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Sun Sail
In The Drink - Paul Antrobus
Something for the ladies
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:00

Something for the ladiesConsidering how simple and enjoyable the standard London dry gin recipe is, the number of boutique distilleries opening up around the country and the expanding range of gins now available is quite remarkable.

The new arrivals are mostly the result of enthusiasts dreaming up a better London dry gin mousetrap, like Sipsmith or Adnams. In retaliation, mainstream distillers are resurrecting ‘original’ recipes or adding novelty botanicals to their existing distillate to create new flavours such as Gordon’s Cucumber or Elderflower – or the pretentiously exotic Tanqueray Rangpur, which uses rangpur limes in recognition, I imagine, of the popularity of gin in the days of the Indian Raj.

Waitrose sees the resurgence as reason for a dedicated leaflet featuring over 20 of the gins it stocks of all types including a brand new one, ‘BLOOM’. This is the brainchild of one of the few lady master distillers in the business, Joanne Moore of G & J Distillers (the new name for Greenalls in Cheshire) which is a major producer of gin and vodka for its own brands as well as for supermarket own-label offerings. And, as far as I can research, this is the first gin variant to be primarily (but not exclusively) aimed at ladies and the female palate.

Having started as a London dry gin with juniper and coriander, it ends as a light floral gin with camomile and honeysuckle and pomelo (a citrus fruit from Asia sometimes called Chinese grapefruit) as the signature botanicals.

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First of the summer wines
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 12:13

First of the summer winesJune is the first month of the summer quarter-year and the month when the JP Morgan Round the Isle of Wight race kicks off the summer regatta scene afloat and ashore. Time then to consider summer wines...

What makes a wine a summer wine? A practical benchmark is what goes with barbecues, cold crustaceans, salads and al fresco dining on the yacht club terrace. A descriptive benchmark is wines delivering summer soft fruit taste tones of strawberries, raspberries and plums, refreshing lighter wines suitable for serving and consuming chilled.

Whites and rosés may spring to mind but there is a growing trend for selected red wines kept in the fridge and served from the table-top ice-bucket - quite commonplace in French sailing meccas, so why not here, too?
 

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Boutique breweries get crafty. . .
Friday, 02 May 2014 08:55

Boutique breweries get crafty. . .Once upon a time, before motor transport and telephones, there were individual public houses in England’s towns and villages brewing their own beer on the premises for consumption by their own customers.

Then brewing companies were established to supply all the pubs in the village - and beyond. Then there were mergers and the UK was down to six or so major brewers. These were much criticised by CAMRA  - the Campaign for Real Ale - for producing poor-tasting ‘industrial’ products.

This provided the opportunity for small-scale brewers to make a comeback, often in a plant no bigger than a double garage, sometimes in the back of a pub, producing nearly hand-made ‘real ales’. Seemingly, in recent years, they have been opening all around the country faster than pubs are closing.

Characterised as small batch  production and striving  to produce distinct flavours using different hops and grains, many have managed to subtly redefine themselves as ‘craft’ beers, seeing this as having a classier appeal than the Real Ale moniker.

Individually small but collectively adding up to a significant consumer base, the new ‘craft beers’ term is in a twist of fate now providing the opening for the big brewers to enter into this market segment with their own ‘real ales’ despite being big. Some have done this with in-brewery small units, others via collaborations with established independent boutique breweries.

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A buoyant Vintage
Thursday, 03 April 2014 09:01

A buoyant VintageSomerset Cider Revival

DESPITE the floods, Somerset’s only cider-brandy distillery kept on going.

“We are still heavily flooded and most of the roads to our farm shop are blocked. But we are still in business for ciders and cider brandy via our website, with a daily courier truck that gets through the one road that is passable and the distillery is operating and saving our business.” That was how Julian Temperley of the Somerset Cider Brandy company last month described his survival as floods surrounded his Pass Vale farm, near Martock in the Somerset Levels. The apple orchards were wet but not flooded and the distillery had been working all through the winter months, distilling “until the apple blossom arrives”.

This is the only cider farm in Somerset with a licence to distil, granted in 1989, and since 2008 Somerset Cider Brandy has had its own regionally defined, EU-approved AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Distilled in Somerset using only Somerset-grown apples, it is the English equivalent of French Calvados.

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Vermouth revival
Thursday, 27 February 2014 09:54

march_drinkVermouth is back in style, helped by a resurgence of interest in cocktail drinking at home as much as in trendy bars. It’s essential to many classic cocktail recipes, from martinis to the Manhattan, while also regaining favour in its own right as a pleasant aperitif - its original raison d’être.

The category is benchmarked by Italian Martini and French Noilly Prat. Other brands are available, like Dolin and La Quintinye, new to the UK just last month, and there are own-label offerings in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, a clear indication that something is in fashion. Strengths hover between 15 and 18 per cent and prices around £15 a litre.

Vermouth was created in Italy in about 1860, quickly followed by a similar product in France, as an evolution from a drink made in Germany from wormwood herbs called ‘Wermut’. Say it with the German pronunciation of ‘V’ for ‘W’ and you have how the English, who took to early Wermuts like ducks to water, anglicised the name to vermouth as it is known globally today - another great gift the English gave to the world.

The hey-day of the great Transatlantic liners brought cocktails to the society bar scene in London and New York and vermouth as a favoured ingredient.

Defining vermouth

Vermouths come in a wide variety of versions, but the two countries of origin define the genre: French Vermouth is white and dry, and Italian is red and sweet-ish. Just to confuse though, both Italian and French producers offer White/Blanc/Bianco and Red/Rouge/Rosso, but ‘vermouth’ remains the generic. To confuse even further, even Campari, CinZano, Dubonnet and Byrrh can claim to be vermouths.

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