Apocalypse Cocktails with Agwa de Bolivia – drinks for the End of the Mayan Calender.

Apocalypse Cocktails

The 21st of December is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. But is also marks the end of the current period of the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, or the Mayan Calendar, hailed by some as the End of the World.*

Thinking about this, I set about creating some Apocalypse-themed cocktails. By a stroke of luck, the makers of Agwa de Bolvia, a coca leaf liqueur, are also interested in this theme and sent me a bottle to use in these cocktails.

AgwadeBolivia

Agwa de Bolivia is produced in Amsterdam, although its main ingredient, Coca leaves, are from Bolivia, where they are picked above 2,000 feet in the Andes. The leaves are macerated and the distilled to create a coca distillate. The distillate is then mixed with 36 other botanicals such as: Chinese green tea, African Mint, Amazonian Guarana, Argentinean black mountain tea, ginseng, lavender and cucumber.

As the Mayan people chewed coca leaves for their medicinal and cultural properties, Agwa seemed like a fitting ingredient to use in my themed cocktails.
The Cocktails

AgwaCocktails - EndofTheWorldAsWeKnowIt

1) The End of The World as We Know It
[20ml Amazonia Club Cachaca, 20ml Agwa de Bolivia, 20ml Orange Juice, 60ml Hot Water]
Dash of Bitters – Mix the first three ingredients in a heatproof-glass, top up with hot water and add the bitters, before sprinkling with paprika.

A warming drink with a pinch of spice from the paprika (for extra fire, use chilli powder). The Cachaca provides a good base and the Agwa de Bolivia adds some herbal notes and gives the drink a dry, chocolate-like finish. If you want a bit more power in your drink, you could use lemon juice instead of orange, but the orange does have a pleasant, wintery warmth. The bitters brings the drink together and adds a little extra pow.

The spice and temperature of this drink give the drink a good, solid warmth that stays with you, but without burning.

AgwaCocktails - And I Feel Fine

2) And I Feel Fine
[5ml Chilli/Pepper Vodka (10ml for extra fire), 20ml Agwa de Bolivia, 90ml Champagne]

Sweet and herbal to start, followed by the dry fruitiness of the Champagne and the touch of fire from the chilli vodka on the finish. (For another variation of this drink, why not substitute the chilli vodka for chilli-choc vodka (see cocktail #8 below)).

FireandBrimstone

3) Fire & Brimstone
[40ml Darnley’s View Spiced Gin, 20ml Antica Formula, 10ml Campari, 10ml Cinnamon Liqueur] Shake, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with flamed orange peel.

This is a rather spicy cocktail, with hints of ginger and cumin (from the gin) to start, followed by the sweetness and warm, winter spice of the cinnamon liqueur and then the deep, bitter herbal notes of the Red Vermouth (Antica Formula). The bitterness of the Campari, combined with some anise and a little dark chocolate or coconut, then makes its presence felt. Overall, this is a spicy, bitter-sweet drink. The flamed orange peel is great theatre, but also pulls the drink together with the scent of warm citrus.

AgwaCocktails Revelation

4) Revelation
[25ml Mezcal, 10ml Red Vermouth (Antica Formula), 15ml Agwa de Bolivia, 5ml Cardamom Distillate (or a crushed cardamom pod) – Shake and strain]

Smoky and musky, but with some sweetness, this drink has got an exotic hint of mystery, helped by the rather intriguing glassware. The vermouth adds some bitter, herbal notes which complement the sweeter, herbal nature of the Agwa. The cardamom adds a lively burst of spiciness.

AgwaCocktails 211212

5) 211212
[50ml Darnley’s View Spiced Gin, 10ml Agwa de Bolivia, Tonic/Ginger Ale]

Initially spicy, (cumin) with some sweeter herbal notes, followed by a distinct fruitiness. The touch of sweetness from the ginger ale gives it a nice lift and in the midst of all of these flavours, there’s something slightly reminiscent of golden rum, which was a nice surprise.

AgwaCocktails -  GoingBytheBook

6) Going by the Book
[50ml Smoked Whisky (Talisker), 2 Dashes of Orange Bitters (Reagan’s)]
Add ingredients to a glass rinsed with Agwa de Bolivia.

A lovely, smoky nose is accompanied by powerful smoked wood notes on the taste, followed by some savouriness. The finish is peaty, mixed with dry chocolate and hint of creaminess, as well as some sweet and dry herbal notes from the Agwa. The orange bitters add some extra spice and warmth to the middle of the drink.

AgwaCocktails - TheKingLeftBehind

7) The King Left Behind
[20ml Cognac, 20ml Agwa de Bolivia, 20ml King’s Ginger – SHAKE]

A smooth, rich and spicy cocktail with plenty of warmth and dominant flavours of fiery ginger and a rich creaminess. The herbs, including the anise in the Agwa, work well with the ginger. Very smooth and slightly sweet, but altogether rather delicious.

~

BONUS

8) Chilli-Choc Vodka
Although not used in any of the above cocktails, chilli vodka is easy and relatively quick to make at home. You will need:

A bottle of vodka (700ml)
2 Chilli Peppers (Green or Red, depending on desired heat)
4tsp of Powdered Cocoa (e.g. Bournville)

Empty the vodka into a jug.
Add the cocoa to the empty bottle.
Slit the chilli peppers down the middle and add to the bottle.
Refill the bottle with the vodka. N.B. You may have a little vodka (25ml-50ml) left over – use this to make yourself a little drink.
Make sure the lid of the bottle is firmly attached and shake vigorously.
Leave in a warm place, shaking every half hour or so.

After three hours, have a little taste and, if you are happy with the flavour, strain out the cocoa and chillies with a coffee filter or fine sieve.

~

*In fact, many scholars dispute this and previous advocates of a great event taking place on 21st December 2012 have now changed their minds and it’s just expected to be, in the word of Wings, “Another Day”.

Advertisement

Cocktails with… Darnley’s View Spiced Gin

I’d heard a little about a new gin project from Wemyss Malts, the folks that brought us Darnley’s View Gin, and so I was very pleased when, last week (on our second anniversary), I received a bottle of Darnley’s View Spiced Gin.

This is a small batch London Dry Gin with added warming botanicals. I’m sure this will come into its own during the Autumn and Winter months, but, with the rainy British weather this weekend (just in time for the combined sporting extravaganza of The British Grand Prix, Wimbledon Final and Chap Olympiad), I’m sure that it’s equally welcome in glasses across the country today.

Darnley’s View Spiced Gin contains the following 10 botanicals:



The gin is bottled at 42.7% ABV, which is slightly stronger than the original Darnley’s View; the additional strength is said to bring out the flavours of the spicy botanicals a little more.

On its own
Nose: Dry and spicy, with ginger, cinnamon and maybe even a hint of turmeric. Complex and unusual.
Taste: Wow – this is a really spicy gin! It momentarily blew my mind! First off, the classic notes of juniper and citrus appeared, but then the flavour deviated down the spice route, with warm, savoury, spicy notes, such as cumin, ginger and even a touch of paprika or chilli. These flavours are well balanced and this drink really is very different to any other gin that I have tried.

I previously mentioned the seasonal attractiveness of the gin, but, in the spirit of innovation, I wanted to try it in a variety of seasonal cocktails.


Summer

1) Fruit Cup
I’ve experimented a lot with Fruit Cups, but I’ve never really gone down the spicy and savoury route (a missed trick there!), but with Darnley’s View Spiced, this drink really delivers. It was cool and refreshing, with a long, warming spiciness towards the end. As such, it is probably more of an Autumn drink than a Summer one.

2) Gin & Tonic
The savoury, spicy notes are slightly more subdued in this drink, but nonetheless work well with the tonic, creating a very unusual, but refreshing drink. I tried this without garnish and I’ll have to experiment a bit more before coming to a final conclusion on what’s best to use; I think lemon or lime would work best. It may also be interesting to try it alongside a more herbal tonic, such as 1724 or Mediterranean.


Spring

3) Collins
This was quite a refreshing drink, but the clean and relatively neutral flavour didn’t seem to go particularly well with the spicy elements of the gin; perhaps some adjustment is needed, but, using my standard recipe, this was not the best way to enjoy the gin.

4) Dry Martini
This made a very smooth & spicy Martini. I mixed it using a 5:1 ratio and, although a lot of the flavour came through and there was certainly potential there, as it stands, the drink still needs some work and seemed unbalanced and slightly sickly. I’d be keen to try it in a Sweet Martini.


Autumn

5) Gin Buck
Overall, this had a good mix of refreshment and spicy warmth, making it great if we get an Indian Summer; with a savoury spiciness somewhat reminiscent of food from the subcontinent, this drink couldn’t be more fitting. The flavour of the gin comes through well and the lime adds a zesty bite.

6) Negroni
In this cocktail, you get the classic bittersweet mix of a Negroni – crisp and refreshing – plus an extra kick of spice, as if someone has added a pinch of something from a bag that has made its way across the Ottoman Empire. I’m a fan.


Winter

7) Gin Toddy
This was a very warm and intensely tasty gin toddy; exactly the sort of warming drink that you need of a Winter’s evening or after a walk on a wet Saturday afternoon like today. No extra spice is needed and there is a unique, fiery kick that you don’t get in most toddies.

8) Ginger Old fashioned*
A light nose of ginger and juniper was supported by hints of savoury spice and salt. To taste, it was wonderfully dry for an Old Fashioned and had an initial flavour of dry juniper that was immediately followed by lots and lots of spice, finishing off with a flash of warm ginger. Different, but delicious, especially if you usually find Old Fashioneds a little sweet.

~

9) Sweet Martini
A very herbal and intense drink with plenty of sweet and savoury spicy notes. Very complex and rather rousing to the appetite. Much better than the dry version.

In Conclusion
I think that Darnley’s View Spiced Gin is a great innovation and really adds something new to the ever-expanding gin market. It works better in some Classic cocktails more than others, but it nonetheless has a lot of potential, especially in the creation of new drinks.

Of those that we tried, our favourites were the Fruit Cup and both of the Winter drinks.

*An old fashioned made with King’s Ginger instead of sugar syrup and Spanish Bitters

Scottish Gin Tasting

In recent years there has been an increase in gin distilling in Scotland and, what with the patriotic nature of some of the brands, we decided to look a little closer at the Caledonian Gin.*

I was particularly interested as to whether or not there were any shared characteristics amongst the group that might not be so common in non-Scottish gins; this will be addressed at the end.The tasting was conducted at Graphic Bar in Golden Sq., Soho; a fine example of a Modern Gin Palace with a range of over 130 gins. The panel was made up of willing volunteers from The Juniper Society, which is hosted by Graphic two times a month.
.

L-R: Boe, Hendricks (USA), Old Raj Blue, Edinburgh Gin, Cadenhead Classic, The Botanist, Darnley’s View, Old Raj Red, Hendricks(UK), Caorunn

The gins were tasted blind and we tried them on their own and with tonic water, with no garnish. The gins are listed in the order tasted and alcoholic strength is denoted by %ABV.

#1 Old Raj Red (46%)
This made by Cadenhead and was created in 1972. It contains 8 botanicals and then has saffron added to it. Rather than being clear, it is a light golden colour; having said that, only one member of the panel noticed this.

Nose: Juniper, citrus, slightly floral.
Taste: Strong flavours: lime, juniper, citrus and coriander. Not massively complex, but lots of flavour.
With tonic: The panel found this rather pleasant, and spicier with tonic. Fresh and refreshing, it was thought that it wouldn’t really need a garnish.

For more information on Old Raj click here.

Old Raj Red is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £23 for 70cl.

#2 Edinburgh Gin (46%)

.

.

Nose: Juniper, floral, herbacious.
Taste: Almost all of the panel found strong flavours of nutmeg and cinnamon, as well as some creaminess and a Plymouth-like sweetness.
With Tonic: Mixed views here: some of the panel found it clean, crisp and liked its spiciness, but others found it to be a bit flat.

Edinburgh Gin is available from The Drink Shop for around £25 for 70cl..

#3 Cadenhead’s Classic (50%)
Made by the same folks as Old Raj Red and Blue.

Nose: Subdued, fruity, juniper.
Taste: A more intense taste than nose, with heavy juniper, some pepper, citrus and a hint of bitterness, rather like a classic London Dry Gin style. One of the panel described it as “rather lovely”.
With tonic: Dry and bitter, with a little sherbet sweetness. Generally the panel thought that this was a robust, no nonsense Gin & Tonic.

Cadenhead’s Classic Gin is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £25 for 70cl.

#4 Hendrick’s UK (41.4%)
Made by William Grants and containing 13 botanicals. The gin is made using a combination of distillation from both pot and Carterhead stills and is finished off with the addition of cucumber and rose essences.

Nose: Fresh, leafy, floral, cucumber rind.
Taste: Fresh, smooth and silky. Floral, in particular rose and lavender. A general, green leafy flavour; maybe cucumber? One panelist described it as “pretty”.
With tonic: Refreshing, crisp and fresh. Delicious; this was very popular with the panel.

For our full review Hendrick’s click here.

Hendrick’s UK is available from Tesco and Waitrose for around £22 for 70cl.

The Panel

#5 Caoruun (41.8 %)
Caoruun contains five Scottish Celtic botanicals; dandelion, bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and rowan berry.
Nose: Juniper, citrus and a little aggressive
Taste: Quite light, a musky juniper and citrus as well as some earthy notes, very clean, quite nice.
With Tonic: A soft flavour, juniper, citrus and quite smooth.
.
Caorunn is available from Master of Malt for around £25 for 70cl.
.
#6 Hendrick’s (44%)
This is the US version of #4, which is bottled 2.6%ABV higher than the UK version; it makes a surprising difference to the taste.
Nose: Minimal citrus, some juniper, strong floral.
Taste: Very floral, with hints of lavender, violet, rose, plus juniper and some green leaves.
With Tonic: Very tasty; well-balanced, flavourful and fresh. A real hit with the panel, although one member would prefer to drink it on its own than with tonic.

For our full review Hendrick’s click here.

#7 The Botanist (46%)
This made by Brudladdich, a Scottish whisky distillery in Islay. It contains a staggering 31 botanicals, a list of which can be found here.

Nose: Quite soft; juniper, spice, a slight soapy, floral quality.
Taste: Juniper and coriander and quite a heavy perfume quality, with different flowers and herbal notes. Quite smooth and a long finish.
With Tonic: Rather pleasant, with a good finish; balanced. This was particularly liked by one member of the panel.

For our full review of The Botanist click here.

The Botanist is available from Master of Malt for around £25 for 70cl.

#8 Boe (47%)
Boe Gin is

Nose: Floral, herbs, pine, vanilla.
Taste: Quite a complex taste; herbs, lavender, spice, cinnamon, angelica and, towards the end, a vanilla-oak note. Quite strong, alcohol-wise, but this comes through as warmth rather than burn.
With Tonic: An excellent fresh and moreish gin and tonic, this was a favourite of a few of the panel members.

Boe Gin is available from Master of Malt for around £28 for 70cl.

.
#9 Old Raj Blue (55%)
The high-strength version of Old Raj Red.
Nose: A very strong nose; almost perfume-like, with juniper and flowers.
Taste: The perception of alcoholic strength continues in the flavour, as does the juniper and refined floral notes.
With Tonic: The panel thought that this Gin & Tonic had a real kick to it and that it tasted very strong; that said, most of them really enjoyed it and their drinks were quickly finished off.
.
For our full review of Old Raj click here.
.
Old Raj Blue is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £26 for 70cl.
.
.
#10 Darnley’s View (40%)
Named after the husband of Mary Queen of Scots and containing six botanicals including locally sourced Elderflower this is the newest Scottish Gin on the market.
.

Nose: Juniper, floral a slight mineral quality.
Taste: Very soft with a water-like smoothness and a slight warmth at the end. Juniper and rather floral with hints of rose and violets, long finish.
With Tonic: Soft, flavourful and refreshing. Rather pleasant although less intense then some of the others.

For our full review of Darnley’s View click here.

Darnley’s View is available from Royal Mile Whiskies for around £25 for 70cl.

.

.
#11 Blackwoods Vintage 2008 (40%)
A scottish Gin using a variety of botanicals include those that grow wild in the Shetland Isles. Blackwoods also make 60% version of their gin.
Nose: Strong and complex with juniper, citrus and earthy herbal notes.
Taste: Very smooth and soft, citrus juniper and herbs as well a s touch of floral. Juicy and excellent.
With Tonic: Very refreshing and juicy as well as being full of flavour.
.
Blackwoods is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £19 for 70cl.
.

The Results

Each member of the panel ranked their top three gins and these choices were recorded. We then allocated points as follows: three points for a first choice, two for second, and one for third.
.
The results were:
#1 Hendrick’s USA
#2 Old Raj Blue
#3 Hendrick’s UK
#4 Old Raj Red
#5 Cadenhead Classic
.

Scottish Gin Characteristics

.
After the tasting and some thought, I remain unconvinced as to whether there is a particular set of flavour characteristics common to Scottish Gins; some seemed to be more floral and less juniper-led then a  London Dry Gin, but then others seemed rather classic in style. The control gin (meant to stand out as a classic style) was lost amongst the rest of them.
.
There was definitely a trend for the bottles to emphasise their Scottish heritage and quite a few use locally sourced or indigenous botanicals – heather and bog myrtle being quite popular – but this is no different to the sourcing techniques of other gins such as Moore’s (Australia) and Death’s Door (Wisconsin, USA).
.
Many thanks to the panel, Graphic Bar and the Gin Producers of Scotland for making this article possible.

*I’ve not included Tanqueray and Gordon’s as they used to be made in London and the move to Scotland was one of economics. In addition, today there is, otherwise, nothing particularly Scottish about them.

Keep In touch
Summer Fruit Cup’s Facebook
Summer Fruit Cup Twitter

Cocktails with… Darnley’s View

Darnley’s View is a Scottish Gin* made by the Wemyss Family (pronounced weems) who also own Scotch and Wine companies.

The name Darnley’s View originates from a stay of Mary Queen of Scots at Wemyss Castle (the family’s ancestral home) It was during this visit that she first saw (got a view) of her future husband Lord Darley through a courtyard window of the castle.

Darnley’s View is bottled at 40%ABV and contains the following six botanicals:

It’s worth noting that other Scottish Gins such as Hendrick’s and The Botanist also use Elder as a botanical and, along with heather, these botanicals seem to be quite popular with Caledonian gin-makers.

For this “Cocktail with” I had a special request from Darnley’s View Gin (I’m always open to consider requests) to try their Gin with a variety of tonic waters to find a good match.**
Here are the results:

#1) Schweppes Regular
Fruity with some freshness but the drink falls flat in terms of flavour.

#2) Fevertree Regular
A good combo with both the sweetness and the bitterness you expect from a Gin & Tonic. As the ice melts a little the drink certainly improves but, like the 1724, it would be much better with a fruit garnish to add a little extra zip.

#3) Waitrose Regular
Crisp and fizzy, a truly classic Gin & Tonic. It has a more simple flavour profile than some of the others but was very refreshing. It had a good flavour balance, the floral notes of gin are not overpowered and the drink is not too sweet, cloying or bitter. Excellent!

#4) 1724 Tonic
Quite smooth, light and fresh. Good for a really hot day. A little lacking in flavour but this could be rectified by adding a juicy wedge of lemon.

#5) Fentiman’s Tonic
A good fizz, and very flavourful;. The lemongrass in the tonic adds some extra citrus to the drink, which is quite welcome; no need to garnish with lemon here. Some folks may find the citrus and the sweetness overpowering but in general rather good.

In addition here are some extra tasting notes; for the gin (neat) and in a Martini, well how can you review a gin without trying it in a THE mixture of Gin & Vermouth?

Own
Initial flavours of Juniper and Citrus with the faintest hint of milkiness. Despite what is generally a classic nose, the taste of the gin is quite contemporary. It is quite sweet with juniper and a spicy note at end which is almost peppery. Very smooth with minimal alcohol burn/bite. Some floral elements too. Mixed with a dash of water the flowery flavours really present themselves.

Martini
Elegant, one of the best Martinis I have had for a long time. Classic but with a modern delicate and floral edge. The juniper and subtle flowery notes mix well with Dolin Vermouth.

In Conclusion
I enjoyed trying Darnley’s View gin with it’s overall characteristics being that it is a relatively simple flowery and slightly soft gin. Certainly has the potential to be more refreshing than some of the more botanical-heavy gins.
In terms of tonic, for me Waitrose was the winner, followed closely by Fevertree.

Darnley’s View Gin is available for around £24 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.

*Scottish as in made in Scotland, technically it is categorized as a London dry Gin – for details of how the categorizations work, click here.
** These tasting notes reflect my opinion when mixed with Darnley’s View they may not be the same as my overall view of the tonic waters.