Cocktails with… Sipsmith Sipping Vodka

When I first went to the Sipsmith Distillery (October 2010), they had released two products: a gin and a vodka. Their gin has gone from strength-to-strength and is now available in the USA. Back then, the vodka was barley-based, like their gin, and had an indulgent flavour of cream and vanilla.

Fast forward to 2014, and Sipsmith have just released a wheat-based “Sipping Vodka”. This comes at a time when more spirits are being marketed, at least in part, as being just as tasty on their own as when mixed.

As such, I tried the vodka neat at a variety of temperatures.

Sipsmith Sipping Vodka

On its own
At room temperature
Nose: Light and clean, with some light spice and a hint of vanilla, as well as toasted cereal.
Taste: A rich and viscous texture, this is a clean spirit with notable character from the base. There are also notes of spice, including anise and fennel, before a little warmth on the finish.

From the fridge
At a lower temperature, the spirit changes flavour with richer, slightly jammy, fruity notes, as well as an increase in warmth and spice, too.

From the freezer
Drinking straight from the freezer produces a very pure and clean flavour, as if it were from a crystal-clear shard of ice. This is a pleasant way to enjoy the spirit, with a great texture and a light character.

With ice
Thick in texture and pure in taste, although, as a result, some of the flavour is slightly curbed, replated with a little more creaminess comes through. Very, very clean – almost water-like.

Martini
Superb – truly textbook: clean, crisp, and smooth with residual character. This is equally good with a lemon twist or an olive, although my preference would be for the former.

Vodka & Tonic
This is a great drink with a lovely crispness and power from the alcohol, whilst still being easy to sip for simple refreshment.

In Conclusion

Whilst, as I mentioned I was a fan of old Sipsmith’s Barley Vodka, I think the Sipping Vodka is a great addition to the range and it more complex and sippable (funny that) than many other vodkas. Sipsmith Sipping Vodka reaches the pleasant balance between smoothness and drinkability and character. I liked it chilled and neat but was also very impressed with the vodka tonic.

 

Sipsmith Sipping Vodka (40.0%ABV) is available for around £29 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Cocktails for dinner with Zubrowka Polish Vodka

I was recently approached by Match.com to come up with some Polish-inspired cocktails for their website. Now, one of my favourite Polish spirits is the bison-grass flavoured vodka, Zubrowka, which is quite widely available and accessible, even to the newest vodka drinker. I decided to use Zubrowka as the basis for a series of cocktails that can accompany different stages of a romantic meal, which can be found below.

~Aperitif~

Zubrowka AperitifBison Fizz

[20ml Zubrowka, 80ml of Dry Prosecco - Add vodka to a flute glass and top up with Prosecco]

This is a drink that makes a great first impression: there’s bright apple pie to start, with a mix of dry and sweet flavours, before it subtly develops to focus on the flavours of the wine. The dryness of the prosecco makes it raising to the appetite, so it is a good choice as an aperitif. This accessible drink is great for a special occasion.

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~Main meal~

Zubrowka Main CourseZubrowka Soda

[25ml Zubrowka, 50ml Apple Juice, 50ml Soda Water - Build in a tall glass with ice and garnish with a lemon wedge]

A very simple drink with an ABV of around 8% ABV, putting it on a par with many wines. This is a light and refreshing cocktail with hints of confectionery apple crumble and a touch of caramel. It’s a pleasant drink and makes a good accompaniment to a main course.

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~Dessert~

Zubrowka DessertAlexsy

[30ml Zubrowka, 50ml Single Cream, 1 tsp Chocolate Syrup - Shake]

A variation on the Alexander cocktail, this is a very indulgent, dessert-like drink. There are some light spice and dry fruit notes coming from the vodka, which mix well with the cream and chocolate flavours. All-in-all, this is somewhat reminiscent of an alcoholic chocolate milkshake.

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~After Dinner~

Apple-Honey Punch

[30ml Zubrowka Vodka, 1 tsp honey (I used the new apple-flavoured variety from Rowse), 100ml warm apple juice]

Method: Add vodka and honey to a heat-proof glass. Warm apple juice in the microwave (around 60 seconds on high). Add apple juice to other ingredients and stir until the honey has dissolved.

This is a warming honey and apple drink with lots of spice from the vodka and a tart, apple fruitiness from the juice that is countered by the sweetness of the honey. A well-balanced, warming, and tasty drink.

Zubrowka After Dinner

Zubrowka Liqueur

An alternative to this drink is the Zubrowka Polona liqueur. This is a blend of vodka and herbs which is then sweetened and aged in oak casks. Whilst this isn’t the easiest product to find in the UK, I have seen it available in various Polish food stores (which is where I got mine from). It is a rich and intense liqueur with notable flavours of almond, honey, and maple, as well as cherry and apricot stone fruit. Finally, there’s a hint of freshly-brewed tea and some woody oak.

Köld Cocktails

When it comes to home cocktail mixing, simplicity is key and if there are too many ingredients (particularly obscure ones) in a drink, then people simply won’t make it. So forget the Yuzu liqueur and the Lavender & Earl Grey syrup and let’s focus on the other end of the scale: pre-batched or bottled cocktails.

I say bottled cocktails, but in this case I am really talking about cocktails that come in a pouch:

Kold Cocktails Selection
Köld cocktails are designed to be frozen before consumption and, after a short thaw, served in a glass as an alcoholic slush. Alcoholic “slush puppies” have been around for a while and I have reviewed some before; whilst tasty and refreshing, they have tended to be more of an alcopop-slush: often brightly coloured, rather sweet, and made using a variety of artificial flavourings.

In contrast, Köld specifically state that they use natural fruit ingredients and quality spirits and liqueurs in their products. Looking at their website, they generally seem to take a more genuine approach and, as such, I would hope that the cocktail should taste more like the freshly-made equivalent cocktail than a day-glo liquid in a crown cap bottle.

With this in mind, I set about trying Köld’s current three varieties, which are all packaged at 8.0% ABV and sold in 225ml pouches.

Kold Cocktails CosmopolitanCosmopolitan
There is a pleasant tartness from the cranberry and zesty lime, and both of these fruity flavours are fresh and genuine. As an overall drink, this has a good balance and is certainly recognisable as a Cosmopolitan; as a matter of fact, it’s pleasantly reminiscent of a homemade Frozen Cosmopolitan.

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Kold Cocktails MojitoMojito
The Mojito is a popular candidate for pre-mixed cocktails. In my experience, some are better than others, and the Köld version is certainly one of the better ones. There is a good amount of mint and lime, as well as a little sweet, woody warmth from the white rum. This is fresh and crisp, very easy to drink and quite excellent.

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Kold Cocktails Lychee MartiniLychee Martini
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a Lychee Martini, but judging this drink on its own merits, I was impressed. There are plenty of the rich fruity, slightly floral flavours of the lychee coming through, alongside some hints of rose. This is a well-balanced and refreshing drink.

In Conclusion
The Köld cocktails are a good and well-made range, with genuine flavours that reflect the cocktails that they are based on. The ice slush helps to keep the drinks extra refreshing, making them perfect for a hot summer’s afternoon.

Ingredients List

Cosmopolitan
Water, Vodka, Orange Liqueur, cranberry Juice, Lime Juice, Natural Cosmopolitan Flavouring, Citric Acid – 78kcal per 100ml, 7.6g sugar per 100ml

Lychee Martini
Water, Vodka, Lychee Juice, White Grape Juice, Sugar, Natural Lychee Flavouring, Malic Acid, Cloudifier – 89 kcal per 100ml, 10.7g sugar per 100ml

Mojito
Water, White Rum, Lime Juice, Sugar, Natural Mojito Flavouring – 74 kcal per 100ml, 6.8g sugar per 100ml

Fentimans Wild English Elderflower

Below is a short review of a new soda released by Fentimans; unlike other elderflower varieties released in the last year, this is not a flavoured tonic water (with quinine), but rather an elderflower-flavoured soda. Its ingredients include: elderflower, pear, and fermented ginger. I found it noteworthy that it contains just over 6g of sugar per 100ml, which is about a third less than most other mixers such as ginger ale or tonic water (9g per 100ml).

Fentimans Wild English Elderflower Soda

On its own
Nose: Rich, fresh elderflower with a hint of fruity jamminess of elderberry.
Taste: Medium fizz. Very clean in flavour, with some sweetness, but thankfully it’s not too sweet. There are some subtle hints of spice, followed by a dry, floral finish. Overall, this is an excellent soft drink with good mixing potential.

with Warner Edwards Elderflower Gin
Quite a lot of spice comes through from the gin, as well as a deeper and richer elderflower note, which is nicely offset by the lightness of the soft drink. Add a wedge of lemon and the result is a very sippable, cooling drink with the flavour of early summer.

with Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin
A dryer drink than the one above, but by no means less tasty. It is almost as clean as a Gin & Soda, but with a slightly floral flourish from the elderflower. An excellent choice for a hot summer’s afternoon; but on a really sweltering day, I’d suggest dialing the gin back a tad to add to the drink’s refreshment.

In Conclusion
Fentiman’s Wild English Elderflower is a great addition to their range and works equally well as a soft drink and as a mixer, pairing well with gins and, for a slightly lighter drink, vodka.

Cocktails with… Sibling Gin

Sibling Gin Title

Over the past four years, we have published reviews for 299 gins from 31 different countries and so, today, it is with great pleasure that we reach our 300th Gin Review.

This review is of the new Sibling Gin from the Sibling Distillery in Cheltenham. The distillery is the brainchild of the Elliott-Berry siblings: two brothers, Felix and Digby, and two sisters, Clarice and Cicely, who are all under 25 years of age.

Their gin is produced in a glass and metal hybrid still that was designed in-house and contains a botanical infusion basket. They use a range of botanicals including: juniper, coriander, lemon, orange, vanilla, and blueberry. The gin is made using a vodka base, which is distilled in-house, and the final product is bottled at 42% ABV.

Sibling Gin FINAL

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Rich and creamy vanilla, with a hint of breadiness; there is also a little chocolate that is reminiscent of a dark chocolate brioche. More of the traditional gin notes then come through, with dry juniper, angelica, and some citrus. Finally, creamy berries.
Taste: This is quite a rich and full spirit, texture wise. There is juniper upfront, followed by a little pepper spice. This then makes way for luscious, rich and creamy vanilla notes and zesty citrus, followed by even more vanilla, a touch of chocolate, and a burst of berry notes from the blueberries. The finish is long and dry with a little citrus, pine, and some residual vanilla.

1 Sibling Chilled FINAL

From the Freezer
Served straight from the freezer, this gin has a pleasant thickness: a richer and more viscous texture. More of the dry notes of the gin come through and there’s a lovely finish of vanilla and berries with a slight sweetness, almost reminiscent of an Eton Mess. Very sippable and very tasty.

Over Ice
This is another pleasant way to sip the gin and a little ice melt certainly gives the spirit a silky texture. There’s dry spice upfront with notes of cinnamon, cassia and vanilla, before a slight zing of citrus, a hint of tart berry, and then a dry juniper and angelica finish.

IMG_3969

Gin Tonica
Beautiful: the grapefruit and vanilla combine to create a chord of chocolate notes that complement the complex flavours of the gin superbly. Engaging, unusual, and certainly one to convert anyone to the Spanish style Gin Tonica.

Gin & Tonic
Another lovely drink. The blueberry jamminess and vanilla add a confectionery element and helps the gin break through past some of the more cloying elements of some tonics. The rest of the flavour is wonderfully dry, with a lovely citrus finish fresh of lemon and orange.

1 Sibling Martini FINALMartini
Creamy and slightly sweet, with hints of berry, vanilla, and anise. Still, this is very clean and has a dry finish, although an initial, light, confectionery element sets this apart and makes it just as suitable as a post-dinner drink as an aperitif. Even Mrs B. (not usually much of a Martini fan) described this as “very drinkable”.

Negroni
This cocktail has a lovely flavour with plenty of chocolate and vanilla notes, before a dry and bitter finish with more earthy dark chocolate. It’s a smooth Negroni, which is in some ways smoother and lighter than many others, but, at the same time, it maintains the bitterness that you would expect from the drink.

Sibling French 75

French ‘75
Sibling Gin adds a subtle, but noticeable berry creaminess that works very well with the champagne. For this particular drink, I would dial back a little on the lemon juice so that the gin can come through a little more.

B1 Sibling Gin Berries FINALerry Muddler
[Muddle half a small handful of raspberries and blueberries in the bottom of a tumbler, add ice and 50ml of Sibling Gin. Stir and sip.]
A simple drink that’s as a sippable as a fruit smoothie. The blueberry works well with the blueberry and vanilla notes from the gin, and the raspberry adds a nice tartness that works well alongside the dryer botanical notes.

 

Sibling Gin is available to purchase from the Sibling Gin website for around £32 for 70cl.

Cocktails with… Beefeater 24 Gin – Quintessentially British Gift Pack

Following my recent review of the new Beefeater London Garden (Distillery Exclusive Edition) and the bonus tasting notes of the 40% and 47% Classic Expressions, I have now reviewed all of the Beefeater range (at least of the 21st century) except for Beefeater 24. So it was rather fortuitous when an unexpected bottle arrived last week!

1 Beefeater 24 2014 FRONT

 

But this was no ordinary bottle of Beefeater 24 this was the new ‘Quintessentially British’ limited edition gift pack, designed by the winner of the 2013 Beefeater 24 Inspires competition, Glenn Hin, which will be sold at the Beefeater visitor centre and distillery in Kennington, London, priced at £56. Hin’s design evokes images of the quintessential British summer; with secret gardens, sophisticated summer parties, cocktail glasses, tennis rackets all portrayed in the packaging.

Beefeater 24 builds upon the original 9 Beefeater botanicals and to that adds Sencha Tea, Green Tea and Grapefruit and is bottled at 45.0%ABV.

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Rich, with plenty of citrus, including lots of orange, as well as some light, floral notes. Overall, a delicate and intriguing aroma.
Taste: The most notable feature of this gin, at least initially, is its rich, full and smooth texture. The taste consists of a mix of citrus and floral notes, as well as a touch of spice and a dry finish of juniper, angelica, and a touch of tea. This is a rather sippable gin and, as you explore its flavours, more of the delicate and subtle tea notes become apparent. Well-worth more than one visit.

Gin & Tonic
A bright and very dry Gin & Tonic with sweetness towards the end, followed by a lovely bitterness on the finish. It is a drink that I enjoy most when it is ungarnished, in order to better appreciate the more delicate notes of the gin. Refreshing, delicious and rather juicy.

1 Beefeater 24 2014 Pop up

Martini
This makes a very clean Martini with a little spice and a touch of saltiness. The main, bold flavours are floral citrus; again, plenty of orange, but some grapefruit, too, leading onto a long, clean, and dry finish.

Negroni
A very classic Negroni. This gin really hold its own against the other ingredients. Flamed orange or a simple orange peel twist are typical garnishes for this cocktail, but this version already contains sufficient notes of rich, slightly bitter orange marmalade. So much so that I would argue that a Beefeater 24 Negroni is best enjoyed naked; that is, without garnish.

Over Ice
I’ve always thought that Beefeater 24 is a rather sippable gin and when served over ice it becomes even more refreshing. Served with a wedge of orange or lemon (or even both, what I like to call the “U.D.” serve), it’s rather continental and sophisticated. Superb; if you think “You can’t sip gin neat!”, try this.

1 Beefeater 24 2014 GinTea

Gin & Tea
A great drink, the trick to perfecting it is to use fresh ice tea (to find out how to do this check out our guide here) and make sure the tea is not stewed. The result will then be complex and light with small hint of tanin, tartness from the lemon which adds freshness and sugar to balance. The gin provides a subtle but provocative base and is in harmony with the other ingredients.

In Conclusion

It was great to revisit Beefeater 24 and formally review it and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it and I have certainly found a new appreciation for it. The Gin & Tea was superb as was the gin served simply over ice.

Afternoon Tea Cocktails with Courvoisier VS Cognac

This week is National Afternoon Tea week and as such Courvoisier Cognac have come up with a suitable cocktail inspired by the British institution of Afternoon Tea or Tiffin. This in turn has encouraged me to come up with some of my own inventions. I gave myself three
criteria:

1) Use Tea in each drink
2) The cocktails are for the afternoon so they need to be light and not too alcoholic
3) Use Courvoisier VS in the drinks, as they were kind enough to send me a bottle for experimentation.

Here were the results:

1 Courvoisier Cranberry Cup Final

Courvoisier Cranberry Cup
Recipe: Brew one serve of fruits of the forest herbal tea, and chill, mix with 50ml Courvoisier VS, top with 50ml Cranberry Juice, serve
in a cup and saucer

A rich and very very fruity and jammy drink with a little warm complexity from the cognac. The intense and complex fruit aroma and flavours would make it a fun match for a classic scone smothered in jam and cream and perhaps the odd cucumber sandwich too!

1 Josephines Tea Final

Josephine’s Tea
Recipe: 25ml Courvoisier VS, 100ml Chilled Chamomile Tea, 10ml Lemon Juice, 10ml Triple Sec
Named after Napoleon’s wife Josephine, it is a variation on a Collins.
There is a nice tartness from the lemon followed by a mellow sweetness from the triple sec, chamomile and cognac. The complexity of the Courvoisier and the complex floral notes of the chamomile pair well together to make and invigorating, long afternoon drink.

1 Green Napoleon Final

Green Napoleon
Recipe: 25ml Courvoisier VS, 75ml Green Tea, 2 squeezed lime wedges, 10ml Sugar Syrup – Fresh Mint
Method: Add the cognac, mint leaves, lime into a glass and stir, add green tea and fill with crushed ice. Garnish with mint springs.

Similar to a very light Mojito which is lengthened with the green tea, given the lower ABV it is good to use the bolder flavours of a cognac rather than a light rum. The leafy elements of the green tea work well with the crisp mint with the lime adding a refreshing tang. A complex drink but one that is not too intense for the afternoon. Key Lime Pie anyone?

1 Earl of Cognac Final

Earl of Cognac
Recipe: 25ml Courvoisier Cognac, 1 Earl Grey teabag, 75ml Soda Water, 2 Orange wedges
Method: In a large wine or gin tonic glass add the cognac an Earl Grey tea bag and allow to infuse for 2 minutes. Remove tea bag, fill glass with ice and add soda water before garnishing.

A really easy cocktail to make but one with plenty of flavour, I was inspired by the Spanish Gin Tonica but I use sparkling water in a nod to the idea of lengthening cognac to bring it back down to wine-strength. A clean and very refreshing drink with a little wood warmth from the cognac and floral complexity from the tea, as well as a light touch of tanin. The orange works well with the Earl Grey’s bergamot and adds an extra zest.

1 Ginger Zinger Final

Ginger Zinger
Recipe: 25ml Courvoissier VS, 10ml Red vermouth, 75ml Ginger Tea
A herbal and complex drink with the warmth of the ginger being a natural match to the cognac and the herbal red vermouth working well with the ginger root and other spices of the teas. A little more intense than the other drink but sometimes you do need a little extra umph!

Making Ice Tea

For those who prefer a non-alcoholic tea drink, I shall share my simple method to make ice tea.

Making Ice Tea

1) Fill a large heat-proof jug with 500ml boiling water – add your tea bag of choice (I like Earl Grey)
2) Allow the tea bag to infuse for 4-5 minutes then remove
3) Add ice, wait for 3 minutes
4) When cold, pour ice tea into a glass and sweeten / add citrus to tatse (I personally don’t add any sugar)

Courvoisier VS is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange as well as supermarkets and liquor stores worldwide.