A special treat for all you fans of something unique, special and intriguing – a Boutique tasting involving three brands that are making waves in the drinks industry.
Come down to 24 Bar & Grill, boutique in its own right, and experience the French grape style gin of G’Vine and there two expressions of Flouraison and Nouaison as well as Esprit de June, a grape liqueur housed in a fantastic shaped bottle. To cap the night off we’ll have Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli showcased with his very own vodka! The night will also include the choice between two cocktails crafted by myself for your enjoyment.
The date of this unique tasting will be Tuesday 11th December starting at 7:30 and lasting approximately 90 mins.
Tickets are priced at £20 and places are limited so book yourself on today!
Theres many an Irish liqueur out on the shelves these days, Baileys probably springs to most minds, but theirs a relatively new brand shaking the branches, and is coming at a new angle than the traditional ‘cream liqueurs’. Drombeg is a natural, hand-crafted liqueur that is infused from Irish oak and sweet distillate using Irish spring water. Created by West Cork Distillers, themselves only founded back in 2008, it is one of only two non-sweetened savoury brown spirit liqueurs on the global market. With the lack of a ‘Baileys cream colour’, it can easily be mistaken for whiskey which is something Drombeg have been taking full advantage of by promoting the brand to customers who are attracted by Irish whiskey brands, but are looking for a lower alcohol alternative.
The name itself is taken from Ireland’s oldest stone circle that dates back to as early as 150BC. Drombeg carries on the tribute to the ancient monument by distilling and maturing the spirit close by.
So how does this mystical oak wood matured premium spirit fair? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Drombeg – 22%
Light and mild on the nose, with slight oak and caramel notes blending well. On the palate, instant smoothness with a creamy texture is noticeable with caramel dominating with a little smoky wood following. Very long-lasting effect with hints of sweetness to finish.
This is a little different to what you may expect an Irish liqueur to be, but it’s a great start-up to becoming an Irish whiskey fan as well as a good substitute from the usual ‘cream liqueurs’.
Especially if you try the simple mix of Drombeg with a splash of ginger ale and a twist of lime. Sláinte!
Krupnik is one of those brands you may see all the time on back-bars or cocktail menus, but never bat an eye-lid as it’s rarely seen as a base ingredient to a drink. I myself have been using this honey liqueur for around 4 years now, and it was part of my first self-cocktail creation. Krupnik is rather versatile, and has up to 50 different aromatic spices and herbs as well as its main ingredient of bees honey. The history of this Polish liqueur is rather shrouded in mystery, but here’s a rough guide:
Legend has it that the recipe was created by the Benedictine monks in the 1300’s at a monastery in Niaśviž which was founded by Mikołaj Krzysztof “Sierotka” Radziwiłł. Known in Poland and Lithuania at least since 16th century, it soon became popular among the szlachta of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. There are numerous recipes preserved to our times in countless szlachta diaries. Krupnik was also used as a common medicinal disinfectant to Polish soldiers in World War II.
Based on grain spirit and honey, it is mass-produced and versions consist of 40%-50% (80-100 proof) alcohol, but traditional versions will use 80% – 100% grain alcohol as the base. It is a distant relative of the medovukha (Russian) or miód pitny (Polish), a honey-made spirit popular in all Slavic countries.
Below, I give to you my tasting notes on this centuries old liqueur –
Krupnik – 38%
Bold herbal aromas instantly hit the nose, with a thick honey aroma slowly dominating. The palate enjoys a sweet offering which is rather light and short. Hints of spice linger on the tongue as it nears the end.
As you can imagine, with its versatility, there are plenty of cocktail recipes out their, but this one has caught my eye –
Creamy Bee Martini
25 ml Krupnik
25 ml Chambord
Chill the martini glass. Pour the ingredients into your shaker tin in the order shown and add plenty of ice. Shake until icy cold. Dust the rim of your glass with the cinnamon and then strain in the mixed ingredients. Add a raspberry or two as a garnish.
So if you see Krupnik in your favourite bar, ask your bartender to create you something good using this time-tested liqueur. Disappointed? You wont be.
Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.
I’ve been lucky enough recently to try out some of the portfolio of Boutique Brands, which includes G’Vine gin, Atlantico rum and Roberto Cavalli vodka. But the most unusual spirit they offer is something named Esprit de June, a liqueur created in France and can consider itself the only liqueur produced with the vine-flowers of Ugni Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other grape varietals, that blossom for only a few days in June. The added rarity to the ingredients, coupled with what can only be described as a fantastically styled bottled, makes Esprit de June one of the most sought out liqueurs for a bartender.
So how is this liqueur created?
The first step is the Vine Flower Harvest. In June, tiny white flowers bloom on the vines for just a couple of days. Their birth is a critical moment after a year-long meticulous care that’s given to the vineyard. These rare flowers are so delicate they can only be picked by hand, and must be harvested immediately.
Hand cut from the vine, the flowers are carefully transported in traditional wooden baskets. The vine flowers are then delicately collected in woven fiber “tea bags”. These “tea bags”, each containing different types of vine flowers, are steeped in artisanal grape neutral spirit for several days to extract their unique flavours.
When all the flavour has been extracted, the grape neutral spirit, now infused with vineflower, is strained off and distilled in a Florentine pot still, the same kind used by master perfume makers. The result is an Esprit, the utmost concentrations of the vine flower. These will be the only vine-flower distillates for a whole year, so they are stored in special vats.
Following an undisclosed recipe, these Ugni-blanc (creates pear, peach and white floral notes), Merlot (wild strawberry and cherry-blossom) and Cabernet-Sauvignon (strawberry, raspberry and violet) vine flower distillates are blended together, before being distilled a final time to perfectly unify their flavours. The use of other vine flowers such as Folle Blanche and Sauvignon Blanc allows the master distiller to guaranty Esprit de June’s flavor profile year after year despite the vintage effect. With the addition of the bare minimum of sugar, Esprit de June is born.
Esprit de June – 28%
A perfumed mix of rose petals and strawberries with a sweetened edge as it rolls onto the palate. A light, almost non-existent texture, more silky and perfumed is an odd feel, but a long-lasting after-taste that has you craving for more.
Esprit de June is a versatile spirit, with its uniqueness and surprising offering on the nose and palate distinguishing itself away from the usual brands and with the recipes below, it shows that both men and women can enjoy.
45ml Scotch whisky or VSOP Cognac
25ml Esprit de June
Pour into an ice-filled glass and top with freshly-opened good-quality ginger ale. Stir briefly.
June & Wine
135ml red wine or chilled, dry white wine
45ml Esprit de June liqueur
First pour the wine (slightly less than a normal serving) then add the Esprit de June. Stir briefly.
Ruth Ball. If you’ve been to any trade shows, farmers markets or festivals recently, you will no doubt recognise the name. Ruth is the creator and founder of Alchemist Dreams, an idea that transforms the liqueur category into a new age. If you’re not familiar with the name, to put it simply, she creates hand-crafted liqueurs, any flavour, for any occasion. When was the last time you heard something like that?!
The process is easy too. Pick your base flavour, choose your accent(s), decide what bottle you would like your liqueur in and even create your label and voilà! With a great range of base flavours to choose from including blackberry, fig, lime and orange, and combined with cinnamon, juniper, ginger, elderberry, coffee or even red cinchona bark, you can create something unique and personal to yourself or to your backbar.
If your stuck for ideas though, Ruth has some house blends that you could try including (1) –
Black(berry) Magic – A mysterious blend of blackberry, ginger and Szechuan pepper
Everything’s Rosy – An optimistic blend of raspberry, juniper and rose
Blue Monday – A mellow blend of blueberry, elderberry and vanilla
Winter Warmer – A delicious blend of orange, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove
I was lucky enough to win one of the Alchemist Dreams competitions, and the prize was the chance to create my own liqueur. So after racking my brains over which flavours would be the best to blend and what would work well, Ruth created me a base ingredient of orange, with a mix of vanilla, cacao and cinnamon.
On the nose, the orange flavour is soft, with small hints of the vanilla and cacao slowly coming through near the end. The palate enjoys a sensation of the vanilla and orange, with a bold hit of cacao and cinnamon following. A sweet mix on the tongue with a slightly thick layer being left for you to savour long after. Wow!
Alchemist Dreams gives you the chance to create that something different, and with many small, niche bars being opened lately, it’s the perfect chance to have a signature range that you can tell your customers it really is a once in a lifetime experience. But it doesn’t have to be for the bar’s though. Alchemist Dreams caters for weddings where you design the flavour, select the bottles and then they can be decorated with a variety of different trimmings to match colour schemes, decor or themes. You can even include special extras such as gold leaf! The labels are hand-printed with a message or can even be professionally printed to include a picture of the happy couple for a truly memorable gift. Alchemist Dreams can also be used for corporate gifts and events as gifts for something a bit more memorable.
I know I’ll be hoping to see a good range of Alchemist Dreams bottles on the backbar when I open my own place, it’s a fantastic idea!
Now i’m going to start with a confession – i’ve never tried Drambuie. I was not one for malt whisky or honey back in the day, but ever since i’ve started doing this career, my palate has grown and experienced lots of new flavours. So always up to giving things a second chance, i jumped at the chance to try the newly released Drambuie 15.
A little history of Drambuie first though.
The legend holds that the recipe of Drambuie was concocted by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) in Italy or France where he was brought up. In 1745, he lost the infamous Battle of Culloden where he was sheltered by the clan MacKinnon on Skye. The chief took him off Skye and to the mainland from where he made his eventual escape. It’s then reported that the recipe was then given in the late 19th century to a gentleman named James Ross. Ross ran the Broadford Hotel on Skye, where he developed and improved the recipe in the 1870s. The name Drambuie was then registered by him as a trademark in 1893. After Ross died, his widow sold the recipe to a different MacKinnon family in the early 20th century. The MacKinnon family have been producing it ever since.
The first commercial distribution of Drambuie happened in 1909 in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. Only twelve cases were originally sold. In 1916, Drambuie became the first liqueur to be allowed stocked in the cellars of the House of Lords and Drambuie began to ship world-wide to stationed British soldiers. In the 1980s, the producers of Drambuie began to advertise the liqueur on tv, although advertising began way back in the first decade of the 20th Century.
The Drambuie 15 is a twist on the original Drambuie, using rare Speyside malts aged 15 years. It complements and balances the herbs and spicy aromas of the famed Drambuie. So with this in mind, here is my tasting notes –
The nose enjoys a soft honey and citrus notes that has a slight butterscotch end. The palate however welcomes a rather sweet blend of lemon and heather that creates an almost velvety texture on the tongue. The sweetness lingers on the after-taste and in my mind, begs you to have another sip.
Im surprised. I have to admit i really enjoyed this. It has a RRP of £35 but i would have no hesitation in recommending this famed spirit. And its award winning too! 2 golds at the Drinks International and a silver for ‘Best Liqueur’ at the Spirits Business Spirits Masters. Not bad for a product that’s only been out since September.
I’ll be hunting for the original now. I’m hooked!
Very sweet hit on the nose with instant honey aromas and a light scent of herbs. A kick on the palate of spice but soon mellows. Rather short but warming with a slow medicinal flavour coming through near the end.
Frangelico is one of those liqueurs you see all the time on the back bars of trendy cocktails places or sophisticated restaurants, yet you never seem to know what it is. Well I’ll tell you, it’s a hazelnut liqueur that can go well with a wide range of drinks including coffee, orange juice, on its own with fresh lime and can be drizzled on top of desserts too. A wide range of uses for a bottle that is usually seen languishing on the side of back bars. I use to have my own bottle of Frangelico at Casa Tapas Bar & Grill and used it as part of my range of liqueur coffee’s, and with its oddly shaped bottle and friar like rope wrapped around it, it was a great talking point for promotion.
Frangelico is produced in Italy and has a ABV of 24% and as you can see by the bottle, has a history of produce by the Italian monks nearly 300 years ago.
The nose of Frangelico gives an instant hit of hazelnut, a reminder of digestive biscuits also crossed my mind, although on taste, the hazelnut becomes very subtle. It’s a light, almost creamy liqueur that leaves only a hint of nut in your mouth. It’s a short, sharp drink that I think will surprise you. Great for a sweet tooth like myself!
Its rrp is around the £20 bracket, but it’s a worthy price for a liqueur that has many surprising uses.
Amarula is a cream liqueur from South Africa and uses the unique fruit of the Marula tree. Marula is an exotic fruit found only on the sub-Saharan plains of Africa, where it grows in the wild for just a few weeks of the year.
Harvesting of the fruit, ripened under the African sun, happens at the height of the African summer, from mid-January to mid-March. Many of these wild-growing trees, indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, are found in the sub-tropical region of Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province.
When the fruit falls to the ground it is collected by the women of the local rural communities before being delivered to the Amarula production plant in Phalaborwa.
At the plant, each fruit is individually checked to ensure it is fully ripened and free of blemishes before the flesh is crushed with the skins. In a de-stoning tank, rotating blades separate the flesh from the hard seeds or nuts. The fruit pulp is pumped into cooling tanks, where it is kept at a consistent temperature below 6 degrees centigrade to prevent uncontrolled fermentation. The marula pulp is then transported to the cellars in Stellenbosch where it is fermented under conditions similar to wine making. After fermentation, the marula wine is distilled twice, first in column stills and then in copper pot stills, to create a young marula distillate. It is essential that the fresh marula wine is distilled as quickly as possible to retain the fresh fruity flavours. During the second distillation the marula flavours are further concentrated. One distilled, the spirit is aged slowly in wood, spending two years in small oak barrels. Fresh dairy cream is then blended with the Amarula.
So how does Amarula fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Amarula – 17%
On the nose, a very light aroma of the exotic Marula fruit makes its way through, with the taste almost bursting as it hits your palate. A sweet tang to it, it covers your palate nicely and gives off a slow release of Marula that lasts.
A great fruit cream liqueur to enjoy over ice after a meal, or ask your bartender for one of these –
160 ml Amarula Cream
2 Tbs crushed brownie or (Chocolate biscuits)
2 Tsp Hazelnut liqueur
2 Tsp Orange liqueur
30 ml Peppermint Liqueur
Pinch of cinnamon
Chocolate shavings to garnish
Fresh ginger to garnish
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker or blender. Close, shake or blend for 30 seconds, pour over ice cubes into a hi-ball glass and add crushed ice as a top layer. Garnish with wedge of cookie or with chocolate shavings and fresh ginger.
A great cocktail to enjoy not only all year round, but with one of these –
Amarula Bread and Butter Pudding
500 ml Milk
375 ml double cream
5 ml vanilla essence
40 g butter, melted
6 large eggs
200 g castor sugar
125 ml Amarula Cream
6 small soft bread rolls
25 g sultanas, soaked in water and drained
100 g apricot glaze, warm
In a pan, bring the milk, cream and vanilla essence to the boil. Use a little of the butter to grease a large oval pie dish. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and castor sugar until pale. Gradually add the milk-cream mixture, stirring. Add the Amarula Cream and strain through a fine sieve. Cut the bread rolls into thin slices and butter them. Arrange in the pie dish and sprinkle over the sultanas. Pour the Amarula mixture over the bread. The bread will float to the top. Place the dish in a bain-marie on top of folded newspaper and pour in hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake in a preheated oven, 160.
You have to love such a versatile liqueur! Ever since its release back in 1983, its been a staple for both bars and kitchens world wide. Which means only one thing, your missing out.
The ‘Spanish Smooth Sensation’ has made a comeback recently, with Licor 43 being ever-present on many new and existing back bars. This Spanish liqueur is made from citrus and fruit juices, flavoured with 43 different vanilla and aromatic herbs and spices (hence the name). Its origin though starts in the early 20th century at a small factory in the Mediterranean city of Cartagena.
Three brothers (Diego, Angel and Josefina Zamora Conesa) and Mrs Conesa’s husband Emilio Restoy Godoy started the company and became the most sold liqueur in the South East of Spain. Since the beginning, the Diego Zamora company (still family owned to this day) has been a pioneer in Spain for its use of advertising on radio, TV, press and cinema, with the 60’s paying off as Licor 43 went global to 55 markets to become the most international Spanish liqueur ever. Licor 43 are rather proud of their history and recipe, and the 43 herbs and spices are a guarded secret, however this doesn’t stop you from enjoying the moment as you try to work it out for yourselves –
Licor 43 – 31%
Subtle vanilla aromas blend their way through on the nose accompanied by sweet fruit and spices. A smooth, instant mouth-watering vanilla taste hits the palate first with subtle citrus hints following. Creates a long, sweet after taste.
Licor 43 makes an ideal ingredient to use to balance out a Daiquiri, or even used in a dark Mojito to add a slight extra vanilla flavour to the rum used. Or try one of these –
50 ml Licor 43
50 ml Vodka
75 ml Cranberry juice
50 ml Lemon juice
Shake all ingredients together and serve in a chilled Martini glass
125 ml Licor 43
50 ml Vanilla Syrup
75 ml Cream
175 ml Passion Fruit Nectar
125 ml Orange juice
25 ml Cherry juice
Mix all ingredients without the cherry juice with ice in a shaker. Add the cherry juice once poured into a hurricane glass.
This versatile liqueur really shows what it’s made of, and has even caught the judges eyes, winning gold in the 19th Cocktail Challenge Edition at Shaker & Company in 2012 and silver at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2011.
Expect to see a lot more of Licor 43 of the coming years, not only in cocktails, but offered as part of your after-dinner range as well as over desserts such as ice cream, fruit salads and strawberries. Or better still, have one in your drinks cabinet.
Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.