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.

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… Liverpool Organic Gin

I have been waiting, since the start of the renaissance of Craft Distilling in the UK, for more and more cities to have their own regional distilleries. As such, it was great to hear more recently about Liverpool Gin, which launched at the end of 2013, and to have a chance to meet founder John O’Dowd at the Guild Ginposium in June.

Liverpool Organic Gin is made at the Liverpool Organic Brewery near Bootle toward the north of the city. It is bottled at 42% ABV and exclusively uses organic base spirit and botanicals.

Liverpool Gin Bottle FINAL

On its own
Nose: Intriguing and engaging, with lots of bright, floral citrus from the combination of peel and coriander, followed by dry, leafy herbs and a touch of savoury.
Taste: Slightly malty citrus, which reminds me of homemade lemon shortbread, then there is a hint of milk and a touch of coconut. After this, the profile becomes dryer, with a herbal leafiness and the floral notes of angelica, before then a touch of fresh, sappy juniper.

Gin & Tonic
This has a light louche and a whole lot of citrus, which literally bursts forth from the drink, making it very lively, indeed. Accompanying this is a slight lemon maltiness or biscuit-like flavour, which reminds me of lemon shortbread. This is a great thirst quencher, even without a garnish, and I look forward to see how different garnishes work in it.

Martini
A drink that has the clarity and purity of a vodka Martini, but the complex flavour of a gin one. There are some lovely bright and juicy citrus elements that shine through, as well as a little biscuity spice and floral coriander before a long, dry, slightly perfumed finish.

Liverpool Gin Tonica

Gin Tonica with Watermelon
Fantastico! This is a drink that truly engulfs the senses, being visually attractive, with an engaging aroma and delightful taste. The watermelon adds a beautiful freshness to the drink and the watermelon complements it in a way that no other garnish could – simply inspired.

NEGRONIS

After speaking to John and discussing his fondness for the Negroni, I decided to try out a few different methods of mixing this particular cocktail.

Classic Negroni
This is a full-textured Negroni that really fills your mouth with a luscious texture. The citrus and floral coriander came through strongly, and the gin certainly holds its own against the strong flavours of the Campari and vermouth.

Frozen Negroni
Pre-bottling and chilling a Negroni in the freezer results in a thick and viscous drink. The lower temperature helps to compensate for the lack of dilution by take the edge of the alcohol. This version is full of bold flavours, with all of the ingredients coming through well. There is a good amount of floral citrus from the gin, followed by a dry bitterness.

Shaken Negroni
The shaking airates the drink, filling it with tiny air bubbles that make it appear cloudy; this also gives the drink a lighter, almost “fluffy” texture. With some gins, I think that shaking a Negroni would throw-off the balance of flavours, but with Liverpool Organic it works quite well. As a point of difference, I’d serve this in a cocktail glass without ice, rather than a tumbler

Stirred Negroni
Well-stirred, this drink is exceptionally cold and smooth, and just seems more “streamlined” than the shaken version. Rich and luscious, it slides down easily and is altogether rather morish. For my money, I’d choose stirring over shaking 4 times out of 5.

In Conclusion
Liverpool Gin has bold and well-defined flavours and will appeal to gin fans, especially those who enjoy a fair bit of citrus freshness. The strong botanical flavours make it perfect for mixing in a variety of drinks, but the ABV of 42% means that it is still quite accessible for sipping neat.

My favourite drink was the Gin Tonica with the watermelon and my favourite Negroni was the Classic, followed by the Stirred.

 

Cocktails with… Geranium Gin 55% ABV.

Geranium55Title

On Wednesday, I was a part of a slightly unconventional launch of a new gin. Not only did it take place in a pub in Guildford, but it was attended by folks who had just spent the day judging spirits.

The spirit in question was Henrik Hammer’s Geranium 55. Bottled at 55% ABV, this is a stronger version of his classic Geranium Gin (44.0% ABV). The desire for a stronger gin came about when Henrik was looking for a version that could really stand up well to heavy mixing, whether this be in a wetter Martini or longer drinks. As an additional point to note, Henrik’s home in Denmark is at 55 degrees latitude.

Geranium 55 uses the same 10 botanicals as the classic version, however it is made using 20% less geranium to stop it from becoming too perfumed at the higher alcoholic strength.

Geranium55

On its own
Nose: Fresh and fragrant, with punchy juniper followed by aromatic coriander, fruity citrus, and the sweet, jammy, floral notes of geranium.
Taste: The spirit fills the mouth with a rich texture and is surprisingly smooth given the ABV. Juniper and pine come through strongly, along with a little spice early on. This is followed by notes of citrus and coriander. Finally, there is a rich, succulent fruitiness and jammy notes of geranium.

Gin & Tonic
Fan-dabby-dosy! This drink is superb: jammy, with a faint hint of turkish delight, and bursting with luscious, juicy, floral notes. With a long, clean, and dry finish, this is nigh-on perfection!

Martini
A strong and powerful Martini with punchy, piney juniper, dry angelica and citrus, as well as a subtle, jammy geranium note. There’s also a delightful freshness on the finish..

Negroni
Just superb: the complexity of the gin stands up well to the bold flavours of the vermouth and Campari. It’s a potent drink, but with a delightful freshness, making it the perfect pre-dinner cocktail.

Cocktails with Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin

I recently reviewed the British Chilgrove Gin which was the first in the UK to be distilled using Grape Neutral Spirit so it was great to try a comparative product from California.

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin is distilled at the Raff Distillerie on Treasure Island, San Francisco, California. they also make an Absinthe (also base of grape spirit), and are working on a Rum Agricole and a Bourbon.

http://www.raffdistillerie.com/gin.html

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin – http://www.raffdistillerie.com/gin.html

The gin is named after two dogs that roamed the streets of San Francisco in the mid 19th century. The grape neutral spirit is sourced from 100% Californian grapes and this is then re-distilled with a selection of botanicals including:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Lemon
Orange
Orris
Cinnamon
Liquorice

The Taste

Own
nose: very very fruity; the base spirit is quite evident on the nose with orange and some broader chocolate notes as well as fennel and a touch of dry juniper.
taste: a very smooth texture, as you may expect from a grape spirit base. There is a rich plump fruitiness with coriander, orange and grapefruit citrus. A touch of coconut and a hint of pine precede a long dry fruity finish with a pleasant warmth.

Gin & Tonic
A very fruity gin and tonic full of plump grapes as well as crisp green apple and pear notes and a little sweetness – the drink is reminiscent of apple jelly or jam. For a garnish I think the crispness of lime contrasts well with the more confectionery elements of the gin.

Martini
As a diamond-method Martini I think this really works, lots of the pear and apple fruity notes come through as well as some sweetness followed by plump, luscious grape flavours. There is bright juniper, coriander, citrus and spice. A very clean and silky Martini with both the flavour and texture of the base spirit coming through.

Negroni
Very fruity with a smooth succulence courtesy of the grape spirit there are hints of pear and almond too, slightly reminiscent of a bakewell tart. After these flavours, the herbal elements of the vermouth become more pronounced followed by the herbal bitterness of the Campari. A full-bodied drink, with bitterness. Overall it is quite well-rounded.

 

Cocktails with Sun Liquor Gins – from Seattle, USA

Hedgetrimmer GIn Title

Seattle is a hotbed of distilling at the moment, with gin-making distilleries scattered throughout. One that was a mere stone’s throw from our hotel was Sun Liquor (another being Copperworks). Sun Liquor has a bar attached to their distillery, where they currently make two gins, a vodka, and two rums.

Today’s focus is on the unusually named Hedgetrimer Gin. Why Hedgetrimer? My understanding is that the flavours of the gin somewhat evoke the scents and flavours of a hedgerow, with its mix of leafy green herbal and rich fruit notes.

The gin is bottled at 42.0% ABV and is made using a mix of 9 botanicals. The base spirit is in-house using unmalted (non-GMO) organic wheat. The spirit is twice distilled in Scottish copper pot stills and, after the initial distillation, the botanicals are rested for 24 hours.

The nine botanicals include:
Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Fresh lemon peel
Fresh orange peel
Grains of Paradise
Sarsaparilla root
Cannonball watermelons rind

On its own
Nose: Soft pine juniper, a little saltiness and other savoury, herbal notes such as black pepper. Then coriander and fresh citrus.
Taste: Plenty of coriander followed by angelica, pine and citrus. This has a smooth, creamy texture, with warmth towards the end. A pretty classic gin with good balance.

Gin & Tonic
The Hedgetrimer Gin & Tonic is, as you might imagine from the name, piney and zesty. It’s quite a classic style, with a good amount of dryness, but refreshing, too, and the gin stands up well to the tonic. Lemon would be my garnish of choice.

Martini
A smooth Martini, with lots of juniper. This is a really good example of a dry Martini with lots of flavour; after the dry juniper and pine, there is a little citrus and spice.

Negroni
A simple and straightforward Negroni, but one that ticks all of the boxes. Smooth, with a bitter-sweet finish.

GunClub Gin Title

The gin is bottled at 50.0% ABV and is made using a mix of 13 botanicals. The base spirit is made in-house using unmalted (non-GMO) organic wheat. The spirit is twice distilled in Scottish copper pot stills and, after the initial distillation, the botanicals are rested for 48 hours.

Botanicals include:

Juniper Berries
Coriander Seed
Angelica Root
Fresh Orange Peel
Orris Root
Cassia Bark
Birch Leaves
Fresh organic Cranberries

Gun Club Gin Bottle

 

On its own
Nose: A crisp nose of juniper and lime.
Taste: Bold in flavour and with little burn, this has notes of angelica and juniper, followed by sweet spice, such as cassia, and then some floral notes: violet and hibiscus. The dry finish is of coriander and bright and zesty citrus.

Gin & Tonic
Bold flavours, with plenty of spice, especially cassia and cardamom. This is followed by dry, citrus and juniper, plus softer angelica notes. Definitely a punchy, quaffable, and delicious drink!

Martini
Superb – everything I look for in a Martini: powerful and chilling, and a cocktail that that really wakes you up. There’s a symphony of botanical flavours with a good juniper solo, a citrus and herbal chorus, and a finish that lasts, just like a great tune that’s stuck in your head. Excellent.

Negroni
A very solid Negroni, although maybe a little sweeter, spicier, and creamier than many others. There’s a good bitterness on the finish, making this a first-class Negroni with flair.

Cocktails with… Chilgrove Dry Gin

Having recently returned from Seattle, where I spoke on the use of different base spirits in gin production, it was fitting that the first
gin that I tried back home had an interesting base. In fact, it is the first British-distilled gin to use grape spirit as its base.

Chilgrove Gin bottle final

Bottled at 44.0% ABV, Chilgrove Dry Gin is a London dry Gin made at Thames Distillers and uses a mix of 11 botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander Seed
Angelica Root
Sweet Orange
Bitter Orange
Orris Root
Liquorice Root
Grains of Paradise
Lime
Savory
Wild Water Mint

On its own

Nose: Ripe, fruity and floral. The luscious elements of the grape come through, along with a little sweetness and warm spice.

Taste: A very clean and smooth spirit; the different character that the base provides is evident from the outset. Notes of juniper, angelica and coriander come through, with bright citrus and then some mint and menthol notes on the finish, both from the Grains of Paradise and the water mint. There’s a long and lingering finish of mint and pine. This is a complex gin and a good example of harmony and distinctive botanical flavours. Excellent.

Gin & Tonic

Pure and clean, with the flavours of the gin coming through and the citrus peels, especially lime, adding to the drink, making it cooling and crisp. This is a great example of why the Gin & Tonic is such a popular drink – delightful.

Martini

A smooth and rich Martini that’s rather plump thanks to the grape base. It’s easy to drink and works well with a bit more vermouth (medium to medium-dry). A good appetite-raiser.

Negroni

This is a clean Negroni that allows the Campari the finish say with a clean-cutting finish and the mint and Grains of Paradise mingling in a menthol pepperiness to these flavours. It is smooth, succulent, moreish and one a Negroni fan would crave for. Garnish with a twist of pink grapefruit peel.

French ’75

Excellent flavour with a spicy pepper note, and menthol towards the end. There are also strong notes of juniper and lively lime, which complement the bitters and lemon juice well. A truly celebratory drink!

In Conclusion

Chilgrove Gin is a great example of how the base spirit of a gin can make a big impact to the final flavour and an exemplary use of grape spirit. Beyond this, it’s a great gin, the botanical flavours are well-defined and can be easily picked out, whether you are sipping the spirit neat, on the rocks, or even in a Martini. In addition, it mixes well in a variety of cocktails; my favourite drink was the Negroni, although it also has great potential as the base for a Fruit Cup.