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Celebrate the start of 2022 in sophisticated party style with The Bottled Cocktail Company.

Making a cocktail is an art, like theatre. A bar is the stage for many performances.

The Bartender is a doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist all in one.”

Salvatore Calabrese

The Bottled Cocktail Company is an exciting new venture in the fast expanding ready-to-drink market established by Keivan Nemati and a group of friends to share their avid passion for cocktails.

Keivan Nemati, founder of the Bottled Cocktail Company

Nemati started working in the drinks industry in 2009 in London and is a former Bar manager at The Zetter Townhouse. Inspired by the similarities between the crafting of cocktails and the art of fragrance, he began studying perfumery as well as collaborating with spirits brands on developing new products.

The Bottled Cocktail Company’s mission is simple:

‘We believe that cocktails should not be relegated to cocktail bars, to bring a true mixology experience whenever you want in the comfort of your own home.’

Drink with friends – social Zoom parties during lockdown

During the Covid pandemic lockdown in the UK between 2020-21, with bars and restaurants closed (and people shielding at home), the way we consume alcohol changed dramatically.  Instead of just sipping wine over dinner, we bought spirits and cocktail shakers to concoct our favourite tipples while entrepreneurial mixologists and drinks businesses caught on to the demand and created pre-mixed cocktails in cans, cartons and bottles.

Staying in became the new going out, and the Japanese buzzword ‘On-nomi’ (‘drinking alone’) led to socialising by zoom with ‘virtual’ happy hour parties. 

But when was the first pre-batched cocktail produced?

Campari, the fashionable hot red drink since 1860

In 1860, Gaspare Campari founded his eponymous aperitivo drinks brand in Novara, near Milan, and in 1932 an attractive triangular bottle of pre-batched Campari Soda was produced, still a bestseller today. The Bellini was invented in the summer of 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar, Venice – Prosecco and fresh peach pureé. 1988 – the Luciano Canella winery created Canella’s ready-to-go Bellini.  

1990, USA – the Barcardi Breezer, a ready made, sweet, fruity rum punch soon brought the alcopop taste of the Caribbean to the British Isles.

Fast forward to today. The ready-to-drink sector was the only alcohol category to see growth of sales over the past couple of years, outperforming the rest of the drinks industry with UK sales in 2020 reaching £412 million.   

‘RTDs are amongst the most innovative and creative drinks in the market, forever changing, adapting and growing the potential’.  

London Spirits Competition.  (June 2021)

Welcome then to the Bottled Cocktail Company which has launched its initial range: El Presidente, Elderflower Highball, Negroni, Dry Gin Martini, Old Fashioned and Passion Fruit Spritz, with more to be released in the coming months.

The Bottled Cocktail Company inaugural collection

All drinks are ready to serve, well chilled, to be sipped either straight up or over ice.  Nemati’s professional experience both as a mixologist and his knowledge of perfumes, ensures that the finest spirits and ingredients are selected for bespoke, premium quality cocktails.  

Count Camillo Negroni who created his famous cocktail in 1919

The Negroni was invented just over a century ago in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni decided that he wanted his usual Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water), to be jazzed up. The creative bar tender replaced the soda with gin, unwittingly creating Italy’s beloved and world renowned cocktail.    

The Silver Fir Negroni from BCC

Silver Fir Negroni, 21% abv.  

Gin, Italian Vermouth, Orange Bitter & Silver Fir 

Simply pour 80ml – 100ml into a Rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange.

The Taste Test:

On the nose, a richly aromatic, earthy, woodland scent and then the first sip: elegantly smooth, followed by the delectable sharp, bitter orange tang which lingers on the tongue.  It is the perfect Aperitivo – meaning that the bittersweet, herbal flavour opens up the stomach to give one an appetite.  This is simply exquisite.

The Negroni – sip before dinner to whet the appetite

“About 80% of (our) perception of flavour actually comes from the sense of smell. We create our own aromatic essences and tinctures to tweak the flavour profile of classic cocktails”.  

Keivan Nemati

The crafting of a London Dry Gin is a culinary science, blending specific botanicals for the perfect balance of floral, fruit and spicy notes. Instead of drowning gin in a G&T, nothing could be more delectable than a very dry, oh so romantic, Gin Martini.   

The BCC signature blend of spirits, herbs and spices for their Dry Gin Martini

Dry Gin Martini, 26% abv. 

Gin, French Vermouth & Wintergreen Essence

The BCC suggest chilling the bottle in the freezer for two hours before serving, instead of stirring over ice to avoid any dilution.  Pour 70ml – 100ml into a cold Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or green olive. 

Alternatively for a more savoury flavour, try a pickled pearl onion which creates a Gibson. This was invented at the Player’s Club, New York in the 1940s for the American artist, Charles Dana Gibson, when the bar had no olives for his Martini.

The BCC version enhances the usual recipe of Gin and a splash of Vermouth with a special wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint essence,“ brightening up the gin and wine botanicals, adding mouthfeel and length.”

The pure taste of a dry Gin Martini

The Taste Test:

I added a couple of green olives and took a tentative sip of this ice cold cocktail. My goodness this packs a punch – although it has a delicate flavour and silky smooth texture, beautifully cool, crisp and dry. This hits the spot in an instant with the pure, clean taste of a Gin Martini which I adore.  

As did Dorothy Parker!

As this is BCC’s secret recipe, the ratio of gin to vermouth is not given and there are many variations, according to preference.  Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) dictated 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, while other bar tenders say that a very dry Martini is 3.5 parts gin to 1 part Vermouth. 

Elderflower Highball  20% abv. 

London Dry Gin, Elderflower, Lime, Fresh-cut-grass Essence 

Pour 70ml to 100ml into a glass filled with ice and top up with your favourite mixer, (tonic, soda, ginger ale) for a long refreshing drink.   

The Taste Test

With a good splash of tonic and slice of lemon, this is a fine alternative to a G&T. The Elderflower liqueur adds a floral sweetness and the lime cuts through with a sharp, citrus tang.

With Nemati’s technical wizardry perfecting perfumes, the fresh-cut grass essence is so imaginative – Elderflower Highball would certainly be ideal for summer picnics and sitting relaxing in the garden. 

The Silversea cruise line has several “house” cocktails such as the Silver Spirit named after one of the elegant ships: 60ml Gin, 60ml elderflower liqueur, 12ml lime juice and 40ml Sauvignon Blanc. 

Elderflower Highball ‘Silver Spirit’

80ml – 100ml Elderflower Highball  (gin, lime juice, elderflower cordial). Top up with Prosecco.

Do try this fragrant, lip smacking gin cocktail.

Elderflower Highball fizzed up with soda, tonic or prosecco

These 70 cl bottles offer between 7 -10 serves so perfect for parties –  spend much less time measuring, stirring, mixing and shaking drinks and enjoy a relaxing time drinking with your friends.  Turn your home into a classy Cocktail Bar with your own personal ‘mixologist’ .

“To me, a cocktail must satisfy the eyes, satisfy the nose and thirdly, satisfy the palate. The perfect cocktail is a crescendo of colour, flavour and texture.”

Salvatore Calabrese

Sipping, sampling, testing and tasting these seriously impressive BCC cocktails has been a delightful, delicious experience. Keivan Nemati and friends clearly have the magical touch of the alchemist to create a fresh, modern twist to these timeless classics.

The stylish bottle design and branding, developed by the Italian creative agency HB Production, feature a geometric pattern, colour and shape to represent the concept of each cocktail.

The Old Fashioned is also in the BCC collection of cocktails

The BCC is already building up a strong fan base:

Great service and the Negroni is delicious! Can’t wait to try the rest of the range”

Ordered the El Presidente and Old Fashioned and loved them both. Really great quality, so quick and easy. Good value too.”

For more information on all the BCC cocktails and to purchase from the online shop:

www.bottledcocktailcompany.com

BCC cocktails are also sold through: Drinkinbible, Sip & Share, Wildsip, Indy Cellar & Not On The High Street

P.S.  Keivan Nemati co-wrote ‘Make Something Bloody Marvellous,’ a gin-based cocktail book using foraged botanicals, which was shortlisted at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2020. 

Wishing you a cool, crisp, sparkling Festive season with Codorníu Cava and Vida Wines

Codorniu is probably one of the UK’s most recognisable Cava labels and no wonder. As the pioneer winemakers behind the first ever bottle of Cava, this is the oldest Spanish winery celebrating over 450 years of cultural heritage with the famous C Logo as the iconic image.

In 1551 Jaume Codorníu founded his family wine making business producing still wines; the marriage between the heiress Anna Codorníu and winegrower Miquel Raventós in 1659 brought two wine dynasties together but Anna’s surname was retained as the brand name.

The Codornuiu family vineyards, near Barcelona

Two centuries later, Josep Raventós Fatjó came back to Spain from a fact-finding research trip around France and, copying the production method of French Champagne, created his own brand of sparkling wine.  He ordered a cave (or cava in Catalan) to be built, a labyrinth of underground cellars to store wines for fermentation at a constant, cool temperature. 

In 1872, he produced his first bottle of Cava using the same traditional method as Champagne, using a blend of native grape varieties of Penedès: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.

The underground cellars to store the wine for fermentation and ageing

Manuel Raventós was an early drinks entrepreneur, keen to develop Cava as a successful business. In 1895 he made plans to build a new building at the winery with the Art Nouveau artist, Josep Puig i Cadafalch in charge of design and construction.  

The Codorniu Art Nouveau House of Cava

When it opened in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia near Barcelona in 1915, Cavas Codorníu became a Catalan Modernist artistic symbol of the company’s enterprising spirit and vision of the future.

Vintage advertising for Codorniu Cava in the late 19th century

Marketing Champagne Codorniu was most inspired with 1898 artistic posters by Ramon Casas.  Codorníu was also first advertised on Spanish Television in 1959 – once again a pioneering commerical promotion ahead of the game. 

In 1976 the Codorníu House of Cava was named a National Historic Artistic Monument by King Juan Carlos.

The first and very fashionable Catalan Cava launched in 1872

Since its earliest days, Raventós Codorníu winery has been synonymous with innovation and quality, using premium grapes from the family vineyard estate. The traditional method involves two fermentations of the grape juice, first in barrels before transferred into bottles where yeast and sugar are added, then sealed with a temporary closure. The wine has a secondary fermentation to convert into alcohol and a natural by-product, CO2, dissolves into tiny bubbles to create naturally sparkling wine.  The bottles are turned neck down and gradually rotated funnelling the yeast sediment (the lees) into the neck. When this is cooled, the pressure of the wine pushes out the sediment, a little sugar and wine called a dosage is added and the bottle finally sealed with a cork.

The sophistated, elegant lifestyle of Cordorniu Cava

So time to pop a couple of corks! 

Codorníu Vintage Brut 2019. 

Grape varieties:  Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. Alcohol content: 11.5%.

There is a specific harvest time for each variety of grape, Macabeo at the end of August, followed by Xarel.lo and finally Parellada, early October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed with the wines blended and bottled. A second fermentation followed by a period of ageing in the underground cellars at a constant temperature for at least 9 months. This is the traditional method.

Characteristics.  A pale straw yellow colour, an aroma of citrus fruit, almond blossom with notes of brioche and dried fruits and nuts.  A fine mousse on the palate with balanced freshness. Serve well chilled.

Ice cold Codorniu Vintage Cava

The Taste Test

Nose: lemon zest, softly floral.

Taste: the first sip is sensational, the “fizz” is so delicate and fresh tasting, crisp apple and dry like a water biscuit. The overall impression is its smooth elegance, far removed from a sweet Prosecco or honeyed Chardonnay Cava. 

If this were a blind tasting with a few coupes of French champagne, it would surely fool the judges. 

The quality is due to the fact this is a vintage cava made with grapes from a single harvest. Perfect to sip as an apéritif or with tapas and fish dishes- smoked salmon, calamari.  

(Interestingly, Sainsbury Taste the Difference vintage Cava is supplied by Codorniu so they have selected the best!).

Codorniu Rosado

Codorníu Rosado Cava

Grape varieties: Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat. Alcoholic content, 11.5%

This sparkling wine is also made in the traditional method, the same way as Champagne which gives the wine depth of flavour, elegance and long-lasting, fine bubbles.

Characteristics: A dry, pure and bright Rosé fizz with the aroma of strawberry. Serve chilled (6-8°c)

The Taste Test

Nose:  pale cherry pink in colour with the fragrance of summer berries and blossom

Taste: light and fruity with zingy notes of raspberry, strawberry and juicy plum. Fresh and vibrant, rather than sweet, well balanced and with a crisp finish, like a dry, blush Rosé from Provence with bubbles. This is the flagship Rosado Cava in the UK.

A delicious, pure, pink fizz to sip as an aperitif – perhaps add a raspberry to the flute too. This is a celebratory toast as a charismatic change from classic Cava. In summer, (or any time), serve with a dessert of mixed berries and cream.

Pink fizz with raspberries for extra fruitiness

Proudly Catalonian, Codorníu Cava has been contemporary since 1872, constantly keeping up with trends and tastes to maintain its global reputation, producing an innovative range of sparkling wines, Anna Codorniu, Brut Codorníu, Non-Vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs. 

Codorniu Anna – the modern taste of Cava

Named after their 17th century ancestor, Anna is the most modern expression in the range, the first to use chardonnay grapes: youthful, fresh with a unique personality, this is the brand’s emblematic Cava reflecting its fine heritage.  The perfect aperitif and an ideal partner for shellfish, sushi, sashimi and carpaccio.

Today, Raventós Codorníu has more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest vineyard owners in Europe; Codorníu is the best selling Cava brand in Spain and exported to 50 countries, 54 gold medals and their range of sparkling wines are served at over 50 Michelin star restaurants worldwide.

Codorníu promote a contemporary Mediterranean lifestyle – sunshine, beaches, joy, freedom; casual, spontaneous, sometimes sophisticated; celebrations and special moments in life – to share the Cava experience worldwide.

The, contemporary, Codorniu Catalonian lifestyle

Codorníu Discovery and Iconic tours in the Cava Capital

 Casa Codorníu is located 30 minutes from Barcelona in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Learn all about the history of the family dynasty on a tour of the House of Cava, the majestic Art Nouveau building designed by the architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch; Taste three iconic prestigious Cavas and a small aperitif.

The vintage artwork at the historic Codorniu winery

Read more about Codorníu Cava here:

http://www.raventoscodorniu.com/en

Just time to add a personal recommendation for VIDA, an exciting new wine and spirit company in the UK, highly regarded for personal customer service. 

VIDA UK is the third branch of the company, following on from Sofia & Vienna, as part of a growing family tree. The idea behind Vida Wines began about 5 years ago when a vineyard was acquired in Northwest Bulgaria, close to the medieval fortress of Baba Vida, which inspired the name.

Baba Vida Castle, Bulgaria

The region has a long winemaking history thanks to a unique microclimate.  As wine makers and importers, VIDA Wines offer the finest Central and Eastern European wines carefully curated from 15 countries to showcase the classics, new producers and exclusive wines.

Vida Viognier

Country of origin: Bulgaria, Danubian Plain

Grape Variety:  Vigonier. Vintage:  2020. ABV: 12.5%

Characteristics:  Delicate nose with great elegance and aromatic nuances of white flora, apricots, herbs, toast. Dense with fresh acidity and a slight minerality which contributes to its great quality. Long, persistent, fruity finish.

The Taste Test:

Aroma:  a delicate fruitiness, the scent of an orchard.  

Taste:  As I would often select Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), and Pinot Grigio (Italy), this has a fresh, dry, crisp clarity which is distinctively different. The lingering, soft apricot – peach flavour adds to the dryness with a hint of lime and spicy lemongrass. Deliciously delicate.  The viognier grape creates an aromatic fuller-bodied style of white wine and pairs well with white meats, fish, shellfish, scallops and dishes with earthy herbs, e.g. basil in a classic Italian Caprese.

On Trust Pilot, Vida Wines has received 5 stars from 92% of their customers.

Reviews from happy drinkers: Winter 2021

Excellent service, great selection of wines and superb advice, cannot fault them and will certainly be buying more Vida wines.

Great service and the wine was beyond expectations.

Vida may be a new company in the UK but they have a refreshingly old fashioned attitude to customer service and I fully recommend them.

These are a few suggestions from VIDA which will add an inspiring range of hand picked European wines for your Christmas or New Year party. 

 Under £10 wines:

•          VIDA EXCLUSIVE : VIDA Viognier 2020 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £9.99.

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard : Averesti Selectie Cabernet Sauvignon NV Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £7.99.

Under £15 wines:

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Chardonnay 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £14.69.

•          Angerhof- Tschida Beerenauslese 2017: Angerhof-Tschida Beerenauslese 2017 Vida Wines and Spirits UK ,£13.89.

Under £25 wines

•          VIDA direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Pavo Cristatus Classic Cuvee 2014 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.29.

•          Karl Fritsch Riesling Mordthal 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.79.

Browse the full collection of wines and spirits here:

https://vidawines.co.uk/

Eat, Drink and be merry this Festive seaon. Cheers!

The virtuoso ballerina, Natalia Osipova gives a truly exhilarating, passionate performance as Carmen in a filmic re-imagination of the classic tale.

Since Bizet’s opera was first staged in 1875, based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella about Don José, a soldier, Micaëla a peasant girl, Escamillo, a bullfighter and Carmen, the flirtatious gypsy, Carmen has been creatively adapted and updated afresh, from the Broadway musical, Carmen Jones to Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man.  

After being postponed last year during lockdown, the world premiere of Didy Veldman’s intimate dance-drama, Carmen took place on 17th December, 2021 in Edinburgh. With a music soundtrack combining orchestral extracts from Bizet’s opera and new compositions by Dave Price, the cast of international dancers, Jason Kittelberger, Isaac Hernández, Hannah Ekholm and Eryck Brahmania is led by the superstar ballerina, Natalia Osipova.

Natalia Osipova takes on the challenging role of Carmen

Having trained as a gymnast, Osipova studied ballet at the Moscow Academy before joining the Bolshoi, then American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet, performing leading roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, The Nutcracker and Don Quixote with award winning success. 

As Kitri in “Don Quixote” Osipova has a gamine quality, the turn of her head, the flash of her smile, her response to the music .. she is never more alive than onstage. – New York Times

‘ .. one of the truly great Giselles of our times.’ – Backtrack

With a backdrop scene of a city apartment block, the Carmen set comprises a large sofa, coat stand, full length mirror and iconic film director chairs. Cinematography is at the heart of the contemporary, audio- visual narrative in which Brahmania plays a camera man, filming the dancers’ every move – in character and off stage – with the click of the clapper board as the next scene is snapped. 

The ensemble of Carmen dancers are filmed in performance and back stage

The plot follows the twist and turns of the tangled love interests between José, Michaela, Carmen and Escamillo, which echo the personal relationships between the dancers when relaxing on the sofa in the Green Room.  Through the camera lens, the intimate close ups have an element of film noir voyeurism in Rear Window mood and mode.

With a bouquet of red flowers delivered from an admirer, Carmen seems lost and vulnerable, staring intently at herself in the mirror, perhaps searching to find her true self in the reflection.

Natalia Osipova as Carmen in search for her true identify in her reflection

The opening sequence is fast paced action to the strident sounds of an electronic music score with acrobatic leaps, axels and jetés.  First dressed in rehearsal T shirt and leggings, Carmen changes into a red velvet basque, satin cummerband and black ‘cigarette’ trousers akin to a matador’s suit of lights.

Each scene is perfectly matched to the seamless flow of familiar Bizet tunes criss-crossing with a romantic 1950s-style movie score and melancholic violin and cello sequences.  To enhance the music and dance, it’s all very cinematic with dramatised videos of the four protaganists projected on screen.  While the voyeurism vision is a clever device, the continuous frantic rushing around by the film maker, even into the auditorium, becomes rather distracting.

Natalia Osipova and Jason Kittelberger as Carmen and Jose

As dark feelings of jealousy radiate, a passionate Pas de deux with Carmen and José is performed to a Tango rhythm in slow, sensual motion.  Jason Kittelberger has a strong muscular physicality, a large bear of a man, yet he holds Natalia in a tender embrace.

She prowls like a sleek panther, eyes alert, ready to pounce on her prey, her slender arms and legs extended in straight linear precision with every high kick; in one breathtaking move, she wraps her foot around his neck like a snake, drawing him closer.

Natalia Osipova and Jason Kittelberger in Carmen – an exhilarating partnership

Watching from the wings, Michaela is consumed with rage, putting on Carmen’s red hat and cape, as the two rivals prepare to fight for their man.  With her teasing, taunting manner, Carmen casually dismisses José and turns her flirtatious smile and guile to entice Escamillo into a dangerous game of seduction: the dancer Hernández brings cool, romantic Latino charisma to the heroic Torero character with soulful intensity.  

Isaac Hernandez as Escamillo and Natalia Osipova as Carmen

The colour of crimson blood-red dominates the stage design and costumes from a flurry of rose petals to the fabulous swirl of the Toreador’s cloak as the dramatic tale of love, hate and revenge races at fast speed to its terrifying, tragic, but rather sudden, conclusion. 

With a performance time of just eighty minutes, this minimalist version of Carmen could certainly be extended to develop charactersation and Spanish cultural heritage of the original Mérimée story, in a full scale production with live music. The Edinburgh International Festival 2022 or 2023?

Rivals in love: Natalia Osipova, Jason Kittelberger and Isaac Hernandez in Carmen

Natalia Osipova is a truly dazzling, dynamic dancer combining acrobatic agility, acting skills and elegant balletic poise. Her insightful, psychological portrait expresses every facet of the feisty, free-spirited Carmen with vivacious energy and ever-shifting, pure emotion. 

‘Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame

Love is a gypsy’s child,

If you do not love me, I love you

If I love you, then beware!’

from Habanera, Carmen (Bizet)

‘Carmen’ is a Bird & Carrot Production in association with The Pleasance Theatre Trust

Director and Choreographer: Dido Veldman, Composer: David Price, Set and costume: Nina Kobiashvili, Video artist: Oleg Mikhailov, Lighting design: Ben Ormerod

Cast:

Natalia Osipova: Carmen, Isaac Hernández : Escamillo, Jason Kittelberger: Don José, Hannah Ekholm: Michaela, Eryck Brahmania: Camera man/fan/cleaner

The World Premiere took place on 17th and 18th December 2021, Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Bird & Carrot present Carmen in association with The Pleasance

Experience ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ this festive season – a sparkling, starlit walk through a winter wonderland

The bare winter trees illuminated with sparkling colour and light

The night before Storm Arwen roared into town, it was a crisp cold dry night for the launch of ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ at the Royal Botanic Garden. Returning for its fifth year, this one-mile illuminated trail is inspired by the beauty of nature through the avenues of trees, plants, meadows, ponds and waterfalls with dazzling visual effects.  

Follow the not-so-yellow brick road – (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)

As you set off on the adventure through the magical forest, the creatively curated, amplified music soundtrack will immediately put you in festive mood.  As you walk around, hear snatches of lyrics from a medley of all the famous, classic songs, Walking in a winter wonderland,  Michael Buble, Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea, White Christmas and Let it Snow, Bing Crosby, O Holy Night, Il Divo and Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky

The lake beside the Chinese Garden sparkles with colourful lights over the waterlilies like a Monet-esque painting.  ‘Digital Rain’ is a dazzling show of slender LED lights hung from the branches to give the effect of a shimmering, dripping rain shower.

The amazing water effect of Digital Rain

A fabulous flutter of ‘Fireflies in the Woods’ is a dance sequence of 100 fairy lights flitting between the branches is like stepping into a Disney animated movie. Truly magical but impossible to capture on camera as they disappear into the dark night in an instant!

You never know what’s around the corner, such as this surreal woodland of Teepee trees like alien spaceships.

A surreal collection of Teepee Trees

Enjoy a slow stroll along a meandering path with decorative sculptures to depict milkmaids, geese, partridge et al. for the carol, The 12 Days of Christmas.

Sculptured figures, birds and animals dramatise The 12 Days of Christmas

 The ‘Aquastell’ installation features seventeen luminous arches with beams of light flashing like shooting stars across the night sky.

Beside the Rock Garden is a mesmerising scene of trees, plants and bushes around the blue-tinted waterfalls

The Waterfalls tumble over the rocks by moonlight

Visitors walk through the dazzling domed canopy of the ‘Christmas Cathedral’ featuring thousands of individual flower buds on long ribbons of sparkling lights.  

Christmas Cathedral

Warm up as you wander around the edge of the ‘Fire Garden,’ a grassy meadow dotted with flaming torches and lanterns; a peaceful spot to pause to observe the flickering light and silhouette of trees, as you listen to Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, a global anthem to reflect the end of the year and the start anew.

The warming flames of the Fire Garden

If you love to trim your Christmas Tree with old tinsel and trinkets, you will be inspired by the collection of Giant Baubles, 3 feet high or so, glittering gold and silver balls lying amongst the bushes. 

A highlight of the trail is ‘Sea of Light’, an audio visual spectacle to recreate the swirling rhythm of the waves of water flowing in harmony to the music, a special sound installation created by ITHACA. 

Swirling waves flow around the Sea of Light

The magnificent mansion, Inverleith House appears in the darkness like a huge Doll’s house with superb imagery lighting up the windows with pictures of wreaths, gifts and Christmas cards through a medley of songs, Jingle Bells, Papa Elf and Home Alone.

As you experience the joyful music and dazzling installations, it’s the technical wizardry which impresses with theatrical sound and vision. A few statistics: 17 kilometres of power cable, 650 LED lights (to keep energy output low), 1,500 string lights, and 4,950 candles in the Fire Garden.

Adults and children alike will enjoy this leisurely winter walk through the garden, transformed with razzle- dazzle festive decorations; drinks and snacks available around the trail and the Terrace café. 

Father Christmas welcomes you beside his log cabin

‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs for 32 nights on selected dates from 25 November, 2021 – 2 January, 2022. Tickets are on sale from www.rbge.org.uk/christmas.

Adult £20, Member £17, Child (4-16) £14, Family £66. (Children under 4 and carers, free).

‘Christmas at the Botanics’ by Culture Creative and Raymond Gubbay Limited, a division of Sony Music, is one of 14 illuminated trails across the UK presented in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Photographs courtesy of Kenneth J Scott

Image of ‘Christmas Cathedral’ by Mandylights

‘From Spring to Spirit’ 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro: natural, hand-crafted, refreshing Gins

Peebles Hydro Hotel

The 1881 Distillery, located in the grounds of Peebles Hydro Hotel in the Scottish Borders, is named after the year when the Hydropathic Spa first opened here, offering Therapeutic treatments using water from its own Shieldgreen Spring.

Peebles Hydropathic Spa before 1905

The Victorian Spa tragically burned down in 1905 but was rebuilt, and with an ethos for health and wellbeing, became a popular tennis destination.  In the 1920s, Peebles Hydro had more tennis courts than Wimbledon and hosted tournaments and the Scottish Championships.  

Peebles Hydro Resort the home of Tennis championships in the 1920s

It was this tennis heritage when G & T was served on the lawn in the summer sunshine, which inspired the idea a few years ago to create a Gin distillery at the Resort.  Built above the former swimming pool, the 1881 Distillery opened in October 2019. 

Gin makers, Lauren Appleyard and Dean McDonald with “Felicity” the copper Still

Charlie Leckie, Brand Manager, is a sixth generation member at the family hotel: “We’re proud of the heritage of Peebles Hydro which is embodied by the 1881 Gin, a blend of carefully chosen Scottish botanicals and distilled in the heart of the Borders.”

Stephen Leckie (CEO,Crieff Hydro hotels) with his son Charlie

With the tagline, ‘Spring to Spirit,’ water is sourced from the local Shieldgreen spring which had traditionally been used for the Hydropathic Spa treatments. ‘Felicity’, the copper Still makes five distinctive gins – London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Honours, Rafters and Tiffin, each with their own logo and bottle illustration paying homage to the heritage of Peebles Hydro.  Tonic 81 is also made at the Distillery, Premium, Light, Pink Grapefruit and Elderflower, the perfect mixer for each gin.

Floral, fruiity and spicy botanicals for the diverse range of gins

Hydro London Dry Gin (40% ABV)

The botanicals include juniper, bay, hawthorn berries, cardamom, cassia, birch bark, fir needles, grapefruit peel, grains of paradise, milk thistle – many grown in the Peebles Hydro gardens – then blended with the pure Spring water.

Distillery notes:

Nose: Fresh, piney juniper and fir, with grapefruit citrus and aromatic cardamom.

Palate: Hawthorn, birch and fir back up an initial wave of juniper, giving way to warming cassia and bay.

Finish: A long, smooth, citric finish with bay leaf and subtle earthiness from our local botanicals.

Serve: a large measure with a wedge of pink grapefruit and a splash of premium tonic water.

RTD 1881 Hydro Gin and Tonic in a can

The Hydro G&T is available RTD in a can, perfect from summer picnics to Christmas parties. 

The Taste Test:  If popping a cork of Champagne should sound like a maiden’s sigh, my ice-chilled can of G&T opens with a loud fizz, which I poured into a large glass over ice and slice. A subtle flavour at first with floral and earthy juniper notes but then an underlying aromatic ginger spice kicks in, which is sharp and refreshing.

1881 Pavilion Peebles Pink Gin (40% ABV)

The 1881 Pavilion Pink Gin is a classic gin with the addition of wild Scottish red berries and a hint of floral hibiscus, named in honour of the hotel’s historical tennis pavilion.

Distillery notes:

Nose: Silky red fruits, juniper, spice and citrus

Palate: Fresh raspberry complemented by strawberry, hibiscus and gentle spice from cardamom and grains of paradise

Finish: Creamy fruit fading to citrus, pine, red Berries

Serve: A few fresh raspberries, a sprig of mint, tonic and ice.

The 1881 Pavilion G&T is also available ready to drink in a can.

The Taste test: Floral, fruity and fragrantly perfumed with a honeyed sweetness. An ice cold summertime drink or served with dessert: raspberries / strawberries & cream, Eton Mess, Strawberry Pavlova, or Scones and jam for a decadent Afternoon tea.

The tragic fire of 1905 at Peebles Hydropathic Spa

Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin (40% abv)

In the Summer of 1905, a spark in the roof space caused a devastating fire at Peebles Hydro. But within a few years the hotel was thankfully restored with grand Edwardian architecture and art deco style. To commemorate the Phoenix rising from the ashes is Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin, with its stunning image depicting the hotel billowing with smoke.

Distiller’s notes:

Nose: Subtle but distinct sweet oak smoke, followed by our signature profile of juniper, cardamom and grapefruit.

Palate: Warming smoke and spice intermingle to create a savoury gin suitable for sipping or mixing. The palate develops into juniper freshness backed by citrus.

Finish: A lengthy finish of warm citrus and wisps of smoke draw you back for another sip.

Serve: Sip neat, over ice, or in a G&T with a wedge of lime and a slice of chilli pepper.

The Taste test of pure, neat gin: The aroma of oak smoke followed by earthy juniper and citrus sweetness. Then the first taste – distinctive bonfire wood smoke and a blend of spices to create a savoury gin with a lingering juniper freshness. Warming cardamom, fruity citrus and delectable smokiness.  

Wow! This has the X factor, utterly divine and one of the most delicious, dynamic, dramatic gins I have experienced.

The verdict from the Masters of Malt

Distilled using a variety of gin botanicals including piney juniper and tart pink grapefruit. An undertone of smoke supports vibrant grapefruit citrus, a touch of cinnamon and a strong juniper finish. Best served over ice with a classic tonic to enjoy the complex, smoky spirit with a garnish of lime and ginger.  Subtle hints of smoke on the palate make this a distinctive spirit which stands up particularly well in cocktails, including a Negroni.

1881 Rafters Negroni

50ml Rafters gin, 25ml sweet Rosso vermouth, 25ml Campari.  Orange garnish.

1881 Rafters Gin for a distinctively different Negroni

The simplest of cocktails to make at home without the need of a shaker – just pour all these ingredients into a chunky Rocks glass with a large ice cube. Stir gently and add a wedge of orange.  The bittersweet aroma of the Campari blends perfectly with the Rafters gin to make a delicious and very special smoky Negroni.  The Count would certainly approve!.

1881 Dry Gin Martini

50 ml Rafters gin, 15 ml dry vermouth.

1881 Rafters Gin Martini has an elegant, sophisticated flavour

Add to a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and stir or shake gently. Pour into a cocktail glass or champagne saucer with a garnish of olive.  The smokiness enhances the typical bone-dry punch of a Martini with such an elegant, smooth taste. 

As we are heading into dark, chilly nights of winter, why not ring the changes of a Whisky hot toddy and add Rafter’s gin instead ?

Hot Gin Toddy

300ml water, 1 ginger teabag, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon clear honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, 100ml 1881 Rafters gin (serves 2)

Hot Gin Toddy – the perfect winter warmer

Add the water, ginger teabag, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves to a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes; stir in the honey and citrus juice and gently heat for few more minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the gin. Strain off the spices, if preferred, or keep the cinammon stick to stir and pour into two large mugs, with an orange or lemon garnish.  A winter warmer after a bracing walk in the snow.  

1881 Distillery news:

Gift box sets of four gins (5cl and 20cl)

This festive season, the 1881 Distillery offers gift boxes of four gins in two sizes, 5cl and 20cl. – Hydro London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Rafters and Honours Navy-strength Gin.

Silver award for 1881 Tiffin Gin, Scottish Gin Awards 2021

1881 Distillery won Silver award for Flavoured Gin of the Year at the recent Scottish Gin Awards 2021. Tiffin Gin incorporates light aromatic, warming spices to achieve its distinctive taste, with notes of cumin, cardamom, and kaffir lime.

Visit the 1881 Distillery and Gin School

The 1881 Distillery gin school

The 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro has the largest residential Gin school with a classroom of 26 mini-stills, offering a range of day and overnight Experiences to learn about distilling gin and craft your own spirit, Tours and tastings.  

For more information on Peebles Hydro, 1881 distillery, on line shop and the Gin School:

1881 Distillery,

Peebles Hydro, Innerleithen Road, Peebles, EH45 8LX

info@1881distillery.com

www.1881distillery.com

www.peebleshydro.co.uk

Peebles Hydro Spa Resort, Scottish Borders

Experience a fun, cultural, foodie, city break in Manchester this Festive season

Having visiting Manchester a few years ago, I planned another trip recently to find out what’s on, where to go and what to see during the festive season.  Instead of a seasonal sleigh, I had a smooth, comfortable journey on a brand new Nova Tranpennine Express electric train from Edinburgh. There are five carriages, with 264 seats in standard class, 22 in first class, complimentary wifi and a power socket at every seat. Trolley service for refreshments and snacks, and storage for 4 bicycles. The Nova 2 trains run between Edinburgh and Manchester Airport so the ideal route if planning to jet off somewhere exotic.

The sleek new Nova 2 Transpennine Express train from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport

As I headed south to Manchester, meanwhile my sister, June, was speeding north from London Euston on an Aviva train: the itinerary for our Christmas shopping and cultural city break began with perfect synchronicity, the two trains arriving on time, just four minutes apart at 1.23pm and 1.27pm respectively.

Take the train from around the country to Manchester Piccadilly

Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre every year since 1998 to add a sparkle to the winter chill.  Staying at the Mercure hotel was a great central location on Portland Street, Piccadilly Gardens, which has been transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’. This is a pop up village of Christmas market stalls and log cabin bars such as Apres Ski & Off Piste where you can warm up with an Alpine Ale, mulled wine, prosecco, cider, Nordic Glogg, Hot toddy and a Bailey’s coffee.

The Alpine ski-themed Winter Gardens, Piccadilly Square

The markets are also located across St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens which will entice the skaters to the ice rink. A central stage with a series of live music events will entertain the crowds.  Sip Gluhwein and sample apple strudel around the traditional German stalls, and, of course, Bratwurst – perhaps best to share the half a metre sausage!   

The half metre Bratwurst German sausage

Dine around the world from  Little Spain – paella, chorizo rolls, patatas bravas and hot sangria to Mexico Joes Ltd – Chicken flatbread, falafel, and halloumi fries. Eat Greek – halloumi fries, pitta bread, Elsie Mays for warm brownies and milkshakes. French, Sicilian and Dutch dishes too.  An American feast at Triple B -Pastrami Burger and a huge Turkey Reuben bagel.

The best of British at Porkys of Yarm serving Hot roast pork rolls, Hydes beers, local cider, English wines  and Clowbecks for Cumberland sausage, bubble & squeak, tatties, mulled wine and lager.  Porky Pig  Yorkshire puddings wraps. Battered pigs in blankets. For vegetarians and vegans, Panc is a plant-based stall offers meat free sausages, burgers, fried chick’n and more.

And of course, the Markets are the place to buy innovative gifts galore – from chocolates and cheese, to toys and games, arts and crafts, soaps, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, leather bags and wallets, jewellery.

The Markets are open until Wednesday December 22, 10am to 9pm daily with some stalls continuing around the Winter and Cathedral Gardens into the New Year.

A night at the theatre to see the musical, Waitress at the Opera House, originally The New Theatre, which opened on Boxing Day, 1912, then renamed the Opera House in 1920. It was a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before launched as a theatre again in 1984, renowned for touring musicals such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.  Waitress is a comedy drama set in an American diner and after the ten day run in Manchester, it’s now on tour around the country so do catch this heart-warming, feminist, feel good show if you can.  

The pantomime at the Opera House this year is Aladdin, starring Alexandra Burke, with flying carpets, a genie, an evil sorcerer, magical effects, song and dance.  

Warmly recommended for a pre-post theatre lunch or supper is Bill’s Spinningfields which is perfectly located a two minute walk away from the Opera House.

‘Our passion for great food, cooked with care in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Whether with friends, family or an intimate dinner for two, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.’ 

Bill’s started 20 years ago, when Bill Collison opened his Greengrocer’s shop in Lewes, East Sussex and soon added a café, a concept for seasonal local food which has gradually grown into a collection of restaurants across the UK.  

The modern, stylish menu changes seasonally – quality, gastropub, homely food with generous portions and is very vegetarian-vegan friendly.  I selected crispy calamari, perfect finger food, dipping the rings into the creamy aioli.  Then a veggie burger, Halloumi, avocado and roasted peppers, with sweet potato fries.  My sister nibbled a few olives to start and then enjoyed a real, juicy meat burger, cooked to her liking, with rosemary fries (we declined the bun to reduce the calories). With our meal we sipped one of the house wines, the South African, Journey’s End Chardonnay – deliciously crisp and dry.

This Christmas season, with the witty Wizard of Oz theme, There’s No Place Like Bill’s, you will be tempted by the enticing seasonal food and cocktail menu such as Pigs-in-blankets,  Christmas Truffle Cheese Fondue Burger,  Boxing Day curry, Truffalo sprouts and for dessert,  sugar-sprinkled Snow Nuts or Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, a red berry cheesecake with chocolate tree, stars and baubles.

Time for party cocktails: Gin-gle Bells (Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, Chambord, fresh pineapple), Passion Fruit Spritz and the Strawberry Margarita.

After the theatre, it was back to the Mercure hotel for a nightcap at the Level 3 Lounge Bar overlooking the bright lights of the Christmas market.  The ‘seasonal’ cocktail list includes a Summer Mojito (not quite right for a chilly winter night!), and, disappointing that there was no Campari in stock for the Negroni. I chose a classic Gin Martini (but no olive garnish available), while June sipped a Nojito, a minty, fruity tipple without the rum.

Gin Martini and Nojito at Level 3 Bar, Mercure Hotel with city views

Art lovers should visit the Contemporary 6 Gallery, 37 Princess Street, owned by Alex Reuben who selects a series of inspiring shows of paintings, modern prints, (Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse), ceramics and sculpture. Throughout November is the eclectic artwork of Jim Moir (as seen on Sky TV, Celebrity Portrait and Landscape Artist), ranging from a flight of birds to quirky portraits.

For a marvellous day out for all ages, take a trip to the Trafford Centre, five miles from the city centre, and easy to get there by metrolink tram. This is very much like This is very much like an American shopping mall with designer and high street stores, not least a large branch of Selfridges, as well as a cinema, bowling alley, Game arena and Legoland.  After browsing the shops or seeing a movie, time for refreshments, but signage needs improved as where to eat and drink is difficult to find. The Orient is designed around the replica of a pool deck on a classic ocean liner featuring numerous bars and bistros from All Bar One to Zizzi. A huge marble staircase modelled on the Titanic leads to the Great Hall and features the largest chandelier in the world.

The marble Titanic staircase at the Great Hall,Trafford Centre

Drink, eat and stay at the Kimpton Clocktower which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the cool, quirky Kimpton brand focuses on art, wellness, modern cuisine and playful style while reflecting the heritage of each destination. 

The landmark clocktower above the Kimpton Hotel, Manchester

The majestic Victorian red brick and terracotta building was initially the The Refuge Assurance Company (1890), which opened as the hotel on 1st October 2020. In the lobby, a bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens illustrates the turning circle for the former Hansom cabs and carriages; original features include ceramic tiles, stained glass and wooden staircases juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings.

The lobby at the Kimpton with horse sculpture

Bold colourfully designed bedrooms and suites are draped in velvet with bespoke decor and artwork by Scottish company Timorous Beasties, while vinyl records of Manchester’s famous bands from the Stone Roses to Oasis can be played on a turntable. Guests can take use of the in room yoga mat, the complimentary tuck box and many bathrooms boast a classic roll top bathtub.

Signature suite at the Kimpton Clocktower, designed by Timorous Beasties

Relax over a drink or Afternoon tea in The Winter Garden, an interior glasshouse blossoming with plants and trees and wine and dine at The Refuge by Volta. The Refuge Bar and Dining Room is a vast but elegant space of interconnecting salons where on a Friday night the lounge area was buzzing with happy drinkers and around the corner, the fabulous Restaurant with well designed, comfy banquette seating and half moon booths.  

Refuge by Volta – stylish, soul food for sharing

An innovative menu of Soul Food for sharing is neatly divided into Meat, Seafood, On the Side and Vegetables, inspired around the global travels by the DJ -Restaurateurs, Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey.   

First of all it’s time for finely crafted cocktails – the Drinks list is most enticing with a celebration of gin and modern twists on the classics. Like a revamped French 75, is ‘Glamour of Manchester’:– Malfy rose gin, lemon, hibiscus syrup, Champagne.  There’s an innovative selection of spirits especially speciality gins for the perfect serve such as Aviation, Gin Mare, Malfy Rosa, Monkey 47 and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin.

The pure, smooth taste of Ramsbury Single Estate Gin (Wiltshire) for the perfect Martini

My Gin Martini was a masterclass of the art which hit the spot with lip smacking delight. Across the table, June selected The Queen’s Peach – Spiced rum, peach, lime, mint with a splash of prosecco – for a refreshing taste of the Caribbean.   

Masterly curated Cocktails at Refuge by Volta

Advised to select four to five dishes for two, we chose the ras-el-hanout scented chicken, salt cod croquettes with tartare aioli, tenderstem broccoli, chargrilled cauliflower and chickpea daal, for an eclectic Middle Eastern, Asia and Spanish culinary journey.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked almost al dente and the creamy daal in coconut milk was mixed with apricots and dates. For dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was the perfect finale to a superlative meal. Hospitality by Jake and James was exemplary.  

As well as sipping a delicious Sartori Pinot Grigio, the wine list tours the world to France, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Lebanon.  With DJs in charge of the ambience, you can expect a lively vibe with a soothing, sassy mix of jazz, swing, funk, soul and house.

Superlative, modern cuisine at the Refuge by Volta: soul food for sharing

Experience the magic of Manchester this Christmas at the Kimpton Clocktower. Treat yourself to a stay in one of the gorgeously styled rooms or suites and enjoy a three course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz and festive snacks in The Refuge, breakfast each day is included and chill out for a leisurely 3pm checkout on departure.  

Enjoy a fine feast of Brunch at Refuge by Volta

Hope this all whets your appetite to plan a magical, cultural and shopping trip to Manchester soon.

Links to help you research your visit.

https://www.visitmanchester.com/

https://bills-website.co.uk/restaurants/manchester

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/opera-house-manchester/

https://www.contemporarysix.co.uk/about-us/

https://traffordcentre.co.uk/

www.kimptonclocktowerhotel.com

Scottish Ballet is back on the road with ‘Starstruck’, a vivacious new version of Gene Kelly’s classic Pas de Dieux (1960).

After eighteen months of dark theatres with no live performances, the dancers at Scottish Ballet are polishing their pointe and tap shoes to set off on the road again around Scotland.

What could be more exhilarating than presenting the UK premiere of Pas de Dieux to pay tribute to the pioneering choreography by the American musical legend, Gene Kelly in collaboration with Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly.

Gene Kelly’s modern dance work, Pas de Dieux was first performed by Paris Opera Ballet in 1960.  For this revival, Scottish Ballet’s Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and designer, Lez Brotherston have now jazzed up the original ballet as Starstruck, set to a score of Gershwin’s Concerto in F with additional extracts from Chopin. 

So how was the star of many iconic Hollywood musicals invited to create his own new work for the Paris Opera Ballet.? 

During the 1940s and 1950s, Gene Kelly was an all round performer whose athletic style and classical ballet technique transformed the film musical through his innovative choreography and direction. He blended solo dances, ensembles and inventive camera angles to tell a story in purely visual terms.

The 1951 film An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly was inspired by George Gershwin’s 1928 jazz symphony of the same name, and through its radical blend of ballet and jazz music, it won the Academy Award for best picture.  After this great success and the discovery of Leslie Caron, he was keen to collaborate with another French dancer and cast Claude Bessy, a ‘danseuse etoile’ at Paris Opera Ballet for the Hollywood movie, Invitation to the Dance and other films.

When Kelly offered to create a ballet especially for Bessy, he became the first American choreographer to work at the Palais Garnier – so that he himself was an American in Paris.!

Gene Kelly – an American in Paris at the Palais Garnier

Pas de Dieux (a clever wordplay on Pas de Deux), is a lively blend of classical ballet steps and musical comedy jazz routines, with a score by George Gershwin. It tells the story of Aphrodite and Eros, who descend to earth and on the beach where they have landed, the ardent goddess and mischievous god seduce a lifeguard and his fiancée. Just when the beautiful Aphrodite is dancing with her suitor, Zeus arrives to win back his wife and the reconciled immortals return to Olympus, leaving the humans to their earthly loves.

The ballet is set to the three movements of Gershwin’s Concerto in F and Kelly’s snappy choreography is full of fantasy and humour.

Claude Bessy and dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet with Gene Kelly

Kelly commented at the time that it was hard to get the classically trained dancers to go off pointe to loosen up their steps and movement to the jazz beat. Dancing the lead role of Aphrodite was Claude Bessy and the premiere in 1960 was highly acclaimed by the critics as ‘a breath of fresh air. Until tonight, the Paris Opera was ten years behind the times in ballet. Now we are ten years ahead.’ 

Scene from Pas de Dieux, Paris Opera Ballet (photo credit Roger Pic)

For this inspirational production in Paris, Kelly was given the prestigious accolade to be elected as a Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion of Honour.

Kelly is renowned for his lead role in Singin’ in the Rain, (1952) regarded by some as the best dance film ever made. During the filming of the magical scene when Gene Kelly dances and sings the title song while spinning an umbrella and splashing through puddles, Kelly was suffering from a 103 °F fever. A common myth is that he managed to perform the entire number in one take, thanks to cameras placed in various locations, but it’s more likely that this took a day or so to complete.

Gene Kelly splashes his way down the street in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

In a refreshing and vivacious new version of Pas de Dieux by Scottish Ballet, Starstruck is set amidst the glamorous culture and couture of Paris in 1960, in Gene Kelly’s world where jazz meets ballet, the Gods masquerade as mortals and the stars are in alignment.  The premiere takes place on 23rd September, 2021 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow and then goes on tour to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

During 2020 with theatres closed, Scottish Ballet kept on working behind the scenes and created a Christmas treat on film, The Secret Theatre for audiences to view at home and two works, Dive and Odyssey for International Dance Day.

With a neat connection to Gene Kelly’s Hollywood career, a film version of Starstruck will combine live performance and cinematic techniques for another immersive, theatrical experience on screen. Directed by Oscar Sansom in partnership with Forest of Black, Starstruck will be released in partnership with Marquee TV on Friday 26 November, 2021. (Advance tickets on sale next month).

Public support is vital to help the company return to touring and audiences can help bring ballet back to the theatres by donating to the Fit for the Gods Appeal. Designer Lez Brotherston has created 100 stunning new costumes to reimagine the original Parisian designs for Kelly’s choreography. 

 ‘We are overjoyed to be returning to stage this autumn, to finally perform to live audiences across Scotland. Gene Kelly’s pioneering choreography influenced a generation of dance-makers, and we honour his creative legacy with this dazzling new production’.

Christopher Hampson, CEO/Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet

Time to raise a glass in celebration!

A unique cask of Royal Lochnagar whisky, laid down in 1994, has now been bottled ready for auction as part of Diageo’s prestigious Casks of Distinction range. The Scottish artist Norman Edgar was commissioned to paint the cask end portraying Principal dancer Nicci Theis in the iconic role of Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty.

‘The Sleeping Beauty’ will be launched with 470 bottles to be sold at a Whisky Auctioneer auction on 9-13 September 2021, with all monies raised contributing to the Scottish Ballet Endowment Fund.

‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is a single-cask Highland malt at 56.3% vol. The top notes are of dried fruits and spices, evolving into Christmas cake, plum pudding and mince pies on a bosky (bramble) base.

The Sleeping Beauty whisky for Scottish Ballet

Scottish Ballet presents Starstruck across Scotland from 23 September–16 October, 2021: Theatre Royal, Glasgow (23-25 September), Eden Court, Inverness (30 September-2 October), His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen (7-9 October) and Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (14-16 October).

Full information on tour dates and booking tickets:

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/starstruck

Fit for the Gods Costume Appeal:

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/support/individual-support/fit-for-the-gods-costume-appeal

The Sleeping Beauty Whisky auction:

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/the-sleeping-beauty-whisky

The Edinburgh Food Festival @ Assembly George Square Garden: enjoy a gourmet alfresco picnic to kick start the summer Festival season.

The Edinburgh Food Festival launched in 2015, running for five days as part of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink. The Festival soon developed as a showcase for the best producers and chefs from across Scotland, with street food, market stalls, workshops and cookery demos, welcoming over 35,000 visitors in summer 2019.

The Edinburgh Food Festival celebrates the finest quality Scottish food and drink

Having been cancelled in 2020, this popular festival for foodies and beer drinkers has been given support from Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund through EventScotland to return for its fifth year, running for ten days from Friday 23th July to Sunday 1st August, 2021.

“We’re delighted to be back in George Square Garden preparing for our summer of festivals once more. The hospitality and cultural industries are closely intertwined, and the Edinburgh Food Festival has served as the perfect entrée to our Garden experience since 2015.”

Dani Rae, General Manager, Assembly Festival

Experience a tasty starter to launch the Edinburgh Festival summer season at Assembly George Square Garden

George Square Garden is at the heart of Assembly on the Fringe with shows at the fabulous vintage Spiegeltent and pop up stages: during the week beforehand, the Food Festival offers an appetising amuse bouche to kick start the Edinburgh Festival season.

This year there are over thirty local producers, street food and market stalls as well as workshops and chef demos, to offer a colourful culinary feast of Scotland’s best contemporary food and drink – with an international flavour.

The Edinburgh Food Festival is open every day from 12 noon to midnight – entry is free with no tickets required. As with all hospitality venues, all health and safety regulations are in place for social distancing and the wooden tables with benches seat eight people.  So bring your bubble of family and friends.!

Returning again are several well known Scottish food producers such as Jarvis Pickle. Based in Eyemouth, they make hand crafted, homely, meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan filled pies, winning 30 recent Awards including for their Cullen Skink Pie, Pork and Blue Cheese pie and Steak and Kidney Pie.  Great Taste Awards for Vegan Mushroom and Chestnut with Truffle Oil Pie, Pork Venison, Port & Redcurrant Pie.

These speciality gourmet pies are sold at the prestigious Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, London so excellence is assured.

Champion Vegetarian Class winner, 2019 is the Spinach, Goat Cheese and Sweet Potato Pie. This is so healthy and hearty, the thick shortcrust pastry shell is stuffed full of vegetables – 33% spinach, sweet potato, tomato, goats cheese (8%), cream, garlic, butter, vegetable fat, cream cheese, egg, salt black pepper.

The pastry is pre-cooked to prevent a soggy bottom, a culinary error frequently criticised by the judges on Great British Bake Off. !

These pies are seriously stuffed full of premium ingredients.

Jarvis Pickle pies are made from scratch for home-made taste and nutrition. The flour is grown and milled on a farm in East Lothian for the buttery pastry, filled with beef, chicken, smoked Eyemouth haddock and vegetables and eggs from the Scottish Borders. Once you have tasted a bite, you will be checking out which pie to munch next.!

Bellfield Brewery & Tap Room at Abbeyhill, Edinburgh is the UK’s first exclusively gluten free craft brewery, family-run with a mission: to craft-brew certified gluten-free craft beer produced in small batches, using traditional brewing methods; the perfect combination of science and art.  

‘We set up Bellfield to make exceptional beers that everyone could enjoy drinking. We love good food, so we brew beers that complement it. No compromise, just delicious, classic IPAs, hoppy ales and crisp, refreshing and perfectly balanced lagers and pilsners’.

Award winning beer, ale and lager from Bellfield Brewery

Lawless Village IPA is named after the local seaside resort of Portobello. A copper coloured, aromatic beer brewed as a traditional American IPA. Enjoy this chilled, with friends, Bellfield suggest.  

Bohemian Pilsner is a classic Czech pilsner, pale with a light body, slight bitterness and gentle floral tones from the finest Saaz hops leading to a soft refreshing finish. The Session Ale has citrus tones from the hops for flavour and aroma and the bitterness is balanced by fine malt character – very gluggable.

And many other award winning Bellfield ales and lagers to keep you refreshed sitting under the summer sun in the garden. This smiling “bar tender” at their Festival stand looks as if he will be very happy to serve you.!

Chick + Pea is a pop up mobile kitchen in their iconic bright blue Citroën H Van, touring around to cater for hungry folk at Festivals and private parties.

They specialise in tasty dishes from the Mediterranean and the Middle East – Halloumi fries, roast garlic yoghurt; Falafel, hummus, tahini; Courgette fritters, goats, feta, ricotta cheese, harissa yoghurt.

Healthy Middle Eastern & Mediterranean snacks with aromatic spice

​Back again too is the popular wee shed – kitchen We sell Dumplings, and their brand name says it all. They make and sell wee bite size dumplings. Their enticing promotion, akin to the foodie travel memoir, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – is rather clever, Order, Consume, Repeat.

These tasty, vegan Scottish – Asian parcels are perfect picnic canapés, drizzled with chilli oil and Vietnamese dipping sauce.

‘Became utterly addicted to these during the Festival. Really tasty and good value for money for a decent sized portion,’ commented one happy diner.

We sell Dumplings – spicy, vegan, Asian snacks – so delicious

Moskito Bites and Tapas bring a taste of Spanish summer with Patatas Bravas and Spaniard Fries.  Mana Poké creates edible art with their healthy, protein-packed, Hawaiian Poké Bowls. As good as you would find in Naples, try the Paddle and Peel Pizza, freshly baked in their wood-fired oven. 

As well as Bellfield beers, other drinks are Poco Prosecco sparkling fizz and Sangria from Moskito’s Bacchus Mobile Bar.

You don’t have to head down the coast to Prestonpans to experience the famous Alandas Fish and Chips and seafood, as the van is back on the Square.

The fish is locally sourced and delivered daily so depending on the catch, there might be scampi, salt and chilli squid, salmon and lobster too. Recommended are the juicy fat, freshly grilled prawns on a skewer with a side of fries for posh fish and chips – sorted!  

Alandas fresh local seafood
Alandas Fish ‘n Chips – great Festival food

For dessert, Alanda is also a Gelataria. Their award-winning ice cream is made with Scottish cream and milk from a local dairy in East Lothian at their North Berwick parlour,  and as well as vanilla, infused with quality seasonal fruit and ingredients. As they proudly say, ‘Handmade with love.’

Home made Scottish Gelato from Alandas

As well as this wide choice of freshly cooked dishes to enjoy in the garden, several market stalls have a selection of food products to purchase and take home.

So head over to the Edinburgh Food Festival this week to enjoy leisurely picnic lunches, snacks, drinks and alfresco dining by night in the tranquil lush, green space of Assembly George Square Gardens.

The best news is that entry is free and you don’t need a reservation. Open every day from 12pm–midnight until Sunday 1 August.

Bon Appetit and Cheers!

To keep up to date with all the news about the Edinburgh Food Festival, visit www.edfoodfest.com or follow @EdFoodFest and #EdFoodFest on social media. 

The perfect tranquil green space for a picnic lunch or alfresco dinner

‘From the River to the Sea: Aquitaine, A Place for Me’ by Basia Gordon. A Memoir: A time-travelling, personal journey between Scotland to South West France

We Brits are born travellers eager for adventure, an escape for cultural experiences, a taste of luxury, or perhaps, in search of a new place to call home.

When Peter Mayle moved to rural France, he intended to write a novel, not a bestselling memoir. ‘A Year in Provence,’ first published in 1989, is an aspirational lifestyle tale about a fifty-something couple renovating a derelict farmhouse in France.

Their decision had begun with “.. a meal that we shall never forget, beyond the gastronomic frontiers (and) we promised ourselves that one day we would live here.”

Peter Mayle at home in Provence.

Unintentionally, Mayle created a new style of literary travel genre, leading to other successful narratives such as ‘Driving over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart, and ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ by Frances Mayes.

Basia Gordon

“Let your dream take over your life rather than your life take over your dream.”

This translation from a French proverb is the apt starting point of Basia Gordon’s narrative about taking a year out from life and work in Glasgow to refurbish an early 19th century farmhouse in Aquitaine.  She first gives a glimpse into her rich Polish heritage covering her parents’ distressing wartime experiences which led to them both, independently, to Scotland where they soon met.

Map of the Aquitaine region and location of their family holiday home

As it was a long way to travel to Poland for regular holidays, in 1972 her father had bought Coutal, a “charming wreck” in rural France for £3.000: “We would never quite belong there, half marooned, half anchored to it as we were.  We would always be regarded as foreigners, invariably referred to locally by the misnomer, Les Anglais.”

Coutal, – the family holiday home, Lot et Garonne, Aquitaine in the 1970s.

Memories of summers here are colourful and carefree, “as children we were feral and relished our freedom, only coming home late in the evening when we were hungry”.

After her father passed away, it continued to be a place for Polish and Scottish family reunions but with limited funds for maintenance and development. “In 2018, my partner Gerry and I decided to take a sabbatical from our teaching jobs to renovate Coutal.”  

Coutal in the rural tranquility of Lot et Garonne

Their initial 29 hour journey from Glasgow to Aquitaine by car with an over-packed trailer (an array of objects, thirty T shirts, Philippe Starck cheese grater, Cocktail book, but no cocktail shaker), is related with light hearted humour through a series of unfortunate incidents.

Lot et Garonne and community of villages

The destination is Lot-et-Garonne, south of the Dordogne and north of Gascony in the Aquitaine region of France. A lush fertile landscape with fields of sunflowers, plum trees, vineyards, farms, market towns and pretty Medieval villages.

Basia lost in a meadow of sunflowers near Coutal

This Memoir follows Bazia’s personal, often emotional reminiscences of Coutal, the progress of the building work, daily challenges of language, laws and lifestyle to fit in, not as tourists but as locals.  

This is not a quick decorating job, but hard manual labour, digging the earth, building walls, erecting a garage, creating an ensuite bedroom in the barn, electrical wiring, grass cutting, all in preparation to welcome their first visitors at their farmhouse ‘hotel”.  

A rhythm of work, eat, siesta, rest, work again. They need to brush up their French especially technical and DIY phrases in order to buy wood or a hinge and learn that sandpaper is Le papier de verre.

Gerry and Basia, armed with essential tools

The reader is introduced to their friendly, nonagenarian neighbours, Etienne and Suzanne Gouget, “peasant’ farmers, who eat well with their own fresh eggs and vegetables, farm reared poultry and wild rabbits.

 Basia and Gerry explore the local villages, Largadonne, Born, St. Vivien with numerous vineyards all around, including Chateau de Planque and Buzet – yes, Plonk and Boozy.!

Known as the Tuscany of France,  “there is a surfeit of prettiness here, rolling hills and bucolic charm” amidst the sizzling hot summer sun.  

The region of Lot et Garonne – the Tuscany of France

Following country customs, Basia makes soap from orange blossom, lemon grass and bay leaves while their garden is now flourishing with sunflowers, pumpkin, rosemary and lavender.

The picturesque heritage town of Monflanquin

The Medieval towns of Monflanquin and Villereal attract 100,000 visitors a year, and Bodega, the annual festival in August is when clowns, musicians, dancers and jugglers stage street theatre circus entertainment creating a lively, sociable event.

The lively cultural, social community of Villereal

Many old properties in this area with swimming pools and outhouses have been purchased cheaply, but renovation is very expensive -“dreams crumbled and houses abandoned.” Meanwhile, they plough on with their dream designer holiday home, visiting many a Vide Grenier –  car boot sales – to buy vintage homeware, art, antiques and curios.

Conducting financial business with the Tax office and bank seems to be a bureaucratic nightmare .. not to mention the ensuing complications of living in France after Brexit which has been nothing but “Mayhem.. Brekshit.”  Expenses are a constant source of worry – house insurance,  medical treatment (will it be covered by the EHIC card?!) and endless car problems – ( L’embroyer is the word for clutch). When they buy a 16 year old Peugot, it requires a passport, proof of home address and payment by cheque. 

When money is tight, they keep calm and carry on, “We shall be eating baguette sans fromage for a month.”   Basia is fascinated to know that a staggering 30 million baguettes are sold in France every day, plus all those crisp crosssants and pastries!

Over recent months, the Gilet Jaunes marches have swept the country, protesting against President Macron’s changes to taxation and welfare, a grassroots revolution for economic justice. As welcome breaks from politics and the building site, Basia and Gerry relax on holiday in Majorca with a literary pilgrimage to the home of the poet Robert Graves, a heritage tour of Berlin and an exciting trip to China to observe efficient bullet trains and cutting-edge technology.

The Barn undergoing major reconstruction!

Back in ‘Coutal’, the renovation work resumes, installing a new kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.  The design is Scandi chic for the Barn in contrast to traditional oak wood in the farmhouse, now furnished with old church pews from Scotland.  

Basia is righly very proud of the smart new windows now installed in the Barn

“I wonder what my father would have thought of the changes at Coutal Haut?” muses Basia.   

During a cold, wet January, Basia and Gerry celebrate Burns Night with a party for friends, and find that the bottles of whisky are cheaper in France than in Scotland.!  Their rural retreat has often been a revolving door of family and friends, which prove to be enjoyable diversions from the job in hand, especially if guests bring Tunnocks caramel wafers from Glasgow.

Amongst all the anecdotes, the most poetic stories describe an appetising feast of good food and drink.  The buzzing farmers’ Markets are the place to buy the freshest fruit and vegetables, and they also pick their own walnuts and plums – the delicious Pruneaux d’Agen is a famous speciality.

Fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables at the weekly local markets.

Cheap, gluggable, quality wine is purchased in BIBS  – a bag of 5 litres in a box and they also try their hand at making walnut wine.  Embracing local manners, it is important to greet everyone you meet each day, with a cheery Bonjour.

Their elderly neighbours, Etienne and Suzanne, are true Masterchefs, rustling up Broad bean soup, truffle omelette, venison pate for lunch. A turkey “fed with grains and fruit produced the most succulent, mouth watering meat we had ever tasted.”  Quality, simple peasant cooking at its best.

Just like Peter Mayle’s passion for French cuisine which enticed his move to Provence, it’s the food and wine which has been a highlight of their sabbatical in Aquitaine. “From the River to the Sea” is a most enchanting, time-travelling journey, enriched with childhood memories, cultural & culinary adventures, relating the story of a beloved family home, ‘Coutal’ for over nearly fifty years.

   “A year of difficult situations and heartbreak ….I could write a dissertation on French building terms!.” Basia Gordon.

Coutal – beautifully redesigned for the 21st century

From the River to the Sea: Aquitaine, A Place for MeA Memoir by Basia Gordon is published by Matador.

Hardback: £17.99 ISBN: 978-1800461345

Paperback: £12.99 ISBN: 978-1800461352

The World Atlas of Beer (3rd Edition) by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont – a pub crawl around the planet with two expert drinkers.

This beautifully illustrated guide sweeps through the fascinating heritage, culture and creativity of brewing over the centuries to the most exciting and exemplary new brands of ales and beers today.  Travel around the six continents from Czech Republic to China, Mexico to Mauritius, UK to USA on an exuberant, thirst- quenching road trip.

Well designed chapters and colourful, illustrated pages

First published in 2012, the third edition has been completely revised and updated by the co-authors, Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont. Beautifully designed with world map of chapters to browse through at leisure.

Beer is, they say, “the world’s favourite alcoholic beverage”  made from fermented, boiled grain, hops, and the finely crafted creation of flavour: “citrus, dried fruits, herbal, floral, toffee, spicy, earthy, vanilla, chocolate and old bookshops … beer is not simple.”

The four largest brewing companies are based in Belgium, Netherlands, China and Denmark, producing the best-selling brands. This book however explores the growth of independent, Craft breweries offering distinctive taste and local character.

The origins of beer dating back to 9000BC in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and then the Egyptians who used barley, followed by the Celts who brewed with barley, wheat and oats, from 2000 BC.

Louis Pasteur, experiments with yeast to assist beer making

In the 7th century hops were added as a preservative and the French chemist, Dr. Louis Pasteur discovered in the mid 19th century that yeast was key to the fermentation process. Learn all about the history and heritage from grain to glass, with diverse international techniques.

The quaint old Bow Bar, Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Stephen and Tim have selected their favourite bars worldwide, including the charming old pub, The Bow Bar, Edinburgh, Oliver Twist, Stockholm, ‘t, Brugs Beertje, Bruges, Frango, Sao Paulo and Toronado, San Francisco.

One of the best for beer – Toronado, San Francisco

The British Beer industry is a fascinating story such as strong, dark Porter, so named as it was popular with stevedore dockworkers, and the export of special pale ale to India, is the original IPA.   The entrepreneurial brewer, Samuel Allsopp developed refined IPA for the UK and Empire as well as draught Bitter with great success.

Scotland is renowned for innovation and quality – Traquair House in the Scottish Borders opened the world’s first modern craft brewery in 1965, while Fyne Ales and Tempest are two new award winning companies, leading the way.

Other recommended British brands include Burning Sky, Buxton, Beavertown, and Red Rock wheat beers from Devon. Vintage breweries include St. Austell and Timothy Taylor.

Think of Ireland, think of Guinness, the dark, dry, creamy stout, first produced by Arthur Guinness, Dublin in 1759, one of the most successful alcohol brands worldwide.  But there are around 75 small independent, craft breweries vying for attention.

In 2016, Belgian Beer culture was given Unesco Heritage protection status given its global importance.  Why? “Striking, expressive beer (with) poise and balance.” 

Highly recommended: t. Brugs Beertje, Bruges

Medieval Abbeys have historically made beer and there are still six Trappist breweries with all profits benefitting the community.  Beer-themed tourism is a big business with visitors travelling by train, tram or bike to breweries, bars and Festivals galore.

In the Netherlands, Heineken, is the market leader for industrial lager, as well as around new 700 companies striving to create a distinctive Dutch style beer – names to check out: Walhalla and Oersoep. 

France is slowly developing a beer scene with small craft breweries experimenting with spelt and buckwheat. This 1920s advert tried to encourage French wine lovers to drink Bieres Francaises.

Poster to promote French Beer, (1928)

Copenhagen, Denmark – Jacobsen and Hansen founded the Carlsberg Brewery in 1847, stating that “Whoever possesses the complete understanding of chemistry will be Europe’s leading brewer in the next generation.”  Modern breweries are “outrageously experimental” such as Warpigs and Baghaven.

Germany is a leading grower of hops and the majority of its beer is sold to the home market,  e.g. Bavarian blond. Pils, Black and Bock beers. Festivals in September and October.

Antique German Beer Steins

If you have visited Prague, it may be no surprise to know that the Czechs are “the most dedicated beer drinkers”. Bohemia offers welcoming brewpubs, hotels and restaurants – Zkikov brewery is located within a lakeside, medieval Castle.

Zkikov Castle and Brewery, Bohemia

A century after Prohibition, the USA has gradually developed its beer industry with 8,000 breweries in 50 states. West Coast is famous for “boldly hoppy, citrusy India Pale Ale.”  Washington is on the map for its lively beer scene, new breweries, DC Brau and Red Bear, exciting bar diners and taverns, and in Chicago you can follow the beer trail to taprooms on a Train Crawl. The Great American Beer Festival founded in Denver represents the largest collection of U.S. breweries and beers for a public tasting event as well as a competition, to celebrate the American craft brewing industry. Attracting around 800 breweries and 60,000 visitors, this year’s Festival runs from 7 – 9 October, 2021.

The well established, annual three day event in Denver, Colorado

The laid-back Caribbean islands need refreshing cold beers to sip in the sun: Jamaica, Red Stripe, Bahamas, Pirate Republic, Trinidad and Tobago,Tommy’s Brewing, (perfect with a Bake & Shark wrap).  

In Canada, Belgian-styled ales are a tradition of French-speaking Quebec and Montreal, with influential breweries, Le Cheval Blanc and Unibroue – strong, dark beers and the award winning La Fin du Monde. Mexico best known for Corona and Cerveza has 1,000 small, independent breweries, with an imaginative use of Tequila barrels and blue Agave hearts as in ingredient in Fiesta Latina.

Brazil is a huge beer drinking nation and Brewing schools have created enthusiastic graduates with technical knowledge to develop modern craft breweries. Amazonian wood barrels and using Tropical fruits has created such beers as a tart, fresh tasting Catharina Sour.   Ecuador can boast the first brewery in the Americas, at the Convent of San Francisco, Quito founded 1566 and operating for four centuries. Today, there is a boom in beer making such as Cerveza Santa Rosa producing quality Sours and the 8%  ABV Love Bird.

Cerveza Santa Rosa, Ecuador

Mention Australia and you think of Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX. Little Creatures began the trend for Indie Beer which has expanded substantially with Stone & Wood launched in 2008 at Byron Bay. Pacific Ale is a flyaway success, “An iconic brew, influential, internationally respected and enjoyable.”

Sail across the Pacific to Rarotonga, where you can sample Cook Islands lager, (Rarotonga brewery), or a pilsner, pale ale and an IPA from Matutu brewing.

The first Japanese-owned Beer Brewery was founded by Syozaburo Shibutani in 1872, in Osaka. For 2,000 years Sake, known as rice wine, has actually been brewed using the same method as beer, but it’s not so popular with the Millennials. Tokyo is now a city of beer bars serving Pilsners, Grape ale, & Hitachino Nest Classic Ale using Sake barrels.

China keeps most of its beer for the locals with just Tsingtao as a key export. Snow, the world’s best selling beer almost unknown globally.   San Miguel is the famous brand of the Philippines, with a few new companies, such as Turning Wheels Brewpub, Cebu City.

As an import during the British Raj, India Pale Ale was never produced there, and since 1947 there has been  little demand for beer or alcohol with high taxation and strict licencing laws. Craft breweries to check out: Toit, Bangalore, Arbor, Goa and Doolally, Pune.

Sri Lanka is famed for Tea, but a Belgian, Auguste de Bavay, began brewing here in 1881, later developed as the Ceylon Brewing in 1911; today the company name is Lion, renowned for its Lager and Stout, as part of a 125 year tradition. 

Lion beer on Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

The scenic Winelands and Dutch industrial brewers take centre stage in South Africa with small progress for small scale beer makers – Mountain Brewing, Western Cape produces a distinctive range and also Banana Jam, Cape Town.   Great story behind Red Island brewing in Madagascar, where a group of American, British and Australian Ex-pats are experimenting with recipes using the island’s home grown vanilla.   

Red Island brewery, Madagascar

Just a dot in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has two breweries, Flying Dodo with its own Lambic café-bar-shop, in Port Louis.  Wine merchant, E.C. Oxenham is also developing its Thirsty Fox beers.

And so time to drink.! The last chapter is entitled Enjoying Beer, with advice on buying, reading labels, understanding ABV, serving and glassware from British pints, to German flutes and stemmed “wine” glasses.

A fascinating section is on Food Pairing –  Pub food, sharing platters as well as an extensive Affinity Chart. Check the most suitable ales and beers to complement Oysters, Salmon, Cheese, Beef, Pizza and Burgers etc. This colourful, informative and entertaining Atlas will certainly entice you to plan a travel trip to breweries and bars and Beer Festivals worldwide.

Cheers, Salute, À votre santé, Proost, Na zdravi, Cin cin, Kanpai …

The World Atlas of Beer, by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont (3rd Edition, 2020)

Mitchell Beazley (Octupus Books) ISBN-13 : 978-1784726270

Cafe Beermoth, the place to sip beer in Manchester, England