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.

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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.

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*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”.

Whisky King – A Whisky Mac with King’s Ginger

On Wednesday, I received my first Met Office warning of ice for the year and, when I went outside to get some lunch, felt the noticeable increase in chill in the air. Ah, the time of hipflasks and toddies is now thoroughly upon us! It’s definitely my favourite time of year.

Needless to say, DTS always enjoys putting together different seasonal drinks and today he took up the challenge of looking at my favourite season. The cocktail he put together featured two products that we’ve been enjoying recently: a new (to me) Scotch Blend called Kuchh Nai and The King’s Ginger, a ginger liqueur that DTS has taken to adding to his hipflask.*

ScotchandKingsThe cocktail came to me as a complete surprise, so I had no idea what was in it, but here’s what I thought.
Nose: Malty and ever so slightly hoppy, with hints of dense, cakey gingerbread.
Taste: Very smooth, indeed. There’s an initial burst of woodiness that’s followed by a powerful hit of ginger and herbs, accompanied by an intense shot of sweetness. The sweetness subsides, fading into a bready ginger note and that of the creamy chocolate filling you might get sandwiched between two biscuits or in a chocolate Nutrigrain bar. The finish is different again: long, lingering and dry, with hints of lemon, but mainly white wood.
I have to say, I rather liked the juxtaposition of that intense, chocolately-ginger sweetness and the long, dry finish, which made the drink seem almost playful. Altogether, this was a deliciously warming cocktail, making it a perfect tipple for the newly cooler evenings.

– Mrs. B.

* DBS, when it comes to hipflasks is a creature of habit, in the summer it is always Tuaca (a vanilla-herbal liqueur) and in the winter, Calvados. However he has taken a shine to adding a nip of King’s Ginger to his Calvados (about 10-20%) and now declares this the “ultimate in winter flaskmanship”. Indeed.

Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut Whisky in Halloween Cocktails

Today’s Whispers of Whisk(e)y is a rather exciting and seasonal look at Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, a relatively new Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey from the Jim Beam Distillery.

Many readers will probably have heard of the “angel’s share”. As an aged spirit is left to mature in wooden casks, some of the alcohol will evaporate and be lost to both the distiller and the end drinker; this is often referred to as the “angel’s share”. The volume lost can vary hugely, depending upon the location of the warehouse and thus the temperature changes experienced.

Although it’s given that the angels always will take their share, Jim Beam have decided to look at another volume of alcohol that is lost, not to the air (or angels), but to the barrel itself; a portion that they’re referring to as the “devil’s cut”. They have designed a process to extract the whiskey that has seeped into the wood of the barrel, which they then hold for a period of time before blending it with a 6 Year Old Bourbon. It’s then bottled at 45%ABV (or 90 Proof), which is notably stronger than the other varieties of Jim Beam.

In addition to trying this on its own, DTS & I thought it would be appropriate to try it in an array of suitably seasonal cocktails, in case anyone is planning a Halloween party (or just a night in with some Bourbon and horror movies!).

On its own
Nose: Rich, syrupy, traditional bourbon notes: vanilla, caramel, and hints of coffee fondant. Well-rounded, sweet and woody.
Taste: There’s an initial, intriguing, soft sweetness, especially at the front of palate. A much stronger, dryer flavour slowly builds up at the back of the mouth, which is woody, with very measured notes of vanilla and orange. Although I initially thought that this would be ideal for cocktails, with the softness at the start and straightforward, but bold flavour later on, I quickly realised that this also makes for a wonderfully easy-to-drink bourbon that nonetheless has a lot of quite weighty oak notes and grown-up dryness.


The Bat Monster’s Manhattan
[4 parts Devil’s Cut, 2 parts Red Vermouth, 1 part Luxardo Cinnamon Liqueur (or other cinnamon/spiced liqueur)] – Shake or Stir as you prefer.

An interesting nose of liquorice leads to a soft (but by no means sugary) combination of flavours that fade from sweet liquorice, to liquorice root, to dry oak. A flash of fiery cinnamon appears in the midst of this and manages to linger on your lips for a while afterwards. The warmth of the whiskey also slowly builds, making this perfect for the current chilly climate. Delicious, but soft and not overpowering.


Swamp Creature’s Pumpkin Old Fashioned
[50ml Devil’s Cut, 1tsp Pumpkin Pie Mix, 3 Dashes of Bitters, 10ml Sugar Syrup – STIR]

The wood notes seem to be much stronger in this drink, with an underlying spiciness of cinnamon and a interesting kick of chilli. The pumpkin comes through on the finish, just like pumpkin pie filling, and accompanied by spicy oak notes.

Witch’s Mint Julep
[50ml Devil’s Cut, 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Mix, 10ml Sugar/Maple Syrup, 3-4 Fresh Mint Leaves] – Shake (without ice) and then pour into a julep cup filled with crushed ice.

A very interesting take on a Mint Julep; this has a much creamier, sweeter mint flavour, which reminds me somewhat of mint fondant. The whiskey builds on the finish and adds a refreshing dry flavour to what is a generally sweeter version of a Julep. Although this may be too sweet for some, I think it makes for a fun alternative to a usual Julep, e.g. for a Halloween party.

Frankenstein Fizz
[30ml Devil’s Cut, 10ml King’s Ginger Liqueur, 100ml Ginger Ale]

Another delicious, smooth and autumnal cocktail. Fresh citrus to start, with notes of both lemon and orange, followed by a sweetness that seamlessly fades into the oak of the whiskey. Ginger appears – subtly to start, but gradually building – on the finish, adding a spicy warmth to that of the whiskey base. Absolutely lovely.

Monster Milk
[30ml Devil’s Cut, 10ml Orange Liqueur (I used Grand Gala), 10ml King’s Ginger Liqueur, 50ml Semi-Skimmed Milk] – Add to a heat proof mug and microwave for 30 seconds, garnish with flake chocolate.]

Warming and comforting, this is a milky cocktail with still a very generous helping of whiskey; the warmth comes from both the temperature and the spirit, plus a lovely hint of ginger that – like with the previous cocktail – builds on the finish. The nose has a lot of sweet orange, which appears again on the taste, with the comforting taste of warm milk in the background. Although the whiskey is less prominent in this cocktail than in those previous, I can see it filling a very specific niche.

In Conclusion
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is excellent for drinking neat, being smooth and sound, but with strong and weighty oak notes, too. In addition, its simple, but bold flavour provides options for making a whole range of tasty cocktails, as seen above. I liked all of the ones that we tried, but my favourite two were the Frankenstein Fizz and the Bat Monster’s Manhattan.

– Mrs. B.

Jim Beam devil cut is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

The Swamp Monster gets the last word: "Grrr Arrgh!"

The Swamp Monster gets the last word: “Grrr Arrgh!”

 

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.

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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