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.
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#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.

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About DTS

partial to a martini? to a smoke-hazed gin joint & a perfect tipple poured with the style, swank & skill of a true aficionado? …then pull up your stool to the bar, prepare to stock up your cocktail cabinet & get ready to drink it all in as we introduce you to a stitch in times’ resident barman… David T. Smith is a drinks enthusiast currently residing in the U.K. a long-time fan of tasting & exploring various types of alcohol, he has a fascination for vintage spirits and cocktails, in particular their heritage & origins; this was strengthened last year when he presented a talk and accompanying monograph on the Martini. it was as a result of his research of this topic that he was introduced to drinks paraphernalia, & he is now the happy owner of a colourful collection of bottles, books, and gadgets from a wide range of eras… an avid believer in the validity and variety of personal opinion, particularly in the subjective area of tasting, he enjoys hosting tasting sessions for friends, constantly challenging them to find their own favourite tipple. in addition to all of this, he is also interested in economics, three-piece suits, board games & keeping alive the art of engaging in enjoyable conversation with a good glass of port whilst surrounded by pipe smoke… www.summerfruitcup.com Thanks to Analiebe for writing this rather flattering blurb for me.

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