in place. That jigsaw being Diageo’s £150m plan for whisky tourism in Scotland based around four key distilleries. As we have reported previously, developments at Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Clynelish, and a Johnnie Walker HQ in Edinburgh have all been granted planning permission. Now it’s the turn of Cardhu in Speyside. This was the first distillery acquired by Johnnie Walker in 1893 and since then has been a key component in the blend. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: “Together these locations will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.” Laura Sharp, brand home manager at Cardhu, added: “This announcement is very exciting and we want to thank Moray Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” We love it when a plan comes together.

That’s what an artificial tongue looks like

Boffins baffle counterfeiters with artificial whisky-tasting tongue

Who can forget the story from 2017 when a Chinese businessman spent $10,000 on a glass of Macallan that turned out to be fake? Well, such occurrences might be a thing of the past thanks to a team of Scottish engineers from the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. A paper titled ‘Whisky tasting using a bimetallic nanoplasmonic tongue’ published this week in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Nanoscale describes a metal ‘tongue’ that can be used to analyse whisky. The ‘taste buds’ are made up of gold and aluminium in a checkerboard pattern. It identifies whiskies from the statistical analysis of minute differences in how the metals absorb light. The device was tested on a series of single malts – Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch and Laphroaig – and was able to tell the difference between them, as well as different expressions of the same malt with greater than 99% accuracy. The paper’s lead author, Dr Alasdair Clark (above), of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, said:  “We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue – like us, it can’t identify the individual chemicals which make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures. In addition to its obvious potential for use in identifying counterfeit alcohols, it could be used in food safety testing, quality control, security – really any area where a portable, reusable method of tasting would be useful.” So next time you’re splashing out on the Macallan, don’t forget your artificial tongue. 

Clouded Leopard Gin bottle

This is gin, it’s still very popular in Britain

Gin still booming according to the WSTA 

There have been articles recently in the Spectator and the Financial Times saying that the gin boom is over, but figures just released by the WSTA seem to contradict this. As a trade body, the WSTA has an interest in bolstering the industry but nevertheless the stats make interesting reading. Retail sales up to March 2019 were up 43% by value on the previous year, worth nearly £1 billion. The off-trade is up 56% by volume on last year’s sales with nearly 6 billion bottles sold between March 2018 and 2019. Combining domestic and export sales, the British gin market is worth over £3 billion. WSTA chief executive Miles Beale commented: “It’s been another phenomenal 12 months for gin and, despite recent reports suggesting the gin bubble may have burst, our numbers suggest the exact opposite. Gin’s continued domestic popularity, and the growth in the spirits category overall, has no doubt been helped by the decision to freeze duty on spirits in the last Budget. We need further supportive action from the Government as we approach Budget time once more. Looking at the popularity of British gin overseas is also cause for celebration. £350 million, or around 46% of all British gin exports head to the EU, and so it is imperative that the Government works with the European Union to secure trade that is as seamless in the future as it is now.” What could possibly go wrong?

Firestone & Robertson TX whiskey, now just a tiny bit Frencher

Pernod Ricard bets on American whiskey with Firestone & Robertson buy

French drinks group Pernod Ricard, which owns the likes of Beefeater Gin, Absolut Vodka, The Glenlivet Scotch and Jameson Irish Whiskey, this week bolstered its presence in American whiskey by snapping up Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. The Texas-based producer makes TX-branded whiskey and bourbon, and the deal includes its Whiskey Ranch distillery too. “This is an exciting day for all of us at Firestone & Robertson,” said Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, who co-founded the business. “Building our company and producing award-winning whiskeys has been a truly remarkable experience. We are so proud of our team, and grateful to the many people that supported our efforts over the years. It is an extraordinary opportunity to partner with Pernod Ricard, and we are confident this relationship will accelerate the growth of our brands while preserving our roots and shared core values.” Pernod chairman and CEO, Alexandre Ricard, said the (undisclosed) transaction was a “very promising venture” that “strengthens our portfolio and footprint in the United States”. If it means more tasty American whiskey to go round, we’re all for it. 

You can swap a tin of beans for one of these!

The Alchemist tackles food poverty with cocktail exchange

Foodbank use is soaring in the UK (charity the Trussell Trust recently reported a 19% increase in food supplies it’s donated in the last year). Loads of us are both donating to and accessing our local food banks (there’s a list on the Trussell Trust’s site), so when news reached us that UK bar group The Alchemist is encouraging people to bring supplies in return for a cocktail, we whooped and cheered. On 29 August, any customers who bring non-perishable donations (unopened and in date; tinned, dried and packaged foods) into one of the bars with them will get vodka-based serve The Colour Changing One for free! All collections will be donated to local food banks. “These are truly fantastic local charities tackling food poverty across the UK, which is an issue we’re particularly passionate about at The Alchemist,” said Hannah Plumb, head of restaurants at The Alchemist. “This activity is a fun and engaging way to encourage customers to donate to their local food banks, who are in need of donations now more than ever.” You can find The Alchemist in Birmingham, Cardiff, Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford. You know what to do on 29 August!

Bruichladdich's Bere Barley

Bruichladdich’s bere barley

Bruichladdich reinforces barley focus with Exploration Series trilogy

Remember earlier this year when we checked out Bruichladdich’s trial barley plots? Well, the Islay distillery’s long-running focus on the grain has continued with new flavour-focused expressions, which will form a Barley Exploration series. Its focus on barley has become a bit of a USP for the distillery, which works with different local producers, and is currently trialling up to 60 different varieties. There are also plans to open its own maltings by 2023. So what does this new range look like? First up, Bruichladdich The Organic 2010 was distilled in 2010 (obvs) and made using barley from Mid Coul Farms harvested in 2009. It was matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for at least eight years, and was bottled sans chill-filtration or caramel colouring at 50% ABV. Bruichladdich Bere Barley, made from Orkney-grown Bere, a variety considered “obsolete” by many distillers, was likewise distilled in 2010 and bottled at 50% ABV just as it is. Rounding off the trio is Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011, made from Islay-grown barley, which spent 75% of its six-year maturation life in American ex-bourbon casks, and 25% on European ex-wine casks. “We want to support people who grow for flavour, those champions of heritage and natural crops,” said Bruichladdich head distiller, Adam Hannett. “By partnering with them we can find new and forgotten flavours, reconnecting our whisky with its vital raw ingredients.” Sounds great to us! 

Doesn’t it look jolly in Fentimans’ Secret Spritz Garden?

Fentimans kicks off Secret Spritz Garden

If The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of your favourite books as a child, AND you now like refreshing summer sippers, then we have news. The Venn circles have officially crossed, courtesy of tonic brand Fentimans. Tucked away behind ivy-covered walls, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Farringdon is (for the next three weeks, anyway) a little oasis of tranquility, aromatic plants, and a Spritz menu of dreams! The garden itself is overflowing with trailing greenery, herbs, and a 200-year-old olive tree, while Fentimans has added a lemon-filled fountain, highly-Instagrammable swing seat and the all-important bar into the mix. The menu (developed with the likes of Lillet and Martini Fiero) was created by Dino Koletsas (from The Langham, Bourne & Hollingsworth and Callooh Callay) and showcases the wonder of low- and no-alcohol cocktails, including the Rose Spritz, made with Fentimans Rose, lemonade, Martini Prosecco and fresh strawberries; and the Valencian Spritz, with Fentimans Valencian Orange Tonic Water, with Belsazar White Vermouth and peach liqueur. Head on down (you might even find yourself in a free guided workshop, from the Art of the Aperitivo to watercolour classes) Wednesday to Saturday up until 29 August to enjoy!

Aecorn range

Aecorn, a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs, has just been launched by Seedlip

Diageo acquires majority stake in Seedlip

In a move that will surprise no one, it was announced this week that Diageo has taken a majority stake (mmm, majority steak) in alcohol-free ‘spirit’ manufacture Seedlip. The brand was launched by Ben Branson in 2015 and created a new category of non-alcoholic drinks flavoured, packaged, and priced to rival premium gin. Distill Ventures, Diageo’s venture capital arm, took a minority investment in June 2016. Since then, Seedlip has gone global: it’s sold in top bars and restaurants in 25 countries, and comes in three varieties. It has also inspired legions of imitators such as Ceder’s from Pernod Ricard. Earlier this year, Seedlip launched Aecorn, a range of non-alcoholic vermouth-style aperitifs. We have been informed that Branson will still be involved with business. He commented: “We want to change the way the world drinks and today’s news is another big step forward to achieving this. Distill Ventures’ and Diageo’s shared belief in our vision has enabled us to build a business that’s ready for scale and I’m excited to continue working with Diageo to lead this movement.” John Kennedy from Diageo said: “Seedlip is a game-changing brand in one of the most exciting categories in our industry. Ben is an outstanding entrepreneur and has created a brand that has truly raised the bar for the category. We’re thrilled to continue working with him to grow what we believe will be a global drinks giant of the future.” And Shilen Pate from Distill Ventures added: “Supporting the vision of founders is what Distill Ventures was set up to do, and we’re proud of the impact Ben has had on our industry in such a short period of time.” With all that Diageo cash behind it, expect Seedlip’s upward trajectory to continue. 

GlenDronach

Mouth-watering malts

The GlenDronach’s new Cask Bottling releases will have whisky lovers salivating 

Prepare yourselves, The GlenDronach has just announced the seventeenth batch of its Cask Bottling series! It contains whisky drawn from fourteen casks ranging from the years 1990 to 2007, all of which have been selected by none other than master blender, Dr Rachel Barrie. What to expect? Each Highland expression has been bottled from a single cask from a selection of the distillery’s signature Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks alongside two Port pipes. Particularly special is a bottling from a rare vintage 1995 cask, one of the last remaining casks from that year still at the distillery. “The batch seventeen cask selection truly celebrates The GlenDronach house style; robust, elegant, fruity and full-bodied,” said Barrie. “Each cask individually explores the sophistication, powerful intricacy and rich layers of Spanish sherry cask maturation found in every GlenDronach expression; from layers of crème brûlée, treacle toffee and over-ripe banana in 1990 […] to toasted pain au raisin and butterscotch simmering beneath the surface in 2007.” Is your mouth watering as well? Then keep your eyes peeled for your favourite online retailer (us, duh) over the next few weeks.

Atomik Vodka

Don’t worry, it isn’t radioactive

And Finally… anyone fancy a Chernobyl Martini?

We’re no strangers to far-out spirits at Master of Malt, after all, we sell a gin distilled using botanicals that have been into space, but a new spirit might be the strangest thing yet. It’s called Atomik Vodka and it’s distilled using rye and water from the contaminated area around Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear energy disaster in 1986. Just this week, London bar Swift on Old Compton Street made the very first Atomik Martini with it. But before you start calling for Soho to be cordoned off, and send in the men in yellow suits, this vodka, despite its name, isn’t radioactive. The man behind it, Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth, told the BBC that though the rye was “slightly contaminated”, distillation has removed any impurities, and radioactivity levels are “below their limit of detection.” Only one bottle has been made so far but the Chernobyl Spirit Company, consisting of Smith, Ukrainain scientist Dr Gennady Laptev and others, plans to make 500 bottles per year. The team still has some legal hoops to jump through before production can start but when it does, 75% of the profits will go to help people in the region. Smith commented: “I think this is the most important bottle of spirits in the world because it could help the economic recovery of communities living in and around the abandoned areas. Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden.” Sounds very worthwhile and, according to Sam Armeye, the vodka tastes good too. Atomik Martinis all round!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 9 August

Cocktail of the Week: The Bronx

It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx! You really wouldn’t want to drink…

It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx!

You really wouldn’t want to drink a Martini during Prohibition unless you could get hold of some authentic imported gin which would have been very expensive. So instead you’d have to use a rough bathtub gin, which might be flavoured with turpentine or sulphuric acid (mmmm, tangy), with nothing to temper it except something labelled vermouth (very likely a mixture of grape must, sugar and more rough alcohol). No wonder cocktails with high sugar and fruit content became popular during those sad years. They would hide the taste of the alcohol.

Take the Bronx, for example. It was invented in 1906 at the Old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York by a barman called Johnny Solon, but it came into its own when good liquor became scarce. Get hold of some orange juice, some “vermouth” and some alcohol that vaguely smelt of juniper, and you could make yourself a palatable cocktail. Especially if you served it really cold. The Bronx is basically a sweet Martini made with orange juice. No wonder the Bronx was the cocktail of the 1920s. It’s the sort of thing that could be made by the bucketful for your Gatsby-esque parties.

The Bronx

The Bronx, next to its better-known cousin, the Martini (photo credit: The Home Bar)

It’s rather gone out of fashion now. There’s a National Martini Day and a Negroni Week, but nobody designates time to enjoy the Bronx. Poor Bronx. Perhaps it’s because we now have good gin coming out of our ears. There’s no need to disguise the flavour. Then there’s the borough itself, which doesn’t have the glamour of Manhattan or the hip of Brooklyn. Plus it’s an easy cocktail to make badly with concentrated orange juice and cheap cooking vermouth. But if you use freshly squeezed orange juice, or my own favourite, blood orange juice, then it’s marvellous concoction. Then when choosing your booze, think orange. I’m using Brighton Gin which has orange peel as one of its botanicals, and two citrus-heavy vermouths, Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato and Noilly Prat Extra Dry.

To turn a Bronx into a Queens, you swap the orange juice for pineapple juice, or in some recipes combine the two, or in others add a bit of lemon to the pineapple. Or you can add a few drops of Angostura bitters in which case it is called an Income Tax (who comes up with these names?). Anyway, enough variations, let’s make a Bronx:

50ml Brighton Gin
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato
15ml Noilly Prat Orginal Dry
30ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters

Shake all the ingredients hard with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and shake a wicked calf

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The Bronx

Cocktail of the Week: The Martiki

Today we have something of a rarity for you. You won’t find it in just any bar. It combines two great cocktail traditions: classic American and tiki, all in one…

Today we have something of a rarity for you. You won’t find it in just any bar. It combines two great cocktail traditions: classic American and tiki, all in one glass. Say hello to the Martiki!

The inspiration for this week’s cocktail came from a recent conversation with two drinks writers, Richard Godwin and Simon Difford. Over a few drinks, we discovered a shared love of kümmel, a kind of schnapps with a distinctive nutty sweet taste. We thought it would be fun to try to raise the profile of this delicious but rather forgotten liqueur. So, from now on the 17 April will henceforth be known as International Kümmel Day.

Godwin suggested I try it in the form of a cocktail called the Martiki. So, I dug out my battered copy of Godwin’s book The Spirits (a great one-stop place for all your cocktailing needs) and found the recipe. The Martiki is, as its name suggests, a tiki take on a Martini in which you use white rum instead of gin, and in place of vermouth, kümmel.

According to The Spirits, the cocktail was invented at The Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills. Now closed, the place was a celebrity hangout in the ‘50s and ‘60s, decorated in a tropical style, and featured an actual lagoon in the dining room. Bring back lagoons, I say. Much more fun than all this modern minimalism. Most recipes for the Martiki, however, don’t use kümmel. Some call for vermouth, and other versions are rather like Pineapple Martinis. According to Godwin, his recipe came from Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry. With a name like that, you’d expect him to know his tiki drinks.  

mentzendorff-kummel-combier-distillery

The Combier Distillery where Mentzendorff kummel is made

Kümmel gets its peculiar taste from caraway seeds along with cumin, fennel and other spices. So it’s not dissimilar to Scandinavian Akvavit, though sweeter. The leading brand Mentzendorff was originally made by a Prussian family in Riga, Latvia. In the 1860s, the family came to Britain and branched out into wine importing. The firm is still going strong and is the UK agent for Bollinger Champagne. The liqueur is now distilled in France. The other brand you might see, Wolfschmidt, is Danish.

Despite its Baltic origins, kümmel used to be immensely popular among the British upper classes. There are mentions of it in Evelyn Waugh’s works. But the only places you will see kümmel drunk today are golf clubs and old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs. Indeed, the last time I visited such an establishment to give a talk about my book, the man who had invited me insisted I join him for a glass of restorative kümmel afterwards. In short, kümmel could not be less fashionable, which means that it is ripe for a revival.

And so, on to Godwin’s Martiki. If you’re a kümmel novice, you might want to halve the amount you put in. Expressing a piece of lemon peel is essential as it freshens the whole thing up; you can either drop it in, or if you’re feeling properly tropical, garnish with a piece of coconut. You could even, as recommended in The Spirits, add a little coconut water to make it totally tiki.

Martiki, Difford's Guide

Martiki (photo credit: Difford’s Guide)

Here’s the Martiki, a strange mixture of classic and tropical, with a good dash of Baltic into the bargain. Perhaps it should be called the Cosmopolitan.

50ml Diplomático Planas white rum
10ml Mentzendorff Kümmel

Stir ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon peel over the top, and garnish with a lemon twist or a slice of coconut.

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The Martiki

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search