Spirits innovator Emporia Brands is working in collaboration with its award-winning Distilleries et Domaines de Provence range to bring to the UK for the first time National Provence Cocktail Day.
Set to be this coming Friday 3rd June 2016, a number of bars and restaurants across the UK have joined the campaign to show off their cocktail creations using either the peach vermouth of Rinquinquin, the first legal absinthe since the ban of 1914 in Absente, and the thyme flavour of Farigoule, culminating in a hub of recipes to be featured upon www.provencecocktails.com.
No region of France is as incredibly blessed as Provence with the range of raw materials for original flavours to create wondrous liqueurs and vermouths. From orchards of peaches to hillsides of wormwood, Distilleries et Domaines de Provence have a glorious palette of flavours to work from, to create spirits, liqueurs and vermouths to inspire bartenders nationally.
National Provence Cocktail Day celebrates the innovation of such, showcasing the talent and creations from a wide variety of concepts, both on and off trade, across the UK.
Highlights across the UK include The Blackbird in Edinburgh showing off Provence Cocktails in the ‘Garden Shed’(Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June), whilst their Beer Garden will be taken over with an exclusive cocktail menu of 4 Provence delights.
Bistro Provence, also in Edinburgh, are running a week of Provence Cocktails, recommending their creations with food pairings, whilst The Tippling House in Aberdeen have produced five Provence Cocktails for the weekend.
In London, Gaucho Smithfields are launching a Provence Cocktail Day menu as part of their Aperitivo terrace, including the Rinquinquin based Peach Frappe.
The Midlands see’s the likes of The Edgbaston and 40st Pauls from Birmingham and Hockley Arts Club, World Social and Annies Burger Shack (all located in Nottingham) embracing Farigoule, Absente and Rinquinquin within their trademark cocktails, whilst the North East sees an in-store tasting at Fenwicks in Newcastle from 12-6pm and a Provence Cocktail Showcase on the 2nd June at BonBar with exclusive invites to local industry figures.
On the South Coast, the General Wine Company and their Liphook and Petersfield branches will be running Absente Absinthe tastings over the weekend, with the in-store tastings also running to Amathus Knightsbridge with a look at Rinquinquin.
The North of England will see El Gato Negro creating several Rinquinquin serves, whilst Cottonopolis have for you a specialised cocktail menu with Rinquinquin and Farigoule as well as food pairings. To continue the Manchester theme, Dusk Til Pawn have been utilising Farigoule for their Provence Cocktail specials, whilst it will also be the venue for a city-wide Provence Cocktail Day competition to show off the creativity of the city.
Speakeasy venue Riddles Bar in Altrincham are serving up Absente creations following the success of National Absinthe Day back in March, whilst Leeds and Backroom Bar have a Farigoule and Casco Viejo tequila creation on offer.
To cap off the Provence Cocktail Day activity, Pollen Street Social in London are joining forces with Emporia Brands and Distilleries et Domaines de Provence on the 5th June as part of Social Sunday 2016 For Hospitality Action.
A 5-course tasting menu prepared by Chef owner Jason Atherton, Sat Bains, Tom Kerridge and Claude Bosi is available, whilst across the street at Little Social, Greg Marchand from Frenchie, will be cooking his own tasting menu.
Also getting in on the food pairings are La Petite Mort in Edinburgh who are running a week long pop-up menu of four cocktails which will have recommended food pairings, culminating in a hosted 3 course dinner with paired Provence Cocktails on the 7th June.
For more information on Distilleries et Domaines de Provence and Emporia Brands, please visit www.emporiabrands.com
On Saturday March 5th 2016 it’s National Absinthe Day, and to celebrate, Absente Absinthe of Distilleries et Domaine de Provence have put together some of the best venues across the UK to enjoy one of the original absinthes from France.
A special for National Absinthe Day, the Absente Absinthe boards at Riddles Bar in Altrincham, South Manchester, will be on offer for just £6, whilst NOLA Bar in London (the home of London’s Distilleries et Domaine de Provence ambassador Ian McIntyre) are whipping up arguably THE classic New Orleans cocktail of the Sazerac that sees Bulleit Rye or Hennessy Fine de Cognac stirred down with sugar and bitters and served in an Absente absinthe rinsed glass.
Speaking of London, Bar Boulud at The Mandarin Oriental have for you the The Deal Closer, which sees Beefeater gin, lavender syrup, Absente Absinthe and huckleberry jam come together, with Christopher’s Martini Bar also getting into the French spirit by offering you De La Louisienne. This sees Wild Turkey 81, Sweet Vermouth, Bénédictine, Peychaud bitters and a dash of Absente Absinthe enjoyed at any time of the day during National Absinthe Day.
Manchester also offers to you Pen and Pencil, who have to hand a twist on Hemmingway’s “Death in the Afternoon” that sees the 69% abv version Grande Absente Absinthe blended with cucumber, apple, lemon juice and sugar, with a fresh top of Champagne. Alberts Schloss are also on hand with Absente Absinthe as the Bavarian beer palace show off the traditional spirit, as are Cottonopolis, the home of Manchester’s Distilleries et Domaine de Provence ambassador Gethin Jones.
Absente Absinthe have preserved the traditional processes of producing artisan spirits, and following the ban of Absinthe in France in 1914, Absente was introduced in 1995 as the first legal absinthe, and at 55% abv, Absente offers a well-balanced profile with a delicate, fresh aroma and subtle flavours of anise, mint and spice.
Try our simple Absente Smash:
15 ml Absente Absinthe
30 ml London Dry Gin
25 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Fresh Basil Leaves
3 Pineapple Chunks
Muddle the pineapple and basil together. Mix all ingredients in a shaker and shake, then double strain and serve in a tall glass with basil leaves and a lemon slice to garnish.
The Absente Absinthe range – Absente (55% abv) and Grande Absente (69% abv) – are available from all leading retailers including DrinkShop.com, Gerry’s and Wine Rack.
“the herbally complex Absente, a gorgeous peppermint, aniseed and liquorice-stacked 55 per cent alcohol offering”
Jane Macquitty – The Times
“..John Darling of London Hilton’s Zeta Bar suggest his absinthe-based inspiration: for each glass, soak a sugar lump in cognac, add a shot (25ml) of Absente 55.., top up with Champagne and garnish with mint and half a lychee. Pure decadence”
Joanna Simon – The Sunday Times
For news and cocktail ideas, follow Absente Absinthe on Twitter @ProvCocktails or Facebook at www. facebook.com/ProvCocktailscom
Breaking new ground at the moment is the new addition to the Two Birds portfolio in the form of a speciality cocktail gin. A first of its kind, Two Birds have decided to use their independence to create the perfect gin for cocktails that will fill a gap in the market for a stronger gin but not at an over-proof level.
Before we get ahead of ourselves though, lets take a look at who Two Birds are, and how they’ve come to exploiting an untapped market.
Founded in Market Harborough, Leicestershire by Mark Gamble and Lyn Taylor back in February 2012, they wanted to harbour their passion and experience that the British countryside brings. With this, ‘Gerard‘, the hand crafted 25 litre copper still, was specially designed and built by master distiller Mark (an electrical engineer by trade), and is even believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. ‘Gerard’ can produce small batches of 100 bottles at a time and takes approx 4 hours to distill, with a hands-on approach at all stages.
There are three main expressions within the Two Birds portfolio – a London Dry gin, a vodka and also an absinthe.
The London Dry gin contains five botanicals (four of them being juniper, coriander, orris root and citrus) and they use fresh spring water taken from deep beneath the nearby Charnwood hills to take it down to its bottling strength.
Their English vodka is an infusion of distilled barley and sugar beet combining a classic combination of cereal and root crops, whilst their absinthe is created from a complex blend of aniseed and wormwood.
Their new Speciality Cocktail gin differs from the London Dry production, with the first maceration of the botanicals being cold and then the heat input is tightly controlled in order to gently release essential oils presented in the botanicals. This result of altering the distilling profile to bring out the individual flavours leads to a strong juniper-led London Dry style gin. But how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Two Birds Speciality Cocktail Gin – 40%
Intense juniper on the nose, but softens with the citrus aromas making the scents more rounded. A developing juniper base with sweet notes starting, but slowly replaced with spicier flavours. Smooth, delicate but never escapes the dominating juniper. Long, fresh, well-rounded and warm.
Fantastic on its own, and would be a cracking base for the likes of a Martini, Gimlet, Gibson or a Negroni. Even the bottles are impressive, with each designed and hand decorated with organic inks.
Worth a go, especially as you can purchase them in 20 cl sizes as well as the more original 70 cl. The Speciality Cocktail is only available on-trade for the time-being, so keep a look out in your favourite bar!
A well-respected industry figure came into Manchester a few weeks back with her London-based Sip or Mix. Jenny Gardener set up her company back in June 2011 armed with experience from her past titles within Vanquish Wine, Green Island, Amathus and Oddbins as well as a passion for brands that are small batched, hand crafted, authentic and artisanal. With this, she has acquired a versatile range that includes a gin, rum, liqueurs and her main category of absinthe. My main reason for wanting to pop along to The Liquorists HQ at #22Redbank was to not only meet Jenny for the first time, but to also see her guest for the session, Ted Breaux.
Mr Breaux is a professional scientist who has dedicated almost two decades of research toward resolving the mysteries and myths associated with absinthe. Searching around the world for obscure, overlooked, and forgotten information regarding absinthe has given Ted the passion to not only create his own absinthe company named Jade Liqueurs, but to also contribute towards the awareness in both his home country of America (he effectively lifted the ban on Absinthe) and around the world, that absinthe is in fact not as bad as people use to make out. Fairly easy to say, yes, but as the tasting notes below will show you, the session looked at absinthe and the reasons why Ted Breaux is dedicating his time towards it. So it’s only fair to take a look –
Ted gave a great insight into how he came about his passion, as well as what most consumers and indeed bartenders see absinthe to be.
His passion is and has always been focused primarily on the science of absinthe. Beginning in a research laboratory back in 1993, a colleague made a casual comment about absinthe that triggered questions that could not be answered. Looking within The Merck Index (a chemistry reference), it states that drinking absinthe causes tremors, convulsions, and death. With this, Ted started researching and studying the mysteries of absinthe but struggled to acquire the liquid that supposedly caused these side effects. Ted decided to recreate the spirit itself back in 1994, but truly understood once he obtained his first two bottles of vintage absinthe in 1996-1997.
But how did absinthe get to become such a rarity to re-produce?
The first clear evidence of absinthe in the modern sense of a distilled spirit containing green anise and fennel dates to the 18th century. According to popular legend, absinthe began as an all-purpose patent remedy created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Couvet, Switzerland, around 1792 (the exact date varies by account). Ordinaire’s recipe was passed on to the Henriod sisters of Couvet, who sold absinthe as a medicinal elixir. By other accounts, the Henriod sisters may have been making the elixir before Ordinaire’s arrival. In either case, a certain Major Dubied acquired the formula from the sisters and in 1797, and with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod, opened the first absinthe distillery, Dubied Père et Fils, in Couvet. In 1805, they built a second distillery in Pontarlier, France, under the new company name Maison Pernod Fils. Pernod Fils remained one of the most popular brands of absinthe up until the drink was banned in France in 1914.
Absinthe’s popularity grew steadily through the 1840’s, when absinthe was given to French troops as a malaria preventive. When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe home with them. The custom of drinking absinthe gradually became so popular in bars, bistros, cafés, and cabarets that, by the 1860’s, the hour of 5 p.m. was called l’heure verte (‘the green hour’). Absinthe was favoured by all social classes, from the wealthy to poor and ordinary working-class people. By the 1880’s, mass production had caused the price of absinthe to drop sharply. By 1910, the French were drinking 36 million litres of absinthe per year, as compared to their annual consumption of almost 5 billion litres of wine.
Absinthe was exported widely from its native France and Switzerland, and attained some degree of popularity in other countries, including Spain, Great Britain, USA, and the Czech Republic. Absinthe was never banned in Spain or Portugal, and its production and consumption have never ceased. It gained a temporary spike in popularity there during the early 20th century, corresponding with the French influenced Art Nouveau and Modernism aesthetic movements.
New Orleans (Ted’s home town) has a profound cultural association with absinthe, and is credited as the birthplace of the Sazerac, perhaps the earliest absinthe cocktail. The Old Absinthe House bar, located on Bourbon Street, serves as a prominent historical landmark. Originally named The Absinthe Room, it was opened in 1874 by a Catalan bartender named Cayetano Ferrer. The building was frequented by many famous people, including Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Franklin Roosevelt, Aleister Crowley and Frank Sinatra.
Spurred by the temperance movement and the winemakers’ associations, absinthe was publicly associated with violent crimes and social disorder.
Edgar Degas’ 1876 painting L’Absinthe, which can be seen at the Musée d’Orsay, epitomized the popular view of absinthe addicts as sodden and benumbed.
The Lanfray murders would prove to be the tipping point in the hotly debated topic, and a subsequent petition to ban absinthe in Switzerland collected more than 82,000 signatures. A referendum was subsequently held on banning the drink on 5 July 1908. After it was approved by voters, the prohibition of absinthe was then written into the Swiss constitution.
In 1906, both Belgium and Brazil banned the sale and distribution of absinthe with The Netherlands banning it in 1909, the United States in 1912, and France in 1914.
The prohibition of absinthe in France would eventually lead to the popularity of pastis, and to a lesser extent, ouzo, and other anise-flavoured spirits that do not contain wormwood. Following the conclusion of the First World War, production of the Pernod Fils brand was resumed at the Banus distillery in Catalonia, Spain (where absinthe was still legal), but gradually declining sales saw the cease of production in the 1960’s. Many countries never banned absinthe, notably Britain, where it had never been as popular as in continental Europe.
Jenny Gardener has brought over Ted’s brand to the UK as well as La Maison Fontaine and both were available to taste. So how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
La Maison Fontaine Verte – 55%
Rich on the nose with a deep, slightly bitter aroma. More subtle on the palate with the bitter, but it does create a mouth-watering experience with longevity and freshness.
La Maison Fontaine – 56%
Rich floral notes with light herbal and citrus lingering a little on the nose. Rather sharp on the palate with the blend of herbs and lemon creating a warmth on the finish.
La Maison Fontaine Chocolat – 25%
A chocolate liqueur. Light chocolate on the nose with a heavy dose of aniseed. A bold chocolate flavour on the palate with a very sweet, long and slightly floral finish.
*NB I’ve been informed by Jennie Gardener that the Chocolat has no anise whatsoever, however we can only assume it’s due to the aftertaste of the previous two La Maison samples.
Jade Nouvelle-Orleans Verte– 68%
Light herbal notes on the nose that develop softly. A sharp beginning on the palate but the herbal flavours come through to create a long yet light finish.
Jade 1901– 68%
Sharp on the nose with floral aromas and herb scents dominating. Again rather sharp on the palate with thick dose of wormwood creating a long, lingering crisp finish.
Jade VS 1898 = 65%
A slight sweetness on the nose and a bold hit of wormwood and fennel follows. Very sharp on the palate with a good hit of the floral flavours of anise and wormwood. Long finish.
Jade Espirit Edouard Verte – 72%
Very aromatic with hints of iodine mixing with fresh mint on the nose. A slight bitterness on the palate, but a potent blend of the wormwood and flavours of spicy aniseed create a long lingering finish.
Jade Perique Tobacco – 31%
A liqueur flavoured with Louisiana Perique tobacco – one of the rarest tobaccos in the world. Very dry on the nose with a soft scent of spice. A good kick of bitterness to begin on the palate with vegetal, raisin and sultanas present. Develops into red fruit flavours and finishes with a dry spice linger.
And how about the rest of the Sip or Mix portfolio?
Combier Elxir – 38%
A recreation of a long-since discontinued liqueur found in Combier’s 177 year old archives. The main ingredients are aloe, nutmeg, myrrh, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron combined to recreate this unique liqueur, with the herbs and spices sourced from France’s Loire Valley, Africa, India, and southeast Asia.
Light on the nose with aromas of saffron dominating with a slight sweetness. Rather herbal on the palate with a sweetness that develops with spice despite a punchy start. A short aromatic herbal finish.
Combier Kummel– 38%
Kummel takes its name from German and Dutch derivations for cumin and caraway seed, which, alongside fennel, are used to flavour.
Hot on the nose with spice and curry powder aromas coming through before a dry musty scent. A developing dry spice on the palate that is short with hints of sweetness.
Combier L’Original Triple Sec – 40%
In 1834 Jean-Baptiste Combier and his wife created what is thought to be the first liqueur of this style. The spirit today is still distilled using 100-year copper-pot stills and is made using sun-dried orange skins.
Very light on the nose with slight aromas of orange peel. A slight sweetness on the palate with a subtle kick of orange flavour at the beginning. A warming finish of orange zest and peels creating a lasting effect.
Royal Combier – 38%
A mix of Triple Sec and Elixir de Combier. A floral nose with a slight hint of orange coming through. Sweet yet soft on the palate with a short yet warm offering that has a slight bitter finish.
A London Dry gin. Light with subtle aromas on the nose of lemon peel and cassia, moving to a soft and subtle lingering effect on the palate that creates a slight warmth.
St Nicholas Abbey 10yr– 40%
A rum created at the North of Barbados at St Nicholas Abbey, owned by Larry Warren. This is made by blending pot and column still rums which were acquired by Larry when he purchased the distillery in 2006.
Light on the nose with slight vanilla and oak aromas blending well. A slight kick on the palate to begin with, but lightens out to a lingering finish.
St Nicholas Abbey White– 40%
Deep, powerful notes of marzipan on the nose, with a vanilla and fruit spice flavour present on the palate that creates a lingering dry finish.
Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters – 45%
Very bold and aromatic on the nose with berry and spice dominating. Becomes softer once on to the palate, with a subtle, lingering flavour of herbs.
Jenny has put together a great portfolio of spirits, and is lucky to have a gentleman like Ted Breaux working alongside her to develop the awareness of absinthe here in the UK. Personal highlights in the absinthe department would have to be La Maison Fontaine Verte and Jade 1901, with the SW4 gin worthy of a full review of its own soon, and the surprise that ST Nicholas Abbey white is one of the best white rums I’ve tried for a while.
One of the cocktails enjoyed during the session is a classic from Created in 1874 by Cayetano Ferrer at Aleix’s Coffee House (or Old Absinthe House), New Orleans, which consequently became known as The Absinthe Room.
35 ml Absinthe
12.5 ml Anisette liqueur
35 ml Chilled mineral water
Sugar to taste depending on sweetness of your chosen absinthe
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into glass filled with crushed ice. Stir and serve.
All of the above are well worth a purchase for your drinks cabinet and to really understand absinthe and its versatility. It’s not as bad as it’s made out to be, honest. The SW4 goes fantastic either near or with tonic, and the St Nicholas Abbey rum is not only a great sipping rum, but one to enjoy whilst checking out the bottle it’s housed in. An eye-opener that stands out!
Absinthe is a fickle category to get across to consumers. Say the word ‘absinthe’ and you can see the shudder and faces across many a patron – but have you actually tried it? Properly?
Traditionally, absinthe is prepared by placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon, and then placing the spoon on the glass which has been filled with a measure of absinthe. Iced water is then poured or dripped over the sugar cube in a manner whereby the water is slowly and evenly displaced into the absinthe, such that the final preparation contains 1 part absinthe and 3-5 parts water. As water dilutes the spirit, those components with poor water solubility (mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise) come out of solution and cloud the drink. The resulting milky opalescence is called the louche. The release of these dissolved essences coincides with a perfuming of herbal aromas and flavours that “blossom” or “bloom”, and brings out subtleties that are otherwise muted within the neat spirit. This reflects what is perhaps the oldest and purest method of preparation, and is often referred to as the French Method.
But how did absinthe come about? *
Legend traditionally attributes the creation of an absinthe elixir to Mother Henroid of Couvet of Val de Travers, in the Canton of Neuchatel in Switzerland who concocted it from plants that she found in the mountains. The elixir was adopted by a French doctor working in Switzerland named Dr. Pierre Ordinaire who rode through the hills, peddling a strange, yet patented medicine, which he dubbed his “absinthe elixir”. Following the death of Doctor Ordinaire, the rustic recipe was perfected by his two local sisters, before being bought by a businessman named Major Dubied, who saw the potential to sell the elixir beyond medicinal purposes. Major Dubied, however, had no knowledge of the art of distilling. Therefore, he hired Henri-Louis Pernod, a 21-year-old distiller to help set up a small absinthe distillery in 1798. The business prospered allowing Henri-Louis Pernod to found The Maison Pernod Fils distillery in Pontarlier in 1805.
Henri-Louis Pernod widowed and married the daughter of Major Dubied in 1807. Together they had a son Louis who grew up working with his father at the distillery. In 1827, Henri-Louis Pernod wanted to extend distribution. He split the markets between his sons Edouard, his eldest son from his first marriage, and Henri-Louis, born from his union with Emelie Dubied. Edouard exported Pernod to the United States and Henri-Louis assisted operation in France and the French colonies. By 1840, the family business had doubled for the Pernods as the popularity of the spirit grew swiftly. The branch distilleries expanded through family ties taking on recognizable label names as Maison Gempp-Pernod and Maison Legler Pernod. The main distillery was taken over by the grandsons of Henri-Louis Pernod in 1855, leading Pernod into the Absinthe boom of the 19th and early 20th century.
Absinthe became one of the strongest symbols of its era with its enigmatic color and the ritual surrounding it. Its popularity was furthered by its reputation for being an addictive and hallucinogenic drug. As a result, by 1915 Absinthe had been banned in the United States (1912) and in other European countries. As a result, the Pernod Fils Company closed temporarily. After the ban of Absinthe in 1915, it re-opened five years later when Pernod sought to continue to its quality production by offering a wormwood-free anise product. The result was Pernod Liqueur, an 80 proof anis liqueur. This spirit is a staple in the top restaurants and bars around the world. It differed from Pernod Absinthe in the following way –
Pernod (Classic) 40% abv– Contains sugar and is a bright golden colour.
Pernod Absinthe 68% abv – Made with grande wormwood (containing Thujone) and is a bright green colour.
For US consumers of Pernod Absinthe, though, only the legend of “The Green Fairy” remained until it was legalized again in 2007.
So how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Pernod Absinthe – 68%
Subtle wormwood on the nose with hints of aniseed. Sharp on the palate with sweet liquorice countering the bitter wormwood. Slight spice on the finish.
Of course, it’s not just the French Method to be able to drink Pernod, you should try one of these –
25 ml Pernod Absinthe
25 ml Water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Egg white
1 dash Bitters
Shake thoroughly with ice and strain.
Absinthe is becoming more and more popular, with bartenders finding innovative ways to not only serve it, but to repair some of the tarnished reputation that comes with the category. Pernod have been around in some form since the very beginning – which makes it a great place to start your journey.
* History of Pernod taken directly from their website. Subtle changes have been made for narrative purposes only.
There are many independent spirit specialists out their, but when it comes to fine spirits, the more exquisite brands, Distillnation can make the top spot. With brands including Ron Botran, De Luze Cognac and Artemisia Absinthe it covers categories that others shy away from and happily opens them out to the consumer eye.
Distillnation itself was founded by Francis Weier. A man with over 16 years of working in wines and spirits and one hell of a passion to boot, he founded Distillnation to expand the opportunities of premium spirits in the UK market. Bringing in team members including Maya who has under her belt many years both in business marketing and project management, has given Distillnation the edge with its creative and inspiring point of view of the premium spirits industry.
The brands that I have been lucky enough to try from the Distillnation portfolio are all below, and ive included both tasting notes and a brief description of the brand itself –
La Clandestine is a 100% natural, hand-crafted absinthe distilled using a 1935 recipe. Known as the classic Swiss bleue, it prides itself on its regionality and terroir that is unique to absinthe from the Val-de-Travers district. Officially launched to mark the Swiss legalisation of absinthe on 1st March 2005, it has won many an award including first prize and title of ‘Absinthe d’or’ at the National Competition for Swiss Spirits.
La Clandestine – 53%
Strong on the nose with aromas of liquorice and herbs dominating. A rather sweet start on the palate though with a heavy dose of liquorice and a kick of spice near the end. It does mellow soon after.
Artemisia Absinthe Butterfly Boston 1902 is, as you can probably work out, an absinthe that was first distilled in Boston back in 1902 but re-produced in Couvet, Switzerland in 2010. Using the original recipe from the American group P. Dempsey and Company, a collaboration between the owner of America’s number one absinthe accessories store Absinthe Devil and Artemisia – the owner of La Clandestine (above) and Angélique absinthes, a Boston resident and owner of Absinthe Devil delve into the history of the Dempsey family and unearthed the recipe and sought to bring it back to the market.
Artemisia Absinthe Butterfly Boston 1902 – 65%
Clean on the nose but packs a powerful punch of herbs and wormwood. Very bold and with an instant warming on the palate with again lots of herbal flavours. Rather short overall but does create a long tingle on the tip of the tongue.
Artemisia Absinthe Angeique– 68%
Launched in 2007 and named after the daughter of creator Claude-Alain Bugnon, a rather subtle aroma of liquorice on the nose with herbs and angelique following. Rather light on the palate, with a water-like texture. Lots of aniseed flavours develop with a long, hot spice to the finish.
Ron Botran hails from the plantations in Retalhuleu in the south of Guatemala. The quality of the volcanic and clay soils that are permanently bathed by the sun are the perfect origins to grow sugar cane that is needed for the production of rum. Ron Botran is rather unique compared to other rums in that the rum industry in Guatemala was created specifically to produce distilled spirits and have been made out of virgin honey or brown sugar ever since.
To achieve the distinctive character of each one of its rums, they distill its rums individually differently for each product. Botran rums are distilled in stills with copper components that improve the quality of the rum and are then aged through the Solera System. Botran reaches adulthood in Quetzaltenango, the city where their aging facilities are located. Among the many aging secrets that make their rums unique is the charring of some the barrels used in the Solera System.
Ron Botran Reserva Blanca – 40%
Clean, soft nose of vanilla, whilst the palate enjoyed an incredibly smooth offering of dried fruits, hints of wood and vanilla. A slight spice developed near the end of the tongue but it created a fresh, short finish.
Ron Botran Solera 1893 – 40%
A blend of rums between 5 and 18 years, creates a rather bold and rich essence of vanilla on the nose which carries over onto the palate, becoming sweeter. It mellows soon after and although a short offering, is rather smooth.
Ron Botran Reserva – 40%
A bend of rums between 5 and 14 years, clean and fresh on the nose with a slight aroma of vanilla. A kick of cinnamon to begin on the palate, but mellows quickly with flavours of caramel and fudge.
The De Luze cognac house has a uniquely interesting history, with the origins of the company in New York. Two brothers set off to find success in the New World in the early 19th century and centuries later, De Luze is still a successful business with 410 hectares of vineyards in the prime growing area of Cognac. Their philosophy is to create a natural cognac with an elegant and light taste and colour.
De Luze VSOP – 40%
Hit of spiced fruit creates a strong, rich aroma on the nose but becomes smooth on the palate with slight hints of spice and fruit. Develops a long warmth with a mouth-watering finish.
Distillnation also have a couple of brands that i’ve explored in more detail, including –
Rich, fresh nose of lavender, lemon and coriander on the nose, with the citrus dicing through on the palate too. Sharp hits of cinnamon and star anise come through, with a mellow turn of the lemons and a rush of lavender finishing. Long.
Although not widely available in the North, London is your best venture to experience the Distillnation brands in bars such as Zetter Townhouse and Callooh Callay, but you can purchase them all online.
Theres a new champagne and cocktail bar located in the Italian area of the Trafford Centre’s Orient food hall. I’ve watched this bar grow from day one as it’s location is opposite to where i work and i’ve been itching to try it out ever since its grand opening less than a week ago.
I took along a friend and arrived at about 3pm. As you can see the back bar automatically grabs your attention, the large circle with a magnum of champagne in the middle! A good layout of spirits surrounded underneath it including Jack Daniel Single Barrel, Belvedere, Patron and Martin Millers as well as display ice buckets with several bottles of Moet & Chandon poking out the top. Cake stands were also visible for there Afternoon Tea promotion (more about that later).
Sitting ourselves on white leather bar stools which despite looking like salon chairs, went surprisingly well with the white decor, we were greeted by the bartender on duty with a smile and a drinks menu. I had already previously asked The Circle Club (the company behind the bar) on there Twitter feed which cocktails they recommend with the replies of ‘Pornstar Martini and the speciality 360’, so with curiosity getting the better of me i plumped for the 360 while a French Martini was ordered as well. Now i don’t know if this is me but if you make a cocktail, you make it in front of the customer, not halfway down the bar. It would have been nice to see what ingredients he was putting in to this speciality cocktail (i glimpsed Hendricks gin being used) but i gave the man his dues once he presented me with the finished item.A dark blackcurrant colour with a fresh blackcurrant and cucumber fold as a garnish made a good first impression. It had a smooth velvety taste to it with the constant aroma of cucumber coming from both the garnish as well as the Hendricks gin. Slightly overpowering it sometimes but the blackberry taste counteracted it nicely and made it a very nice mouth-watering signature cocktail.We were a bit confused with what our other drink was as we originally ordered a French Martini however a champagne flute was handed to us which eventually turned out to be a French 75. Obviously thinking the French Martini would be served in the Martini glass and the signature cocktail served in a champagne flute, it turned out we were drinking the drink the other one had ordered. A mistake on the bartenders part but non-the-less the French 75 was a beautiful lemon zest cocktail with the Moet & Chandon champagne top not overpowering the overall complexity at all. After a few sips i also noticed it started to go down very smoothly, as if the drink had settled and it allowed you to enjoy it that little bit more. The glass itself helped, an elegant yet simple thinly stemmed champagne flute that curved at the top to reduce the amount of gasses being released.
A Parisian Re-fashioned followed next for me with an absinthe take on the Old Fashioned classic.
Made with coating the inside of a tumbler glass with Le Fee Parisian Absinthe and igniting for a few seconds, blowing out and starting the 7 minute process of an Old Fashioned. The use of Woodford Reserve bourbon was a particularly good choice and vanilla sugar made my day as the sweet tooth guy I am. To be fair it wasn’t 7 minutes in the making but the drink itself was a well-balanced affair. The vanilla sugar took the edge off a drink which can sometimes come on a bit strong if not enough Demerara is used and it worked well. The burnt orange zest gave some interesting aromas as it mixed with the coating of absinthe and the Woodford Reserve but it didn’t over come you which made it a very drinkable drink.
My friend is a lover of Tanqueray 10 and asked the barman for a recommendation that involved fruit juices. The result was Tanq 10 with both fresh and puree strawberries with a top of champagne served in a Martini Glass. This had a zest tingly sensation to it, possibly due to the champagne top but also to the fresh strawberries used. The gin was hard to tell it was there sometimes but you got the odd taste of the Tanq once you made your way through the layer of fruit.
The Circle 360 bar menu is a simple yet well set out design with a ‘champagne story’ on the inside cover to highlight the bars purpose.
Now i will say this, the prices that the drinks are being sold for are worth it.
Champagne cocktails (Bellini’s, French 75’s) for £6.95
Signature cocktails (Pornstar Martini, Jack Daniels Single Barrel over ice) for £5.95
Classic cocktails (Mojito, Margarita, Long Island) £4.95
Contemporary cocktails (8yr Itch, Grey Goose Le Fizz) £5.45
Martinis (Cosmopolitan, French Martini) £5.45
Compared to the rest of the Trafford Centre’s bar/cocktails offerings as well as the reputation of The Circle Club i did expect to be paying a lot more for these drinks, especially when they use premium spirits and champagne! This could be a winning formula for them and i hope they stick at these prices for a while to come.
Now as you’d expect there are offerings for wine with what looks like a very good and varied selection in each category (a bottle of Sangiovese, Ceravalo Estate caught my eye for £29.50). The usual suspects of champagne are there with glasses of Castell Lord Cava at £3.50 to £7.95 for a Moet & Chandon Imperial Rose and topping to a bottle of Krug Clos D’Ambonnay Vintage 1996 at £3295. Theres Bollinger, Dom Perignon, Laurent Perrier, Veuve Clicquot and Louis Roederer thrown in there for good measure too.
Soft drinks are available too with the offering of juices, milkshakes, smoothies and tea and coffee as well as fresh cake slices including victoria sponge, cupcakes, scones and lollicakes (cakes on a stick, – popular with celebrities apparently!). They also do a Afternoon Tea priced at £15.50 where you receive a pot of Darjeeling tea, choice of 2 sandwiches, scone, elderflower cake, chocolate choux pastry and fresh fruit tart!
Nearing the end of our visit we were both genuinly impressed with the offerings that The Circle 360 give you in the case of drinks as well as surroundings. The stunning bar set-up is a thing to see and you don’t always feel like your in the middle of a food court when your sat there, something which i thought would put me off.
You’ll be seeing me here again that’s for sure, theres plenty more drinks for me to try!