Cocktails with… Cotswold Distillery’s Espresso Martini

Bottled cocktails are both something rather old and rather newsworthy; that is, after many, many years in the wilderness, they are starting to make a comeback. The attraction is simple: excellent, high-quality cocktails that are ready to drink with minimal preparation and a convenient, affordable price.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini - Botttle FINAL

We’ve written about the excellent range by Master of Malt, but, on a recent trip to the Cotswolds Distillery, I learnt how they had taken a slightly different approach when making an Espresso Martini.

The Espresso Martini was created in the 1990s by Dick Bradshaw and typically consists of a mix of vodka, coffee liqueur, sugar syrup and fresh espresso. At the Cotswolds Distillery, however, they make their bottled cocktail not through a compounding of the various ingredients, but by producing a range of distillates: coffee (Enorga and Malabar), coriander seed, fresh orange peel, and spice (mace, cassia, and cinnamon). These are then blended together and lightly sweetened. Let’s see what it tastes like.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini - Frozen FINALOn its own (from the freezer)
Nose: Dark, rich coffee beans and rich fruit.
Taste: More rich coffee, mingled with dark chocolate and cherry, followed by a delicate sweetness that gradually intensifies to a short, but lovely, genuine sugar note. Towards the finish, the notes of chocolate are combined with spiced orange.
Finish: Light, intriguing floral notes of coriander and rose or violet creams here and there, with the continuation of the same fruity, chocolate and coffee notes.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini - Soda FINALTall Espresso Martini (with soda)
This has lovely – and decidedly non-sickly – notes of chocolate orange; in particular, cocoa powder and a sweet fruitiness (both orange and richer, darker fruit like cherry). The fizz lightens the drink so that it has an almost cola-like element to it at the start, which gradually develops into notes of coffee and dry cocoa. A great way to make a spirited version of a coffee soda.

In Conclusion
Cotswolds Distillery’s Espresso Martini is full of flavour and unexpected complexities, making it an excellent example of how a bottled cocktail can be much more than something you could make at home. I also liked the innovative method of production, and am intrigued to know what other products might be available in the future.

The Espresso Martini would be perfectly placed at the end of a meal on its own (with its fruity, chocolatey, coffee notes), or at any time when mixed with soda. Now I’m just left with the conundrum of deciding how to drink the rest of our bottle!



Recently, I got a surprise packet in the post from the folks at Master of Malt. The contents: a new product from The Handmade Cocktail Company’s Experimental Series. The title:

“Secret Leap Year Cocktail”

The accompanying letter told me that this is a special bottled cocktail available for sale for one day only (29th February; a day we only get once every four years). The cocktail contains five mystery ingredients and anyone who purchases a bottle gets a chance to guess what they are. The author of the suggestion that is closest to the truth will get the honour of naming the cocktail when it is released for general sale later in the year.

In addition to being able to name a cocktail, the winner will also receive 20cl bottles of the seven bottled vintage cocktails currently sold by the Handmade Cocktail Company:

Old Fashioned
World’s Best Cocktail (Sazerac)
Gin Martini

Rob Roy

[Click on the names to see our reviews]

Mrs. B and I tried the cocktail and we thought it was rather tasty. Naturally, we’re not going to give our tasting notes, as that is all part of the competition, but I will give you a clue in that it reminded us both of some products that my wife often “muses over.”

The cocktail will be released for sale tomorrow (Wednesday 29th February) for one day only and is available on the Master of Malt website.

The Pink Gin Cocktail & Lebensstern Bottled Pink Gin

The Pink Gin Cocktail is an old navy drink, a mix of gin and Angostura Bitters. Gin was the Naval Officer’s drink of choice and the bitters were thought to have medicinal properties. Traditionally, the drink is associated with Plymouth Gin, a spirit from a city with strong naval connections.

But recently I tried Lebensstern Pink Gin, which was kindly sent to me along with a bottle of Adler Berlin Gin (see the review here).

Not to be confused with the likes of Edgerton Pink or Pink 47*, Lebensstern Pink is actually Lebensstern Gin with added Bitter Truth aromatic bitters.
The gin was originally made specifically for the Lebensstern Bar, which is situated on the 1st floor of Cafe Einstein, a Coffee House in Berlin.

Also in the brand portfolio of Lebensstern is a London Dry Gin (43%) and a Caribbean Rum.

Annual production of Lebensstern is limited to 1,000 bottles and is bottled at 40%ABV.

Lebensstern Pink Gin vs. A freshly made version with Plymouth Gin

Lebensstern Pink Gin vs. A freshly made version with Plymouth Gin

As I mentioned before, the Pink Gin Cocktail is synonymous with Plymouth Gin and so I wondered, how does a freshly mixed drink fare against the bottled Lebensstern Pink Gin? The tasting was done blind; here are the results:

I Plymouth Gin
Quite herbal, with nice juniper and citrus notes, but perhaps a touch watery and a bit flat at the end.

II Lebensstern Pink
A richer, herbal taste, with a hint of sweetness. Complex and intense. Clear winner.

Frankly, I was surprised at the result as I am a big fan of Plymouth**, but the Lebensstern pipped to the post in my Pink Gin tasting. I expected the freshly mixed one to be superior, but the Lebensstern was more complex and had a more defined and lasting flavour.

I also tried Lebensstern Pink in some other drinks:

Room Temperature: Juniper, cinnamon and other spices & roots. Quite soft and very similar in character to a Pink Gin. Some warmth and a finish of juniper, cinnamon and anise.
Frozen: Surprisinglyly non-syrupy texture; very cold, but very flavourful. From the freezer, the gin is more herbal and more bitter. It’s tasty, but, for me, not as good as drinking it at room temperature.

Gin & Tonic
Quite refreshing; a pleasant way to lengthen the gin with hints of cinnamon and sweet spice coming through. A dash of lemon juice or a wedge improves the balance, I think.

Seems quite strong***, crisp and the sweet spice comes through again. For my money, though, I’d rather have the gin on its own.

Old Fashioned
Excellent: easily the best cocktail I have tried with Lebensstern. Smooth and soft, it is complex, bitter-sweet and rather lovely. A great drink to have whilst you contemplate and mull-over the day.

In Conclusion

I was definitely impressed with Lebensstern Pink and the idea of making a cocktail within a cocktail definitely intrigued me. My tasting of this comes at a time when I’ve recently tried some other good-quality bottled/premixed cocktails (see my Hand-made Cocktail Company Review) and the Lebensstern certainly fits that label, too. My favourite ways of drinking it were on its own at room temperature, with ice, and in an Old Fashioned.


* By this, I mean that neither Pink 47 or Edgerton Pink (to my mind) follow the flavour profile of the Pink Gin Cocktail. Pink 47 has a very faint pink tinge and Edgerton, although being very pink, is flavoured with pomegranate, not bitters.

** I’d like to see a true re-match sometime, with a professionally-made Pink Gin vs. the Lebensstern; maybe a task for the next time I’m down at the Plymouth Distillery?

***(i.e. alcoholic strength)

Handmade Cocktail Company – Vintage Bottled Cocktails Reviewed

A selection of Old Bottled Cocktails

Today we’re looking at The Handmade Cocktail Company who make a range of bottled cocktails.
When some people think of “bottled cocktails”, they immediately think of pre-mixes; which are often overly sweet and watery. I’m still to find a decent canned Gin & Tonic.
But The Handmade Cocktail Company is a little different; it was started by Master of Malt*, the spirit retailer, and they take the same care making their bottled cocktail as you would when blending a whisky.

The idea of a bottled cocktail goes back over 100 years and Gordon’s did, for a time, offer an extensive collection of bottled cocktails, such as Martini, Manahttan, Bronx, Piccadilly and 50/50.

The Handmade Cocktail Company currently makes five varieties: Manhattan, Dry Martini, Sazerac, Negroni and the Rob Roy. Each bottle is labelled to indicate its year of manufacture, following the idea presented by the vintage and bottled-aged cocktails that are available at various bars in London.

The cocktails are designed to be stirred with ice and then strained in a cocktail glass, but, in the interest of thoroughness, we also tried them at room temperature and from the freezer.

#1) Manhattan (33.90% ABV)
Made with Straight Rye Whisky, a blend of three vermouths and some bitters.

At room temperature there was a nose of sweet rye, cherry and almond. It tasted like a freshly made cocktail and was rather good but it did have quite a bitter edge at the end, similar to Antica Formula.
From the freezer it was very smooth with some buttery wood and an intense herbal edge followed by a bitter finish. Rather complex.

Served as per the instructions:
The drink improved, it was till very complex and was a little more bitter than most Manhattans (very much a matter of taste) the rye was sweet and quite soft and the cherry and almond notes remained.


#2) Gin Martini (40.30%)
This is made using “Premium Copper Pot-Still Gin, with just a splash of the very best dry vermouth.”

Sipped at room temperature, there was juniper and citrus on the nose, but when sipped it tasted very much like Gin; it really illustrated how temperature is an important aspect in the mixing of a good Martini.
Things were improved when it was served straight from the freezer: the drink was cool and crisp with a slightly sweet element at the end. It still seemed very dry and I couldn’t really taste any vermouth.

Served as per the instructions:
The cocktail really opened up; there was still citrus and juniper, but the vermouth was more prominent and this really tasted like a Martini. This just goes to show why both temperature and a touch of dilution are important when making a Martini.

The Martini is the only bottled cocktail I’ve ever tried before (one by Gordon’s and I thought that that, too, was pretty good). It is undoubtedly a challenge, as most fans of the drink have their own particular recipes, but the balance between Dry and Wet Martinis seems to have been achieved and I think this will, overall, be a people-pleaser.

#3) Sazerac (38.40% ABV)

“Made using a 50:50 mix of Straight Rye Whiskey and VSOP Cognac, naturally sweetened, with a healthy dose of Peychaud’s bitters and just a splash of Absinthe.”

At room temperature, I was getting whisky, anise and a touch of coconut on the nose and a delicious, complex and smooth taste with hint of wood, whisky and anis.

From the freezer, the drink became crisp with some butteryness from the whisky and warmth and herbal sweetness. Even at this stage, it is one of the best I’ve had.

Served as per the instructions:
The drink is a textbook Sazerac. Superbly smooth, with wood, butter and whisky, along with herbal and sweet anise notes, all wrapped up to give it a wonderful complexity and lasting finish.

#4) Negroni (25.40% ABV)

“Made using premium-strength gin, distilled in England in copper pot-stills, this Negroni also uses premium Sweet Vermouth, and equal measures of Campari and Aperol for a balanced flavour. “

At room temperature, this was quite rich and had a nice mouth feel; there was some bitterness and a long finish, but it was, overall, well-balanced.

From the freezer, the drink improved and seemed to melt on the tongue. It was packed with flavour and was very good indeed.

Served as per the instructions:

Very enjoyable, with just the right balance of sweet vs. bitter and was easy to drink. A good example of a Negroni.

One of the suggested advantages of having pre-mixed cocktails that contain vermouth is that the danger of your drink being ruined by a “fusty or tired vermouth” (i.e. one that has oxidised) is mitigated. Indeed, according to The Handmade Cocktail Company’s website, a 6 month old Bottled Martini has beaten a freshly mixed one in a blind taste test, six votes to one. A test I’d certainly like to try!

In Conclusion

I really enjoyed trying these and I think that the Handmade cocktail Company are doing there bit to get people to rethink their prejudice of pre-mix and bottled cocktails. These products are certainly a good way to be able to enjoy quality cocktails, easily at home. The resounding favourite of me and Mrs B. was the Sazerac, overall it was one of the best I’ve ever had and certainly competes with the freshly mixed.

*One thing I really like about Master of Malt is that they offer small samples of Whisky for sale. So for a few pound you can try an £80 Whisky before you buy a full bottle. They also make some tasty Whisky liqueurs a review of the 10yr Old can be found here.