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
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.
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 Royale – 25ml 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.
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 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..