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Top ten whiskies for 2021

Ireland, Scotland and America are the powerhouses of global whisky, despite all the newer challenges. We’ve picked ten of our current top ten favourite bottlings as too much choice can…

Ireland, Scotland and America are the powerhouses of global whisky, despite all the newer challenges. We’ve picked ten of our current top ten favourite bottlings as too much choice can be overwhelming. Here are our top ten whiskeys/ whiskies for 2021. 

There are so many choices now when it comes to whisky. It can be a bit much, especially as there are so many new countries all producing delicious whisky. But for this round-up, we’ve stuck with the old gang, America, Ireland and, of course, Scotland, to pick some of our favourite bottlings, both old classics and newer releases.

Even from these three countries, the variety is wonderful. We’ve got single pot stills, single malts, rye, bourbon, a blended grain and a blended whisky. And none of them will break the bank. So, without further ado here are out top ten whiskies or should that be top ten whiskeys? Now that an end seems to be in sight to the long-running tariff dispute, perhaps the Scots, Irish and American can sit down and just agree how to spell whisk(e)y. Even if its just for typographical neatness.

That was a bit of a sidetrack. Sorry. Here they are:

Top ten Whiskies for 2021

American whiskies for under £50

Maker’s Mark 46

The classic Maker’s Mark is an all-time favourite for any sound-of-mind bourbon lover, but today we thought we’d draw your attention to the brand’s first line extension since the ’50s. Maker’s 46 is essentially the original bumped up a notch, with a bolder, spicier profile that was attained by inserting seared French oak staves into the barrels (with the stave profile “number 46” – thus the name). We can confirm it worked a treat.

What does it taste like?

Dense vanilla, toasted brown sugar atop apple pie, gingersnaps, cinnamon sticks, caramelised nuts, cask char, earthy cigar box, a touch of maple syrup, forest floor richness and chocolate sweetness.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

 

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey

Rye whiskey was a giant of the American drinks industry that was devastated by Prohibition, but thankfully things are changing and Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse is one of the leading brands of this welcome rye renaissance. Possessing plenty of that classic spicy, chewy and full-bodied Pennsylvanian rye style, Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey is a bartender’s favourite for good reason.

What does it taste like?

Dried fruits, soft spices, cocoa, butterscotch, marmalade, cinnamon and caramel.

autumn sippers

Redbreast 12 Year Old

One of the finest single pot still Irish whiskies ever created, what’s not love about Redbreast 12 Year Old? The rich and rewarding dram was made from malted and unmalted barley, and then matured in a combination of American oak bourbon barrels and Spanish oak Oloroso sherry butts. We can’t get enough of it.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, rich and oily, with notes of dried peels, ginger, linseed, cut fruits, marzipan and a hint of sherry. 

bargain Irish whiskey

Green Spot Single Pot Still 

Last year we announced the return of Blue Spot, now we’re showing some love to the best known of the range and a whiskey that has done so much to fly the flag for single pot still whiskey. We’re talking, of course, about the fabulous Green Spot, a whiskey that was matured in a combination of first and second fill bourbon casks as well as sherry casks to deliver a robust, fruity and rich profile. Savour this one.

What does it taste like?

Fresh green apple, sweet barley, sugary porridge, creamy vanilla, papaya, gentle bourbon oak, green woods, menthol, potpourri and citrus.

Springtime treats for Mother's Day

Compass Box Hedonism

Smooth, creamy and really very tasty, Hedonism represents Compass Box trying to create a decedent dram, as the name suggests. It’s a blended grain whisky featuring liquid (depending on batch variation) from Cameronbridge, Carsebridge, Cambus, Invergordon, Port Dundas or Dumbarton that was matured in 100% first-fill American oak barrels or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads. Equally delicious neat or in a multitude of classic cocktails, Hedonism is also amazing with a caramel-based dessert.

What does it taste like?:

Fraises des bois, sponge cake, red pepper, black cherry, milk chocolate, toasted oak and sweet spices with some cereal notes.

autumn sippers

Talisker 18 Year Old

There are few distilleries that can boast a range as good as Talisker and the 18 Year Old bottling is arguably its standout expression. Matured for nearly two decades in casks which previously held bourbon and sherry, this sweet and smoky malt has picked up multiple awards and won the plaudits of critics and fans alike.

What does it taste like?

Thick, rich and full-bodied with notes of spicy, peppery oak, espresso beans, wood smoke, allspice and there is a certain zesty character lurking somewhere.

balvenie-doublewood-12-year-old-whisky

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

Balvenie is Glenffiddich’s shy sibling. While its brother is a global celebrity, Balvenie just gets on quietly turning out some of the best whiskies in Speyside. The DoubleWood is a long time favourite of ours matured first in refill American oak casks before it was treated to a finish in first fill European oak Oloroso sherry butts for an additional nine months.

What does it taste like?

Perfect blend of bourbon and sherry. Vanilla and nutmeg notes mingle with dried fruit and nuts. A classic. 

Master of Malt Day 2020

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

An Islay single malt from an undisclosed distillery. The name makes sense as soon as you take a sip, it’s a smoky peaty Islay malt with 25% aged Oloroso sherry cask. This has proved an extremely popular malt with MoM customers.

What does it taste like? 

Does exactly what it says on the bottle: there’s woodsmoke, seaweed and charred meat combined with sweet sherry notes, red apple and vanilla. 

highland-park-12-year-old-viking-honour-whisky

Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

Once just known as Highland Park 12 Year Old, now it’s called Viking Honour. Fearsome! The whisky, happily, is the same as it ever was with that classic honey, floral and wood smoke profile. The Orkney distillery does things the time-honoured ways with floor maltings, peat, sherry casks and cool climate maturation. If it ain’t broke and all that. 

What does it taste like?

Honey and floral notes abound on the nose with some wood smoke. On the palate it’s peppery with notes of orange and wood shavings. 

Check out these bargain blended Scotch whiskies!

Green Isle 

If you’re an Islay whisky fan and are on the lookout for something with a little more smoke and sea, we’ve got just the thing. From the makers of The Character of Islay Whisky Company, Green Isle is a blend with a core of Islay malt alongside some complementary Speyside malt and Lowland grain whiskies. This is an approachable blend that mixes tremendously and would serve as a great introduction to those who would like to explore the smoker side of Scotch.

What does it taste like? 

Softly toasted barley, warming oak, honey glazed apples and cut grass. Then, vanilla pod earthiness, coastal peat, pear drops, dry smoke, buttery biscuits and crushed peppercorns.

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New Arrival of the Week: Reverend Hubert Garden Gin Liqueur

We have a Master of Malt exclusive, a special gin liqueur, perfect for summer sipping. To tell us more, we speak to one of the people behind Reverend Hubert Garden…

We have a Master of Malt exclusive, a special gin liqueur, perfect for summer sipping. To tell us more, we speak to one of the people behind Reverend Hubert Garden Gin Liqueur, drinks personality extraordinaire Joe Wadsack.

One of the few consolations of lockdown was watching Joe Wadsack’s Drink Coach videos on YouTube. There’s no editing or fancy production values. Just Wadsack, sitting down, sipping, and talking. It helps that the wine he talks about is always interesting but what really matters is Wadsack’s personality, knowledge, and sheer exuberance. I’d happily watch him talk about Seedlip.

Joe is more than just a wine man, he’s also deeply into his spirits. So much so that he has collaborated with Thomas Lester on a spirits brand called the Reverend Hubert. Two years ago, they launched a winter liqueur, which we made New Arrival of the Week, and now there’s a Garden Gin Liqueur, exclusive to Master of Malt. It’s perfect for loading up with fruit, and lemonade, or tonic water, and sitting back and soaking up the sun. Should it ever return.

Gerard Basset taught me to play table tennis

Before we take a closer look at this new summer bottling, I asked Wadsack about his wonderfully varied career. He was steeped in food and drink culture from an early age. His mother is Swedish and his father came over from Germany to England to work in the hospitality business in 1966 – “not the best time for a German to arrive,” he joked.

Wadsack senior worked for Trusthouse Forte hotels around the country, before opening a proto-gastro pub in Hampshire called The Three Lions. At one point, he employed legendary sommelier Gerard Basset. “Gerard Basset taught me to play table tennis,” Wadsack said. There’s not many people who can make that boast.

In his holidays, Wadsack would work in the family pub, regaling customers with his knowledge and enthusiasm for food and wine. A planned career as a pilot in the RAF didn’t work out. “I learned a lot about the world which horrified me,” he said. “Also I was too tall to be a fighter pilot which someone should have noticed before.” So Wadsack bowed to the inevitable and followed his love of wine by studying for a postgraduate degree at the University of Bordeaux despite only having O-level French. 

Following this, he worked for Oddbins wine merchants in its ‘90s heyday, before a job in the wine department at Sainsbury’s led to him becoming a buyer at Waitrose. His career stalled, however, when “Waitrose made the reckless decision that senior buyers had to be a Master of Wine,” he said.  Studying for this notoriously hard exam, only one in 400 pass, according to Wadsack, did not suit someone who describes himself as having “massive ADHD.”

Joe Wadsack

It’s only Joe Wadsack!

The whirlwind of wine

So with “a six-month-old child and another on the way”, as he put it, Wadsack left the job for life at Waitrose and found his true calling on television. He is one of TV’s genuine naturals, as ebullient and amusing on-screen as he is in real life. Wadsack is always performing which makes him such wonderful if sometimes exhausting company. Victoria Moore in the Daily Telegraph described him as “the whirlwind of wine.” “I love live TV, I’m a massive show-off. I did stand-up at university,” he said. In his varied career, he’s worked with Rick Stein, done Saturday Kitchen and the BBC Food & Drink programme with Tom Kerridge.

At the London Wine Show, Wadsack does a popular slot called Challenge Joe’s Nose where punters would bring mystery bottles for him to identify. Which invariably he did. 

During Lockdown, Wadsack started the Drinks Coach. He’s now delighted to be out and about again. “I’ve reconnected more with bars and pubs. They are social catalysts, people leave their ego at the door, and can talk and connect over food and drink.” 

This love and knowledge of cocktails and spirits shows in the enthusiasm with which he talks about the Reverend Hubert range. Wadsack was introduced to Thomas Lester, the inventor, and the two got on like a house on fire. Wadsack’s knowledge of the drinks industry was vital in getting it off the ground. 

Rev Hubert Garden cocktail

Rhubarb Kryptonite

This new summer version, Reverend Hubert Garden Gin Liqueur, Wadsack describes as a “logical replacement to Pimm’s.” The recipe starts with a premium gin made to their specifications “heavy on coriander and liquorice – it tastes weird on its own.” It’s then steeped with Slovak plums, cranberry, pomegranate, and rhubarb. Rather than using fresh rhubarb, the flavour is too volatile, they make a concentrated distillate which Wadsack describes as “Kryptonite, you have to wear gloves when working with it.” A little goes a long way. All the colours and flavours are natural, and it’s bottled at 20% ABV.

Once the recipe was perfected, Wadsack and Lester handed it over to Ed Wood at Wood Bros distillery in the Cotswolds who he described as “very safe pair hands. He knows the science.”

Wadsack recommends drinking Reverend Hubert Garden Gin Liqueur with Hibiscus Tonic water from Merchant Heart, topped with soda water and a sprig of mint. Or serving it with ginger ale, an extra shot of gin garnished with mint and borage. But he’s also been having a lot of fun experimenting with it in cocktails. It makes a cracking Bourbon Smash and a sublime Bramble: “If Dick Bradsell were still alive, he would have used it instead of creme de mure” he said.

So what’s next for Wadsack? He’d like to expand the Rev Hubert brand into non-alcoholic things, like gravadlax, salmon cured with gin. But he’d really like to fly again. “I miss the flying terribly gets under your skin in a way sex does. I look outside even on an overcast day like today, I’d love to fly in that.”

Reverend Hubert Garden Gin Liqueur is available exclusively from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Gin Rickey

The sun is out, warmer days are here and so a classic summertime cooler is called for. Luckily we’ve got just the thing: The Gin Rickey. Ah, The Rickey. One…

The sun is out, warmer days are here and so a classic summertime cooler is called for. Luckily we’ve got just the thing: The Gin Rickey.

Ah, The Rickey. One of those delightfully simple 19th-century cocktails that takes seconds to make and tastes great. A Rickey typically consists of gin or whiskey combined with fresh lime juice and soda water. With plenty of ice. It’s a summertime classic, after all, and with the weather we’re having here in Kent at the moment, it’s the perfect time for one. 

A man walks into a bar

But first, a little history. Are you ready for another dubious cocktail origin story? Good. Let’s begin. We’re going back to 1880 at Shoomaker’s Saloon in Washington DC, where the bigwigs of the day would booze it up. The patron we’re interested in today was a Democratic lobbyist called Colonel Joseph Kyle Rickey, who would, apparently, squeeze lime into his whiskey before topping it with soda. Bartender George A. Williamson took this personal preference and put it on the menu.

Rickey would eventually purchase the bar in 1883 and become a major importer of limes into the US. Which is neat. His untimely suicide in 1903 was less so. An obituary published in the Washington Post on 24 April, however, does reveal a bit more of the story of his drink: “Col. Rickey, before he became the owner of the resort on E street, would go into Shoomaker’s and ask George Williamson, who is still there, for a drink composed of ‘Belle of Nelson’ whisky, a piece of ice, and a siphon of seltzer,” the passage reads. “Fred Mussey, now gone, watched Col. Rickey indulge in these beverages. He finally took the recipe to New York, and there called for a ‘Rickey drink,’ which he explained and thus spread its fame. One day Representative Hatch, of Missouri, went into Shoomaker’s and asked for ‘one of those Rickey drinks, with a half of a lime in it.’ This was given to Mr. Hatch and the rickey was complete”.

The Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey

Rickey recipes

George Rothwell Brown also credited Williamson in his book Washington: A Not Too Serious History (1930), suggesting a stranger taught the bartender how drinks were prepared in the Caribbean with lime. The next day Col. Rickey arrived, Williamson made him and he approved. And there you have it. Well, not quite. As with any of these cocktail creation stories, it’s incredibly hard to pin down the exact details and people simply didn’t record this history outside of the odd reference and recipe. It’s also likely that somebody, somewhere put lime, soda, and booze in a glass and drank it because, well obviously.

The cocktail first appeared in print in Harry Johnson’s Bartenders Manual in 1882. Johnson’s recipe calls for “1 or 2 pieces of ice” as well as the juice of “1 good-sized lime or 2 small ones” and “1 wine glass of Tom or Holland gin”. What a fantastic way to measure gin, by the way. He also said to use a “medium-size fizz glass” and to “fill it up with club soda, carbonic or seltzers if required, and serve with a spoon”.

Regardless of who made it, it’s fair to say now there’s a pretty established recipe, the one we mentioned in the first line. It’s a familiar one too, not far from a Southside, a Mojito, or a Tom Collins, the latter being separated only by its choice of citrus. The Rickey is all about lime juice, the Collins favours lemon. You’ll also tend to find your Rickeys are served in a shorter glass, but that’s not really an important distinction. What is paramount is that you use fresh juice. We can’t make that point enough in this series. It really does make all the difference.

The Gin Rickey

It’s a perfect summertime cocktail

Which gin to use?

You’ll also need some premium soda water if you’re not messing around and, of course, some lovely gin. Something like a classic Tanqueray No. Ten would work a treat, or you could go a little more patriotic with a touch of Bluecoat American Dry Gin. If you’re using a classic London dry-style gin but like your drinks on the sweeter side, then you might want to add 10ml of sugar syrup to your recipe to balance the sharpness of the lime. But, as the sun is splitting the rocks here in Kent at the moment, we wanted to try something a little different and mix things up to capture that summer garden vibe.

That’s why for this particular recipe we’re ramping up the citrus charm with a new treat from Citadelle called Jardin d’ete, or ‘summer garden’. See. It’s perfect. Jardin d’ete is made with the addition of Charentais melon flesh, whole lemon, yuzu zest, and orange peel to the 19 botanicals used in the original expression. The additional fruits are cold distilled to ensure the flavour and fragrance are retained and the result is a bright, fresh, and citrussy creation that’s as summery as a seagull robbing you of your chips and stick of rock at Brighton beach. 

The brand made its own serve to go with the new gin, which is called Citadelle Summers Lemonade, and combines two parts of Jardin d’ete, one part sugar syrup and one part fresh lemon juice in a jug which you then fill with ice and top with soda. Essentially a Long Collins. However, we’re in a Gin Rickey mood and we had a play around with this beauty and think you’ll enjoy the recipe below. Here’s to you, Col. Rickey, and your love of the humble lime.

The Gin Rickey

Citadelle Jardin d’ete is our booze of choice for this week

How to make a Gin Rickey

45 ml Citadelle Jardin d’ete
15 ml lime juice (freshly squeezed)
15 ml soda water
5 ml sugar syrup (optional)

Shake your gin and lime juice (and sugar syrup if you like things sweeter) with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass. Then top it off with your soda and garnish with a length of lime peel.

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Top ten gins for 2021

We’ve picked some of our favourite new gins and some classics to drink this summer, with tips on how to enjoy them. So, whether you’re a Martini lover or adore…

We’ve picked some of our favourite new gins and some classics to drink this summer, with tips on how to enjoy them. So, whether you’re a Martini lover or adore a G&T, here are our top ten gins for 2021.

The gin world does not stand still. Every week, we are inundated with great offerings from new producers and new offerings from great producers. It’s an exciting time to be a gin lover. But all that choice can be a bit daunting. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite gins both new and classic to enjoy in the sun this summer.

There’s everything here from vibrant Mediterranean-style gins to complex port cask-aged spirits; we’ve included tiny producers and global brands. If it’s delicious and contains juniper, then it’s a contender. So without further ado, here are our top ten gins for 2021.

Top Ten gins for 2021

hyke-gin-very-special-gin

Hyke Very Special Gin

We loved everything from Foxhole Spirits. The team uses leftovers from wine production in their distinctive gins. This gives the base spirit an unmistakable floral character. Combine that with other botanicals including grapefruit and Earl Grey tea and you have a gin of great elegance and smoothness that’s worth treating with a bit of care.

What does it taste like?

A well-rounded, luxurious spirit carries notes of delicate citrus, herbal tea, crisp juniper leading into warming cubeb and ginger spiciness. Perfect Martini gin.

portobello-road-savoury-gin

Portobello Road Savoury Gin

If you like your gin to taste like gin, then you’ll love this latest release from London’s Portobello Road. It majors on the juniper which combined with Calabrian bergamot peel, Seville green gordal olives, rosemary and sea salt produces a deeply dry gin that positively reeks of Mediterranean. It’s the next best thing to going on holiday. Gorgeous bottle too.

What does it taste like?

Powerful juniper, pungent herbs and refreshingly bitter citrus notes. This might be the ultimate G&T gin but it’s a great all-rounder. 

port-barrelled-pink-gin-salcombe-distilling-co-that-boutiquey-gin-company-gin

Port-Barrelled Pink Gin – Salcombe Distilling Co (TBGC)

And now for something completely different. This was produced by Devon’s Salcombe Distilling Company in collaboration with Port house Niepoort and bottled by That Boutique-y Gin Company. The base spirit is a pink gin, steeped with sloes, damsons, rose and orange peel post-distillation. It’s then aged in a cask which once held a 1997 Colheita Port to produce something of great complexity and deliciousness.

How does it taste?

Fragrant and fruity with plum and orange oil. Lovely sipped neat on ice or with fresh raspberries in a seriously fancy G&T.

bathtub-gin

Bathtub Gin

Alongside all the exciting new products, we’ve included a few old favourites like the mighty Bathtub Gin. It’s made with a very high quality copper pot-still spirit infused with ingredients including juniper, orange peel, coriander, cassia, cloves and cardamom to produce a powerful gin with a creamy viscous mouthfeel. 

How does it taste?

The initial focus is juniper, but the earthier botanicals make themselves known in the initial palate too with the most gorgeously thick mouthfeel. Negroni time!

dyfi-original-gin

Dyfi Original Gin

Dyfi gin was set up in Wales by two brothers, Pete Cameron, a farmer and beekeeper, and Danny Cameron, a wine trade professional, in 2016. It took them two years of research and tasting to come up with the recipe which includes bog myrtle, Scots pine tips, lemon peel, coriander, juniper and more. A very special gin. 

How does it taste?

Drying juniper and coriander spiciness, powerful pine notes with a touch of oiliness, bright bursts of citrus keep it fresh and light.

cotswolds-no-2-wildflower-gin

Cotswolds No.2 Wildflower Gin

The Cotswolds Distillery was set up to make whisky but the team began making gin to help with cash flow. And they turned out to be rather good at it. This is based on the distillery’s classic dry gin which is then steeped with botanicals including elderflower and chamomile to create a floral flavoured gin inspired by the wild flowers of the Cotswolds. 

How does it taste? 

Earthy liquorice, a crackle of peppery juniper, softly sweet with candied peels, just a hint of clean eucalyptus lasts. This would make a splendid Tom Collins.

fords-london-dry-gin

Fords Gin

Created by bartender Simon Ford in conjunction with Thames Distillers in London to be the ultimate all-rounder gin. For the botanical selection, they use a varied selection from around the world, including grapefruit peel from Turkey, jasmine from China, angelica from Poland, lemon peel from Spain, as well as juniper from Italy.

What does it taste like?

Herbal rosemary and thyme meet floral heather and juniper, pink peppercorns, and grapefruit pith. Try it in a freezer door Martini

gin-mare-gin

Gin Mare

No, the name is not a reference to the bad dreams you have after a night on the sauce. It’s the Spanish word for sea, pronounced something like ‘mar re’, and it’s another Mediterranean stunner featuring rosemary, thyme, basil with lots of zest, and the start product, arbequina olive. This is the gin of Barcelona. 

What does it taste like?

A fragrant, perfume-like gin majoring, very herbal and aromatic with notes of coriander, juniper and citrus zest. 

dingle-original-gin

Dingle Original Gin

It’s another ‘while we wait for the whiskey’ gin, but it’s no afterthought. Containing rowan berry, fuschia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather, this gin from the Dingle Distillery in Kerry won World’s Best Gin at the 2019 World Gin Awards. And when you taste it, you’ll understand why. 

What does it taste like?

Juicy and sweet with authentic summer berry notes, followed by fresh herbs (think mint leaf and fennel).

tanqueray-number-10-london-dry-gin

Tanqueray No. Ten

And among all the new brands, it’s worth paying tribute to one of the old timers. Tanqueray’s heritage stretches back to the early 19th century but this No. Ten was introduced in 2000. It’s a small batch gin made using whole citrus fruits alongside chamomile and juniper, and takes its name from pot still number 10 at the Tanqueray distillery. 

How does it taste?

Perfumed and aromatic with notes of tangy grapefruit zest, creamy custard, cardamom, Earl Grey tea and clean zingy juniper. Massively refreshing. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama

Today, we’re dreaming of Spain while sipping the latest release of a very special dry sherry called Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama. Just add gordal olives and you could be in…

Today, we’re dreaming of Spain while sipping the latest release of a very special dry sherry called Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama. Just add gordal olives and you could be in Andalusia. 

As we still can’t easily travel abroad, my wife and I often talk wistfully of where we’d like to be rather than sitting in our garden in Kent. Usually, it’s outside a bar in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the south of Spain, sipping chilled Manzanilla sherry and eating tortillitas de camarones – addictive fritters made from tiny shrimp.

Well, we can’t eat tortillitas de camarones, mainly because we don’t know where we would get the camarones from but we can drink sherry and eat Spanish snacks. We should probably buy shares in Brindisa the amount we’re spending on chorizo, manchego and, best of all, chunky gordal olives. Naturally, there’s always a bottle of sherry in the fridge. Or should be if someone hasn’t drunk it. Tristan Stephenson, the Curious Bartender, touched on this when we spoke to him recently:

“I tend to have a bottle of sherry in the fridge anyway, well, actually that’s a lie, it tends to get drunk and then I don’t have one! But I always say I have one… I always want to have one, in the fridge”. 

It seems we’re not the only ones. Last year sherry sales were unusually strong which one producer put down to the holiday at home syndrome. If you’re missing Spain, then there’s no better palliative than sherry and tapas.

Fermin Hidalgo from Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

Fermin Hidalgo from Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

What is en rama sherry?

If I close my eyes with the sun shining and a chilled glass of Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama in my hand, I could almost be back on a magical spring holiday we took in Sanlucar a few years ago. 

Magical at least for the grown-ups, our daughter did get a bit bored during the five hour visit to Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana in the company of Fermin Hidalgo. Sherry tastes even better when drunk straight from the barrel via a venencia, a cup on a stick which you have to learn how to use if you want to be taken seriously in the sherry region.

For a long time, this unfiltered, straight-from-the barrel taste was only available to visitors but in the past 20 years, sherry producers have started bottling wines ‘en rama’. The word ‘rama’ literally means ‘branch’ or ‘on the vine’ which translates roughly as ‘in its natural state’.

It’s become an annual tradition, much-anticipated by wine lovers. The cellar master at bodegas like Hidalgo or Gonzalez Byass in Jerez (Tio Pepe’s 201 en rama release is available here), pick out a few exceptional casks. These are then bottled with only a very light filtering. Each annual release is different and the wines change in bottle. Drink them young for maximum freshness or keep them to gain nutty complexity.

En Rama 2021 with glass

Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama – just add some olives and you can pretend you’re in Andalusia

La Gitana

‘La Gitana’ means ‘the gypsy’ and it’s the bestselling Manzanilla sherry in the world. A Manzanilla is a type of Fino which is made only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda where the salty sea air imparts a saline-tang to the sherry. Or so it seems. Anyway, this part of the sherry region is famous for the freshness and sheer drinkability of its wines.

A Manzanilla is a dry wine, very lightly fortified to 15% ABV and aged under flor, a layer of yeast, that keeps it protected from the oxygen. It’s blended in a solera before bottling (learn more about sherry here). At Bodegas Hidalgo, they only use Palomino grapes from their own vineyards and ferment using wild yeasts. 

The standard bottling is excellent but the ‘en rama’ is something else: nuttier and more complex but all the time with that fresh saline tang. Some years, it’s incredibly rich, but this year, it’s particularly refreshing and delicious. It can both be enjoyed in a carefree party mood, or sipped slowly, lost in concentration.

The more I drink fine dry sherries like this, the more I think that they have more in common with white Burgundy than the sticky brown concoctions that many still associate with sherry.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the sticky brown concoctions, they’re especially good for sweetening cocktails, but a Manzanilla en rama is a very different proposition. If you’re new to sherry, chill the wine and serve with some olives and almonds. The first glass might taste a bit odd if you’re used to very fruity wines like Sauvignon Blanc but by the second, I promise you’ll be hooked.

There’s really no easier way to travel to Spain this summer.

Tasting note:

Nose: Green apple, bready with floral and saline notes like smelling the sea.

Palate: Intense freshness, fruit like lemons and a Cox’s apples, salty and then creamy.

Finish: Pure almonds. Very long. 

Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Tipperary

Today, we’re mixing up a classic Irish whiskey-based cocktail with a tangled history which might have you singing a famous song. It’s the Tipperary! One of the most unforgettable scenes…

Today, we’re mixing up a classic Irish whiskey-based cocktail with a tangled history which might have you singing a famous song. It’s the Tipperary!

One of the most unforgettable scenes from a film full of great moments is in Das Boot where all the German World War Two submariners put on a gramophone record and sing along, badly, to ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. Meanwhile the political officer looks on disapprovingly at the men singing an enemy song. 

The song was originally written for and sung by homesick Irishmen but it tapped into a universal nostalgia for home and a weariness with war. It was first performed in 1912 and quickly became part of the popular culture of Europe and America.

A man walks into a bar

And like much popular culture in the early 20th century, it inspired a cocktail too. 

The story goes that in 1916 a customer walked into the bar at the Hotel Wallick in New York singing the song, and asked for a drink. On the spot, the bar manager Hugo Ensslin came up with the Tipperary. He put it in his 1917 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks specifying equal parts Chartreuse, Bushmills Irish whiskey and sweet vermouth

Or the other story is that Ensslin invented the cocktail to cash in on the visit to New York of Irish tenor John McCormack, the most famous singer of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’.

This equal parts version shaken with ice and served straight up is the one that appears in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book under the name Tipperary Cocktail No. 1. There’s also a rather strange sounding Tipperary Cocktail No. 2 which is totally different, mixing orange juice, grenadine, French vermouth, gin and fresh mint. Must try it one day. It’s the no. 2 that is listed in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

To further muddy the waters, the 1935 Waldorf Astoria cocktail book contains a third Tipperary which it says was “invented long before the wartime song of the same name was heard, so it must be considered a direct namesake of the Irish county, and so-called by a fond exile.” It contains two parts sloe gin, one part French vermouth and a teaspoon of lemon juice. It doesn’t say what you do with the ingredients but we imagine shaking with ice and serving straight up would suit the cocktail well. Very nice but not terribly Irish. 

Modern variations

Nowadays, the Irish whiskey, Chartreuse, sweet vermouth version is canonical. But it’s often made heavy on the whiskey to suit drier tastes. Two parts whiskey to one part each Chartreuse and Vermouth makes it not dissimilar to a Boulevardier. Or you could try a version created by Gaz Regan from Dead Rabbit in San Francisco, a 4:2:1 ratio of whiskey, vermouth and Chartreuse. He writes:

The Savoy’s Tipperary Cocktail (No. 1) calls for equal parts Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth and green Chartreuse…. This is the formula I decided to play with when I gave myself the task of pimping this drink. I love Chartreuse, so this was an easy decision. Chartreuse, as you might know, is a heavy-duty herbal liqueur and, as such, it’s an ingredient that ought to be handled judiciously when one is indulging in cocktailian pursuits, lest it mask the other ingredients. I cut back on the vermouth in the new formula. Or perhaps I added more whiskey. I’ll let you decide. The new drink sips quite well, though. The vermouth plays well with the whiskey, and the Chartreuse merely dances in the backdrop, making itself known, but not going anywhere near center stage.”

Whiskey Tipperary Cocktail with Chartreuse

However you make it, use a quality Irish whiskey with a good dose of pot still to it, we recommend Powers Gold Label (though I’m using my house blend) and a decent sweet vermouth. It’s usually stirred over ice and served straight up but there’s no reason why you couldn’t serve it on ice like a Negroni. Because of its name, greenish tinge and the presence of Irish whiskey, it’s often saved for St Patrick’s Day but we think it’s much too good to serve only once a year.

Incidentally, the story of the song is almost as complicated as the cocktail. You might be surprised to hear that it was written by two Englishmen, albeit one of Irish descent: Jack Judge, whose parents were from Mayo, and Harry Williams. But then again Shane MacGowan was born in Kent.

Here’s how to make the Tipperary

70ml Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey
35ml Green Chartreuse
35ml Gonzalez Byass La Copa vermouth

Stir thoroughly over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Serve with an orange or lemon twist while singing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ in a thick German accent. 

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Booze by musicians, perfect for Father’s Day!

Want to really spoil dad this year? Get him something boozy and brilliant by a band or artist he loves. Booze by musicians is the perfect gift for Father’s Day. Fathers….

Want to really spoil dad this year? Get him something boozy and brilliant by a band or artist he loves. Booze by musicians is the perfect gift for Father’s Day.

Fathers. Where would we be without them? Literally non-existent. That’s science. We have a lot to thank them for. Not the gift of existence, of course, because none of us asked for this and it’s a mixed bag at best, but for making the whole experience more palatable by being there for us and showing love in that understated manner dads have.

And after a particularly tough time of it recently, all their efforts and support really deserve a good gesture of gratitude. Given there’s not many dads who don’t enjoy a tipple or two, you can’t really go wrong with a bottle of booze. But if you want to really impress your old man, you should go for a bottle with an association he’ll appreciate. 

Something by his favourite musician, for example, is guaranteed to ramp up the meaning and a pleasant dose of nostalgia and novelty to your gift. What you don’t want to do, however, is trawl through the internet finding out which star owns what brand. So we’ve done the hard work for you and picked some of our favourite bottles by musicians perfect to gift this Father’s Day.

Booze by musicians

KISS Black Diamond Rum 

If your dad is the kind who loves to rock and roll all nite, particularly with a good rum, then look no further than this beauty from the legendary and heavily made-up KISS. Black Diamond Rum, which references the closing song on the band’s 1974 eponymous debut album, features some classic band imagery on the label. But it’s no gimmick. The liquid in this bottle is quality Caribbean rum aged for up to 15 years. Sip it, mix it, hold the bottle aloft while wagging your tongue. This one can do it all.

Why your dad will like it: Because it’s a delicious, quality rum with notes of vanilla, citrus peels, mature oak, cinnamon and a touch of caraway spiciness underneath it all. Oh, and because it’s KISS. Who wouldn’t love this?

Booze by musicians

Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon

It’s a pretty good bet that if Bob Dylan’s involved in something it’s going to be a) brilliant and b) something your dad is interested in. Recently the legendary singer-songwriter decided to create a range of whiskey with Marc Bushala (founder of Angel’s Envy Bourbon) and it truly ticks both boxes. Named after one of his most famous tunes, Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon is made with spirit aged for at least eight years in American oak barrels and has lots of the sweet vanilla, aromatic spice and toasty warmth you expect from a good bourbon. Plus that design is from Dylan’s own wrought ironwork. How cool is that?

Why your dad will like it: Because it looks great, it tastes amazing and it will make him want to get his old records out and pair his dram with some classic Dylan. 

Booze by musicians

Cîroc French Vanilla

If your dad is more of a hip-hop fan then he’s sure to know that singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs has been involved in the CÎROC Vodka brand since 2007. This particular bottling, made from fine Ugni Blanc grapes from the French Gaillac region which are five times distilled and infused with vanilla cream and vanilla bean, comes with two stars for the price of one, however, as none other than French Montana is the official face of French Vanilla. A French Montana sounds a bit like a cocktail you’d get in the Alps, doesn’t it?

Why your dad will like it: It’s a rich, creamy and moreish drink that he can mix till his heart’s content while enjoying the street cred this bottle’s associations bring. It will probably lead to some tragic dad rapping, however. You’ve been warned.

Booze by musicians

The Pogues Single Malt Whiskey 

An Irish whiskey made by West Cork Distillers, this single malt, was aged in bourbon oak casks before it was bottled up at 40% ABV. It is highly versatile for either sipping, or mixing in a cocktail. But best of all, it’s the official whiskey of the legendary band The Pogues, who are so much more than just a Christmas number one. As your dad is sure to tell you when you hand him a bottle of this. For his sake, do act like you’re interested.

Why your dad will like it: It’s a reliable, great value and terrific looking single malt with flavours of caramelised nuts, chocolate salted caramel, dry oak spice, peanut butter, s’mores and floral malt. It will probably lead to some tragic dad drunken signing/poetry, however. You’ve been warned.

Booze by musicians

Crystal Head Vodka Aurora Gift Pack with 4x Glasses

Ok, so this one might be a bit cheeky. Crystal Head was co-founded by Dan Aykroyd, as in the star of Ghostbusters. But given he’s probably best known for his Blues Brothers role, we’re considering him to be a musical icon. No arguments. If you’ve seen it you’ll understand. Anyway, this is a perfect gift because, well, it’s a gift set. Also, look at it. Skulls are cool. We all know that. 

Why your dad will like it: He’ll love remarking on the fact that the glasses look like the bottle. He’ll show his friends and say things like, “that’s cool, isn’t it?” and they’ll agree. Because skulls are cool.

Booze by musicians

Manchester Gin FAC51 The Haçienda

One for the dads who like to look longingly into the distance and remember the good ol’ days. This gin was made to celebrate Manchester’s music, culture and, more specifically, iconic nightclub The Haçienda. It looks fantastic and has a beautiful profile of citrus, liquorice and earthy sweetness. Should make some fab Father’s Day G&Ts. Oh and be sure to let him know that Joy Division and New Order legend Peter Hook was involved in the creation of this one.

Why your dad will like it: He’ll appreciate yellow-and-black-striped dance floor columns being recreated on the bottle’s label and the fact that the bottle has Hook’s signature. You could say he’ll be mad for it. But I don’t want the people of Manchester to boo me, so let’s not go there.

Booze by musicians

Slipknot No.9 Whiskey

Shawn “Clown” Crahan from much-loved heavy metal band Slipknot actually blended this whiskey himself with Cedar Ridge Distillery. Which is neat. As is the fact that It was made with a helping of rye and plenty of Iowa corn, as both Slipknot and Cedar Ridge hail from Iowa. Double neat.

Why your dad will like it: It’s toasty, sweet and smooth whiskey that goes down really easy with Slipknot’s Iowa album on in the background.

Booze by musicians

Armand de Brignac Blanc Ace of Spades Gold

Armand de Brignac welcomed Jay-Z into its brand officially in 2014 after years of him being something of a brand ambassador and he’s brought him a sense of swagger and style that should appeal to the dads who either are a) legitimately quite cool or b) tragically think they are. Either way, both deserve to be spoiled (option b is trying their best) and Armand de Brignac’s Ace of Spades is the kind of swanky showstopper of a bubbly they’ll love.

Why your dad will like it: Because he’s got options. Either he pops it open like a Formula One driver and lets whats left of his hair down. Or go classy and appreciate a fine, aromatic and silky sipper. He might even put on a suit.

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New Arrival of the Week: Timorous Beastie: Meet the Beast

Today a fearsome whisky has arrived at Master of Malt. It’s a blended malt from Douglas Laing, a special ex-bourbon cask 54.9% ABV monster called Timorous Beastie: Meet The Beast….

Today a fearsome whisky has arrived at Master of Malt. It’s a blended malt from Douglas Laing, a special ex-bourbon cask 54.9% ABV monster called Timorous Beastie: Meet The Beast.

If you don’t think there’s an art to blending whisky, have a go at it yourself. Mix different whiskies together and you can very quickly end up with something that’s more dog’s dinner than Copper Dog. I know because I’ve done it.

When blends go wrong

Many people involved in the drinks business keep a running blend going made up of samples. There’s now a term for this, infinity bottles, but for most of us, it’s just a way to keep the house tidy. The other choice is either to drink the whole sample, which for buyers who have to taste dozens a day would be dangerous. Or the house begins to fill up with tiny little bottles, and wives, daughters, husbands, parents, or housemates start to complain. 

So into the vat they go though obviously we don’t do this with samples of 1977 Brora. Those we drink. 

Currently, I have two whisky blends on the go: a Scotch (and Scotch-style) blend, and an Irish. The latter is currently tasting fabulous. Sadly, I ruined the Scotch blend by adding a particular sample of single malt. Tasted neat, it had a very pleasant and distinctive lavender note but it did something unholy when mixed with smoke. It’s a complete disaster. I really need some sweet grain to smooth the whole thing out. 

Anyway, all this preamble is just to say that blending whisky is not easy. Blenders not only have to make something delicious and harmonious but do it at a certain price in large batches with an ever changing cast of whisky because no two casks are the same.

Imagine doing it on the scale of Jim Beveridge and team at Johnnie Walker. The mind boggles. Even doing things on a smaller scale, like Douglas Laing does with its blends, requires a superb palate, an eye for details, and access to high quality whisky.

Timorous Beastie: Meet the Beast

Unchain the beast!

A mighty mouse

This Glasgow-based business has been producing independent bottlings and in-house blends for over 70 years. It was founded by Fred Douglas Laing in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. His son Fred Hamilton Laing joined the business in 1972 and now his daughter Cara Laing has the title of director of whisky while her husband Chris Leggat is the CEO.

The blends are particularly interesting and show a mastery of melding something harmonious out of distinctive single malts. There a smoky island blend called Big Peat, Scallywag a sherry-led Speyside vatting containing Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, and Timorous Beastie, a blended malt made entirely of Highland whiskies from distilleries such as Dalmore, Glen Garioch, Glengoyne and others.

The name is, of course, inspired by Robert Burns’s poem, To a Mouse: “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”. A little in-joke as there’s nothing mouse-like about this mighty dram. 

But now there’s an even mightier mouse on the loose about the house. Called Timorous Beastie: Meet the Beast, it’s a limited edition (only 3600 bottles have been filled) matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at a mighty 54.9% ABV. 

The result is crammed full of fruit, oak and spice. We’re fortunate to get our hands on a few bottles. Whatever you do, don’t tip it into your infinity bottle. Leave the blending to the masters. 

Tasting notes from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Red apples, slightly toasted barley, pain au chocolat, walnuts, mahogany.

Palate: Cinnamon and nutmeg, followed by pancakes with maple syrup, spun sugar, anise, and cedar.

Finish: A touch of oaky spice lingers on the finish, balanced by sweet popcorn.

Timorous Beastie: Meet the Beast is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Top ten Cognacs for Father’s Day

Cognac makes a wonderful present for awkward fathers. So to help you narrow down the choice, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite bottles, from easy mixers to serious after…

Cognac makes a wonderful present for awkward fathers. So to help you narrow down the choice, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite bottles, from easy mixers to serious after dinner sippers. Here are ten Cognacs for Father’s Day.

Lovers of malt whisky or aged rum should really be exploring the Cognac region. If old sherried single malts like Glenfarclas or Macallan float your boat, then you’ll love long-aged vintage or XO Cognac. If Spanish-style rums are more your thing, then you’ll love some fruity VSOPs. Love cocktails? Well, you’ll need a good VS to make a Sazerac, Horse’s Neck etc.

You don’t need to spend the earth, there’s a Cognac for everyone but if you do want to splash out, there are vintage Cognacs available that make Scotch whisky prices look distinctly silly.

Cognac is usually a blended spirit. Giant merchants houses like Hennessy or Remy Martin buy in spirits and age and blend them. Producers are allowed to sweeten and add boise (oak essence). There are also smaller producers who produce Cognacs from their own vineyards as well as companies that specialise in bottling rare casks of mature Cognac. Most Cognac will come with a designation like VS, VSOP or XO (see below) but there are some rare vintage brandies available. 

The region just north of Bordeaux is divided into six parts: Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fin Bois, Bon Bois, Bois Ordinaires. The first two are the most highly-regarded but you can find spirits of real character and style from all the sub-regions. About 90% of grapes grown are Ugni Blanc.

Right, that’s enough information. Without further ado, here are ten cognac for Father’s Day. If your old man doesn’t like one of these, is he even a booze enthusiast?

Here are our top ten Cognacs for Father’s Day

seignette-vs-cognac

Seignette VS

Fun, fruity and a little sweet, this is the perfect mixing Cognac. It’s a revival of an old brand recently relaunched by the Sazerac company. So yes Sazeracs are very much in order with this one, but it also makes a mean Brandy and Soda, and others. VS stands for Very Special and means that it has been aged for a minimum of two years but will contain older spirits. 

chateau-de-montifaud-vsop-petite-champagne-cognac

Château de Montifaud VSOP Petite Champagne

Château de Montifaud has been in the Vallet family for six generations. All their Cognacs come from the Petite Champagne region. The young eaux-de-vie spend a year in new oak before transferring to older casks to mature. This is much older than most VSOP brandies and it shows in its exceptional smoothness and length with lingering notes of apricots, pears and almonds. 

hine-rare-vsop

Hine Rare VSOP 

VSOP stands for Very Special Old Pale and has to be aged for a minimum of four years though Hine prides itself on ageing much longer. It only uses fruit from the Grande and Petite Champagne regions, including grapes from Hine’s own vineyards. This shows off the fruity elegant Hine house style to the max. When you buy a bottle before 20 June 2021 you will be entered into a competition to win a trip to visit Maison Hine! Full details here.

Leyrat vsop-premium-cognac

Leyrat VSOP Reserve

Cognac Leyrat comes from the Domaine de Chez Maillard estate and uses fruit from the Fine Bois region. The family really looks after their vines using no artificial fertilisers etc. and all the grapes are picked by hand. After ageing in French oak for a minimum of four years, there are no additions except water to bring it down to drinking strength. The result is a floral, fresh Cognac that really reflects its origins. 

jean-fillioux-tres-vieux-cognac

Jean Fillioux Très Vieux XO 

This is an XO but it’s much older than the minimum six years. This small house makes some of the most highly-regarded spirits in the region – the Très Vieux took a double gold medal at the San Francisco spirits competition in 2016. Expect orchard fruits with candied peels, spice and Madeira on the nose, with honey, marmalade and spicy oak on the palate. 

delamain-pale-and-dry-xo-cognac

Delamain Pale and Dry XO 

Using only grapes from the Grand Champagne region, Delamain Pale and Dry has long been a favourite, particularly among the British wine trade who appreciated its fragrant, wine-like style. Unusually, for Cognac, it’s bottled with no added sugar or boise, hence why it’s called ‘Pale and Dry’. If you think Cognac is meant to be big and heavy, then think again. This is terribly sophisticated stuff. 

frapin-15-year-old-cask-strength-cognac

Frapin 15 year old cask strength

Though Frapin probably wouldn’t say so, this is aimed at the whisky drinker with its easy-to-understand age statement and its even bottled at cask strength. It’s made only from grapes grown in Grand Champagne, and the resulting eaux-de-vies are aged in both humid and dry cellars, the former for elegance, the latter for bigger flavours. They are then blended together with no additions to create this beauty. 

hermitage-1990-grande-champagne-cognac

Hermitage 1990

Hermitage sniffs out rare parcels of Grand Champagne Cognac including some from the 19th century which are extraordinary experiences with prices to match. This is one of its more affordable offerings and it’s a belter. It’s still in cask so every batch is a little older and better. The nose is all tropical fruits with furniture polish, and then in the mouth there’s that fruit but also marzipan, butterscotch and chocolate. It’s also a bargain – think of what Macallan would charge for a 31 year old whisky. 

martell-cordon-bleu-cognac

Martell Cordon Bleu XO

A multi-award-winning classic from one of the big boys of Cognac. It was originally created by Edouard Martell in 1912. Apparently, the recipe hasn’t changed since then. It’s made up of over 150 eaux-de-vie with the majority coming from one of the lesser known Cognac regions: the Borderies. The result is a rich luxurious Cognac packed full of roasted nuts, chocolate and dried fruits. 

hennessy-xo-cognac

Hennessy XO 

Hennessy is the original XO. The designation meaning Extra Old was first bottled for family and friends by Maurice Hennessy in 1870 before later being used for commercial releases. An XO must be aged for a minimum of six years. Hennessy’s is blended from 100 eaux-de-vie from the Grande and Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois regions to create a rich and spicy Cognac that would be splendid with a cigar. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Disco Picante

This week we’re shaking up one of the snazziest-looking cocktails we’ve seen in a while. It’s sexy, it’s spicy and it’s called the Disco Picante! And for the second week…

This week we’re shaking up one of the snazziest-looking cocktails we’ve seen in a while. It’s sexy, it’s spicy and it’s called the Disco Picante! And for the second week in a row, we’ve mentioned Tom Cruise in Cocktail. There must be something in the air.

There’s something that just screams ‘80s about a blue cocktail. It’s Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, summer holidays in Tenerife or Tom Cruise in Cocktail. In that film. Cruise shakes up a drink called a Turquoise Blue, aka a Turquoise Daiquiri, combining white rum, triple sec, lime juice, pineapple juice and the all important blue Curaçao. 

Brilliant blue

For a long time, blue Curaçao was perhaps the naffest ingredient in a bartender’s armory. It’s not authentic, it’s not small-batch, nobody is going to get a blue Curaçao tattoo, unless they’re really drunk. But that’s part of its charm. Cocktails aren’t meant to be about beard stroking and willfully obscure ingredients, they’re meant to be fun and blue Curaçao is nothing if not fun.

It’s just orange Curaçao so it is sweet, orangey with a little bitterness but with the addition of a synthetic food colouring known as Brilliant Blue. You probably ate your bodyweight in synthetic colouring as a child, I know I did, and it never did me any harm. 

Disco Picante

None more blue

Blue planet

For a couple of years now, bar trend types have predicted that fun cocktails would be coming back in.  You know the sort of ones that you would order on holiday with a giggle like the Sex on the Beach or the Screaming Orgasm. The fact that this is the second week in a row we’ve mentioned Tom Cruise in the CoW slot, suggests that there is indeed something going on. Perhaps, the post-Covid roaring ‘20s really are happening. Heaven knows, we could all do with a bit of light-hearted fun at the moment. 

Like our Cocktail of the Week. Called the Disco Picante, let’s just pause there to reflect on what a great name this is, it’s a sort of halfway house between an ‘80s holiday cocktail and something a bit more grown-up. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s blue, and quite sweet, but it’s also spicy and made with smoky mezcal so there are some quite challenging flavours in there. For the spice element, you can use a spice liqueur like Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur or Giffard Piment. Or make your own chilli liqueur, it’s very easy, or just add something spicy like brine from a jar of jalapeno peppers.

Blue juice

The Disco Picante was created by Sarah Ben Saoud who swapped the corporate world for a life behind the bar. She said her favourite cocktail is a Dry Martini but she also has “an extreme weakness for a disco drink” when she’s in the mood. ‘I like disco drinks because they come from a time before roto vaps, sous vides, infusions and fat washing. There’s basically zero wankiness attached to them and I like that. They are just unapologetically garish and in your face, and more often than not they are absolutely delicious!” she explained.

And today’s Cocktail of the Week is nothing if not a disco drink: it’s blue and it has the word ‘disco’ in the title. You could use ordinary orange Curaçao but then it wouldn’t be blue and therefore not disco. Saoud explained: “we all know blue drinks are the best drinks. Seriously though, the colour is just wonderful. A drink with blue Curaçao in it makes me happy just looking at it. I couldn’t live without it.”

Following a stint at a bar called Bandra Bhai beneath an Indian restaurant which is described in the press bumf as: “delightfully tacky,” Saoud is just about to start a new role at The Duchess of Dalston in East London. She said that it’s “currently a building site but in the process of being finished in the next few weeks.” Let’s hope she puts the Disco Picante on the menu.

Right, stick on some  appropriate music, and get shaking. Do you wanna funk with me? Yes, yes I do.

Here’s how to make a Disco Picante

45ml Recuerdo Joven Mezcal
10ml De Kuyper Blue Curaçao
25ml lime juice
10ml agave syrup
15ml spice liqueur such as Giffard Piment D’Espelette or Ancho Reyes 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Serve in rocks or Highball glass over fresh ice. Garnish with lime or jalapeño pepper.

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