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.
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.
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.
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.