Heston’s Fruit Cup – from Waitrose

*Important Note – Heston’s Fruit Cup from Waitrose is currently £16 for 70cl instead of the usual £21.35 *

2014 looks to be another boom year for the fruit cup, with Bloom’s Strawberry Cup (to be reviewed later today) following on from the success of their sloe gin and the recent release of Heston for Waitrose’s Fruit Cup, released exclusively for Waitrose, as well as others in the pipeline.

2014 looks to be another boom year for the fruit cup, with many new releases in the pipeline. In particular, we have Bloom’s Strawberry Cup, which follows on from the success of their Sloe Gin, and Heston Blumenthal’s Fruit Cup, which has been released today, exclusively for Waitrose. The latter is what we’re looking at today.

Heston fruit Cup Bottle Waitrose

The Fruit Cup is based on Heston’s Earl Grey & Lemon Gin, which received mixed reviews (you can read our review here). The gin is blended with a mixture of elderflower, blackcurrant, and raspberry liqueurs, before being infused with eight additional botanicals.

The cup is made using an apple spirit base and is bottled at 20% ABV, which is equivalent to Pimm’s, but lower than the likes of Plymouth Fruit Cup or Sipsmith’s Summer Cup.

The recipe on the back of the bottle calls for crushed raspberries, freshly-peeled ginger, and fresh rosemary, which I thought was a bit ostentatious. As the cup already contains a raspberry liqueur and I’m using a good quality ginger ale (FeverTree), I decided to just go with the lime and rosemary.

With Ginger Ale, Rosemary & Lime (2:1 mix [Cup:Mixer])
First off, the fresh rosemary provides a great visual contrast to the vibrant red of the cup and, as you go to sip, you’re immediately hit with the herbal aroma of the rosemary and the fruity botanicals of the cup. On the taste, it’s clean, crisp, and very refreshing. The citrusy elements of the Earl Grey work well with the lime, and the botanical intensity of the gin is relatively underplayed, as is the sweetness of the liqueurs. The use of ginger ale adds a slight warmth to the drink. Overall, this is a refreshing, well-balanced drink that is not too sweet.

Heston Fruit Cup Ginger Rosemary

After some conversation with a colleague, I was persuaded to try the full, recommended garnish, as outlined above. Luckily, the raspberries were on offer and fresh ginger is never too expensive. I was rather pleased with the results: the raspberries, especially if you give them a bit of a muddle with your straw, add an additional, berry-tartness, which I’m sure will appeal to many, and the fresh ginger does add that extra zing, despite the fieriness already present thanks to the FeverTree Ginger Ale.

These additional ingredients do significantly add to the ultimate cost of the drink, but, if you fancy the raspberries for pudding (or are simply looking to impress), then I’d say give it a shot.

With Lemonade, Strawberries & Mint (3:1 mix)
This is a slightly lighter alternative, at approximately 5.0% ABV. Once again, with these relatively simple ingredients, you get a drink that has immediate visual appeal. Being a gradual convert to the use of strawberries in fruit cups, Heston’s is an example where it works rather well. They work really well with the elderflower liqueur, which shines through, and gives the impression of a slightly alcoholic strawberry lemonade, which is delightful. The fresh mint adds crisp aromatics and flavour that stops the drink from becoming too sickly.

Heston Fruit Cup Lemonade Strawberry Mint

With Tonic Water (2:1 mix)
For those that like the bitter twang of quinine and a dryer mixed fruit cup, this is one worth trying. The berry liqueurs stand up to the dryness of the quinine well and, along with the botanicals, create a drink that is dry, yet fruity.

With Bitter Lemon (2:1 mix)
The bitter lemon overpowers the cup in this drink, so you can’t fully appreciate the subtleties of flavour. Having said this, it’s still quite suppable.

With Iced Tea (2:1 mix)
This is a good alternative for those who prefer un-carbonated drinks. Using a simple iced tea made from English Breakfast, the result when mixed with the fruit cup is a combination of a fruit tea and a more fragrant blend. For the optimum, I would suggest using Earl Grey tea, with the bergamot tea working well with the flavour of the gin and providing a flourish of floral citrus.

In Conclusion
I think Heston’s Fruit Cup is a welcome addition to the category, not least because it is one of the first fruit cups to use a non-grain spirit as its base; the use of apple spirit adds to the fruity liveliness of its drinks. On the downside, the cup lacks the boldness to stand up well to heavy mixing – anything beyond a 1:3 ratio and the flavour is lost, with a 1:2 ratio being optimum.

Cocktails with The new Pimm’s – Blackberry & Elderflower

Hot on the trails of two new releases from their established gin brands, with the resurrection of Tanqueray Malacca and innovation of Gordon’s Crisp Cucumber, Diageo have breathed new life into another one of their classic brands: Blackberry & Elderflower Pimm’s.

PimmsBlackberryandElderflowerBottle

This is based on Pimm’s No:6 Vodka Cup with additional flavours of blackberry and elderflower. These flavours make it somewhat reminiscent of the limited edition Chase Fruit Cup, released last year.

Pimm’s is well-known for having a history of a variety of products made with different bases (No.’s 1 to 6), but innovation with additional flavours is somewhat new. That said, although Winter Pimm’s, like Pimm’s No. 3, is brandy-based, it also has additional orange and spice.

Enough of the chat, let’s get on with the taste!

Pimm’s Special Blackberry & Elderflower Edition is bottled at 20% ABV (lower than the 25%ABV of the No:1 and No:6 cups) and its suggested serve is with lemonade and a garnish of blackberries. Although almost nobody drinks Pimm’s on its own, I thought it might be useful for reference to see what characteristics it has on its own, before trying it mixed. For all of the long mixed drinks, I used a three to one ratio.

The Taste

Own

Nose: A deep red-purple in colour, there’s a nose of blackberry, orange and other citrus, some spice and some sweet elderflower. Almost reminiscent of Refreshers sweets.

Taste: The blackberry continues on the taste. I feared it would be too sweet, but it’s not. Again, the citrus and spice are both there, there’s a slightly confectionery quality to it, too. And although it’s blackberry, it isn’t too tart.

PimmsElderflowerBlackberrywithLemonade

With Lemonade – the suggested serve

I am using Waitrose Essential Lemonade, which is one of my favourites. In addition to the suggested garnish of blackberry, I used some lemon peel, which adds some citrus notes and also adds to the contrast of colours in the glass. Ah, it’s lovely! Almost like an alcoholic blackcurrant and lemonade, plus a little elderflower. I find that mashing up the blackberries with a straw makes the drink a little tart, which I enjoy. I can see why this is the recommended serve, although I like my little addition of the lemon. In short, immensely quaffable.

With Tonic

I always include this in fruit cup reviews as this is one watch-loving reader’s mixer of choice (he knows who he is). It works quite nicely; although, as the flavour of the Pimm’s is a bit more delicate than usual, Schweppes tonic overpowers it slightly. As such, I think the use of Fevertree or Q would improve it. You get a little build in flavour of tart blackberry towards the end, although the elderflower is nearly all lost.

With Ginger Ale

Blackberry & ginger seems to be one of those natural partnerships, so I have high hopes for this drink. And I was right! It works really nicely: juicy and jammy, with a sweet, floral elderflower lift, followed by the bite of the ginger. Easy to drink and very refreshing. For some extra tartness, I

suggest muddling the blackberry slightly in the bottom of the glass with a straw, which really sets the drink off nicely.

(Accidental) Negroni

This drink works particularly well with intense, herbal fruit cups; especially the excellent Sipsmith Summer Cup. As such, I’m not sure how well it will work with this more delicate variation. However, in the interests of science, I thought I’d give it a go! Plus, a blackberry-garnished Negroni seemed rather an attractive proposition. In my haste to write this article, I actually substituted the Campari in the drink with the Pimm’s, rather than the red vermouth, as I had intended. However, the result was serendipitously lovely, with the gin and red vermouth providing a neat background on which the lighter flavours of the fruit cup sit. An appetite-raising cocktail and perfect for an aperitif.

Negroni II

This is the drink as I had intended, with Campari and no red vermouth.

The drink is good, as suspected the Campari is very powerful, although the fruit cup adds some sweeter and floral notes to the drink, which – as I appear to be losing my sweet-tooth – appeals to me less than it might have done a couple of years ago. Having said that, I’m sure some people will really like it. Once again, this makes a nice aperitif, vastly improved with a squeeze of fresh citrus.

PimmsBlackberryElderflower

With Bitter Lemon

What I really like about this drink initially is the colour: it’s a louched pink-purple, which is neatly offset by the darkness of the blackberry garnish. Bitter lemon is often an under-utilised mixer, but I think that it works sublimely here: the citrus offsets any sweetness from the elderflower and the

blackberry adds a good, jammy note. Fans of the Long Peddlar (sloe gin & bitter lemon) are sure to be fans of this. My favourite drink so far.

With Ginger Beer

I used Old Jamaica Ginger Beer, which came out well in our 27 Ginger Beer Tasting. However, in this mix, for me, the combined sweetness of the ginger beer and the fruit cup just don’t work well together. The elderflower is lost completely, although there is a pleasant, jammy flavour that appears towards the end.

In Conclusion

It’s great to see the fruit cup category expanding with Blackberry & Elderflower. The elderflower certainly adds a spring or early summer-like feel to the drink, whilst the blackberry contributes a late-summer/autumnal aspect. For those looking for a pleasant afternoon summer’s drink for garden parties and wedding receptions, this will do wonderfully. If, however, you’re looking for a more intense, herbal kick, I suggest you stick to the original Pimm’s or add a dash of red vermouth – maybe even a splash of gin! – to this fruit cup. I really enjoyed the accidental Negroni, although, of the longer drinks, I would recommend either the bitter lemon or sparkling lemonade.

I like the idea of the blackberry garnish, but – alas! – as these are currently out of season in the UK, mine came from Guatemala; but, when my blackberry bush is full of fruit, some freshly-picked berries will be absolutely great in a drink like this.

Pimm’s Blackberry & Elderflower is available for around £16 for 70cl from Waitrose and Sainsburys.

I’m also intrigued as to how this will work in Whisky drinks – such as variation on the Canadian Blackberry Fix.

The NEW Chase Summer Fruit Cup (Vodka-based)

Last year, I sought out the Chase Summer Fruit Punch (Fruit Cup), which was made exclusively for Bistro du Van in Soho. I thought that the product had a lot of potential, so I was intrigued to see what this year would bring from Chase.

The answer? Chase Summer Fruit Cup. Master of Malt’s recent offering also uses the term “Summer Fruit Cup”, whilst Plymouth and Sipsmith use “Summer Cup” and Stone’s, “Fruit Cup”.

Unlike their 2011 variety, Chase Summer Fruit Cup is bottled at 20%ABV (rather than 40%ABV), but it continues to be based on vodka. Vodka-based Fruit Cups are not unheard of: Pimm’s have made a vodka-based No:6 cup since the 1960s and some other brands have also created vodka fruit cups at one time or another. That said, it is still a more unusual choice of spirit.

The Taste

All drinks were mixed one part Chase Summer Fruit Cup, three parts mixer.

with Lemonade
This has a very clean taste of lemon to start, with fewer deep, herbal notes and less bitterness than most gin-based fruit cups. Notably, it has more flavour than the lighter Pimm’s No:6, with tart blackcurrant and lighter, leafy green, herbal notes. This makes this drink perfect for late summer, being both light and comforting (reminding me somewhat of the “children’s cocktails” I used to have as a child, which were generally some variation on blackcurrant cordial and lemonade, although this is obviously more complex than that!).

with Ginger Ale
This makes for a more subtle drink, with the blackcurrant being balanced out well by the ginger ale. I used Canada Dry and a surprising amount of the ginger comes through (if you want even more fire, then I would suggest using Fevertree, Q or Fentiman’s latest offering). Once again, this lends itself to the months of August and September, what with the slightly warmer and more comforting notes.

with Bitter Lemon
Excellent; the fruity, slightly tart berry flavours work well with the crisp bitter lemon (I used Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic) to make an exceptionally refreshing drink, that would work especially well on a baking hot summer’s day. Delicious! Those who find many fruit cups too sweet should definitely try this!

with Tonic Water
I know at least one reader (he knows who he is) who prefers his fruit cup with tonic, and it’s not a bad drink in general. With Chase Summer Fruit Cup, it makes for
quite a dry drink with a fruity flick at the beginning, followed by tart berries and leafy green herbs on the finish. Clean, crisp and cooling. I used standard Schweppes and I thought that it worked well; with something like Fevertree, or Thomas Henry, I think the result would be even better.

In terms of seasonality, I think using Sparkling Elderflower or Rhubarb Lemonade would give the drink a more springtime feel and it could easily lend itself well to that. The ginger ale gives it an autumnal feel and the combinations with bitter lemon and tonic make superb summer sippers.

Negroni
I’m also keen to try fruit cups in some different contexts and so I decided to use it in the place of vermouth in a Negroni.
This make a lighter Negroni; one that was less herbal and cleaner. The Campari plays a strong role, maybe being even more dominant than usual, but it should appeal to
those who are fans of this bitter Italian drink, especially as a pre-dinner cocktail for the summer.

In Conclusion

Having tried last season’s fruit cup, I think that this is most certainly an improvement: the flavour is more balanced and complex, and bottling it at 20%ABV rather than 40%ABV makes it more accessible and has resulted in a far more suppable vodka-based cup.

Chase Summer Fruit Cup is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Champagne Company.

Organic Fruit/Summer Cup Recipe

I recently had a request from a gentleman on Twitter asking me about the availability of organic fruit cup.

I knew that no commercial product currently existed, but I thought that it wouldn’t be too much trouble to mix one up myself, using organic gin and organic vermouth, but then I found out that no-one currently makes organic vermouth!*

Intrigued by this gap in the market, I set about making my own, using my previous experience from making red vermouth. Starting from scratch, I made a fruit cup mix** (organic flavour-infused aromatized wine) that I could then mix with organic Gin/Vodka/Whisky to make a fruit cup that could then be mixed with organic lemonade.


My Recipe:
One bottle of Organic Red Wine (Italian Terra Viva Merlot 2010 – £6.99 Waitrose)
Juice and peel of one organic lemon and organic orange
Peel of half an organic cucumber
One organic tea bag, infused in the wine for 15 mins (Organic Earl Grey – £1.29 Waitrose)
Four dessert spoonfuls of organic brown sugar (the darker the better)
One stick of organic cinnamon

Add everything to a Kilner Jar and leave to infuse for 24 hrs.
Give it a taste and, if you are happy with the flavour, strain and bottle the mix; if not, leave for a little longer.
Blend the mix in equal parts with your spirit, for example Juniper Green Organic Gin, and then sit down to enjoy a glass of your very own organic fruit cup.

Organic Fruit Cup as enjoyed at The Feathers Gin Bar, Woodstock



Taste
I mixed the fruit cup 1 part Fruit Cup to 3 parts Belvoir Organic Lemonade.

The main point of a Fruit Cup is that it is refreshing and cooling; this version certainly ticks that box. There are sweet and tart elements in the drink and it is also quite citrusy. It is very refreshing and not too sweet, part of the freshness of the drink comes from the distinct taste from the cucumber peel. Easy to drink and rather moreish.

In Conclusion
My first batch was something of a cross between sangria and fruit cup, but if I could find some  organic bitter herb (wormwood, gentian, etc.) to use, I think it would have an additional depth of flavour. Using a darker sugar for the mix, or perhaps a little treacle, would also improve the drink.

* Speaking to Ian Hart of Sacred, who makes some fantastic vermouths, (and gin & vodka) organic vermouth is a bit tricky to come by, but not impossible.
** It doesn’t contain wormwood and so it isn’t vermouth.

A New Fruit Cup in Town – Oxford Original

 

During the current spell of warm weather in the UK, which can only be described as “Scorchio”, one of the better ways to cool down is with an iced jug of fruit cup. We recently published an update on the new Sipsmith Summer Cup, but today’s subject is even newer, as it was only released in April 2012.

Oxford Original is a fruit cup made by Manchester Drinks, the same folks who make the Authentic Cocktail Company premixes, and is bottled at 15%ABV. It was designed to be a more economical alternative to the likes of Pimm’s.

We decided to try it with three different mixers. Each glass contained a wedge of lemon, a wedge of lime and a cucumber spiral. All were mixed at a 3:1 Mixer:Fruit Cup ratio.

Ginger Ale
This is quite a sweet mix with the berry notes, especially strawberry, of the fruit cup really coming through. As the drink has mulled with the fruit a little bit it becomes fresher and more succulent.

Lemonade
Not as sweet as the ginger ale, quite light and the cucumber compliments the drink well. Notes of strawberry, vanilla and berry. I find a squeeze of lemon makes the drink even more refreshing. This would be a good drink for those that find Pimm’s too bitter; if you prefer the a more fruit cup I’d suggest adding a splash of red vermouth.

Tonic Water
Dry and more bitter with the citrus notes of the fruit cup really coming through. This one of the better fruit cups to mix with tonic water.

In Conclusion
It’s always refreshing (no pun intended) to see a fruit cup with a slightly different flavour profile and Oxford Original is certainly less herbal and more fruity, in particular with more berry notes, such as red currant, raspberry and strawberry.

Cocktails with… Stroh Jagertee

Jagertee (“hunter’s tea”) is an Austrian drink made with inländer rum and tea, as well as a variety of other herbs, roots, spices and peels. Similarly to a Scottish toddy, it is often served hot with water as a winter warmer, although it also works well when partnered with warm apple juice.

Stroh Jagertee is bottled at two different strengths: 40% ABV and 60% ABV. As the flavours are heavily concentrated, it is typical to dilute the spirit. As I’ve mentioned, hot water is often used in the cooler months, with a typical ratio being 1 part Jagertee to 3 parts water; but what about drinking Jagertee in the summer as a cool beverage?

This was the question posed to me by one of the agents that represent Stroh in Britain. When the product was being described to me, its similarity to fruit cup was immediately apparent and, as such, some experimentation soon took place. But what were the best mixers to use to turn Jagertee from a Winter Warmer into a Summer Cooler?

1) Tonic
A 2:1 ratio was way, way too strong, whereas a 4:1 or 5:1 was much better, making a refreshing drink with a dry finish. The syrupy Jagertee needs some fruit to freshen it up; this was improved by a slice of lemon.
A sweet, syrupy, herbal start, followed by the dryness of the tonic; well-balanced, but still quite flavourful. The lemon added some freshness to the finish, lifting it. Lots of ice essential to ensure that it has a crispness – warm, the initial sweetness would be too much, but ice-cold, it was delicious.
5/10

2) Water
With no extra sweetness, this worked very well and was crisp & very refreshing; using plenty of ice and chilled water is the key.
8/10

3)  Ginger Ale
For this drink, I used a 5:1 ratio. I liked how the ginger worked alongside the herbal notes of the spirit and how the cinnamon came through more strongly. There was quite a nice balance to this drink, which means that it works well with a variety of garnishes/fruits, or even no garnish.
8/10

4) Lemonade
This also worked well at a 5:1 ratio; it was still possible to taste the herbal elements, but they were not too overpowering and the lemonade didn’t make the drink too sweet. Once more, a bit of citrus fruit livens up the drink.
This makes a wonderfully cooling drink with ice and I found that a squeeze of the fresh lemon before adding it as a garnish really improved it. The Stroh comes through more in this drink, making it more crisp, light, fresh and refreshing. There was a touch of sherbet to it. This might also work well with a couple of slices of cucumber, making more of a fruit cup kind of drink.
7/10

5) Orange Gin
This was really quite floral, but was probably a bit too sickly for my liking. It reminded Mrs. B of Galliano and orange juice.
5/10

6) Cola
This had a sweet start that quickly faded into more complex, herbal, and medicinal notes, all followed by a slightly bitter finish. All of the flavours go together very well, resulting in a smooth drink, and the lemon stops it from becoming too sweet. This was very enjoyable to drink and would be particularly good in summer, making a more interesting cola drink, where the medicinal notes of the Coke are highlighted; more old-school! You could also easily drink quite a lot of it, but not by gulping it down, as there’s substantial flavour there – it had a good balance overall.
7/10

7) Cranberry Juice
This was an odd one and we were split as to whether we like it or not. The dry, tart cranberry juice contrasts with the sweeter Jagertee. I think this will appeal to some but not others.
5/10

8) Bitter Lemon
This was pretty good; the flavour of the Jagertee is prominent, but there was also some lively lemon and a dry, bitter finish from the mixer. This lengthens the Jagertee in a crisp, refreshing way.
8/10

9) Iced Tea
Quite pleasant, but maybe a touch on the sweet side; using a homemade version of iced tea with less sugar would be better. As long as the iced tea is not too sweet, this works wonders. Quite smooth, too.
7/10

10) Dr Pepper
Pretty tasty; reminded me of an alcoholic, slightly more herbal, root beer. Very easy to drink, there was no need for a garnish, just lots of ice.
7/10

In Conclusion

I set out researching the article with two question in mind:
1) Can you make a summery drink using Stroh Jagertee as a base?
2) What is the best and the simplest way to do this?

I was pleased that many of the mixers that I tried worked well with Stroh Jagertee. The issues that some of the drinks had, for example being too sweet, can easily be resolved by a dash of lemon or lime juice.

The best mixers were Lemonade, Bitter Lemon and Chilled Water.

Stroh Jagertee is available for around £19 for 50cl from TheDrinkShop.com

Chase Summer Fruit Punch (A Fruit Cup)

Since the hunt for Uganda Waragi, no spirit has alluded me more than the mysterious Chase Fruit Cup by William Chase. Last month saw the release of the excellent Sipsmith Summer Cup and so I was keen to see how the Chase one shaped up.

I was originally told about its existence and its exclusivity by a chap in a bar, but, at the same time, I was being told that it was exclusively for a particular client. After a series of false leads and disappointments, I received a tip-off yesterday as to where I could find some.

Luckily, I was in town that evening* and so yesterday we popped into Bistro du Vin, Dean St., Soho.

Chase’s Fruit Cup is vodka-based and is actually described as a “Summer Fruit Punch”. It was made exclusively for the Grand Opening of the Bistro in Soho, with the production run being limited to just 24 bottles. It is also unusual as it is bottled at 40%ABV; most Fruit Cups, including Pimm’s, are bottled between 20 and 25%ABV, with the premium likes of Plymouth and Sipsmith being bottled at 30% and 29% ABV, respectively. The colour of Chase Summer Punch is a rather vibrant deep crimson; a very berry-like shade.

It is bottled in their usual tall bottle, with their standard limited edition label (see Chase Smoked). Here is the text, in full, from the back of the label.

#1) Own
It is rare that people drink Fruit Cup on its own, but in order to get an idea of the spirit’s character, I thought I’d give it a bash.
Nose: Very strong; a fruity nose, with sharp berry notes such as sloe, damson and blackcurrant. There were also some bitter, leafy-green notes, like crushed mint.
Taste:Full of berry jamminess; sweet, but also quite tart. This does not feel like you are drinking a 40% spirit, but rather a 20% liqueur. As Chase suggests, this is unlike any other Fruit Cup and has some distinct Cassis-like qualities. Mrs B. also picked up a little salty savouriness too.
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#2) With Lemonade
The traditional mixer for a Fruit Cup, although not their serving suggestion. This drink had very strong, sharp, sweet berry notes and was also quite sweet and reminded me a lot of blackcurrant squash/cordial & lemonade or Cassis & soda water. The drink lacked any herbal complexity that you would expect from a Fruit Cup and, for me, was just too sweet. I think this is why lemonade is not the recommended serve.
.

#3) With Ginger Ale
This is the suggested serve for Chase Summer Fruit Punch and mine was garnished with lemon, blackberry and mint. This was much better than the lemonade and the sweetness was far more balanced. Once more, there was a disappointing lack of herbal notes, although the drink does have a lot more depth when mixed this way. With the strong berry flavours and the ginger, this started to have rather an autumnal feel, which I quite liked. If it had some more fiery ginger notes it would be even better.

#4) With Ginger Beer
Inspired by the desire to mix the Punch/Cup with some more fiery ginger flavours, I decided to try it with ginger beer. The stronger ginger was certainly an improvement, but the downside was that the ginger beer was quite sweet and so the drink became a bit sickly. The bartender suggested adding a little lime to balance it out and I think that would work well. Alternatively, using a less sweet ginger beer, such as Breckland Orchard or Luscombe Fiery, would work. Once again, the underlying sweetness of the Cup/Punch makes it harder to mix with.

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In Conclusion

I’m really glad that I got a chance to try Chase’s Summer Fruit Punch and it certainly fulfills the label’s promise to be “a unique Fruit Punch like no other you have ever tasted”, making it a welcome innovation to the market.I’d like to see it have wider distribution, but, for me, it needs to be less sweet. I think that the high levels of sugary sweetness would turn a lot of consumers and bartenders off.In addition, some more herbal notes would add some depth and sophistication to the flavour and I think these could be incorporated without the loss of the unique berry profile of the product.

Finally, the 40%ABV that the spirit is bottled at seems an odd choice and I would suggest reducing it to something like 30%. This is assuming that the reduction in proof would not seriously adversely effect the flavour and I don’t think it would. Although the drink doesn’t taste very alcoholic, a few glasses of this drunk in quick succession could really creep up on you. Also, a 40% spirit will need to have a higher price point than a 30% one, if only for the higher duty that would need to be paid, making the product less competitive.

2011 has been an exciting time for the world of Fruit Cups and hopefully 2012 will see a larger production run of Sipsmith Summer Cup and a further offer from Chase, too.

Thanks to Caroline, Laura, Nick and Rob for their help with this article.

* It was the New Sheridan Club Night and we received an excellent talk on Mother of Pearl.

Sipsmith Summer Cup – Updated for 2012

So it’s time for summer again and sadly the original bottles of Sipsmith Fruit Cup have long since ben consumed amongst the smiling face of refreshed drinkers.
But fear not!
Sipsmith’s Summer Cup offering for 2012 has arrived with some bright new packaging, wider availability and great quantities, if you missed out last time now is your chance.

The new Sipsmith Summer Cup packaging for 2012 – notice the rather attractive branded cap.

Despite the new packaging the contents is just as suppable, flavourful and refreshing as the first one with almost no discernible difference to the original bottling. If anything the 2012 balance is better and the drink even more refreshing.
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I met with Sam, last year, just after the release of Sipsmith Summer Cup, a cooling Fruit Cup from the Sipsmith Distillery.* A I mentioned in a previous post I have a great fondness for all sorts of fruit cups and so I was very excited to go to the Sipsmith Distillery and try the new product.

Sam and I with the original packaging for Sipsmith Summer cup. (notice Prudence, Sipsmith’s still in the background.)

I was met by Sam and we spoke a little about the origins of Sipsmith Summer Cup; Sam said that they have wanted to create a Fruit Cup for a while, because there was something about a Fruit Cup that was different to most other drinks. I agree; to me, Fruit Cups are a different animal; they lend themselves very well to social functions, they have less of an impact than many other spirits based-drinks, and are easy to drink without being a fast-track to drunkenness.

“We wanted to make something dry, fruity, complex and balanced,” said Sam; “The key word being balanced.”

Sipsmith Summer Cup is based on Sipsmith Gin** and is bottled at 29%ABV, which brings it in-line with the “Old Pimm’s bottlings” and the rare Plymouth Fruit Cup. To the gin, they add a variety of other fruits, herb and spices, including Earl Grey tea, fresh Lemon Verbena and macerated cucumber.

The Summer Cup bottle is taller and thinner than that of their gin and vodka, and Sam explained that this was to create a lighter, leaner image for the product, reflecting the spirit that was inside. The label is familiar, if slightly stylised, and the bottle still has the distinctive thick base of the other Sipsmith products.

Sipsmith & Lemonade

The Taste

Own
Slightly opaque, with a nose of citrus, cucumber rind and herbs (maybe rosemary).
It tastes of citrus and leafy herbs, and is dry, with a hint of bitterness. There’s definitely a lot of flavour and a long finish. There is some sweetness, which is of a similar style to that of red vermouth.

Sipsmith have designed their Summer Cup to be dryer than most and this is reflected in their choice of suggested mixer: Fevertree Lemonade; this is dryer and made with cane sugar, and so is less sweet than its contemporaries. Although Sipsmith suggest simply adding “Seasonal Summer Fruits” I added Lemon, Lime, Orange and Mint. A cucumber slice works well too.

With Lemonade
Dry, herbal & complex, with flavours of citrus and cucumber rind coming through. It works well with the fruit and, in particular, the mint. It’s less sweet and more dry than most Fruit Cups and is very refreshing.
Mrs. B described it as savoury and leafy, with a hint of basil. There are some subtle tannins from the tea (especially on the finish) and a hint of bergamot; this helps to keep the drink quite dry. She also thought that it was not sickly or cloying, making it easy to drink. We both really like it.

With Ginger Ale
This was a completely different animal to the lemonade version; this mixer brings out a completely different side to the drink. It is more herbal and intense, with bitter leafy notes at the end, as well as something like cucumber rind or borage leaves.
Mrs. B thought that the flavour had a longer finish than the lemonade and was more complex, too.
Ginger ale is a great way to enjoy a different side to the Sipsmith Cup and is one of the few fruit cups I have tried where it makes a really discernible difference.

With Ice Tea
Initially, I thought this would be a really good idea, with the two tea elements working well together. The result was interesting and pretty much tastes like it has no alcohol in it. It’s not as refreshing as I thought it might be. There is clash between the iced tea (we used Lipton Lemon) and the Sipsmith Summer Cup. It’s OK, but not great; although, on further reflection, it may be right up some people’s street, especially if they like very dry drinks. For us, we’d like it a bit sweeter.

Sipsmith Summer Royale25ml Sipsmith Summer cup, Top up with Champagne.
This was recommended to me by the Sipsmith Master Distiller. If you like ti a little sweeter add a small sugar cube.
I enjoyed this drink, it was dry an herbal and far more crisp and refreshing then many champagne cocktails, the lemon verbena comes through well give the drink a  floral citrus note a similar flavour comes from the Earl Grey too.

When tasting the product on it’s own, I did notice some similarities to a home-made red vermouth that I created for our Red Vermouth tasting, and this made me start to think about using the Fruit Cup as a substitute for vermouth. Sam seemed to be inspired by this idea when I mentioned it to him, and started searching for pen and paper so as not to forget it. Here are some of my experiments, once I got home:

Negroni - Equal parts Sipsmith Summer Cup, Sipsmith Gin and Campari
The nose was herbaceous, intense, and slightly bitter. It tasted soft, smooth and bitter-sweet; more floral and even more intense than a normal Negroni. There was also a little touch of cucumber and it was quite dry, with a good level of fresh bitterness. Mrs. B is not a Negroni fan, but she quite liked this and thought that it would make a “nice aperitif”.

Manhattan - 2 Parts Rye Whisky, 1 Part Sipsmith Summer Cup, Dash of Angostura – STIR
Rather soft and subtle, and quite tasty. Less herbal than the same cocktail made with standard vermouth. It was both sweet and bitter at the end.

The jury is out on whether this is our preference to using red vermouth – I think more experimentation is needed.

Martinez 2 Parts Sipsmith Gin, 1 Part Sipsmith Summer Cup, Dash of Angostura – STIR
Very smooth and quite soft, but still with a lot flavour. I think it works well and there are long, rich herbal notes on the finish. There’s a pleasant citrus crispness, making it a very clean drink. Pretty good.

The Current Sipsmith Range: Summer cup, Damson Vodka, Sloe Gin, Vodka and Gin.

In Conclusion

I think that Sipsmith Summer Cup is an excellent addition to the Fruit Cup world and, without a doubt, brings something new to the market. It’s over-riding strength (although it has others) is the fact that it is dryer and not too sweet. Hopefully this will open up the category to folks who don’t have a sweet tooth. I also think this Summer Cup has potential versatility as a cocktail ingredient; something that is not often seen in a Fruit Cup. I highly recommend it.

Sipsmith Summer Cup is available from The Whisky Exchange at £18.95 for 50cl.

A Bottle of the New Sipsmith summer Cup

*Sipsmith call their product, “Summer Cup”; Hayman’s called theirs, “Summer Mixer”; and I usually refer to them all as Fruit Cups – they are all interchangeable terms.

**A vodka version was tried, but the complex gin flavours won over the creamy barley notes of the vodka.
*** There are a few other companies that have made damson vodka for a little while, so it’s obviously a combination that works.
**** Sloe Gin is released a year after production: if it’s made from the 2010 harvest, then it will be released in 2011, etc..

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Recreating the Long Lost Pimm’s Cups – Scotch, Rum, Rye & Tequila.

To mark our Second birthday on Wednesday July 4th 2012 I shall be revealing details of Cups No: 8, 9, 10 and 11.

With a name like Summer Fruit Cup, it seems fitting that, on the site’s first birthday, we should be writing about this summer cooler. We have previously looked at garnishes, the different varieties available and even making your own, but, for many, Fruit Cup is synonymous with Pimm’s Cup.

The variety that is most popular today is the No.1 Cup, which is gin-based, but between 1851 and 1970 five additional varieties of Pimm’s were available, each with a different base alcohol.

No.1 – Gin
No.2 – Scotch Whisky
No.3 – Brandy
No.4 – Rum
No.5 – Rye Whiskey
No.6 – Vodka

L:R Gin, Scotch, Brandy, Rum, Rye Whisky, Vodka, Tequila

But with exception of No.6 (and a reformulated brandy version), these cups haven’t been available since 1970; some vintage bottles sell for upwards of £100. After some encouraging feedback on my Lemon & Orange Gin recreations from Erik & Brad, I decided to try my hand at making some recreations of these long lost cups, as a tribute to Pimm’s and the varieties that were once made.

I’ve had some experience making home-made fruit cup and so, armed with some vintage samples and following conversations with the Master Distiller of Plymouth Gin, I set to work.
My research had shown that Pimm’s (pre-1970) was 60 proof (31.53% ABV) this reduced to 55 proof (28.90% ABV) and, today, is only 25% ABV. I aimed to make my cups at 60 proof.

Once the cups had been created, using various herbs, spices and citrus fruits, they were ready to taste. I decided to try each fruit cup with standard lemonade (lemon-soda – R White’s is our favourite) and ginger ale. It is worth noting that, as the No.1 and No.6 cups are in their original formula, these were excluded from the tasting notes.*

No.2 – Scotch

This cup was unusual in the sense that I have actually tried the Original No.2 Pimm’s Cup and so could perform a comparative tasting and tweak the recipe accordingly. I used a blended scotch, White and Mackay, as my base; I thought that this was a pretty standard scotch (and I happened to have a bottle). If you used an Islay that was very peaty, for example, the result would be very different and the recipe would need to tweaked for sure.

Lemonade
Of all the fruit cups that we tried, this was the most similar to the No.1 Gin Cup; it had a very similar consistency and mouthfeel. The whisky certainly came through: woody and oaky, with a touch of smoke. There were some fruit and ginger notes and quite a long finish. It had a slight, sweet viscosity, but this didn’t upset the drink balance.

When fruit was added, it opened up the flavour a bit and made it more refreshing. Overall, this was a little warmer than the No.1 and may work well served hot.

Ginger Ale
Sweeter than the lemonade version, and the flavours of scotch are more subtle. With ice and fruit it was very refreshing but, for us, just a bit too sweet.

No.3 – Brandy

The jury is till out on whether or not Pimm’s Winter is the same as, or just similar to, the original Pimms No.3 Brandy Cup. The modern bottle does state that it now has added orange zest and spice, but, as almost all fruit cups are blended with spices and citrus, I’m not sure that means much. If I find out, I will let you know.

Lemonade
When mixed with lemonade, the brandy cup had flavours of dark sugar, brandy and sugar/brandy snaps, along with warmth from the brandy. The flavour of the spirit come through more than the others, and was somewhat reminiscent of fruit cake. The flavours seemed quite rounded and there was a long finish. It improved when the garnish was added.

Ginger Ale
Notes of brandy at the beginning were followed by some vanilla and ginger, making this combination rather wintery. This is less complex than the same cup mixed with lemonade and so is a little bit easier to drink.

No:4 – Rum

I also have a sample of the original Pimm’s No.4 Rum cup and it is evident that it is made using dark rum. Given my fondness for the “English-style” of rums – Lamb’s, Skipper and Goslings – that is the style of rum that I used. Like scotch, the type of rum you use would make a lot of difference to your resultant fruit cup.

Lemonade
Packed with flavour, the rum came through well. There was also a little sherbet, molasses, spice and citrus; it was rich and complex, and had a very long finish. We thought that this worked well with lots of ice, but maybe an alternative garnish needs to be found, as we prefered this version without one.

Ginger Ale
Dark sugar comes through again, along with a more bitter-herbal twang. Intense, complex and rather delicious, this had a flavour of a similar intensity to the lemonade, but the finish was much shorter.

All in all, we both preferred the rum cup with lemonade (just).

No.5 – Rye

Before being introduced in the UK, this was sold in Canada and, for that reason, it seemed logical to use Canadian Rye in the recreation.

Lemonade
Mrs B. found this fruity, refreshing and easy to drink. There was a sweetness of some sort of old-fashioned boiled sweet (but she couldn’t quite put her finger on which) and it had a long, growing flavour, like Pimm’s No.1.
Although I liked it and agreed that it was light and refreshing, moving towards the style of the old Stone’s Fruit Cup, after the full flavours of the others, this one, for me, was a little disappointing.

Ginger Ale
A bit syrupy with sweet ginger notes, but still quite nice. I preferred this to the lemonade, as it seemed to have more flavour, but it was still quite light, in a similar way to the No.6 Vodka Cup.

No.6 – Vodka

As this variety still exists, there was no recreation.

No.7 – Tequila

As with most of the fruit cups, a decision had to made about the base spirit for tequila: Blanco vs. Gold? I opted for Blanco, as I thought it would make a lighter product.

Lemonade
This had a strong nose of tequila, with lime and a little vanilla. We both found this somewhat of a departure from the usual Pimm’s flavours, but, regardless of this, a common thread still seemed to run between them all; this was certainly still a fruit cup.
The tequila flavour is prevalent, but not over-powering and this is very refreshing drink, with both sweet and savoury notes. We found that it improved with a fruit garnish, which took off any harsh edge that the alcohol had had. Unusual, but lovely.

Ginger Ale
Sweet ginger notes, akin to gingerbread. Tequila still prominent along with some citrus fruits. Full of flavour and a close contender to the lemonade version but it is the lemonade that just has the edge.

Unlike with lemonade, with ginger ale, we found that the fruit garnish (cucumber, at least) detracted from the drink a bit. Still, a pretty nice cooler.

In Conclusion

We were delighted at how well the different spirits worked and it’s certainly a shame that they were discontinued, but, with the resurgence of Fruit Cups (I know of two well-known gin distillers that have just created Fruit Cups; one for general sale and the other as an exclusive to a bar chain), maybe we’ll see some more experimentation.

My favourites were the Rum & the Tequila Cups.
Mrs B’s were the Rye & the Scotch.

The Future

I have some plans to look at other fruit cups in the future and I have already made a sample of a “No.8” cup; watch this space…

*For more details on these click here and here respectively.

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Fruit Cup Tasting – Beyond Pimm’s

Many readers will be familiar with the most popular brand of Fruit Cup, Pimm’s, but let me introduce you to its lesser-known competition. What is a Fruit Cup? It’s a spirit or fortified wine-based drink bottled at between 10% and 30%ABV it is infused with various herbs and spices and if often lengthened by adding lemonade, ginger ale or apple juice. A fruit garnish and plenty of ice is part of the typical serve.

With the sunny start of the Bank Holiday, we took the opportunity to take to the garden and taste a variety of fruit cups. We mixed 35ml of cup with 105ml of lemonade (our preference was R Whites), we added ice, and a garnish of lemon, orange, cucumber and mint. We assessed each drink in terms of the overall taste, how refreshing and how “moreish” (did you wish to drink more) it was.

Summer Fruit Cups: From Left to Right: Jeeves, Pimms, Plymouth, ASDA, Stones, Players, Austins, Pitchers.

Here are the results:

Player’s Original Punch21.5%ABV                                                   j  Produced by Lamb & Watt of Liverpool, Player’s may be a little trickier to come by, and appears to be mostly found in specialist off licences these days, but it is well worth the effort. Player’s sweet, fruity style is what one would typically expect from a good summer fruit cup. This summery drink is very refreshing and perfect to enjoy on a sunny day. If you are looking for a very traditional, yet refreshing, fruit cup flavour, this would be your best bet.

Player’s is now available from Asda at around £6 for 70cl

Austin’s – 21.9%ABV -                       Available from Aldi                               y Aldi’s offering has an attractive price tag. It has a similar flavour to Pimm’s and I know folks who use it as an affordable substitute. That said, it does not have a very strong flavour and when mixed with lemonade it struggles to add anything to the flavour of the mixer. With time, ice melt and the infusion of the garnish the flavour improves but it is not nearly as refreshing nor is it as moreish as some of the others we tried. A garnish is essential with this one.


Pimm’s No.1 Gin Cup – 25%ABV      Available in most supermarkets and off-licences   Owned by drink’s giant Diageo, Pimm’s is the oldest and the best known fruit cup. Although there are other varieties of Pimm’s (such as Vodka No.6), we tasted No.1 (gin based). The Pimm’s flavor was surprisingly not as strong as some of its contemporaries and was also quite sweet. The aftertaste of sherbet lemons was both unique and pleasant. A drink that was both refreshing and relatively moreish. This was Mrs B’s favourite before we started and, although we both enjoyed it, in comparison to the others it was rather middle-of-the-road.

Jeeves – 17.5%ABV - Available from Tesco           This drink clings to the mouth, it has a strong but unpleasant flavour, similar to bitter herbs which was somewhat reminiscent of old vermouth. This was neither refreshing nor moreish. Less than half the price of Pimm’s, but not even half as good. However, the drink did improve as the ice started to melt.

Fruit Cup, Lemonade and Garnish – Lovely

Plymouth Fruit Cup – 30%ABV            Available from Plymouth Gin Distillery and selected off-licences.                                                                                           A complex flavour of herbs and spices, which reminds me of Italian vermouth with a good balance of sweetness and bitterness. This cup has the highest alcoholic strength, which gives it a little more of a punch but it’s certainly not too much. With the exception of the Stones cup, this was the most unique with a flavour which is full, but not overpowering. Plymouth Fruit cup produces a cool and refreshing drink and certainly leaves you wanting more.

It also worth noting that Plymouth also suggest trying mixing their cup with ginger ale; we tried this later and were inclined to agree that it improved the drink further. Definitely one of our favourites.
I’m not sure how much more of Plymouth Fruit Cup Plymouth will be making, so if you want some, buy it when you see it.

ASDA Summer Fruit Cup - 15%ABV - Available from ASDA             This divided opinion (who would have thought a fruit cup could be controversial!), one of us enjoyed the low-key sweet fruitiness and more prevalent herbal notes, which are somewhat reminiscent of peppered celery; the other found the taste and smell overpowering, and the drink unrefreshing.

Stones Summer Cup – 13.5% ABV                                                                     This is produced by the makers of the famous Ginger Wine of the same name and is marketed as a light version of their ginger wine. This has a different flavour but it was a break-away that worked well, it stands away from the crowd and looks pretty good. The flavour has a little spice and a small hint of ginger: it is fresh and refreshing. The drink was complimented nicely by the garnish.

It is worth noting that Stone’s suggest mixing their drink one part of cup to four parts of lemonade. When we subsequently tried another drink, mixed to these proportions, the difference was a very pleasant surprise as the edge of the flavour was taken off and the drink became incredibly refreshing and easily the most drinkable. An excellent option, particularly if you are looking for an option which isn’t as strong as Pimm’s.
This Product is now, very sadly,  discontinued however I find a mix of 2 parts Stones Ginger Wine and One Part Red/Sweet Vermouth is a good substitute.
Pitchers – 25% ABV - Available from Sainsbury’s                                            Very close in terms of flavour, strength and even packaging to Pimm’s and priced at over £10 a bottle, this is the most expensive of the more generic varities we tried. However it is one of the better ones; although it clings a little to the mouth initially, the drink was refreshing with a balance of sweetness and spice that was, fortunately, not too sweet. This, made up in a jug, and shared with friends would be lovely…
Sipsmith Summer Cup – % ABV Available from Waitrose & Majestic                                            V
Oxford Originals – % ABV                                             V

In Conclusion

My favourite was Stones Fruit Cup (although the home-made substitute is easy to make and also pretty good) so now the clear winner is Plymouth followed by Players. Pimm’s clearly beats most of the supermarket own-brand and whilst Pitcher’s puts up a good fight at a price similar, or sometime above Pimm’s is worth switching?If you want a cheap alternative that is still pretty good I would suggest Austin’s or, even better, a home-made mix of ginger wine and red vermouth – I have used even the cheapest of ingredients; Ginger Wine £4 a litre, Bellino “Vermouth” £2.50 for 70cl that works out at just £3.83 a litre.

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*more varieties of Pimm’s used to be available (No2-5; Scotch, Brandy Rum & Rye, respectively) and we keen to experiment with Tequila, Bourbon, Cachaca, White rum etc. too. Pimm’s No7…?

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