Cocktails with… Noilly Prat Ambré Vermouth

When I was doing my research, little information was available online about Noilly Ambré*, but what most folks suggest is that it sits between Dry and Red Noilly Prat. As the firm don’t make a Bianco Vermouth, this somewhat fulfills this place. It contains some, but not all, of the herbs and spices in their red vermouth, as well as cardamon, chamomile, cinnamon, lavender and vanilla.

Produced since 1986 and known as “the baby”, Noilly Prat Ambré Vermouth is made, like the others in the range, in Marseillan, France using wines made from Picpoul de Pinet and Clairette grape varieties. I also have unconfirmed reports that it is designed to have a slight sherry-like oxidised quality. It is bottled at 16.0% ABV.

Own
Nose: Herbal notes, a hint of banana and some citrus, more orange and grapefruit than lemon. Oxidised biscuit quality too – like sherry.
Taste: Soft honey-like start, then some citrus and herbs, a hint of bitters, a burst of raisin sweetness, pinch of cinnamon and a dry biscuit finish.

On the Rocks
This is a lovely golden amber colour. It makes for a rich, honey-textured and flavoured drink reminiscent of a Sautern or Vin de Constance. There were some floral notes a touch of wormwood and angelica. I also caught a buttery biscuit note and hints of vanilla and cinnamon. I think is a fine aperitif and makes for a refreshing drink on its own.

Vodka Martini
[40ml Vodka, 10ml Noilly Ambré – SHAKE]
This was a really nice drink. In addition to the usual Martini crispness, there were some notes of anise and honey, making it almost, but not quite, like a Martini liqueur. I’d certainly be happy to have this instead of dry vermouth for a change. It had a very smooth finish and was a lovely amber colour.

Gin Martini
[40ml Dry Gin, 10ml Noilly Ambré – STIR]
Another pleasant drink there are the dry herbal notes you often get from the dry vermouth accompanied by some jammy/honey notes and a sweet spiciness. Rich and flavourful with a rustic edge too. It makes me fell like I’m drinking in the Golden Era for some reason.

Negroni
[20ml Gin, 20ml Noilly Ambré, 20ml Campari – STIR]
Lovely. This was rich, honeyed and smoother than a usual Negroni, although the Campari came through more, so the drink is also more bitter than some. It’s complex, but the vermouth comes through clearly, making this an unearthed gem of a cocktail.

Vesper
[30ml Gin, 10ml Vodka, 5ml Noilly Ambré – SHAKE]
This Vesper is the perfect colour: a golden yellow, and also has a slight, honey sweetness at the end. I think Noilly Ambré is stronger in terms of flavour than Lillet Blanc and adds a sweet, fruity lift at the end. I really do like this drink.

20th Century
A pleasant drink with a good sour-sweet balance. The Ambré added extra honeyed fruit elements, whilst adding a little less citrus than Lillet normally does. The Cacao is almost imperceivable, except at the very beginning and right at the end. This was a good use of Ambré.

Martini with Hendricks
[40ml Hendrick’s Gin, 10ml Noilly Ambré – STIR]
This came recommended, so I decided to give it a go. Beyond my notes on the Martini previously mentioned, I found that using Hendricks also brought out some distinctive notes of dark chocolate. The rose from the Ambré works well with the floral elements of the gin and the cucumber gave this Martini a refreshing lift. Complex and a little on the confectionery side, but very good.

Corpse Reviver II
[20ml Gin, 20ml Cointreau, 20ml Lillet Blanc, 20ml fresh lemon juice, 2 drops Pastis – SHAKE]
A very flavourful and rich drink. It’s crisp, too, with the Ambré adding a sweet, biscuit-y element, as well as some herbal and fruity notes. I found it to be more intense and heavier than a usual Corpse Reviver #2, but it was still good.

Manhattan made with Noilly Ambre and Bokers Bitters

Manhattan
[40ml Rye Whiskey, 10ml Noilly Prat Ambré – 1 Dash Boker’s Bitters – STIR]
This was another recommendation, this time from Jared Brown. I thought it was rather tasty, but dryer and a little spicier. This was be perfect for those that find normal Manhattans too rich or sweet (there are some), although it’s worth noting that choosing the right bitters is key here; I prefer Boker’s to Orange.

In Conclusion
If you can get hold of this vermouth (try the Whisky Exchange), I’d highly recommend it. It adds a new twist to many classic cocktails, as well as being enjoyable to drink on its own. My favourite cocktails were the Vesper and the Gin Martini.

Noilly Ambre is available for around £20 for 75cl at The Whisky Exchange

* This article by Jared brown was one of the most useful.

Special Thanks to Mr. Clayton Hartley and Alex from the Whisky Exchange for your help.

Raiders of the Lost Cocktail Cabinet IV – Boker’s Bitters

 

Boker’s Bitters was founded by John G. Boker in 1928. Boker’s was at the height of its popularity in the 19th Century’s Golden Age of cocktails, a time when experts such as Jerry Thomas & Harry Johnson were making cocktail history.In fact many cocktail books of the era specifically called for “Boker’s Bitters (Genuine Only)” so it must have been hailed a very special product. Unfortunately Boker’s, like many other Bitters companies, fell fowl of the Volstead Act and American Prohibition. The Boker’s company was closed by the end of the 1920s.

In cocktail books, ancient & modern there are recipes for Boker’s Bitters but, as far as I know, there is only one commercial product available today; this is produced by Modern BonVivant Adam Elmegirab.

#1 East India Cocktail

[1 tsp Curacao, 1 tsp Pineapple Syrup, 3 Dashes of Boker’s Bitters, 2 Dashes Maraschino, 1 Wineglass of Brandy STIR]
This recipe came top out of a four-way tasting of different East India recipes, the comparisons can be found here
, this drink is sweet and spicy with a complex finish, courtesy of the Boker’s. Crisp and rather wonderful.

The East India Cocktail

#2 Artillery
[30ml Dry Gin, 15ml Sweet Vermouth 2D Boker’s Bitters: STIR – Lemon Twist]
Similar to the Sweet Martini but he Boker’s adds an extra fragrant bitter twang. This has a good balance of sweetness and is great for raising the appetite. 

#3 Japanese
[30ml Brandy, 10ml Orgeat Syrup, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters: STIR]
Delicious, the orgeat sweetens up the brandy, Boker’s adds a level of complexity. Really excellent, top notch.

#4 Moonshine Cocktail
[35ml Dry Gin, 10ml Dry Vermouth, 5ml Marashino, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters: STIR]
Martini-like with  added sweetness from the Marashino; the Boker’s Bitter bring-out and compliment the herbal notes of the vermouth. Overall not a bad drink but not that great either, need a little something to make it stand out.

#5 Nineteen
[20ml Dry Gin, 20ml Dry vermouth, 20ml Kirsch, 1/4 Tsp Sugar, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters,1 Dash Pastis: STIR]
Quite a dry and complex cocktail, unlike many other cocktails around. All the flavours *Dry Gin, Dry Vermouth, Dry Kirsch) tie together well, this is an excellent drink.

#6 Submarine Cocktail
[30ml Dry Gin, 10ml Dry vermouth, 10ml Dubonet, 2 Dashes Boker’s Bitters: STIR]
Similar to the Moonshine Cocktail in many ways but, for me, the Dubonet dominates and any subtleties of flavour from the dry vermouth and the Boker’s Bitters are lost.

 

The Improved Cocktail

#7 Improved Cocktail
[50ml Brandy, 2 dashes Boker’s Bitters, 3 dashes Sugar Syrup, 2 dashes Maraschino, 1 dash Absinthe: STIR]
Although it’s possible to use brandy, whisk(E)y or genever I use Mashale, South African Brandy. I think this is a pretty good drink with a colonial feel, I used Butterfly Absinthe which comes through very subtly. The complex herbal elements of the bitters balance out the sweetness of the sugar and the maraschino, which makes the drink well-balanced.

In Conclusion
I realised how much difference Boker’s Bitters can make last year and it was great to try it out in a few more drinks. It’s now become one of the staple four in my cabinet (Angostura, Orange & Peychauds being the others) and given the fact that it was so popular in day gone by, it’s great that it has been bought back from the dead.
*D = dashes

The East India Cocktail II

The East India Cocktail II

A cocktail revisited

 

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has commented on The First Part of my article on the blog or in The New Sheridan Club newsletter; your encouragement is incredible.

Now, back to the East India Cocktail! I decided to try the cocktail with an olive garnish. Initially, it seems to make little difference to the cocktail, but as I drained the glass and bit into the flesh, a horrendous flavour overtook my mouth; I now know why it was not recommended.

The ominous East India Cocktail with olive garnish.

Following my previous research, I was of the impression that the Raspberry Syrup version of The East India Cocktail was a more recent variation, but whilst looking at O.H. Byron’s Modern Bartender’s Guide I found the following recipe, which shows that both the Pineapple and Raspberry Syrup versions have been around for over a century.

Since the last article, I have been lucky enough to get hold of a bottle of Boker’s Bitters, the vintage cocktail condiment that has recently been resurrected by Adam Elmegirab. As this was part of Johnsson’s original recipe, I thought it would be interesting to compare one made with Boker’s bitters with one made with Angostura. In the interests of completeness, I undertook a second comparison of the bitters using Byron’s recipe, containing Raspberry Syrup.

The East India Cocktail #2 – Stirred
1oz Sherry
1oz Dry Vermouth
1 dash Orange Bitters

Here is another recipe, this time from Old Mr. Boston. Unfortunately, I could find very little history on this one. I chose Lustau’s East India Solera as my sherry, for obvious reasons. This made a crisp drink that was a good contrast to the #1 cocktail. The combination of Sherry and French Vermouth has a similar taste to Italian Vermouth and, in a similar fashion, really stimulates the appetite. Before I mixed this I was dubious, but, once again, I found myself to be pleasantly surprised.

The East India Cocktail #2 with East India Solera Sherry

West India Cocktail – Stir
2oz Gin
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
3 dashes Sugar Syrup
3 dashes Lemon Juice

I really like the idea of the East India having a western counterpart; unfortunately, this version from Derek Nimmo’s “Shaken and Stirred” does not live up to the dream. You will notice that this has more Angostura than sugar syrup or lemon juice and, as such, is rather overpowering. This otherwise dull drink I imagine is somewhat reminiscent reminds me of an occasion when a chap I know tried to make a cocktail with only water and Angostura Bitters. At least it didn’t have an olive in it.

After the disappointment of the last drink, but still being fond of the idea of a West India Cocktail, I came up with this:

West India Cocktail (An Alternative) – Stirred
2 oz Dark Rum
1 tsp Pineapple Syrup
1 tsp Curacao
2 or 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Maraschino

Bottle of Angostura and Boker's Bitters and The West India Cocktail (Alternative)

This simply substitutes Dark Rum for the Cognac and, to continue the tropical theme, I used Pineapple Juice and Angostura Bitters. Whilst not particularly original, I think it is a fitting tribute to the original. I used Angostura Rum to complement the bitters, which created a cocktail that was reminiscent of the original East India, only made a bit sweeter by the Dark Rum. This variation was a no-brainer, but I did quite like it.

Any more?
I could never say for certain; I have written far more on the East India Cocktail than I would have ever thought possible and new material may yet present itself. For example, I recently heard a story which places the origins of the drink with the East India Club in London, founded in 1867. That would, indeed, coincide with the appearance of the first known published recipes and, in fact, doesn’t necessarily contradict Johnson’s account. My conclusion: more research is needed.

This post is dedicated to Robert Evans Esq. and his fellow members at the East India Club who were the inspirations for these posts.