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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Negroni

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!

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New Arrival of the Week: Reverend Hubert Winter Gin Liqueur

This week we’re very excited about a gin liqueur created by an Edwardian vicar, and now resurrected by his great grandson and some wine chap off the telly. You might…

This week we’re very excited about a gin liqueur created by an Edwardian vicar, and now resurrected by his great grandson and some wine chap off the telly.

You might recognise Joe Wadsack from such TV programmes as BBC 2’s Food & Drink, Richard and Judy, and now, This Morning on ITV. He’s a one man wine whirlwind, as enthusiastic in person as he is on television. But he’s not just an enthusiast, Wadsack is generally thought to have the best palate in the wine business. At wine shows around the country, he regularly does a turn where people bring him mystery wines to try. Nine times out of ten, he’s able to identify whatever his brought to him with a quick sniff, swill and a flex of that mighty bean. In his career he’s worked blending wines for supermarkets and producers, and now he’s turned that famous palate (best in the business, apparently) to a gin liqueur. As you might expect, it’s rather good. 

Joe Wadsack

It’s only Joe Wadsack!

It’s a collaboration with Thomas Lester, a kindred spirit, who discovered his great grandfather’s recipe. The Reverend Hubert Bell Lester (who lived from 1868 to 1916) created his gin liqueur in 1904 and used to dole it out during the festive season. We can imagine that his church was packed around Christmas. Lester had the brilliant idea of recreating the recipe but needed someone to help perfect it. Enter the best palate in the business!

According to Lester, Wadsack was a demanding taskmaster: “Joe is ecumenical, he made me taste 20 different lemons, 20 different oranges, and sultanas from different regions of Turkey. His level of perfectionism is outstanding. As a result, we have created a completely unique and delicious gin liqueur. I wanted to reincarnate my great grandfather’s recipe because it has become family legend and what an opportunity to spread a message of conviviality.” 

The liqueur is made at a distillery in the Cotswolds but Wadsack told us, “it tastes like it was made in a garden shed. The only tools used were two peelers and a kitchen knife –this is hand-transported, we hand-screwed the press and we hand-filtered every individual bottle. The flavours are of fresh Amalfi lemons and oranges, with the pithiness of the rings offsetting the sweetness of the sultanas – it is sweet but refreshing and not cloying with warm ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon on the finish.” It’s bottled at 27% ABV.

Reverend Hubert Winter Gin Liqueur

We think the good Reverend would approve

So what should one do with this delightful concoction? We think it would have a delightful Hot Toddy in place of whisky or you could try it in a Negroni instead of ordinary gin. Wadsack had some ideas of his own: “it’s perfect apres ski, in a hip flask, and also amazing mixed with prosecco or ruby Port.” Port and gin liqueur? We think the good Reverend would approve.

Reverend Hubert Winter Gin Liqueur is now available from Master of Malt.

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London Cocktail Week: 10 things to look out for

We’ve rounded up some of the standout events from the upcoming London Cocktail Week (4-14 October) so you can focus your energy on enjoying its many delightful boozy offerings. What…

We’ve rounded up some of the standout events from the upcoming London Cocktail Week (4-14 October) so you can focus your energy on enjoying its many delightful boozy offerings.

What was already one of the biggest dates in the drinks industry calendar is even bigger this year. London Cocktail Week has returned and has chosen to mark its 10th anniversary by broadening its showcase of the capital’s best bars, mixologists and drinks with an extended ten-day celebration. Because what’s better than a week of cocktails? Ten days of cocktails, that’s what.

Ten years already. Where does the time go? It’s been quite the journey since DrinkUp.London’s Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne founded LCW (as we in the ‘biz’ call it) as a pop-up in Selfridge’s to showcase London’s cocktail scene in 2010. Great oaks from little acorns grow: there are now over 300 bars taking part, tons of quirky pop-ups making temporary homes across London, and endless masterclasses where you can improve your shaking and stirring skills. There’s even a cocktail-meets-doughnut van courtesy of Maker’s Mark and Crosstown Doughnuts, for goodness sake.

As such, many of you will be looking forward to making yourself at home in the Cocktail Village at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane between 4-14 October. But, you also might be feeling slightly overwhelmed by the significant number of events on offer. That’s why we’re here to offer a helping hand by highlighting some of the most intriguing, exciting and engaging opportunities London Cocktail Week has presented for 2019.

London Cocktail Week: the events

Ten options are listed below, but before we start it’s worth noting that you will need to purchase your £10 festival pass and download the DrinkUp.London app to activate it to enjoy London Cocktail Week. This will give you access to £6 drink deals at participating bars as well as entry to the Cocktail Village, so even if you don’t have the chance to make it to the good times below, there’s still plenty to be had all around this fair capital city of ours.

Now, let’s check out some events!

London Cocktail Week

All kinds of whisky-based shenanigans are to be expected

The Whisky House take over at Black Rock

Where?: Black Rock Tavern, 9 Christopher Street, London, EC2A 2BS

When?: Friday 4 October to Saturday 12 October

What’s it all about?: The fabulous Black Rock Tavern hosts brands like Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, Talisker, Copper Dog, Johnnie Walker and Roe & Co for a series of amazing events. The blend of pop-up whisky takeovers, experiences and late-night DJs across nine days will take place within the newly furbished first floor Blending Room and ground floor Tavern at East London’s specialist whisky bar.

Why would I like this, Adam?: There’s endless whisky-based fun to be had and a 185-year old interactive cocktail ageing tree trunk. Yes, you read that right.

London Cocktail Week

An award-winning G&T in a sauna? We’re in.

Kyrö Gin Sauna

Where?: The Cocktail Village, 146 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU

When?: Wednesday 9 October to Monday 14 October (Wed-Sat 12-11pm, Sun 12-7pm)

What’s it all about?: Kyrö Distillery conceived in a Finnish sauna by a group of friends with a shared love of rye. That’s the kind of back-story that deserves to be celebrated, and that’s exactly what this feature is all about! Plenty of rye gin and, yes, an actual sauna, will be present in the Cocktail Village once again this year, as well as an opportunity to blend your own gin in a gin-blending masterclass. Tickets for the blending workshops can be found here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: Because there’s a sauna involved, for goodness sake. Plus plenty of Kyrö’s award-winning G&Ts.

London Cocktail Week

Refreshment is guaranteed

That Boutique-y Gin Company’s Instant Refreshment Service

Where?: The Cocktail Village, 146 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU.

When?: Wednesday 9 October to Sunday 13 October (Wed-Sat 12-11pm, Sun 12-7pm).

What’s it all about?: That Boutique-y Gin Company’s Instant Refreshment Service means one thing: lots of delicious and easily accessible cocktails. You can help yourself to the independent bottler’s range of Craft Cocktails via a brilliantly Boutique-y vending machine, which will also be available on draft.

Why would I like this, Adam?: That Boutique-y Gin Company has made it clear its dream is for every attendee of London Cocktail Week to be fully refreshed at all times. This is a noble goal, and it involves consuming delicious cocktails. Which is the whole point of the entire enterprise, people.

London Cocktail Week

Is this the death of the whisky tumbler? No, but it’s still lots of fun

The Glenlivet’s Capsule Collection

Where?: Tayér + Elementary, 152 Old St, London EC1V 9BW

When?: Friday 4 October from 4-6pm.

What’s it all about?: Ever had an edible cocktail capsule before? No? Well, here’s your chance. A partnership between co-owner of Tayēr + Elementary, Alex Kratena and Scotch whisky distillery The Glenlivet has resulted in this selection of glassless cocktails, which will attempt to redefine the way whisky is traditionally enjoyed. The edible capsules are 23ml in size, fully biodegradable and housed in a seaweed-extract casing courtesy capsule designers Notpla. Simply pop them in your mouth an enjoy three original cocktails inspired by the elements and flavours of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve: Citrus, Wood and Spice.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You get to eat cocktails. There’s no need for glass, ice or cocktail stirrers here.

London Cocktail Week

The ultimate Cointreau Margarita cocktail awaits

Alfred Cointreau at The K Bar in celebration of London Cocktail Week

Where?: The K Bar, 109 – 113 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LP.

When?: Thursday 10 October from 6-9pm.

What’s it all about?: A celebration of both the week and Cointreau’s 170th Anniversary, this event sees Alfred Cointreau (the clue is in the name) taking the reins behind the wonderful K Bar in Kensignton to mix up classic and twists on the iconic Margarita while telling the story of Cointreau.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You get to meet some drinks industry royalty and learn how to make the ultimate Cointreau Margarita cocktail.

London Cocktail Week

Go wild in the isles, folks!

Supermarket Sweep

Where?: London Cocktail Club Shoreditch, Unit 12, 29 Sclater Street, London, E1 6HR

When?: Wednesday 9 October to Sunday 13 October (3.30-9pm)

What’s it all about?: If you’re somebody who’s looking for any excuse to get their 90s game show vibe on, then London Cocktail Club Shoreditch’s pop-up is the one for you. Inside the re-creation of a miniature supermarket you’ll get an opportunity to make a cocktail from JJ Goodman’s book ‘Kitchen Cocktails’ and sample cocktail recipes made from everyday ingredients like angel delight to Coco Pops. Best of all, you can whizz around the aisles Supermarket Sweep-style. So, choose your teams, grab your basket and indulge in some nostalgia! To book your ticket you’ll need to email reservations@londoncocktailclub.co.uk.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You can channel your best Dale Winton impression while enjoying some unorthodox cocktails.

London Cocktail Week

Karaoke and cocktails is a good night by anybody’s estimation

The House of Suntory Masterclass & Cocktail Karaoke

Where?: Shochu Lounge, Roka Charlotte Street, 37 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR

When?: Monday 7 October to Tuesday 8 October (6-11.30pm)

What’s it all about?: An evening of learning about Japanese culture while imbibing Suntory’s Roku Gin, Haku Vodka and Toki Whisky in the company of UK ambassador James Bowker sounds pretty great. But the Japanese distillery has turned a great night into an unforgettable one by also hosting ‘Cocktail Karaoke’. Simply you choose your base spirit (gin/vodka/whisky) and your favourite classic track then the team at Roka will create a Japanese riff on your song choice. How good does that sound? You can book your ticket here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: Two words: Cocktail. Karaoke.

London Cocktail Week

How often do you get to create your own whisky?

The Blend by Chivas Regal

Where?: Mac & Wild, 9A Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4YN

When?: Monday 7 October to Thursday 10 October (various slots from 6.30pm)

What’s it all about?: A chance to create a whisky you can call your own should never be passed up. That’s exactly what Chivas Regal is offering at a special masterclass at Mac & Wild, Devonshire Square, to celebrate the launch of The Blend campaign. The guided tasting sessions will provide a window into the life of a master blender as you learn the history of Chivas Regal and how to make your own whisky highball twists with UK brand ambassador Phil Huckle. But best of all, you’ll leave this event 200ml of your very own whisky, blended from a combination of floral, citrus, fruity, creamy and smoky flavours. Book your ticket here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You literally get to make a whisky of your own. What are you waiting for?

London Cocktail Week

Science is finally put to good use

The Essence House by the London Essence Company

Where?: 5 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB

When?: Thursday 3 October to Saturday 5 October (12-10pm)

What’s it all about?: If there’s one thing you want from London Cocktail Week, it’s amazing cocktails. Thanks to The London Essence Company you can do just that as it treats you to a bespoke cocktail, matched to your palate using real science by some of the world’s top bartenders. The Essence House, described as an “interactive journey of flavour discovery”, is an experience curated by Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart, an expert in gastronomy and flavour perception, who will help you to get hands-on with botanicals, flavours and aromas over the course of a 45 minute session that includes that personal palate profiling experience and two cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic options available). Tickets are available here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You know you want tasty cocktails, and The London Essence Company know what you find tasty…

London Cocktail Week

Over the last century, the Negroni has stood the test of time

The Experimental Negroni Club

Where?: Henrietta Hotel, 14-15 Henrietta St, London, WC2E 8QG

When?: Friday 4 October to Sunday 13 October (12pm-close)

What’s it all about?: It’s been 100 years since the Negroni first entered our lives and we haven’t looked back. The Experimental Group, however, will actually be looking back to celebrate this illustrious history through the Experimental Negroni Club a partnership with Campari at the Henrietta Hotel. Vintage ingredients selected in partnership with the Old Spirit Company will ensure the recreation of cocktails served in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and to make the perfect vintage Negroni, which will be accompanied by a light show created by Frankie Boyle (not the Scottish comedian, thankfully).

Why would I like this, Adam?: We love Negronis. You love Negronis. Go forth and toast its brilliance the only way how. With a Negroni.

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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.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Le Rebelle Aperitif

The most exciting product to land at MoM HQ this week is a lighter take on the aperitif that uses some of the techniques of the French perfumery industry in…

The most exciting product to land at MoM HQ this week is a lighter take on the aperitif that uses some of the techniques of the French perfumery industry in its production process. And it’s so pink.

The aperitif category has exploded in recent years with exciting brands including Kamm & Sons, big launches from big names like Martini Fiero, and even non-alcoholic versions such as Everleaf. One debut in particular has caught our eye, Rebelle Aperitif from Rebel Distillers. To learn more we spoke to one of the brains behind it, Matthew McGivern.

After a career with stints at Molson Coors, William Grant & Sons, the London Distillery Co. and, er, Durex, McGivern set up Rebellion Distillers in 2016. He’s been joined by distiller Toby Sims who has made spirits for Fortnum & Mason, Dodd’s Gin and Kew Gardens. The company works as a drinks consultancy as well as producing its own products like the genre-bending Rebel Rabbet range and now Rebelle Aperitif. McGivern filled me in on the idea behind it: “When I started the development of this product, I’ll be totally honest we took inspiration from Aperol and the Spritz and created a version we liked better. I really like the category, there are some great tasting liquids and it ticks a lot of the boxes which consumer trends suggest, whether that’s lower alcohol, photogenic for Instagram and to make sure it works in classic serves”, he said. All very canny, as we’ve noted before on the blog, pink sells.  

The other up-to-date thing about Rebelle Aperitif is lower sugar levels than certain big name aperitifs. “By using natural flavourings we’ve been able to develop a fantastic liquid and significantly reduce the sugar level”, McGivern told us. Getting the perfect balance wasn’t easy: “it was a challenge to get it right and used a lot of brainpower”, he said. The production process, inspired by French perfumiers, isn’t straightforward either: “we’re talking copper and vacuum distilling, multiple macerations and some natural flavourings which came from tastings with perfumers to get the balance”, he added.

So the big question is how to drink Rebelle Aperitif: well, the most obvious serve is the Spritz (mixed with sparkling wine and soda) but, according to Matt, “it makes a truly magnificent Negroni too.” He recommends using a juniper-forward gin and Noilly Prat rather than something sweet and Italian. We had a little advance taste and can confirm that Rebelle Aperitif is indeed much lighter, more delicate than some of the competition with cinnamon and floral notes but also plenty of that all important bitterness on the finish. It makes a great alternative to a G&T mixed with tonic water. And that tremendously vivid pink colour is sure to be a hit at infinity pools around Europe this summer (or what’s left of it). 

  

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Cocktail of the Week: The Montenegroni

As any fule kno, Negroni = Campari + sweet vermouth + gin. But not always, this week we’re mixing things up a little by chucking the Campari and using Amaro…

As any fule kno, Negroni = Campari + sweet vermouth + gin. But not always, this week we’re mixing things up a little by chucking the Campari and using Amaro Montenegro instead.

The constant factor in most Negronis is Campari, so much so that Campari has owned the 100 years of the Negroni celebrations that took place this year. Italy, however, is full of amari (bittersweet liqueurs) which you can use in place. One such is Amaro Montenegro from Bologna, named after Princess Elena of Montenegro who became Queen of Italy in 1900. It has an elaborate production process involving over 40 botanicals including vanilla, eucalyptus, orange and cinnamon. Some are macerated, other boiled or distilled to a recipe perfected in 1885 by Stanislao Cobianchi. Today master herbalist Dr. Matteo Bonoli is in charge with keeping things consistent.

The flavours are sweet, rich and round with a distinct chocolatey note. Back in Bologna, it’s usually drunk as a digestif alongside a cup of espresso but for a while now, it has been a liqueur revered by the drinks cognoscenti. Last year it won a gold medal at the IWSC.

Montenegroni

The Montenegroni: can people this photogenic be wrong?

As part of the plan to raise its profile, Amaro Montenegro is backing the Vero Bartender competition, where bartenders from around the country will compete to create a cocktail with a maximum of five ingredients (based on Amaro Montenegro, naturally). There will be northern and southern heats in September, with the UK final at the Punch Room at the London Edition Hotel on 20 October. But that’s not the end of it, because 12 finalists from around the world will then compete in the global final in Italy on 19 November! So if you fancy yourself behind the stick (to coin a phrase) then you should enter.

To kick things off in style, this special Negroni has been created by Rudi Carraro, UK brand ambassador for Amaro Montenegro. In a bold move, Carraro has not only chucked the Campari, but he’s not using vermouth either. He plays by his own rules. Instead he’s using Select Aperitivo, a low-ish alcohol amaro (17.5% ABV) from Venice, not dissimilar to Aperol. It’s what many Venetians prefer to use in a spritz in place of the mighty orange beverage. He didn’t specify the gin, so we’re using delicious, lemony Brooklyn Gin for no particular reason except we like it. The result is something mellower and more complex, but less boozy than the classic Negroni. It would be equally at home after dinner as before.

Carraro originally designed this recipe as a punch as a nod to the bar at the London edition, but we’ve domesticated it into a single-serve version. Right, let’s get stirring.

40ml Amaro Montenegro 
25ml Brooklyn Gin
20ml Select Aperitivo 

Add ingredients to an ice-filled tumbler, stir and garnish with a slice of orange.

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The Nightcap: 28 June

Well, it feels like summer might finally be here to stay. We were up in Edinburgh this week and the city was bathed in sunlight. Everybody seemed a bit surprised….

Well, it feels like summer might finally be here to stay. We were up in Edinburgh this week and the city was bathed in sunlight. Everybody seemed a bit surprised. This weekend the lidos, paddling pools and beaches of Britain will be full of cheery people eating ice cream and sipping cold drinks. And the main topic of conversation among those over 18 will be… booze, of course! You thought it would be something else beginning with ‘b’ didn’t you? And so, to make you king of the conversation, we’ve rounded up the most interesting stories of the week. Simply read, learn and regurgitate to your friends and they will be amazed at how ‘with it’ you are. Though perhaps don’t use the phrase ‘with it’.

On the blog this week there was even more delightful Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage to enjoy as we put your questions to Ardnahoe, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain and Jura. Meanwhile, we announced the winner of our Game of Thrones competition! Ian Buxton then looked into the drinks industry’s flirtation with cannabis, while Annie enjoyed five minutes with the founder of Native in Singapore, Vijay Mudaliar, before shedding some light on Mexico’s most popular plant, agave. Henry’s New Arrival of the Week was a collaboration between That Boutique-y Gin Company and a Yorkshire distillery that rose phoenix-like from the ashes, while his Cocktail of the Week was an old school favourite, the Sherry Cobbler.

Right, let’s take a look at those stories. 

 

You can carry this on Eurostar, but you can’t drink it

Eurostar booze crisis resolved

There was panic among Britain’s booze enthusiasts this week when it was discovered that Eurostar had changed the policy on carrying bottles on its trains. Previously travellers were free, unlike on planes, to carry wine, spirits or beer in their hand luggage, but the new rules limited passengers to one bottle of wine, four bottles of beer and no spirits whatsoever. The drinks world was up in arms. Joe Fattorini from The Wine Show said: “This new rule from Eurostar officially ends the whole point of Eurostar for any wine producer coming to the UK.” When people asked for clarification, Eurostar commented the rules had changed to “maintain a pleasant environment on board for all our travellers”, and that passengers could pay to have their baggage checked, at £30 per item. Suddenly all the money you have saved on that bottle of Cognac has disappeared. But thanks to a concerted effort from, among others, travel writer and campaigner Mark Smith, aka. the Man in Seat 61, Eurostar clarified its rules: passengers are only allowed one bottle of wine, four beers and no large spirit bottles, to drink on the train, but “we are happy for customers to bring unopened bottles of alcohol to take on to their destination”, it now says on the site. Problem solved. Thank you, Eurostar, for listening to your passengers. 

 

Laphroaig 1995 (2)

This Laphroaig 1995 could be yours via new online auction site, Cask 88

New online auction site launches for whisky in cask

There can be few whisky lovers who haven’t dreamed of owning their own cask of the good stuff. Now acquiring your dream barrel has got that bit easier with the launch of a new online auction site especially for whisky in casks, called Cask 88. Just register with the site and you’re ready to go. Casks are listed with a photo and information about distillery, age, cask type, ABV and roughly how many bottles you could get out of it. So, for example there’s currently a cask of Laphroaig at £25,000 which was distilled in 1995. It weighs in at 55.4% ABV and you should be able to get 186 bottles of delicious smoky goodness. The site takes a 10% commission and offers two years storage free, after that it will cost £50 per year. And when the time comes to bottle your cask, you will have to pay VAT and duty. Auctions will take place monthly, including valuable old whiskies like that Laphroaig as well as young casks that should, hopefully, grow in value. And of course, don’t forget that even if you don’t make any money, you do have whisky. Which you can drink.  

 

Cooper Smith new make

One day this will be whisky

Yorkshire’s self-built distillery begins whisky production

The wonderful Cooper King Distillery over in Yorkshire has officially announced the start of distillation of its inaugural single malt whisky! Clearly everyone is just as excited as we are, as the distillery sold out of its pre-order whisky casks after just 10 days. Locally-grown Yorkshire barley will be traditionally floor-malted in England’s oldest working maltings, before it is mashed and fermented at the distillery itself. It will be distilled in a unique Tasmanian copper pot still, and matured on-site. “We may be one of the smallest whisky distilleries in England, but what matters to us is not the quantity of whisky produced, but the flavour of that whisky, its provenance, and the story behind the spirit,” co-founder Abbie Neilson commented. “Sourcing great barley, working with a superb master cooper, and carrying out mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation under one roof allows us to truly celebrate terroir.” The new spirit will be “robust, flavourful, and unlike any other in the country”, and influenced by the founders’ work with award-winning Tasmanian whisky distilleries. “Five years ago Abbie and I quit our jobs, flew to Australia, and fell in love with the Tasmanian way of making whisky,” added fellow co-founder, Chris Jaume. “Since then we have worked incredibly hard to realise our dream of distilling an English whisky underpinned by craftsmanship, honesty and adventure. We are thrilled that the day has come, and malt spirit is flowing at the distillery.” We, along with many others, eagerly await the day that the spirit will come of age, and be enjoyed as whisky. May the countdown begin!

 

There’s no added sugar in Pinkster gin (though there is in the tonic)

Tabloids take aim at sugar content in gins

Gin fans have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride the last few days. Yes, we’re in the midst of Negroni Week (more on that shortly). That’s always a winner. But we’ve also seen a raft of press coverage around the unexpectedly high sugar content in gin – with contemporary pink gins very much highlighted (just have a search on social if you want to see the article(s)). Whether you would just rather not know, or reckon that being well-informed is the best course of action (the side we come down on), there was a WHOLE load of chatter. Pinkster Gin even weighed in. “The report on sugar levels in flavoured gins makes for disturbing reading as many gin-lovers will simply have no idea that they’re playing sugar roulette,” said MD Stephen Marsh, stressing that there’s no added sugar in its production. That Boutique-y Gin Company was also in the social spotlight for its ‘no added sugar’ claim when Chocolate Orange Gin went viral. Do you care whether or not your gin has added sugar? What about your tonic water? Or would you just rather kick back with a refreshing G&T and forget about all the nutritional deets? Let us know on social or in the comments below. 

 

Circolo Popolare

Circolo Popolare is Italian booze heaven

Circolo Popolare throws open its doors

We love a good shindig at MoM Towers, so when we were invited to the launch night of new Italian bar and restaurant Circolo Popolare, we knew we were in for a treat. The save-the-date said there was 400 litres of spritz to get through, for goodness sake! What we weren’t quite prepped for was the exuberance of the flower-filled space, the chandeliers, the general opulence. This is a Sicilian embassy in the middle of Fitzrovia, complete with a terrace! The banquet was incredible – if the initial impression of the burrata, pizza and gelato is anything to go by, one could happily feast there for days. And there was a Negroni bar (a tip-top way to celebrate Negroni week). AND the alabaster walls were lined with 20,000 bottles of Italian spirits! No need for a passport, Circolo Popolare brings all the celebratory summer vibes we need. London folk: get in there quick. 

 

Smooth AmblerJPG

This is what’s known as a ‘cookout’

Smooth Ambler Cookout comes to London

Diaries out, folks 4 July is approaching, and US whiskey brand Smooth Ambler is determined to get Londoners in the mood for all things Americana. On Sunday, the Smooth Ambler Cookout is coming to East London! Strongroom Bar’s outdoor terrace is playing host, and guests can expect bourbon, bluegrass and barbeque food aplenty. So what is a ‘cookout’? Basically it’s the word for the whole event – we Brits might refer to the whole shebang a ‘barbeque’, but in Smooth Amber’s West Virginia, a ‘cookout’ encompasses it all. Want in? Tickets are £10, and include a Smooth Ambler cocktail, and unlimited access (mmmmmm, unlimited access) to the barbeque from 3-5pm. More info is available here. Time to start working up an appetite!

 

Kraken's Perfect Storm,

Kraken’s Perfect Storm, frankly it looks terrifying

Kraken Rum launches restaurant inside a thunderstorm! (Literally)

You’ve heard of 4D cinemas, but how about a 4D dining experience? The Kraken Black Spiced Rum has taken the phrase ‘cooking up a storm’ quite literally to the next level, with a brand new immersive 4D restaurant where you are, indeed, inside a storm. It’s called ‘Dining in a Perfect Storm’, inspired by the tumultuous waters home to the mythical Kraken. You’ll be subjected to state-of-the-art technology, recreating extreme stormy weather indoors. Expect real rainfall (1,000 litres of rain will fall from the ceiling every minute), howling cyclonic winds, flashes of lightning and booming thunder. You’ll be given a raincoat, though perhaps skip on the blow-dry for this dinner date. It all sounds rather intense, though we’ve been assured that The Kraken cocktails are best without a hefty serving of rain water, so perhaps it’s not as bad as it sounds. After the worst of the (indoor) weather, slightly damp diners will enter the ‘eye of the storm’, where the winds drop and the rains subside. Luckily it’s during this time that dinner is served, with a jet-black menu of dishes crafted using naturally black ingredients and natural black food colouring, with options such as squid ink linguini or even The Kraken black ice cream. Better be snappy though, it’s only running for two days on 12 and 13 July. 

 

Tokyo Mule at Kurabu

Tokyo Mule at Kurabu

Cocktails at Chelsea’s Kurabu

There’s a new addition to Chelsea’s plethora of cocktail bars and restaurants; we headed over to Kurabu (which means clubhouse in Japanese) at Dinings SW3. Up on the mezzanine, it’s cosy and modern while still retaining a somewhat traditional feel. We started the evening with the super floral and delicate Kurabu Spritz, containing Umeshu plum sake, Tio Pepe Fino sherry, rhubarb, cardamom and R de Ruinart Brut. Quite literally perfect for a summer’s evening. Then there was the super zesty Haru Gimlet, with Roku Gin, lemongrass, elderflower, ginger and fresh lime. It must be said, the food was also exquisite. The standout dishes for us were the fabulously innovative Crispy Rice, deep fried sushi rice with fish tartare alongside, and the deliciously decadent Mini Buns, homemade and soft steamed burger buns filled with either teriyaki wagyu beef or shrimp tempura dressed with spicy sweet chilli and sesame. Truly mouthwatering. We then finished with a Kurabu Negroni (well, it is Negroni week after all) and a delicious Tsuyo Old Fashioned with Nikka From Barrel, chocolate bitters and fig leaf liqueur. Truly outstanding drinks, and while the Tokyo Mule also caught our eye, with Hennessy VSOP, MUYU Vetiver Gris and blueberry shrubs, topped up with ginger beer, you can’t have ‘em all. We’ll try them all one day!

 

Balcones Single Malt - Batch 2 - 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) (1)

Balcones – wonderfully experimental

Balcones Distilling launches legendary Texas independent bottlings

In exciting whiskey news, four fabulous new bottlings have been announced, the products of a partnership between the wonderfully experimental Balcones Distilling in Texas and That Boutique-y Whisky Company. As you would expect, they’re wonderfully experimental. Firstly, there’s the first batch of  Balcones Two Year Old, a two-year-old single malt finished in a Balcones brimstone cask, said to have notes of smoky bacon, hickory, mesquite and camp fires. Then,  Balcones Three Year Old, and this single malt that has been part-aged in a Tequila cask for 24 months. Super exciting and interesting stuff. Finally, there’s  Balcones Two Year Old, another single malt spirit, though this one has been finished in an oloroso sherry cask, making it the third sherry cask matured single malt from Balcones. Dave Worthington, That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s brand ambassador stated, “Balcones has a special place in my heart as the first ever whisky festival I worked was for Balcones, so I’m so happy to see some of their Texan spirits wrapped up in our Boutique-y labels. Y’all gonna love this y’all (in my best Texas accent).” Finally, there’s also a mysterious fourth spirit which has yet to be released, made exclusively from Balcones’ signature corn grain, blue corn. You’ll have to wait until September for this one, though, which has been finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. “We are delighted to partner with our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company to release these rare and special spirits, all of which are a nod to our passion for exploration and testing the waters of what’s possible,” said Balcones’ head distiller, Jared Himstedt. “We wanted to share some single casks that showcase some of our fun experiments and finishes, alongside the versatility of our blue corn spirit, which we’ve not release in sherry casks before.” Oh, and would you look at that, the first three bottlings are available at your favourite online retailer right now! (That’s us, by the way.)

 

 

And finally. . . Moretti launches Deliver-A-Nonna, an Italian grandmother delivered to your door

Wouldn’t it be great if you when you were hungry an Italian grandmother would turn up at your house and cook for you? So much better than Deliveroo. Well, dream no longer because next month Birra Moretti is launching ‘Deliver-A-Nonna’. This will operate between 22 and 27 July in Brighton and London. Izabela Glodek from the Italian beer company said: “Our team of nonne will be ready and waiting to jump in to their Moretti motors and head to people’s houses to cook up a storm this July.  Our knowledgeable nonne will not only provide a delicious feast but also pass on valuable skills and recipes that have been around for generations inspiring people to get together for home cooked meals around the dinner table more often.” I wonder if they’ll do the washing up as well. You will be able to sign up from 7 July for a chance to have a real Italian grandmother delivered to your door. Mamma mia! Or maybe that should be nonna mia!

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The Nightcap: 21 June

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap! It’s sunny outside. Not that fake…

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.

On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.

Now, let’s take a look at the news!

The Nightcap

There are now 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public and you had plenty of fun checking them out!

Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!

The Nightcap

Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive

Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year

Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!

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Congratulations, Cameron!

Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB

This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!

The Nightcap

Swift Bar’s Bobby Hiddleston creating a wood smoke cocktail

Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme

Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.

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An artist’s impression of the revamped Clynelish Distillery

Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre

Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.

The Nightcap

London’s Coral Room created an exclusive Negroni menu

The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni

In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?

The Nightcap

There’s plenty to see, including the new Bulleit Visitor Experience Cocktail Bar

Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!

The Nightcap

Ruth Spivey, the founder of Wine Car Boot

Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London

Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.

The Nightcap

The swanky new Macallan Boutique at Dubai International Airport

The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai

Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!

The Nightcap

SEMrush provided the world with this vital data. Sex on the Beach? C’mon people!

And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is

Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 21 June

The Nightcap: 7 June

As we recover from another outstanding Fèis Ìle, the influx of booze news flowed in as usual – it’s The Nightcap! It’s Friday again, and, like always, we’ve got a…

As we recover from another outstanding Fèis Ìle, the influx of booze news flowed in as usual – it’s The Nightcap!

It’s Friday again, and, like always, we’ve got a fresh batch of news stories from the world of booze ready for you to drink up as we enter summer. That’s right, it’s summer already and, of course, it’s raining. But we won’t let that dampen our spirits, it’s the weekend for goodness sake! And we’re going to start this weekend the same way we always do. With another smashing edition of The Nightcap!

On the blog this week Jake regaled us with tales from Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain and Jura as Fèis Ìle 2019 concluded, while our June 2019 dram club also launched. Adam then found some fab treats to spoil the old man with on Father’s Day, Jess explored the world of fermented tea drinks with her New Arrival of the Week and Nate Brown played a game of booze-branding buzzword bingo in his guest column. Annie explained why the right glassware matters before casting her eye over 10 bottlings created with a chef’s sensibilities, while Henry met with the queen of rum, Joy Spence, enjoyed a Talisker video masterclass and picked The Toasted Nut Boulevardier as his Cocktail of the Week.

Now, to the news!

The Nightcap

Interesting times for Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond sold to Asian investment firm in $500m deal

Big Scotch whisky news! The Loch Lomond Group will be sold to Hillhouse Capital Management, an investment firm with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. The distillery is unique in Scotland in producing its own single malt and single grain whiskies; it also produces the Glen Scotia whisky, Glen’s vodka and Ben Lomond gin. The distillery, which had been in the hands of the Bulloch family since 1834, was acquired in 2014 by UK-based Exponent Private Equity who very successfully concentrated on the export market. Overseas sales went up from 10% to 70% of business. The new owners are now looking to capitalise on this especially in the Asian market. Wei Cao, partner at Hillhouse Capital, said: “We are so excited to help Loch Lomond realise the potential of its outstanding brands in huge new consumer markets, such as Asia.” The deal is still to be finalised but is said by Scottish Field to be worth somewhere in the region of $500m. The current distillery’s management headed up by Colin Matthews will stay in place and will keep a minority stake in the business. Matthews commented: “Over the past five years we are proud to have transformed the Loch Lomond Group into a premium international spirits business with a strong focus on innovation and a portfolio of award-winning brands.” We look forward to seeing what comes next from one of Scotland’s most idiosyncratic distilleries.

The Nightcap

The US allowing these little guys is great news for small European distillers

America may allow 70cl bottles – huge news for small European distillers

Good news from America! You don’t often hear that one. The TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau), the people who regulate alcohol among other things, are proposing to change the rules on bottle sizes for spirits. In a move that smacks of good old-fashioned common sense, the release says, “TTB is proposing to eliminate all but minimum and maximum standards of fill for distilled spirits containers in order to provide industry members greater flexibility in production and sourcing of containers, and provide consumers broader purchasing options.” At the moment full-size spirit bottles have to be 75cl as opposed to 70cl in the European Union, so producers have to produce two separate bottlings. No problem, of course, for Diageo but prohibitively expensive for smaller producers. If this proposal goes through, and that’s a big if, then it could potentially open up the American market to some boutique spirits. If the EU would reciprocate to allow 75cl spirit bottles, or maybe just agree on a common standard, what a wonderful world it could be.

The Nightcap

No fancy packaging here

Glenlivet 1946 goes under the hammer in Chiswick

In these days of hand-blown decanters, boxes inlaid with mother-of-pearl and specially-commissioned books, it’s nice to be reminded of a simpler time when whisky just came in a bottle with a plain label on. Take the Glenlivet 1946 that’s going under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions wine and spirits sale on 11 June. It was distilled when rationing was still going on after the war, only a tiny amount was allowed to be made for the export market. Most would have been sold as soon as possible but some were kept in cask and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin in the 1980s, so this is a roughly 40-year-old whisky. It’s been sourced by the new wine and spirits team at Chiswick Auctions Sam Hellyer, Chris Burr and Christopher Cooper. Look at that admittedly not terribly good label and compare it with the recent 50 Year Old Winchester Collection release from The Glenlivet. The latter will set you back $25,000 whereas this 1946 is only expected to sell for £800-1000. You don’t get a fancy box, but you do get a slice of history and at that price, someone might even drink it.

The Nightcap

A delightfully pink taste of history

Drink the original Pink Gin this World Gin Day with Angostura Bitters

Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, you’ve probably noticed a little trend called pink gin. However, in reality, these sweet and fruity tipples are a far cry from the very first pink gin to pass our lips, which was created courtesy of Angostura bitters. As the story goes, back in 1824, Dr J.G.B Siegert created Angostura bitters as a kind of healing elixir for soldiers fighting in Venezuela. At the time, it was safer to drink alcohol on ships, as stagnant water was a rather perilous affair. Would you believe it, it took a whole 24 years for someone to mix these bitters with gin! It was in the year 1848 when a Royal Navy surgeon added the bitters to try and help with seasickness. Luckily, this happy accident of mixology also coincided with the rise of cocktail culture in the 1850s. The sailors returned from sea, and brought with them Pinkers, as they now affectionately called this pink gin. Health concerns went out the window and people simply loved the taste of it. Seeing as it’s World Gin Day this weekend, why not have a taste of history and make your own Pinkers? Tastes even better if you can find a ship to drink it on, though it’s not essential.

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Caskshare allows whisky lovers to reserve ‘shares’ of whisky casks from their favourite distilleries

Craft Whisky Club launches Caskshare

It goes without saying that anything which makes whisky more accessible is most definitely a Good Thing. So, great news for whisky geeks this week, as Craft Whisky Club (part of Edinburgh based whisky-technology company Uisge Tech Ltd) announced the launch of Caskshare. In a nutshell, Caskshare allows whisky lovers to reserve ‘shares’ of whisky casks from their favourite distilleries, and once matured the single cask bottlings will be sent directly to the lucky recipient – or as Caskshare calls them, ‘shareholders’. This is a brilliant new initiative, described as Crowdfunding for whisky casks, which will hopefully allow consumers to explore and buy a whole host of cask variations without breaking the bank. The first casks to feature on the platform are from the Raasay Distillery, and you can choose to age either your peated or unpeated spirit in ex-bourbon, Chinquapin (a type of oak native to North America) virgin oak, or Bordeaux red wine casks. Such choice! The first bottling will be ready in 2022, after its required three years of ageing. “Caskshare offers whisky fans a way to get closer to their favourite distilleries and wood types”, says co-founder David Nicol. “What’s more, you don’t need to part with the vast sums of money required to purchase a full cask.” It’s said that a few new distilleries are set to join Caskshare in the next few months, and these won’t just be limited to Scotland, so keep your eyes peeled!

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A record-breaking rum!

Wray & Nephew President’s Reserve breaks rum auction record fetching £31,500

A very rare Wray & Nephew rum has set a new world record for an individual bottle of rum sold at auction after it fetched £31,500 (just under $40,000). “We had high hopes for this stunning bottle but with so little sales history to reference it was difficult to predict how it might perform,” said Iain McClune, director at Whisky Auctioneer. “I think it is fair to say that it has exceeded expectations, however, the price achieved is more than deserving considering the historical significance and incredible rarity of this rum”. J. Wray & Nephew President’s Reserve rum, the fourth of 12 bottles created, went on sale in Whisky Auctioneer’s inaugural Rum Auction last month. The rum, which contains liquid from 1906, honours US president Ronald Reagan and his first and only visit to Jamaica in April 1982. The label bears the late president’s seal, and it is believed that two bottles were presented to Reagan with further bottles given to dignitaries and industry professionals in attendance during the visit. This particular bottle is thought to be the only known example to have come into the secondary market, with another bottle previously selling for £1,213 (US$1,542) at a Bonhams auction in New York in 2013. A representative from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum said: “The first family received this wonderful gift commemorating their trip to Jamaica in April 1982. The bottle that we have is #1 and bears the Great Seal of the United States. The current locations of the remaining bottles are not known.” More than 50 bids from across the world were made for the historic bottling, with the winning bid coming from Italy. It’s sickening, isn’t it? There’s a person out there who gets to drink rare rum and live in Italy. Life isn’t fair. Anyway, we digress. . . The President’s Reserve was one of more than 600 rums sold in the auction and wasn’t the only big hitter. A pair of casks from the closed Caroni distillery in Trinidad fetched £25,000 (US$31,793) each.

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It’s hard to say what was better, the cocktails or the view!

London in the Sky with Cocchi

We headed down – or should we say up – to North Greenwich to London in the Sky for a spritz masterclass with Team Cocchi. London in the Sky is, in essence, a great big table on a crane which rises 100 feet into the air, giving you truly some stellar views of the Big Smoke while you sip. For those of you who think that may sound slightly hellish, fear not, as you’re securely strapped into a seat which looks a little like one you would find in a racing car – super safe. Once we had risen above the O2 Arena, we made (and tasted) four cocktails. First up was the Cocchi Rosa Spritz, made with Cocchi Rosa, tonic, fresh strawberries and basil, full of bittersweet pink berry notes. Next, a Cocchi Rosa Negroni, a take on the classic made with Cocchi Rosa, Pink Pepper Gin and Campari. Then, we moved (metaphorically) into the evening with the Vermouth di Torino Spritz, combining Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, rosemary and olive tonic water and a fresh sprig of rosemary. This was less fruity, and brought more of a spicy note, hence why it was more of an evening drink. Finally, a classic Negroni graced the floating table, made with Sipsmith gin, Campari and, of course, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. If a spritz in the sky sounds good to you, then you’ll be thrilled to hear that Cocchi Spritzes are permanently on the menu for all of London in the Sky’s flights. However, the best part is, that with each cocktail only containing three ingredients, these are simple drinks to make, whether you’re 100 feet in the air over Canary Wharf, or just relaxing in your garden.

The Nightcap

A week of Negronis? We’re in

Campari unveils #N100, a week devoted to the Negroni

This year it’s the hundredth anniversary of that fateful day when a barman in Florence accidentally poured gin into Count Camillo Negroni’s Americano (a mixture of Campari and vermouth) instead of soda water, and created a classic. Or so the story goes (we’ll be looking into the drink’s history very soon). As you can imagine we’re quite excited, but not as excited as Campari: the Milanese company is launching #N100, over a week of events around Britain to celebrate the Count and his creation. It begins at the Vinyl Factory in London on 20 June and continues into Negroni Week beginning 22 June with events in Edinburgh, Manchester and London. To spice things up a little, the venues won’t just be offering the standard Negroni. At Hoot the Redeemer in Edinburgh, for example, you’ll be able to try the tastefully-named Skagliato made with Campari, Irn Bru and Buckfast! Sounds fierce. It looks like June is going to be sweet this year, and really really bitter.

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Gold has just opened on Portobello Road and we’re all very excited to see how they do

Notting Hill bar Gold opens in a blaze of talent

A swanky new bar and restaurant that goes by the name of Gold opened on Portobello Road this week. The new venture has drawn quite the host of talent, with head chef Theo Hill of The River Café, and front of house team Alex Ghalleb of Pizza East and Arez Akgundogdu of Soho House. The drinks don’t look bad either: Gold’s unique cocktail menu has been put together by Weapons and Toys, aka. Matt Whiley and Rich Woods, the fellas behind Hackney’s Scout. It’s already off to a flying (and talented) start. So, what to expect? Raw bohemian decor, with exposed brickwork, lots of indoor trees and the like, colourful seasonal sharing plates inspired by local produce and uncomplicated, delicious cocktails. All the cocktails look delicious, but we’re pretty sure we’d be hard pressed to choose between the Market Stall Spritz, comprised of raspberry-infused Hennessey brandy, crème de cacao, sweet tomato shrub, rosé and soda, or the Baklava Fizz, combining Don Julio Tequila, fig shrub, London honey, almond milk and soda. Gold will span over four floors, and will even boast a garden room with a retractable roof, perfect as we began our descent into summer. With such a great team in place, we can’t wait to see what other seasons will bring.

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Yep. That’s a shoe. With a cocktail inside

And finally. . . . a cocktail served in a shoe

Cocktail silly season has arrived in London early this year as the Ace Hotel announces a new cocktail menu at the Lobby Bar. The two that caught our eye were the Bangers and Daq’s, a Daiquiri with a salami (yes real salami, not some sort of dried fruit fangled to look like salami) and red wine twist, and the Drella’s Milk Punch, made from cornflake milk and vodka which sounds like the sort of thing Ozzy Osborne would have had for breakfast. However, these beverages are paragons of classical good taste in comparison with what the people from Filipino joint, Romulo Cafe in Kensington, are serving. It’s called the Imelda and it’s been designed in honour of former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, who was famed for having a lot of shoes when most of her people didn’t have a lot to eat. The cocktail contains Stolichnaya vodka, crème de framboise, crème de mure and strawberry puree, and served, naturally, in a shoe. It’s all done in the best possible taste!

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Cocktail of the Week: The Iceberg Slim

Gareth ‘G’ Franklin is on a mission to bring liqueurs out from the back of the drinks cupboard and put them centre stage. His creation, the Iceberg Slim, shines a…

Gareth ‘G’ Franklin is on a mission to bring liqueurs out from the back of the drinks cupboard and put them centre stage. His creation, the Iceberg Slim, shines a spotlight on Luxardo Bitter Bianco.

The first rule of cocktails is that they are built around spirits. First pick your spirit gin, vodka, rum or whiskey and then make a Sour, Martini or whatever you fancy. Liqueurs, vermouths, bitters etc. are there to provide seasoning. Luxardo, however, has other ideas. The Italian drinks firm has just launched an initiative to make liqueurs the star.

The company is probably best known for its Maraschino liqueur, a great friend behind the bar, but today’s cocktail, the Iceberg Slim, is based around Luxardo Bitter Bianco. Launched in 2016, Bitter Bianco has a flavour profile similar to Campari (try it in a White Negroni along with Dolin Dry vermouth and gin) but it’s less sweet with a higher ABV at 30%. I loved its clean, bright flavours of bitter orange, rosemary and peach blossom with a nice bite from bitter botanicals including wormwood.

luxardo

Brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin never leaves home without a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin told us a bit about the production process: Bitter Bianco is made by macerating all the botanicals separately, blending and then redistilling the resulting spirit. But, according to Franklin, “some things like wormwood when you distill them, they lose their bitterness so we do a separate maceration, and we add that to it.” Which is why Bitter Bianco isn’t actually white, it’s more of a pale yellow colour. Bitter Giallo Pallido doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Franklin was born and brought up near Cambridge, and, after a stint in Australia, is now working back in the city. He’s been with Luxardo for nearly six years now but his interest in liqueurs goes way back: “When I was growing up, my father and I used to go hiking”, he said, “I guess nowadays you’d call it ‘foraging’ but back then we used to just pick stuff. And we’d make liqueurs from it: all sorts of things, like rosehip liqueur, blackberries, greengages, stuff like that”.

He thinks that in Britain we have a prejudice against liqueurs. I certainly associate the word with sticky bottles at the back of my parents’ drinks cupboard. Franklin blames it on what he calls the ‘the Midori effect’. He elaborates: “don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating Midori. But in the late ‘70s everyone who was making liqueurs at that time just went ‘hey, we need to do this too!’ So what they did was they started synthesising flavours and then using big artificial colours. And I think that has just tarnished the category for most people”.

The Iceberg Slim

Behold, the Iceberg Slim!

To challenge these preconceptions, Luxardo and Franklin are doing a cocktail roadshow called ‘Modify This’ to show how versatile liqueurs can be. Franklin will be travelling around the country conducting liqueur masterclasses to bartenders. One of the cocktails he will be showing is the Iceberg Slim. Franklin explained how he invented it: “Luxardo Bianco is like a gin liqueur that contains no juniper”, he said, “And, for me, especially when it comes down to consumers that’s the easiest way for them to understand it because in England we don’t have this cultural association to the bitter palate, like Campari. So what do we understand? We do understand gin. So, essentially we’re just simply mixing it with the tonic and then we’re thinking about the different flavours which are quite reminiscent of an aquavit.  So I’ve added dill to accentuate those notes and lemon is always going to work with those sorts of fresh flavours. “

Franklin told he that it’s all about “synergy”, when the different flavours “marry together and kind of assimilate into one flavour.” And what about the name? He was surprised that his cocktail shares a name with a notorious American pimp turned author. According to Franklin, the name comes from the cocktail’s freshness and colour, or rather lack of it; “I did not realise it was the name of a famous pimp!”, he said.

Enough talking, let’s make this thing!

50ml Luxardo Bitter Bianco
200ml 1724 tonic water
Lemon twist
A sprig of fresh dill

Muddle fresh dill in the bottom of a collins glass or tumbler, fill with ice, add the Luxardo Bitter Bianco, top up with tonic water and stir. Express a piece of lemon peel over the glass, twist and drop in.

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