Tag Archive | Cocktails

J & B Rare Blended Scotch: a timeless classic from 1932 has matured into the World’s Party Whisky

Inspired by an Italian, created in London and distilled in Scotland, J&B Rare Blended Scotch Whisky remains a global best seller nearly 90 years since it was first launched.

Justerini & Brooks is the oldest, continuous fine Wine Merchant in Britain, historically supplying Aristocratic households and was granted a Royal Warrant by George III, an honour which it still retains today.

This most inspiring story began in 1749 when Giacomo Justerini, who worked in is family distillery,  moved from Bologna, Italy to London in pursuit of an opera singer, Margherita Bellino.

While romance failed to blossom, he secured business investment from George Johnson, to establish Johnson and Justerini, Purveyers of Wines and Spirits at No. 2 Pall Mall. Fast forward a few decades and Alfred Brooks purchased the business, now renamed Justerini & Brooks.

As well as the Royal Household, among their prestigious clientele over the centuries was the novelist, Charles Dickens. 

With entrepreneurial, far sighted vision, during the Prohibition era, the company sent Eddie Tatham to the United States to check out the potential market for a speciality Scotch Whisky.  Justerini & Brooks then began to craft a distinctive blended whisky, specifically to appeal to the American palate and in competition to Cutty Sark. Cleverly branded as J&B Rare Scotch, to express its exclusive, premium quality, it was launched in 1932, the year before Prohibition was repealed.

The start of major export trade of J&B Rare Scotch to the USA, 1936

J&B Rare is distilled, blended and bottled in Scotland: a blend of 42 malt and grain whiskies, the heart is formed from the finest Speyside single malts: Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey, expertly blended to create an approachable, rich and complex flavour. The round, fruity, unique and distinctive taste of the fine malt whiskies is delicately balanced by carefully chosen grain whiskies which gives J&B Rare its distinctive character.

The Dram Test:

With no preconceptions of aroma and flavour, I sampled a blind tasting, served neat.

Nose: Dried fruit, damson, prunes, tobacco smoke

Palate: Sherry, rich fruitiness, treacle, a hint of ginger

Finish: Smooth, elegant texture, lingering oak wood and cinnamon

J&B Rare certainly excites the taste buds with refreshing fruity flavours and rich spicy aftertaste.

Walnut, toffee apples, cedar wood, orange zest.

Apples, oranges, kiwis, summer berries, caramel and vanilla.

Fresh, grassy and nutty on the nose, malt, spice, fruit salad and sweet grains on the palate.

Fruity, aromatic, soft apple and pear and just a hint of smoke. 

Layers of rich vanilla balanced with lively notes of fresh fruit and spice.

With its versatile, well rounded, mellow character, serve on the rocks or for a refreshing long drink, with a mixer such as Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic Water or Ginger Ale.

J&B Rare Scotch with Tonic Water for a refreshing drink

Their eye catching Advertisements published widely in the media through the 1950s and 1960s, reflected a glamorous, modern high society; in 1963, J&B Rare sold over one million cases each year as the number one selling Scotch in the United States. Creative marketing.

Long before Influencers on Twitter, the fashionable Scotch received wide celebrity promotion as the drink of choice by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cary Grant and Truman Capote et al; the smooth style with soft smoky notes has always been perfect for Cocktails.

The J&B Sinatra Sour

What could be a better tribute to Frankie than this harmoniously bittersweet cocktail.

The J&B Sinatra Sour. 

35 ml J&B Rare, 10 ml lemon juice, 10 ml Sugar syrup, 15 ml egg white, 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters  

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake well for at least a minute. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with Maraschino cherries.

The J&B Ginger Ale Twist

J&B Ginger Ale Twist

In this signature recipe, the whisky is enhanced with a spicy kick.

50 ml J&B Rare, 125 ml Ginger Ale, 4 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitter (optional), lime wedge

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the J&B Rare, Ginger ale and Angostura Bitters, a squeeze of lime juice and wedge as a garnish.

The Rusty Nail cocktail – J&B Rare Scotch + Drambuie

J&B Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail is credited to the bartenders at the 21 Club, Manhattan in the early 1960s, and quickly endorsed by Gina MacKinnon of the Drambuie Liqueur Company. The cocktail was popular at P. J. Clarke’s, a favourite late-night haunt of Frank Sinatra.  The brand name Drambuie is derived from the Gaelic, meaning ‘the drink that satisfies’, and this cocktail does too with its honey sweetness.

35 ml J&B Rare, 15 ml Drambuie

Pour the ingredients over ice in a rocks glass.

The Godfather cocktail

The Godfather 

 25 ml J&B Rare, 25 ml Amaretto liqueur 

Serve with ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a cherry.

Best-known for his novella ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, Truman Capote was flamboyant, unpredictable and a huge fan of J&B Rare. However, with his theatrically camp manner, he would never ask a bar tender for a ‘J&B’, but instead preferred the formal, full name of the distiller, to request a ‘Justerini and Brooks’.

While his fave tipple may not have been sipped by Audrey Hepburn at Tiffany’s in the movie, it has a starring role in the 1982 classic The Thing, which features regular ‘shots’ of J&B Rare at the Research station.

J&B, product placement in ‘The Thing’

In a memorable scene in Scarface, Tony Montana (Pacino) approaches Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), with the chat up line, “Why don’t we have a couple of drinks and just take it easy. I like Scotch,”  Elvira pours two glasses of J&B on the rocks, with the bottle design complementing her emerald green swimsuit.

The iconic J&B whisky drinking scene from ‘Scarface’

Spot the famous green bottle too in such iconic films as  “Shampoo,” “Moonstruck,” and “M.A.S.H.”

The colourful, cultural heritage of Justerini & Brooks from British Royalty patronage to Rat Pack and Hollywood promotion is a pioneering success story. Known today as the world’s ‘Party Whisky’, J&B Rare Blended Scotch is as cool, classic and fashionable today as it was in the swinging Sixties.

Perhaps we should follow Truman’s sassy style and ask for a Justerini & Brooks ?

Uisge Beatha!

More information:

J&B Rare Blended Scotch is widely available from Waitrose, amazon.co.uk, thewhiskyexchange.com masterofmalt.com and Justerini & Brooks

Justerini & Brooks Ltd. Wine and Spirit Merchants

61 St James’s Street London SW1A 1LZ

14 Alva St, Edinburgh EH2 4QG

https://www.justerinis.com

Justerini & Brooks, 61 St. James Street, London

‘Negroni’ by David T Smith and Keli Rivers – cool, classic and contemporary cocktail recipes: tipples to tingle the tastebuds.

The most perfect, and rather addictive, Aperitivo – a classic Negroni is the very definition of balance, simplicity and Italian sophistication. 

The classic, much revered, Negroni

Essentially, in Italy between 6 – 8pm or so is Aperitivo time, the act of sipping a cocktail and perhaps a light snack, ‘to open’ and stimulate one’s stomach before a meal.  Campari is virtually the patron saint of Aperitivo, originally crafted in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in the town of Novara near Milan.  

The secret recipe is an alcoholic infusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit, with a complex bittersweet orange, cherry, clove, and cinnamon flavour. As a liqueur it can be served with soda water and renowned as the signature ingredient in many cocktails.

The origin of the iconic Negroni takes us back just over a century to 1919 and Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy.  Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, Milan-Torino – (aka the Americano: Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Soda Water, served with a slice of lemon) – by replacing the soda water with Gin. Scarselli also added an orange garnish rather than lemon.

This elegant, richly bittersweet Aperitivo just hit the spot as an immediate success and soon everyone was visiting the bar for a ‘Negroni.’  Or should it have been named the Scarselli?

“ The bartender must change depending on the customer who is standing in front of him. He has to know and guess the flavour of the mood he should offer him…a sort of panacea against dark moods or reversals of fortunes.” Fosco Scarselli

The entrepreneurial Count Negroni quickly set up a drinks company to market a ready-made version of his creation, Antico Negroni, which is still produced today at the same distillery in Treviso, Italy.

Count Camille Negroni

After Ian Fleming toured Italy in 1958, he wrote a short story, Risico featuring 007.  In the Cocktail Bar at the Excelsior Hotel, Rome, James Bond, as for his Martini in Casino Royale, is most specific about his favourite Gin.

‘A Negroni. With Gordon’s, please. The waiter walked back to the bar. ‘Negroni. Uno. Gordon’s.’

Negroni cocktail – the perfect promotion by James Bond

Quickly and easily prepared with just three ingredients in equal measures, you don’t need professional ice shakers, tools and skills to stir up a Negroni at home,

The traditional Negroni has been creatively re-invented by bar tenders around the world and this slim 64 page, well illustrated book covers the one hundred year evolution through more than thirty recipes of diverse and distinctive cocktails.

The authors are certainly experts on the artistic styles of Gin.  David T. Smith has contributed features to Imbibe Magazine, Channel 4 television and chaired gin judging panels at the American Distilling Institute and Gin Masters competitions.  Keli Rivers has been a ‘ginnoisseur’ at San Francisco’s Whitechapel and the Sipsmith Brand Ambassador, USA.

With a short introduction, the chapters cover Classic, White, Experimental and Seasonal, offering an intriguing array of fruity concoctions, Whisky, Rum and Tequila versions as well as sparkling summertime tipples.

First, of course, The Classic – 25 ml measures of Beefeater Gin, Campari and Red Vermouth with an orange twist. (James Bond would not approve!).

The fact that the Negroni has an orange garnish, other citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemon can jazz it up with a tart, tangy flavour. The Porch-Drinking Negroni has the addition of fresh strawberries and the fizz of Bitter Lemon for a long, refreshing, ice-cold drink.

Sunshine Negroni – a summer drink with Gordon’s Sicilian Lemon Gin

As a colourful twist to a Tequila Sunrise, the Sunshine Negroni blends the popular Gordon’s Sicilian Lemon Gin with Orange juice, Grapefruit soda, Aperol, Dry Vermouth – this sounds like a lip-smacking, thirst quencher.

The modern equivalent of a Purl, popular by workers in the 16th century, (Gin, Ale, sugar and spices), the Stout & Steadfast, adds 60 ml of Guinness to a Negroni recipe for rich punchy taste.

Having recently enjoyed tasting a range of Beaverton ales, their ‘Bloody ‘Ell’ IPA is dry, bitter with Blood Orange notes which could ring the changes of the Stout Negroni.

Topping up a Negroni with dry sparkling Cider is most inventive in a Run, Free & Naked cocktail, where the crisp, sweet apple freshness softens the bitter aftertaste of Campari.

Sloe Gin made from Blackthorn berries, is an ancient country tradition, sipped either neat like a liqueur or with soda.  Tried and tested is the Sloe-Groni, a combination of Sloe Gin with Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Campari and Vermouth Rosso, which works beautifully, adding a rich damson jam and earthy hedgerow depth of flavour.

With many gin distillers crafting other wild berry gins, such as Bombay Bramble, Ben Lomond, Raspberry & Elderflower / Blackberry & Rhubarb, these would also be fine alternatives to Sloe Gin.  

The Boulevardier, in which Bourbon replaces the Gin, is believed to have been created in Paris around the late 1920s, by an American writer, Erskine Gwynne. 

The Boulevardier and Old Pal

Scotch whisky lovers, can try instead a Negroni Torbato, in which Bourbon is switched with Lagavulin, a Single Malt from Islay, giving a smooth, smoky flavour – a potential new classic. This was invented by Allessandro Palazzi at the legendary Dukes Bar, London, a favourite haunt of Ian Fleming and where his literary-inspired Vesper was born. 

Allessandro Palazzi, the master of the Martini at Duke’s Bar, London

It has been fascinating to browse through these classic and modern recipes and sample a few new cool, creative cocktails.  

I am however a little surprised that some well known Negroni spin offs are not included such as the Cardinale a 1950’s-era variation by Giovanni Raimondo, bartender at the Hotel Excelsior, Rome at the personal request of a guest – a German Cardinal.  

The Cardinale – a Negroni crafted with Gin, Dry Vermouth & Campari.

Instead of Rosso, the Cardinale is made with Dry Vermouth, such that it’s a lighter pink in colour rather than the usual dark crimson with a real hint of a dry Gin Martini.  Simply delectable

Also missing in this collection is Negroni Sbagliato which has a most amusing backstory. It was first served at the Bar Basso, Milan in the late 1960s when the owner, Mirko Stocchetto, poured a measure of sparkling wine instead of gin. (Sbagliato means “incorrect” or “messed up” in Italian). 

Negroni Sbagliato = Prosecco, Campari, Vermouth Rosso

Created by happy accident, this light, sparkling Negroni Spritz is still a popular Aperitivo at the Bar Basso, across Italy and worldwide. 

Last April, Stanley Tucci, the stylishly fashionable American actor posted an Instagram video of himself making (indeed, curiously shaking up!) a Negroni, which went viral, shared on Twitter with millions viewing his Cocktail masterclass through social media.

Diary Date: Negroni Week 2021, 13 – 19 September, 2021.

Negroni Week was first launched in 2013 when over a hundred bars took part to raise funds for charitable causes. and in 2019, the global event welcomed nearly 10,000 venues in 87 countries to celebrate the centenary.

The White Rose – another creative twist to the classic Negroni

This fascinating journey through the history of The Negroni, illustrates only too well how Cocktails can be jazzed up, re-invented, revamped, whether unintentionally, a drinker’s wise suggestion or the magical alchemy of experimental mixologists.   

Negroni is an essential, enticing guide for all cocktail lovers and this reasonably priced, pocket-sized book would be an attractive gift for thirsty friends.

Salute! 

Negroni by David T. Smith and Keli Rivers

Published by Ryland Peters & Small.  Hardback:  £7.99

Book Photography by Alex Luck, copuright Ryland Peters & Small

For more information see this link to the website page:

Reviewer’s Note: Perhaps the publication of this book was rushed through the editorial and proof- reading process, but for such a short book, it’s a shame that there are several errors in spelling, punctuation and typography with a repetition of the word “ice-filled” in many recipes.

Grapefruit Negroni

Ben Lomond Scottish Gin infused with wild berries creates refreshing, floral- scented, juicy-fruity, pink cocktails.

Ben Lomond towering over Loch Lomond

Ben Lomond, the majestic Munro which dominates the dramatic beauty of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, was the inspiration behind the award-winning Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, launched in 2019. 

Following this success, the distillers were keen to explore the Loch Lomond region further and challenge their creativity to produce two deliciously distinctive, premium gins, infused with Blackberry & Gooseberry and Raspberry & Elderflower. 

For the purist G&T lover who might assume that tinkering with the cool, classic taste of Dry London gin, is a modern fad, in fact, flavoured, fruit-based gins are nothing new at all.

Sloe gin – the original berry gin from the 17th century

Berries from the Blackthorn bush to make home-made Sloe Gin was a country custom from the 17th century, and this ruby-red, sweet liqueur was served in London taverns as a poor man’s Port.  A century later, Pink gin was created with a few drops of Angostura bitters, (invented in the 1820s as a cure for stomach ailments and seasickness), which soon becoming a popular cocktail. 

Spain is home to the biggest gin market in the world and in 2014 the Puerto de Indias distillery, Andalucia, launched their Sevillian Strawberry gin, an immediate best seller which created a new category and sparked the thirst for pink drinks.

Puerto de Indias, Sevillian Strawberry Gin

As the gin craze continues to blossom today worldwide, the trend is for innovative flavours such as Sicilian lemon, red wine grapes, rhubarb, ginger, chocolate et. al. and less alcoholic, sweet gin liqueurs. 

The Ben Lomond distillery team therefore very wisely decided to work with a local forager, Mark Williams from Galloway Wild Foods, to discover a harvest of botanicals, sweet berries and aromatic flowers growing around the hills and woodland of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

The wild natural beauty of Loch Lomond

After careful blending and crafting, in June 2020, they launched the Raspberry & Elderflower and Blackberry & Gooseberry Gins, both infused with berry essences and a touch of sugar, richly imbued with the base spirit of the Ben Lomond Dry London Gin.

The recipe for this fine Scottish Gin includes the essential Juniper and ten other herbal, spicy and floral botanicals such as rose petals and orris root, as well as hand-picked blackcurrants and local rowan berries. This combines perfectly with the blackberries, gooseberries and raspberries for a luscious ripe, fruity taste of summer and autumn.

Raspberry & Elderflower-infused Scottish Gin

The Gin Masters, The Spirits Business 2020: Gold Medal

Regarded as a gift from the Earth Mother, the Elder tree is a symbol of regeneration, believed to ward off witches – hence, Harry Potter’s coveted Elder Wand.  

The delicate frothy Elderflower blossom

White Elderflower blossom has been used widely in recent years to make wine, cordials, St. Germain Liqueur and as an ideal addition to gin.  With a subtle flavour of honey/vanilla/jasmine/pear, it perfectly complements the tart sweetness of raspberry. 

Around the neck of the bottle is a lovely, colourful gift tag: – “A vibrant yet balanced gin that can be enjoyed on its own or as part of your favourite tipple.”

First, the aroma – a soft floral rose perfume with a lingering hint of vanilla and raspberry. 

I then poured a generous 50 ml measure into a chunky rocks glass containing a large 2 inch iceberg. (large ice cubes look attractive, as used by professional bar tenders and they melt slowly).

The taste test: As this is a 38% ABV gin, perhaps it is not surprising that the warming, woody Juniper comes to the fore with a sharp kick. Then taste the fruity sweetness of the summer berry and citrus flavour.  Sipped over ice it’s simply delicious – this is not a gin to drown in Tonic water.

A signature Cocktail created by Ben Lomond Distillers is the Lomond Negroni, as a Scottish take on the Italian classic.

35 ml Raspberry & Elderflower Gin

10 ml Sweet Vermouth

10ml Aperol.

If you prefer, switch the Aperol for the richer, stronger Campari, stirring all the ingredients over ice and add a garnish of orange and raspberry.  The smooth, sweet Vermouth and bitter orange-rhubarb flavour of the Campari blends so well with this Raspberry Gin. 

Lomond Negroni

For a lighter drink, mix this gin to lemonade and/or Sparkling wine as a Spritz for a refreshing thirst-quencher on a summer’s day.  

Crème de Cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur from Dijon is famously used in the pre-prandial tipple, Kir, – just a little is added to a flute of white wine, or with champagne for a Kir Royale. Likewise, a few dashes of the Raspberry and Elderflower Gin to ice cold Prosecco or Cava creates a stylish pink aperitif with a garnish of fresh raspberries.

Kir Royale

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue

Blackberry Picking Seamus Heaney

Ben Lomond Blackberry & Gooseberry-infused Scottish Gin

The Gin Masters, The Spirits Business, 2020: Silver Medal

As the Ben Lomond London Dry gin features blackcurrants, rowan berries and orange peel as key ingredients, the addition of blackberry and gooseberry further enhances the rich, ripe bittersweet and citrus tang of blended fruits.

First the aroma: a woodland piney tone is evident, which opens up to be more vegetal, with juicy black / red fruits, a hint of jam, nothing that is obviously tart.

Now the first taste: “cleaner” than on the nose from the spicy coriander with more forest in the wild fruit flavour than sweet blackberry jam.

Again, as well as a long drink with tonic, it is personally recommended to serve this gin neat over a large ice cube, to fully appreciate this well balanced, elegantly smooth, Juniper-rich gin.  

As many chefs will concur, gooseberries are the perfect partner for mackerel as the sweet acidity of the tangy berries cuts through the smoky saltiness of this oily fish.

The French for gooseberry is groseille à maquereau, (literally currant with mackerel), which gives a Gallic seal of approval to serve smoked mackerel with gooseberries.

Grilled mackerel with gooseberries and cucumber

The Inverawe Smokehouse also suggests a gooseberry and ginger sauce to accompany their fine smoked salmon.

Why not rustle up these fabulous canapés – Blinis with a slither of Smoked Salmon, topped with crème fraiche and caviar, and nibble with an ice cold shot of Blackberry & Gooseberry-infused Gin. Simply divine.!

Smoked Salmon Blinis with crème fraiche and caviar

Ben Lomond Distillers have been experimentin with these fruity gins and crafted this enticing twist on a Bramble Cocktail.

The Bramble was created by the legendary Dick Bradsell in the 1980s at Fred’s Club, Soho, a concoction of dry gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and Crème de Mûre, (blackberry liqueur), which gives a deep, fruity and sweet taste. One of the most iconic gin drinks of the modern age.

The Blackberry & Gooseberry Gin would be the perfect alternative to combine the gin and Crème de Mûre in a Bramble.

Bramble Cocktail

And this Loch Lomond version of the French 75, is renamed the Alba 75.

30ml Blackberry & Gooseberry Gin
10ml Lime Juice
10ml Sugar Syrup
1 dash of Ginger Spice
Top with Sparkling Wine

Add the gin, lime juice, sugar syrup and ginger to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a flute glass and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a twist of lime.

Alba 75

These Ben Lomond floral-scented, jammy, juicy Berry-infused Gins are so versatile, whether just with ice, splash in a sparkling mixer or shake up in your favourite cocktail.

More information on the full range of Ben Lomond gins, with further Cocktail recipes and online shop:  

Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, Raspberry & Elderflower, and Blackberry & Goosberry

https://www.benlomondgin.com/our-gins/

https://www.benlomondgin.com/our-gins/raspberry-elderflower-gin/

https://www.benlomondgin.com/our-gins/blackberry-gooseberry-gin/

Tom Savano hand-crafted Cocktails – a story of innovation, creativity and passion: just taste one and see!

For a new business idea, product and brand to succeed, you need to be an entrepreneur with both a financial mind and imaginative vision.  The original germ of the idea for a Cocktail company, began ten years ago when James Kerslake was on holiday in Ibiza, sipping a Mojito at the Café Mambo and watching the sunset.

Cocktail Hour at sunset, Cafe Mambo, Ibiza

Back in London, while working in Investment banking by day, he would shake up cocktails at home, as well as social drinking ideas such as BarPanda, an app to order drinks in a bar and split the bill with friends.  The world of hospitality, food and drink had always been an interest, but only as a side line to his full time career.  In 2007, aged 27, James launched a specialist food bar in London aimed at hungry, health-conscious office workers – artisan wraps, made-to-order salads, sushi, burritos and freshly made smoothies, a pioneering, new venture at the time. 

From making batches of Mojitos for parties and picnics with friends, this led to being asked to supply his speciality cocktails for a friend’s wedding and the idea for a professional Drinks business was sparked. A lightbulb moment indeed. 

James Kerslake admits he has always been a bit of a dreamer, a romantic idealist; the brand name, Tom Savano is his alter ego, fictional character who is in search of exciting, new experiences and “spiritual,” journeys of discovery.

Tom Savano reflects perfect moments with a cocktail in hand

Escape to your favourite travel destinations with Tom’s signature cocktail collection, perfected using artisan spirits from small craft distilleries.

Tom Savano Cocktails are ready mixed and bottled at bar strength and quality, using only artisan spirits from the best, local, small batch distilleries.  “When it comes to independent spirit makers, it is character, story and heritage, that are important in defining flavour.”  James Kerslake

The artistic labels represent a cultural sense of place as reflected through Tom’s sunglasses to illustrate the cocktail’s origin from Italy to New York and Mexico.

Having finely crafted the first four Tom Savano signature cocktails, Margarita, Negroni, Lychee Martini and Old Fashioned, they were entered for the global Speciality Spirits Masters Awards in August 2019. 

Three months later, James was informed that his brand new products had won no fewer than three gold medals and one silver medal. An incredible, auspicious start to his fledgling business which was officially launched in December 2019.  After nine years in the creation, the Award-winning Tom Savano handcrafted Cocktail company was ready to splash.  

Single Estate Reposado Margarita – Gold Award,  Speciality Spirits Masters, 2019

The attractive, squat bottle is for 2 servings; through the lens of the sunglasses, an idyllic image of a swimming pool, palm trees and loungers, just the place to relax with this cocktail.

The Jalisco Estate Reposado Tequila is blended with fresh Agave, Mexican herbs and lime.  This Ocho Tequila is made in the traditional way from hand harvested Blue Agave plants, and the piña, the succulent core, is roasted in brick ovens and crushed between stone wheels. The recipe is based on a Tommy’s Margarita, created in 1990 in San Francisco by Julio Bermejo at  Tommy’s, his parents’ restaurant.  Instead of Triple Sec or Cointreau, Julio added a spoonful of Agave nectar for a natural, honeyed flavour.

I kept the bottle in the fridge for a day or two so that it was well chilled. This is an authentic, ready made cocktail so it should not be diluted by adding ice.!

My first sip of the Tom Savano handcrafted Margarita was lip smackingly good. Wow is the word.! The sharp, tart citrus tang just sings aloud, and then savour the earthy, smoky aftertaste which is smoothly mellow with an exquisite, complex depth of flavour.  As suggested on the bottle, do dip the rim of your glass with salt – ideally Pink Himalayan – to create the perfect serve.  This is Mexican sunshine in a glass with a whiff of salt sea air.

English Garden Lychee Martini – Gold award, Speciality Spirts Masters, 2019

The image on this bottle reflected through Tom’s sunglasses, is an avenue of pink blossoming trees with oriental, painterly style with a backdrop of skyscrapers.

The Lychee Martini was invented in the 1990s in Clay, a late night Korean restaurant in New York. The story goes Han-jae Park used to make it for local bartenders after they finished work. Also known as “Lycheetini,” based on a lychee liqueur or syrup, is a beautiful, delicate, and unusual cocktail. Lychees have the sweet taste of grape, strawberry and melon, but with a slightly sour finish.

The Tom Savano Lychee Martini includes British elderflower vodka with a layering of lychee and a blend of vermouths.  The floral aroma is all about encapsulating an English Garden in Springtime.  The artisan brand of spirit is Jelly’s English Elderflower vodka made in Desborough, Northamptonshire featuring coriander, liquorice, cardamom, orris root, lemon and handpicked local elderflower.

The cocktail has a fruity, floral perfumed aroma and softly textured flavour with the Vermouth cutting through the sweetness to give the kick of a dry Martini. 

Devon Coastal Negroni – Silver award, Speciality Spirits Masters, 2019

Count Negroni famously invented his eponymous cocktail in Florence in 1919 and having celebrated its centenary last year, this remains a glamorously, fashionable, ruby red aperitivo.

‘Devon Coastal’ Negroni’ features Salcombe gin, a small batch craft gin from Devon, inspired by seafaring voyages from centuries past, with classic Italian vermouth, Amaro and a hint of orange.  

It is poetically described as “More mellow than a traditional Negroni with just the right amount of bitterness and a subtle hint of sweet orange. One sip and you’ll be transported to an overgrown villa in Florence, nibbling Cicchetti as the late afternoon lingers on.”

Kentucky Winter Old Fashioned – Gold award, Speciality Sprits Masters, 2019

Colonel James E. Pepper, a Kentucky distiller of bourbon and the bar tender of the Pendennis Club, Louisville, jointly created this cocktail around 1900.  It is immortalised in song, “Make it Another Old Fashioned, Please” by Cole Porter.

This Tom Savano recipe combines a smooth Kentucky bourbon and a spicy Rye, with dark sugar, a house blend of Bitters and a hint of orange peel.

“Carrying the heritage of more than a century of American whisky making, this timeless drink will take you to a porch in Kentucky at golden hour, watching the birds nest for the evening.”

The idea behind Tom Savano Cocktails is genius, based on an inspired recipe for success.  James Kerslake had all the ingredients to hand: financial knowledge, creative imagination, mixology skills and artistic branding with a colourful garnish of passion and pizzazz.

Tom Savano Cocktails celebrated its first anniversary in December 2020 and what a year it has been.  In March when the Covid-19 pandemic Lockdown began in the UK, James focussed on home delivery – two months of stock sold out in just eight days.  Production was increased to meet exceptional demand with continuing high sales through the Autumn and Winter, as well as an increase in gifts for the Festive Season.

Two new signature cocktails joined the collection this year, the Caribbean Dawn Mai Tai in the summer and the Smoky Maple Ragtime Manhattan has just been launched in time to toast Tom’s first birthday.

Tom Savano has now partnered with London’s Cinnamon Club and received more awards including the prestigious ‘Best New Product of the Year 2020’ at the Spirits Business Global Masters 2020.

 Join the fan base!

These cocktails are incredible! It’s like being in the best cocktail bar in London but in your home!

Absolutely delicious cocktails, gorgeous packaging and speedy delivery. We have already placed another order…

To find out more about Tom Savano Handcrafted Cocktails, where to buy, how to order and ideas for gifts. There’s a choice of six cocktails in two sizes of bottles for two or five servings.

https://tomsavano.com/shop/

Tom Savano cocktails – the perfect gift for you, friends and family

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The Alcoholic Boozy Christmas Hamper

Christmas Hampers 2020

Tom Savano has teamed up with a few independent food and drink producers to create hampers in aid of The Trussell Trust charity.  There are five different hampers: a vegan/gluten-free variety, a healthy option, a chocolate hamper, an alcoholic version and a classic family hamper, with a fine selection of artisan food and drink, with all profits going to charity, to feed families in financial difficulty, who are in need this Christmas.

https://www.tomsavano.com/savexmas

Classic Christmas Hamper

Ben Lomond Scottish Gin – the distilled essence of wild berries, woodland pine and fresh mountain air

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.”

Loch Lomond at the heart of the Trossachs National Park, linking the Lowlands and highlands, is the perfect destination for a relaxing escape and sporting adventure.  With its thirty, tiny islands and surrounded by lush forests, the largest expanse of fresh water in Britain is dominated by the high peak of Ben Lomond.

The magestic natural beauty of Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and Trossachs National Park

The former Loch Lomond Distillery dates back to 1814 located near Tarbet, with a new Distillery founded in 1964 at the southern end of the loch. Today, the Loch Lomond Group produces Single Malt whisky, Single Grain Whisky and Deluxe Blends, receiving seven gold medals at the International Spirits Challenge 2020.

The distillery launched its Ben Lomond Scottish Gin in 2019, inspired by the scenic beauty of the eponymous mountain, fruit, flora and trees of the National Park. The unspoilt natural world of land and loch has inspired both the recipe and attractive, artistic design.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond,
Where in soft purple hue, the highland hills we view,
And the moon coming out in the gloaming.”

The chunky, tall bottle illustrates the mighty Ben, the lilac-purple glass reflecting both the glistening dark water of the loch and flowering heather on the hills,  while the wooden stopper is a symbol of the surrounding woodland.  Most imaginative indeed.

The bottles of this small batch, premium gin are filled, labelled and sealed by hand. With a 43% ABV, Ben Lomond is a contemporary London Dry Gin.  This refers not to the city, but a specific style and process dating back to the 18th century; all the flavours must be natural, plant based botanicals, no synthetic ingredients, with nothing added after distillation except water to produce a clear, unsweetened spirit, not less than 37.5% ABV.

The finely crafted recipe is a blend of berries, flowers, herbs, spices and essential botanicals. The Rowan tree is found higher in the mountains than any of Scotland’s other native trees, blossoming with white flowers in summer, and in Autumn a burst of bright red berries.

The Rowanberries are foraged around the Loch Lomond area, including from wild trees beside the distillery. 

Engrained in Celtic mythology, the Rowan tree, associated with magic and enchantment, was widely planted outside houses and churches as a protection against witches – cutting down a rowan was considered taboo in Scotland.  It was known as the Traveller’s Tree as boats made from Rowan wood provided a safeguard from storms. The red berries, rich in Vitamin C, was also used to treat scurvy, and traditionally made into jams, jellies, vinegar, wines and spirits.

Oh, Rowan Tree

“How fair wert thou in simmer time, wi’ all thy clusters white.
Now rich and gay thy autumn dress, wi’ berries red and bright..”

Another key ingredient are juicy blackcurrants which are also hand-picked just north of the distillery. The rowan berries and blackcurrants are added straight into the Still during the distillation process, both integral to the natural fruit flavours.     

The selection of eleven botanicals also includes Juniper to provide essential earthy notes, Coriander seed, a hint of lemony spice, Orange peel for citrus freshness, Rose petals and Orris root give a floral fragrance, Angelica Root, a dry hop-like character, Cassia and Liquorice add a touch of sweetness, and Szechuan pepper for warming spice.

The botanicals distilled in Ben Lomond Gin

So first a sip of the neat Ben Lomond Scottish Gin to appreciate the aroma and pure flavour. It’s crystal clear with a pungent, woodland scent on the nose which is followed through with floral and fresh pine notes on the tastebuds.

Next, the G&T Test.  I added a few cubes of ice to 25 ml measure of gin, a good splash of Fever Tree Tonic Water (Refreshingly Light) and a slice of lime. The blend of bittersweet berries comes to the fore, with a citrus zing and a subtle lingering flavour of fruit and earthy spice.  The texture is intensely smooth, clean and so fresh tasting.  

The Perfect Serve, (by the master distillers of Ben Lomond Gin)

Fill a high ball glass with cubed ice; 25 ml or 50 ml Ben Lomond Gin, top up with Fever Tree Tonic; add a garnish of blackberries and slice of lime. Squeeze in a wedge of lime juice, softly stir three times to mix together and serve. 

The Perfect Serve – Ben Lomond Scottish Gin and Tonic

Blackcurrants have long been associated with quality alcoholic drinks, most famously the liqueur, Crème de Cassis de Dijon. (Cassis is French for Blackcurrant). The Kir aperirif was created and named by the deputy mayor of Dijon, Canon Félix Kir – Crème de Cassis with white wine and Kir Royale is the Cassis liqueur with Champagne.

The distillery has therefore wisely invented a Scottish Kir-style cocktail.

The High Road  

Fill a highball glass with cubed ice, add 40ml Ben Lomond Gin, 20ml lemon juice 15ml Cassis, top up with Fever Tree Tonic, and garnish with a wedge of fresh lemon.

O ye`ll tak` the high road,
And I’ll tak` the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
By the bonnie, bonnie banks o` Loch Lomond.”

As well as the berries as a key ingredient, the addition of orange brings a refreshing tang to the Gin so what could be more appropriate than mixing up a classic Negroni. It is also most apt as the Ben Lomond Scottish Gin was launched a century after Count Negroni invented this Italian aperitivo in Florence.

Negroni

25 ml Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, 25 ml Sweet  Rosso Vermouth, 25 ml Campari

Pour all ingredients into a Rocks glass with a large ice cube or sphere (this melts more slowly).  Stir gently for a minute or two – this is not a cocktail to be shaken. Express the zest of a wedge of orange and garnish with a twist of orange peel for a beautiful crimson-red winter warmer.  

A classic Negroni with a Scottish twist and the zest of orange

The dry, bitter flavour of the Campari is softened by the Sweet vermouth, perfectly complementing the berry- rich Gin and the sharp citrus taste of the orange sings through.

A classic Gin Martini  (50 ml Gin and 15 ml Dry Vermouth, with twist of lemon or an olive) is also a fine partnership with this Scottish Gin.  Experiment with your own favourite gin cocktails.

Following the success of the London Dry Gin, in July 2020, Loch Lomond Distillery launched two flavoured gins, infused with wild fruit essences, Ben Lomond Raspberry & Elderflower and Blackberry & Gooseberry.

At the Scottish Gin Awards 2020, Ben Lomond Scottish Gin was given the status of Highly Commended for London Dry Gin. And just announced (December 2020), Ben Lomond Gin has been awarded three medals from the Spirit Business Gin Masters – Gold for Raspberry & Elderflower infused gin and Silver for both the London Dry style gin and Blackberry & Gooseberry infused gin.

To protect the Scottish rural countryside which inspired Ben Lomond Gin is in a partnership with the John Muir Trust. Born in Dunbar in 1838, John Muir became a renowned explorer, botanist, geologist and mountaineer, pioneering the Conservation movement worldwide.  In the USA, he was the father of National Parks to protect forests, woodlands and wilderness and as early as 1892, his motto was, ‘Explore, enjoy and protect the planet’.

Nature lovers, walkers, hikers, bikers, writers, poets and artists have flocked to Loch Lomond for centuries to experience the tranquil peace of this timeless, natural wilderness. 

Beautifully packaged, with its silky smooth, aromatic flavour, Ben Lomond Scottish Gin has been artistically “painted” – a distillation of the colours, flora and fresh mountain air, like a watercolour landscape in a bottle.

The tagline for Ben Lomond Scottish Gin is “Be Inspired”

To find out more about Ben Lomond Gins and buy on line, see the website:

https://www.benlomondgin.com

Martini & Rossi, cool and contemporary since 1863, the creators of Cocktail time.

One of the most iconic brands in the world, MARTINI® is Italy’s leading alcoholic beverage producer and offers a range of Aperitivo, Vermouth and sparkling wines of the highest quality. The creation of Vermouth, today the essential ingredient in many classic cocktails, is a deliciously, decadent and inspirational story. 

While fortified wines date back to Ancient Greece, the concept is thought to have been first finely crafted by the distiller, Antonio Benedetto Carpano in Turin in 1786, with his aromatised herbal wine, called Vermouth. Wormwood, also known as absinthe, is the quintessential botanical ingredient of this wine, originally considered a medicinal drink. Wormwood, Wermut in German, translates into vermouth. 

Fast forward to 1847, Pessione, near Turin where “Distilleria Nationale di Spirito di Vino” was founded by Carlo Angelli, Alessandro Martini, Teofilo Sola and Luigi Rossi, to produce wines and liqueurs.  As a wine maker and herbalist, Rossi developed his own Wormwood recipe and is the actual inventor of the Martini brand of vermouth.

Vintage Vermouth bottles

The base formula for any vermouth must be 75% wine – all brands of Martini are dry wines from the regions of Romagna, Apulia and Sicily – with an essence of over 50 herbs and spices and sugar. This Absinthe herb provides the strong, bitter flavour which stimulates the appetite. Vermouths became popular as an Aperitivo, (French – Aperitif), after the Latin verb ‘aperire’, to open, the perfect pre-lunch or dinner drink.

Aperitivo is not a drink, it’s a state of mind” Roberta Mariani, global ambassador for Martini & Rossi.

Their successful export business established branches in Spain, France, Argentina, Romania, Great Britain and the USA and after Sola’s death in 1879, the company was renamed “Martini & Rossi.”   The entrepreneurs were always modern innovators and market leaders.  “Martini Extra Dry”, was first presented at the New Year’s Eve celebration in 1900, and the “Martini Bianco” launched in 1910.  

The famous modern logo was created in 1925, featuring the black name tag “Martini”, superimposed over a red circle, and registered as a trademark in Italy in 1929. 

The Rosso sweet vermouth was first produced in 1863 and it’s said that customers ordering a gin and vermouth would simply ask for a “Gin and Martini.” In America, it evolved into a lady’s tipple, Gin & It, served around 5pm as a pick-me-up.

The classic Gin Martini may have originated at the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco in the 1860s. The bartender, Jerry Thomas was asked to make a memorable cocktail in return for a gold nugget and Jerry named it after the drinker’s home town, Martinez.  The Bar-Tenders Guide, 1887 included the Martinez cocktail – gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, lemon and maraschino liqueur.

More widely accepted is that an Italian bartender, Martini di Arma di Taggia created it at the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City before World War I. His recipe: dry gin and dry vermouth, in equal parts, and orange bitters.

‘I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.” Ernest Hemingway

‘The aspirational cocktail Gin Martini, beloved by the rich and famous, has become a timeless classic and the epitome of an Aperitivo.  While the precise recipe is a matter of taste, Martini & Rossi believe this to be the perfect ratio: 50 ml Bombay Sapphire Gin, 15 ml Martini Extra Dry, Lemon peel or olive to garnish.

Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes, pour in the well-chilled vermouth and the gin and stir for about 20 seconds.  Strain into a well-chilled Martini cocktail glass. Twist the peel to release the oils and then add as a garnish – or an olive.

Vermouth has long been integral to other key cocktails shaken up by intrepid bartenders between the 1880s and turn of the century, such as the Adonis, Affinity, Manhattan, Bronx and Americano.

The Americano holds the distinction of being the very first drink James Bond orders in Casino Royale – Campari, Sweet Vermouth and soda water – followed by many strong Gin Martinis on his adventures.

James Bond, a Cocktail aficionado

Cocktail time – L’Aperitivo hour – continues to embody the essence of Italian culture, la dolce vita, worldwide. Always a fashionably cool and contemporary brand since 1960s, Martini & Rossi has now launched a new Vermouth.

Martini Fiero is said to “modernise vermouth for a new generation.” Fiero means proud, intense and bold in Italian and is a blend of crisp white wines and botanicals including Murcia orange peel, artemisia absinthium and artemisia pontica.

The perfect serve is with plenty of ice, a mix of 50/50 Fiero and tonic

Martini Fiero Tonic

75 ml Martini Fiero, 75 ml Tonic water

Pour into a large balloon (red wine) glass with ice. Garnish with blood orange wheel.

Martini Fiero with tonic – refreshingly summery

Fiero is a beautifully balanced vermouth, with sharp, tart citrus notes followed by a honey sweetness, the bitterness mellowed by the sparkling tonic.  A refreshing, ice cold long drink which just needs the final ingredient – a warm dash of Italian summer sun!

Just over a century ago in a small bar in Florence, Count Camillio Negroni asked the bartender to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano. The soda water was replaced by gin, the lemon garnish with orange, and the Negroni was born.  

So now for an important experiment – a blind tasting of two Negroni cocktails, one with the usual Sweet Vermouth Rosso and another with Martini Fiero.

The Rosso-based Negroni is richly bittersweet, more herbal, woody and drier on the palate. The Fiero version has an orange fruitiness, hint of cloves and a complex citrus and spicy aftertaste. 

These two Negronis simply vary in subtlety of flavour but with the Campari shining through, both hit the spot.

The Negroni revamped – Campari, Gin, Martini Fiero

Negroni with Martini Fiero

30 ml Campari, 30 ml Bombay Sapphire dry gin, 30 ml Martini Fiero

Add all ingredients into a stirring glass. Strain into a chilled Old Fashioned tumbler glass with a large chunk of ice. Garnish with an orange twist after expressing the zest.

This is certainly a cocktail to entice the taste buds – sip slowly before lunch or dinner. Saluti!

InFor your Eyes Only, while waiting in the Excelsior Bar in Rome, James Bond orders an aperitif, very wisely, the Negroni.

Martini & Rossi has been masters of the original Vermouth since 1863 and the historical home, Casa Martini, in the village of Pessione, near Turin Northern Italy is open to visitors.  Cocktail lovers will be able to see how the famous Italian vermouth and wines are made on an imaginative new tour.

Casa Martiini, Pessione, Italy

 “We are delighted to welcome guests to Casa MARTINI, the heart of the creation of our products for over 150 years. Discover the ingredients and production secrets of a history full of anecdote, entrepreneurial vision and innovation. The new tour consists of a totally immersive experience, an exciting journey to the origins of the Italian Aperitivo.  Marco Budano, General Manager of Casa MARTINI. 

Visitors will see the “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a display case featuring vintage artefacts, technical equipment and archival documents, a collection which links MARTINI to the world of wine.

The Red Circle is an exciting new installation – an illuminated pathway to give an immersive experience of the whole process from grapes and herbs for the finely selected ingredients.

The Red Circle

Take a trip back in time to the historic Still Area where the original copper stills to make vermouth and sparkling wines in the 19th century are preserved. The Mondo MARTINI Gallery and the Museum of the History of Wine is a comprehensive 360 degree tour to illustrate the company’s inspiring history.

Mondo Martini Gallery

 ‘The Heart of Martini’ today is the modern Still Room with its rows of towering tanks where visitors discover more about the finely crafted production process to perfect the delicious vermouths and wines.

The Heart of Martini in the modern Still Room

And finally, of course, it’s Cocktail time in the Tasting Room where you can try three Martini drinks, in the company of an expert guide. Then end the journey around Casa Martini in the Bar to sip a refreshing Martini Fiero & Tonic.

Martini Time in the Tasting Room and Bar

Find out more about visiting the home of MARTINI here:

www.visitcasamartini.com 

The Martini & Rossi company maintained full control of the brand until 1993 when it merged with Bacardí.  According to International Wines and Spirits Record, it accounts for more than 45 percent of the global vermouth market – Casa Martini sells more vermouth than any other brand in the world. 

www.martini.com

Cap Gin – a taste of the luxurious, languid life of leisure along the Côte d’Azur, 1920s style.

The term Côte d’Azur was coined by the writer, Stephen Liégeard, whose 1887 travel guide to the French Riviera, “ La Côte d’Azur, described this ‘coast of light and warm breezes.”In the early 20th century, this sunshine coast inspired the Impressionist artists, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Dufy, Bonnard and Picasso, who lived and painted around Nice, Villefranche, Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer to capture the luminous colour of land and sea.

The Riviera also became a glamorous retreat for wealthy travellers, celebrity writers, musicians and socialites of the Jazz Age.   Leaving Long Island,  New York, in 1924, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda moved to the Villa Saint Louis, Juan-les-Pins, their residence for three years.

“We were going to the Old World to find a new rhythm to our lives. ... driving along the High Corniche Road through the twilight with the whole French Riviera twinkling on the sea below. As far ahead as I could see was Monte Carlo…when life was literally a dream.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Villa Saint Louis, Juan-les-Pins, later became the Belle Rives Hotel

The so-called “lost generation” of Americans sought refuge here to escape Prohibition back home.  At the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, luxury villas and super-yachts. along the coast, the Fitzgeralds, Gerald and Sara Murphy, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Cole Porter, Stravinsky, Gertrude Stein and Coco Chanel – gathered for extravagant parties where champagne and cocktails flowed through the night.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Antibes

Leisurely life and times here became the backdrop for his novel, “Tender is the Night”, opening with a description of the legendary Eden-Roc resort.

“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, halfway between Marseille and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-coloured hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people”.

In a letter to his friend Ernest Hemingway, FSF wrote ” ….. back on my beloved Riviera…I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.”

It is also a beloved, magical place for three friends, Andrew Campbell, James Auld and Adam Payne who shared a dream to reflect its cultural, literary heritage in a distinctive, dry French Gin.

CAP Gin is an expression of the Côte d’Azur distilled in a bottle, created from local botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica Root,  lemon peel, and pink peppercorns – blended with the iconic fragrance of Rose, Mimosa and Fleur d’Oranger synonymous with the coastline between Monaco and Saint Tropez.

An expression of leisurely life and times along the French Riviera distilled in CAP gin

The recipe for this premium spirit has been refined and perfected in collaboration with Dr David Clutton, who has extensive knowledge of pot stills and distillation.

 “CAP Gin encapsulates the true essence of the hills and coastal fringes of the French Riviera.  With citrus elements derived from lemon and sweet orange peels, aromatic Fleur d’Oranger buds and Mimosa flowers delivers a complex and elegant, yet perfectly balanced gin, of superior quality.”  Dr. David Clutton.

It was an immediate success, receiving two gold medals for both Premium and London Dry categories, from the Spirits Business Gin Masters 2020. With scores of 80-89, CAP gin was judged to be “floral and luxurious” and the must-have drink this summer.

So, no wonder that I have been very keen to try this award winning gin myself.  The chunky bottle is well designed with an attractive aqua blue and turquoise label.  On the stopper is tiny logo of a swimmer in a swooping dive, encircled by a clever tagline, “Cap – L’Esprit de la Côte,”  truly spiritual in both senses of the word.

Vintage travel poster – sunbathers, swimmers and an elegant diver.

The aroma on the nose is delicately perfumed evoking soft floral notes with a whiff of sea air, while the blend of herbal, floral and fruit ingredients are finely balanced, as tested in a dry Martini.

The initial sip is such a pure, clean taste, crisp, biscuity, bone-dry, and a garnish of a twist of orange draws out the sweet citrus tang. I often prefer an olive in a Martini, adding a touch of salty spice as a lingering aftertaste.  With complex layers of aromatic flavours, this is a smoothly textured, highly sophisticated gin to be savoured in leisurely, languid fashion.

Gin Martini

Stir ingredients gently with ice in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled martini glass

75ml CAP Gin

15ml Noilly Prat vermouth

Garnish: Orange

As a G&T, what could be a better companion that Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic, infused with the oils of local flowers, fruits and herbs such as lemon thyme from Provence.

A predecessor of the Martini, the Martinez is said to be the most classic of classic cocktails.  There are various stories about its origin, either invented by a bartender in Martinez, California or at a hotel in San Francisco.  The recipe was first published in O.H. Byron’s “The Modern Bartender” in 1884,  described as being the “same as a Manhattan, only you substitute the gin for whisky.”

Martinez

40 ml CAP Gin

25 ml Sweet Vermouth

5 ml Maraschino Liqueuer

1 Dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with orange zest.

This cocktail is perfectly suited for CAP gin as Hôtel Martinez is a landmark art deco building on the Croisette waterfront in Cannes. It opened on 20 February 1929 by its owner & founder, Emmanuel Michele Martinez, the son of a noble Italian family.

It was on the French Riviera where F. Scott Fitzgerald finished The Great Gatsby, and most appropriately the recent movie starting Leonardo DiCaprio, opened the Cannes Film Festival in May 2013 …….(with a post show party most likely at the Hôtel Martinez.)

Fitzgerald was enchanted by the Riviera .. ….its “diffused magic of the hot sweet South … the soft-pawed night and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below.”

This was his playground for work, writing, pleasure and socialising leisure. While he commented that “too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” his favourite tipple was gin as he believed it could not be smelt on his breath.

His cocktail of choice was a Gin Rickey, as introduced in chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby.

Tom came back, preceding four Gin Rickeys that clicked full of ice. Gatsby took up his drink.
“They certainly look cool,” he said, with visible tension. We drank in long, greedy swallows.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Gin Rickey

2 oz. Gin

1/2  Lime

Club Soda Water

Add the gin to a tall glass full of ice with the juice from the lime half, and then drop the shell into the glass.  Top with soda water.

Scott and Zelda were known to frequent the Bar Américain at the Hôtel de Paris, Monaco, for a nightcap – most likely a Gin Rickey or a Gin Fizz.

Gin Rickey – one of Fitzgerald’s favourite cocktails

CAP Gin certainly does capture L’Esprit de la Côte, evoking the glamorous lifestyle of those decadant hedonistic days on the French Riviera, a century ago.   Whether you prefer a refreshing G&T, a Martini, Martinez or Negroni, do try this silky smooth, classy, classic and oh so, elegant Gin.  Yes, the must-have drink for summer 2020.

Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Zelda and Chanel et al, would have approved of CAP gin!   à votre santé

CAP gin is distilled and produced at Distillerie des Terres Rouges, Turenne, France, available to purchase in the UK via, www.capgin.com

Halo Drinks: Cool Cocktails on the Go for happy summer days at work and home

Halo Drinks is a hospitality company in London created by Ben Hodges and Christina Kimeze, providing a specialist bar service and mobile cocktail van for a range of bespoke drinks and cocktails for private parties, weddings and corporate events.  It’s an innovative and time saving concept, supplying premium batched cocktails in smartly designed bottles.  Just open, pour and serve.

During lockdown, Halo Drinks had the bright idea to adapt their business by offering a cocktail delivery service.  With pubs temporarily shut, how enticing to be able to sip a professionally shaken, ice cold Margarita in the isolated comfort of your home.

We would never have thought about ordering cocktails at home before this.”, says Ben, “We knew that if we were going to launch a business tailor made for the current situation, we needed to do it fast… that focus helped us.”

They found a kitchen in West Kensington to experiment, craft and create a menu of colourful cocktails, including Tommy’s Margarita, Rosé all Day, Negroni, White Port Paloma, Old Fashioned and Lemon Drop with the choice of 50cl and 70 cl bottles.

Summer cocktails from Halo Drinks

The motto is “Expertly prepared and perfectly balanced cocktails. Exceptional ingredients, uncompromising quality.”

In order to test this out, I was kindly sent a chunky bottle of Rosé all Day, which is a soft shade of pink blush with a Tiffany turquoise wrapper around the cork.

Ingredients: Provence Rosé wine, Rum, Rosé Liqueur, Cointreau, Pama Pomegranite Liqueur, Rhubarb Bitters, Lemon.

The serving measure given on the website says “Pour out 100ml and stir well over ice. Garnish with an orange twist”.  However, on the bottle, it suggests a 70ml measure, which seems a large enough shot, so I poured this into a champagne coupe with ice and a slice.

On the nose, there is a fragrant aroma which is also detected in the first taste, mellow, a touch of honey sweetness, with a rather nice after taste of ginger.   All the ingredients have certainly been well blended together, so much so that you don’t actually distinguish the individual flavours of the Rum and Cointreau, more of a jazzed up glass of Rosé wine.

Refreshing and fruity, this is a very light, gluggable summer drink as the ABV is just 17% – more of a  Rum punch than a cocktail with a hard kick.

 “Rosé all Day” a mellow, fruity rum punch.

The fragrance is certainly like a delicious perfume.  A best seller from Jo Malone is “Lime Basil and Mandarin” which is a superb, subtle blend of herbs and citrus fruit.   Likewise, “Rosé all Day” could also be produced as a candle and a cologne!

As these cocktails are made from “exceptional ingredients,” it would be most interesting to know the name of the Provencal vineyard, and the brands of Rum and liqueurs.   And just an idea – a warning note that it must be kept refrigerated is in tiny print on the back label, easily missed – a tag around the neck of the bottle would be better.

Now that we can invite friends to our homes in restricted numbers, a selection of refreshing summer cocktails, all ready muddled, shaken and ready to serve and sip can be ordered on line.

The very popular, White Port Paloma

The new normal for many people is still very much WFH so that after-office drinks are off limits and business currently conducted via Zoom, GoToMeeting and audio conferencing. Why not organise Team Drinks for colleagues and clients.  With customised bottle design and personal messages to showcase a brand or product, Halo can supply drinks for a virtual corporate hospitality event.

The wittily entitled, “Working from Home” is a heady concoction of bourbon, gin, bitter lime, and ginger ale.

“Working from Home” cocktail for Zoom events – after office hours

“Add some va va voom to your Zoom”

“Thanks so much for all your help with getting the drinks to everyone, the feedback was amazing. Everyone enjoyed it and we all had a drink over Zoom together ” Lucy – Marshmallow.

The cocktails were so well received – thank you! The Working From Home cocktail was absolutely delicious. And thank you for turning it around so quickly.” Lisa – BrandOpus

With large social gatherings postponed for birthday and family celebrations, you can also organise a virtual cocktail party for your friends and family.  Cheers!

Halo Drinks is partnered with The Duke of Hamilton pub, Hampstead, London.  If you live nearby, why not call in to sample these specialist cocktails.  This popular tavern opened in 1721 – so next year will be a fabulous celebration on its 300th birthday!  With rich cultural heritage, it’s the hub of the local community.

Halo Drinks are served at the Duke of Hamilton Pub, Hampstead

Celebrated for for their extraordinary ability to consume copious amounts of alcohol, as much as their acting skills, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed were regulars here. I think these serious drinkers would have approved of Halo Cocktails.

Oliver Reed, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole – boozing buddies

To find out more about the range of cocktails and bar service, delivering drinks for parties at home and hospitality events at work, take a look at the website.

https://www.halo-drinks.co.uk

And to entice you, the good news is that £1 per bottle sold is donated to a charitable cause. This month Halo Drinks has selected to support Black Lives Matter.

Tommy’s Margarita from Halo Drinks – get the party started!

Highland Boundary Distillery: Wild Scottish Botanical Spirits & Liqueurs – for natural, refreshing, cool cocktails this summer.

Chapter 2

Strathmore Glen around Blairgowrie, with its loamy soil, long summer days and mild climate, is renowned for the best soft fruits in Scotland, if not the UK, especially raspberries.   This peaceful, lush landscape is home to Highland Boundary Distillery at Kirklandbank Farm, located, as its name suggests, on the geological fault line which runs north west from Stonehaven to the Isle of Arran.

The green, fertile landscape around Highland Boundary, near Alyth, Perthshire

The Distillery opened in 2016 by Dr. Marian Bruce and Simon Montador, and their ethically produced wild, Scottish spirits and liqueurs are intricately linked to their specialist conservation of this natural environment.

Around the Farm Distillery, they nurture indigenous trees, flourishing meadows and hedgerows as well as a wildlife pond with aqueous and wetland plants to attract dragonflies, newts and frogs.  In the apothecary garden, a collection of medicinal herbs, borage, sweet violet and rare species is central to their biodiversity, flora and fauna research.

After a couple of years of careful experimentation with foraged buds and botanicals, they launched Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit  which was awarded Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition, 2019.

The new Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit

Recently launched is their Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit and already a prestigious Double Gold medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020.

Standing tall and slender, the European larch is unique because it is the only deciduous conifer in the country, and in folklore, said to have protective powers against evil spirits. In Spring, the larch flower is a small green bud often tinged with pink before ripening into bright green cones, turning gold in Autumn.

Flowering green and pink larch buds

The larch cones are picked in the local woodlands to be infused and macerated in grain spirit for several months to extract the oils and flavour.  Just a touch of honeysuckle essence is then added for the final distillation process.

The Honeysuckle

“I plucked a honeysuckle where the hedge on high is quick with thorn,

And climbing for the prize was torn, and by the thorns and by the wind,

The blossom that I took was thinn’d,  And yet I found it sweet and fair”.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The exotic Honeysuckle beloved by honey bees and butterflies

In the language of flowers, honeysuckle – aka woodbine – is a symbol of good luck and devoted affection in love and marriage.  With antibiotic properties the infusion of flowers were traditionally used to treat coughs, headaches and food poisoning.

The Springtime cream trumpet-shaped petals slowly turn an exotic pink in Summer. At Highland Boundary they only pick a small sample of flowers as required, preserving the blooms for butterflies and bumblebees to extract pollen and nectar.

On the nose, the first whiff of Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit is beautifully perfumed with a fragrant aroma of vanilla and rose blossom.  Sipped neat over ice, the taste is a complex balance of fresh pine and citrus fruits.  Larch buds in fact have a similar flavour to juniper berries, the key ingredient of gin.

Therefore, ideal to try with Tonic water such as the Walter Gregor range, crafted from herbs and botanicals in the garden of the eponymous 19th century Aberdeenshire minister and plantsman.

Walter Gregor Tonic Waters

The speciality Spiced Tonic with cinnamon, cloves and orange would be a fine mixer.   Alternatively, for a summer pink drink, Scottish Raspberry Tonic ….and add a few fresh raspberries too.

Walter Gregor Scottish Raspberry Tonic

Highland Boundary Wild Spirits offer a subtle botanical alternative to gin, vodka, rum and tequila in a diverse range of cocktails.

Wild Margarita

Tequila is dominated by smoked oak, vanilla, caramel and spices with similar characteristics to this aromatic Scottish spirit.

45 ml Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Spirit

15 ml Cointreau or Triple Sec

30 ml Lime Juice

Ice cubes

(Various Margarita recipes give different measurements for Tequila and Cointreau)

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Wet the rim of a glass with a wedge of lime and then dip into a saucer of salt.  Strain the cocktail and serve straight, (or on the rocks), with a slice of lime on the side.   The Cointreau and lime give a tart citrus flavour to the vanilla and spicy undertones of the Wild Spirit – a hint of Mexican sunshine in a glass.

A citrus and spicy Margarita – Mexican sunshine in a glass

As well as a Birch and Elderflower Liqueur, there’s also a Birch and Sloe Liqueur, damson pink in colour and bursting with hedgerow leafy freshness.

Birch and Sloe Liqueur

The Blackthorn is a hedgerow plant producing oval leaves, snow-white flowers and dark purple-blue Sloe berries between August and November.  The sloe is like a wild plum but too sour to eat as a fruit, and traditionally picked in Autumn to make homemade jam and jelly, wine and gin.

Blackthorn Plant with dark blue Sloe Berries in Autumn

Birch and Sloe Liqueur has oodles of forest fruit aroma – cherry, plum, blackberry – perfect for sipping with ice or in a flute topped with sparkling wine, Prosecco or Champagne, for a refreshing pink aperitif, like a Kir Royale.

There’s also a slight bittersweet aftertaste reminiscent of Campari.  You could therefore adapt the classic Italian cocktail with Birch and Sloe Liqueur and instead of Gin, try Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit.

Classic, classy Negroni (with a Scottish twist)

Sloe Negroni

25 ml Sloe Liqueur (instead of Campari)

25 ml Gin ……or try Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit

25ml Sweet Vermouth

Fill a glass three-quarters full with ice. Pour over the spirits. Stir gently until fully chilled. Garnish with an orange twist.

Wildwood

Highland Boundary has invented this fruity tipple in celebration of a natural woodland of trees, fruits and flowers in colourful harmony.

In a glass add some crushed ice and pour in the Birch and Sloe Liqueur together with the lemon juice and elderflower syrup.  Stir and add the soda water.  Drizzle over the Cherry liqueur at the end, add slice of lemon and serve.

Marian Bruce and Simon Montador are true inspirational entrepreneurs with such a magical, “spiritual” vision through the care of their local environment.

“Never has our reconnection to nature seemed more important and we’re delighted to make our second release botanical spirit.  We love to feature new and exciting flavours drawn from iconic Scottish plants around us in Perthshire and it’s a pleasure to create drinks that showcase the fantastic landscape. ” 

Highland Boundary Distillery

For information on the distillery, range of award winning Wild Scottish Spirits and Liqueurs, on line purchase, where to buy, serving suggestions and cocktail recipes.

 https://www.highlandboundary.com

See Chapter 1 for a review of Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit and Liqueur.

https://smartleisureguide.wordpress.com/2020/06/09/highland-boundary-distillery-the-story-of-how-scotlands-ancient-woodlands-inspired-a-collection-of-hand-crafted-wild-spirits/

Highland Boundary Distillery– the story of how Scotland’s ancient woodlands inspired a collection of hand-crafted Wild Spirits

The geological fault line fracturing the landscape across the Scottish Highlands

Chapter One

Once upon a time, the ice slowly melted.

The land it revealed is what we now call the Strathmore Valley, scoured out by an Ice-Age glacier along the Highland Boundary line which separates the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands.

The Birch Fairy (Cicely Mary Barker)

The great wood of Caledon, a primaeval forest, covered most of Scotland for thousands of years and the first pioneers of this land left anew was the Birch.  Able to thrive in the most forbidding of landscapes it is no wonder that the first human settlers treated these trees with mystical reverence.

The “Lady of the Woods” would come to symbolise fertility, renewal and purification for the Celtic people.  The birch would provide good fuel, useful for smoking herrings and in the distillation of whisky.

The power of the Birch marked the imagination, scenery and language. its roots running deep in Scottish culture and heritage.  The old Scottish word for Birch is Birk.

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the chrystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days
In the birks of Aberfeldy.    

Robert Burns (1787).

Robert Burns’ statue in the Birks of Aberfeldy, which inspired several poems

In 1787, Robert Burns, the National Bard, visited The Birks of Aberfeldy, a riverside woodland with an impressive waterfall. He was fascinated by the birk and hawthorn, finding that the simple traditions associated with them evoked the passing seasons, love, fleeting fulfilment and loss.

Around thirty five  miles from this poetic spot,  Kirklandbank Farm near Alyth, Perthshire is located right on the geological fault line.  This is where the Highlands rise to the North and the Strathmore valley spreads out to the South, a tranquil, green, richly fertile landscape.

As well as rearing Rockies, a rare breed of Hebridean sheep, Dr. Marian Bruce and Simon Montador are biologists with a passion for biodiversity and conservation. Surrounded by ancient trees, native flowers, hedgerows and meadows, they were inspired to capture the essence of this natural wilderness with true spiritual imagination.

The birch is just one within a panoply of sacred trees. Regarded as a gift from the Earth Mother, the Elder tree is a symbol of regeneration, believed to ward off witches – hence, Harry Potter’s coveted Elder Wand.   The Elder’s delicate, frothy white flowers are instantly recognisable and have been widely used in cordials and liqueurs.

White Springtime Elderflower blossom

Aptly named, their Highland Boundary Distillery was developed within the old milking parlour at their farm and here, with magical innovation, they hand-craft a fine collection of botanical spirits and liqueurs.

Hand picked Birch buds

After careful experimentation with the flavours of local flora, Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit was launched in 2018.  Birch buds and elderflowers are picked in Springtime to ensure that only a small amount from any single plant is picked in season. The botanicals are combined with grain spirit and mineral-rich spring water, filtered through the red sandstone bedrock from beneath the Alyth Hill.

The pure, natural botanical Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit in a Birch Wood

The 40% ABV strength Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit is produced in small batches through a four-stage sequence of dilution, maceration, distillation and infusion, using a 100-litre copper alembic Still from Portugal.

The simple, harmonious approach of production follows the Highland Boundary’s Eco-Green ethos with solar panels, biomass heating, recycling water, sustainable harvesting to preserve and regenerate the wild, natural environment.

The bottle (with a cork and wood stopper) features a logo of a cool, sea-blue wolf, which celebrates Scottish wildness and is a modern twist on the Pictish animal stone carvings found near the farm.

And it all links into Scottish cultural heritage.  The Scottish botanist John C. Loudon wrote  about the Birch in his 1842 Encyclopaedia of Trees and Shrubs: “The Highlanders of Scotland make everything [out] of it”. In traditional medicine the birch provided healing tonics, ointments and oils.”

Medicinal properties for the Elder were documented from as early as 1620 as a cure-all for everything from freckles to piles and bites from mad dogs. (Good to know!).

So, back to the story of ice. The Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit is more akin to whisky and suitable as an ice-cold shot, served on the rocks or for a long drink with a mixer – sparkling water, soda or tonic.

Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit with Tonic

The forest pine-flavour of birch buds, fragrant notes of the elderflower with a splash of fizzing tonic, and a slice of lemon or apple, creates a pure and refreshing drink.

Highly recommended is Bitter Orange and Elderflower Tonic from London Essence to draw out the honeyed elderflower and zesty citrus notes,  and add a twist of orange peel.

London Essence, Bitter Orange and Elderflower tonic

As well as a long ice cold drink, this Wild Spirit has the complex depth shows versatility and can substitute gin, vodka, rum and tequila in classic and modern cocktails.

Forest Dry Martini 

50ml Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit + 25 ml dry vermouth + ice.

The earthy, floral flavour of the spirit is a fine alternative to Gin, and shaken up with Vermouth, a complex fortified herbal, spicy wine, results in a perfectly balance, bittersweet Martini.  A garnish of an olive or indeed sprig of thyme enhances the herbal scent.

Forest Dry Martini with a sprig of thyme

See the website for many other classics such as the MacJito, a modern Scottish minty whirl on a Mojito, a reinvented Wild Negroni and a spicy Bloody Mary.

Creative colourful cocktails too inspired from Scottish literature and legends such as the much loved Outlander time-travelling Highlander tales.

The White Raven: In a cocktail shaker add ice cubes and pour in the Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit, lime juice, honeysuckle syrup and apple juice. Garnish with borage flowers.

Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, presented to “Exceptional spirits that are near the pinnacle of achievement.”

Highland Boundary has also produced a Birch and Elderflower Liqueur has also been crafted for a lighter alternative (20% ABV) and is equally versatile in various refreshing drinks.  The wolf logo now wears a jazzy Technicolour Dreamcoat.

At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020 the liqueur was awarded a Silver Medal.

To let nature come to the fore, a dram of the Liqueur simply flows over a generous glacial block. It’s not crystal clear, there has evidently been some “magic” going on.  Nor is it syrupy as might be expected with just a light viscosity.  The nose too is subtle, a light floral from the Elderflower, but not overpowering. Soft and subtle to the taste, with again those flowery notes, a little resin and warmth and a long fairly sweet aftertaste.

Just add a glacier block of ice to Birch and Elderflower Liqueur

The liqueur can also be added to Prosecco or Champagne, just like a soupcon of Crème de Cassis for a Kir or Peach puree in the Bellini.

The pungent pine aroma and fresh floral taste of Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit and Birch and Elderflower Liqueur, is akin to a ramble through a Scottish woodland; Rabbie Burns would certainly have approved.  Slainte Mhath.!

More stories to follow ..

Highland Boundary

For all information on the Wild Scottish Spirits and liqueurs, where to purchase, on line sales, cocktail recipes and how to serve and full background on this farm distillery in Perthshire.

https://www.highlandboundary.com/

Birch and Elderflower Liqueur –  poetically inspired by Robert Burns