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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Mezcal

Cocktail of the Week: The Paloma

This Friday the 22 May is World Paloma Day, when todo el mundo celebrates Mexico’s favourite cocktail. Here’s how to make it the slightly fancy way. Say the words ‘Mexico’…

This Friday the 22 May is World Paloma Day, when todo el mundo celebrates Mexico’s favourite cocktail. Here’s how to make it the slightly fancy way.

Say the words ‘Mexico’ and ‘cocktail’, and most people will reply ‘Margarita’ but in Mexico itself, the Paloma is far more popular. It makes sense, Margaritas tend to be very strong, not ideal for sipping all day in the sunshine without things getting exciting. They also contain Cointreau or Grand Marnier, things that most people don’t have lying around. 

The Paloma in contrast is a long drink made up of Tequila, which most households in Mexico will have,  plus fresh lime juice and grapefruit soda. Oddly enough, over here it’s the grapefruit soda that might not be so easy to find. You could substitute with another citrussy drink like bitter lemon or old-fashioned sparkling lemonade, or you can make your own soda using fresh grapefruit, fizzy water and caster sugar as I’m doing below. 

The word ‘paloma’ means ‘dove’ in Spanish. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of World Paloma Day, it’s a new one, this is only its second year. Soon every drink will have its own place in the calendar: like International Pornstar Martini Day, World Snakebite & Black Day and National Shandy Week.

As with all Tequila cocktails, in fact all cocktails, it’s worth using a decent spirit. Cheap nasty Tequila will make your Paloma taste, well, cheap and nasty. I’m using Vivir Blanco, made from 100% Blue Weber agave. It’s double distilled In Jalisco and blended with local water from a volcanic spring. The result is smooth, delicious and ideal for mixing.

The final touch is entirely optional but it’s quite a fun way of adding character to your drink. At the end pour in a teaspoonful of mezcal, I’m using the quite difficult to pronounce QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan. Feel free to leave it out but it does give the drink a wonderful kick of complexity without overpowering the fruit or Tequila. Consider it a supporting spirit. 

Oh, and finally to salt or not to salt? Salt is counterintuitive as it actually makes the drink taste sweeter so you need less sugar but I find a whole rim coated in a thick layer of salt too, um, salty. So, I just wet the rim of the glass and dip it in a couple of places in crunchy sea salt. 

Pretty in pink, it’s the Paloma!

It’s worth making it up in batches and keeping in the fridge to drink over the course of a summer’s afternoon. Right, here’s the recipe.

60ml Vivir Blanco Tequila
Juice of one ruby grapefruit or approx 100 ml
30ml lime juice
Teaspoon of caster sugar
Sparkling or soda water
Teaspoon of QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan mezcal (optional)

Rub some Tequila round the rim of a tumbler or Highball glass, dip it in sea salt but don’t coat the entire rim. Add the grapefruit juice, lime juice, Tequila and sugar. Stir thoroughly and taste. Add more sugar if it’s too tart for you. Fill with ice, stir and top up with fizzy water. Add a teaspoon of mezcal and garnish with a lime wedge or piece of grapefruit. Or both.



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The Nightcap: 24 April

Another one of those week thingies has passed, which means it’s time for another edition of The Nightcap! A week has passed since the previous edition of The Nightcap found…

Another one of those week thingies has passed, which means it’s time for another edition of The Nightcap!

A week has passed since the previous edition of The Nightcap found its way to the MoM Blog, which means that it’s about time we don our nightcap hats and get a new one sorted. Please note that “nightcap hats” are very different from actual nightcaps that you might see people wearing on TV shows about people in the early 1900s you know, those really long, typically stripey hats that match the person’s pyjamas. Never really got how those were supposed to help you sleep… Anyway, our nightcap hats are metaphorical, and every contributor’s hat is different in their mind. For example, mine is a comically large cowboy hat concealing a comically small cowboy hat underneath it. Yee-haw!

On the MoM blog this week, we launched a new competition with Kingsbarns Distillery, continued our series on top-fives by looking at the best boozy songs and then concluded our virtual reality tours of great distilleries by visiting Aberfeldy and Royal Brackla. Henry got the lowdown on St. George’s Distillery to mark the patron saint of England’s day, while Sam Smith did some exemplary analysis of the perfect snack & spirit pairings (check out that graph, folks). Our Cocktail of the Week was the brilliantly named The New Yolk, a bourbon-based twist on the Brandy Alexander that Annie enjoyed before she cast an eye on the ‘world’s most innovative distillery’. Adam then recommended six tremendously tasty rums and introduced Bombay Sapphire‘s first-ever flavoured gin: Bombay Bramble.

Once again we’d like to thank all those who entered our virtual pub quiz last Friday, scroll to the bottom for the answers. Not that Ewan MacFall needs to see those, because he won last week’s quiz and has got himself a £25 gift voucher to use at MoM Towers. There’s another quiz coming later this evening. Metaphorical thinking caps at the ready!

The Nightcap

Oktoberfest usually attracts around 6 million visitors a year

Oktoberfest 2020 is cancelled

Bad but unsurprising news came out this week as the Bavarian state government confirmed that it had taken the decision to cancel the two-week-long Oktoberfest. The famed 210-year-old German beer festival was said to pose too big a public health risk, which is understandable. Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, called the decision a “bitter pill”. GlobalData, a data and analytics company, has crunched the numbers to demonstrate how much of an issue this is for the beer industry. “This is a further blow to the beleaguered beer industry, which is already reeling from the effects of the lockdown. In many areas, the sector has seen the virtual disappearance of around half of its market, with the closure of all pubs, bars and restaurants,” says Kevin Baker, head of beer & cider research (great job title by the way). “According to GlobalData’s COVID-19 Market Impact Model, global beer and cider volumes are expected to decline by around 7% between 2019 and 2023, compared to a previous forecast of 3% growth over the same period. The virus and the attendant lockdown have had a profound effect on consumer behaviour”. Baker did go on to say that “While there are clearly significant challenges for the industry, especially in the short term, companies and brands can also take advantage of the opportunities, such as a renewed interest in local and trusted brands.” Well, that’s something to hang your (Tyrolean) hat on at least. Perhaps you can do your bit by indulging yourself and topping up your beer supply.

The Nightcap

Introducing: Hearts & Crafts Sauternes Cask Single Malt Whisky

The Cotswolds Distillery releases Hearts and Crafts Single Malt Whisky

It was a good week for new drink launches, as Havana Club announced the release of Tributo 2020. But you might not have realised amid the pandemic of it all that yesterday was St. George’s Day. The Cotswolds Distillery made the most of the occasion by announcing the first release in a series of single malts called Hearts & Crafts, inspired by the arts and crafts movement. Hearts & Crafts. Nice. The series will consist of yearly limited editions, each presented in a gift box with a different William Morris pattern. Morris, one of the leaders of the arts and crafts movement that emerged in mid-19th century Britain, had a summer house in the Cotswolds. The first whisky from the collection is the Sauternes Cask Single Malt Whisky, which is the distillery’s first-ever European oak cask expression. We were fortunate enough to get a sample and were very impressed. Think crème brûlée, cinnamon, and honey, but with plenty of peachy fruit and a nice punchy 55.2% ABV to keep you on your toes. It’s every inch the luxury drop as it should be for £74.95, available exclusively from the distillery with only 1,680 bottles available. There won’t be anymore after that, folks! If you don’t manage to pick up a bottle, there’s plenty of Cotswolds deliciousness right here, and you can always look to future Hearts & Crafts releases which will be seasoned with casks that held Pineau de Charentes, Calvados, rum, Port, Madeira, Banyuls, vermouth and more.

The Nightcap

The Batch No. 1 Pearse Irish Whiskey Collector’s Edition set was signed by the late Dr. Pearse Lyons

Pearse Lyons Distillery auctions rare whiskey collection 

In an effort to support the healthcare professionals and frontline workers battling the COVID-19 crisis, Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin has decided to do its bit by auctioning off a set of rare whiskey to raise money. On offer is The Batch No. 1 Pearse Irish Whiskey Collector’s Edition set, a four-bottle collection signed by the late Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder of the distillery and Jack O’Shea, master distiller which includes The Original, Distiller’s Choice, Founder’s Choice and Cooper’s Select whiskies. Proceeds from the highest bid will be donated to the St. James’s Hospital Foundation, which funds resources for doctors, nurses, researchers and staff. “My father knew better than anyone that good whiskey brings people together,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech and son of Pearse Lyons. “What better way to unite even at a distance than in support of our healthcare professionals? This auction reflects the humanitarian spirit of Pearse Lyons Distillery and of Pearse Lyons.” The virtual auction began last Friday 17 April at 5pm (Dublin time) but bids can still be made until Sunday 26 April at 7pm right here.

The Nightcap

UK bartenders must create a cocktail with any of the three Corte Vetusto mezcals

Corte Vetusto launches cocktail competition: The Cut Above Challenge

David Shepherd of marvellous mezcal brand, Corte Vetusto, has decided to do his part to support the UK bar industry. Shepherd has gone and launched the Cut Above Challenge, with the name evoking the mantra of master mezcalero Juan Carlos Gonzalez Diaz, to create a cut of mezcal so fabulous it invokes the spirit of previous generations, known as el Corte Vetusto or… the ancient cut! No biggie. So, what’s the challenge? UK bartenders have the mission to create a cocktail with any of the three Corte Vetusto mezcals Espadín, Tobalá and limited edition Ensamble II. The drinks can’t just speak for themselves though, the submissions must include why the serve is a cut above! Entries are to be sent through the @VetustoMezcal Instagram, or emailed to david@vetustomezcal.com with the full ingredient list, method and serving suggestion, along with the Cut Above justification. Entries will be judged by David Shepherd (of course), with help from Eduardo Gomez, director of Tequila & Mezcal Fest, and Josh Linfitt of Propping Up the Bar. There are five prizes to be won, with the winner claiming £250 and the three bottles from the Corte Vetusto range. The entry deadline is Thursday 7 May 2020, and we can’t wait to see what the bar community comes up with! 

The Nightcap

James Hocking: man, wine merchant, award-winning amateur horticulturalist

And finally… James Hocking Wine branches out with free plants during lockdown

Even if you can’t leave the house during lockdown, James Hocking Wine will bring the outside to you! The wine importer will now deliver plants along with local wine orders, free of charge. While this may seem  bit random, Hocking is not only a top wine merchant but also an amateur, award-winning horticulturalist, and had been preparing a selection of vegetables for entry into several shows around the U.K. These have sadly been cancelled, but on the bright side, Hocking now has a plethora of plants that need new homes! Local customers in South Hampshire can request anything from sungold cherry tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, Marconi sweet peppers and Apache chilli to arrive alongside their wine (link to website here). To help the beloved veggies flourish, customers will also be supplied with a small bottle of “Hockings Tomato Feed”, a secret formula created by James that is said to be responsible for many a Best in Show. Fancy some top Californian wine and a dose of foliage? This’ll have you covered. Maybe it’ll even spark a green thumb or two!

The Nightcap

Pub quiz answers

1) What is considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s favourite cocktail?

Answer: Daiquiri

2) Which spirit are you most likely to find a worm in the bottom of the bottle?

Answer: Mezcal

3) What animal is responsible for the majority of agave pollination?

Answer: Bats

4) Which of these grapes is NOT allowed in the production of Armagnac?

Answer: Sauvignon Blanc

5) What gives vermouth its characteristic taste?

Answer: Wormwood

6) Stout originated in which city?

Answer: London

7) In Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye which drink does Philip Marlowe prefer to a Martini?

Answer: Gimlet.

8) What flavour do ants give when distilled?

Answer: Citrus

9) To be classed as Rhum Agricole a rum must be. . . .

Answer: Distilled from cane juice

10) Rapper Snoop Dogg is famous for sippin’ on what spirit and juice?

Answer: Gin

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Five minutes with. . . Thea Cumming from Dangerous Don mezcal

Soft, floral and perilously quaffable? It could only be Dangerous Don’s new Joven expression, a dazzling 100% Espadin mezcal lovingly crafted in the depths of the Oaxacan countryside. We caught…

Soft, floral and perilously quaffable? It could only be Dangerous Don’s new Joven expression, a dazzling 100% Espadin mezcal lovingly crafted in the depths of the Oaxacan countryside. We caught up with the brains behind the brand, Thea Cumming, to chat about experimental destilados, the original ‘Don’, and a cowboy called Frank…

You might recognise Cumming’s name. As the co-founder of dedicated agave celebration London Mezcal Week – now in its fourth year – and co-owner of Stoke Newington music and mezcal bar Doña, she’s carved a reputation as a figurehead in the city’s mezcal scene. 

While today Cumming may have her fingers in many enchiladas (figuratively speaking), her spirited journey began on the final leg of an epic US road trip, in the port town of Puerto Escondido, situated on Mexico’s Oaxacan coast. 

“That’s where I drank mezcal for the first time,” says Cumming. “We were staying in a place called Sunset Point and met this cowboy from Colorado called Frank. He was going up into the mountains, buying mezcal and mixing it with coffee, vanilla, sugar and some other things in his kitchen, then bottling it and selling it. And he had some amazing mezcals.” 

Thea Cumming with friend in Oaxaca

A few sundowners later, Cumming was sold. “I remember being sat by the pool and deciding, ‘I’m going to start selling mezcal,” says Cumming. “And I’m going to call it Dangerous Don’. That’s my dad’s nickname – his mates from university called him dangerous Don because he had this elaborate plan to go and smuggle cigars with his best mate, big Andy.”

One large bank loan, a tour of Oaxaca and 12 palenques later, Cumming met the Martinez family in Santiago Matatlan, headed by fourth generation master mezcalero Celso. Taking inspiration from Frank’s DIY kitchen blending, she and Martinez would go on to develop the very first Dangerous Don variant, a ‘mezcal destilado con café’.

It isn’t a liqueur – rather, the coffee is treated as a botanical. Martinez twice-distills his 100% Espadin agave in a copper pot still before adding medium-roasted, coarsely-ground Naom Quie coffee beans to the distillate. He allows the mix to steep for 24 hours before distilling again, resulting in a smooth sweet mezcal. 

“The production process of mezcal is unbelievable, it’s such a labour of love,” says Cumming. “Each producer has such different techniques, from roasting the agave to the fermentation process. It’s the same as being a chef – each chef will produce a different dish when they’re asked to cook the same thing.”

Coffee being prepared for distillation

Terroir is also a massive influence in mezcal, as follow-up bottling Dangerous Don Joven demonstrates beautifully. It’s made by master mezcalero Juan Nacho Diaz Cruz in picturesque Santa María Quiegolani – around seven hours’ drive from Oaxaca – where he roasts, ferments and then twice-distils his 100% Espadin agave. 

“It’s very secluded, there’s nothing around for miles and miles,” says Cumming. “I drove out to meet him and his family last April, they’re growing loads of agave and making these incredible mezcals, all super soft and floral and really approachable.”

While the Joven is just hitting shelves, there’s no slowing down for Cumming, whose next destilado is already in the works. There’s plenty of experimentation within mezcal – master mezcaleros love a botanical or two – and Dangerous Don’s master mezcaleros are no exception.

“We’ve just made a ‘destilado con mandarina’ – mandarin – which is really delicious,” says Cumming. “We distil the mezcal twice, peel [the fruit] and leave them to steep for a day, then distil again. The plan this year is to roll out a few more destilados. It’s a really great way to get people to start exploring [the category].”

While it’s beloved by bartenders and drinks aficionados, mezcal is yet to make waves in the mainstream. This presents a unique opportunity for the tight-knit mezcal community to present their liquid as the artisanal product it genuinely is, free from the ‘slammer’ and ‘shot’ connotations associated with its agave cousin, Tequila. 

El joven esta acqui

So long as the category can retain its ‘craft’ credentials, anyway. Which might prove tricky as multinational spirits companies carve their own slice of the agave action. The problem with bigger players coming in, Cumming warns, is that they’ll drive the price point down. And if this sounds like a good thing, trust us – it isn’t.

“Mezcal is an expensive product because of the process,” she explains. “We’re not talking about a grain or sugarcane – we’re talking about something that takes eight years to grow, and that comes with a price point. Many smaller brands can’t necessarily get their price down, and I don’t know that you would want them to.”

On the bright side? As drinkers, we’re more open and invested in the industry than ever before. “The way we consume has changed a lot,” Cumming says. “We care about the origin of the products we buy now, more so than ever, and with mezcal, that’s really important. If that conscious consuming mentality is applied to the mezcal category, then that’s just the dream.”

While we’d always recommend appreciating any artisan spirit neat – at least to begin with – Dangerous Don is also made for mixing. The range is exquisite with tonic (garnish with an orange or grapefruit wedge). If you’re keen to experiment, the original con café variant makes a cracking Negroni when subbed in for the gin. 

“My favourite drink is a Mezcal Tommy’s Margarita,” says Cumming. “Lime and a bit of agave with Dangerous Don Joven, it works really well. If you want to be slightly more creative, you could do a take on an Espresso Martini with Dangerous Don, cold brew, crème de cacao and a tiny dash of agave syrup and that’s delicious too.”

There’s currently £5 off bottles of Dangerous Don original and Joven at Master of Malt.

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Top 5 drinks books (and a jigsaw)

Taking in cocktails, whisky, gin, Armagnac and every good spirit under the sun, here are our favourite drinks books by the best writers on earth. Plus bonus jigsaw. Fun for…

Taking in cocktails, whisky, gin, Armagnac and every good spirit under the sun, here are our favourite drinks books by the best writers on earth. Plus bonus jigsaw. Fun for all the family!

A good drink has transporting qualities. One sip of Lagavulin and your senses will tell you that you’re on the storm-battered coast of Islay, a chilled glass of Santorini wine is almost as good as a trip to the island itself, and shut your eyes while sipping a good strong Martini and you could be in New York City. The magic is even stronger if you add a good book into the mix which is why we’ve picked five of our favourite drink books in stock at Master of Malt. So, you can explore the world, drink in hand, while maintaining social distancing. If there are any that we have missed, do let us know in the comments or on social. Oh, and we’ve stuck a jigsaw in at the end because you can never have too many whisky-based games. 


The Home Bar Henry Jeffreys

If you can’t go out to the bar then why not bring the bar to you? That’s the premise of The Home Bar written by MoM’s very own features editor. It features tips on how to get the right look from an old fashioned pub bar to turning your room into a tiki wonderland, the basic kit you need, and cocktail recipes from the top bartenders. You might never need to leave the house again.


Whisky: The Manual Dave Broom

As experienced drinkers you probably think that you don’t need a whisky manual. It’s not a piece of flatpack furniture, just open the bottle and pour. Well, put your scepticism aside because this book from one of the country’s best loved and most majestically bearded whisky writers will take your appreciation of whisky to the next level. 


Distilled Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley

The dynamic duo of Harrison and Ridley have written quite a few books but we like this one because it distills (pun fully intended) what the duo do best: insatiable curiosity about drinks, and an amusing style that belies a deep knowledge and understanding of the wide world of booze. Taking in whisky, Calvados, baijiu, Armagnac, gin and more, it’s all here. There’s even a tasting set to go alongside it.



Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020

Love him or loathe him, there’s no doubt that Murray has mastered the art of setting the whisky agenda. When Murray made a Japanese whisky, a Yamazaki sherry cask, his whisky of the year in 2014, it made the front page of the papers around the world. Most whisky writers would sell their grannies for that kind of clout. So find out who’s up and who’s down in Murray’s view in this year’s guide, just don’t take it all too seriously.


The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace Tristan Stephenson

If you’re serious about cocktails, then you need to read Tristan Stephenson aka the Curious Bartender. He’s been in the industry since his early twenties, won all kinds of awards and he’s a great writer. You almost want to dislike him. We stock a few of his books and they’re all brilliant but we’ve highlighted this one as we know how much our customers love gin.


And finally. . .  The Whiskies of Scotland Jigsaw Puzzle 

Here’s the perfect thing for when you can’t go outside, a whisky jigsaw! Produced by the cleverly-named Bamboozled, it’s a map of Scotland market with famous distilleries. It’s the brainchild of Rebecca Gibb, an actual Master of Wine (she knows a thing or two about whisky as well), so you should learn something while you puzzle. 


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Majestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

It’s World Margarita Day on Saturday (22 February) so there’s no better time to enjoy the delights of the various agave-based spirits we have here at MoM Towers! Loved and…

It’s World Margarita Day on Saturday (22 February) so there’s no better time to enjoy the delights of the various agave-based spirits we have here at MoM Towers!

Loved and consumed by millions, made from a couple of simple ingredients and utterly delicious. God, I love Maltesers.

Maltesers share all of these qualities with Margaritas, which are also delightful. So good, in fact, that a day was created especially to champion them. On 22 February (which is this Saturday, folks), drinks lovers all around the world will honour this tasty mix of Tequila, triple sec and lime. We even featured the classic holiday drink as our Cocktail of the Week this time last year if you’d like to learn more about it and how to make it. But why stop with just celebrating the cocktail when you can enjoy the spirit behind it, or indeed any agave spirit. From terrific Tequilas to majestic mezcals (hey, that’s the title!), we’ve got everything you need to mark World Margarita Day or just indulge in some of the best Mexico has to offer.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

El Rayo Plata

Our first Tequila on the list is one that actually celebrates the legend behind the creation of the first Tequila. El Rayo translates to ‘the lightning’, and the name is a homage to the story that lightning struck a blue Weber agave plant and cooked it, giving us the beloved spirit we enjoy today. El Rayo Plata wasn’t made with lightning, however, but with 105-year-old copper stills which distilled the blue Weber agave twice before it was housed in those handsome bottles. It’s made for a Tequila & Tonic (catchily named a T&T), so definitely give that a try.

What does it taste like?

Exceptionally smooth and gentle, with an almost oily mouthfeel, notes of citrus, lots of earthy agave and a hint of flinty minerals, with a warming peppery finish.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

Casamigos Añejo Tequila

As Casamigos was co-founded by George Clooney, it’s very easy to become distracted by thoughts of his big handsome Clooney face when actually you should be focusing on the delicious Tequila his creation makes. The Añejo Tequila is made slowly as the agave is fermented for twice the average and roasted for 10 times as long, before the spirit is matured for 14 months in American white oak casks. 

What does it taste like?

Toffee penny, roasted agave, dark chocolate and sweetly spiced oak.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

El Espolòn Blanco Tequila

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, that is a skeleton riding a rooster. The unique label was inspired by Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the importance the bird holds in Mexican culture. El Espolòn Blanco Tequila was made with 100% blue agave and bottled without ageing by the Destilladora San Nicolas in Los Altos.

What does it taste like?

Light and floral, with agave, cracked black pepper, citrus zest, lime and vanilla.

Pensador Mezcal

Pensador Mezcal is made by Don Atenogenes Garcia and his family, who employ traditional production methods that date back to the 16th Century. The unique profile comes from distilling a combination of espadín and madre-cuishe agave. 

What does it taste like?

Oak-y smoke, roasted apricot, black pepper and a mineral-rich earthiness supported by citrus and grape.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

VIVIR Tequila Reposado

VIVIR was founded by Navindh Grewal and Paul Hayes, the latter of which made his name as the first man to bring Bircher muesli to the UK. Their Reposado expression was crafted with 100% blue Weber agave and aged in bourbon oak casks for at least 6 months. You can drink this one neat or in all manner of Tequila-based cocktails…

What does it taste like?

Chewy caramel and melted butter, with agave earthiness as its backbone.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

Fortaleza Blanco

When Fortaleza Blanco first came to market in 2005, few probably knew of the brand’s remarkable history. Fortaleza founder Guillermo Sauza’s grandfather was Don Cenobio, a key figure in establishing Tequila as we understand it today. However, his company was sold when Guillermo was little, although they held onto the distillery and land though so Guillermo was able to get the traditional distillery back up and running. It’s a lovely story for a lovely Tequila.

What does it taste like?

Everything a good Tequila should be with herbaceous, vegetal agave, citrus, green olives and brine as well as a creaminess that carries into rich buttery character.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

Amores Espadin Mezcal

Amores Espadin Mezcal was made with sustainably-cultivated Espadin agave from Oaxaca, so if you love tasty spirits with an ethical production process this should be right up your street.

What does it taste like?

Subtle capsicum and mint leaf character backed up with wood smoke and just a hint of cream.

Magestic mezcals & terrific Tequilas

El Destilado Sierra Negra

An intriguing agave spirit produced for the El Destilado range, a brand that explores spirits from Latin America that was founded by folks from Sager + Wilde and East London Liquor Company. This particular expression is an agave spirit produced using a particularly rare variety called Sierra Negra.

What does it taste like?

Powerfully fragrant, with notes of fresh flowers, cigar box and earthy spices all playing their part.

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Mezcal + poultry = pechuga (it’s much nicer than it sounds)

How do you take your mezcal – neat, on the rocks, or redistilled with a raw chicken breast? While Oaxaca’s experienced mezcaleros have long produced mezcal de pechuga, passing heirloom recipes…

How do you take your mezcal – neat, on the rocks, or redistilled with a raw chicken breast? While Oaxaca’s experienced mezcaleros have long produced mezcal de pechuga, passing heirloom recipes down through generations, the style is little known outside of Mexico. We take a closer look at the production process involved in making mezcal with meat…

Until recently, few people were aware of – let alone consumed – mezcal de pechuga. But now this typical Mexican wedding toast is garnering interest outside of native celebrations, and the bigger distilleries are slowly but surely starting to cotton onto its marketability as a point of difference amid the burgeoning mezcal boom. “Pechuga is a style of mezcal, it means ‘breast’ in Spanish” explains Eduardo Gomez, founder and director of Tequila & Mezcal Festival. “Mezcal is traditionally distilled twice, and pechuga mezcal is made when you take that liquid, add some sort of protein and fruits into the pot still, and distill for a third time.”

El Jolgorio Pechuga Mezcal

The ingredients in El Jolgorio pechuga

Traditionally people use chicken breast, but it’s not uncommon to hang other types of raw meat instead, for example, rabbit, turkey, deer, and even Iberico ham (the result of a one-off collaboration between Del Maguey and chef José Andrés). It’s suspended inside the still above a basket containing locally-sourced fruits, grains, and nuts; sometimes spices and herbs, too. The meat – which cooks during distillation, FYI – doesn’t impart any flavour to the liquid; rather, its function is to balance, soften and round out any potentially potent fruit notes. 

“They close the still pot, fire it up, and the liquid will start boiling and distilling and pass through the pechuga and through the condenser,” Gomez continues. “What you have, as a result, is a pechuga mezcal with very high fruit notes. Without the chicken breast, it would be super sweet because they add banana, guava, apples, peaches, almonds.”

The botanical proportions – which are usually derived from a family recipe passed down from generation to generation – varies among distillers and brands. Del Maguey’s pechuga combines “100 kilos of wild mountain apples and plums, big red plantain bananas, pineapples, a handful of almonds and a few pounds of uncooked white rice” with the typical chicken breast. El Jolgorio, by contrast, is made with limes, oranges, pineapples, apples, pears, plantains, and the breast of a turkey cock.


Fermentation vat at Montelobos

If the idea of a meat-infused agave spirit isn’t your cup of tea, there are vegan iterations, too. And they weren’t just invented to appease hipster bartenders, either. While the pechuga mezcal-making tradition dates is thought to back centuries – just how far is relatively unknown, since the style is typically made in palenques (distilleries) located in remote countryside villages where there are few written records – adding meat to the still isn’t necessarily expected. 

Sometimes, pechuga mezcals just contain fruits and herbs and forgo the ‘protein’ aspect of the production process. Don Amado’s pechuga bottling, for example, features wild apples, apricots, bananas, walnuts, cloves, cinnamon and other spices, with not a turkey or chicken breast in sight.

While the final flavour varies between bottlings as much as you’d expect, there are some generalisations. For starters, pechuga mezcal is typically “much sweeter than your standard espadin,” says Gomez. “Mezcal is usually spicy and smoky and earthy and citrusy, but with pechuga mezcal, because they distil it for a third time, it loses a little bit of the complexity. However, it gets a different complexity from the fruit and the pechuga.”

Rather than make pechuga year-round, mezcaleros typically make small batches of the spirit to toast specific occasions, from quinceañeras (a party thrown when a girl turns 15 years old) to bountiful harvests. Usually, pechuga mezcal is consumed neat – no ice, no mixer, just straight up in appreciation of the elaborate distilling process.

Monteloboz Mezcal almonds

Almonds to go into Montelobos pechuga

“In the villages and towns [outside] Oaxaca, when the granddaughter of the master mezcalero is getting married, he will prepare a batch of pechuga mezcal for the celebration,” Gomez continues. “Weddings in Mexico go for two or three days, it’s a big celebration, regardless of your economic situation or status, so they will make 500 litres and they will drink 500 litres across the wedding.” 

Mezcalaros may make just one or two batches of pechuga mezcal in a year, so even in Mexico, a bottle doesn’t come cheap – and the price tag has stuck even among more commercial brands, with bottlings typically starting from £80. “When you have time and your credit card with you, have a shot of mezcal pechuga and decide for yourself whether it’s worth the price tag,” says Gomez. 

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A spotlight on… El Destilado

El Destilado is shining a spotlight on fiercely independent producers by bottling some of their extraordinary expressions. We thought we’d do something similar for the spirits brand and cast an…

El Destilado is shining a spotlight on fiercely independent producers by bottling some of their extraordinary expressions. We thought we’d do something similar for the spirits brand and cast an eye on its intriguing story.

Agave spirits are making quite the climb up the premiumisation ladder of late, with bars like Hacha opening especially to cater for the increasing demand for Tequila and mezcal, and a variety of brands making waves.

Enter: El Destilado. Launched at the end of 2018, it was born out of the time Michael Sager, Marcis Dzelzainis (founders of Sager & Wilde bars), Alex Wolpert (CEO of the East London Liquor Company) and Charlie McKay (creative director, all the fantastic images in this blog are credited to McKay) spent in Mexico together and their shared love of the culture, the food, the people and, most importantly the drink. 

Dzelzainis, who is also the director of Fare Bar & Canteen, sat down with us to explain how a group trip led to the creation of a brand, why you can’t call these spirits mezcal and what he believes the potential of agave spirits to be.

El Destilado

Marcis Dzelzainis, in his element

The core idea behind El Destilado was to champion the terroir of the places the founders visited in Mexico and bottle the authentic spirits from the producers they met. “We started toying with the idea of importing very small batch mezcal back into the UK to really highlight its diversity, how interesting it is and how there’s a lot of similarities between mezcal and wine,” Dzelzainis explains. “They’re very terroir-driven products, not just in the sense of the soil but also the culture of the people behind it as well. It’s been produced for hundreds of years and they are very, very unique and interesting drinks”.

What they discovered was a world away from the mezcals that typically reach the UK’s bars and restaurants. In fact, due to the rigours of the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal (CRM), most of the products they tasted can’t even be classified as mezcal. This is why the team decided that certified mezcals weren’t the way to go. “We were more interested in bringing back non-certified mezcals. There’s a lot of regulations around mezcal production put in place by the CRM. However, they can sometimes clash with how smaller producers tend to produce distillate,” Dzelzainis explains. “For example, there’s a regulated amount for methanolic content, so parts per million. The CRM would say that you can only have 300 parts per million of methanol. Whereas a lot of non-certified mezcals actually have a higher percentage of methanol in them because they tend to put the heads and the tails back into the distillate to give them a certain kind of flavour profile and characteristics.”

The team quickly became interested in working with single producers and showcasing their production methods. “It was all about highlighting the producer, highlighting the varietal, highlighting the production methods. Whether something is hand-mashed or it’s mashed in the tahona or it’s mashed mechanically,” says Dzelzainis. “How it is fermented, what is it fermented in? Is it in cowhide? Or pinetinas? Or plastic? How is it distilled? Is it in copper or clay? Is it distilled at high altitude? How long do they roast the agaves for? All these things impart a flavour and a characteristic and these are the kinds of questions and parameters that we became obsessed with”.

El Destilado

The El Destilado founders, and some agave, in Mexico

The team wasn’t just drawn to the multitude of agave-based spirits they encountered, but also drinks they found along the journey, like Oaxacan rum and aguardiente. “The wild fermented Oaxacan rum is really interesting because it comes from Veracruz, up in the mountains. I’m a big fan of those punchy Guadeloupe, Martinique-style, French-style agricole rums. The big flavour profile is influenced by the humidity and temperature of where they are distilled. You cut sugar cane and it starts fermenting within two to three hours. Whereas being up in the mountains in this quite cold weather you’re slowing that fermentation process down and you’ve got much more control and altitude obviously affects the boiling point of various compounds and alcohols,” Dzelzainis explains. “So you get a much cleaner, fresh-cut-grass characteristic that’s not quite as in-your-face as a Caribbean-style agricole rum. It’s got a very unique flavour profile, it’s fascinating, it mixes well and it’s from a very stunning part of Mexico”. 

It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of the subject, but the process of organising this company, getting in contact with all the distillers, setting up the supply line and getting the drinks across to the UK is not one to be underestimated. Dzelzainis confirms it was a challenge. It’s where he and Wolpert were able to utilise their expertise and knowledge. “Alex came on board because he’s got an amazing knowledge of how bonder’s spaces work and import licenses and all this kind of stuff. He did a lot of heavy lifting and it was not straightforward because no one’s really done this,” says Dzelzainis. “Our first shipment got turned around twice. The first time it came in they thought we were trying to smuggle drugs into the country because they had no idea what it was. It took us a while and it’s been a difficult process”. 

Despite the difficulties, it’s clear from talking with Dzelzainis that El Destilado is a source of immense pride. This is truly a passion project. The brand caters to a creative desire each founder has. For Dzelzainis, he explains that his love of wine doesn’t necessarily stem from the production method. It’s the story behind the people who produce it. He points to the experience of getting to know Armando, a producer that the group met on their travels. “He’s a wonderful guy who has a deep respect for tradition. He hand mashes everything because he thinks even mashing in a tahona changes the flavour profile of the distillate. He’s also very much invested in minimising the ecological impact of distillation and harvesting, so there’s no plastic used at all. All the water comes from a stream from a viaduct so it’s all self-contained, there’s no impact, there’s not much of a footprint from the production process,” Dzelzainis explains. “He’s also reaching out to other mezcaleros, which is quite interesting because they tend to be quite insular, but he’s got a very forward-thinking way. I love his distillates, they’re very fruity and have lots of pine esters and volatiles, but they don’t have that smokiness you traditionally associate with mezcal. That’s a feature you find with the whole range really, we’re not smoke-driven.”

El Destilado

El Destilado champions local, independent producers

One of the most significant characters the group encountered was Bertha Vázquez from Chichicapa, who challenges any notion that El Destilado solely revers quaint, traditional and rural folk. Dzelzainis describes her as progressive and fiercely intelligent. “She distils so many different varieties, she’s got so much knowledge and she’s also very much investing in the future. Predominantly and historically mezcal and uncertified mezcal have been made with ‘silvestre’, which means ‘wild agave’. Increased demand for the product means that there’s less and less wild agave and the switched-on producers have realised that they have a responsibility to start cultivating, to a certain degree and setting up nurseries,” says Dzelzainis. “This is something Bertha has very much heavily invested in; making sure that there will be mezcal production further down the line for her sons and others. These are the kind of stories we want to tell, we want to focus on ensuring we shine a spotlight on the people behind the drinks. What I love about the whole range is when I first tried it is that I can remember how each one is linked to the person who makes it”. 

The core appeal of El Destilado is that it provides many of us a chance to enjoy and engage with spirits that we’d ordinarily have to travel halfway around the world to get our hands on. But why is it so difficult for this fantastic spirit to make it out of Mexico? “Certification and cost is the issue. The CRM wants to develop mezcal so they are strict with their regulations, which I understand. But they can be slightly arbitrary. These people have been doing this for a long, long time and then all of sudden somebody comes along and says ‘well that doesn’t qualify as mezcal’,” Dzelzainis explains. “It’s also $16,000 to certify your palenques. The majority of the time people can only afford this because an investor, usually a foreign investor, has said they’ll certify the palenque if they can guarantee production for me for x amount of years”. 

The approach of El Destilado is different. There’s an effort to pay these producers over the odds and put no pressure on them to produce more than they can so that the liquid doesn’t suffer. “Sometimes these distillates might not be available in six months time. It’s not about creating a consistent line of products. If you try our spirits now, it might not be the same in two years time. That’s really important to me and it makes it a very interesting journey,” says Dzelzainis. “Paying a bit more for the distillates is also really important for us. You have to think about the rising cost of agave and start asking yourself some questions. If I see an espadín priced at £34 having only been distilled six months ago, I question the maths because I know the costs of the raw materials don’t allow for that. It comes back to changing people’s perceptions about agave and agave spirits. In terms of raw materials, grapes are probably the most expensive type used in drink, but agave is pushing towards that top end. Especially with wild agaves that involve trekking out into the mountains for days at a time, harvesting by hand and like hulking it back onto a donkey. There’s a lot of work that goes into it and it is worth that money. That’s why we pay our producers more”. 

El Destilado

El Destilado spirits are made from a variety of agave strains using a multitude of production methods

At this point, if you’re anything like me, you’re dying to dig into the many El Destilado expressions. We currently have 16 bottlings at MoM Towers, including the two sugar cane distillates from Mexico. But with so many options, it does pose the question: where to start? Dzelzainis has some recommendations. “I think a good place to start is Pichomel. It’s such an interesting product with such a unique flavour that really challenges what people’s notion of what an agave distillate can taste like. It’s got this watermelon, cucumber flavour that is just so surprising. The Pichomel is definitely a highlight,” says Dzelzainis. “I’ve got a real soft spot for Armando’s one, the Papalome as I like very fruit-driven distillate. Pedro’s Tobaziche is really interesting, it’s made from karwinski (a long, thin strain of agave that look like palm trees) which don’t have a lot of sugar content or a large yield but they tend to have this quite piney, resinous, groundnut kind of flavour profile that I like. Also the Sierra Negra. The agave for that takes the best part of 12-15 years, sometimes even up to 25 years, to mature so it’s quite scarce but they’re amazing. Again, the producer took a very interesting approach. They’re very, very careful about how they cook the piñas so there’s not too much smoke interaction and you end up with a sheep’s wool, lanolin flavour coming through”. 

So, you’ve picked out your first El Destilado expression, now you need to know how you’re going to drink it. Neat is always preferable at first so you can get a true sense of the spirit’s profile, but Dzelzainis also has some interesting suggestions for how you can have some fun and play with these drinks. “My favourite way to mix these spirits is with a really good sparkling water in Mexico called Topo Chico, but any sparkling water that has a slightly mineral, quite saline character should work (you can even add a pinch of salt to regular sparkling water for a similar effect). In Mexico, they have a can of that and the mezcal on the side, so you have a sip of your mezcal and then you have some sparkling water I find that’s a really enjoyable way of drinking it,” he explains. “For a lot of our drinks, like the Tobalo, a stirred-down serve like a Martini really works. Personally I would say with a lot of our drinks you’ll want to be quite respectful of the spirits so you want to keep it clean and classic to really highlight the spirit instead of adding loads of syrups and fruit juices. But I hate dictating to somebody how they should drink something. If you enjoy it that way, that’s how you enjoy it. I like sparkling water and just sipping on the side!”

Dzelzainis believes that agave spirits have a really bright future, although he concedes there are still challenges to overcome. “There’s still quite a big educational process that’s interesting to be part of. We’re getting there. People are surprised that our drinks, like the Pichomel or the Papalome, are essentially mezcal because it can be hard to get away from this idea that any mezcal is the smoky version of Tequila. Because they don’t taste like people’s preconceptions of mezcal at all. It wasn’t long ago that the perception of Tequila was that it was an unhealthy hangover-causing spirit. But that’s changing.” he says. “But they are increasing in popularity. In our establishments that Tequila and mezcal drinks tend to sell really well. I see more articles about agave spirits and meet more and more people that have an understanding of them. There’s an openness to exploring these flavour profiles. They’re interesting, they’ve got character, they’re fun to mix. There are all kinds of iterations to enjoy and we’ll see more emerging into the market”. 

El Destilado

There’s plenty to smile about as the future for agave spirits is bright…

So, what does the future hold for El Destilado? Exploration is the key. “We want to try and see what else is out there. Whether that’s in France or Germany or that’s in Columbia or wherever really. It’s about finding these unique spirits that highlight a culture, highlight a way of doing stuff that doesn’t necessarily always get the chance to be represented on a wider stage,” says Dzelzainis. “We want to look at other distillates from around the world, whether that’s unaged Armagnac, unaged Calvados, all those kinds of things. It’s about highlighting small distillates that don’t fit into very homogenised norms”.

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Gaze upon our exceptional whiskies and more!

With payday on the horizon after working hard all month, you deserve a reward for all your efforts. It’s time to treat yo self. January is nearly over, folks. It…

With payday on the horizon after working hard all month, you deserve a reward for all your efforts. It’s time to treat yo self.

January is nearly over, folks. It might feel like it’s taken forever, but the end is in sight. You’ve pushed through the drab and dreary, shaken off those winter blues and made peace with your lack of New Year’s resolutions. Who needs ‘em anyway? Not you.

Now you want to celebrate the approaching payday with a little well-earned indulgence. Perhaps an experimental Scotch whiskey, or the World’s Best Gin 2019? Maybe a legendary Guyanese rum or a marvellous mezcal? You might even want something new and shiny… Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’re bound to find it here. Enjoy!

Sazerac Straight Rye

Sazerac Straight Rye was named after the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans, the birthplace of the eponymous cocktail. This spicy rye whiskey from the Buffalo Trace distillery is ideal for said serve, but is equally delicious neat. 

What does it taste like?:

Sweet spices, stem ginger in syrup, orange zest, freshly ground black pepper, mixed peels, peanut butter, toffee and barrel char.

Glenfiddich – Fire & Cane

We all like to embrace our experimental side every now and again, and for those who want Scotch with a point of difference, the Glenfiddich Experimental Series is an obvious place to start. Fire & Cane was created by malt master Brian Kinsman by giving some of the distillery’s peated single malt a three-month finishing period in rum casks that were selected from a variety of South American countries. 

What does it taste like?:

Rich sweet toffee, zesty fresh fruit, Highland peat campfire, toffee and sweet baked apple.

El Dorado 12 Year Old

The desire for rum to get more of the spotlight has been palpable for some time in this industry, but with so much competition in the market and such a variety of styles and expressions, those who want to upgrade their rum game might not know where to start. We recommend this outstanding 12-year-old Demerara rum from El Dorado, which has won numerous awards and accolades for its complex and refined profile.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee, vanilla, smoke, cocoa, caramel, prunes and sweet spices.

Benromach 10 Year Old

Benromach 10 Year Old is one of the finer entry-level expressions you find in the Scotch whisky market and thanks to its singular profile. Inspired the classic pre-1960s Speyside character, it makes for an intriguing dram even for seasoned Scotch drinkers. The fruity, balanced profile with a light touch of smoke comes from the fact that it was lightly peated to 12-14ppm and then matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

What does it taste like?:

Dry barley, sweet spices, puckering prune, maple fudge, slightly herbal, grassy, ground ginger and dry sherry.


Montelobos Joven Mezcal

An ideal expression for mezcal lovers and newcomers to the category alike, Montelobos Joven Mezcal was created by biologist and distiller Iván Saldaña and Mescalero Don Abel Lopez with espadín agave using traditional production methods. It’s also got a bottle with a cool-looking wolf on the label. What more could you want?

What does it taste like?:

Gentle wood smoke, green bell pepper, underripe green apple, blue cheese, a delicate mineral streak, subtle smokiness and ripe tropical fruit.


Dingle Original Gin

The winner of the World’s Best Gin at the 2019 World Gin Awards, Dingle Original Gin was made with locally foraged botanicals, including rowan berry, fuschia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather from the south-west coast of Ireland. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better G&T than the one you’ll make with this beauty,

What does it taste like?:

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


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Our top drinks trends for 2020!

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year….

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year. Read on for our top drinks trends for 2020!

It’s not just a new year – 2020 brings with it a box-fresh decade, too. But what will be drinking this year? We’ve had a good chinwag in the office, looked at sales trends from the last few years and kept our ears to the ground for word of the Next Big Thing in booze. 

Before we crack on with our top ten trends, a quick note on two topics. First up: sustainability in terms of both production and packaging. We reckon every single producer should have this on their radar by now. We’re working hard to make our own ops here are as lean and green as they can possibly be. It’s not a trend, just the right way to do things. We’ve not included this in our list as it’s a societal shift that’s here to stay. Similar with low- and no-alcohol products. 2019 saw the segment explode – but it’s not going anywhere. Brands that give us the option to drink less alcohol while keeping things delicious are a welcome and permanent part of the drinks industry.

So. What else does the year have in store? This is what we reckon we’ll be drinking for the next 12 months!

spiced rum drinks trends for 2020

Spiced rums will continue their dominance into 2020

Spiced and flavoured rums are just getting started

One of the runaway successes of 2019 has been spiced and flavoured rums. In fact, over the whole of 2019, 15 of our top 20 rum best sellers were spiced or flavoured. It’s a trend that accelerated over the course of the year, and while you’d expect an uptick in November and December (hello Christmas!), sales of the likes of Bombo, Cloven Hoof and Pirate’s Grog rums are in year-on-year growth for the start of January, too. One shift we think we’ll see? A move towards more ‘grown-up’ flavours and bottle designs. Spiced and flavoured rums don’t have to be all about the party; they can hold their own as respectable cocktail ingredients, too. 

world whisky drinks trends for 2020

No need for a passport – explore the world through whisky!

Genuinely world whisky

Move over, Scotland. Hang back, America. You too, Ireland and Japan. Yes, you make delicious whiskies. But 2020 looks set to be the year that world whisky meaningfully comes to the fore for more of us. Take Israel, for example. There are three distilleries already up and running (Milk & Honey, Golan Heights, Pelter), but there’s the Jerusalem Distillery, Legends Distillery and Eder’i Malthouse and Distillery all hot on their heels. Up in Finland, you’ve got Kyrö, Teerenpeli, The Helsinki Distilling Co, and Panimoravintola (and no doubt numerous others at the development stage). Australian whisky continues to gain momentum (Starward, Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road, anyone?), and we’re excited by what distillers are doing across New Zealand, Sweden and France, too. And there’s India, South Africa, England, Wales, The Netherlands… you get the picture. We’re also thrilled by the geographic diversity of whisky production and the different approaches and flavours inherent in that. We reckon loads of you will be, too. 

vodka drinks trends for 2020

Get set for a vodka revival

Viva vodka!

A slightly unexpected one, now. Did you know our vodka sales in 2019 soared by 30% year-on-year? It’s a bit of a surprise for us, too. Bottle sales ramped up gradually but noticeably over the course of the year, and it initially had us scratching our heads. After a pretty break time in the 2000s and 2010s, why is vodka falling back into favour? We looked at our top-sellers and noticed a couple of things. It’s generally not flavoured vodka that’s hitting the mark (a couple of notable exceptions: Thunder Toffee Vodka and Whitley Neill Blood Orange Vodka). Instead, it’s the classic, neutral, big names that seem to have appeal. But that’s not all. Smaller brands playing on their legitimate flavour differences derived from their raw materials are doing especially well. We think the likes of Black Cow Vodka (made from leftover whey from cheese-making), East London Liquor Company 100% Wheat Vodka and Konik’s Tail (made with three different grains: spelt, rye and wheat) will drive this trend forward into 2020.

hard seltzers drinks trends for 2020

Hard seltzers will be A Thing

Hard seltzers and sodas

Call them what you like (the seltzer vs. soda debate could go on), but this sparkling, low-ABV mix of flavoured water and booze isn’t going anywhere. Hard seltzers have been big news Stateside for some time now, and we reckon 2020 is the year they’ll make their presence really felt this side of the Pond. Why? Beer sales are down, people are embracing low- and no-, and we’re all rather partial to a train tinnie, which, if you think about what cocktails in a can actually are, we’re barely a swift step from a hard seltzer anyway. Last year saw the UK launch of Mike’s Hard Sparkling Water, and native names DRTY Hard Seltzer and Bodega Bay are already in the market. Plus, White Claw, the US hard seltzer hero, has already registered its trademark here, too. We’re ready

Beyond bourbon drinks trends for 2020

American single malts for the win!

Beyond bourbon

Hands up who loves American whiskey? Us too. And it’s hardly new. So why does it feature on our list of drinks trends for 2020? Bourbon has long been seen as a synonym for American whiskey, but when you think about its legal definition (in short, it’s made in the US; its mashbill recipe contains a minimum of 51% corn; it’s matured in new, charred oak) it becomes clear there’s a whole load more to American whiskey than perhaps we collectively understand. Step in rye. Come in, American single malt. Oh hello, wheat whiskeys. And of course, there’s a whole host of category-defying whiskeys coming out of the US that can’t be called bourbon. Rules are there to be broken, and when distillers shrug off the bourbon confines, deliciousness can spring forth, and we think 2020 is the year we’ll get to grips with these expressions. Want in now? Check out Balcones Texas Single Malt, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, St. George Baller Single Malt, and WhistlePig 12 Year Old – Old World.

calvados drinks trends for 2020

Appley goodness right there

Calvados returns

If you’re unfamiliar with this historical French brandy, you are not alone. Calvados is made from apples and pears in Normandy, distilled in either traditional alembic or column stills, and is aged for at least two years. And it’s mighty tasty. We’re waking up to its mixing and sipping potential: last year our Calvados sales soared by an enormous 40% in 2019 over 2018. One of the key drivers was the launch of Avallen in June, a more modern expression that is all about sustainability and boosting biodiversity. Calvados Coquerel has undertaken a re-brand, bringing more energy to the category. And the likes of Berneroy and Château du Breuil are also seeing renewed momentum. 2020 is the time for Calvados to shine.

mezcal drinks trends for 2020

How mezcal gets its smoke

The advent of Mezcal

Tequila’s smoky cousin made its presence felt in 2019, when we saw sales climb by 31%. But what will 2020 have in store for Mezcal? Quite a lot, we think (especially when you consider its 2017-18 growth stood at just 5%). The biggest-selling brands are increasingly well-recognised (Del Maguey, Pensador and Montelobos are rapidly becoming familiar names), and customers in bars and in shops (on and offline) have a deeper understanding of the Mexican spirit. So, what’s next? More at-home mixing and sipping, and a deeper appreciation for all things Mezcal out and about. Bring. It. On.

scotch whisky casks drinks trends for 2020

Bit cold out there

Unconventional cask finishing in Scotch

In June 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association widened the list of permitted cask types in Scotch whisky production. In short, as long as what was previously held in that cask wasn’t made with stone fruits, and hasn’t had flavourings or sweetening added, you’re good to go. It wasn’t an unexpected decision, and loads of Scotch distillers already had experiments under way (Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Cask Finish Project, we’re looking at you). So what? In 2020 we reckon we’ll see loads more esoteric expressions, perhaps some agave finishes, and maybe even some Calvados casks. And probably some stuff we’ve not even thought of yet. Get set for a new wave of flavour in Scotch whisky. (At this point, we’d also like to add a nod to Irish distilleries, who have been playing with different casks for some time.)

aquavit drinks trends for 2020

Delicious dill

An age of aquavit 

Similar to Calvados, aquavit is a traditional category with strong local ties that flies way too low under the radar for our liking. We’re going to stick our necks out and say 2020 is going to be the year that starts to change. To kick off, last year our aquavit sales blossomed by 27%. More people are seeking out the dill- or caraway-flavoured Scandi spirit than ever. What’s also interesting is that some producers in international markets are looking to aquavit for inspiration and are crafting their own expressions, most notably Svöl Danish-Style Aquavit, from Brooklyn, and Psychopomp Aqvavit, hailing from Bristol, UK. This comes hot on the heels of the botanical spirits trend – tried all manner of gins and want something new? Eschew the juniper and look to aquavit instead. It’s a narrative that could well play out this year. 

liqueurs unicorns drinks trends for 2020

RIP, unicorns

Liqueurs ditch the unicorns

2019 was a bumper year for liqueurs, growing 31% to rank as our third-largest drinks category by bottle sales. It’s a notoriously diverse category, defined really only by sugar levels rather than style or flavour. Good job really, three of our top 10 most popular liqueur products are ‘unicorn’ flavoured, whatever that means. There has been a slight shift already though: for the last three months of the year, whisky, coffee, herbal and caramel varieties proved far more popular. Yes, it could be Christmas. But we reckon there’s an underlying trend of a return to more conventional liqueur flavours. Yes, they’re still going to be sweet (that’s kind of the point). But 2020 looks likely to be the year more traditional liqueur variants reclaim the realm from mythical beasts.

Over to you! What do you think will be the biggest drinks trends for 2020? Have we missed something out or got it wildly wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and on social! 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Red Devil

Today we’re getting all diabolical with a special smoky Tequila from Maestro Dobel and a cocktail inspired by Día de Muertos. Agave 101 is that mezcal is smoky while Tequila…

Today we’re getting all diabolical with a special smoky Tequila from Maestro Dobel and a cocktail inspired by Día de Muertos.

Agave 101 is that mezcal is smoky while Tequila isn’t. Well, it’s time to tear up the rule book because Maestro Dobel has just launched Humito, a smoky spirit which the company claims is the “world’s first smoked silver Tequila.” We won’t get into an argument about who got there first only to say that there are other smoked Tequilas out there and, in the distant past, agave used in Tequila production would have been cooked over wood. Maestro Dobel won’t tell exactly how its process works, only to say that it involves: a secret technique that harnesses mesquite wood”. And who doesn’t love a secret technique?

We tried it earlier this year at a special evening put on by Maestro Dobel. The brand is owned by the Beckmann family who also own Jose Cuervo, but Maestro Dobel is independent. Over the course of the evening we tried a number of Tequilas from the range: first the Diamante which is an aged blanco Tequila, the world’s first, apparently. This is like the white rum of the Tequila world, aged in oak and then filtered to remove colour. It’s a category that has inspired a certain amount of scepticism among Tequila fans. Why remove the colour? But it certainly tastes good, the ageing giving it a gentle creaminess without masking any of the fruity character. We also tried a very special Tequila called Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967) who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks. There’s no filtering here. In its colour and flavour, it’s not unlike a very swanky rum. The price is pretty swanky too: it’s only available in a few select hotels where a measure will  cost you about £200!

Which makes the Humito at £43 sound like a terrific bargain. It’s a delicious drop too, lots of fruity aromatic agave character, very smooth, with the smoke present but sort of lingering in the background. Like a good drummer. We tried it in conjunction with food from top Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in East London (who won a Michelin star earlier this year). 

Maestro Dobel Humito

Serving suggestion

Humito is a great cocktail Tequila providing lots of character but it’s not overpowering like some mezcals can be. In fact, it’s rather like adding a teaspoon of mezcal to a Tequila cocktail. To tie in with Día de Muertos, which is turning into quite the international event, Maestro Dobel has come up with a suitably diabolical cocktail called the Red Devil which accentuates Humido’s subtle smokiness with hibiscus syrup. Rafael Cagali has even come up with some recipes to go with it including beef tartare and mackerel croquettes but we are sure it will go equally well with nachos.

Right, got your red horns on? It’s time to make a Red Devil:

40ml Maestro Dobel Humito
15ml fresh lemon juice
5ml agave syrup
10ml hibiscus syrup

Add first three ingredients into ice-filled highball glass and give it a good stir. Top up with soda water, stir again and pour on the hibiscus syrup. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 


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