Archive for the ‘Vermouth’ Category

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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After taking a four-week hiatus of writing and blogging, it was nice to post something for February the other day. However, after being relatively self-indulgent with having sporadic access to a rotovap and looking at what could be drunk and written about over the next few months, it turns out that George Washington’s birthday slipped by without even a blink (apart from the national holiday they have in the US, that is).

Born exactly 279 years ago on this date, Washington turned out to be one of the most important figures in terms of the shaping of the Unites States of America.

However, even though his qualities of leadership, tenacity and resilience helped from a government cabinet which is still used in it’s current form today, along with loads of other important stuff which I don’t know much about, the singular most important thing in the history of the entire world is that he had a whisky distillery at his home in Mount Vernon where he distilled rye whisky.

George Washington. Liked distilling rye. A lot.

However, even though this is ultra cool and gives me an excuse to come up with at least one cocktail that has rye it, it’s currently 2:41 in the am, and I have no apparatus with which to construct a drink right now.

To make up for such a lack of awareness of US heritage and culture, I’ll be dedicating this next week to a couple of drinks focusing on rye whisky. This next week, however, may or may not be longer than seven days, and may stretch into May, depending on how ‘tight my shit is’ over the next few months.

For now, I’m going to take the easy way out, give a recipe for an El Presidente – the tenuous link here being the word ‘president’ – and get back to you guys within the next couple of days with a more modern drink.

The drink itself dates back to the dark days of prohibition, although it seems to have stemmed from American bartender Eddie Woelke, who moved overseas during the midst of the ‘Great Experiment’ after tending bar in Philadelphia, New York and Paris, amongst other cities. He set up Havana in the late 1920s, and made this drink for then-president Gerardo Micado.

El Presidente

  • 50ml Aged rum
  • 20ml Sweet Vermouth
  • 10ml Orange Curacao
  • 1 Barspoon of Grenadine
  • 1 Dash of orange bitters (optional)

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of an orange peel over the surface of the drink and drop into the drink.

With the rum, a good latin rum such as Havana Blanco, their three year-old or Bacardi Superior would be a fine choice, although any none-crap rum will do. As for the curacao, Grand Marnier isn’t bad, although a decent triple sec will render the drink a little dryer, which is by no means a bad thing.

The great thing about the drink, apart from the fact that what looks a simple drink is actually a cocktail of decent complexity, is that it has a mature and ‘grown-up’ taste. Stiff and strong, dry, yet still sweet with a long fruity and orange finish. Further more, in a way that a Negroni or a Manhattan can be adjusted to become heavier and richer or lighter and easier depending on the base spirit and vermouth used (extend this to bitters on the subject of the Manhattan), the El President falls into this creative objectivity too, especially when we talk about the Rum (why not use white rum?), the vermouth (sweet, dry, or a bit of both), the triple sec/curacao debate, and even the bitters if you so wish to include them.

Happy birthday and happy drinking, Washy.

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Dare I say it that this particular entry – short as it will be – almost didn’t happen. I’m putting this down to the fact that I’ve only just settled in and unpacked all glassware and whatnot, a feat slightly more impressive and interesting by the fact that I have to carry my newly-bought, second hand bookcase from the charity shop to my house, a scenario that was as utterly energy sapping as this piece of trivial information is boring.

Still, back to the subject of booze, and today is the 77th anniversary of the reversal of the 18th Amendment, which brought to an end to ‘The Great Experiment’. The scenario was almost a reversal of a great event; it came in with a wimper as salons and bars passed away in the night (in theory anyway), with bartenders going undercover or going abroad. When 5th December 1933 rolled around, more people were drinking more than ever anyway, and were more than happy to shout about and make a fuss when they were able to drink in public.

However, before I start to runaway with the actual subject of the end of prohibition (I’m not going to lie, there are other drink guru’s out there who are doing it better than me; click here, here and here for links), let’s stop, think, and make a drink.

The Boulevardier

  • 45ml Bourbon
  • 25ml Campari
  • 25ml Sweet Vermouth

Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Stir with love and think about those dark days in 1920s USA. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry. Express the oils of an orange peel over the surface of the drink, rim the glass and discard. Serve.

The drink is taken from Ted ‘Dr. Cocktail’ Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, who in turn sites it from a 1927 bar guide written by Harry MacElhone, one of two books he wrote in his bartending career.

The drink, as Dr. Cocktail notes and which everyone will have guessed before reading this, is a Negroni on Bourbon, albeit with a slight increase in favour of the base spirit.

The drink takes its name from The Paris Boulevardier, a monthly publication that was edited in Paris by writer Erskine Gwynne.

The great thing here is that Campari was one of numerous bottles of booze to make it into the US during Prohibition, under the guise of that ‘medicinal purposes’ malarky, mainly because authorities thought that there could be no way that it could be consumed as an alcoholic beverage; Laphoriag Islay whisky fell into this category too, and for the same reason.

The original version called for a 3:2:2 ration, which makes the bourbon a little hard to rear its head (that said, it does depend on the bourbon). Holding back on the other ingredients a little makes a difference, though it’s probably best to use a bourbon with a decent rye content, such as Buffalo Trace or Wild Turkey. If you do this, or you use a rye whisky, try a twist of lemon over the surface.

Just don’t drink it all at once. It packs one helluva punch.

Happy Repeal day, folks.

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