A classic brand that I’m sure everyone has come across at some point is Campari. But what makes this brand so well-known?
Campari was created in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. Bitter Uso Olanda, as Campari was initially called, was the result of Gaspare’s experiments concocting new beverages. The real change was having a bitter before lunch, not after. Campari soon became a popular liqueur and on January 7, 1880, the first Campari advertisement appeared in “Corriere della Sera”, Italy’s most important daily newspaper at that time. In 1904, Campari’s first production plant was opened in Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan, Italy and required bars that bought Campari to display the Campari Bitters sign. In the early nineties, Campari launched its first advertising project: a calendar featuring artwork by figurative artist Cesare Tallone. Known for his portraits, he painted a beautiful, alluring woman representing Campari for the calendar. To this day, Campari still produce their now iconic calendars. Advertising through media was also a forerunner, including Dudovich’s famous red poster portraying two lovers passionately kissing in a private room, as well as Leonetto Cappiello creating the famous Spiritello sprite wrapped in an orange peel, an image that people still remember. In the 1930’s, Campari Soda made its debut with a single-serve bottle designed by Depero, becoming the first pre-mixed drink sold worldwide.
So what is Campari?
Campari is the result of the infusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit in alcohol and water; these last two being the recipe’s only known ingredients. It was originally coloured with carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal insects, which gave the drink its distinctive red colour, however in 2006, Gruppo Campari ceased using carmine in its production.
So how does Campari fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Lots of light floral notes on the nose with hints of herbal aromas. A developing bitterness on the palate, but rather fresh with some fruit and herb flavours coming through. Creates a long lingering finish.
Not too bad on its own, but goes well with it’s classic signature serve of a Negroni, perfect for over 100 years –
30 ml Campari
30 ml Gin
30 ml Vermouth Cinzano Rosso
Build in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.
Campari Orange Passion
30 ml Campari
2 slices orange
1 teaspoon brown sugar
90 ml light orange juice
Prepare the drink in a tall glass. Place orange and brown sugar in the glass and crush to a pulp. Add crushed ice. Add the Campari and orange juice and gently stir. Garnish with a red cherry.
Bramley and Gage – a company that is making a bit of a scene in the bartender arena. Despite being around for over twenty years, bartenders are taking notice of their thirteen strong portfolio, using the brand within new cocktail creations and simple serves. But who are Bramley and Gage?
Back in the mid 1980’s, Edward Bramley Kain and Penelope Gage started experimenting in the kitchen of their South Devon farmhouse with strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant liqueurs. Using fruits from their fruit farm, the recipes they were creating followed the traditional French method of maceration. Going traditional became a success, and they started selling their products to local off-licences, delis and tourist attractions.
Ten years after starting up, Edward and Penelope sold the farm and moved to a more suitable premises with its own bottling line. Using locally sourced fruit, and all created by hand in small batches, the Bramley and Gage range falls under both fruit gins and liqueurs, with new lines being brought out as they experiment with the fruits of Gloucestershire by the team of Michael and Felicity (son and daughter of Edward and Penelope).
So how do they fare? Well I’ve been lucky enough to try some of their range, so below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Plum Liqueur– 18%
Soft plum notes on the nose but becomes rather sharp once onto the palate. Plenty of acidic notes are present on a fairly short finish.
Creme de Cassis– 18%
Intense blackcurrant aromas on the nose, with a slight sweetness. Soft on the palate with the hit of blackcurrant stepped down a notch. Rather sweet with a lingering finish of currant flavours.
Organic Sloe Gin– 26%
Bold notes of sloe berries on the nose, with a rather sharp yet sweet flavour emerging on the palate. Dark cherry flavours come through, with subtle dry hints of juniper.
Elderflower Liqueur – 18%
Very floral with lots of sweet elderflower aromas on the nose. A blend of citrus and elderflower on the palate creates a long yet slightly dry finish. Fresh.
All great on their own, but have you tried one of these –
50 ml Bramley and Gage Organic Sloe Gin
25 ml Fresh lemon juice
12.5 ml Bramley & Gage Blackberry Liqueur
Shake the Sloe Gin & lemon juice with ice and strain over fresh ice into an ice filled glass, top with soda and float the blackberry liqueur. Garnish with fresh blackberries and a lemon slice.
Bramley and Gage are also rather versatile –
Pheasant Breast with Sloe Gravy
2 pheasant breasts
Zest of an Orange
Strips of Pancetta or Streaky Bacon
Butter for frying
Chicken or Pheasant Stock
A little plain flour
Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas Mark 6. Take the skin off the breasts and remove any shot! Remove the false fillets and mince them with fresh parsley, orange zest, a few crushed juniper berries and seasoning. Flatten out the remaining breasts between two sheets of cling film
Place the minced meat onto the centre of the pheasant breasts and then roll them up in the pancetta or streaky bacon.
Pan fry in butter to get the bacon coloured and then place the pan the pre-heated oven 5 minutes.
Remove the breasts to a warmed plate to rest for 2 minutes then slice.
Meanwhile. make the gravy in the pan used to cook the breasts. On the hob, sprinkle a dusting of flour over the hot fat and meat residue and leave to brown then add stock and Sloe Gin and whisk until smooth.
Serve on buttered savoy cabbage or kale and dress with the rich gravy. Accompany with a few roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Fantastic and very British! And you’ll be drinking award-winning spirits too as Bramley and Gage have been given many awards from prestigious food and drink competitions, including Taste of the West, the Great Taste Awards, the Quality Drinks Awards, the International Wine and Spirits Competition. Worth a purchase for your cabinet. And while your at it, grab a hold of their 6 O’clock gin too!
The year 2006 saw a name come into the drinks industry that covered not only liqueurs, but also the lesser known bitters category – The Bitter Truth.
Bitters were essentially the ingredient that distinguished cocktails from other beverages and were an essential component of any good cocktail creation. Many classic cocktails use bitters and still stand the test of time today – Manhattan and Sazerac to name a few. Prohibition, as we all know, cut the drinking establishments down to size, but bitters held their ground due to their medicinal properties. Since then, and especially in the modern era, bitters have made a firm comeback and are regularly used within new creations.
Enough about bitters in general, how did The Bitter Truth come about? *
At a bar show in 2006, Munich bartenders Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck gave birth to the idea of producing and distributing cocktail bitters on a large-scale, as they were hard to find in Germany and of inferior quality. Both of them had already gained a considerable amount of experience in producing handmade cocktail bitters for the bars they were working at and in addition, Stephan owned a large collection of current and historical bitters, some of which hadn’t been produced for decades. Thus, he knew how the most well-known bitters of the world tasted and was considered a specialist in this area. They used the criteria of the choice of flavours mainly provided by old cocktail recipes that could no longer be mixed true to the original because one crucial ingredient had been missing i.e the correct bitters.
In August 2006, the first products from The Bitter Truth were released: an Orange Bitters and an Old Time Aromatic Bitters. Shortly after that, a Lemon Bitters was released. Since then, two additional flavours have been added to the range: the Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters, Creole Bitters and a Celery Bitters, which won the award as Best Spirit of the Year 2008 at the Mixology Bar Awards in Germany. In addition, The Bitter Truth has released a SloeBerry BlueGin‚ which is flavoured with fresh sloeberries, and a range of fine liqueurs: an Apricot Brandy, a Crème de Violette and a Pimento Dram. ELIXIER, a digestive liqueur in the grand tradition of the Alps. was added to range to make the bridge between the bitters and the liqueur range.
In 2016, to celebrate their 10th anniversary, The Bitter Truth released four expressions in their ‘Drops and Dashes’ range, showing off the all natural four parts of the tree of life; roots, wood, blossom and nut.
I’ve been lucky enough to sample some of their range, so below, I give to you my tasting notes –
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Nut– 42%
Soft green walnut on the nose, with subtle almond coming through. Rich tobacco leaf and walnut on the palate, with notes of coffee bean and dry oak.
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Blossom– 42%
Light, scented floral notes of blossom on the nose with hints of lemon rind. Intense lavender and rose, with flavours of earth and prune coming through on the finish.
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Root – 42%
Rich smoked notes of liquorice on the nose, with sweet, fresh flavours of root blended with the bitter quinine note to finish.
The Bitter Truth Drops and Dashes, Wood – 42%
Very light, thin notes of oak and cedar wood on the nose. Softer on the palate, with bold, sweeter notes of the root coming through for a long, smoked finish.
The Bitter Truth Elderflower Liqueur– 22%
Fresh elderflower on the nose with scents of honey coming through. Sweet elderflower flavours come through on the palate, with a soft, velvet texture that creates a hint of spice. Lingers for a short while.
The Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur – 24%
Very light and fresh on the nose with apricots dominating. Refreshing on the palate, with a light almond that lingers with a hint of sweetness. Creates a slightly dry end.
The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur– 22%
Very light with a slight violet aroma on the nose. Thin flavours of the violet carry onto the palate and produces a smooth offering with a slight sweetness.
The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram – 22%
Rich with a dry spice and a little sweetness coming through on the nose. Quite aromatic on the palate, with a dry yet sweet offering on a short finish.
The Bitter Truth Golden Falernum – 18%
Very rich and sweet on the nose with scents of fresh almond and ginger. Rich on the palate too, with plenty of sugar, vanilla and almond blending together. A subtle finish.
The Bitter Truth Elixier – 30%
Rich on the nose with a fresh bitterness of herbs. Sweet on the palate, a slight spice kicking in with caramel following. Plenty of herbal notes on a rich finish.
The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters – 39%
Rich with plenty of herbal notes on the nose, and a dry pepper finish. Spice flavours of cinnamon and cloves dominate the palate, with a short, dry finish.
The Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters – 43%
Plenty of citrus and rich green tea aromas on the nose, albeit it a dry experience. Very dry on the palate, with the citrus rather harsh, although the green tea combats to a bitter finish.
The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters – 39%
Fresh lemon on the nose with a slight sweetness coming through. Rich, dry lemon flavours on the palate, with a bitter and short finish.
The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters– 44%
Fresh grapefruit on the nose, with a rich, bitter finish. A bitter development on the palate, although fresh and produces a long finish.
The Bitter Truth Original Celery Bitters – 44%
Rich, slight spice and a dry aroma on the nose. Soft and subtle once upon the palate, with a slight fresh spice on the finish.
The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters – 39%
A rich hit of fruit on the nose with a bold, fresh aromatic scent. Dry on the palate, with fennel and anise dominating a bold finish.
The Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters – 44%
Rich with a very dry cocoa aroma on the nose. Sweeter on the palate, with a roasted cocoa flavour which produces a long yet slightly dry ending.
The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Bitters – 30%
Fresh on the nose with a slight herbal and citrus blend. Fresh spice and bark on the palate, producing a short yet dry finish.
The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters– 39%
Ripe orange rind on the nose with hints of orange flesh making an appearance. Sharp beginning on the palate but mellows very quickly with orange dominating. Slight spice develops soon after on a short offering.
The Bitter Truth Peach Bitters– 39%
Bold peach notes at the beginning, with hints of freshness following. Ripe peach on the palate with a spice following that produces a mouth-watering finish.
The Bitter Truth Rose Water – 0%
Very fresh on the nose with plenty of aromatic rose aromas, albeit a little dry. Very light on the palate, producing a long, fresh finish of rose.
The Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water – 0%
Very aromatic on the nose with plenty of fresh orange scented flowers. A lingering soft orange flavour on the palate produces a slightly bitter finish.
As you can imagine, many a cocktail has been created using The Bitter Truth range –
50 ml Bourbon Whiskey
20 ml Sweet Vermouth
20 ml Brut Champagne
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
Stir and serve straight up, add Champagne on top and garnish with a cherry.
It’s always worth having a bottle or two of the bitters in your own drinks cabinet, and you’ll find many uses for the liqueurs too. If you see them in your local bar, challenge your bartender to see if they can come up with something creative! Especially as the range is still winning awards. At the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2010 The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters was crowned with a “Gold Medal” and voted “Best in Class”. In addition to that The Bitter Truth`s Original Celery Bitters and Creole Bitters won a “Silver Medal”. At Tales of the Cocktail New Orleans 2010 The Bitter Truths Celery Bitters took away the top price for “Best New Product”.
*History and awards taken straight from The Bitter Truth website. Subtle changes made for narrative purposes.
There’s a new range of liqueurs that have hit the UK shores in the past year in the form of traditional Italian family recipes. Covering your familiar styles including limoncello and maraschino, Sette Vie also has Amaro (a herbal digestif) and Ratafia (fruit liqueur) as well as a range of Sambuca’s.
The history of the family owned distillery dates back to the 1880’s, and is located the heart of Abruzzo, Italy.
So below, I give to you my tasting notes on each of their range –
Sette Vie Ratafia– 20%
Hand crafted with Montepulciano d’Abbruzo wine that has been aged three years in oak barrels. The wine is a mix of 90% of Montepulciano
grapes and 10% of Sangiovese. Sweet almonds and a mix of berries and nutmegs are infused in molasses alcohol and blended with the wine. Soft aromas of red berries and almond on the nose. Ripe nut and sugar blend well on the palate to create small bursts of flavour. Short but moorish.
Sette Vie Amaretto – 28%
Created from a balanced blend of sweet and sour almonds. Created in 1880 by the current master distiller’s grandfather and started selling Amaretto locally under its own label in the late nineteen century. Bold almond aromas on the nose with a burnt sugar scent following. Developing flavours of almond, vanilla and fudge with a whisp of smoke on the palate. Lingers.
Sette Vie Amaro– 32%
Made from an ancient recipe, using a variety of twelve alpine and apennine herbs infused in molasses alcohol, and flavoured with a mix of fruits and vegetables, including rhubarb, artichoke, and extract of cinchona, or china bark, that is ecologically sourced from tropical South America. Instant hit of rhubarb and dry fruits on the nose, followed by a sweet beginning on the palate. Develops into a dry herbal offering with notes of wood and fresh vegetables. Long and dry finish.
Sette Vie Limoncello– 32%
Obtained using a unique infusion technique of lemon peels that delivers the best citrus taste. Incredibly fresh yet soft lemon on the nose, with a velvet texture created on the palate. Slight citrus rind flavours mix with subtle sweetness that lingers. A little dry.
Sette Vie Maraschino – 28%
A bittersweet clear Italian liqueur flavoured with Marasca cherries and locally picked Abruzzo cherries that have been macerated in alcohol. The crushed cherry pits go through a triple-maceration process to extract the best natural components that cannot be obtained by pressing the fruits. Fresh, ripe cherry on the nose with a soft sweetness surrounding. Very soft on the palate with delicate flavours of the cherry and subtle sweetness combining to create a slightly warm, lingering finish.
Sette Vie Sambuca Classica– 36%
The award-winning Sambuca is made of a precise blend of hand-picked anise from Italy infused with elderberries and licorice along with other herbs from the Abruzzo region. It also contains extracts of essential oils obtained from star anise. Fresh star anise on the nose with a light flavour coming through on the palate. Creates a slow warmth with a slight spice finish that lingers.
Sette Vie Sambuca Nera – 36%
The award-winning Sambuca Nera, also known as Sette Vie Sambuca Expresso, is made of a blend of hand-picked anise from Italy and a blend of red organic coffee beans hand-picked in Colombia and Bolivia. It also contains extracts of essential oils obtained from star anise and is infused with elderberries and licorice with other herbs from the Abruzzo region. Fresh, deep coffee nose with aromas of star anise coming through. Slow start on the palate but coffee flavours burst out to create a very spicy offering and long finish.
A fantastic range of liqueurs, with the amaretto, maraschino and limoncello highlights for me. I think you’ll start seeing the range in many bars over the coming months as they can all be drunk straight or be used within a cocktail –
La Vita Bella
35 ml Sette Vie Amaretto
15 ml Sette Vie Ratafia
2 Dash Cherry Bitters
Dry shake (no ice), all the ingredients together and pour over a glass filled rocks glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Liqueurs can sometimes be overlooked, especially the standard flavours like strawberry, orange or raspberry. But every bar has them to add flavour and colour to a drink, or even used within food and desserts. They’re versatile and have been part of the drinks trade for many a year. With this, it makes sense to showcase a name that has not only been around for years, but for over 100.
Joseph Cartron dates back to the year 1882. A French family business with ties to the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges at the heart of Burgundy’s cru vineyards. With fantastic growing conditions, the various fruit ingredients combine with specially created recipes. Using maceration and infusion techniques that have been developed over many years, so much so in fact that individual production methods exist to make the most of every type of fruit and berry.
Joseph Cartron’s portfolio covers liqueurs, crèmes, ratafia, marc and eaux-de-vie. With many to come across, I’ve started with one flavour that is guaranteed to be on every bar. Hopefully over time i will be able to offer the full range, but for now, I give to you my tasting notes so far –
Joseph Cartron Curaçao Orange – 35%
Made from the essential oils of sweet oranges (Para variety from Brazil and Florida). Fresh, intense orange on the nose, leading to a smooth offering on the palate with a well-balanced sweet orange flavour. A slightly bitter end that lingers for a while.
Fantastic over ice, and great with one of these too –
30 ml of Tequila 100% Agave (recommend Calle 23 or Cabrito tequilas)
20 ml of Joseph Cartron Triple Sec
15 ml of Cartron n°7
20 ml of fresh Orange juice
20 ml of fresh Lemon juice
A dash of salt
Shake, filter and pour in a rocks glass full of ice.
A versatile liquid, and one that you could find many uses for it you ever wanted to play around with it.
Slovenia. Not a country that most people talk about in daily conversations, but with the beauty of the drinks industry, it’s a country that wouldn’t surprise you if a spirit was to be labelled with this Eastern European name. Kejzar is the latest brand to come out of the blocks running with its unique take on fruit liqueurs from a country that is well supplied with forests and fresh harvests.
This small family run business produce their liqueurs at home with bio grown fruit and without any artificial additives. I’ve been lucky enough to come across their blueberry liqueur and honey brandy, but what makes these variants different from your usual fruit liqueurs?
The blueberry liqueur is made naturally from fruit including a base of apples, pears and plums. Later in the process, fresh woodland grown blueberries are mixed with sugar to create the right taste, colour and sweetness. A cup (100ml) of fresh blueberries is added into each bottle. The packaging itself is very unique; the bottle is specifically made at Steklarna (glassworks) Hrastnik in Slovenia and is patented to the Kejzar brand. The bottles are then corked and waxed to give them an additional homemade feel. Their honey brandy is marketed as a perfect winter warmer and suggested to be added to your tea or coffee, or drunk as a sweet after dinner drink served at room temperature. The brandy base is the same as the blueberry liqueur, apples, pears and plums, however there is no sugar added this time. 100ml of natural honey is added to each bottle to create the desired warm taste. The bottle again is specifically made at Steklarna Hrastnik in Slovenia.
So with the knowledge of home-grown fruit flavours, how do they stand? Well below I give to you my tasting notes on each –
Kejzar Blueberry Liqueur – 26%
Very fresh on the nose but with a bold aroma of blueberry instantly hitting. Sweetness is immediate on the palate with again an instant hit of blueberry, although not overpowering as it mellows quickly. A rather long flavour with memories of cheesecake as it begins to dry a little at the end.
Kejzar Honey Brandy – 24%
Very strong and a good kick on the nostrils with a rich hit of brandy more than honey. However rather smooth on the palate and with a short profile. Not as bold as you would expect after the aromas but does warm as it nears the end.
The Kejzar brands are rather versatile when it comes to mixing with other ingredients, showcased here with recipes using blueberry liqueur –
25ml Blueberry Liqueur
1 Whole Lemon
2 or 3 strawberries
Muddle the lemon and strawberries, add the gin and Blueberry Liqueur and loads of ice. Shake until ice-cold and strain over ice into a tumbler glass. Top up with soda.
A new addition to the ever-growing gin category has got a local feel to it, with Chester being the origins to My Gineration and there selection of fruit liqueurs.
The My Gineration liqueurs are made entirely by hand in the village of Mollington, located just outside Chester, and are made using simple and pure ingredients – fruit, sugar, alcohol and most importantly time.
Creator Rosie Sedgwick has been making sloe gin for her family for many years (using a recipe given to her by a neighbour soon after she moved to Mollington) when a lack of sloes one year prompted her to experiment with other fruits. Later she gave a bottle as a thank you to a local businessman who had supported a village fundraising event, little knowing he was Peter Papprill the famous “Cheese Detective” of Pendrill 1651 Ltd. After encouraging words from Peter, Rosie decided to start selling her range, and still produces to this day.
With the use of large amounts of local fruits wherever possible (the sloes, damsons, elderberries and crabapples come from the hedgerows of Mollington), it creates an intensity of flavour which can be sipped neat or added to Champagne or Cava, or even poured over ice cream.
In 2009, the awards started to roll in, with Fine Foods Northwest acknowledging Silky Raspberry Liqueur, and in 2010 they handed one out to Gooseberry Liqueur. A collaboration with the Chester Whisky & Liqueur Company has created Orange Liqueur, with a Peach Liqueur for the Piste Restaurant in Tarporley.
As for myself, I’ve been lucky enough to try four from the range, so below, I give to you all my tasting notes.
My Gineration Damson Gin Liqueur– 17%
A slow release of subtle damson aromas on the nose, with a sharp kick of damson on the tongue resulting in a slight sourness. A freshness develops into a mouth-watering reaction, but a rather short finish.
My Gineration Silky Raspberry Liqueur– 17%
Fresh raspberries on the nose, with lots of deep, bold, ripe flavours mixing well. A rather subtle taste of raspberry on the palate, and not as bold as the nose originally suggested.
My Gineration Sloe Gin Liqueur – 17.2%
Very light and fresh on the nose that leads to a bold offering of sloe berries on the palate with a hint of sweetness that creates a long lingering finish.
My Gineration Gooseberry Liqueur– 16.9%
Lots of fresh, ripe gooseberries on the nose that creates a rather potent aroma. A very strong finish on the palate with a good hit of gooseberry and lots of sweetness. A little dry near the end.
So four very good choices, with my personal favourite being the sloe gin liqueur. However i can see the Damson working rather well in a Kir Royale and the Raspberry being used to create a Berry Variation–
With plenty of other flavours available, including cranberry, blueberry, passionfruit and elderberry, as well as some quirky fruits like prune, crabapple and even a Christmas pudding flavour, and an upcoming Tayberry liqueur, their seems to be plenty to experiment with.
Rosie even has the Wedding market tapped, with exclusive offers to have the My Gineration flavours as part of your wedding day festivities!
Click here to be directed to the My Gineration website.
Day 3 is here! With vodka and gin based cocktails starting us off, it’s the turn of the liqueurs and Amarula.
Day 3 – Amarula Dusky Decadence – Amarula
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
Shake all ingredients and pour over ice cubes into a highball and add crushed ice as a top layer.
Garnish with chocolate shavings and fresh ginger.
Each day for the next 22 days their will be a different christmas cocktail added to the site, so sign yourself up to be the first to find out! Make sure you follow me on Twitter (and the hash tag #24daysofchristmascocktails) or Facebook for instant updates.
For the Amarula site, click here to be directed to the links page