Tio Pepe Challenge 2018: Best Year Ever

Tio Pepe

The annual cocktail competition, the “Tío Pepe Challenge” organised by leading Spanish producer González Byass, is celebrating its best edition to date with international reach growing by 40% in terms of entries and global coverage.

The 2018 Tío Pepe Challenge has expanded once again this year with master classes and
regional heats being held in 14 countries across the globe, 6 more than last year.

Regional heats are currently being held in a number of core markets globally including, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia, China, UK, USA, Germany, Spain, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Italy. The talented mixologists that win these regional heats will go forward to compete against their national rivals with the aim of gaining a coveted place at the Grand Final to be held in Jerez during the world famous Feria de Jerez at the beginning of May 2018.

Up to 12 different master classes have been organised in focus markets such as the USA and China since the end of last year, demonstrating the popularity of this initiative and the growing impetus behind the Sherry Revolution, pioneered by González Byass, one of the world’s leading sherry producers.

The competition allows aspiring Sherry experts to test their knowledge about this wonderful fortified wine. The master classes and regional heats events are open to all talented mixologists and are designed inform, educate and instruct on crucial aspects of Sherry including the use of a venencia (the tool traditionally used to extract Sherry from the barrel), recognition of the diverse styles of Sherry wine and how to incorporate them into the mixing of a fine cocktail.

Once the first stage has been completed via an on-line theory quiz, entrants can submit their cocktail ideas for inclusion in the national finals.

The top ten barmen who have created the best cocktail recipes from each country, will then compete to win a place at the grand final in Jerez, Spain where the finalists will battle it out live in front of a panel of renowned, international experts and be tested on their knowledge of Sherry, the use of a venencia and, of course, their ability to make delicious and innovative Sherry cocktails.

The Tío Pepe Challenge is an unprecedented opportunity for bartenders to find out about the variety and scope that Sherry has to offer. Learning from experts, participants will get to showcase their creativity and talent when it comes to mixing cocktails with Sherry. Potential entrants can find out more about the master classes and the competition at


El Gato Negro




Manchester has a new venue to impress its ever expanding customer base, and a dose of Yorkshire is hitting the pitch.

Reolcating from Ripponden, West Yorkshire after 9 years to the heart of King Street, Manchester, the award-winning El Gato Negro shows off three floors of Spanish delights in the form of two bars and an open kitchen restaurant.

Pineapple & Sage Sour

Upon arrival, expect to be greeted by friendly faces as they welcome you to the bar for a quick drink before the feast. With a drinks list devised by Garry Foy, he’s embraced the Spanish flavours with a delight of tonics, serves and creations, including the Pineapple & Sage Sour (£9) which sees Pisco, Dark Rum, pineapple, sage and sherry vinegar that comes together for a sharp hit on the sherry, before balancing out to the pineapple and Pisco flavours. Catching your eye as you take in the menu include the likes of their House Tonics (all £8.50), seeing Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum & Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup & Soda, orange bitters, lime, apple slices and cinnamon sugar being brought to the table, or perhaps Bloom Gin and Thomas Harvey Tonic, mint, lime, vanilla sugar and strawberry for a fresher start to your visit. It’s not all about tonics though as the Agua De Valencia (£8.50)
is Spain within a glass as it combines the elements of gin, the Spanish Solerno blood orange liqueur, orange juice, lemon and Cava.

tumblr_o37wq5z6vS1ttt0l6o2_1280Once finishing your welcome, expect to be whisked upstairs to the 1st floor, where the sight of a long, thin room invites you to sit on the quaint tables and booths, or if you’re lucky, the Chef’s Table in view of the busy open kitchen. With a food menu ladened with delights, the team recommend 5-6 dishes between two people to really experience the flavour of El Gato Negro. Indeed, the likes of Pork chicharrón with crackling, apple purée, olive oil and toasted sourdough (£6), or the Fillet of line-caught hake, parsley sauce and buttered new potatoes (£11), which incidentally offers some of the finest cooked fish in Manchester, are highlights to rival the stunning Confit of belly pork with rosemary-flavoured arrocina beans (£9.50). Keeping the sherry element going, try the Sourdough bread with olive oil and Pedro Ximénez balsamic (£2.50), or perhaps the classic meatballs with tomato fritarda sauce (£7.50) that’s fresh with a light, creamy sauce, perfect to accompany a bottle of Celler del Roure Setze Gallets 2012, Valencia (£29), picked by Master of Wine Miles Corish.

The surrounds of exposed brick, soft lighting, toned red booths and authentic Spanish artwork are a perfect transport to bringing Spain to Manchester, but The Black Cat could top off your El Gato Negro experience. Especially if the weather is kind. Just head to the 2nd floor to finish.

The Chef’s Table

The Vísperas (£10) offers you a combination of Belvedere, Sipsmith gin, dry vermouth, olive brine, Lagavulin spray and Balsamic Caviar as you sit in the lounge area, adorned with table service from the knowledgeable barkeepers. Perhaps the Boulevardier (£10) which offers to you Eagle Rare Bourbon, Antica and Campari, could be a winner, especially when served within a glass pipe. And if it’s sunny in Manchester? Expect the magic of El Gato Negro as the roof of The Black Cat will retract and offer you the rays that adorns King Street every once-in-a-while.

Spain, as expected, is well served across all three floors, with Moritz, Estrella Damm and El Gaitero cider available to enjoy, plus the best Sherry menu Manchester has to offer, mixing the well-known Emilio Lustau range with examples of Rodriguez La-Cave Manzanilla ‘Barbiana’ and Alvear Pedro Ximenez de Anada 2013, Montilla Moriles.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is, if you love Spain, appreciate its culture, its food and its drinks, El Gato Negro is the place to top the list. The hype is heard and rewarded, the service is as expected for an award-winning venue, the drinks fit the style of both the decor and reasoning behind El Gato Negro, essentially offering you a Manchester gem, and the food is beyond exceptional.

Ladies and Gentleman. I give to you El Gato Negro. I’d book a table if I were you.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Emporia Brands Release Their Festive Cocktail Recipes

PX Reserve

Here at Emporia Brands HQ, we asked a number of our award-winning brands to send us across their festive recipes, perfect to impress your friends and family with.

Ron Prohibido – ‘the forbidden rum’ – is a unique premium Latino rum from Mexico. Made in a traditional 12 year solera with a unique combination of column still rums, Ron Prohibido was, in the 17th century, shipped in used sweet wine barrels to Spain where the distinctive sweet and bitter taste it acquired during the voyage was much appreciated…so much so that local producers in Spain persuaded King Felipe V to ban it – hence “prohibido”, the forbidden rum. Now, over 300 years later, this delicious rum is available in the UK for the first time.

Try their simple ‘Prohibido’:

Glass: Mug


60 ml Ron Prohibido
2 tsp caster sugar
½ cup hot fresh coffee
1 cinnamon stick
Orange zest


Stir the coffee and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Stir in Ron Prohibido and add the cinnamon and the strip of orange zest. Garnish with whipped cream, grated chocolate and grated orange zest.



Osborne is one of the oldest and most prestigious wine and spirit producers in Spain. Founded in 1772 by Thomas Osborne Mann to supply sherry to the UK, it remains 100% family owned, and is now run by the seventh generation.

The brightest vinous jewels in Osborne’s considerable crown are the very old rare sherries (vors). these are exceptional sherries from very special soleras, all of which were established nearly two centuries ago, and the solera for Sibarita is in fact the oldest in Jerez, dating back well over 200 years to 1792. These precious sherries have found worldwide acclaim, and are found on the lists of top restaurants around the world.

Try out their ‘PX Reserve’ recipe:

Glass: Coupette


40 ml Chairman’s Reserve
10 ml Osborne PX
2 dash Angostura


Stir all the ingredients within a mixing glass over ice, then strain into a coupette.


Founded in 1874, Gabriel Boudier is a family owned company famous around the world for its fruit liqueurs which are used by Michelin star chefs and in top cocktail bars in over 140 countries. Gabriel Boudier uses only the finest quality fresh fruit in its liqueurs with no artificial colourings, flavours or additives. In a unique process, the fruit is frozen immediately it is picked and then macerated six times a year to ensure the optimum freshness without oxidation.

Try their ‘Fruits of Dijon’ recipe:

Glass: Rocks


30 ml Gabriel Boudier Ginger
50 ml Distil No.9 vodka
50 ml Cranberry juice
1 dash Angostura


Shake all the ingredients within an ice filled shaker and strain over a ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with cherry stick.

Ron Prohibido, Gabriel Boudier and Osborne PX are all available from all leading retailers including Whisky Exchange, Latitude, Gerry’s, Corks Out and Wine Rack.

For more information on all these brands and Emporia Brands, please visit http://www.emporiabrands.com

Follow Emporia Brands on Twitter @EmporiaBrandsUK or Facebook at www.facebook.com/EmporiaBrands

Follow Ron Prohibido on Twitter @RonProhibido or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RonProhibidoUK

Follow Gabriel Boudier on Twiiter @Gabriel_Boudier or Facebook at www.facebook.com/GabrielBoudierUK


Carlos I Release Their Festive Cocktail Creation

Carlos Alexander

Osborne is one of the oldest and most prestigious wine and spirit producers in Spain. Founded in 1772 by Thomas Osborne Mann to supply sherry to the UK, it remains 100% family owned, and is now run by the seventh generation.

In the mid-20th century, they also became a leading brandy producer and, with the acquisition of Domecq, they gained another international leader, this time for Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez. This D.O. brandy was the first brandy produced in the great sherry region and is recognised as one of the great brandies of the world. Aged in a solera which began in 1889, Carlos I brandy has an average age of 12 years.

Try our simple Carlos Alexander:

Glass: Coupette


60 ml Carlos I
15 ml Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cacao Brown
15 ml Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cacao White
15 ml Single cream


Shake all the ingredients and strain into a coupette.

Cellar Trends Strengthens Portfolio


A leading independent wine and spirits distributor, Cellar Trends, is kicking off 2015 with the addition of two premium spirit brands and a leading wine brand to their already quality portfolio. From the 1st February, Cellar Trends will take over all sales, distribution and marketing for Soberano and Lepanto Spanish brandies, and Mar De Frades Albarino Wine from the 1st March.

All three of the products have such a rich Spanish history behind them, dating back to the 16th Century. Soberano and Lepanto Spanish brandies were launched over 100 years ago by well-known bodega, Gonzalez Byass and Mar De Frades is the leading Albarino wine brand in Spain, priding itself on its deeply-rooted traditions.

Sales and Marketing Director at Cellar Trends, Terry Barker, says “2015 is set to be an exciting year for us. As a company we are embarking on an exciting new chapter and the addition of these brands is a brilliant opportunity for us. We’re proud to be the UK’s leading independent wine and spirits distributor, and are relishing the chance to build these brands in the UK. Their provenance and quality fit perfectly with our ethos and track record of building and developing premium brands.”

2015 is expected to be a successful year for Cellar Trends, so keep your eyes peeled for more announcements.

Three-Day Ron Montero Festival Launches On Tropical Coast Of Granada, Spain



Ron Montero Festival
6th, 7th & 8th June
Motril, Granada


The inaugural Ron Montero Festival launches this summer taking over the picturesque city of Motril, Spain. Spearheaded by the areas biggest rum providers, Ron Montero, the boldest festival of its kind will capture all elements of rum culture and region’s vast history. The three-day programme includes art, music and literature brought to life via live performances, food and drink that will tantalise revellers’ senses with an interactive tour of bars, restaurants and clubs. Finally the long and vibrant history of the region will be relived with educational tours of the city and Spanish countryside. Ron Montero Festival takes place over the 6th, 7th and 8th June. For more information and the full programme of events please head to  the Ron Montero website. Tickets are  now available here

Launched by Ron Montero, Europe’s last remaining rum distillery and taking place in the Andalusian city of Motril, Ron Montero Festival is the ultimate experience for rum lovers.

Ron Montero has carefully curated a series of interactive Food and Cocktail Trails for festival-goers to explore the local cuisine. Using the official app, rum lovers will be able to win points on a virtual passport as they embark on Tapas, Night or Sweet routes through the city and stop off at local foodie hotspots as well as amateur mixology workshops. The more points amassed the more chance of winning prizes.

Celebrating every aspect of the spirit, the Ron Montero festival will provide revellers with performances by The Monderos who tell tales of the rum harvests, live music around the city, an exhibition of giant 50th anniversary Ron Montero bottles, painting contests and cinema screenings as well as rum-inspired poetry and literature.

The sub-tropical climate has for centuries provided the perfect conditions for growing sugar cane and the festival will offer guests a voyage of discovery as Motril opens the doors to its rich rum lineage. Afiacionados will see the rum-making process first hand and even taste the sugarcane as they are taken on guided tours that roam through the Pre-Industrial Sugar Cane Museum, La Zafra sugarcane farm, Motril History Museum, the Interpretation Centre of Sugar Cane and of course the famous Ron Montero Distillery. 

The Ron Montero Festival was launched by Ron Montero, a legendary authority on premium rum who last year celebrated their 50th anniversary and entered the UK market through Amathus Drinks. The distillery was founded in 1963 by Francisco Montero and as the only European rum distillery open to the public, Ron Montero is dedicated to educating and celebrating the rich rum heritage of the Tropical Coast of Granada and supporting tourism in the region. 

Tickets start at 10 and are available at www.ticketea.com/festivalronmonterodemotril.

The menus from the Food and Cocktail Trail are €25 and the Tapas are €9. A variety of accommodation is available throughout the city for various budgets. A standard room at the Hotel Salobreña for example is €48 per night. 

Laimon Fresh Tasting Notes

Laimon Fresh

Mixers seem to be the new trend at the end of 2013, and with the new year looking promising, I think it will only get bigger. With names such as Fentimans, Jax Coco and ZEO already featured, and brands such as Glo Worm looking at making a splash in 2014, it’s the turn of the sub-category that is in-between a soft drink and a ready-to-drink that I’ll be focusing on here.

Laimon Fresh is a new sparkling juice drink containing 100% natural ingredients of lemon, lime and mint, launched in the spring of 2013. Yes, you’ve probably guessed it, the near components of the classic mojito, which is exactly what the makers have gone for. Designed to be a life saver when friends ‘pop in’ or you’re found hosting last-minute entertainment, the idea is that you add a splash of white rum and some ice and voilà!

Question is, does it work? There’s plenty of brands like this out in the market, but would this stand out? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Laimon Fresh – 0%

A fresh combination of the mint, lemon and lime on the nose, with the mint dominating slightly more. Low carbonation on the palate, with all three flavours coming through in waves. Light, refreshing and a little kick on the back.
Try it with Bacardi Superior. The rum comes through, although doesn’t mask the lemon, mint and lime flavours. Well-balanced yet short.

Not bad, not bad at all. A definite summer thirst, and although it won’t break any barriers, it does the job, which to be fair, makes it a winner. I know some bartenders will not take my word for it, but there are a few that are willing to give Laimon Fresh a go, even combining with a variety of different spirits for a quick fix.

Laimon Fresh has been doing the rounds in London, Plymouth, Barcelona and Madrid, catching the eyes of many retailers and consumers alike. You may have even seen it on TV! I can see Laimon Fresh being the underdog in 2014, now the word is out and it does well to cater for both the soft drinkers and spirit lovers of the world.

Give it a go.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hoxton Gin Secures Spanish Trade

hoxton gin

After an exciting 18 months of seeding the tough Spanish market, Hoxton Gin are excited to announce they have successfully secured their first listings with Spain’s leading department store. In January 2013 the unique Gin was stocked in 77 chains of the Spanish Corporation El Corte Ingles where it can be found on shelves in Corte Ingles Supermarket, Hipercor and Super Cor.

Hoxton Gin is a coconut & grapefruit infused blend of Gin which has an ABV of 43% and is designed as a hugely versatile drink in many ways. It is available in a 70cl bottle format, and each bottle will be sold at recommended retail price of €32 on the Spanish market.

As well as El Corte Ingles, Hoxton Gin will also be stocked in nearly 60 “Gros Mercat” Cash & Carry stores as well as 25 of the largest Carrefour Supermarkets in Spain, Carrefour Planet – the 2nd biggest Supermarket chain the world and 3rd most profitable after Walmart and Tesco.

Larios 12 Tasting Notes

Larios 12 banner

Spain is a country that thrives in the Gin & Tonic world. If you go on holiday to the country, sit yourself at a bar and order a refreshing drink, expect to have it served within a huge balloon glass, or what effectively looks like a fish bowl. Nothing wrong with this by the way, lots of gin, lots of tonic and lots of ice – what more can you ask for! Well your brand of gin for one thing. Being in Spain you try to go on an adventure when it comes to trying the local cuisine, but what stops us from trying the local tipple too? Say for example gin, or more specifically Larios 12.

Larios 12 arises from a combination of 12 exotic plant species drawn directly from nature, in five distillations. Juniper, lime, lemon, coriander, orange, grapefruit, mandarin, clementine, tangerine, nutmeg and angelica root are blended together in four distillations, before a fifth which gently infuses the orange blossom.

This stands out as one of the more intriguing gins out there, so how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Larios 12 – 40%

Very soft on the nose with small hints of orange and citrus coming through. Slight sharpness on the palate but instantly mellows. Warmth on the throat that develops into a citrus and spice mix that’s surprisingly smooth. Very long offering.

Not a bad sipper at all, and it makes sense when Larios themselves suggest to enjoy Larios 12 over ice, a slice of lime, a swirl of orange peel and finishing with your favourite mixer. It doesn’t stop us from trying a cocktail though –

Larios 12Elderflower Collins

Glass –


Ingredients –

45 ml Larios 12
15 ml Elderflower Cordial
30 ml Lemon Juice
60 ml Soda

Method – 

Mix the gin, lemon juice and elderflower in a tall glass with ice, top up with soda water, garnish with a lemon slice and maraschino cherry and serve.

One of the classic cocktails, with a gin that surprises many. Which means only one thing, treat yourself, grab some friends, find some sun and ENJOY!

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rubis Chocolate Wine Tasting Notes


Everyone loves something a little different every now and then, and a brand that is causing a stir in the last year of so is the Spanish Rubis Chocolate Wine. I myself have heard this brand through the grapevine via Corks Out and have been desperate to see what all the fuss was about, so I promptly purchased a bottle to share with you all.

But what is it? Is it really chocolate?

Rubis defines itself as a ‘blend of fortified Tempranillo wine and premium chocolate flavour’. The Tempranillo grape, which is more commonly seen in Spanish Rioja, infuses with chocolate essence to offer an abundant of possibilities, and a surprise to the finished palate.

Rubis – 15%

A deep, dark hit of chocolate on the nose that develops into a soft velvet aroma with hints of raspberry. Soft presence on the palate with a lively beginning that soon smooths out. Light flavour of chocolate that creates a long finish with cherry flavours drying the end a little.

A rather indulgent offering here, and one that works very well being splashed over a few cubes of ice. I can see this working over chocolate based deserts as well, such is the diversity of the product. I’m yet to see this in cocktails, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it popped up soon.

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.