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Master of Malt Blog

Top 5 drinks podcasts 

From whisky to wine, and all things boozy, here are our favourite podcasts to keep you amused when you’re self-isolating. All are best enjoyed with a dram in your hand….

From whisky to wine, and all things boozy, here are our favourite podcasts to keep you amused when you’re self-isolating. All are best enjoyed with a dram in your hand.

With so much time on our hands, there’s never been a better time to become engrossed in a podcast. As great as the radio is, we find that it isn’t, well, boozy enough for us. Now it can be a daunting prospect finding the right podcast for you and there’s a lot of them floating around.  That’s where we come in. We have picked our top five drinks podcasts you can stream right now. So whether you’re a podcast newbie or fully fledged podcast addict, exchange the doom and gloom for some chatter about booze! 

Uncorked, beards not compulsory

Uncorked Whisky Sessions

If you’re after whisky conversation garnished with the odd laugh out loud, then look no further than Uncorked Whisky Sessions – a podcast show all about the wondrous world of whisky from our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Boutique-y Dave and Dr Whisky take the reins to contribute to the biggest whisky conversations of the past, present and future alongside icons and industry experts. Every episode is jam-packed with quirky games for the listener to play along with, outrageous rants, and whisky laughs galore! 

James Atkinson, about to embark on another drink adventure

Drinks Adventures 

From the land Down Under comes a journey through the world of fine drinks with the Drinks Adventures podcast. As people drink less but spend more on that special tipple, host and drinks writer James Atkinson interviews production experts from around the world. From Champagne and craft beer, to whisky and beyond, what sets fine drinks apart from the rest? Let the Drinks Adventure begin!

Olly Smith getting the party started with Pink

A Glass With…

Wine expert and columnist Olly Smith invites you to drink a glass with celebrities in the A Glass With… podcast. A glass of what, we hear you ask? Mainly wine, but hey, if the celeb fancies something else, you can be sure they’ll drink it! With an incredible array of famous faces (or voices…) including Michael Parkinson, Pink and Mick Hucknall, from industries ranging from food to film, there’s plenty of A-list chatter to sink your ears into! 

You could drink this while listening to Whiskycast


No boozy podcast list would be complete without Mark Gillespie’s WhiskyCast, the godfather of all podcasts that have anything to do with whisky. In fact, host Gillespie started WhiskyCast in 2005, before anyone really knew what a podcast was… 15 years later, WhiskyCast continues to deliver timely whisky news, interviews with whisky experts, and the upcoming whisky calendar. With two episodes released each week, best pour a double measure!

Or one of these while listening to Craft Beer Radio

Craft Beer Radio 

For those of you who think that the universe of craft beer is somewhat of a young phenomenon, it might surprise you that it has been the focus of Craft Beer Radio for 15 years, making it the longest running beer podcast on the internet. That means over 500 episodes of tasting the best, weirdest and most wonderful beers the world has to offer. So sit back, relax and let hosts Jeff Bearer and Greg Weiss take you through the incredibly diverse world of craft beer. 

And there you have it, five of the best boozy, time busting podcasts for you to enjoy. Happy streaming! 

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La Hechicera rum: the Colombian enchantress

La Hechicera makes some of the best Spanish-style rum out there with nothing added: no sugar, no flavourings, no nothing. We caught up with managing director Miguel Riascos for a…

La Hechicera makes some of the best Spanish-style rum out there with nothing added: no sugar, no flavourings, no nothing. We caught up with managing director Miguel Riascos for a few drinks.

La Hechicera as a brand is a recent creation; it was launched in London in 2012. However, the Riascos family’s involvement in the rum business goes back to 1994.  They learned how to make rum in Cuba, Miguel Riascos explained: “After deciding to leave the banana business due to instability and insecurity in Colombia at the time (early ‘90s), my father, Miguel Riascos Noguera, decided to travel to Cuba in search of new business opportunities and alternatives to agriculture, which at the time carried an inherent risk. In Cuba, my father quickly fell in love with the promise of rum and sought a deal with the Cuban Ministry of Sugar with the purpose of establishing a rum factory in Barranquilla with the Cuban establishment’s technical support. As part of this arrangement, several qualified chemical engineers and master blenders were sent from Cuba to Colombia”, including master blender Giraldo Mituoka Kagana who is still with the company.  

Master blender Giraldo Mituoka Kagana looking very cool in white

Barranquilla, a city on the Caribbean coast, near Cartagena, was the perfect place to do this because it had been designated a Free Zone. In the rest of the country alcohol above 20% ABV was a state monopoly. Unlike in Venezuela, there were no private brands, which is perhaps why Colombian rum doesn’t have the same reputation as its neighbour. The family bought in Colombian cane spirit and aged it in ex-bourbon barrels to their own exacting standards meaning no sugar or other additives. The rum would then be sold on to be blended into Colombian or generic Caribbean rums. Which seems a shame. 

So, the decision was taken to bottle some of their own. The result was La Hechicera, the name means Enchantress in Spanish, a reference to the magical fecundity and diversity of Colombia. Riascos said: “Colombia has more species of flora and fauna than any other country in the world.” Appropriately, I was meeting with Riascos in the jungle-inspired splendour of Amazonico in Mayfair. 

The project goes back to when the family got into the rum business , Riascos said: “When we initially created La Hechicera, it was by far the oldest rum that our family had aged. This is the epitome of everything we want to produce”. He went on to tell me a little about the rum: “The idea was to bottle something absolutely pure. It’s a typical Hispanic-style rum in that it is molasses-fermented, column-distilled and aged in ex-Jack Daniel’s American white oak for a minimum of 12 years.” The oldest component is 21 years old. The rum comes off the column at between 88 and 96% ABV so, according to Riascos, “it’s light in its congenic make-up, and yet it’s very characterful in its woodiness. It’s spent so long in the barrel. That is quite simply the way we like to make our rum and I do feel this almost epitomises our rum making style in Barranquilla.” Though at the moment they buy in the spirit, the family has plans to build their own distillery in the near future though will continue to buy in spirit even when it’s up and running as they like the diversity of flavours, according to Riascos. 

Colombia, once a byword for a failed state, is now one of Latin America’s success stories. I asked Riascos if the country was more stable now and he replied with obvious pride: “It’s firmly stable, today it’s one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. It’s the third largest already after Mexico and Brazil. It’s got an unbelievably diversified economy which is obviously a source of growth and future growth for sure.”

Family banana plantation in Magdalena, 1955

Nevertheless, he’s surprised by how his home country has taken to La Hechicera, it’s now the biggest market. “Colombians generally are not big consumers of Colombian products,” he said. In the past sophisticated drinkers went for Scotch brands, especially Grand Old Parr which is a cult drink in the country. Now though, people are taking pride in home-grown products: “Today La Hechicera is almost synonymous with Colombia”, Riascos said. 

The family expected La Hechicera to be an export-led product so they launched it in London in 2012. “ In the UK and in London specifically you do have all the expert bartenders, the awards, the publications, and the master blenders, so it’s a great platform to position the brands in the on-trade,” Riascos said. “We are constantly working with bartenders. A classic cocktail is always a great anchor to create a new idea.” Over our interview, we tried two takes on the Old Fashioned: firstly the so-called Gold Fashioned, made with a gold-coated (yes real gold!) cube of panela (unrefined cane sugar). Then the Banana Republic, made with banana liqueur, bitters and a piece of dehydrated banana. It’s a nod to the family’s involvement in the banana business. “What we try to do with our cocktails is to tell the story about Colombia, about provenance, about who we are, “ Riascos said. 

Michael Fink from Amazanico had also been hard at work coming up with cocktails (yes, it was quite a boozy interview.) First off an Old Fashioned made with Antica Formula vermouth and strawberry and tobacco bitters which really brought out the chocolate in the rum. This was followed by a sort of Daiquiri meets Sidecar cocktail with lime juice, sugar, Italian vermouth and Cointreau. It worked so well because like the best Spanish-style rums, there’s more than a little of Cognac about La Hechicera. It’s a beautifully-poised rum, perfumed and wine-like with intense notes of nuts and vanilla; the long ageing in no way overpowers the spirit. And all the time with that purity, there’s none of the sugar that you get in some Venezualan rums.

Miguel Riascos enjoying some rum

The company currently produces around 20,000 cases a year with plans to raise that to 100,000 in three years. It currently holds around 12,000 casks of rum so there’s plenty in stock. It’s been such a success, that the family has just released a new version called Serie Experimental #1 which is finished in casks that held Spanish Muscat for around 13 years so the oak was heavily impregnated with wine. They had 16 casks yielding 7200 bottles. Riascos said, “it shares the same DNA, but it’s got that added body from that finish.” The Muscat adds sweetness (perceived sweetness that is, not actual sugar) and brings out the rum’s floral side with some added dried fruit and tobacco notes. It’s a great sipping rum, as is the standard bottling. 

You’ll notice that it’s called Serie Experimental #1, so expect others to follow. “We’re currently working on dos, tres and cuatro,” said Riascos. “And we’ll see if one of those hits the market later this year. We’ve been working with wines from Napa Valley. We’ve been working with Canadian rye whisky. We’ve been working with different natural fruits and infusions, things that tell the story of Colombia as the most biodiverse country in the world. We are working together with Colombia’s largest independent brewery to kind of do a barrel exchange. So they’re working with our barrels for their beer and they’re sending them back with a few added notes and then we’re ageing our rum in there to see if that works. I’m very sceptical about it, but if it works it will be very, very good.” We think it will too.


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Dram Club – April 2020

April has finally arrived, and there are new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to be had. Let’s see what drams are hiding within these cardboard cuboids… It might have…

April has finally arrived, and there are new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to be had. Let’s see what drams are hiding within these cardboard cuboids…

It might have felt like four or five months squashed together haphazardly, but March is over and we’re into April. With this new month brings another round of Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to get their hands on, all filled with lip-smacking tipples. Reckon it’s about time we see which aforementioned drams await the aforementioned members inside the aforementioned Tasting Sets.

Dram Club Whisky for April:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for April:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for April:

Dram Club Gin for April:

Dram Club Rum for April:

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Cocktail of the Week: The Foraged Martini

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three…

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three Sheets. Here, co-owner Noel Venning walks you through the drink…

Much like the wider cocktail menu at Three Sheets, the light, fresh Foraged Martini is proof that when it comes to ingredients, less really is more. Ever since Venning brothers Noel and Max first flung open the doors on Kingsland Road back in 2016, the bar has been known for its minimalist ethos – from the contents of the back bar to its marble-topped counters – and this is reflected not only in the way they developed each drink, but also in the design of their menu.

There are nine cocktails in total, split across three key sections. Three Sheets, if you will. While each sheet is characterised by strength and flavour, all of the drinks on the menu are designed to be approachable in nature. Over on the left, you’ll find the lightest cocktails – such as the Almond Flower Sour, which combines Bombay English Estate, almond flower, egg white and lemon. Heavier-going drinks – like Café Français, which combines Seven Tails XO Brandy, salted coffee butter and madeleine cream – tend towards the right of the menu. 

Three Sheets Dalston

Three Sheets, so minimalist

“At Three Sheets, we aim to put drinks on the menu that we think our guests will enjoy,” Noel Venning explains. “Moving away from using popular bartender products that might not be enjoyable for guests. This has led to a lighter style of drink and the Foraged Martini is a great example of that – taking a classic vodka Martini but making it more approachable for a wider audience.”

In the spirit of keeping things simple, the base structure is similar to that of a classic Martini, says Venning. Indeed, just three ingredients are required to make the Foraged Martini: Absolut Elyx, dry Italian vermouth, and Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle cordial. “The great thing about the Foraged Martini is that everything is available to buy in a shop,” he continues. “It is a wonderful example that making great drinks doesn’t necessarily have to come with fancy equipment or esoteric, obscure ingredients.”

It’s fair to say that one of the traditional Martini’s most defining features – its out-and-out ‘booziness’ in terms of flavour – is what tends to put most newcomers off. But you won’t find that brashness in the Venning brothers’ Foraged iteration. Thanks to the addition of the nettle cordial, this serve is made accessible for the non-Martini drinker, while packing enough of a punch to satisfy the drink’s usual devotees. 

“The idea behind this Martini was to have a lighter, more approachable version of a classic Martini that would appeal to a wider audience – while also being enjoyable for a guest who drinks Martinis all the time,” Venning adds. “The nettle cordial softens off the punchy nature of the Martini with some grassy, citrusy notes, and the vermouth ties it all together.”

That’s gypsophila (yes, we had to Google it)

Democratising the Martini is all in a day’s work for the Three Sheets duo. If you’re ready to take the Foraged Martini for a spin, you’ll find the recipe below. Now, aside from the liquid ingredients, you’ll also need ice, a twist of lemon (for the zest only), and a Nick and Nora, Coupette or Martini glass – the team usually opts for the latter, but at home you call the shots.

Oh, and if you really want to set the drink off in true Three Sheets style, source a small sprig of gypsophila for the garnish. Arty Instagram shots are not only welcomed but wholeheartedly encouraged.

Right, let’s forage up a Martini!

50ml Absolut Elyx
10ml Martini Extra Dry vermouth
5ml Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle Cordial

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to dilute and chill. Double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon zest (discard the twist afterwards) and garnish with a sprig of gypsophila (if you have one).

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Meet the Master of Malt editorial team

Today, we take a peak behind the padded leather doors at Master of Malt’s secret HQ (just off the A26, follow signposts for Tonbridge industrial estate) and meet the people…

Today, we take a peak behind the padded leather doors at Master of Malt’s secret HQ (just off the A26, follow signposts for Tonbridge industrial estate) and meet the people who fit words together to make this blog.

Don’t you just love that bit when you go and see a band and the lead singer stops and introduces everyone on stage? “And finally, on bongos, rhythm is his middle name, give it up for Reggie ‘rhythm’ Jenkins!!” No? You just want them to play the hits? Oh well, we like the introducing the band bit which is why we thought we’d do something similar with the Master of Malt editorial team. These are the people tasting those rare whiskies so you don’t have to, visiting distilleries, making cocktails and generally immersing ourselves (responsibly, of course) in booze, and then turning those experiences into words. It’s not an easy life but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, without further ado, here is the MoM editorial team. Then we promise we’ll play the hits and not in a jazz fusion style. Take it away Reggie!

Kristiane Sherry, editor and head of content

Kristiane adores whisky, gin, Tequila, cocktails (pretty much anything delicious and spirited!), and loves geeking out at distilleries around the world. She has written about drinks since 2011, served as a judge at numerous tasting competitions including the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits, The Spirits Masters and the World Gin Awards, and is an accredited WSET Spirits Educator.  Kristiane is a former editor of The Spirits Business, a leading global trade title, and has been featured as a commentator in The Spectator, The Grocer, RedOnline, and on BBC Radio 5 Live. She lives in glorious Sussex by the sea.

Henry Jeffreys, feature editor

Henry began his career at Oddbins where he worked for two years and picked up a taste for fine wine. After a stint in publishing, he returned to the world of booze by starting a blog called World of Booze in 2010. Following its success, he was made wine columnist for The Lady. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and 5 and contributes to The Spectator, The Guardian and BBC Good Food. He won Best Debut Drink Book for Empire of Booze in 2017. This was followed by The Home Bar in 2018 and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary (September 2020).  His favourite drink is a whisky and soda. He lives in Faversham, Kent with his wife and daughter. Oh, and that photo is really out of date, he now looks like an elderly W. H. Auden.

Adam O’Connell, writer

Adam graduated from the University of Sussex with a BA in History and an MA in Intellectual History, which came in very handy when he then went on to work as a bartender. There he made a name for himself as the person who wouldn’t shut up about how much he liked whisky before subsequently joining Master of Malt as a writer in 2017, where he was encouraged to talk about how much he liked whisky. Adam is passionate about all things distilled and delicious, not just the water of life, and has passed the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits with Distinction. He currently lives in the highest room of the tallest tower in Maidstone.

Jess Williamson, content assistant 

Jess graduated from the University of Bristol having studied English Literature, and stumbled (happily) straight into the world of drinks! She began writing outside her degree for music publications while at university, but working in a rather extensive gin bar for a while sparked her curiosity in the more refined end of the alcohol spectrum. Since then, it’s been a non-stop learning curve for her in the drinks industry, and her mind has been opened to pretty much every spirit she thought she didn’t like, namely whisk(e)y. Now, she’s a big fan of anything with rye whiskey in it, and loves trying all manner of new and weird cocktails. 

Sam Smith, content executive

Sam lugged boxes around a booze warehouse in Somerset for a year after finishing his Creative Writing degree at the University of Winchester, and then found a way to combine elements of those two activities as part of the Master of Malt content and editorial team. When not writing about drinks, Sam spends his time going to see gigs and making salsa. He lives on the west coast of Ireland, and is fond of a Sazerac. This is a different Sam Smith to the famous singer. Our Sam Smith can’t sing.

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Take a VR tour of Chase Distillery with MoM!

Come and take a tour of Chase Distillery in Herefordshire thanks to our good friend virtual reality… Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a…

Come and take a tour of Chase Distillery in Herefordshire thanks to our good friend virtual reality…

Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good distillery tour. How is this possible? Thanks to the power of VR, of course. In this series we’re going to take you around some of the finest distilleries across England, Wales and Scotland from the comfort of your own home. The Chase Distillery welcomes us this week to see how it creates its award-winning gins and vodkas. Enjoy!

Chase Distillery was founded by William Chase, who you may know as the guy who made very tasty crisps. After selling Tyrrells in 2008 for almost £40 million, he set up Chase Distillery with the profits. Crisps and booze? This guy is my hero. The £3m distillery operates out of Chase’s farm in Herefordshire, with one of the world’s tallest copper distillation columns (70ft in size), and maintains a sustainable approach to creating spirits. All waste produce goes to feed its herd of pedigree Hereford cattle, and wherever possible, the fresh ingredients used in its products are sourced from the farm, including its King Edward and Lady Claire potatoes, as well as cider apples.

VR tour of Chase Distillery

All that talk of crisps and booze has put me in the mood for a spot of tasty indulgence. If you’re also persuaded, then you should give Chase Pink Grapefruit and Pomelo Gin a go. It’s a supremely delicious summer tipple that will come into its own as the weather picks up but for now, will bring a ray of sunshine into your own home. It’s available with £5 off and we can deliver straight to your door. There’s also a discount on Chase GB Gin and Chase Rhubarb and Bramley Apple Gin. What are you waiting for?

Chase Pink Grapefruit and Pomelo Gin Tasting Note:

Fresh tropical fruit notes sit up front, with plenty of enjoyable citrus acidity at its core. Juniper notes act as a spicy foil to the full-bodied sweetness.

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Get some new and trending tipples!

Looking for what’s hot, new and next in the world of delicious drinks? Then we’ve got what you’re looking for. How do you like the sound of getting your hands…

Looking for what’s hot, new and next in the world of delicious drinks? Then we’ve got what you’re looking for.

How do you like the sound of getting your hands on the most exciting bottles on the shelves at MoM Towers? Hot-off-the-press fresh whiskies. In-demand gins and rums. Trending Tequilas. Everybody hates being out of the loop and we all love tasty things. That’s why we’ve created this selection of spirits to keep you up to date with the latest and greatest in the world of booze no matter if you’re self-isolating or in lockdown.


Get some new and trending tipples!

Jaffa Cake Gin

Jaffa Cake Gin is distilled with oranges, fresh orange peel and cocoa powder. Oh yeah, and jaffa cakes. Proper jaffa cakes. Full moon, half-moon, total eclipse. Jaffa cakes. Do you actually need any more information? The label claims it will make the best Negroni mankind has ever seen and I don’t doubt it for one single minute. 

What does it taste like?

Zingy orange (marmalade-esque), rich and earthy chocolate, vanilla-rich cake, a touch of almondy-goodness and a solid backbone of juniper. Also, Jaffa Cakes! 

Get some new and trending tipples!


You don’t see too many worm tubs these days. Which is a shame. A lot of distilleries have opted to use efficient, easier to maintain condensers, but the muscular, complex profile it gives whisky is delicious. It’s that distinctive character that Wormtub whisky celebrates by blending together single malts made exclusively in distilleries still using traditional worm tubs. This is one for those who like their whisky to be full, rich and robust.

What does it taste like?

Sherry, leather, dates, cocoa, caramel, walnuts, wood-spice, fresh garden mint, ripe strawberries, candied cherry fudge and a wisp of smoke.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Dead Man’s Fingers Pineapple Rum 

Add the sweet, sour and tropical notes of pineapple to an already delicious rum and what have you got? Doubly tasty rum. That’s what. The folks over at Dead Man’s Fingers created this fun and fruity concoction using roasted and candied pineapple. It’s incredibly refreshing, particularly when paired with lemonade, lots of ice, a wedge of lime and a bunch of fresh mint.

What does it taste like?

Bright and almost tangy at first with fresh pineapple and ginger, followed by homemade caramel, nutmeg, cassia and mango.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Regions of Scotland Whisky Tasting Set 

It’s basically impossible to narrow down what the best thing about Scotch is, but the incredible range of different styles of whisky produced across all of its distinctive regions might just be it. This tasting set by Drinks by the Dram champions these regions with five 30ml samples from the peaty, smoky Islay; to the fruity, malty Highlands; the soft, floral Lowlands; and the honeyed, often Sherried Speyside and more!

What does it taste like?

Please don’t eat the box.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company

There’s plenty of mystery around Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old but one thing’s for sure, it’s bloody delicious. It was recently awarded the title of Islay Single Malt 12 Years and Under at the World Whiskies Awards 2020 for good reason. This Islay single malt from The Character of Islay Whisky Company was sourced from an undisclosed distillery on the island, but what we do know is that it was aged for 10 years in a mixture of bourbon barrels and Spanish oak sherry quarter casks. Plus the name is a fun anagram you can work out in your spare self-isolation time. 

What does it taste like?

Maritime peat, iodine, honey sweetness, paprika, salted caramel, old bookshelves, mint dark chocolate, espresso, new leather, soy sauce, liquorice allsorts, bonfire smoke and toffee penny, with a pinch of salt.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old is just an absolute classic and whisky this good never goes out of fashion. The single malt Scotch whisky, which was matured 100% Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 43% ABV, is probably the ultimate example of the kind of delightful sherried goodness that the Speyside distillery specialises in.

What does it taste like?

Classic Sherry notes, creamy barley, hints of gingerbread, nutty chocolate, smoke and a touch of menthol.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Beavertown Neck Oil Bundle (6 Pack)

Stocking up on good beer while in lockdown is a must and if you’re looking for a sublime session IPA then you won’t do better than Beavertown’s ever-popular Neck Oil beer. This bargain bundle will save you 10% versus buying them individually.

What does it taste like?

Light and crisp but full of flavour – citrusy and hoppy, slightly floral, very moreish.


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20 pro tips to make bar-quality cocktails at home

Curious about how the professionals make cocktails at home? Wonder no longer. From pre-freezing glassware to emulsifying egg drinks, here’s 20 expert-backed tips, tricks and hacks you can adopt to…

Curious about how the professionals make cocktails at home? Wonder no longer. From pre-freezing glassware to emulsifying egg drinks, here’s 20 expert-backed tips, tricks and hacks you can adopt to make bar-standard drinks in your kitchen…

No matter how well-versed you are at knocking up an Old Fashioned or a Daiquiri from the comfort of your own home, nothing quite beats the finesse of a bar-side serve. The question is: why?

Turns out, there’s more to making a cracking cocktail than just combining measured liquids in the correct order. But you don’t need loads of fancy kit and obscure ingredients to achieve them – all you need is a little know-how. We asked bartenders, brand ambassadors, and other knowledgeable drinks industry folks to share their hacks for making the best possible cocktails at home. Here’s what they had to say…

You’ll need ice, lots and lots of ice


Use more than you think you need

“There is one rule that I always stick to when making cocktails at home: Use good ice, and a lot of it,” says Renaud de Bosredon, Bombay Sapphire UK brand ambassador. “Using just two ice cubes in a Gin & Tonic or to stir a Martini will only add water and won’t cool the drink down properly. Don’t hold back. The more ice, the better!”

Filter before you fill up

“Ice is often overlooked as an ingredient, but in certain cocktails it can add up to 50% of dilution, so you want to be using the best quality ice possible,” says No. 3 Gin brand ambassador Ross Bryant. “Water quality is different all over the country, so anyone making ice in a hard water area should filter their water first before freezing.” 

Freeze your own large format ice 

“You can do this by filling a take-away container full of ice and leaving it to freeze, use a serrated knife to then cut it into nice big blocks,” says Dan Garnell, head bartender at Super Lyan, Amsterdam. “This will help keep the drink cold but won’t add too much dilution.” 

Know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ ice

“If your ice is ‘wet’ – i.e. wet on every side, it has been out of the freezer for a while – it will dilute your drink quicker,” says Bryant, “whereas ice cubes taken straight from the freezer are ‘dry’ and will dilute your drink slightly slower.”

Manhattan Duke

Manhattan: 2 parts rye, 1 part vermouth, dash of bitters


Resize drinks via ‘parts’

“Try transforming measurements in parts instead of ml or ounces,” says Andrei Talapanescu, head bartender at Pulitzer’s Bar in Amsterdam. “For example, a Manhattan will work with 2 parts base spirit, 1 part modifier and a couple dashes of bitters. Instead of 50ml/25ml or 60ml/30ml, there’s less to remember, and it’s easier to adjust according to the available glassware.” 

Introduce new flavours slowly

“You can always add more, but you can’t remove,” says Osvaldo Romito, bartender at the Megaro Hotel in London. “If you’re not sure, just start with a little bit and add more as you go.”

Look to physical cues

“Shake or stir until the temperature has reached an equilibrium,” says Talapanescu, “until you see condensation on the stirring glass or frost on the stainless steel shaker.”

Dry shake egg-based drinks

“When making drinks that contain egg, you must first ‘emulsify’ the egg,” says Bryant. “To do this, you must first shake all your ingredients without ice. Once shaken, open your shaker and add ice in order to chill and dilute your drink.”

Ask yourself, is that garnish really essential?


Identify the essentials

“Garnishes can be divided into two: aromatic enhancers and aesthetic enhancers,” says Andrei Talapanescu, head bartender at Pulitzer’s Bar in Amsterdam. “Do not omit the aromatic ones such as citrus zest, mint, or a spray. The rest can be left out.”

Dehydrate wheels of fruit… 

“These are so easy,” says Karol Terejlis, bars manager at Baltic and Ognisko, both in London.  “Put your oven on 70 degrees celsius and dry slices of orange, mandarins, tangerines, lemons and limes for around 8 to 10 hours. I also dry out strawberries and raspberries for the same time, then blend them to make a powder. Good for garnishes with a strong colour!”

…Or alternatively, freeze them

“Pre-freeze fruit slices,” suggests Metinee Kongsrivilai, Bacardi rum UK brand ambassador. “This will help reduce food waste as it preserves the fruit, but it’s also great for chilling your drinks and it adds to the drink’s presentation. This would be most effective with perfectly diluted drinks.”

Utilise kitchen kit

“Potato peelers will cut you great citrus peel twists,” says David Eden-Sangwell, brand ambassador at Old J Rum. “The Y-shaped peelers are the best for this and will leave most of the bitter pith behind.”

Terri Brotherston in action


Chill the glass

“Making drinks without ice?,” says Eden-Sangwell. “Chill the glass with ice and water while you mix the drink and empty just before pouring the drink in. This will keep your drink cold for longer.” Alternatively, pop your glass in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Pre-batch your ingredients

“If you are making multiple drinks, prepare in advance,” says Terri Brotherston, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK. “You can make a small batch of sugar syrup in advance and store it in the fridge. You can juice two or three lemons or limes beforehand and keep it in a jug. It means your ingredients are already to hand and will make it a much smoother, more enjoyable process.”

Keep bottles in the freezer

“If you’re more of a stirred-down, spirit-forward – dry vodka Martini, for example – kind of person, whack that pre-diluted spirit in the freezer,” says Nicole Sykes, bartender at Satan’s Whiskers in London and Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition 2020 UK Winner. “That way you’ll get consistently ice cold Martinis with a great texture, straight from the bottle and you don’t have to panic if you don’t have any ice. Pour straight into a pre-frozen glass.”

Blend your cocktail

“Utilise that blender,” says Sykes. “For really quick, consistent and cold drinks, stick your favourite cocktails into a blender, add 10ml more sugar syrup – which you can also make in your blender using equal parts caster sugar and water by weight – and blend with supermarket ice to make a slush!”

Pre-batch your cocktails

“I’ve got bottles of pre-batched drinks ready to go,” says Bartender Paul Mathew, owner of Bermondsey bar The Hide and founder of Everleaf, “including a Negroni, a Last Word (just add lime and shake), and a Diplomat (my wife’s favourite) – plus plenty of Everleaf for non-drinking evenings and aperitifs.”

The Nightcap

Sometimes, the best tip is just to keep it simple


Create your own cordials

“Experiment with home cordials,” suggests Garnell. “For instance, after doing fresh orange juice in the morning, boil the husks in a mixture of water, orange juice and spices such as clove, cinnamon or nutmeg. Leave it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and strain – you have your own spiced orange cordial!”

Try a milk wash

“Add one part spirit to a bowl and one quarter of its volume in lemon juice,” says Adam Rog, senior bartender at The Four Sisters bar in Islington. “Pour your spirit and lemon mixture into milk and watch it curdle. Once split, usually after 10 minutes, run it through a filter – try a microfibre cloth or some kitchen towel, as you’ll want it to catch the curds but keep the lactose. After this, you can add whatever flavours you think best. We milk wash coffee liqueur and add vodka, sugar, vanilla essence and cacao to create a smoother take on a White Russian.”

Or, just keep it simple

“One of my favourite cocktails to make at home is a Negroni,” says Ben Flux, bartender at Merchant House in London. “It’s simple, but a bartender’s favourite! Add a sustainable twist with Discarded Cascara Vermouth and spent coffee grounds to create a cold brew Negroni.”

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New Arrival of the Week: Manly Lilly Pilly Pink Gin

This week we’re crossing our fingers for sunshine while sipping a new pink gin with no added sugar all the way from Australia. And there’s a special cocktail at the…

This week we’re crossing our fingers for sunshine while sipping a new pink gin with no added sugar all the way from Australia. And there’s a special cocktail at the end.

Some people get very upset with pink gin. Just mention of it can get gin aficionados harrumphing into their (extremely) dry Martinis. But we’re equal opportunities boozers here at Master of Malt so we say, if you like pink gin, then ignore the snobs and drink it. Whatever blows your hair back. Some brands, however, are a little sweet for those raised on London dry gin which is why we’re so taken with the new Lilly Pilly Pink Gin from Australia which contains no added sugar. 

It gets its name from Lilly Pilly, a native Australian species of myrtle with striking pink coloured fruits known in New Zealand rather sweetly as monkey apples. Vanessa Wilton, co-founder of Manly Gin described them as “slightly tart but ever so Australian.” The gin, however, gets its pretty colour from raspberries, not from the lilly pillies which are distilled along with other exciting botanicals such as native limes, hibiscus rosella flowers, blood orange, sea fig and nasturtium flowers. The resulting gin is then steeped with raspberries for 18 hours. There is no sugar added. According to Wilton, “we were really inspired by the beautiful pink sea fig and nasturtium flowers found scattered on the sand dunes of Freshwater beach near the distillery.”

Top foraging!

The distillery itself is not named after some Burt Reynolds-type figure, disappointingly, but after Manly, a suburb of Sydney. It was set up by David Whittaker and Vanessa Wilton who got the spirits bug after visiting a distillery in Tasmania. The Manly range arrived in the UK only last year but has already made quite a splash. In addition to the Lilly Pilly, they produce two dry gins, a barrel-aged gin which tastes like an Australian Chartreuse, and two stunning flavoured vodkas. Finally, there’s whisky in the pipeline which came of age last year but isn’t commercially available yet. 

You might be surprised that the distiller of these amazingly Australian spirits is actually an Englishman, Tim Stones. He previously worked with Desmond Payne at Beefeater, and he confided in us that the great man himself had given the Australian Dry Gin the thumbs-up. Stones is clearly relishing working with Australia’s native flora, “these botanicals are incredibly pungent – just like the nation”, he told us last year. 

In addition to all the unusual ingredients, Manly has not stinted on the juniper in the Lilly Pilly gin and though it is definitely exotic, it’s not wacky. This means it’s a very versatile gin. It would be lovely just with tonic water, garnished with some raspberries, mixed into the reddest Negroni on the planet or you could try in a cocktail suggested by the distillery called the Pink Gin Sling. Just the thing for sipping in the garden when the sun comes out. Chin Chin! Or here’s mud in your eye, as they say in Australia. 

45ml Lilly Pilly Pink Gin
15ml Campari
45ml pineapple juice
20ml lime juice
15ml simple syrup
3 raspberries

Shake all the ingredients together and strain into an ice-filled Highball glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and a raspberry. 

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Alan Gray, Scotch whisky industry expert – obituary

Today, Ian Buxton pays tribute to one of Scotch whisky’s greats who died recently: Alan Gray, the man behind industry bible the annual Scotch Whisky Industry Review. Here at Master…

Today, Ian Buxton pays tribute to one of Scotch whisky’s greats who died recently: Alan Gray, the man behind industry bible the annual Scotch Whisky Industry Review.

Here at Master of Malt, we were greatly saddened to note the passing of Alan Gray. Alan Gray – ‘who he?’ some of you might ask. 

Alan may not have been well-known outside the industry, and he is unlikely to have been recognised by the whisky drinker, but he was widely respected by industry insiders for his insightful commentary on the Scotch whisky business.

Born in Lanark in December 1939, he trained initially as a chartered accountant, became a financial journalist in London and, on his return to his native Scotland, a stockbroker. Bear in mind that in the 1960s there were still very many more independent whisky companies and thus stocks quoted on the market. But whisky became his great love and, in 1977, he launched the first edition of his Scotch Whisky Industry Review.

As he developed his contacts and networks (which were extensive, for he was a clubbable man), this came to be seen as the most credible independent source of information and commentary on the industry. Each issue went into meticulous depth on production, stock levels, shipments, brand and marketing activity, frequently covering 300 pages or more of closely packed argument.

Alan Gray (photo credit: The Keepers of the Quaich)

His reputation grew with the publication of a monthly newsletter and he was valued for his discretion and his respect for the many ‘off the record’ conversations which added such depth to his commentary.

Alan was recognised as a Keeper (later Master) of the Quaich, an honour which he greatly valued. He was not afraid to challenge some of the industry’s conventions or to debunk the myths and spin that he detected from time to time in marketing. During his long life, Alan recorded the whisky industry moving from the depression of the ‘whisky loch’ to today’s current prosperity and expansion, always with sharp wit and a keen intelligence.

Think of him as a latter-day Alfred Barnard – a chronicler and enthusiast who has left an invaluable and unrivalled record. He had only recently completed work on the latest Scotch Whisky Industry Review 2019, remarkably the 42nd edition (photo in header from this publication). Its 284 pages will be a lasting memory of an impressive lifetime’s achievement.

Alan Gray died on 20th February 2020 and is survived by his wife of 56 years, Margaret, his three sons Barry, Colin and David, his brother Jim and by six grandchildren.


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