American Beverage Marketers, leading specialists in the cocktail ingredient category, have worked with drinks industry expert Giuseppe Gallo to create Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup. Launching to the on-trade from mid-April, and with listings in high profile accounts, the tonic syrup allows bartenders to experiment with the fundamental flavour profile of tonic water. Under development for almost two years, and inspired by the original formula of the Dutch West India Company, Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup can be used as a base for homemade tonic waters or added to cocktails to create an elegant bitterness.
Capitalising on the worldwide trend for the Gin & Tonic, Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup has been developed in response to demand from bartenders for a cocktail ingredient that allows them to consistently make their own tonic water. After researching original tonic recipes dating back to the 1600s, Bon Vivant is made using natural quinine from cinchona bark of the highest quality, sourced from the Congo, and lemons from California and Argentina. The citrus oils provide a refreshing, crisp flavour, whilst the quinine rounds off the syrup with a bitter finish at the end. Transparent in colour with a light golden hue, it is less sweet than pre-made tonic waters, and the natural flavourings allow the flavour profile of the gin or spirit it is paired with to shine through.
Giuseppe Gallo comments, “We are very excited to be launching Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup to the on-trade, especially at a time when we have seen a trend for lower-ABV cocktails gain traction, as well as a more considered approach to alcohol-free offerings. Customers’ palates are also becoming more sophisticated with a return to classic cocktails such as the negroni and bitter aperitivo style drinks, and the gin boom doesn’t show any signs of slowing. We have designed Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup in the hope that bartenders will be able to offer a more unique, authentic tonic water option, as well as opening up new flavour profile opportunities in mixed drinks.”
In a Gin & Tonic, Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup works particularly well with London Dry gins that have a strong juniper note, however the amount can be adjusted to accommodate different botanical profiles across the gin category. It also works well with different spirits and liqueurs, with recommended serves including Amaro & Tonic, Vermouth & Tonic and Italicus & Tonic. As a cocktail ingredient it can be used in sour classics such as an Aviation or White Lady instead of sugar, and there is the opportunity for bartenders to experiment with their own infusions and serves.
On the launch, leading bartender and UKBG president Luca Cordiglieri comments, “Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup is a great addition to the market with its floral and herbal flavour, and a sweetness that is not overpowering. I find it’s great for making your own Gin and Tonic, or as a cocktail ingredient.” Noting its usefulness as a cocktail ingredient, Simone Caporale also comments, “Whereas before you might have had to use lots of different elements to create a drink, the use of Bon Vivant Tonic Syrup creates an interesting complexity using just one ingredient, opening up avenues of creativity for bartenders to explore.”
High volume venues can struggle to produce consistent cocktails, especially in the high-demand areas where one below-par drink can effect several others. It’s with this that developers have sought out opportunities to produce brands that can take the stress away from cocktail creations, especially in venues that are not traditionally cocktail led. By coming up with a base ingredient, or a multitude of them that forms the basis of a classic cocktail, and ‘all you need to do is add your spirit’ and it’s as easy as one, two, three.
Or is it?
Some brands work well for a time-being, and then start to lose their own flavour, their own consistency and ultimately you are back to square one. But one brand that prides itself with knowing how a venue works, no matter what the scale of service you are on, is Finest Call.
In 1995, the American Beverage Marketers (the same company behind the Real range) came out with a new line of premium cocktail mixers, designed with the bartender world in mind. Using fruit sourced from around the world and redefining the packaging by utilising a store-and-pour design, Finest Call made waves within the industry.
To go away from my usual style of feature, It’s best with the Finest Call expressions to explain as we go along, so below, you will find my tasting notes on each variation I’ve had the chance to experience so far –
Finest Call Pina Colada Mix – 0%
Produced with Bakers cream of coconut from the Philippines and Dole pineapple juice from Thailand, they utilise the coconut meat and milk for a thick and creamy texture.
Fresh coconut on the nose, with the bold pineapple aromas coming through slowly. A thick, natural sweetness follows. Thick texture with a thin flavour of the coconut flesh, followed by a slight zest from the pineapple. A lingering well-balanced flavour to finish.
Finest Call Mojito Mix– 0%
Using Key limes from Mexico and blended with spearmint and superfine sugar. Plenty of lime notes come through on the nose, with soft hints of the spearmint following nicely. Natural aromas of the sugar gives a good base. Light with a dry lime flavour standing out. More refreshing on the second sip, with the spearmint releasing fresh aromas on the lingering, slightly sweet finish.
Finest Call Sweet and Sour – 0%
Created using pure lemon juice from California (Eureka and Lisbon varieties) and simple syrup. Sharp on the nose with the citrus naturally dominating. Soft sugar notes come through to underline. Clean and light on the palate, with natural elements of the citrus drawing out a long finish with kicks of sweetness following.
Finest Call Cosmopolitan Martini Mix– 0%
A blend of New England Ocean Spray cranberries, Key lime juice from Mexico and sweet orange oils. Fresh, dry aromas of the cranberries come through on the nose, followed by the natural note of the Key lime juice and the subtle orange. Thick texture on the palate, with a stringent stewed cranberry and lime mix as the dominating flavour. Subtle orange oils follow but the cranberry offers the long finish.
Finest Call Wild Berry Puree Mix – 0%
A combination of strawberries from California, raspberries from Pacific NW and mangoes from India, combined and then an addition of pomegranates and lemon juice from California. Bold, fresh raspberries come through on the nose, with the mangoes offering a soft underlining aroma. Thick texture with a good balance of the strawberries and raspberries. The mango once again offers the smoothness and kicks off the subtle aroma on the finish. Fresh and naturally sweet.
As you can imagine, all of these are designed to be a part of recipes such as –
Wild Berry Colada
Highball or Hurricane
30 ml Finest Call Wildberry Puree
30 ml Jim Beam Red Stag
90 ml Finest Call Pina Colada Mix
3-4 leaves mint leaves
2 cups ice
Pour Finest Call Wild Berry Puree in the bottom of the glass. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender and pour over Wild Berry Puree. Swirl with spoon and garnish with fresh berries.
Finest Call Mojito
50 ml White rum
90 ml Finest Call Mojito Mix
Top with soda water
Combine the first two ingredients in a Boston glass filled with ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with soda water and garnish with a mint sprig and lime wedges.
There are many other expressions available, including Margarita mixes, a range of purée such as banana, mango, strawberry, passion fruit and watermelon, a Bloody Mary mix and syrups like sugar syrup, almond and triple sec. These are perfect for at home too, with simple to use bottles and a long shelf life (on average around 18 months unopened, 12 months when opened and refrigerated and 3 months if not) and great for summer or winter punch bowls. Pick up some bottles for your bar at home and take a test to see how quickly it can be to whip up a cocktail, and keeping the freshness.
Below is a video from a discussion group I was invited to be a part of a few weeks back, supported by Finest Call and the American Beverage Marketers. It looks at how pubs see cocktails through a variety of ways, and how Finest Call are attempting to contribute towards demystifying the attitudes towards them.
I’ve not been down to London to attend a launch for a while, but I gained the opportunity to fit in a day to be a part of a bartenders favourite, yet rather unexplored category. Reál, a brand of cocktail ingredient, has had an upgrade and expanded from the well-known Coco Reál to an additional seven flavours. To mark this, the venue of Ramusake hosted Isolde Aubuchon, Technical Director at American Beverage Marketers, and a host of bartenders including Ian Burrell, Andy Pearson, Daniele Dalla Pola and Georgi Radev, to show off the new flavours to a room of inquisitive journalists and bartenders alike.
First though, we could do with taking a look into Reál and how we get to the point of expansion.
The family owned business American Beverage Marketers base themselves out of New Albany, USA and create America’s number one brand of cocktail mixes named Master of Mixes, a position it has held for most of its existence. To the UK market, the more familiar Finest Call will be recognisable to you in most bars and clubs, a range that has been available since 1995. However it was the appointment of Isolde Aubuchon 10 years ago that heralded a new dawn of cocktail ingredients. Using her knowledge and passion from her graduate studies in the beverage industry, more specifically in the juice industry, she was the perfect match to the American Beverage Marketers ethos of belief in fresh fruit from the premier growing regions. It’s here that she was tasked to create a solution to the Piña Colada and allow bartenders to quickly and easily create with no hassle or waste.
Coco Reál was born, and became the first cocktail ingredient to be housed within a squeeze bottle. Using hand-picked tropical coconut, it’s not just the coconut milk that is used like most other coconut products, but the coconut meat as well. This makes it perfect to be used within many classic cocktails, food recipes and the fact that the liquid dissolves easily – a common problem in rival brands. The use of the squeeze bottle means that the freshness also extends to around one month after opening.
So how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Coco Reál– 0%
A bold, rich aroma of coconut on the nose. Fresh, thick and inviting. Flavours on the palate of coconut shavings that offer a rich mouth-feel on a long finish, albeit a little dry.
It’s with this success of the Coco Reál that Isolde started to look into the fruits that were popular around the 70 countries that Reál is available within. From here, she developed the seven new flavours through a Gentle Processing method (effectively slow maturation) that are now readily available to be used within bars and restaurants and help enhance your cocktail experience. With this, I give to you my tasting notes on the new range –
Reál Strawberry – 0%
Infused with hand-picked Camorosa, Ventana and Albion strawberries from southern California during the first week of June. A rich, fresh and natural aroma of strawberry on the nose, followed by a thin textured, albeit it rich flavour on the palate. Again natural with fine bits of the strawberry present.
Reál Mango – 0%
Infused with Alfonso mangoes from India where each bottle has within 1 1/2 cups of mango within each. Fresh, light mango on the nose, with the delicate scent following onto the palate. Slightly sharp development that goes into a lingering finish with a slight sweetness.
Reál Peach – 0%
Infused with Elegant, Summer and Rich Lady peaches from California where you can find two peaches within one bottle. Freshm natural peach aromas on the nose, with a very light flavour present on the palate. Slightly sweet with citrus elements presenting a dry, lingering finish.
Reál Raspberry – 0%
Infused with Willamette and Glen Clova raspberries from the Pacific northwest. A lovely rich, bold aroma of raspberry on the nose, followed by a sweet, heavy hit on the palate. Deep raspberry that gives a dry finish.
Reál Blueberry – 0%
Infused with Goldtraube blueberries from the Pacific northwest. Incredibly fresh on the nose with lots of light hits of blueberry on the palate too. Very sweet developer, thick with a sharp, long finish.
Reál Ginger – 0%
Infused with Laiwu ginger puree from Hawaii. Bold, sweet notes on the nose with plenty of fresh ginger coming through. Thin on the palate with a slight spice that develops heavily on the lingering finish.
Reál Pumpkin – 0%
Infused with pureed pumpkin with hints of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger. Plenty of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon combining on the nose. Thick, fresh and natural flavours on the palate, with a lovely dry spice creating a dry finish.
Reál Blue Agave Nectar – 0%
Infused with 100% organic blue agave from the Jalisco region of Mexico. A rich, fresh nose of sweet agave that flows onto the palate. Light though, with a thick, long and fresh finish that’s a little sharp.
A great range, with some interesting choices with the pumpkin and blue agave nectar. But when you see recipes like the below, they seem a perfect fit –
Blue Moon – created by Ian Burrell
35 ml White rum
15 ml London Dry gin
12.5 ml Blueberry Reál puree
25 ml lemon juice
5 ml sugar
Shake all the ingredients together over ice and strain into a crushed ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon peel & blueberries* (*if in season).
Mangoes into a Bar – created by Andy Pearson
50 ml Mango Reál
50 ml Pusser’s Navy Strength
25 ml Apricot Liqueur
25 ml fresh Lime Juice
½ fresh Passion Fruit
1 bar spoon Demerara Sugar
Shake all the ingredients together over ice and strain into an ice filled Tiki Skull with a flaming passion fruit cup.
The above are elaborate, but they syrups can be used easily with Bellini’s, frozen Daiquiri’s and non-alcoholic recipes too. It’s a range of flavours to look out for sure as they make there way into bars over the coming months. Or if you can’t wait and want to make your own at home, pick some up, play around and enjoy the freshness of real fruit. Highly recommend fellow Drink Enthusiasts.