Archive for the ‘Scotch’ Category

Brrrrrrap!

After receiving old friend Megs Miller into the bosom of the Edinburgh bartending scene, and the inevitable catch-ups and late night boozing sessions, it turns out that not only is it Halloween here in the UK, there’s less than two hours left of the day until midnight, and the 1st of November, thus rendering a Halloween and a drink-related post almost obsolete. But then again, posting a drink-related post as the seconds creep towards midnight doesn’t make up for the fact that by the time this piece is read, readers will either be hungover (if you’re in Australia), about to go out partying (UK), about to come home from ‘Trick or Treating (kids in the UK – who shouldn’t be reading this), or about to getting ready for a shift at work, if not at work already (UK/US).

Procrastinating and justifying aside, a post and a drink needs to be articulated, and articulated well. With the 2nd annual Chartreuse heat about to go ahead next month, the deadline for drink submissions is less than an hour away.

The inspiration behind the drink lies mainly with the Purgatory, a rye-based drink created in 2008 that uses both Green Chartreuse and Benedictine to smooth out the rye. Whilst being a tiny bit unusual – mainly because no bitters are used – the best thing about this devilish cocktail comes from the fact that the complexity and length is added to the drink  in the form of two French, herbal, monk-related liquors (Gary Regan talks about the drink here).

Purgatory (Adapted from a recipe by Ted Kilgore, Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood, 2008)

  • 50ml Rye whisky
  • 12.5ml Green Chartreuse
  • 12.5ml Benedictine

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir lovingly (or hatefully) with ice, assuring proper dilution(!). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist and serve.

With this in mind, and basing a drink around the rule of using at least 25ml of Green Chartreuse, a drink was devised that followed suit of the original Purgatory, but with an obvious twist; living in Scotland and being a fan of scotch, a smokey single malt came into play as opposed to rye. Out with the Benedictine and in came Bitter Truthe Elixir, a distant relative of the Italian Amaro, with two drops of Orange Blossom water for some light floral notes. The ingredients were toned down to equal measures, more so to support each other on equal terms as opposed to fight for supremacy based on sheer volume.

The name is taken directly from the film of the same name, with a direct reference of the literal and spiritual journey the monks have made throughout the last nine centuries, a story and history that includes governmental persecution and underestimation, misunderstandings and exile, and distillery destruction and forgery.

And so with that, ladies and gentleman, here we go…

Road to Perdition

  • 30ml Cask-rested Green Charetreuse
  • 30ml Islay Single Malt Scotch
  • 30ml Bitter Truth Elixir
  • 2 drops of Orange Blossom/Flower water

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass in a dark and morose manner. Add ice, stir devilishly and strain the dark, smoked, herbaceous liquid into a chillingly cold glass with one drop of orange water in the base of the glass. Add the second of drop onto the surface of the drink, and torture out the oils of a lemon peel be squeezing and twisting without mercy. Serve to the poor soul in front of you.

NB – Go for Lagavulin or Caol Ila. Something with both smoke and body is important here, mainly to stand up to boldness of the other flavours. And don’t be afraid to stir for a while if you have the right ice; the texture of this drink could be a problem due to under dilution. As for the cask-aged Green Chartreuse, this is the by-product of a project that is looking to reproduce the Purgatory into a single liquid, using casks that have been seasons with Green Chartreuse and Benedictine. More information of this will follow in the coming months…

Tom Hanks having a post-Green Chartreuse night-before breakfast.

Happy Halloween folks.

PS – For other reasons on why I haven’t posted on here in a while, go here and here to read some articles I’ve wrote for old friend (though not just in terms of age – sorry) Shay Leighton.

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The video above is an entry to the Auchentoshan Swtich, a competition in which 20 finalists will go through to London to battle it out for a two-week trip to New York. The prize is not just a holiday though; the lucky winner will spend time working in Apotheke, a New York bar renowned for its foray into molecular mixology and 21st century bartending.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, one lucky winner from the final in Las Vegas will be heading over to London to work with Tony Coniglario at 69 Colebrooke row. Hence that ‘switch’ thing in the name.

To have a chance of getting to the final, participants must create an Old Fashioned and a lemonade from scratch, and take no longer than eight minutes to complete both. Outside of that, it’s pretty much open to interpretation.

For a slightly unique spin on things I decided to take a little inspiration from New York a la Penicillin-style (courtesy of Sam Ross, Milk & Honey). As for the old-fashioned, I stayed in touch with the concept of the sherry finishes – one of the main selling points behind Auchentoshan Three Wood – by using some limited edition Spanish bitters from Adam Elmegirab, and by creating a sugar syrup with Spanish brandy as a the base.

There are some big names that have already put their hat in the ring, mainly in the form of Alex Kratena from the Artisian Bar at the Langham Hotel, Matthew Dakers from Worship Street Whistling Shop and Zdenek Kastanek of Quo Vadis fame. Good luck to everyone involved, and hopefully see you in the final.

Penicillin Lemonade

  • 100ml Still water
  • 50ml Lemon Juice
  • 20ml Ginger Syrup*
  • Dash of honey

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a highball, and top with soda. Garnish with a lemon spiral and serve.

*Ginger Syrup

  • 50 grams de-skinned ginger
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 ¼ cups of sugar

Add water and ginger to a blendable vessel. Blend, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Strain through a Muslin cloth and bottle.


Lowland Siesta

  • 60ml Auchentoshan Three Wood
  • 12.5ml Spanish brandy syrup**
  • Generous dash of Spanish Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir – but not for too long – and strain into a chilled glass with a single, large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel and serve.

**Spanish Brandy Syrup

  • 1 cup of good quality Spanish Brandy
  • 1 ¼ cup of sugar

Add all ingredients to a glass and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t heat, don’t put in a pan – just stir.

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The video above – a clip taken from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – is one of the finest movies ever to go the big screen. Like, ever. The only problem is, what Colonel Oats actually asked Bill and Ted to do is not get down and do press ups, but actually get behind the bar and serve him up Bramble’s newest drink, the barrel and bottle-aged Affinity cocktail. Guess they decided to keep the unedited version…

On top of that, because of few technical issues, this post marks the 20th in the history of this blog. And the heavily tattooed one could be be prouder than posting a subject such as this.

The barrels. And the bottled Affinity. And beyond!

Occupying the top three tables next to the bar, with the music off and the lighting low, industry professionals gathered in Bramble a few weeks back to celebrate the launch of the bars eagerly-anticipated barrel-aged Affinity cocktail, in conjunction with Glenmorangie Single Malt whisky.

A 20-strong group of drink writers, imbibers and industry professionals turned up to see Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation for the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg brands, and Bramble bartender Tom Walker give a speech with regards to the process and inspiration behind the barrel-aged process and the unique serve which accompanies the drink.

The Affinity cocktail, a scotch and vermouth based drink that came around within the first decades of the 20th century, is served in a unique 100ml bottle, a concept that harks back to the mid 1800s when the Mid-West capitalized upon the craze of the Chinese-inspired ‘snake oil’ medicine. Chinese immigrants working on the Transcontinental railroad in North America would give a remedy to help the aching joints of other workers, though it wasn’t long until western, and specifically American, medicine salesmen exploited the idea. Before long, travelling ‘doctors’ became part of the mid-west black market culture, selling all sorts of placebos and panaceas that were marketed as remedies that had little or no effect. Ingredients were often secret or unproven, and by the time customers found that the liquid cure to be worthless, the salesman would be long gone into the sunset and a few dollars to the good.

Coupled with the idea of ageing a pre-mixed drink, itself a concept that was being used in the 1860s (the same decade that the rail road was built), the bottle comes with a uniquely designed label – coupled with some good-ol’ tongue and cheek humour – with the process from filling the barrels, filling the bottles and sealing top with wax all done by hand.

The launch saw the tasting of the first batch to come from the American New Oak barrel (medium toast), with three further bottlings to be released from two other New American Oak barrels (each with a light and heavy toast and) a New French Oak (medium toast) in the near future.

Taking into consideration that the barrels will have been used for the first time, coupled with the fact that different measurements have been used for each barrel, each bottling will labelled as a ‘vintage’. And as much as Bramble and Glenmorangie are keen to market and sell a consistent product that everyone loves, both parties – including the subservient and loyal enthusiasts here at Cellar 4, as well as Dr. Bill Lumsden himself – are just as excited with experimenting with the factors available to see what kind of flavour profiles the end result will yield.

With regards to the releases, the bottlings will rotate on average to two different batches available at any one time (the current medium and heavy char are available), though this is dependent on cask use, ingredient ratios, ageing time and the char and wood used.

The drink retails for £9, although those who wish to take the bottle and contents away can do so for the price £7 before 10pm.

Special thanks go to the Bramble team – Pauli, Terri and Naill – owners Mike Aikman and Jason Scott, along with Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, Dan Bartley for the awesome design of the labels (and the bottom two photos), and local Edinburgh LVMH ambassador Sean Olivier (for the top photo and everything else). This blog and these drinks are dedicated to you.

The unique Affinity 'serve'.

Barrel-aged Affinity; American Oak Medium Char (Batch 1)

  • 37.5ml Glenmorangie 10 Year-old
  • 25ml Byhrr
  • 25ml Noilly Prat
  • Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients en-mass to the barrel. Age for four to seven weeks – depending on the ingredients, overall ABV and, most importantly, the condition and fill of the barrel in question – taste-testing regularly. Once ready, bottle and seal with wax by hand. Serve the bottle straight from the fridge on a napkin with a cocktail glass sprayed with orange bitters, garnished with a cherry and a swath of lemon peel.

The Affinity bottle.

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As per usual, I’ll be starting this post with a perennial apology for the lack of entry, which will probably be about a month by the time this goes live. However, this may well be my last apology. Not that this blog will cease to exist, though my living arrangements as of next month are uncertain, I’m (still) getting emergency taxed on my pay (meaning less money to spend on booze and what not), which means an uncertainty of postings with regards to booze and other fun stuff. Coupled with the fact that I recently turned 25 without any real form a of celebration, visited the Bols academy in Amsterdam (and a bottle of five year-old Bokma to boot) and received some new tattoo work, it’s fair to say that I’ve definitely not been partying and drinking all the time

 

All 36 Bols liqueurs. Seriously

However, while that last statement may well be a massive fib, the future is looking very bright. Despite waiting for my first shipment of free booze to review – big corporate booze companies take note of this – here at Bramble Bar & Lounge things have been getting off the ground with regards to a new menu and new drinks, albeit slowly.

But it doesn’t stop there. Bramble owners Mike and Jas have also come into possession of a vacuum packer, a device usually used within the food industry, but, according to old Bramble legend Ryan Chetiyawardana, can be used to fuse ingredients together in the form of botanicals, flavours and a base liquid (Ryan told us it was his current ‘best friend’).

Quite possibly the most exciting concept of them all, however, is that I’ve been given the opportunity to get to grips with a piece of machinery called a Rotary Evaporator – more commonly known as a ‘Rotovap (although there is actually a patented company out there called ‘Rotovap)’ which is both a) the most scientific thing I’ve ever used or been involved in and b) can create possibly an infinite amount of flavour concepts and fusions; check out videos here and here). With this latter piece of equipment, I’ve included a picture nicked from some sight after a very quick google search, although it probably came from the Cooking Issues website (which is definitely something you should read, especially here).

 

You need more than D at GCSE level to even understand how this thing works.

In the same way that the presence of Robocop on the streets of Detroit was greeted with suspicion by phoney newsreaders in the film of the same name, I bet you’re thinking these three questions; What is a rotovap? What does it do? Where did it come from?

 

Definitely not Robocop.

These questions will hopefully be answered over time when it is utilized more. As the machine becomes used in gastronomic affairs and ‘food tech’ environments – think Heston Blumenthal you’re not really far away – the crossover into drinks is pretty much inevitable. What stops from being a craze that’ll catch on, however, is the fact that they cost about $10,000, give or take a grand (parts are also very expensive). The fact that 69 Coolbrook Row in London have one of these pieces of kit speaks for itself. Coupled with the fact that I got a D-grade GCSE at school, as well as generally hating science, and you get the idea.

In short, the rotovap separates certain compounds within a liquid by reducing the pressure within an atmosphere (usually a flask that is sealed to create a vacuum), reducing the boiling point of the liquid in question. The flask is then lowered into a ‘heated bath’, a fancy term used which basically means a tub of water heated up to a temperature of your choice depending on what is to be separated from the liquid inside the flask. Confused? Though so. Although if you refer back to the Cooking Issues website, some of the examples of what they can do with booze will give you an idea to the possibilities and potential of what it can do.

While future concepts and ideas may creep up on this blog at some point in the future, a new blog-slash-website will be created solely for the purpose of reporting what goes within the chambers of the rotovap, simply so there’s a single-subject dedication to said project, which will hopefully involve fellow bartending friends.

Thanks for reading.

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Chartreuse is here.

In between brainstorming what I would like to blog about over these next few months, procrastinating what I’ll actually blog about over these next few months, on top of not actually writing or researching anything, a cheeky little Chartreuse competition came about the other week, coupled with an interesting little twist…

Cutting straight to the basics, Chartreuse is a French based liqueur made by a couple of monks in Voiron. The green stuff is 55%, massively herbaceous, natural in colour and has a reputed 130 natural herb and plant flavourings. The other stuff – yellow Chartreuse – is a little lighter and a little sweater at 40%.  As well as the aforementioned, the monks also produce an extra-aged chartreuse – Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé, or V.E.P Chartreuse for short – and a herbal elixir, with the latter being used to soak a sugar cube before ingestion, helping to settle the stomach . Chartreuse has also made several appearances in popular culture – Tom Waits’ song ‘Till The Money Runs Out’ being a personal favourite. As a cocktail ingredient, the green and yellow varieties are popular components in both classic cocktails and more contemporary and modern day libations.

Jamie Mac, one of the bartenders at The Raconteur in Edinburgh’s well-to-do area of Stockbridge, and where the competition was held, presided over the final judgement along with the UK Chartreuse ambassador Matthew Dakers. The main judges, on the other hand, were also those who took part. The competition, which took a conscious nod towards ‘Come Dine With Me’, made sure that all those who competed were also responsible for judging their fellow competitors.

And the result? A respectful and well-executed competition, which gave bartenders an insight into the world of judgment and marking criterias with no petulant or predictable marking efforts that would favour the marker – or his fellow friend or colleague – in the quest for victory

The event threw up some interesting drinks, some of which included Iron Bru syrup, tonic reductions, tequila, homemade falernum and came in the form of blazers, fizzes, flips, and…er… general straight up drinks.

With other heats in Leeds, London and Brighton, Sam Watson from the Bon Vivant and some northern-accented, French-clad dude – who also happened to relatively tattooed – will be representing Edinburgh at the finals in London in February.

Some daft heavily tattooed French dude.

Hors d’oeuvre of the day (Tom Walker, Bramble, Edinburgh)

  • 35ml Green Chartreuse
  • 15ml Islay Scotch
  • 7.5ml Kummel
  • 7.5ml DOM Bénédictine
  • 15ml Lime Juice
  • 10ml Lemon Juice
  • Dash of egg white
  • Dash of tonic water
  • Dash of absinthe

Add all ingredients apart from the tonic water and absinthe to a cocktail shaker and dry shake. Add ice, shake hard and double strain into an absinthe rinsed glass. Top up with tonic water and serve.

Herbacious, smokey, sour, dry, with hints of sweet earth and bitterness. Taking a nod towards the Gin Fizz, and a bigger nod towards the Morning Glory Fizz, both of which fall into that anti-fogmatizer/gloomlifter/hangover cure category, the drink is surprisingly light and refreshing. Saying that, despite wanting to stay away from scotch and gin to create something a little more original, I gave in and added a little of Laphroaig Quarter Cask to give another edge to the drink.

Sam Watson doing his 'thang'

Voila (Sam Watson, Bon Vivant, Edinburgh)

  • 25ml Green Chartreuse
  • 25ml lime
  • 25ml Courvoisier Exclusif
  • 20ml Grand Marnier
  • 12.5 ml Yellow Chartreuse
  • Dash of egg white
  • Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients – apart from the bitters – to a cocktail shaker and dry shake. Add ice, shake vigorously and double strain into a coupette. Garnish with a basil leaf, and spray the outside of the glass with orange bitters. Serve

Complex and long, just like Sam Watson himself. Cognac and Chartreuse glide over the pallet with ease, with orange in the foreground and the lime adding a slightly less acidic mouth feel then first anticipated.

To quote maker Saw Watson, the drink is dedicated to all the French girls he’ll probably never hook up with. Voila.

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Definitely didn't sit around after loads of turkey and christmas 'snowballs'.

As the end of the festive season approaches, with the back-to-work days looming large and the yearly, month-long equivalent of the ‘Blue Monday feeling (that’s January to you and I)’ hanging over our heads, let me ask you a straight-shooting question… how much are you actually going to use any of that gear you got for Christmas?

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to come across as the Grinch of Christmas presents. Sure, those socks from granny are awesome… until spring comes and your feet start to sweat. And yes, I have a sweet tooth and love chocolate too. But if it hasn’t lasted from this morning and before lunch when you unwrapped from under the Christmas tree, then … well, you can see where I’m going with this one.

I’m all about surprises and giving people things they want without them knowing. But secretly, however, Christmas is about giving people what they want in the form of presents, you receiving what you want from other people in the form of presents, along with a decent feast-a-thon washed down with cracking booze – brandy or port if you’re festive, whisky if it was a gift for Christmas, gin if you’re poor (sort of), or any other booze if your unfussy/an alcoholic.

Below is a list of what you didn’t get for Christmas, and probably should have killed for.

 

Whisky rocks

This is one thing that probably 99% of the bartender audience agrees with here. Whisky does rock. But the thing is, the title is a vernacular, as in, whisky is awesome, but what I’m getting at is Whisky Stones.

These little beauties can be put into the freezer, and then into a drink, which cools the drink down but without dilution. Think of those shitty plastic-coated gel cubes you got when you were a kid – the funny colour ones in funny shapes – and turn them into grown up drinking toys. Now you get me.

And the best thing is? You can even put them in the oven for those fancy cocktails that require heat without the blazing. You know, the ones you haven’t even thought up yet…

Rocking whisky glasses

OK. So maybe these titles are a poor attempt at some pseudo-juxtaposition metaphor. But these guys – if you don’t want to use the above to enhance the spirit you’re drinking – are awesome.

Put your whisky in the glass, put it down on a solid surface, and watch as it sort of rolls around/side to side, without you having to whirl the glass. Done.

Anvil Ice Pick

So maybe you don’t want whisky stones. But maybe you have a massive lump of ice in your freezer whichyou want to chip into a lovely spherical shape or a rugged block of rustic ice. Pick up one of these bad boys and watch loads of Japanese bartending videos on youtube and you’re pretty much there. Sort of/almost…

‘Cocktail Techniques’ by Kazuo Uyeda

I suppose that without being patronising and without trying to bridge the gap, so to speak, Kazuo Uyeda is to Japanese bartending what Dale de Groff was to the revitalizing of modern Westernized bartending. Enough said.

A really nice bottle of whisky.

This is definitely a personal preference, and a get-out-of-jail free card (sort of) for the fifth and final installment of this blog. Personally, as I broke the scotch barrier earlier this year by drinking loads of Isaly malt, I’m beginning to rediscover my sweet tooth via different cask finishes, usually in the port or sherry variety. Other than that, I love a decent rye whisky. But if I’m going to be choosy, then a good Japanese single malt – a category of whisky which I can see taking off in 2011 and beyond – is something I would be more than happy to receive as a belated Christmas present.

Merry Christmas (from that heavily tattooed drinks mixer)!

 

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By the time this blog has been posted and read, most of the news within this will already be a little old, with most of the fun already been had. The heavily tattooed bartender would like to apologise for his late entry – this technically should have been done about a week ago – but as you’ll read on, you’ll understand the stress and lack of time that has kept said bartender from being able to post earlier.

Tuesday night just gone (alright, a couple of days ago for sure) was a night of epic proportions; not only did I scrap my way to the final of a poker game with the irrepressible bitter-master Adam Elmigrab, but Edinburgh’s most decorated bar Bramble celebrated their fourth birthday.

After recently being voted the 25th best bar in the world by Drinks International (last year they were seventh!), the guys celebrated by getting some DJ’s in on the act, making a cracking punch and smashing out some awesome drinks.

But, I hear you ask, why does this matter?

Well, for some mental reason, owners Jason Scott and Mike Aikman have decided to offer me some form of employment at their world-famous bar, and have given me the most humbling opportunity of joining their (now) four-person bar team.

The bar, which is located on the corner of Queen Street and Hannover Street, has not only won numerous awards for their drinks menu and backbar – which focuses primarily on whisky and gin – but have also seem some pretty reputable drink masters tend the bar over the last few years, including the recently-departed Ryan Chetiyawardana of 69 Colebrooke Row, UK Havanna Club brand ambassador Miemi Sanchez and current Bacardi Global Ambassador David Cordoba

It goes without saying that the opportunity the guys have offered me is not only something I couldn’t turn down, but a great chance for me to up my game at one of the most decorated bars in the UK. Flattering, humbling, awesome are just a few adjectives that come to mind in terms of some form of adjectives.

To mark the celebration of the heavily tattooed bartender moving up in the world, I’ve included two recipes from the menu for you to feast your eyes (and taste buds) on.

Bramble

  • 50ml Gin
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 12.5ml sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
  • 12.5 ml Crème de Mure

Build all ingredients apart from the Crème de Mure in a sling glass. ‘Lace’ Crème de Mure on top of the drink. Add a blackberry to garnish and serve.

A pretty straight forward drink in terms of both its construction and flavour, the Bramble has survived as a contemporary classic mainly due to its pleasing taste and accessibility in terms of ingredients.

Originally a twist on a gin fix, an old drink from the 19th century that used raspberry syrup and Hollands gin, the drink was devised by Richard ‘Dick’ Bradsell at Fred’s Bar in London in 1983. Cheers!

Cambletown Cocktail

  • 40ml Springbank whiskey
  • 20ml Cherry Heering
  • 10ml Green Chartreuse

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until the right dilution has been achieved. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of a lemon peel over the drink and discard. Serve.

For someone who has been enjoying scotch-based cocktails more and more over the past six months (even to the point where rye and bourbon have taken a back seat), the Cambletown Cocktail may well be one the most well constructed whisky cocktails I have come across in modern day bartending.

Despite consisting of only three ingredients, it ticks all the boxes of what a cocktail should be. Not only is the drink both complex and powerful, the flavours all vie for your attention on the pallet without one overpowering the other. The cherry heering and green chartreuse, despite both being sweet and herbaceous in their own separate ways, combine in an ethereal way to lift the whisky into another dimension. Definitely a drink that is greater than the sum of its parts, and a fabulous winter drink to boot (though probably not one to give to a first time cocktail drinker…).

With this, the heavily tattooed bartender is going to love you and leave you. By the time his next entry hits the net – I’m aiming for within the fortnight here folks – I’ll have moved north of the boarder and settled into my new abode. And to celebrate this, I’m more than likely going to make a drink for the occasion, and continue to switch between third and person narrative as I continue my explorations into winter-based libations.

I would once again like to thank Jason and Mike for their hospitality and offer of employment, and look forward to working with fellow drink masters Pauli, Terri and Niall.

For those of you interested in finding out more about this cool little bar I’ll be tending to, check the links here

See you at the bar, folks…

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