Posts tagged #liqueurs

As debuts go...

A lot of new products hit the market every year; a most recent online edition of CLASS contained 22 reviews of new products and sometimes it feels like you can't turn around without encountering a new gin with some previously unused botanical, or a new single malt expression finished in a succession of different barrels. But if there's one category that hasn't seen explosive growth in recent years, it's aperitif liqueurs. Products are often rediscovered or introduced to new markets, but it's an area that's long been dominated by a handful of brands and that makes the decision to take on the likes of Campari and Aperol an interesting one for a first foray into spirit/liqueur production.

Alex Kammerling is well-known in the UK bar industry thanks to a long stint as Grey Goose's brand ambassador on these shores and his recently re-brandedKamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit represents his first attempt at entering the marketplace. Alex describes it as "a cross between gin, bitters and a liqueur", produced by distilling 45 botanicals (including four different varieties of ginseng root along with juniper berries, echinacea, gingko biloba and goji berry) in grain spirit and mixing that distillate with a herbal infusion containing manuka honey, wormwood and gentian. The light amber colour comes from annato seeds and with responsible service and consumption of alcohol being a thing these days, the liqueur comes in at 33% ABV.

Kamm & Sons is definitely reminiscent of a particular style of slightly sweeter amaro; it has some really interest herbal notes throughout shot through with a hit of citrus and while it is sweet, it's not cloying. There is definitely some bitterness on the palate - which as a general fan of amaro, I fully support - but it doesn't dominate: it can be deployed as a stealthy means of introducing the idea of bitterness as a desirable flavour to those who maybe might otherwise avoid it.

I've found some mileage in using it in place of Campari here and there - using the Negroni formula with Kamm & Sons, Sipsmith Gin, and Lillet Blanc is the basis for awesome - but also in using it as a base ingredient in café style cocktails (some vermouth or similar, a liqueur, something fizzy - lower on the ABV but still super tasty) and as a modifier in fun, refreshing sour style cocktails.

Beyond the rainbow

25ml lemon flavoured vodka (I used Ketel One Citroen)
25ml Kamm & Sons Ginseng Liqueur
10ml triple sec (Cointreau)
20ml lemon juice
1 bsp sugar syrup (2:1)

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled stemmed glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.

I've met Alex a couple of times and he's always blown me away with his attention to detail as a bartender and as an ambassador, so it isn't surprising that he'd come up with something so versatile and inviting. He's on record as saying that one of his favourite aspects of tending bar was creating things and Kamm & Sons is one of his creations that he's proudest of. For me, it's always fun to play with new stuff, particularly if it's in an area that doesn't often see a lot of innovation so it's exciting to see a new independent producer taking on that kind of challenge.

Posted on March 5, 2012 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

Road Trip: Sipsmith

Having lived in Scotland for pretty much all my life, I have a fairly well-developed idea of what a distillery looks like. It would be hidden away at the end of a glen somewhere remote where the taxation officers would be unlikely to stumble across it, with a cluster of copper pot stills in one building and a two-storey-high wooden washbacks for fermentation in another; otherwise it would be a sprawling industrial complex, all 40ft column stills and piping, that would draw comparisons with your choice of near-future urban dystopia.

Distillation, though, is not something that requires a lot of space in itself and that point was well-illustrated when I stopped by an open day at the Sipsmith Distillery in West London during London Cocktail Week.

If you didn't know what you were looking for, it would be easy to miss the otherwise unremarkable garage amongst Hammersmith's rows of terraced houses. But the unassuming setting hosts the first new distillery to be granted a licence in London since Beefeater in 1820.

At the heart of the distillery - even though she's located at the back of the room - is another rarity. Where many new products are made either under licence or in second-hand or recycled stills, Sipsmith's range is produced in a new copper pot still. Dubbed Prudence, the still was created by CARL, Germany's oldest still manufacturer, and also has small column attachment - through which Sipsmith's English barley vodka is passed - and a Carterhead attachment which has apparently been used for experiments in flavouring vodka.

One of the upsides of a micro-distillery is that the tour doesn't take too long and our group (of six people from anywhere between Manchester and Japan) spent a large chunk of the afternoon tasting the range with Sipsmith's James Grundy. Their London Dry gin and English barley vodka are fairly well known (partly thanks to the involvement of drinks historian Jared Brown, I suspect), but they've recently expanded into liqueurs with a sloe gin and a damson vodka - the interesting aspect of the latter two is they seem much less sweet than liqueurs of that type generally are which lets the base spirit come through more, particularly in the sloe gin.

Sipsmith are an almost perfect definition of the kind of operation craft bartenders fall for. They're not pushing the boundaries of spirit production, but I get the sense that, for now, they're not inclined to do that. It's a range of artisanal spirits produced by people with a clear passion for both the process and the products they create and it's hard not to like that outlook.

Posted on November 14, 2011 and filed under Places.

Saint-Antoine

So, I was chilling out at work, doing my thing when I got a phone call from Grant Cunningham at Blavod/Luscious Liquid who said there was someone he'd like me to meet. That person turned out to be Paul Bungener who is the UK brand ambassador for FAIR., the producers of the world's first range of Fair Trade spirits and liqueurs. The range consists of the world's first quinoa based vodka along with a Goji berry liqueur and a coffee liqueur, and while they're available in retail (at Harvey Nichols) they haven't entered the on-trade in Edinburgh yet. Since 2010, FAIR. have been sourcing sustainably farmed ingredients - Bolivian quinoa for the vodka, Tibetan Goji berries and Mexican coffee beans for the liqueurs - and shipping them over to Cognac for distillation. The vodka is distilled once through a two-column continuous still, so it has a more distinct flavour than one that's been through a triple- or quadruple-distillation; there's a pleasant peppery note that comes from the quinoa. The Goji berry liqueur has a phenomenal bright red colour; it has an odd, generic red berry flavour - recalling strawberries and raspberries but not directly emulating them. It seems like an ingredient that would work quite well as a bridge between flavours that don't necessarily overlap.

The coffee liqueur really stood out for me. It's a complete change of pace from better known brands like Kahlua or Illyquore - in comparison, they immediately seemed heavier and more cloying. That's not to say that FAIR Café isn't sweet but it comes across as a much more delicate creature, with notes of fresh espresso mingling with some chocolate and Tiramisu.

Fair Trade is one of those ideas that it's hard not to get behind so it's refreshing to see those principles being applied to distilled beverages. It's also refreshing to see that those principles aren't the only compelling reason to pick one of the products - they're at least as good as anything you'll see on an upmarket backbar; in the case of the Café maybe better.

I was lucky enough that Paul left a sample of the FAIR Café to play with before he moved onto his next appointment. Seeing as this is going up on Bastille Day, combined with the fact that FAIR. is based there, Cognac was definitely in my thoughts.

Sainte-Antoine

35ml Merlet Brothers Blend Cognac
15ml FAIR Café
5ml Fernet Branca
10ml Demerara syrup (Fair Trade, of course.)

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a vanilla bean wrapped in an orange zest twist.

(The Bastille - as famously stormed on 14th July 1789 - stood on the Rue Sainte-Antoine.)

Posted on July 15, 2011 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.