The Manchester scene has yet again been given something to look forward to. Favourites The Liquorists, aka Tom Sneesby and Jody Monteith, have taken advantage of an opportunity that came their way to showcase to you all a journey. Vodka giants Belvedere have joined forces with the duo and taken over a plot within the stunning Barton Arcade on Deansgate for the next two months. Here, they will bring you into the world of Albert Henry Belvedere,a fictional Foreign Correspondent working for the Manchester Guardian who is venturing on a trip from Manchester to Kowloon Bay in Hong Kong and back again to cover the arrival of the first British Planes to reach the Dominion in 1928.
With this, the aptly named Kowloon Correspondents Club will take you through the likes of New York, San Francisco, Hawaii, Tahiti, Rangoon, Mombassa and Cape Town, as well as Henry’s favourite haunts in Kowloon Bay. The Liquorists have devised a menu that covers your journey with the likes of the classic Martini’s to creations such as Mr Stephenson’s Rocket which has Belvedere Citrus and Black Raspberry, elderflower, homemade rhubarb syrup, lemon and spritz. From a Manchester cocktail to a Rangoon delight where you can enjoy a Rifle of the Raj with Belvedere Lemon Tea, lemon verbena cordial, gunpowder tea syrup and Fever Tree ginger ale.
There will be 14 drinks to cover your trip with Henry, with a pit-stop along the way as The Liquorists will be hosting free masterclasses every Thursday, Friday (6 and 8pm) and Saturday at 2, 4 and 6pm). These will cover the history of Belvedere itself and of course how it is created to be one of the top premium vodkas in existence. You’ll also be enjoying two Belvedere cocktails and of course the spirit itself in all its glory. You may also be able to sample (well if you ask Mr Sneesby nicely) the very exclusive Belvedere Lemon Tea, an expression you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the UK.
If free masterclasses weren’t enough, the team are bringing back the Cocktail Hour where on their opening days they will be offering half price cocktails on all their available drinks between 5 and 7pm! That’s a whole load of brand new cocktails to try or a fraction of the price!
If you’re even luckier, you may be able to quiz the likes of Nate Booker, a gentleman who has only just returned back from spending the last part of his life in the sunny climates of Australia, representing Belvedere to the masses. He was present at the launch this last Thursday and was the perfect host to the masterclass.
Once again, The Liquorists have pulled out all the stops. I’ll see you all at the bar!
Check out the rest of the photos of the Kowloon Correspondents Club via my Facebook page.
Bénédictine Liqueur has crowned Tom Higham and Amir Javaid as joint winners of the Northern heat of its 2013 Cocktail Challenge in the closest heat of the competition so far.
Tom, from The Liquorists, and Amir, from Room Manchester, both fought off stiff competition from the other skilled entrants in the third heat of the challenge at Epernay Bar in Manchester and took part in a dramatic final shake off as they were awarded joint highest scores by the judges (including my good self).
With the shake off still not able to separate the two contestants, it was decided that both Tom and Amir were equally deserved winners of the once in a lifetime paid trip to France in October, which includes a visit to the liqueur’s birthplace in Fécamp, Normandy and a Cocktail Safari in Paris, all courtesy of Bénédictine.
All the aspiring mixologists were required to create a new cocktail containing a minimum of 35ml Bénédictine, which was then marked on taste, aroma and presentation. The entrants themselves were also judged on their knowledge of the Bénédictine brand, plus the creativity and presentation of their cocktail.
Amir impressed the judges with his chocolate-inspired “The Grand Belle Epoc”, which was created using a mix of Bénédictine, Dark Chocolate Tea, Kings Ginger, Peychaud Bitters, topped with a lemon and mint garnish, and presented with stem ginger coated in dark chocolate accompaniments.
Speaking about the competition, Amir said, “I love using Bénédictine in my cocktails and was interested to see how others use it as an ingredient too. I wanted to be as creative as possible and really challenged myself, so to be named the joint-winner is a great achievement.”
Tom took a different, but equally delicious, steer on his drink of choice, “Eternian Flip”, which was also a big hit with the judging panel. Made using a most enjoyable mix of Bénédictine, Angostura Bitters, Guinness, Coca Lopez and egg yolk, he presented his drink with a Pain du Chocolat, which complemented the sweet flavour of the drink perfectly.
Joint-winner Tom said: “I always enjoy experimenting with new flavours and I had great fun coming up with my drink for today so to win the competition is amazing! The trip in October sounds incredible and I can’t wait to learn more about Bénédictine, by visiting its hometown of Fécamp.”
Paul Curry, brand manager at Bénédictine Liqueur, said: “Once again, the competition has been fantastic, and the quality of both bartenders and cocktails has been excellent. The Northern heat is always a strong competition, but this year was exceptional and we simply couldn’t choose between Amir & Tom’s creations!
“We loved both of the winning cocktails, which made it incredibly difficult for us to choose a winner. Tom and Amir both came up with really imaginative recipes that demonstrate just how versatile Bénédictine can be as a cocktail ingredient.”
Amir and Tom will also be joined on the trip to France by three other regional contestants, from the London, Birmingham and Glasgow heats, which have been taking place throughout September.
Gruppo Campari’s Wild Turkey Bourbon has announced the winner of it’s first UK Cocktail Competition held at the The Liquorists HQ in Manchester.
Henry Yates of Boilermaker in Nottingham clinched the top prize after competing with 10 of the best bartenders from across the UK in an exciting and heated battle to be crowned Wild Turkey Cocktail Champion 2013. Henry’s unanimous winning cocktail named ‘The Right to Freeze Peach’ voted by judges Simon Difford of Diffordsguide.com, Martin Taylor of Wild Turkey, and Hugo Mills of Gruppo Campari demonstrated passion, talent and an understanding of the kind of patience, outstanding attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes in to creating the perfect Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey cocktail.
Henry said of his creation “My inspiration for the peach, ice tea and mint cocktail originated from Wild Turkey country. I wanted to create a cocktail with ingredients which are readily available, as an introduction to Bourbon.” ‘The Right to Freeze Peach’ flavours were perfectly designed to compliment Wild Turkey 81 reflecting on it’s laid back nature. Henry added ” I am genuinely ecstatic about winning, the standard of talent was so high I can’t believe I am the Wild Turkey cocktail Champion.”
The 2 runners up Will Cox of Bon Vivant in Edinburgh and Michael Presley Sharpe of Milk Thistle in Bristol delivered their cocktails ‘Stuffed Turkey’ and ‘Feather of the Foul’ with flair and passion, worthy of a national final of this calibre. All three will now head to Kentucky on an all expenses paid trip visiting the Wild Turkey distillery, meeting Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell and attending the annual National Bourbon Festival. In addition, Henry will be presented with a bottle of Wild Turkey Forgiven, a high-end bourbon and rye blend signed by father and son Jimmy and Eddie.
The competition, which launched in July to seek out the best whiskey bartender in the country, received hundreds of entries from right across the UK. With entrants competing in exciting regional heats, taking place in the 5 host cities (Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and London), 11 of the best cocktail makers were selected to go head to head in the national final on 2nd September.
The contestants were asked to make two drinks, a signature cocktail of their choice as well as a twist on a classic cocktail. Contestants were given 5 minutes preparation time followed by a maximum of 10 minutes to make, perfect and present their creations to the judges.
To Make ‘The Right to Freeze Peach‘ by Henry Yates , the Wild Turkey Cocktail Champion’s signature cocktail, you will need;
50ml Wild Turkey 81
10ml Crème de peche
20ml Peach syrup (canned)
10ml Lemon juice
100ml Iced black tea (Chinese)
6 drops of Grapefruit bitters
Shake over ice, strain and serve in an empty peach tin can with a sprig of mint and garnish with a Wild Turkey 101 atomised peach slice.
Eddie Russell launched the competition during his whirlwind tour of the UK in July, which saw him travel from the Wild Turkey distillery in Kentucky to present master classes in six cities across the country.
Christophe Schaillee, Regional Director Europe at Campari International, said, “It was a wonderful opportunity to have Eddie Russell launching the first ever UK Wild Turkey Cocktail competition and at the same time host the master Bourbon classes. Wild Turkey is very respected by bartenders and is becoming very fashionable with consumers, and this is a great occasion for audiences to know and appreciate the brand even more. We are very proud of our product and these events are the best way to show the uniqueness and versatility of Wild Turkey.”
The national finalists were;
· Rosie Paterson of Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh and Will Cox of Bon Vivant, Edinburgh, winners of the Glasgow heat at Luac Bar
· Michael Sharper of Milk Thistle, winner of the Bristol heats at Haus Bar
· Benji Purslow of Archer Street and Nicholas Quattroville of Social Eating House, winners of the London heats which took place in The Hawksmoor
· Ed Belshaw of World Service Restaurant & Lounge Bar, Henry Yates from Boilermaker and Lucy Jane Horncastle of The Victoria, Birmingham who won the heats at Nottingham’s Brass Monkey
· Laurie Eaton of Berry & Rye, Liverpool ,Tim Laferla of Mr Coopers House & Garden and Jamie Jones of The Liquorists who won the Manchester heat, judged at Manchester’s Dusk til Pawn
If you live in Manchester, or indeed the North, or just have yourself access to social media or have a friend who’s a bartender, you may have come across the tag-team of The Liquorists. The pairing of Tom Sneesby and Jody Monteith have given us many a night since their inception back in 2010, with their most commonly known trait coming in the form of their trails. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a fair few of these over the last year or so, and the reason why it’s many and not just the one is purely for the reasons of the following –
– Offer new and exciting bars to visit
– Showcase spirits that combine classic and new-age brands
– Deep knowledge that caters for all levels of expertise
– Food to match and compliment the spirit style
Many of these trails sell out in a heartbeat, but none as quickly as there summer expedition – Gincident.
Gincident offers all of the above list minus the bars. Reason why? The setting comes in the form of a canal barge. And from the name, gin is the choice of tipple. So, add 25 people to a barge with 5 brands of gin and what was described as a botanical feast of food and what do you get? Myself wanting to get onto the next trail immediately. Role on trail number 13! But how have I come to this conclusion?
Greeted by L.S. Lowry (the boat, not the artist) of City Centre Cruises at Castlefield Locks, the expanded Liquorists line-up were on hand to walk us safely aboard. Jamie Jones of pop-up Manchester bars fame The Yacht Club and Moose Bar amongst others, was to play host, with Craig MacDonald his trusty side-kick. Not forgetting original Liquorists member Jody Monteith was to be on hand to create us our five gin based cocktails on the boats very own bar.
Once on our merry way towards Salford Quays, the aforementioned botanical feast was served, all cooked and created by chef Hannah Eddleston. With dishes that included cured salmon with dill, spiced ham hock with juniper and cous cous, spicy chicken drumsticks on white bean salad and a savoury strawberry salad with feta cheese. Using inspiration from not only the gin brands of the evening, but the botanicals within them, Hannah served up a treat that from looking around the boat, left many an empty plate. Same could be said for our welcome drink – a round of G’Vine Nouaison and Fever Tree tonics for us all.
Jamie Jones, who this year has won one of the worlds premier gin competitions – the G’Vine Gin Connoisseurs Programme, is the right man to talk to us all about gin itself, its history and how gin is created. I’m not going to go into detail about gin itself, that you can find by clicking on each brand that was available on the evening. Whilst Jamie was talking all things gin, Craig dished out neat samples of Bols Genever, Pymouth and G’Vine Floraison for us all to try. Three completely different styles, with Bols offering the sweeter juniper palate, Plymouth more your usual style gin, and G’Vine the new-age French floral. Plymouth was the tipple of choice for The Liquorists first cocktail offering of the evening – Hogarths Fizz. Combining sugar, lemon juice and camomile with a dusting of nutmeg gave this cocktail a smooth citrus feel with subtle aromas and bursts of freshness.
A personal favourite of mine, Martin Millers, was up next, and in true Liquorists pun fashion, the aptly named Messa-gin in a Bottle came within their own green bottle and brown paper bag. Using Martin Millers, home-made kaffir lime juice, orange bitters, jasmine tea and their own ginger beer, it created something rather unique, with huge bold flavours of fresh lime and ginger blending well with the Martin Millers and jasmine tea. One that you didn’t want to end, which is surely a good sign?
One gin that I’m very familiar with is Warrington based BLOOM. A brand that I’ve created cocktails for in the past, i was interested to see how The Liquorists would do with their Rosie and Gin (they love their puns). A mixture of BLOOM, strawberry liqueur, lime juice and topped within a jam jar with Fever Tree Elderflower tonic created one of the stronger cocktails of the evening, but more due to its bolder statement. The flavours did mellow as the drink went on, with the BLOOM complimenting the strawberry and lime.
Onto the French now, and as most of you know, although I represent this brand here in the UK, I came at the following with an unbiased opinion. G’Vine Nouaison, the stronger out of the two expressions was used as the base gin for the 22nd Century Cocktail. A twist of the original 20th Century Cocktail that was created back in 1937, it came with a blend of G’Vine, lemon juice, crème de cacao white and topped with tonic. In no simpler words, and being a massive chocolate fan, it tasted like chocolate orange in a glass. If your like Dawn French and me, you’ll love this tipple.
The last cocktail of the Gincident came again with a twist to not only a recipe, but an award-winning recipe. Jamie Jones offered the gathering his own creation that won him the title of G’Vine Connoisseur as mentioned above. Despite a few changes to his recipe, his La Floraison De’tre gave the finish the night deserved. G’Vine Floraison, egg white, olive oil, lemon juice, apricot liqueur and Fever Tree Sicilian Lemonade with a rose petal to garnish added a touch of sophistication as Salford Quays lit up both the boat and the night sky.
Heading back to Castlefield, The Liquorists made sure we were comfortable, well watered and fed before disembarking the barge for the evening. There tag of #nohangoverguaranteed is 100% correct yet again. Well done guys.
To get yourselves on The Liquorists trails, check them out via there website or twitter.
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!
The biggest cocktail master class came back in full force this year in the form of Cocktails in the City. Located within Manchester Town Hall, 15 of Manchester’s bars teamed up with 15 brands ranging from tequila to rum and vodka to create a cocktail that would wow the consumers and tempt them to part with their tokens. Not only that though, The Liquorists held tasters for all ranging from ‘The Taster’ which involved two cocktails, main stage demonstrations and a cocktail booklet to ‘The Connoisseur‘ which included a champagne cocktail reception, food from Almost Famous, three cocktails and a Liquorists tutored tasting session.
This year, I was lucky enough to be asked to judge, giving me the perfect opportunity to see what the bars and brands came up with.
Starting the night with the bar in the sky, Cloud 23 served up two cocktails in the form of what myself and fellow judge Keeley Watts described as a Starter and Dessert using rum brand Ron Zacapa. The ‘starter’ came with Ron Zacapa, sherry syrup, yuzu juice and whisky aged bitters that were served with bread, chorizo and feta cheese, whilst the ‘dessert’ was created using Ron Zacapa, maraschino, Tip Pepe sherry, sweet vermouth and came with smoked almonds. Pop-up bar specialists Escapade were next with their unusual takes of creation and glassware. The creations being their enthusiasm and team work to create a Blue Lagoon within a closed jam jar (check out the photos, link at the bottom, to see what I’m on about!) plus a Heinz Bloody Mary using Heinz tomato soup, vodka, lemon and spice mix – served in the Heinz soup can. Innovative, and it worked! 31DOVER,the premium online drinks retailer, collaborated with BarChick, the best bar guide on the internet, to come up with a signature cocktail for the evening named The 31 Dover – gin, lemon juice, honey syrup and topped with Champagne.
One of the new kids on the scene, The Liquor Store, collaborated with well-known tequila brand Jose Cuervo Tradicional to create the Maria Pickford which involved the tequila, lime, maraschino, pomegranate syrup and topped with pineapple foam and cracked pepper. A fantastic blend of flavours, and one that used the worlds first tequila in the best way. Chase Marmalade were partners with Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar to produce Harvey’s Marmalade Fizz. Using the ever popular marmalade vodka, Campari, lemon and lime juice as well as egg white, sugar, Seville marmalade and topped with soda, the serving of it all in a jam jar complete with a dried orange wheel created one of the more visually stunning cocktails of the evening. A look that complimented its name went to Mojo’s and their cocktail with tequila brand Calle 23. The Pink Chihuahua had the simple ingredients of a healthy dose of Calle 23, pomegranate juice, lime, orgeat and egg white, served in the classic coupette glass.
Visiting one of the bars on the outskirts of the city next in the form of Chorlton’s Proof and their collaboration with Lambs Navy Rum. Two cocktails available from these guys – Any Port in a Storm used Lambs Navy, port, ginger, sugar and lime juice whilst the Mutiny on the Bounty had Lambs Navy, dark chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao and cocoa cream complete with a piece of Bounty for the garnish. Next to them were fellow rum brand Flor de Cana and Sandinista. Going for a ‘rum connoisseurs choice of drink’, they came up with Fat Like Buddha – Flor de Cana 7yr, Antica Formula, Benedictine, Cointreau and maraschino liqueur. Venturing back on to the outskirts soon after, visiting Didsbury’s The Violet Hour and Dutch gin Sloane’s, with their two options – Summer Picnic (Sloane’s, elderflower, lemon, apple juice, marmalade and vanilla) or a more Traditional Cocktail using Sloane’s, curaçao, sugar, lemon and Angostura Bitters.
Another new kid in Neighbourhood partnered with Absolut Elyx to create a Lavender Cosmopolitan. Using pre-steeped lavender and sugar mix to the Absolut Elyx, Grand Marnier and cranberry juice created what Neighbourhood called ‘a seductive zingy Cosmo twist’. The use of Whitley Neil and The Whim Wham Cafe to create the African Sky caught the attention of many an enthusiast, mainly for the loud toots of owner Alix and his African horn (take that how you will) but also for their creation of a cocktail that looks literally like the African sunset. Created using Whitley Neil gin, Cointreau, marmalade syrup, cranberry juice, lime and Peychaud Bitters. Dry ice bellowed from the next bar as Apotheca teamed with Ketel One and made full use of their copper kettles. Creating the Citizen Kettle, they used a double healthy dose of Ketel One, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, white grape and Peychaud Bitters.
Northern Quarter guys Dusk til Pawn went with white grain spirit Bootlegger to create the aptly named One Old Boot. Using Bootlegger, whisky barrel bitters, sugar, marmalade and ginger, they created a stirred drink with a nod to the Prohibition styles. Cross back into Europe and Belvedere vodka created a twist on the Bramble with Epernay. Using Belvedere, poppy liquor, sugar and lemon, the short yet powerful drink set us up nicely for the trip across the corridor to the The Lord Mayor’s Parlour and three of Manchester’s tiki bars.
Starting with The Liars Club and El Dorado, they created a Liars Club Party Punch using ingredients such as El Dorado 5yr, Prosecco, apple and grapefruit juice, Yorkshire tea and sugar. It came complete with an El Dorado cake courtesy of rum lover North West Nosh! Keko Moko were up next partnering with Chairman’s Reserve to create The Keko Fizz – both Chairman’s Reserve and their Spiced variety as well as cloudy apple juice, egg white, lime, passion fruit liqueur and ting. Described as ‘definitely tiki’, the next and last bar of the evening, Hula, had its work cut out with Havana Seleccion de Maestros. Creating an El Presidente using Havana Club, sweet vermouth, Cointreau and grenadine, the classic went down way too easily.
The winners haven’t been announced yet, but I can tell you that it was no easy task to narrow it down for best cocktail, best bar and best personality. If you can, try each of the above cocktails at some point in the bars, they’re definitely worth a try and maybe you can decide for yourselves who you think should be the winners. While you at it, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for next year, a fantastic atmosphere is not to be missed!
Kahlúa have taken over Manchester. Well, more Market Restaurant on High Street in the Northern Quarter but taken over non the less. Transformed into the Kahlúa colours of red, yellow and black, with bottles lining shelves and menus covering everything from Mexican char grilled chicken to Espresso Martini’s and White Russians, Kahlúa has taken the ever intrigued Manchester scene and created something just that little bit different.
Take for example their free master classes. Ran upstairs in their Salon de Kahlúa, collaborative partners The Liquorists and Coffee Circle explore the heritage of Kahlúa, whilst enjoying a cocktail or two. But to really stand out, you spend some of the session blind-folded. Fantastic idea! After an introductory drink of replacing rum with Kahlúa in a coffee based Mojito, your host, in our case Jamie Jones, asks you to become departed from your senses and spend the next few minutes in darkness, hands on the table. In the middle is placed a dish containing 4 spoons, one with a rum based sugar cane cube, one with vanilla, one with a jelly coffee cube and the last with vanilla coffee cream. Of course, you have to guess what you have just tried, and many expressing how simple the ingredients are to creating the finished product of Kahlúa.
After a history lesson in coffee by Coffee Circle, you are then treated to a shot glass of probably one of the world’s most famous coffee cocktails – The Espresso Martini. A mix of Kahlúa, vodka and espresso, shaken to create a creamy layer on top and decorated with a couple of coffee beans. Simple, perfect.
The last treat of the evening though highlighted the Salon de Kahlúa cocktail menu created by The Liquorists – an Americano. Not your usual coffee drink, but more a combination of Kahlúa and vermouth spritzed with a coffee infused Pernod absinthe spray. Served in a cup complete with saucer of course. This gave an insight into the drinks list as there are 8 drinks to choose from, ranging from The Flat White (Kahlúa, Chivas Regal and Pedro Ximenez Sherry), The Mocha (Kahlúa, Olmeca Altos Reposado, Cherry Cola and Chocolate Ice Cream) and The Affogato (Absolut Vanilla, Kahlúa and Espresso) which is a de-constructed White Russian that you drink with a spoon.
The session lasts for 45 minutes and as it’s free, spaces are snapped up quickly, especially with what is on offer for you. Masterclasses are held at 6:30pm on Thursdays, and at 6:30pm and 8:30pm every Friday and Saturday. Book yourself on, grab a bite to eat, watch a film in the speakeasy and enjoy many a Kahlúa beverage because April 27th – IT’S GONE.
Everyone loves a celebrity endorsement and drink brands are no exception. Ciroc vodka have P Diddy, Atlantico rum have Enrique Inglesias and Cointreau have Dita Von Teese, but on the odd occasion, brands are created or have significant input into a liquid. Crystal Head is a collaboration involving Dan Aykroyd, Manchester band Elbow created their own ale and now Cleo Rocos has got in on the act with her AquaRiva tequila.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cleo when she ventured my way last month, and I experienced first hand her tequila range and why her collaboration with business parter Stewart Freeman of The Tequila Society is making waves in the tequila business.
But first, a little about how AquaRiva came about.
Wanting to make tequilas that were interesting and complex, and would work well in cocktails, Cleo sought out master blender Carlos Perez to help create a hand crafted, premium tequila. Spending 10 months to perfect the Blanco, Reposado and Premium Reposado, they decided on using hand selected 8 yr blue agaves as well as volcanic spring water from the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico.
The label itself gives credit to a 17 yr art student named Jamie who Cleo met on the London Underground. After seeing his work, Cleo commissioned Jamie to create a distinctive label for her tequila, and so came an oil painting of Jamie and his girlfriend embracing on the wing of a plane.
Back to the tequila and the AquaRiva range. Cleo describes the Blanco and Reposado (which is aged for 3-6 months) as ‘bar’ tequilas i.e tequilas that are great for Cleo’s perfect Margarita recipe (see below). The Premium Reposado however is created by being aged for a minimum of 6 months and is there sipping tequila, although there is nothing against having the full range neat.
So how do the range fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each –
AquaRiva Blanco – 38%
Soft on the nose with aromas of white chocolate and butter blending well. Nip of spice on the palate with peppery flavours creating a lingering after-taste.
AquaRiva Reposado – 38%
Very soft with a corn aroma on the nose with a slight scent of smoke following. Ripe fruit and soft caramel flavours on the palate with a slight hint of spice at the end. Short.
AquaRiva Premium Reposado – 40%
Notes of cream and butter on the nose producing a soft mix. Spice start on the palate with flavours of pepper, citrus and nuts developing a lingering finish. A rather dry ending.
A great range and one to really try all three on their own. But if this takes your fancy –
Cleo’s Perfect Margarita
35 ml AquaRiva Blanco or Reposado
25 ml Fresh lime juice
15 ml AquaRiva Organic Agave syrup
Lots of ice, shake well and pour into a rocks glass. Rim the glass with an orange zest and salt if you like.
Another reason to give AquaRiva a try is the fact that it is now an award-winning brand, awarded a MASTERS Medal in a blind judging with The Spirits Business in February 2012.
They also produce a AquaRiva Organic Agave syrup which is gluten-free and a healthy alternative to sugar. Even this has won itself an award as it was voted best Blue Weber Agave Syrup / Nectar by The Spirits Business.
Don’t just take my word for it though, purchase yourself a bottle, have a sip and then create yourself a Margarita that Cleo herself has said you won’t get a hangover from. What more can I say!
You can purchase the range here and the organic agave syrup here.
Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Liquorists #22 Redbank, via my Facebook page.
Celebrating Manchester’s vibrant cocktail scene, Cocktails in the City is the largest ever cocktail master class returns to the grandiose surroundings of the Great Hall, Manchester Town Hall on 2nd May. With 18 bars, 600 cocktail enthusiasts and over 1,500 cocktails, this year it promises to be bigger and better than ever.
From 18.00 – 22.30 visitors will be able to enjoy food from the hippest operators in town Almost Famous, enjoy the soulful sounds of Manchester’s finest Crazy P and Neil Diablo of El Diablos Social Club who will both be playing on the decks, as they make and shake delicious cocktails with Manchester’s finest bars and bartenders. The Great Hall will be hosting Manchester’s top bars with some exciting new additions including news bars such as Neighbourhood and The Liquor Store whilst The Lord Mayor’s Parlour is turning into a rum lover’s Tiki Paradise courtesy of The Liars Club, Keko Moku and Hula.
Leading Manchester drinks consultancy company The Liquorists will be entertaining and educating again in 2013 offering Enthusiast and Connoisseur ticket holders the chance to sip, savour and learn more about their favourite spirits with 6 different brands included at each tasting. All visitors will be able to enjoy practical cocktail demonstrations on the main stage within the great hall whilst Cocktails in the City hosts will be on the floor entertaining and educating in unique and interesting ways. Last year 480 visitors made and enjoyed over 1200 cocktails.
Founder Andrew Scutts comments:
“the interactive nature of the event made it a great success in 2012. We’re delighted to welcome some new bars this year, and with the addition of food and music it’s now a complete night out. The night epitomizes everything that is both educational and fun about the drinks industry. With every bar creating a little “pop up” it’s a great way to learn more about the art of drinking and bars in your area”.
This year visitors can choose from a range of tickets:
The Taster: £15 including entrance, two cocktails, main stage demonstrations, cocktail booklet.
The Enthusiast: £25 includes three cocktails, A Liquorists Tutored Tasting Session, main stage demonstrations and cocktail booklet.
The Connoisseur: £45 includes champagne cocktail reception, food from Almost Famous, three cocktails, A Liquorists tutored tasting session.
Last year the bars competed for the best Overall winner (Won by Keko Moku & El Dorado Rum) Personality of the show (Won by Johnboy Socio Rehab), Cocktail of the show (Won by Gin Mare Strawberry Pepper Mule) and Stand of the show (Won by The Liars Club). This year with new bars and brands involved the competition will be hotter than ever.
Look forward to some incredible cocktails, such as the delicious
45ml (BELVEDERE) PURE
25ml Raspberry puree
25ml Orange juice
25ml Cloudy apple
To celebrate Manchester’s world beating cocktail scene the #MCRHEARTSCOCKTAILS hash tag is once again launched with the aim of raising awareness of the bustling Manchester bar scene, with the city’s bars now being home to some of the world’s very best bartenders. You can follow Cocktails in the City news on twitter (@Cocktailsinthec) and on Facebook.
There’s brands within a certain category that create a consistent buzz. Brewdog does to ale what Hendrick’s does to gin and Grey Goose to vodka. But to have a portfolio that not only creates a buzz from birth, but also wins time after time is something of an achievement, something that Diplomático have down to a tee. I say this with enthusiasm and excitement as the hype of this brand was rewarded with what can be described as a sell-out tasting at The Liquorist’s HQ #22Redbank a few months back. Literally packed to the rafter with bartenders coming from all over the North West to try not only the Diplomático portfolio, but to shake hands and listen to the words of the Rum Master Tito Cordero.
So why is Diplomático regarded so highly to have bartenders willingly travel far to hear this story?
Don Juancho Nieto Meléndez had a passion to explore and source flavours for the traditional beverages that were known back in the 18th Century, particularly interested in the artisanal production methods that could produce a huge variety of interesting and unique flavours. He also took notice of a commonly forgotten variable in climate. Understanding variables such as weather, humidity and altitude that can drastically effect the rum-making process, as well as sampling many a flavour liqueur and rum to truly experience what the land offered, he used his knowledge to refine his own product.
In the 18th Century, Jamaica was at the forefront of manufacture, which Don Juancho Nieto Meléndez studied alongside the distillation secrets from the islands of Antilles. With this he came across the sugar mill – a traditional method of crushing sugar cane. This tool became a staple to Nieto Meléndez as he was able to create variations of combinations in the different cane juices available.
With this knowledge and understanding, he was able to create a rum that he thought was the perfect craft. Ron Diplomático was born.
Production of Diplomático started in 1959 and produced in La Miel, Venezuela. Chosen due to its unique climate conditions of being 173 metres above sea level, its fresh nights and high humidity which influences both the sugar cane growth and the rum aging process.
Fermented for 24 hours, and using a total of seven stills (three pot stills and four column stills) with a minimum aging process of 2 years in ex Bourbon American white oak barrels, for 45 years the rum has been perfected for consumption, and the Diplomático range is testament to this.
So how does it all fare? Well below I give to you my tasting notes on each –
Diplomático Blanco– 40%
Six year old white rum. Slightly heavy on the nose with aromas of soft fruit and coconut cream. Soft chocolate notes on the palate, slightly sharpened mid-way but mellows quickly into a long offering. Leaves a slight burn but again mellows.
Diplomático Añejo – 40%
A mix of continuous still and pot still rums aged for an average of four years. A fruity nose with a sweet aroma dominating, but a slight light wood scent. Very soft on the palate with flavours of tropical fruits creating a warmth during its long experience.
Diplomático Reserva– 40%
A higher proportion of pot still rums aged for an average of eight years. Sweet and rather thick on the nose with notes of vanilla, wood and dry fruit balancing well. Again very soft on the palate with a mouth-watering sweetness of chocolate and spice structuring well.
Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva – 40%
Blend of copper pot still rums aged for twelve years. An orange zest on the nose with bold, dark sugar aromas dominating soon after. A long offering of toffee and tropical fruits blend to create a silky texture that’s soft and easy-going. Sweet.
Diplomático Single Vintage 2000 – 43%
After a fantastic sugarcane harvest in the year 2000 in Venezuela, this particular batch was aged in the best single malt and bourbon casks the distillers could find for 12 years and finished in Spanish Sherry casks.
Thick vanilla notes on the nose, with sherry and sugar balancing nicely. Soft and sweet upon the palate, with the sherry oak coming through to create a slightly dry, yet long finish.
Diplomático Ambassador Selection– 47%
Finished in Pedro Ximénez barrels. Bold, deep dry fruit aromas on the nose with notes of vanilla and slightly smoked wood. Dark chocolate flavours on the palate creates an incredibly smooth texture that includes coffee and traces of port. Very long.
A fantastic range and experience, one that can be shared on its own or in a sophisticated mix –
Gimlet / Coupette
15 ml Ruby Port
10 ml Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
2 bar spoons Diplomático Reserva
3 bar spoons Muscovado sugar
1/4 Fresh lemon juice
3 dashes Grenadine
Shake well and strain through a sieve into a chilled cocktail coupette. Decorate with an orange twist.
Elegant and luxurious – both the drink and the rum. Diplomático have also won recognition – 56 overall and counting. These include such titles as Ministry of Rum’s ‘Best Premium Gold Rum 2011’ and Spirits Business Rum Masters Competition ‘Master Medal 2009’ for the Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, Silver at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2007 and Gold at the 2007 International Rum Festival again in 2007 for Diplomático Reserva, San Francisco World Spirits Double Gold Medal in 2007 and 2011 for the Diplomático Añejo and Gold Medal at the 2009 Ministry of Rum and 2009 Monde Selection Bruxelles for ‘Grand Gold Quality Award’ for the latest addition of Diplomático Blanco.