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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Negroni

Showcasing the value of vermouth with Vermò

What’s the best way to champion the vermouth category to a new audience? Make your own delicious vermouth, of course. Like Vermò. A once sidelined drink is having a moment….

What’s the best way to champion the vermouth category to a new audience? Make your own delicious vermouth, of course. Like Vermò.

A once sidelined drink is having a moment. New producers are emerging. Vermò is one of them. The brand’s name is a combination of the word vermouth and the Roman expression ‘Mò’, which means ‘now’ and was said as a call to take advantage of every moment to the fullest. Which is apt, because while vermouth has a rich history and is a versatile drink, it’s only recently that consumers are gradually becoming aware of its delights and potential. For the creators of Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso, Ettore Velluto and Jorge Ferrer, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Like many drink businesses, Vermò started with friends who asked “why not?! Velluto and Ferrer became close while studying in Barcelona together, eventually becoming flatmates as Ferrer worked with Jack Daniels and Velluto plied his trade at a consulting company. But they began to notice that vermouth was becoming increasingly popular in the city. Sharing a love of the drink and a desire to found their own brand, they decided to take a leap of faith. “In the beginning, it was just for fun. We were thinking of something we could do together and we were passionate about this industry. We started dedicating our weekends to writing a business plan and trying Italian, Spanish and French vermouth,” Velluto explains. 

Growing up in Spain and Italy respectively, Ferrer and Velutto recall a time when it was commonplace to see their grandparents’ generation drinking vermouth. But they both also felt that they witnessed it skip a generation. “I remember my grandmother always having either a bottle of vermouth in the house. It used to be in the culture of the Spanish people, when we said we were having an aperitivo, we meant vermouth,” says Ferrer. “In Spain, we are now seeing the revival of the category and young people are drinking vermouth more. But the first time my parents had vermouth at home was when we started the brand”. “It’s the same for Italy”, adds Velluto. “It’s a product that was rooted in tradition. My grandfather and people his age would meet to drink vermouth. Everybody had a bottle at their place. But it jumped a generation. The product almost disappeared”. 

Vermò

Vermò founders Ettore Velluto and Jorge Ferrer

While Ferrer and Velutto shared a romantic connection with vermouth, they understood that Italy and Spain had different approaches to creating and drinking vermouth. Instead of simply picking one, they were motivated to create a drink that brought together Italy and Spain.“We wanted to create a vermouth brand that was different from the ones already in the market. We liked the characteristics of Italian vermouth and the relaxed and more easy-drinking approach of Spanish vermouth, which is enjoying a new wave of aperitivo culture,” says Velluto. “Many vermouths had a really classic look and feel, and also a classic taste. We wanted to break away from this with a more contemporary approach and design,” Ferrer comments. “We felt that the image and the identity of the brands were really old fashioned. The label reminds of a 200 year ago origin story or a different time and we didn’t think that was appealing for a younger generation”. 

After a period of researching and working on a business plan, Ferrer and Velutto decided against distilling their own vermouth. This would have proved too costly and difficult, so instead, they chose to build a brand and work with an established producer. While they chased down leads across Italy, from Rome to Tuscany, the duo experimented. This process of trial and error was educational as Ferrer and Velutto understood exactly what they wanted. They knew they needed a distinctive brand that would appeal to their generation. They also knew that their ideal vermouth was fresh and acidic and not overly sweet. However, Ferrer and Velutto also came to realise that creating the best possible product meant being loyal to the traditions and origins of vermouth and embracing the classic side of the production. They wanted to make Vermouth di Torino.

Commercial production of vermouth in Turin dates back to the end of the 18th century, but while Vermouth di Torino as a style has possessed a geographical denomination since 1991, it wasn’t until 2017 that a law was created by The Vermouth di Torino Institute (an alliance of 15 brands) to define its production parameters. It states that Vermouth di Torino is “an aromatised wine obtained in Piedmont using Italian wine only, with the addition of alcohol, flavoured mainly with artemisia from Piedmont together with other herbs and spices’. “When you are Italian, vermouth is from Turin. If you want to make respectable vermouth, it has to be a Vermouth di Torino. We were nobody, the power of having that status and being produced by a great vermouth producer was so important,” says Velluto. “A great brand without a great product is nothing,” adds Ferrer.

Vermò

Vermò is made at the family-owned La Canellese distillery

While researching for the perfect partner, Velutto found La Canellese, a distillery in the heart of the Piedmont region that dates back to 1890 and has been owned and run by the four generations of the Sconfienza since 1957. “It was in a book by Fulvio Piccinino, a major expert on vermouth worldwide, and he talks extensively about the different brands and also different producers,” says Velluto. “We went there and bought the sample we had and explained extensively how we saw the product and that we wanted to take what we had and make it lighter and fresher”. 

An array of samples were sent to La Canellese with differing levels of alcohol, sugar and spices before a tasting was held and a winner picked. The relationship was good but not without pushback. “They accommodated us a lot. They let us play, but they are traditional to the point that they did block some of our ideas! We respect them and always take their advice into consideration because they are one of the key players in the world for vermouth. But if they feel uncomfortable we know that we are doing something right; because if they feel too comfortable, we are not on the right path,” says Ferrer.  

All this experimentation, collaboration and hard work turned into Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso. Velutto explains that the process of creating it all starts from the spices. “We buy spices that are already dried but still intact which La Canellese grind in an old hammer mill they have always used. The traditional method of infusion calls for cold extraction. Hot extraction is faster but more aggressive on the spices so we prefer to take things slowly. An alcohol solution is dripped on the spices and subsequently drained away in a continuous cycle for twenty days,” he explains. “The infused solution then sits for a further ten days to allow all of the sediment to settle, which is then filtered so you can mix it together with wine, sugar and alcohol in a huge iron silo. We cool the silo which makes all the sediments that were not already filtered go to the bottom of the silo and then after 20 days in the silo, you filter it again with a hydro filter to get a clear liquid solution. We bottle it and wait for 20, 30 days more to let the liquid rest and settle in the bottle. So the whole process is three to four months”.

Vermò

Vermò is a Vermouth di Torino Rosso, a historic style of vermouth

Wine must be at least 75% of the total volume of vermouth and typically this consists of white wine or a mistelle, a  partially-fermented white wine to which brandy has been added to retain sweetness from unfermented sugar. Vermò was made using the former, all Italian white wine and always with a percentage of Trebbiano and Chardonnay because these wines have the profile that Ferrer and Velluto desired. “We wanted a product that was less sweet and had more acidity and fresh delivery. La Canellese had a lot of recommendations for the types of grapes we should use to create the product that we wanted to have, We agreed with La Canellese that Chardonnay was a good choice as it gives the product these characteristics” says Velluto. “We also settled on Trebbiano because it is a classic vermouth wine and the grapes grow in the on-site vineyards”.

You’ll have noticed there’s a recurring theme here, that Ferrer and Velutto were very resistant to making saccharine vermouth. Naturally, Vermò has got quite a low sugar content. This was always an important issue for Ferrer and Velluto as they felt this was the key to create a more accessible type of vermouth. “We found too many vermouths were too sweet or thick. People like vermouth because of the low ABV, the flavour profile, the aperitivo culture, and that you can pair it with food, but they would have just one glass because it was too heavy. We wanted to do something fresher,” says Ferrer. “We wanted to focus on deriving the most amount of flavour from the botanicals to make vermouth that goes down quite easy – which is good for us and good for the consumer as well!

Arguably the most interesting aspect of the Vermò recipe is its botanical content. A total of 31 botanicals were used, a blend of ingredients that was decided upon after much experimentation. “We knew the kind of taste we wanted and initially went to La Canellese with 15 or 16 botanicals in mind. But to balance our recipe we added many things, including spices that we didn’t know about at first!” says Velluto. “Obviously our recipe is a secret so we can’t reveal all of it, but we can say there are spices like cinnamon, galangal, white pepper, elements like vanilla, some great citric freshness from lemon and some lovely bitterness from botanicals like aloe, as well as three different kinds of wormwood, Roman wormwood (artemisia pontica), Alpine wormwood (artemisia vallesiaca) and absinthe wormwood (artemisia absinthium), all grown in the Piedmont region as is required for a Vermouth di Torino”.

Vermò

Vermò has worked extensively with bartenders to create bespoke serves

When it is ready, Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso is bottled at 17% ABV and is ready to be consumed. The question is, how? Historically, vermouth in Italy was consumed with soda and in cocktails, like Negronis and Americanos. In Spain, the culture of cocktails is less strong and a lot of people drink vermouth neat. So, what should you do with Vermò? Easy: both. “We wanted to make vermouth that people would appreciate and often the best way to do that is to serve it neat or with some ice. Vermò really changes when you serve it this way, it opens up some other flavours, usually the fresher ones like the cardamom or lemon,” Ferrer explains. “But we also knew that we needed to have a product that was suitable and that worked really well with cocktails because, in the end, half of your advocacy is going to come from bartenders”.

It should come as no surprise then to learn that the brand has worked extensively with bartenders to create bespoke serves such as the El Don, Vermò Cobbler and Mary Anne. But if you’re intrigued by Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso and want to give it a try, a good place to start would be with the drinks you already know. It’s hard to go wrong with the classics. “It’s great in Negroni because it gives Vermò a fresher and citric taste and with whisky, it’s a really good match the lower sugar content gives more space for the spirit to be at its best. So we would especially recommend you try it in a Manhattan and Americano,” says Velutto. “A lot of cocktail bars go for the Americano and we never complain about it!” adds Ferrer.

While the early signs are promising and vermouth is reaching a wider audience with every passing year, there is still a lot of work to be done for brands like Vermò to reach its potential, something Ferrer and Velutto know all too well. “Bartenders are interested, but vermouth is still not at the stage where there’s a consistent premium consumer. There’s been growth and a lot of new brands coming in, but so many will disappear because there’s too much competition,” Ferrer admits. “What’s against us is that most consumers don’t really request a specific vermouth. When people order a gin and tonic, often they will say a brand of gin they want. It’s the same for whisky. With vermouth, you ask for a cocktail or a style, but not necessarily a brand name. There’s a lot of education to do with the consumer”. 

Vermò

Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso is available at MoM Towers.

For now, Ferrer and Velutto are doing what they can to spread the word . “We’re trying to grow in different countries. In January we reached the US. Unfortunately, everything stopped with Covid,” Velluto says. “We were doing a competition that would elect the best under 30 bartender of Italy, so we approached that side of marketing and are trying to engage younger bartenders as we are a younger product”. The approach was certainly working prior to the lockdown, with the UK pleasingly registering as Vermò’s biggest market. Velluto and Ferrer agree that the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “Nobody has said ‘no’ to the product in two years!” Ferrer remarks. “In the beginning, the expectations weren’t high because nobody knew who we were and we didn’t have a big company behind us, so we surprised a lot of people. They could see that we were passionate about how it is made and that we had to risk our money and time to bring the product to the market. The industry thankfully is very kind and helped us a lot, but our rationale was always that the product will stand by itself”. 

You can purchase Vermò Vermouth di Torino Rosso here.

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New Arrival of the Week: Carpano Botanic Bitter

This week we’re getting all steamed up about a bitter bottling from top vermouth producer Carpano. Negroni anyone? With the bar scene temporarily out of action, more and more of…

This week we’re getting all steamed up about a bitter bottling from top vermouth producer Carpano. Negroni anyone?

With the bar scene temporarily out of action, more and more of us are turning to the joys of the home bar. When coming up with the basic kit you need, most suggestions are generic, a gin such as. . . , a decent rye, a good blended Scotch, but there’s one item that is always ordered by brand, Campari. No drinks cabinet is complete without a bottle of the red stuff for emergency Negronis

Nothing has managed to unseat Campari as the ubiquitous bitter. It’s not as if there aren’t competitors, there’s a whole world of Italian bitter drinks out there like Cynar or Amaro Montenegro but though they are delicious in their own way, they are so different from Campari that they aren’t direct rivals. You might have an exotic amaro in your arsenal but you probably also have a bottle of Campari. But recently there have been attempts to unseat the king: in 2017 the might of Martini launched the delicious Speciale Riserva Bitter, and now here’s a new contender from another vermouth producer, Carpano.

Carpano is probably best known for its high end Antica Formula vermouth  (bartender joke: antique formula, modern price, ho ho ho!) The company was founded in 1786 in Turin by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. Wikipedia somewhat fancifully claims that he invented vermouth but he was certainly a pioneer of the vermouth di Torino style. At the time Turin was part of the territory of the Dukes of Savoy that included not only Piedmont and Sardinia but also Nice and Savoy, now in France. Which explains why Turin and Chambery, home of Dolin, are the twin powerhouses of vermouth. Both cities were once in the same country.

The company is now owned by a drinks group that really understands bitterness, Fratelli Branca Distillerie, producer of Fernet Branca, so you’d expect the Botanic Bitters to impress. Nicola Olianas, Branca’s global ambassador commented: “Carpano Botanic Bitter adds further breadth to the Carpano range, with a unique recipe that combines the Carpano tradition with a contemporary complexity. With cocktail sales set for further strong growth in the UK, Carpano Botanic Bitter meets the need for continued innovation at the premium end of the market.”

The colour aims it squarely at Campari but it tastes different. Ten natural botanicals are used in the production process including saffron, sandal, fresh green orange peel, bitter orange peel, cinchona, rhubarb, zedoria, gentian, myrrh and wormwood. The bitterness is balanced out with 150g of sugar per litre, which is significantly less than its rivals which come in closer to 300g per litre. This means that Carpano Botanic Bitters has a freshness and lightness about it. No wonder that it’s already proved a hit with bartenders. In London both Balans and the Happiness Forgets have got behind it. When lockdown is over, it’s one you will increasingly see on the back bar. 

Carpano Negroni, keeping it in the family

Along with Antica Formula and a range of more affordable vermouths, Carpano is also the company behind Punt e Mes, the powerfully bitter vermouth, so it makes sense that they recommend using it alongside Botanical Bitter and Brooklyn Gin to make a signature Carpano Negroni. The other recommendations are an Americano (40ml Botanic Bitter, 20ml Carpano Antica formula, topped with tonic water though I reckon soda would be nicer) and an Irish Boulevardier made with equal proportions of Botanic Bitter, Antica Formula and Paddy Irish whiskey

With its vibrant bitter flavours and lower sugar levels, it’s one that we’re really looking forward to playing around with. It should make those lockdown days fly by. 

Carpano Botanic Bitter is available now from Master of Malt.

 

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20 pro tips to make bar-quality cocktails at home

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

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

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

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

You’ll need ice, lots and lots of ice

Ice

Use more than you think you need

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

Filter before you fill up

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

Freeze your own large format ice 

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

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

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

Manhattan Duke

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

Methodology

Resize drinks via ‘parts’

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

Introduce new flavours slowly

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

Look to physical cues

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

Dry shake egg-based drinks

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

Ask yourself, is that garnish really essential?

Garnish

Identify the essentials

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

Dehydrate wheels of fruit… 

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

…Or alternatively, freeze them

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

Utilise kitchen kit

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

Terri Brotherston in action

Prep

Chill the glass

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

Pre-batch your ingredients

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

Keep bottles in the freezer

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

Blend your cocktail

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

Pre-batch your cocktails

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

The Nightcap

Sometimes, the best tip is just to keep it simple

Creativity 

Create your own cordials

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

Try a milk wash

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

Or, just keep it simple

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

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10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

We’ve rounded up ten delightful drinks for those who still want to indulge in some boozy brilliance while stuck at home. I hope you’ve been working on your social distancing…

We’ve rounded up ten delightful drinks for those who still want to indulge in some boozy brilliance while stuck at home.

I hope you’ve been working on your social distancing game, folks. I’m something of a pro myself. Staying indoors wearing sweatpants, feigning disappointment at cancelled plans and watching so much Netflix I think it’s stopped bothering with the ‘are you still watching?’ prompt is a life I’m well attuned to. I’ve also got a hell of a drinks cabinet for when I fancy a small indulgence.

If you’re anything like us here at MoM Towers, then a period of self-isolation means time to refine your cocktail-making skills, an opportunity to sample an intriguing new dram and to restock the home bar with exciting new expressions. That’s why we’ve created this selection especially for those who could use a bit of retail therapy right now (#treatyoself). Enjoy the list and please stay safe.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Negroni Bundle

If you’re looking for a simple and tasty cocktail to make at home, then we humbly recommend the classic Negroni. Thankfully we’ve made the whole process even easier with this handy little bundle, which brings together the holy trinity of great gin, tasty vermouth and wonderfully bitter Campari in one convenient place. We’ve even chucked in [carefully] a crystal Master of Malt Riedel tumbler to add to the super savings. 

Negroni recipe:

Combine 25ml of Bathtub Gin, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso sweet vermouth. Stir over ice and strain into your shiny new ice-filled Riedel tumbler. Garnish with an orange peel (‘express’ over top by giving it a little squeeze, and then simply plonk it in).

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Beavertown Neck Oil Bundle (6 Pack)

Having a few cans on hand is something many a booze-lover will want to ensure during this period of self-isolation, but there’s no need to settle for less. The bundle of Beavertown’s sublime session IPA – Neck Oil doesn’t just guarantee you terrific beer, it will also save you 10% versus buying them individually. Who doesn’t love a discount?

What does it taste like?

Light and crisp but full of flavour – citrusy and hoppy, slightly floral, very moreish.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Dead Man’s Fingers Pineapple Rum

Pineapple and rum just belong together, unlike pineapple and pizza. I don’t make the rules. But I do know that Dead Man’s Fingers make a seriously good flavoured rum. This terrific tropical treat boasts notes of both candied and roasted pineapple, alongside simmering spices and a helping of brown sugar. Superb served over ice, but also goes great with lemonade or ginger ale.

What does it taste like?

Bright and almost tangy at first with fresh pineapple and ginger, followed by homemade caramel, nutmeg, cassia and mango.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

If you’re not familiar with the delights of the Macallan distillery, then this expression is the perfect way to acquaint yourself. Released as part of Macallan’s ever-wonderful Sherry Oak range, this delicious dram spent its entire maturation in sherry-seasoned oak casks which impart that rich, fruity and full-bodied profile we’ve come to know and love from a sherried Macallan.

What does it taste like?

Sultanas, fresh apple blossom, Calvados, tropical fruit, golden syrup, hot pastries, marmalade and barley sugar.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Jaffa Cake Gin

At a time like this, there’s nothing better than a few home comforts, like comfy pyjamas, a cup of tea and a box of jaffa cakes. Sounds like bliss. How about if you added a tipple, like a delicious and fun gin? Even better. What if that gin was made to taste like jaffa cakes and even included the timeless treat in its botanical selection? Perfection. Good thing such a drink exists. Now, go forth and make an insanely delicious Negroni. Full marks if you stick a Jaffa Cake on your glass like a citrus wheel garnish.

What does it taste like?

Zingy orange (marmalade-esque), rich and earthy chocolate, vanilla-rich cake, a touch of almondy-goodness and a solid backbone of juniper. Also, Jaffa Cakes! 

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Tanqueray No. Ten

A bartender’s favourite for a reason, Tanqueray No. Ten is simply one of the most delicious, versatile and iconic gins on the market. Named after the still of its origin, pot still number 10, which is quite endearingly nicknamed Tiny Ten, this expression was crafted using whole fresh citrus fruits, such as oranges, limes and grapefruit, along with chamomile flowers and other traditional botanicals. Quarantini, anyone?

What does it taste like?

Tangy grapefruit zest, creamy custard, clean juniper, hints of Earl Grey tea and cardamom. 

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

A staple Islay whisky, the perfect introduction into the smokier side of things and one of our all-time favourites, we’ll happily champion this peaty, fruity and fresh tipple whenever the opportunity presents itself. The entry-level bottling from the Caol Ila distillery is phenomenal (or should that be phenonenal. You know, because of all the phenols… oh, shut up) neat, but if you’re a fan of a Penicillin Cocktail it should do the trick too.

What does it taste like?

Fresh herbs, rubbed peppermint leaves, damp grass, cigar leaves, smoked ham, hickory, elegant smoke, boiled sweets and lemon peels at the harbour.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

If you’ve ever enjoyed the delightful Woodford Reserve but craved something a little deeper, darker and richer, then you’re in luck. Double Oaked is made the same way as its classic sister expression but is then further matured in barrels which have been heavily toasted and lightly charred. A killer Old Fashioned awaits.

What does it taste like?

Lots of sweet oaken character, as well as rich fruit, vanilla and caramel notes.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

The Lakes Vodka

If you’re a vodka fan and you’re on the lookout for a reliably clean and crisp bottling, then you’re not going to do much better than the winner of the World’s Best Vodka at the World Vodka Awards 2019. The Lakes Vodka was made with water from the River Derwent (the very same River Derwent which was mentioned in William Wordworth’s book, The Prelude!) and triple distilled for the desired clarity and flavour profile. It’s sublime in a number of cocktails, like the simple and sublime Moscow Mule.

What does it taste like?

Very soft and a touch drying, with light hints of peppery wheat coming through.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Signature Blend #2 (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

For those who intend to make good use of their time indoors by perfecting the art of the Mai-Tai, then look no further than the second Signature Blend from That Boutique-y Rum Company for your base spirit. It was specifically developed with Pete Holland (who you’ll know from The Floating Rum Shack) with the classic cocktail in mind and was made from a combination of particularly rich Guyanese rum and some wonderfully funky Jamaican rums.

What does it taste like?

Oily walnuts, rich molasses, dark chocolate, oaky tannins, spicy nutmeg, pitted Medjool dates, raisins, papaya, banana bread, engine oil, sweet tobacco, coconut husk, juicy pineapple, sugarcane, game meat, coffee beans, black tea, dark chocolate and roasted apricot. 

 

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Cocktails in cans are not to be sniffed at

From canned G&Ts to bottled Negronis, It’s never been easier to buy a portable bar-quality drink on the hop. We explore how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium – and share a selection…

From canned G&Ts to bottled Negronis, It’s never been easier to buy a portable bar-quality drink on the hop. We explore how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium – and share a selection of our favourite ready-to-go tipples…

Whether they’re released by established distilleries, bottled by entrepreneurial bartenders, or engineered by savvy start-ups, today’s ready-to-drink (RTD) serves tend to favour high quality, often ‘natural’ ingredients, all wrapped up in slick, Instagrammable packaging. All being said, we’ve come a long way since the likes of WKD Blue and Smirnoff Ice reigned supreme.

Historically, the pre-mixed arena has been “dominated by big spirit brands, for whom it made sense to produce cheap ‘spirit and mixer’-type RTD’s to ensure their product could be consumed more easily on the go,” explains Harry Farnham, co-founder of Bloody Drinks. This meant convenience was important, but quality less so, he says, which created a race to the bottom in terms of price.

“This is now changing, and for lots of reasons,” Farnham continues. “One of the most obvious is the knock-on effect of the explosion of ultra-premium craft beer in cans. With their craft credentials, complex taste and striking designs, they’ve proved that discerning consumers will spend a lot of money on a canned drink.”

Ready to drink Negroni Sbagliato? Don’t mind if do

While today’s RTDs may be a far cry from the sickly-sweet, E number-addled alcopops of the 2000s, there’s an element of nostalgia behind our penchant for portable tipples, says Steph DiCamillo, global advocacy manager at Atom Brands“The age bracket of people who are driving the growth grew up with RTDs seen as a teenager’s drink – overly sweet and immature,” she says. “The new RTDs are quite different in terms of complexity, aesthetic and sugar content. Yet, they give just enough nostalgia to the drinkers to get them intrigued in the first place.”

Thankfully, the artificial colours and fake flavours once associated with RTD’s – particularly those of the bottled variety – have been left in the past, driven by demand for craft cocktails beyond the traditional bar setting. We may not be drinking them in a bar, but we want the same experience, says Deano Moncrieffe, co-owner of east London bar Hacha“Consumers want a cocktail that is familiar in name but uniquely hand-crafted with a point of difference, much like our bottled Mirror Margarita,” he explains. It’s crystal clear, he explains, but tastes like a classic Margarita – “with all the flavours you would normally associate with that cocktail”. 

The RTD market also presents an opportunity for distillers to present their signature serve as they envisage it. With canned serves increasingly dominating shelf space in the RTD sphere, distilleries across the country are going all-out to capture the essence of their signature serve and double down on the latest drinks trends. As such, nailing the flavour profile has wider implications. 

It’s a Margarita but colourless, how is that possible?

“We have the ability to include more natural ingredients and interesting flavours,” says Victoria Miller, on-trade and prestige sales manager at Scotland’s Eden Mill, which is currently developing and expanding its RTD range – the latest addition being non-alcoholic Eden Nil. “The correct, or ‘perfect’ serve is important, particularly in a new category such as this,” Miller adds.

Pre-mixed can also be hive for experimentation, with a shift towards more innovative flavours and profiles, says James Law, co-owner of Longflint Drinks Company. But it has its limits. “The G&T rules the roost for good reason; unlike many cocktails it’s a straight spirits and mixer offering and that makes it perfect for the format,” he continues. “It’s really hard to capture the magic of an Espresso Martini or Mojito in a can.”

So, what do we want from our pre-mixed cocktails? First of all, complexity, says DiCamillo. “It isn’t enough to have just a peach flavoured RTD – it’s white peach with a hint of basil. There is demand for a name recognised spirit, but it seems to be the flavour cues on the label people are initially intrigued by.” We’re also keen on lower sugar, drier-style drinks more akin to a beer. “People want to be able to sip all afternoon, not have just one,” she continues. “This also speaks to the ABV, with a trend towards slightly lower 4-5%, so they can be sessionable.” 

Design-wise, many labels are “bright, loud, and graphic”, inspired by the craft beer market, says DiCamillo, though she forecasts “increasingly sleek minimalist styles emerging in the next few years”. Finally, there’s the price. “The RTD has to be competitive with craft beer. Once you creep into the price of a cocktail in a bar, it is hard to justify the value,” she says. “One exception to this would be the use of high-end ingredients like truffle and extra aged spirits.”

That Boutique-y Gin Company, funky packaging

The biggest challenge for any canned drinks brand, says Farnham, is demonstrating that canned does not equal compromise – and “with a product as complex as a Bloody Mary, that’s all the more important. The dream for people is to crack open a can, pour over ice and for it to match what you would be served in a bar,” he says. “In reality, it’s only by canning our blend of premium ingredients that this becomes possible, while keeping it fresh enough to be enjoyed instantly, anytime you want it,” he says.

The convenience factor associated with the burgeoning RTD category – “meeting the demand for people wanting faster ‘speed of serve’ when it comes to drinking” says Joe Sanders, UK director at bottled cocktail company ELY – has echoed across the industry. “Kegged cocktails are becoming really popular with bars wanting to serve the likes of Espresso Martinis as fast as possible without compromising on quality,” he says. “We have developed our own Nitro system which delivers a quality consistency – foamed top of the cocktail – every time.” 

Looking ahead, Law predicts the next RTD trend will be “all about sugar – or lack of it,” he says. “The hard seltzer category has exploded in the US, but will it work this side of the pond? I think it will, but with a slightly different approach – I’m not sure you can just shoehorn in the language, design and flavour styles and expect it to work off the bat. It’s an unusual category but one that’s looking more and more important.”

And DiCamillo agrees. “I think healthy-no and low beverages will tie into the RTD cocktails,” she says. “Terms like low-sugar, low ABV, and natural flavourings will pop up – they’re already being littered across cocktail bars. I expect ‘CBD-infused’, ‘vitamin-enriched’, and similar ideas will start to be incorporated into RTDs in the near future. “

Below, we’ve picked out four pre-mixed drinks for your perusing pleasure. For more options, check out the entire selection here.

That Boutique-y Gin Company Yuzu Gin Collins
Starward Old Fashioned
Sipsmith Gin & Tonic
Tinkture Negroni Classico 

 

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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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