Last week saw myself invited down to judge once again a cocktail competition with a difference. Hosted within 1812 Lounge Bar in Bournemouth, De Kuyper were supporting the UKBG and their Mystery Box competition semi-final, which saw 20 bartenders from across the south coast of England battle it out, yet having no idea what their recipe would be.
Essentially, each bartender drew a number upon their arrival, with the number corresponding with an unopened hamper, filled during the day with 6 ingredients. Only being able to use 4 of the 6, as well as any of the De Kuyper expressions, including Lemongrass and Lapsang Souchong, and a further sponsored spirit from a range such as Conker gin, Evan Williams bourbon and Remy Martin cognac.
With 10 minutes time-limit, the hamper opens and each bartender has to come up with a winning recipe using their knowledge, skill and presentation skills to impress the judges (myself, James Fowler, 2014 UK winner of World Class, and Paul Curry, brand manager of De Kuyper). Not always easy ingredients though, as some found out that they may need to use rather irregular brands such as tomato ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard alongside their chosen two base spirits!
It’s odd to say that I have tried a mayonnaise foam upon a cocktail.
10 bartenders would go through to the final, set to be next week in Bournemouth. Here’s a sneak peek at the lineup –
Niall Percival competing for Remy Martin 1738 Tommo Quy competing for Jinzu Gin Cameron Moncaster competing for Conker Dorset Dry Gin Andy Hardwick competing for Evan Williams extra aged Gemma Terry competing for Evan Williams extra aged Dave Hall competing for Flor de Cana 4yo Luke Sheppard competing for 3 Barrels Brandy Joe Prout competing for Tarquin Gin Johnny Brissenden competing for Casamigo Tequila Blanco Sarah Owens competing for Cinzano 1757
Now, the above have impressed so far with some innovative drinks, but they have to sweep that away and work alongside their given brand (drawn randomly) to be in with a chance of the star prize, whilst also incorporating De Kuyper in their serve and brushing up on their knowledge of the Schiedam brand.
I’ll let you know how it goes, I’m on the judging panel!
The North West is set to discover the brightest in bartending talent later this month, as the northern heat of UKBG National Cocktail competition heads to the Cheshire town of Warrington. The event will be sponsored by De Kuyper, the world’s largest producer of cocktail liqueurs.
The cocktail competition, which will take place in Tom’s at 101, Stockton Heath on 23rd June, will give the region’s bartenders a chance to show off their skills and have their recipe tasted by an esteemed panel of Drinks Industry professionals.
Mixologists will battle it out to be crowned the best in their region, as well as the chance to represent the UK in the IBA World Cocktail Championship in 2016. Watching over each entrant will be the crème de la crème of cocktail experts, judging their bespoke creations whilst keeping their eyes peeled in the hope of discovering the next big thing in bartending.
Contenders will be challenged to make a twist on a Crusta, featuring a minimum of 20ml from The De Kuyper liqueur range. Each drink must be presented and served to four people within seven minutes, and will be judged on appearance, aroma and taste.
De Kuyper is the world’s largest producer of cocktail liqueurs, and is widely regarded as the go-to liqueur brand for professional bartenders, currently with some 20 flavours available in the UK; a selection stocked by Booker Wholesale, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s & Asda. The family-run business is based in Schiedam, Netherlands, and has succeeded in making a global name for itself as a leading distiller of liqueurs and advocaat for more than three centuries.
The UKBG Cocktail Competition Northern Heat will take place from 11am at the Tom’s at 101, Stockton Heath, Warrington. Entrants must be members of the UKBG to compete, with annual membership available from £35. For more info on how to register, please visit http://www.ukbartendersguild.co.uk
De Kuyper is one of the most recognizable range of liqueurs in the world, and since 1695 the brand has been divulging into a wide range of flavours that look to innovate and impress not only bartenders, but the consumers too.
So how did De Kuyper come about, and essentially be a part of many of the bars across the world?
As mentioned above, De Kuyper was founded back in 1695 by Petrus De Kuyper, initially as a manufacturer of barrels and casks used in the transportation of spirits and beer. By 1752, the family bought a distillery in Schiedam, Rotterdam as there was a lot of grain trading and by the 19th century, the company expanded its export business throughout Europe, Great Britain and Canada. In 1911, a new distillery was built in Schiedam, Holland which was then the leading center for the production of Dutch gin or genever, and thereafter the production of liqueur began. The roster of flavors slowly expanded, and partnerships were formed with distillers in Canada (1932) and the United States (1934, strategically at the end of Prohibition). By the 1960’s the production of liqueurs had overtaken the production of genever, and coupled with the promotion of liqueurs for use in cocktails, the sales of the brand grew.
In 1995, on the occasion of its 300th anniversary, the company received the title “Royal” from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. This led to the company changing its name from Johannes de Kuyper & Zoon to De Kuyper Royal Distillers. In the same year, Erven Warnink – the leading producer of advocaat and cream liqueurs – was taken over by De Kuyper Royal Distillers.
The liqueurs themselves are split into a variety of sub-categories, including –
The Essentials; Apricot Brandy, Blue Curacao, Creme de Cassis, Creme de Menthe Green and Triple Sec
The Traditionals; Including Butterscotch, Creme de Cacao White and Vanilla
The Fruits; Including Dry Orange, Cherry, Mango, Melon and Passionfruit
The Distiller’s Signature; Including Cucumber, Lemongrass and Spicy Chilli
The current Master Distiller, Myriam Hendrickx, has been creating new and innovative flavours, such as the Cucumber expression, to positive reviews, especially with its versatility of serves. So below, I give to you my tasting notes on the De Kuyper range that I have had the privilege of experiencing so far, including some of their premium expressions and bitters that are away from the core range –
De Kuyper Cucumber– 15%
Using baby cucumbers, they are mashed into a pulp, then left to soak in neutral alcohol before being distilled. Then the brew is seasoned with rice vinegar and salt.
Rich, fragrant cucumber on the nose with a fresh offering that follows onto the palate. Thinner texture with a rich, fragrant kick that also offers a slight sharpness upon the finish.
De Kuyper Cherry Brandy XO – 28%
Made with Maraska cherries and almonds, before being blended with Grande Champagne XO Cognac.
Bold, rich notes of stemmed cherry upon the nose, albeit a little dry. Very rich on the palate, with a warmth from the stewed cherry flavours. A thick texture, long, with a mouth-watering finish.
De Kuyper Apricot Brandy XO– 28%
Made from apricots from France and Turkey and blended with Grande Champagne XO Cognac.
Rich honey on the nose, with bold kicks of the apricot and a dry finish. A natural sweetness lines the palate, with a thin yet long flavour of stemmed apricot.
The company also produce a range of bitters too;
De Kuyper Juniper– 64%
Very rich and tart on the nose, with bold kicks of juniper coming through. Rich, sweet and floral notes of the juniper upon the palate.
De Kuyper Orange – 64%
Soft, sweet candied orange on the nose, turning to a sharp hit on the palate. Bitter with a hint of natural sweetness following, then to a rich orange that offers a long, dry finish.
As mentioned, De Kuyper pride themselves in creating versatile expressions, so try your hand at some of these cocktail recipes –
15 ml De Kuyper Passion Fruit
60 ml Vanilla infused Vodka
15 ml Fresh lime juice
15 ml Sugar syrup
60 ml Champagne
1½ fresh passion fruit
Scoop the seeds and flesh of passion fruit into base of shaker. Add next four ingredients (all but Champagne), Shake with ice and fine strain into chilled glass. Separately, pour champagne into chilled shot(s) glass to serve on the side. Garnish by floating half passion fruit.
Blood & Sand
25 ml De Kuyper Cherry Brandy
45 ml Whisky
25 ml Sweet Vermouth
25 ml Fresh orange juice
Shake all ingredients in the shaker & fine strain in a chilled glass. Garnish with orange zest and cherry on a stick.
These past few months I’ve been working closely with a French range of liqueurs and helping to develop the general awareness within both the bar community as well as customer focus. It’s fitting then that it’s about time I check the range and feature them within my site, exploring the reasoning why Gabriel Boudier are launching a huge awareness campaign here in the UK for 2015 and beyond, backing up its winning titles from the International Spirits Challenge Liqueur Trophy as best producer in the world for 2013 and 2014, and in 2014 The Supreme Champion Trophy.
Gabriel Boudier is a family owned company, founded in the house of Fontbonne in Dijon, France back in 1874. Back then, there were over 50 companies in Burgundy creating and producing fruit liqueurs, but in modern times that number has dwindled down to just six, with Gabriel Boudier the only independently owned. In 1909, Gabriel Boudier took over the house of Fontbonne and renamed it with his own name, whilst keeping the making of Crème de Cassis de Dijon and liqueurs. He established the business at Boulevard de Strasbourg in Dijon where it continued to develop until his death in 1918. In 1936, his widow sold the house to Marcel Battault, who made the decision to keep the Gabriel Boudier trading name. After eventually handing the company to his nephew Pierre Battault, the company moved to Rue de Cluj in Dijon in 1969 to allow for expansion and development.
So what do the Battault family pride themselves upon to create Gabriel Boudier?
The picking baskets are designed by Gabriel Boudier to ensure that the fruit is not crushed when harvested, and avoiding early oxidisation. The fruit is then preserved the day of the harvest by utilising a freeze drying technique, and then batch producing throughout the year to ensure every production is a fresh as it can be. Once the batch of the required fruit is sent to the distillery, it is gently crushed and macerated within a water-alcohol solution for a certain amount of time depending on the fruit. The use of a water-alcohol mixture acts as a solvent and preservative primarily for the aromas within the fruit’s pectin, the natural sugars or fructose. The finished juice is sweetened with sugar to be classed as a liqueur.
If the intended liqueur is more of a citrus base, distillation methods are used. For example, the Poires Williams is a blend of the two methods, the first being maceration to give the colour of the pear, the ‘oil’ texture, natural sugars and its ‘heady’ aromas, whilst the subtle aromas of pear are created by the form of distillation. Once finished, they are brought together and sweetened with sugar.
The company prides itself upon using fresh fruit from all over the world, with strictly no artificial flavourings or additives. With this ethos, they have been creating what is termed the ‘Iconic’ range, including the highly acclaimed Crème de Cassis de Dijon, since the beginning. But how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon – 20%
Made using three varieties of blackcurrant: Noir de Bourgogne, Royal de Naples & Blackdown, all picked at optimum ripeness. The liqueur is made by a unique process: first, the fruit is frozen within one hour of picking to avoid any possibility of oxidation. The frozen fruit is then released from cold store and macerated as required (six times per year) and when fully saturated it is bottled at 20% abv.
Rich blackcurrant aromas upon the nose, with dark kicks blending with a fragrant finish of stemmed currants. Incredibly rich and fresh on the palate, with a little tartness coming through. Slightly dry, but with a long finish.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Pêches – 18%
Obtained by macerating selected white peach varieties, including the vine peach. Sweet aromas of peach on the nose, with the rich freshness coming through. Light peach on the palate however, fragrant and short with a dry finish.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Fraises a la Fraise des Bois – 20%
Obtained by macerating selected strawberry varieties, including the wild strawberry. Sweet aromas of strawberry on the nose, like strawberry cheesecake. Fragrant on the finish. Rich with a very sweet texture on the palate, producing a lingering fragrant finish.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Framboises – 20%
Obtained by macerating selected raspberry varieties from Scotland and Burgundy. Fresh, tart aromas of raspberry on the nose, with an herbal scent coming through slightly. Well-balanced on the palate, with the sweetness coming through alongside the dryness of the fresh raspberry. Thin on the long finish, albeit a little dry.
There’s one other within the ‘Iconic’ range which I am yet to experience, Crème de Mûres Sauvages. Gabriel Boudier also prides itself upon its ‘Bartenders’ range, introduced in 2008 following extensive discussions and research with top bartenders around the world into what they required for their professional work.
Gabriel Boudier Passion Fruit– 20%
Rich, fresh aromas of passion fruit and mango on the nose, with an underlining sweetness. Thin, tart texture on the palate, with the passion fruit kicking in to a sweet, long, rich finish.
Gabriel Boudier Lychee – 20%
Soft, sweet hits of lychee on the nose. Creamy texture on the palate, with very thin notes of the lychee. Fragrant, velvet and incredibly dry on the finish.
Gabriel Boudier Pink Grapefruit– 15%
Incredibly fragrant, with sweet, ripe grapefruit aromas on the nose. Very thick upon the palate, with fresh bursts of the grapefruit create a very dry finish.
Gabriel Boudier Apricot Brandy – 24%
Fully ripe apricots are macerated in brandy. The apricot flavoured spirit is then removed and a small dose of sugar added as well as a tiny amount of peach.
Fragrant, sweet aromas of apricot on the nose. Scents of the brandy follow nicely. Thick, creamy texture on the palate, with the sweet apricot creating a sharp, ripe finish. A little dry as it lingers.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Melon Vert – 20%
Uses green melons from Honduras and China. Very rich, with a slight fragrant tartness on the nose from the melon. Thin texture, with the fresh melon giving a clean-cut palate. A fragrant finish that carries for a while, with a little sweetness.
Gabriel Boudier Cherry Brandy – 24%
Made by blending black and bitter cherries of three different varieties. Dark cherry aromas on the nose, stemmed with a deep biscuit base. Bold, slightly tart with a dry cherry finish. Short, clean and plenty of subtle cherry flavours.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cacao (clear) – 15%
Obtained by distilling previously roasted Ivory Coast cocoa beans. Rich cocoa on the nose, with a slight sweetness followed by milk cream aromas. Very thin texture upon the palate, with the natural cocoa bean flavours dominating to a long creamy finish.
There are many other flavours available within the range, including curaçao bleu, triple sec, crème de menthe, pomegranate, ginger, mango and rhubarb. Another sub-category so-to-speak, is the Bernard Loiseau range. This range of premium liqueurs was launched in the UK in Spring 2010 and were developed in collaboration with Gabriel Boudier by Chef Patrick Bertron and Sommelier Eric Goettelmann at the 3 Michelin stars Relais Bernard Loiseau in Burgundy, in memory of the eponymous Chef who died in 2003.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de Framboises & Thym – 20%
A great blend of fresh thyme and subtle tart raspberry upon the nose. Light, thin texture with the thyme dominating first upon the palate. The raspberry flavours come through, offering a base finish that’s slightly sweet with a dry herbal finish.
Others within the Bernard Loiseau range include morello cherry & chocolate, peach & hibiscus flower, blackcurrant & gingerbread as well as apple and earl grey tea, seen as perfect for digestifs and even in the French style of aperitifs.
Looking away from the liqueur category a little, Gabriel Boudier entered the gin world with the release of Saffron, a French colonial recipe of eight natural botanicals rediscovered by the brand. This handcrafted, small batch pot distilled gin is made from natural botanicals – saffron, juniper, coriander, lemon, orange peel, angelica seeds, iris and fennel.
Saffron – 40%
Light on the nose with a sweet honey coming through. Rather floral on the palate, essence of perfume is present, but rather short.
Phew, quite a range here, which as you can imagine, throws into the arena some great recipes to enjoy –
90 ml of Curaçao Triple Sec Gabriel Boudier
90 ml of Cognac
60 ml of Liqueur de Framboise
Some fruits according the season
1 bottle of Champagne
Pour the whole Champagne bottle in a big container of ice. Add the cognac, the liqueurs, the orange juice and the fruit cut in small cubes. Stir, pour and serve.
50 ml of Saffron Gin
25 ml of Gabriel Boudier Raspberry Liqueur
35 ml of white of the egg
Crush the raspberries and mix all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake over ice and fine strain into a Martini glass.
Some great ideas, and a truly unique range where they pride themselves on the use of fresh fruit. I also like the interaction with the bartender world, being able to listen to the demands and create a flavoured spirit in response. Ultimately that means that the customers are broadening their palates, with Gabriel Boudier at the beck-and-call to bring those tantalising flavours to reality. Grab a couple of bottles for your collection and be a part of the French revolution this year!
A VIP visit to Dijon, France is the prize for the winner of the Gabriel Boudier Cocktail Competition, to be staged at The Northern Restaurant and Bar Show in Manchester on Wednesday 18th March at 3:15pm.
Hosted once again by Dave Marsland aka Drinks Enthusiast, who is working alongside Emporia Brands, the distributors for the French based liqueurs here in the UK.
Competitors will be asked to submit two drinks. The first recipe must be a signature serve containing at least 10 ml of any expression from the Gabriel Boudier Iconic range, whilst the second recipe must be a signature serve containing at least 15 ml of any expression from the Gabriel Boudier Bartender range. The two recipes are a free-reign to create two unique cocktails worthy of the grand prize. A maximum time limit of 10 minutes on the main stage will be given in which both cocktails will be re-created for the judging panel.
The winner will visit Dijon as the guest of Gabriel Boudier, who beat off the challenge from the world’s finest liqueur distilleries to take the trophy for Supreme Champion two years running. The visit will include liqueur training in Dijon and the chance to share expertise with the Battault family, creators of the range, as well as plenty of opportunity to find out why Dijon, the gateway to Burgundy, is seen as one of the most beautiful cities in France.
Scotland based entrants should submit interest to Ed Baird (firstname.lastname@example.org), whilst London based entrants should submit interest to Gavin McGowan-Madoo (email@example.com). The deadline for both is Monday 23rd February. An entry form will be sent to all interested bartenders in view of competing in the respective regional heat.
For the rest of the UK, entrants should direct themselves to the entry form found on the Northern Bar and Restaurant website (http://www.northernrestaurantandbar.co.uk/content/Cocktail-Competition-with-Gabriel-Boudier) with their recipes by midnight on Friday 27th February. 2 finalists will be notified on Monday 2nd March and invited to demonstrate their recipes on the Drinks Live stage at the Northern Restaurant and Bar Show, alongside the winners from the London and Scotland heats.
Gabriel Boudier expressions and basic bar equipment will be supplied at the final, with all other ingredients, garnishes and glassware to be provided by the competitor. No electrical equipment can be used on stage.
Judges, including respected industry figure Simon Difford, will be scoring for knowledge on the Gabriel Boudier brand, the appearance and presentation of the drinks, the aromas of the cocktails and finally how it tastes.
For the full list of Gabriel Boudier expressions, please see www.emporiabrands.com. Available through Coe Vintners, Speciality Drinks and Venus, as well as online retailers including MasterOfMalt.com, and TheDrinkShop.com
This year I’ve dabbled a little into the low ABV scale of the drinks world, due mainly in part to Mal Spence, owner of the Kelvingrove Cafe in Glasgow. He partnered with Emporia Brands, a UK distribution company, to promote their range of Italian products, primarily from the Nardini family, to bartenders and have them take a deeper look into the use of these classic liquids within drink recipes. Going off this, I wanted to feature the Nardini range and take a look at both the grappa and aperitivo expressions they have available. So lets dive in!
It all begins with Bortolo Nardini, founder of what is now Italy’s oldest distillery way back in 1779. It is here at the entrance to the Bassano bridge on the river Brenta that he opened his distillery and grapperia. Nardini was already skilled in the art of distillation, but his new venture was a far cry from his home town of Segonzano in the Cembra Valley near Trento. Here at the Bassano bridge, it was, like it still is now, a meeting place for Bassano natives and everyone who crossed what is described as the ‘most famous patriotic bridge in Italy’.
Looking ahead, Bortolo Nardini, grandson of Bortolo, introduced steam distillation in 1860, replacing the direct flame technique used from the beginning. Between 1915 and 1918, the First World War was taking effect on the area, becoming a battleground for soldiers. However the grappa distillery of Nardini saw its popularity rise as the soldiers took to the liquid to warm them on the cold evenings in the trenches. Once the war ended, the ritual of a sip of grappa carried on. The Second World War would be different however, as the frequent requisitioning of grappa by the armed forces and the complete destruction of the Bassano bridge by the Germans as they retreated affected the distillery and its production. After the war, the Alpini soldiers rebuilt the bridge financed entirely by private funds and re-opened on October 3rd 1948, by Alcide De Gasperi, and christened with a bottle of Nardini for good luck.
With the war over, the 1950’s saw a change in attitude towards spirits. Gone were the sweet liquids, to be replaced by drier tipples such as grappa. Nardini took full advantage and created new markets within Italy and abroad. Nardini also introduced ageing of grappa in oak barrels, to positive acclaim within the market. In 1964, vacuum distillation was installed within the distillery and in 1981 a new bottling centre was built. In 1991, Nardini purchased and refurbished the distillery of Monastier, near Treviso, where a substantial part of the distillation now takes place to satisfy the growing demand.
So with two distilleries, both located in the Veneto region, they both offer a different side to the Nardini family. Both sites use fresh grape pomace (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Bianco and Tokay) that is carefully selected and sourced from the foothills of north Veneto and Friuli. After a resting period in silos, the fermentation process begins. From here, it is transported to both distilleries.
The original Bassano distillery use the traditional vacuum distillation method in a discontinuous cycle. Here, within cauldrons, steam flows through the fermented grape pomace and up through the distillation column. Once the ‘heart’ of the spirit is selected, it passes through rectification and condensation phases.
The Monastier distillery on the other hand is a little different. The distillation method is a continuous steam cycle where the pomace is placed in a dealcolizer through which vapor passes for the extraction of the alcoholic content. This then flows to the distillation column where the ‘heart’ of the liquid is chosen, then passes on to the rectification and condensation phases.
So let’s get stuck into the finished products! Below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Nardini Aquavite di Vinnaccia Bianca Grappa – 50%
As mentioned, obtained by the process of double distillation and cold filtering using the pomace of grapes harvested in the Veneto foothills and Friuli regions of Italy.
Soft grape aromas on the nose, fragrant with hints of marzipan. Sharp and intense upon the palate, with a fresh kick of fragrant grape flavours once swallowed. The high abv contributes to a medium to long finish that becomes a little dry.
Nardini Grappa 40 – 40%
A lower abv variation of the above classic grappa expression. Bolder aromas of the grapes compared to the 50% abv style on the nose. Sweeter on the palate, and lacks the sharpness from the classic. Smooth, with hints of dry spice and raw herb. Long finish.
Nardini Aquavite di Vinnaccia Riserva Grappa – 50%
Aged for a minimum of three years in Slavonian oak barrels. Fragrant on the nose with subtle smooth aromas of the pommace. A developing strength of thin grape flavours on the palate, with plenty of dry oak taming the palate for a well-rounded finish.
Nardini Grappa Riserva 40 – 40%
A lower abv variation of the above Riserva grappa expression. Very light on the nose, with delicate hints of the grapes coming through. Incredibly smooth on the palate, thin, with definite soft oak to offer a long finish.
Nardini Aquavite di Vinnaccia Riserva 15 Anni Grappa – 50%
Released in 2004 to celebrate 225 years of the company’s history. An exclusive product obtained by aging in Salvonian oak barrels for 15 years.
Soft wood with citrus and grape aromas blending on the nose. Dry oak on the palate, with tobacco and cocoa developing to a soft and incredibly long finish.
Nardini Aquavite di Vinnaccia Ruta Flavoured Grappa – 43%
Created using an antique recipe of infusion. Aquavite grape pomace grappa combines with branches of the rue plant that are infused within rue flavoured grappa for an unknown length of time.
Soft, light herbal notes from the rue plant on the nose. Intense upon the palate, with a dry and slightly bitter experience developing as it nears the lingering finish.
It’s not just grappa that the Nardini family are famous for though, a selection of aperitivo’s are also wildly acclaimed.
Nardini Ginepro del Grappa – 45%
Created from distilled dehydrated juniper berries. Plenty of fresh, fragrant, intense juniper berry aromas on the nose. Incredibly sweet upon the palate, velvet texture with the high abv creating a delicate juniper finish. Lingering.
Nardini Acqua di Cedro – 29%
Traditional citron based liqueur. Fragrant, sweet citrus notes on the nose. Thick, creamy texture on the palate, with plenty of fresh, ripe, zesty lemon flavours coming through. A sweet, long finish with a slight raw citrus feel.
Nardini alla Mandorla – 50%
Natural infusion of bitter almond with Aquavite di Vinaccia combined with a cherry distillate. A good blend of dry almond and stalked cherry on the nose. Developing warmth on the palate, with the almond flavours dominating. The cherry comes through on the slightly sweet finish, but ultimately both main flavours contribute to a dry, lingering finish.
Nardini Tagliatella – 35%
“La Tagliatella” is a registered trademark by Nardini, creating a fruity liqueur with an Aquavite di vinaccia grappa base. Lots of cherry and red berry aromas on the nose. Slightly herbal, but a well-balanced approach. Thin, with a constant switch between sweet and dry from the dominating stewed cherry flavour on the palate. A growing dry spice on the long finish.
Nardini Bitter – 24%
Obtained by a mix of herbs and citrus, effectively grain alcohol and natural aroma of bitter Milano. Incredibly rich on the nose with plenty of forest floor mixed with vegetal and citrus aromas. Surprisingly mellow on the palate, with sweeter notes coming through, followed by bitter lemon and a clean finish of herbs.
Nardini Rosso – 24%
A combination of grain alcohol, natural aroma of bitter Milano and vermouth. Light with lots of subtle fresh lemon aromas, with a slight herbal note near the finish. Very light on the palate, with a thin sweetness. Herbal notes come through again on the lingering finish.
Nardini Rabarbaro – 19%
Grain alcohol with essence of rhubarb rhizome. Incredibly bold, rich notes of vegetal and rhubarb on the nose. Thin, with slight vegetal flavours coming through on the palate. Sweeter as it grows, with rhubarb bitterness making it an aromatic finish.
Nardini Amaro – 31%
Grain alcohol with bitter orange aroma, peppermint and gentian. Well balanced upon the nose with mint, liquorice and orange aromas coming through. Fresh, sweet flavours of peppermint and orange are present on the palate. A lingering bitterness on the finish.
A fantastic selection here, with suggested serves including the Rabarbaro mixed with soda water and a lemon peel, or the Acqua di Cedro over ice cream, fresh fruit or as a sorbet. Or perhaps one of these –
Rocks or Champagne flute
35 ml Nardini Bianca
50 ml Freshly squeezed orange juice
60 ml Prosecco
Pour the grappa and orange juice into a shaker with ice and mix. Strain into a Champagne flute or rocks glass, top up with chilled Prosecco and stir gently.
Or maybe this from Mal Spence’s archives –
40 ml Nardini Amaro
20 ml Rum
Dash Sugar Syrup
Combine all the ingredients over an ice filled rocks glass and stir.
I’ve been lucky enough to try a lot of the range, but there are one or two that have escaped me so far, including the highest abv expressions of 60% for both the original and Riserva, plus the brandy variation. But if you ever would like to go for something a little different, or indeed enjoy the tipples on the lower end of the ABV scale, grab yourselves some bottles for your drinks cabinet and imagine you’re in Italy!
Carl Brown, from Dishoom has won the Vintage to Visionary competition, a collaboration between The Bitter Truth ™ – Bitters & Liqueurs and Hayman Distillers, the English gin distiller whose family have been making gin since 1863. The winning recipes are listed below.
The brief laid down by the team at Love Drinks, the UK distributor of the two companies and organiser of the competition, was simple– create two cocktails – one Vintage and one Visionary – using any of the products in the range.
Eight bartenders headed down to the Queen of Hoxton to compete for the £1000 prize but Carl, with his two drinks, the Senior Service Julep and Mother’s Fix, which used a homemade tangerine shrub, which was smoked and then aged, edged the judges’ decisions.
The judges included Alexander Hauck, Co-Founder of The Bitter Truth ™ – Bitters & Liqueurs; James Hayman, Managing Director of Hayman’s and Clinton Cawood from Imbibe.
The competition was extremely close. So much so that the judges’ awarded two joint second places to Gabor Onufer from Claridges and Ami St Claire from Sohe in Newcastle. Both contestants were praised on their drinks making skills and innovative take on the brief. Ami for her homemade cocktail candy floss and gin soaked marshmallows and Gabor for his excellently made Voyager which used Claret and was mixed in a crystal wine decanter.
Speaking about the competition, Carl Brown, whose job title Daru-wallah, literally translates into the ‘drinks guy’, said: “We use both Hayman’s gins and the Bitter Truth in our bars so for me, this was a competition that I wanted to enter and win. Making great drinks was just one element of the competition; I really enjoyed researching the two companies. Hayman’s because of their history and heritage and The Bitter Truth because of their passion and commitment to making cocktail ingredients in order to recreate drinks that might have been lost forever were it not for them. What really shone out for me was the commitment from both companies to using the best quality ingredients which is why I wanted to create excellent drinks for the judging panel to enjoy.”
The other competitors in the competition include; Niall McGloin from Smokestack in Leeds; Michael Mann from City of London Distillery; Tom De Santis from Electrik in Manchester; Amir Javaid from Epernay in Manchester and Lucy Horncastle from NOLA.
The recipes for Carl’s drinks are as follows:
VINTAGE – Senior Service Julep
Glass: Indian Copper Julep Cup
Garnish: Bushel of mint and twist of grapefruit
Method: Churn ingredients with crushed ice, then cap with more ice
40ml Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin
20ml The Bitter Truth Elderflower Liqueur
15ml English honey syrup (1:1)
3 dashes The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
VISIONARY – Mother’s Fix
Garnish: Candied orange peel
Method: Tap off shrub from barrel over chipped ice. Add gin, bitters and soda. Stir.
30ml Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin
4 dashes The Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters
Dash of soda
Method: Combine ingredients with hickory smoke in barrel and leave for one week.
300ml tangerine juice
150ml lemon juice
25ml fresh ginger juice
100ml Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin
The Bitter Truth Range of Bitter and Liqueurs and Hayman’s Gins are distributed in the UK by Love Drinks.
Gabriel Boudier of Dijon won the coveted International Spirits Challenge Trophy “Supreme Champion Spirit” 2014 for the second year in succession.
Speaking at the awards ceremony in London this week M. Jean Battault the Président of Gabriel Boudier said: “It is a great honour to be elected as Supreme Champion Spirit for our Crème de Cassis de Dijon for the second year in a row. This distinction from the home country of such great spirits as Scotch whisky and gin means a lot for a family-owned French company established in Dijon, capital of Burgundy, since 1874.”
“This honour is the result of the passion and hard work of all the people involved with Boudier, including the staff of the company, our suppliers, importers, and our management team, the Battault family, who try to maintain the highest level of quality in all our products. There is no better way to thank them for their endeavours and support; and last but not the least the consumers who gave us their confidence by using our liqueurs in so many cocktails.”
On my travels I sometimes come across the more localised distilleries, exhibiting themselves to consumers through markets and festivals, and being incredibly hands on to really market their range. Once such name that I’ve seen a fair bit of is the English Spirit Distillery. Over the last few months, I’ve been winding my way through their range of whisky, vodka, liqueurs and gin, writing tasting notes down in between sips and experiences. Now, I believe it is time to share, so follow me on a journey to the English countryside . . . .
The English Spirit Distillery is located within the village of Dullingham, Cambridgeshire, close to Newmarket. Using copper pot stills, the team produce small batch, seasonal produce and cover a wide range of categories.
But what is their range? Well below, I give to you the tasting notes of my experiences so far –
English Spirit Vodka – 54%
A sugar beet concentrated mash, distilled in a single step in a 200 litre copper pot still.
Very smooth on the nose and carries onto the palate where a slight sweetness mixes with butter. Creates a lingering finish.
English Toffee Vodka– 26.5%
Fresh with aromas of light toffee and butter blending. Slightly sweet on the palate, with a light, buttery texture creating a short and slightly dry finish.
Dr J’s Gin– 45%
English Spirit Distillery is currently only one of three distilleries in the UK that make gin from scratch i.e. that make the vodka that is needed to begin the gin distillation. English Spirit is put within a 200 litre copper pot still. Juniper berries and five varieties of coriander and crushed macadamia nuts are thrown in and heated up. Over the course of this, fresh zests and other secret botanicals are inserted.
Very aromatic on the nose, with fresh coriander dominating. A slight spice on the palate, with a sweetness developing, alongside a warmth that offer a long, dry finish. A slight cocoa aroma to the end too.
Old Salt Rum – 42%
The only rum currently fermented and distilled in the UK, and named after the distillery venue.
Light caramel on the nose with hint of salt. Follows onto the palate, with a light caramel and vanilla mix which develops a warm, long, dry finish.
Spiced Old Salt Rum – 42%
Old Salt rum infused with raisins, vanilla pods and spices.
Very smooth with a dry spice on the nose. Spice mixes with toffee to offer a slightly dry finish.
Expedition 2 Malt Spirit – 42%
Using only English malted barley.
Light vanilla notes on the nose, with a spice offering coming through on the palate. Light on the finish, very smooth with a viscus honey texture.
Raspberry Liqueur– 25%
Light raspberry on the nose, with a rather bold finish. Very smooth on the palate, a velvet texture, but becoming a little dry and tart on the long finish.
English Sambuca – 42%
Re-distilled English Spirit with star anise and combine with English elderflower eau die vie and sugar from sugar beet to make the only English Sambuca.
Fresh, bold anise on the nose, but carries no harsh or bitterness on the palate. A sharp, aromatic anise hit arrives to create a long, mouthwatering finish.
Apple Brandy – 42%
Light with sweetness developing a bold finish on the nose. Very light on the palate to begin with, with a sharp, powerful hit following. Plenty of stewed apple flavours.
Not a bad range at all, and I can see why the stand always looks empty at the end of each festival! A lot of different and unique products to try, and expressions like the Old Salt rum, which just won the award for ‘Best Rum’ at the Hong Kong rum festival, are a rare treat. A couple for your drinks cabinet for sure.
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!