Cherry Soda (Cherry Coke and Cherryade) Tasting, History and Cocktails

HISTORY

Cherry Soda, unlike most of the other mixers that I’ve featured so far, is less of a category and more of a catch-all-term for anything which is soft (non-alcoholic), fizzy and tastes of cherry.

Often, it seems that Cherry Soda is a spin-off from an already successful product such as a cola (Cherry Coke, Pepsi Wild Chery), lemonade (7-Up Cherry), or whatever Dr. Pepper is.

As such, it doesn’t really have a defined history, although cherry soft drinks seems to have been around since the 19th Century. Given this lack of information, I have created a Cherry Soda timeline, marking major events in its history.

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TASTING

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The drinks’ tastes could be broadly separated into two categories:

1) Cherryade – soda singularly flavoured with cherry; and
2) Cherry Cola – cola (including Dr. P) that has been flavoured with cherry.

CHERRYADE

Barr’s Cherryade
This smelt of sweet cherry jelly, being reminiscent of “pop-shop” cherryade. Magneta in colour and with a medium fizz, we found it to be pleasant; there was a morello cherry flavour that was quite refreshing.

Tango Cherry
This had a distinctive smell of red cherry sweets and a deep red colour. With a medium fizz, it was full of the flavour of juicy cherries with a little bitterness afterwards. Some of our panel found the flavour to be a bit too intense and all disliked the cloying, squeaky-teeth feeling at the end.

Cherry 7UP
Unlike the previous two, this one smelt of dried, sweet almond and dried cherries. I’m always surprised that this is clear. It tasted sweet with a sour note, but was quite fizzy. Overall, this was fruity and well-balanced; an easy favourite of the panel.

Cherry Vimto
This smelt bright, with lots of sweet cherry. It also tasted quite sugary and syrupy, with lots of sweet cherry, but was also rather cloying; after a short while, the flavour just dropped away, leaving a watery finish.

CHERRY COLA

Coca Cola Cherry
This had a strong nose of cherry and vanilla and was very fizzy indeed. Sadly, the taste seemed to be rather minimal; some of the panel were quite familiar with it and noted that the flavour does increase as the drink warms up. The primary taste was of almond and marzipan.

Pepsi Wild Cherry
Released in 1988  this is primarily available in the US.
This had a clean nose of zingy cherry, with a hint of toasted almond. The taste was great – cool and crisp. There was a balanced sweetness with a lasting, tangy cherry flavour, accompanied by a medium-level of fizz. This was well-liked by the panel.

Pepsi Max Cherry
This is a recent addition for the UK market, which was launched in October 2011.
With a balanced nose full of strong notes of cherry bakewell (cherry and almond), this had a medium-to-high fizz.

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Dr Pepper Cherry
Released in 2009, this is primarily available in the US.
Dark chocolate brown in colour, this was very similar to Dr Pepper, but with perhaps a touch more cherry (although this could be at least partially down to suggestion). This has a high level of fizz and is slightly creamy. We found it to be enjoyable to drink, but very close to Regular Dr. Pepper.

Mountain Dew Code Red
Sweet jammy flavours, high fizz, cherry lighter than many and quite similar to cherryade pretty good though some almond/marzipan flavours too. Rather refreshing if not perhaps a bit too fizzy and sweet. That said I really like it. 7/10
Dr Brown’s Original Black Cherry Soda
Rich morelo cherry flavour, with hints of vanilla. Very tasty, nice texture, quite fruity and not too sweet. Maybe a touch hollow at the end but overall, pretty good.

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RESULTS

COCKTAILS

#1 Coppertone
[30ml Hoxton Gin,10ml Lime Juice, 80ml Cherry Cola]
Typically, this uses Malibu Coconut Rum, but as I had none, I thought that I’d use Hoxton Gin, which has quite a strong coconut element.

#2 Deep South Cherryade
[30ml Bourbon, 60ml Cherry 7up, Garnish with a slice of lemon]

#3 Singapore Fizz
[30ml Gin, 5ml Triple Sec, 5ml Benedictine, 20ml Lemon Juice, 60ml Cherryade]

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Speed Tasting – An Introduction to 11 Boutique Gins

The Boutique Bar Show London is only 2 weeks away (21-22 Sept) and, as usual, will feature a plethora of Boutique drinks brand exhibitors as well as a host of other features. This includes talks, competitions and new product launches.*

The recent boom in new gins coming to market has been led by a range of diverse boutique gins. In preparation for this year’s show, a tasting of Boutique Gins was held at the Graphic Gin Bar, Soho.

In addition to the six gins at the tasting, I have included notes for other gins who will be exhibiting over the two days. Further details can be found here.

To review five gins in the three true tests of a gin (neat, in a G&T and in a Martini) would lead to a mammoth article, so I have, instead, gone with a simple, three word review for each.

Adnams First Rate

From the famous Norfolk Brewers, Adnam’s is available in two varieties: one with 6 botanicals (40% ABV) and another with 13 botanicals (48% ABV); it is this latter “First Rate Gin” that is featured below.

Own: Juniper Spicy Flavourful
Gin & Tonic: Cardamon Cooling Dry
Martini: Classic Dry Floral

Hoxton Gin

It is safe to say that Hoxton Gin takes the traditional gin lover out of their comfort zone. Grapefruit and taragon are not unknown in the world of gin botanicals, but coconut is the real wildcard. Hoxton was developed by Gerry Calabrese as his vision of a gin for the new millennium.

Own: Flamboyant Tropical Confectionery
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Twisted Coconut
Martini: Creamy Coconut Citrus

Gin Mare

Another gin with unusual botanicals can be found in the Mediterranean Gin Mare from Spain. Each of the 10 botanicals is distilled separately and then blended to ensure a better balance. Signature botanicals include: thyme, rosemary, basil and, unusually, olive.

Own: Savory Herbal Intense
Gin & Tonic: Rich Dry Refreshing
Martini: Complex Contemporary “Can-I-Have-Another?”

Iceberg

With Iceberg Gin, it’s all about the purity of the water, which comes from North Atlantic icebergs. The brand considers this to be the least polluted water on earth. Iceberg is a 100% corn-based spirit and has 6 botanicals, including coriander, bark and pepper.

Own: Silky Smooth Earthy
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Clean Zesty
Martini: Pure Subtle Sophisticated

Edgerton Pink

Edgerton Pink is one of the more distinctive gins on the market, not least because it’s pink. Created by the same folks behind London Blue Gin, it is flavoured and coloured with pomegranate. It is produced at Thames Distillery using 14 botanicals including nutmeg, damiana and Grain of Paradise.

Own: Jammy Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Fruity Florid
Martini: Unusual Lasting Berries

Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh Gin is a Scottish, Art-Deco-styled spirit is made by Spencerfield, the folks behind Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose Whisky. Edinburgh Gin takes pride from its Caledonian heritage and uses Scottish grain alcohol as well as Scottish botanicals such as milk thistle and heather.

Own: Soft Spicy Festive
Gin & Tonic: Juicy Fresh Cinnamon
Martini: Crisp Creamy Nutmeg

Ish Gin

Modern meets traditional with Ish Gin, a Classic London Dry style with contemporary packaging and an extra boost of juniper for old-school gin lovers. Ish is bottled at 41% ABV, made at Thames Distillers and contains 12 botanicals.

Own: Bold Warm Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Dry Refreshing Flavoursome
Martini: Crisp Fresh Juniper

Sipsmith Gin

Made in the heart of Hammersmith, Sipsmith Gin is produced in one of only four operational gin distilleries in London. The gin contains ten classic botanicals and is bottled at 41.6% ABV.

Own: Classic Balanced Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Refreshing Clean Exemplary
Martini: Powerful Juniper Citrus

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Hayman’s London Dry Gin

Created by Christopher Hayman, the great grandson of Beefeater founder James Borough, Hayman’s London Dry Gin is designed to be a very Classic London Dry and, as such, contains rather classic botanicals.

Own: London Dry Gin
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Lemon Classic
Martini: Clean Clean Crisp

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Bloom Gin

Created by Joanne Moore, the Master Distiller at Greenall’s Distillery, after she had spent several years as the custodian of the Original 1761 Greenall’s. Bloom was largely inspired by her love of gardening and, as such, contains floral botanicals such as Honeysuckle, Pomelo and Chamomile.

Own: Sweet Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Bright, Blossoming, Beautiful
Martini: Delicate Silky Floral

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Sacred Gin

Vacuum distilled in Highgate, North London; Sacred Gin is helping to bring back gin distillation to the Capital. Botanical are distilled separately and then blended to create a balanced product. Be sure to try the Cardamon “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic, it’s something of a revelation.

Own: Silky Balanced Flavoursome
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Citrus Powerful
Martini: Unusual Cardamon Lovely

London No.1 Blue Gin
This is a commercially successful gin that is exceptionally popular in Spain. It contains 13 botanicals, including Gardenia, which gives it its blue colour. This is not a London Dry Gin, as the colour is added post-distillation, but this doesn’t effect the flavour.

Own: Warm, juniper, reasonable
Gin & Tonic: Sweet, neutral, easy-to-drink
Martini: Ice-blue, cinnamon, concise

GVINE Flouraison Gin
G’Vine Gin is produced in ___ France. Rather than using the usual grain-based alcohol for its base, G Vine uses grape spirit. It also uses grapevine flower as one of its __ botanicals. In addition to the Flouriason a Nouvaison gin is made, this is at a higher strength and contains a different balance of botanicals. It reminds me strongly of the now defunct Gordon’s Distillers Cut.

Own: Dry, spicy, cardamon
Gin & Tonic: Bold, cardamon, invigorating
Martini: Sprightly, floral, cardamon

Portobello
This is a gin that was made especially for Portobello Star, a bar in Portobello Road and home of the Ginstitute Gin Museum, a small still and tasting room where visitors can make their own gin. Portobello was designed to be classic in its style with a modern twist, which comes from the inclusion of nutmeg in the botanical mix.

Own: Juniper, nutmeg, pepper
Gin & Tonic: Flavourful, fruity, spicy
Martini: Crisp, classic, contemporary

Bulldog Gin
Launched in 2007, Bulldog was originally promoted as being the perfect spirit for a Gin & Tonic and, more unusually, a Dirty Martini. It is produced at Greenalls and contains a variety of  botanicals including the rather unusual and exotic lotus leaves & dragon eye.

Own:
Gin & Tonic: Unusual, mild, juniper-light
Martini: Juniper, Coriander, Twangy

Broker’s Gin
Founded in 1998 and produced at Langley, Brokers contains 10 botanicals and, with its distinctive packaging and bowler hat bottle cap, is quintessentially English. The 47% is very popular in Export Markets and this variety won a plethora of awards.

Own: traditional, london, dry
Gin & Tonic: strong, flavourful, punchy
Martini: Textbook, clean, crisp

Knockeen Hills Heather Gin
Made at Thames Distillers and owned by the same folks behind the excellent Knockeen Hills Irish Poteen, this gin has heather as a prominent botanical, in addition to juniper t is bottled at 47.3%. Its sister gin, made using elderflower, is produced at a lower strength of 43%.

Own: smooth, creamy, floral
Gin & Tonic: Strong, flavourful, fresh
Martini: Creamy, smooth, mellow

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*At least one of the above brand are having their UK launch at Boutique London.

Cocktails with… Hoxton Gin

The world of Gin is a happy one and, in my experience at least, Gin Fellows are pleasant and cordial to each other and don’t engage in too much, if any, back-biting. As such, real controversies are generally few and far between, but occasionally something comes along that rattles the cages of the Gin Establishment, and the most recent “something” in this category was Hoxton Gin.

I first tried this in Gerry’s in Old Compton Street with Mr. Hartley. We were both taken aback and surprised that the liquid in our glass was a gin. However, I was also intrigued and, when I’m intrigued, that leads to experimentation. Therefore, I procured a bottle of the gin in order to try it out in a few classic cocktails in an attempt to get my head around the spirit and what its modus operandi was.

Hoxton Gin was created by bartender Gerry Calabrese, owner of the Hoxton Pony. He tells of his inspiration on their website:

 

“[Gerry] had the idea of recreating a classic; to create a fun Gin that’s like no other on the market. One that’s smooth, easy and different from the rest. “
The notable difference between Hoxton and other gins is the mix of juniper and other exotic botanicals: coconut, tarragon, iris, ginger and grapefruit. The botanicals are macerated before a single distillation in a copper pot still. The result is then blended with grain spirit, cut with water down to 43%ABV, filtered, and finally left to stand for 2 months.

My tasting notes are below, followed by a round up and final thought.

Own
Hoxton has a distinctive nose of sherbet and coconut ice cream, with a bit of citrus.
The flavour is quite fresh and zinging, with citrus as well as touch of bitterness, and coconut on the medium-long finish. The texture is initially rather smooth, but there is a slight burn/fizz at the end.

Frozen
Given the exotic flavours of the gin and a slight vodka similarity, I wondered how it would fare being drunk straight form the freezer.* The gin is slightly viscous and, curiously, seems a little fizzy. Juniper and bitter citrus come first, followed by some coconut, although this last flavour is quite subdued. There’s a fruity finish.

Gin & Tonic
There is strong nose of fruit and coconut. The initial creamy coconut taste is followed by some bitter grapefruit and juniper, and then some quinine and a herbal hint. The coconut then returns on the finish. This is a drink full of fresh flavours and is quite refreshing. I thought that the middle notes were in line with a classic G&T, although the drink was generally outside of the usual Gin & Tonic flavour profile.

Martini
Zingy, with quite a lot of citrus, some coconut, followed by more pronounced floral notes. Juniper is present, but subtle and, overall, the drink is quite complex and rather dry. A very long finish.

Gimlet
Light and cloudy in appearance. My initial impressions were rather good: juniper, fresh and tangy citrus, with the coconut coming through at the end. Not as crisp as most Gimlets, but it is very smooth and rather pleasant to drink.

Gin Bump
I didn’t like this drink very much, as the bittersweet aspects clash and the flavours are far too harsh.

Negroni
There’s a good level of bitterness in this drink; it’s also herbally intense and has a long, dry finish. The coconut pops up at the beginning, which works well alongside the initial sweetness that you get from Campari. After your first sip, though, this fades away and, for the rest of the drink, it just provides a creamy layer to the drink, which I quite liked. Not a typical Negroni by any standards, but an interesting twist on one.

In Conclusion

Although on closer inspection there is some depth to the Hoxton flavour, it is hard to escape the coconut in Hoxton and, if you don’t like this flavour (as Mrs. B doesn’t), Hoxton might not be for you. However, if you don’t mind it, you will find that Hoxton adds a sweet creamy note to many drinks, which works well in some cocktails.

My favourite drinks were the Gimlet & Negroni.

* This could, arguably, be described as a Naked Martini (served using the Diamond or Poured Method).

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Too much innovation?


My thoughts

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I’ve put my commentary in a separate section, as I’m sure some folks will be interested in it, whereas others may care solely about the taste of the product.Hoxton Gin is not of a traditional London Dry Gin style, with heavy juniper, citrus and a bit of earthiness, but, in its defence, it doesn’t say that it is, either. I thought that it made some nice drinks and, in many of these, the coconut is no more dominant here than the fennel is in Death’s Door or the Turkish Delight (Rose) is in Nolet’s Silver.

The debate about how much innovation is allowed is a pretty subjective. I think the balance of innovation in Bloom and Berkley Square (four traditional gin botanicals, plus a few more unusual ones) is a good one, however I know that some others disagree and think that even they are too far removed from tradition.

Final Thoughts
I don’t think that Hoxton’s departure from the classic style is anything new; there are at least half a dozen other gins that fall into a similar category. What Hoxton have done is to deliberately court controversy as a part of their marketing campaign and, as such, it is a spirit that most gin fans in the UK have heard of and many have tried; in terms of brand recognition, it’s a smart move.