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Monthly Archives: December 2015

  • Matching Spirits and Food

    Wine and beer may be the first things you think of when serving food but should we exclude spirits? Spirits specialist and former bar manager Alex Turner says think again

    ‘Once, during Prohibition I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.’ WC Fields

    Let’s face it, we need food more than we need alcoholic drink but food can certainly be enhanced when washed down with a glass of something. In most instances people will immediately think of wine when matching alcohol with food and in recent times brewers have also got in on the act as the craft beer movement evolves, knowing that they will find a beer that matches a particular dish. What doesn’t happen that often is people matching spirits with food, they will have an aperitif before the food and a digestive afterwards but will usually stick to wine with the actual food.

    Well, spirits and mixed drinks can complement food just as well as wine can, in fact for most dishes there is a mixed drink that will work. The rationale for this is quite basic and has wine to thank; as the wine industry has developed tasting notes that allow guests, sommeliers and servers to match food with their wine we can apply the same tasting principals to mixed drinks. But whereas the flavours in a bottle of wine are ‘set’ the flavours in a mixed drink can be adjusted to perfectly suit the dish, a little more bitter, a dash more citrus a touch more dry.

    Matching food with mixed drinks

    Here are some basic guidelines to help you start matching food with mixed drinks and a few suggested drinks to;

    1. White wines work with fish, white meats, salads etc as do lighter spirits such as vodka, gin, white rums and even Tequila. The citrus notes in whites wines like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay can be matched with the citrus notes in a mixed drink such as sour, Collins or mojito

    2. Red wines work well with red meats, cheeses and richer foods as do brown spirits such as brandies, whiskies, dark rums and other spirits that have been aged as they often have similar flavour characteristics from the oak. Matching bourbon and scotch whiskies with simple red meat dishes such as burgers, chilli’s and stews.

    3. Mixed drinks with fruit juices like cranberry work well with many styles of foods, especially if you use lighter spirits such as gin and vodka as the refreshment and crispness help cut through the flavours of the food.

    4. Carbonated mixers work very well with food as they especially good at cutting through the oiliness and fatty mouth feel. Also, as they are sweet they counterpoint the sourness.

    5. Hot and spicy foods are often a challenge for wine to match with; most people tend to go for beer instead. Mixed drinks on the other hand love spicy food especially if they have cooling ingredients like cucumber, mint and herbs.

    6. Meats that are often served with herbs such as lamb with rosemary and chicken with tarragon also work well with mixed drinks; try roasted lamb with a red snapper (gin bloody Mary) with rosemary garnish.

    7. Vermouth is a great ingredient to use with food; drier styles work with lighter dishes, Rosso vermouth with red meats and the sweeter Bianco with buttery sauces and desserts. A reverse Manhattan (1/3rd whiskey, 2/3rds Rosso vermouth and bitters - see below) works particularly well with roasted red meats.

    8. Don’t be afraid to experiment and work with the kitchen to see what ideas they have.

     

    Reverse Manhattan

    15ml Rye of bourbon whiskey

    45ml Rosso vermouth

    Dash Bitters

     

    Stir over cubed ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry

    Even if matching food and spirits is something you are willing to consider at the moment there are two excellent ways of introducing spirits to the food occasion; pre and post dinner.

    Most people with an interest of food and drink will understand the ways spirits stimulate the appetite hence the popularity of the martini, daiquiri and sidecar as pre-dinner drinks. Having a short list of three cocktails and mixed drinks is a way of increasing spirits sales and adding to your guests dining experience. Even the humble gin and tonic is something many guests would consider before a meal but often go straight to the wine as they don’t happen to think of it when sitting at the table.

     

    Daiquiri

    50ml White rum

    25ml Fresh lime juice

    2 Bar spoons of caster sugar

    Shake hard over cubed ice, strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass

     

     

     

    Side car

    35ml Cognac

    15ml Cointreau

    20ml Lemon juice

    Shake over cubed ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist

     

     

    After Dinner

    The same can be said for after dinner drinks and in most cases is an easier sell as usually our guests have already been drinking alcohol. A short list of spirits such as brandies, whiskies, aged rums and even Tequilas can often lead to guest making an additional purchase.

    Many people these days don’t opt for dessert at the end of the meal and maybe go straight onto tea or coffee, however by offering some small choice of after dinner cocktail might persuade them to have something with their coffee.

    Drinks like the Espresso martini, treacle and toasted almond are ideal for after dinner;

     

    Espresso Martini

    35ml Vodka

    15ml Coffee liqueur

    25ml Espresso coffee (chilled)

    Dash of sugar syrup

    Shake hard over cubed ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass, garnish with three coffee beans

     

    Treacle

    50ml golden rum

    1 Brown sugar cube

    Dash orange bitters

    15ml Apple juice

    In a whisky glass; crush the sugar cube with a bar spoon, add the apple juice and stir until dissolved, add the remaining ingredients fill with cubed ice and garnish with an orange twist

     

    Toasted Almond

    35ml Cognac

    15ml Amaretto

    Pour into a warmed brandy glass, ignite and allow to burn for 5 seconds while sprinkling with cinnamon dust

  • The Rise of Gin

    Against a declining spirits market overall Gin has enjoyed phenomenal growth over the last few years, in his March Newsletter spirits expert Alex Turner looks at why Gin has bucked the trend

    One of the spirit success stories of the last five years has been in gin especially in the UK, USA and Europe. Whereas, overall spirit consumption has been declining and the powerhouses of vodka and blended scotch have seen sales fall gin has grown and grown. The growth is small and often confined to the premium end of the category but the big players are benefitting from the increased awareness and interest in the category. To put the growth into perspective here at Coe Vintners ten years ago we carried in the region of thirty gins, as of today this stands at one hundred and sixty (give or take a few)!

    The number of Gins on our list

    Having been involved in spirits for a number of years now it is funny how the dial has shifted from vodka to gin, yesterday I was doing a spirits training session for a new venue and as always I asked the question ‘how many of you drink vodka?’ and out of eight people only two drank it regularly, when I asked who drinks gin, they all did and it was their drink of choice, ten years ago the exact opposite was true.

    So why has gin come back so strongly? I propose that there were four reasons that led to the re-emergence and subsequent growth in the UK:

    Rectifying licenses

    You have to apply but don’t have to pay for a license from HMRC if you are just rectifying spirit, as in taking a distilled spirit and redistilling it as we do in the case of gin. You can obtain a distillers license but you would need to pay for it and comply with lots of measures set out by HMRC least of all you would require a still of at least 1,800 litres or a very good reason for not having one of this size. If you are making gin it makes sense in the beginning to have a rectifying license and then as you get bigger apply for a distilling license, buy a big still and make your own spirit. Have a look at https://www.gov.uk/licence-to-rectify-or-compound-spirits

    The interest in vintage drinks & books

    You have probably noticed the increase in the amount of underground speakeasy’s popping up around the country over the last few years which in to a large degree have been inspired by the drinks and culture of prohibition America. To be honest, the drinks of that era especially in the US were pretty poor, not surprising given the fact that booze was illegal and what was available was very poorly made giving the few remaining bartenders little to work with. But the drinks that are being made in these modern speakeasy’s have helped the drive interest in gin and raised consumer awareness as we have no restrictions on what we can mix, serve and sell.

    Prior to prohibition in what is usually considered the golden age of cocktails (1850 to 1920) every cocktail book and bar was heavily reliant on gin as the staple white spirit for cocktails, vodka was unheard of as was tequila and white rum was just starting to emerge from Latin America. Some of the most important cocktail books of the age; Jerry Thomas Bon Vivant’s Companion, The Savoy Cocktail Book and Harry Johnson’s Bartenders Guide all have a huge amount of gin recipes and have set the tone for many of the new gin drinks being created nowadays.

    Bartenders

    Bartenders around the world love gin, they also love old drinks and they love to help their guests discover the drinks and brands they too love. Would the Negroni be as bigger drink if it wasn’t for the advocacy of bartenders?

    Drinks like the Corpse Reviver #2 and Last Word are finding new fans through the recommendation of bartenders and in the USA guests are drinking more gin Martinis than Vodkatinis for the first time in a long time.

    What is it that bartenders like about gin? For many years vodka was the go to spirit for creating new cocktails, it was perfect for mixing as it would blend seamlessly into the background giving a little kick to the other ingredients without significantly altering the taste. But where’s the challenge in that, when they are lots of gins all with different flavour profiles that will compliment or even disrupt the flavour of the other ingredients!

     

    Last Word

    35ml Gin

    15ml Green Chartreuse

    15ml Maraschino

    25ml Lime juice

    Shake over cubed ice and strain into a pre-chilled coupette, garnish with a lime twist.

     

    Corpse Reviver #2 (Savoy recipe)

    35ml Gin

    10ml Lillet Blanc

    10ml Cointreau

    20ml Lemon juice

    Dash of Absinthe

    Shake over cubed ice and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

     

    Craft Distillers

    As pointed out above you can apply for a license and start your own gin making enterprise quite easily these days in fact many bartenders and non-bartenders have done exactly that; Sacred Gin was founded by Ian Hart who left the city to set up his own gin brand, Jake Burger, Matt Whiley, Simon Ford are all ex or current bartenders who all have done the same. Because it can be done on such as small scale to start with it can be labelled as a craft product (although many don’t) and in many cases is often sold locally such as Ely Gin from Cambridgeshire using ingredients particular to that area. Many gins are made in a larger distillery and then finished with the addition of tinctures produced in smaller stills such as Rotovaps or similar giving the gin a unique flavour and brand story without the need for large scale production and the associated costs. The USA has a much larger craft movement than the UK with many of their gins being made intentionally to be different from the larger brands and maintain their craft credentials.

    Although craft whiskies, vodkas, rums are tequilas are very much alive and kicking it is gin that gives people the easiest way into a growing category that still has significant room for expansion without significant cost or chances of catastrophic failure just as long as the liquid is good, the packaging appealing and the trade and consumer marketing campaign executed well!

    Gin is still growing even if people think the bubble has burst (6% increase in 2014 - WSTA market report) and will continue to grow as more brands move from the on trade into the off trade and consumers become more aware of new brands. As more move into the mainstream creating a vacuum that will be filled by new gin brands until the category runs out of steam and everyone starts drinking vodka again...

     

    Alex Turner is Head of Advocacy for Coe Vintners, he has 25 years experience in many of London's most influential bars. He works with our Sales team & our customers to maximise their spirits offering and increase their profitability behind the bar.
  • Sherry is shrugging off its Grandma slippers...

    London Account Manager, Beatriz, took the team from Typing Room to Spain this winter (we're definitely not jealous).

    "Who wouldn’t want to escape from a wet and windy winter in London for a couple of days to a more exotic destination like…Seville and San Lucar de Barrameda? I’ve been lucky enough to spend 36 hours in the South of Spain drinking La Guita with a small group of customers.

    It all started when I presented La Guita Manzanilla to Frederic Marti - Head Sommelier at Typing Room. It went straight onto the tasting menu where it is served with celeriac, pear, fermented mushrooms & hazelnut. They loved the wine so much, we decided to take three members of the team to the winery.

    Our first stop was Seville, where we spent the rest of the day. It was a gloriously sunny 22°C.  We got there just in time to have a quick wander around Triana - a picturesque neighbourhood in the old part of the city - and sat for lunch by 3pm (typical lunchtime in Spain). We started with a glass of La Guita (of course) and a plate of Iberico ham. This was followed by tuna tartare with sundried tomatoes, pan-fried hake on a bed of spiced salmorejo (similar to gazpacho) and a seemingly never-ending selection of other, amazing dishes.

    On Monday we drove to San Lucar de Barrameda, on the Atlantic coast, to visit the old winery of La Guita where we were received by Ignacio, export manager of the Estevez Group, who conducted a brilliant tour of the winery.

    Sherry as a category can be hard to comprehend, but visiting the area has helped me greatly in understanding why it is so unique and wonderful. Anybody who loves wine should go there, at least once.

    During Lunch that afternoon, Fred asked Ignacio how he would like La Guita to be presented to customers. Ignacio replied that La Guita should be treated as a white wine, not forgotten in a wine list under the fortified or Sherry category. He said “what you are doing with it is exactly what we need, thank you.”

    Perception can sometimes work as a negative force in the trade, and Manzanilla is yet to properly break through outside the Spanish dining sector, but there are successful restaurants out there that are bold enough to try. And it works. They then become the vanguard, like Typing Room."

  • English Sparkling Sales Soar

    This year Waitrose has reported an increase in sales of English Sparkling wine of 188% - a great success story for this growing category.

    It’s worth remembering, during this current surge in English wine, that it wasn’t always like this. When Mike and Chris Roberts set up Ridgeview in 1994, they were even advised (by a prominent expert who will remain nameless) that they ‘couldn’t grow’ Chardonnay in England.

    Thankfully, they took no notice and established a vineyard of all three classic Champagne varieties – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and, yes, Chardonnay – at the foot of the South Downs in Sussex (the boundaries of the South Downs National Park have since been helpfully tweaked to include the Ridgeview estate).

    Since then, Ridgeview has flourished, building a strong reputation for excellence.  This year they gained recognition in the form of the prestigious Wine Guild's highest achievements award.

    Tamara Roberts made reference to her father, the late Mike Roberts OBE who pioneered growing Chardonnay grapes in Ditchling, Sussex.

    She said: “For dad to have had the foresight to risk it all, and to see where we are now, it is really a privilege to have been a part of that journey.

    “Our wines have always had a sense of place and provenance, however the world of wine drinkers was yet to see the full potential of what England was able to produce.

    “Two decades and hundreds of awards later, Ridgeview, and our industry is in a place where our wines are not only understood, they are applauded. This award is a humbling reminder of how far we have come as a business, and as an industry,” said Roberts.

    As the sparkling trend shows no sign of slowing, and evidence continues to build that consumers are looking to trade up, the obvious choice is English Sparkling.

    Ridgeview's Range

    2013 Bloomsbury

    2013 Cavendish

    2011 Blanc de Blancs

    2010 Blanc de Noirs

    2004 Blanc De Blancs Museum Release

    2913 Fitzrovia Rosé

    2010 Rosé de Noirs

  • Introducing: La Guita en Rama

    For the first time ever, La Guita are producing an en rama style Manzanilla and Enotria are lucky enough to have an allocation. La Guita en Rama is a selection of the best Soleras of Manzanilla representing the personality and style of La Guita at its best . On the label the first “saca” of October 2015 they have printed the ancient door of the XVI century’s Hospital de la Misericordia, converted today in La Guita Bodega.

    Winemaker, Eduardo Ojeda, has made a strict selection of some exceptional casks of Manzanilla from their Soleras kept in the Bodegas of Misericordia and Pago Sanlucar Viejo which are showing what he has described as “La Guita style”:  "Manzanilla La Guita has always shown an unmistakable minerality, almost a delicate saline character which provides this wine with great finesse and complexity."

     In October 2015, after 5 years ageing under highly active flor yeast, the wines selected were bottled straight from the cask to maintain an authentic aroma and palate. True to “En Rama” style, the wine has been bottled straight from the cask with no stabilization (filtering, fining, could treatment, etc.) and should be enjoyed now although it will evolve in the bottle for the next 18 to 24 months.

    La Guita en Rama should be enjoyed slightly chilled (10º) in a white wine glass. With its unmistakable saltiness, La Guita is the perfect match to seafood (oysters, clams, langoustines, grilled fish, etc), smoked fish or Japanese cuisine.

  • Jacquart travels first class with British Airways

    Champagne Jacquart is excited to announce that its cuvée Jacquart Rosé Mosaïque will be served in long distance flights 1st class and corresponding premium class lounges at British Airways from February 2016!

    British Airways serves over 160 destinations around the world and this partnership will undoubtably be a step further towards "La Renommée".

    Many bubbly wishes for 2016!

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