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In The Drink - Paul Antrobus
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.

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.

Going local
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 10:22

Going localBe inspired to try something different from the micro brewing world

The Belleville Brewing company of Wandsworth, South West London, founded January 2013, is an interesting micro brewery with a genuinely unique selling point: American style beers, billed as ‘beers from over there brewed over here’ and delivering distinctly different tastes.

You might think of American beers as ubiquitous lager types like Coors or Millers. This, according to brewery founder Adrian Thomas, is not the case any more than beers in Belgium being limited to Stella Artois.  

Adrian has sampled most of the UK’s real ales but has also discovered dozens of local boutique breweries in the USA, which he enthusiastically endorses as more taste adventurous than our own real ales. He estimates there are 2,500 micro breweries there, versus around 500 in the UK.

The UK production has become relatively standardized, whereas US brewers experiment more with flavour-inducing ingredients. They’re excellent beers, he says, worth replicating some of them over here.

Special celebratory drinks gifts for sailors
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 12:18

Special celebratory drinks gifts for sailorsFor festive tipples with a nautical twist, here’s All At Sea’s wish list

The Hebridean Spirits & Liqueurs company of Helensburgh, West Scotland, has come up with a novel idea for its newest products: small and compact bottles just 10 centimeters cubed which will definitely never roll off the saloon table.

Hebridean’s Ancient Mariner London Dry Gin is distilled in London in small batches from British-only grain, made in the traditional London dry gin way - crystal clear and long on juniper - plus at the rather special strength of 50 per cent abv. New to the market, this is not on sale in high street stores but I chanced upon it in my local Nauticalia at £25 for the 50cl cube. Neat gift!

Equally new is Hebridean’s Ancient Mariner Traditional Dark Trinidad Rum in the same natty cubic bottle. Aged 15 years and a strong 54 per cent makes this premium priced at £45 for the 50cl cube, and a rather special gift.  

Both are available only in Nauticalia’s stores at Shepperton (the founding office on the river Thames), Greenwich, Portsmouth and Liverpool, or can be sourced on line from www.nauticalia.com, www.hebridean-liqueurs.co.uk or www.masterofmalt.com

Tricks and treats for grown ups...
Friday, 04 October 2013 07:25

Tricks and treats for grown ups...On Trafalgar Night and Halloween

This is the month for Battle of Trafalgar annual dinners. There are traditional meal menus to follow but some thought, too, for the drinks will enhance the special occasion.

Cornwall’s St Austell Brewery’s Admiral’s Ale, with its jolly Nelsonian ‘I see no ships’ pictorial label, is a good start. Flavoursome golden beer in the Tribute style at five per cent abv.

Hardy’s is an appropriate wine trick for the night, despite being Australian. The founder in 1853, one Thomas Hardy, was a direct relation of Thomas Masterman Hardy, captain of HMS Victory at the battle in 1805 and reputedly mentioned in Nelson’s last words. Earthy reds and sharp whites are moderately priced in supermarkets over here.

For the essential tot of rum, at 54.5 per cent Pusser’s Blue Label sports a white ensign design and is close to the authentic 100 per cent proof of the day; ‘original issue strength’ says the label. An excellent golden rum from the British Virgin Islands, at about £34 a bottle (Nauticalia) it really is a special treat.

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